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“Revolution on a Rooftop” author interviewed
(feed-in tariffs)
Marc Strassman, Etopia News
Mariah Blake at Washington Monthly on April 10th FIT event

Mariah Blake, an editor at the Washington Monthly, discusses her article “Revolution on a Rooftop” and previews the April 10th panel discussion of feed-in tariffs at the New America Foundation, recorded from Washington, D.C. on April 7, 2009 (apologies for the out-of-synch audio track)
(8 April 2009)
An understandable description of Feed-in Tariffs.

The article by Mariah Blake is online at Washington Monthly: The Rooftop Revolution.

Related interviews on feed-in tariffs by Marc Strassman:
Rep. Rick Kriseman updates the Florida feed-in tariff story
Troy Schneider at New America Foundation on April 10th FIT panel

Marc has done even more interviews on FITs in the past few months. -BA

Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead

Jad Mouawad, New York Times
The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.

But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Royal Dutch Shell said last month that it would freeze its research and investments in wind, solar and hydrogen power, and focus its alternative energy efforts on biofuels. The company had already sold much of its solar business and pulled out of a project last year to build the largest offshore wind farm, near London.

BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

“In my view, nothing has really changed,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said after the election of President Obama.

(7 April 2009)

Amid a sea of troubles, ethanol now has an antibiotics problem

Tom Philpott, grist
I’ve been writing for a while now about problems with distillers grains, the leftover mash from the corn-ethanol process.

A third of the corn that goes into ethanol winds up as distillers grains. Finding a high-value use for this “coproduct” is absolutely vital to the corn ethanol project. The fuel’s energy balance is paltry—that is, it delivers little net energy compared to how much is consumed producing it. Even the studies that credit the fuel with a positive energy balance, like this one from the USDA, acknowledge that it’s pretty much a wash unless you give generous energy credits to distiller’s grains.

Of course, the “coproduct” has found its use as animal feed—as a replacement for corn in the rations of livestock in confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs). One of the many supreme ironies of corn-based ethanol as “green” fuel is that it relies on the existence of CAFOs, one of the most ecologically damaging industrial processes in the United States. As ethanol production boomed starting in 2007, borne up by new “renewable fuel” mandates, distillers grains flowed into cow feedlots.

The industry issued reports about the miraculous quality of distillers grains as cow feed—and pushed to get the industrially processed mash into poultry and pig rations as well. The ethanol-factory-to-feedlot flow continued, even as evidence began to arise that the sudden spike in distillers grains use might have been contributing to a nasty spate of E. Coli 0157 in beef—evidence that the USDA has willfully ignored.
(7 April 2009)

Ethanol adds 0.5-0.8 points to U.S. food prices

Charles Abbott, Reuters
The boom in corn-based ethanol as motor fuel added from 0.5-0.8 percentage points to U.S. food prices when they were climbing at double the usual rate, said the Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday.

In a report, CBO said larger use of ethanol drove up feed prices for cattle, hogs and poultry and, in turn, resulted in higher retail prices for food.

CBO said the increased use of ethanol accounted for 10 percent-15 percent of the rise in food prices in the year ending in April 2008, or 0.5-0.8 points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices that was registered…..

“Over the same period, certain other factors — for example, higher energy costs — had a greater effect on food prices than did the use of ethanol as a motor fuel,” said the report.
(8 April 2009)