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Wind power set to decline under Obama?

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
For the fourth consecutive year, the US set records in 2008 for the construction of new wind farms, with more than 8,300MW installed in the year, making the country the leader for both yearly installations and, for the first time in many years, overall installed capacity (nudging out Germany which has long been the world leader). The sector created a record number of jobs at a time when few other sectors did.

But for reasons linked to the inconsistent regulatory framework until now, and to the ongoing credit crisis, 2009 is likely to be a bad year for wind, with a decline in installations and, possibly, layoffs.

Of course, Obama is not to blame for that situation, which he inherits, but it will be a pretty bad signal to see wind power decline significantly this year – and it would be an inexcusable one if that decline continues into 2010. The current stimulus plan does include measures to support the industry, but these seem oddly unambitious given the context of economic crisis and wind’s proven ability to create jobs and economic activity, to provide cheap power and to eliminate both carbon emissions and fossil fuel imports.
(28 January 2009)
EB reader Sam W writes:
I think Jerome a Paris has it wrong. Why are we pushing wind in areas where there is no viable wind in the summer? What’s the purpose of building utility scale wind there, if it serves no purpose in supplementing the demand for coal during the peak season in the summer? Shouldn’t Obama work to have these wind projects offshore and in the mid-west states?

Reactivating Nuclear Reactors for the Fight against Climate Change

David Biello, Science American
Even environmentalists are reevaluating nuclear power as a possible solution to global warming, but can it really help?

… “There continues to be a demand for power and a certain percentage of that power needs to be baseload” (an industry term for electricity that is always available), says Adrian Heymer, senior director for new plant deployment at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a Washington, D.C.–based industry group. “What is it going to be? Coal is not favorable at the moment and natural gas is volatile [in price]. So people are looking at nuclear.”

The federal government echoes those sentiments. The Bush administration pushed though loan guarantees, whereby the costs of delays in construction would be paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and the Obama administration has indicated its support for new nuclear power plants. “Nuclear power, as I said before, is going to be an important part of our energy mix,” said physicist Steven Chu, Obama’s secretary of energy during his confirmation hearing on January 14. “It’s 20 percent of our electricity generation today, but it is 70 percent of the carbon-free portion of electricity today. And it is baseload. So I think it is very important that we push ahead.” He added: “There is certainly a changing mood in the country because nuclear is carbon-free, that we should look at it with new eyes.”

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees, noting that nuclear could make “an increasing contribution to carbon-free electricity and heat in the future” provided that fuel constraints, costs, waste management, safety and “adverse public opinion” could be overcome.
(27 January 2009)

Advice to Pres. Obama (#6): Beware the Hungry Ghosts

Jason Bradford, The Oil Drum
This article is one of a series of articles offering energy advice to President Obama and his administration.

January 2009

Dear President Obama,

You don’t know me personally, but we have a few things in common. Like you, I became a community organizer after earning an advanced degree (my doctorate is in biology). Thanks for dramatically elevating the status of my current work. I was also elected president once, though that was over twenty years ago while I was in high school. Our children are about the same age (my pair are boys) and I especially enjoyed watching yours during the inauguration, imagining what an adventure this must be for them.

The theme of your campaign was hope. Quite honestly, I don’t have a whole lot of hope for my children’s future, and that’s why I am doing something as audacious as writing you a letter. I am a worker, not a big complainer, and I will suggest some concrete steps that would make me hopeful. But first I want to connect hope to something else, realism.

Hope begins by facing the truth because decisions made in a state of denial are likely to be poor ones. Sometimes, truth is painful, and so hope may only arise through a path of disillusionment. Our country has been living in a state of denial for a long, long time, and now many are disillusioned. My question is: Will you lead a process of truth telling? Are we going to stop scapegoating and over-simplifying our troubles, and get to the core of our predicament? We may have to shed a lot of healing tears along the way, but people are waiting for this.

The Predicament

As a scientist my job is to sort out the rules of the universe, but most of my expertise is limited to planet Earth. The trouble I see is that the laws, policies, codes, habits and various behaviors of Homo sapiens are incompatible with keeping the planet suited to our habitation. As a lawyer you are aware of the phrase: “The constitution is not a suicide pact.” If that is the case, your oath of office permits you make sure, above all else, that social norms are in alignment with the laws of nature. After all, nature doesn’t negotiate. Furthermore, a primary role of government is to protect the commons from assault or corruption. Governments also strive to protect private property and individual liberties. When these two functions of government are at odds, one must be given primacy. We all know that private interests tend to fund politics, but it is well past the hour to stand up
(28 January 2009)