American Elephants


As The Sun Sinks Slowly in the West, So Does the Solar Industry by The Elephant's Child

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Back in 2010, President Obama hailed a Spanish Company, Abengoa, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, and create local employment.

Since then the Spanish company has built two American plants, one in Arizona and one in California, which supply electricity to more than 160,000 homes based on the capacity of the solar thermal plants. Remember that “capacity” is what the plants would provide on perfectly sunny days, and ignoring clouds or rain.

It appears that Abengoa got overambitious, and saddled with debt from its expansion, is scrambling to avoid what would be the biggest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. Abengoa’s American projects in Gila Bend, Arizona, and Barstow, California, still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government. The plants were partly financed by $605 million in federal grants and tax credits, besides the federal loan guarantees. The New York Times adds:

“The whole reason Abengoa Solar had to get the guarantee from the government is that no private lender thought the risk was worth it,” the Institute of Energy Research, a prominent renewables critic that has received financing from the oil industry, said in 2011.

Do note the NYT phrasing, and the “oil industry” link doesn’t seem to lead anywhere at all. Abengoa has legal problems as well from shareholders and creditors, with claims of misleading investors, and against individual executives. The company lost $1.3 billion last year and paid employees late.

They’ve also done projects in Central and South America. In 2007 they established the world’s first commercial solar thermal power plant on the outskirts of Seville. That year their stock hit a record high of €7.39 a share. In November, the share price had fallen below 40 euro cents. It’s now hovering around 71 euro cents.

Meanwhile up north in Maine: from Bloomberg:

Despite long winters, a famously foggy coastline and relatively few solar panels in operation, Maine is emerging as a pivotal U.S. state for determining how consumers will pay for power generated by the sun.

U.S. solar installations have boomed more than 10-fold in the past five years, driven in part by a policy known as net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That’s lowered consumers’ monthly bills, and also cuts into revenue for utilities that still must contend with their own fixed costs — spurring conflict between traditional power companies and solar providers.

The permanent problem with the sun is that sunlight is diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which we recognize as clouds. especially here on the Northwest coast where there is not a speck of blue sky today. Note the lovely photograph of the sun at the top of this post, and — the extensive clouds.

US solar installations have increased by 10-fold in the past five years driven by a federal policy  called net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That has lowered customers’ monthly bills, but the utilities still have their own fixed costs, and it cuts into their revenue.

Maine has proposed replacing net metering with a system that lets utilities sign 20-year contracts with residential solar customers. And instead of paying the retail price, as called for under current policies, utilities would pay rates set by regulators.

Because this is the Twenty First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, the greens are sure there is a technological fix just around the corner, and energy storage will cease to be a problem. But every known rare earth has been tried and found wanting.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall is meant to be a daily use battery. Tesla has announced prices of $3,000 and $3,500, but that does not include the inverter, and with installation it comes to $7,340. It requires about 7.5 kilowatt hours to charge the Powerwall, providing about  5.4 kilowatt hours of power once charged. The Institute for Energy Research found that it would require a payback period of 38 years which is almost 4 times the warranty period of 10 years for the Powerwall. Even if solar power were used to charge the Powerwall the payback period would be 31 years. The obvious problem is that for home use, we require electricity most when the sun has gone down.

The government’s idea was that by stimulating greater consumer demand with subsidies, production would increase and costs would go down, but in the meantime the industry believes that solar is a complete non-starter unless utilities are forced to pay extremely unrealistic prices for solar energy produced by households with solar panels. It’s not just Maine, even in sunny Nevada solar requires huge subsidies.

Progressives are sure that the government can just order utilities to charge less for their services, much like ObamaCare just assumes that hospitals and doctors can be forced to accept less payment for their services and all will be well. Most of the problems with our frighteningly large national debt and yearly deficits are due to the fact that Progressives just don’t understand the free market at all. They only understand the pursuit of power and an ever-larger government.



This May Be The Most Spectacular Failure Of Solar Power Ever by The Elephant's Child

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“Natural” is a ubiquitous word, especially for all things environmental. Wind and solar energy are held in high esteem largely because they are “natural.” Unfortunately, the word doesn’t mean much of anything, you only have to consider its opposite —”unnatural”— to point out how meaningless it is.

But for the environmental movement, natural is a very big deal indeed. We should draw our energy from the wind and the sun, eliminate unnatural chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species, but stop putting animals in cages, and stop eating meat. The word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity. It is not only the world’s largest solar project, it is also known as “the world’s largest outdoor bird fryer.”

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. When I wrote about Ivanpah last November, they were delivering only 40% of their promised electricity, and they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

Now comes news that the Ivanpah solar plant may be forced to shut down. It is not producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if they don’t receive a break from state regulators. PG&E is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to overlook the shortfall and give Ivanpah another year to sort out its problems. The extension request is opposed by some consumer groups, who are complaining that the cost of the electricity from the struggling plant is exorbitant. There is no mention in the article of whether or not they got the federal grant to pay off their federal loan. The high-tech power towers just aren’t working as advertised.

The huge array is owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Government subsidy is what brings these projects to fruition and what brings investors who expect to be rewarded by the government subsidies. Over and over, across the world, when taxpayer subsidy is removed, the project shuts down.

In neighboring Nevada I had read recently that when Nevada withdrew the state subsidy, Elon Musk pulled out, but I apparently didn’t save the article.When I consulted Google, the headlines from the articles about Elon Musk and SolarCity are so completely fascinating that I couldn’t resist linking to that page. Do scroll down slowly to get the full picture. The federal government has no business using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers in the business marketplace.

California’s one remaining nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, produces more than twice as much clean, environmentally friendly electricity than all of California’s solar power installations combined. Environmentalists, of course, are trying to shut it down. (click to enlarge)

Diablo(h/t: Steven Hayward@ Powerline)



The Ugly Side of the Environmental Movement, And it’s Deplorable Actions by The Elephant's Child

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Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, “died March 2 in a car wreck the day after being indicted for conspiracy to rig bids on oil and natural gas leases. He will likely be remembered for two things: being a pioneer of the shale gas boom and a possible criminal who, in death, may have eluded a prison sentence. But McClendon may have had one other lasting legacy: he helped hasten the collapse of the coal industry in the United States.”

Between 2007 and 2012, McClendon and his associates contributed around $26 million to the Sierra Club to oppose the building of new coal-fired power plants. McClendon’s motivations were hardly pure; he knew that preventing new coal plants meant more demand for his company’s product, natural gas. And the contributions led to a scandal for the environmental group, whose well-funded “Beyond Coal” campaign has been instrumental in not only preventing new plants, but also shutting down aging ones.

Executive director Michael Brune had a simple explanation for accepting money from a big gas company that was drilling hundreds of wells using hydraulic fracturing: the enemy of our enemy is our friend. “The Sierra Club board of directors … determined that natural gas, while far from ideal as a fuel source, might play a necessary role in helping us reach the clean energy future our children deserve,” Brune wrote in <aref=”http://sierraclub.typepad.com/michaelbrune/2012/02/the-sierra-club-and-natural-gas.html”>a 2012 blog post. “The idea was that we shared at least one common purpose [with Chesapeake]—to move our country away from dirty coal.”

The Sierra Club turned down further contributions from McClendon and his Chesapeake colleagues as it began to worry about the boom in natural gas fracking. That didn’t affect the outcome: McClendon’s philanthropy helped make it very unlikely that any new coal plants will be built in the U.S.—and helped push coal, the backbone of America’s power sector for more than a century, into a sudden and dramatic twilight.

Here’s another excellent example of the rot in the Green movement. If you can get rid of coal as a resource for power generation by claiming that it is the cause of anthropogenic global warming, what’s the big deal if you cause thousands of coal miners to lose their jobs, if you can force the country to depend on your natural gas for their electric power, and make your company and yourself rich by so doing?

The Sierra Club was once a nice organization with the goal of protecting the Sierra Mountains. They sponsored catered pack trips through the Sierras, and publicized Ansel Adams beautiful photography of the Sierras and Yosemite National Park. But at some point they became a leftist political agency under the cover of being a nice environmental club.

But then the coal industry once supplied nearly half of America’s power needs, and kept the cost of power low for American homes and businesses, enabling the prosperous industrial country we live in.  Mr. McClendon is hardly the only person who has been trying to enrich himself and his business by using the fear of a crisis of global warming that has been pushed by so many environmental organizations.

The cheap and affordable energy that coal-fired plants produce cannot be replaced by renewables, no matter how much investors hope it to become fact instead of wishful thinking. Wind is highly intermittent — we had a minor wind storm today that deposited bushels of fir cones and branches on the roof and on the streets (and on the driveway I laboriously swept yesterday) yet there were long periods with no wind at all, and even some blue sky.

Wind energy proponents talk about optimum performance — what a wind farm could produce if all the turbines were turning at the speed that would be produced by a perfect flow of wind. But Mother Nature doesn’t work that way.Wind is intermittent at best, and even shuts down for long periods. When it isn’t blowing at the perfect speed, then the power has to come from somewhere else. Hopes for battery walls ignore the availability and expense of the rare earths required which largely come from China, who has cornered the market and can raise prices as they choose.

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will prevent 0.03 degrees of warming by 2100.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity — but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.



Here ‘s Patrick Moore Explaining the Real Facts About CO2 by The Elephant's Child

“Since time immemorial, our climate has been and will always be changing. Patrick Moore explains why “climate change,” far from being a recent human-caused disaster, is, for a myriad of complex reasons, a fact of life on Planet Earth.”

Some scientists saw global temperatures climbing and noticed that at the same time, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was climbing. Big Aha! moment.  But as scientists keep telling us—correlation does not prove causation.

At the beginning of this delusion, climate scientists were not the leading lights in the faculty lounge, but when governments, accepting the UN’s IPCC as the authoritative source on all things climate, started to try to protect us from catastrophic global warming. suddenly there were grants and attention and new equipment for the labs and they began to be interviewed and became important, and the press wallowed in their authoritative utterances. The grants were all for proving the fact that the globe was warming unnaturally because, of the evildoing of humans for drawing fossil fuels from the bosom of the Earth instead of commuting on bicycles as they should.

It was discovered that the thermometer sites on which readings of national temperatures depended were not accurate at all because some idiots had put them right next to the heat vents from air conditioners or where sunlight reflected off concrete walls increasing temperatures abnormally. Then we had “the Pause” when global temperatures as measured by satellites stopped climbing. And they stopped climbing for over 19 years, yet the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere kept increasing. Causation would seem to have gone out the window, but true believers don’t give up easily, and the recipients of  grants and subsidies don’t give up easily either.



You May Not Disagree With Progressives! by The Elephant's Child

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On February 10, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) held a panel discussion on how to take legal action to implement the environmental activists  agenda through legal action against climate change deniers. They covered topics such as RICO prosecutions, climate torts and the Supreme court’s ‘appalling’ stay of the Clean Power Plan. The session was organized and moderated by Lisa Heinzerling, an attorney brought into the EPA to manage the legal analysis of just how to extend EPA powers beyond the limits of the Clean Air Act.

What Republicans cannot get through their heads is that the Progressives, the Left, are at war “to fight for the world as it should be.”They don’t know very much and they have trouble defending their point of view — and they want the “vast right wing conspiracy” to stop disagreeing and they are willing to put you in prison to make you stop. They believe that utopia is just there, a few steps away, if the damned right wingers would just stop arguing and spoiling everything.

The ACS is a very liberal association of legal progressives that sponsors over 1,ooo sessions a year to promote their agenda and create a network “useful in influencing judges nationwide.” They don’t like conservative “buzzwords” like “originalism” and “strict construction” that use neutral-sounding language that leads to hated conservatism.

Although last to speak, the keynote message was offered by Senator Whitehouse. He supports a federal RICO investigation and prosecution of “deniers.” His was a political screed based exclusively on a presumption of a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change through use of hydrocarbons. He believes the tobacco RICO case is the “roadmap” for prosecution of deniers and he looks forward to the day when the CEOs of the coal, petrochemical and electric power industry are marched before the Senate to confess their crime.

Greens are terrified that cheap coal, oil and natural gas are making renewable fuels uneconomical. Americans are spending less on energy than at any time in recent memory. Wind and solar are barely affordable when oil prices are high.

A California congressman and two other representatives demanded last week that the government investigate Royal Dutch Shell “for deceiving the public about the alleged dangers associated with man-made global warming.”

Don’t laugh, they are serious about this.  Really.

ADDENDUM: I did top this article with a vague picture of potential hangings from an article about ISIS. It has been suggested that nooses are “racist” because lynching.  So I am replacing it with the Inquisition, where a man’s feet are being burned off as he screams because I don’t want to “offend,” because “political correctness.” Go figure.



What’s Wrong With Diversity? More Than You Ever Knew. by The Elephant's Child

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Yesterday I received the alumni magazine from my alma mater in the mail, and among other changes, they announced the appointment of a new chief diversity officer.  Which seems to put them right in line with the norm in colleges and universities today, when every gathering or crowd is scanned for the correct mixture of skin color and ethnic identity. That doesn’t seem quite right.

It seems to me that diversity, in the case of higher education, should be a diversity of ideas — not a diversity of skin color and  ethnic origins, nor sexual diversity—there’s a lot of that going around — but diversity of ideas is pretty hard to find. Consider the speakers invited to campuses who are not just disagreed with, their divergent opinions are excoriated, their very presence is protested, loudly and violently, and security must be called to protect the person — who has improper ideas! Students need “safe spaces” to protect them from ideas with which they disagree.

Sometimes, I seem to be a little slow. I really hadn’t put together the innocuous idea of “diversity” which always seemed a little silly, with Saul Alinsky’s famous phrase “Rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change.” Barack Obama was a student of Alinsky’s methods, and he’s been busily organizing us for over seven years. Hillary too, was a student of Alinsky.

The problem with the Alinsky method is that the end game is amorphous; the end game is the acquisition of power but little is said of what to do with that power once acquired. The core of Alinsky’s method is destruction, destruction of the “system” that allows a disparity of wealth. There is no discussion of what is to replace this system once it is brought down. However, there is little doubt that Alinsky’s idea of a better “system” is one that brings forced equivalence or Marxism. Fundamentally, the struggle to get power is the essence of Alinsky, what to do with the power once acquired is another matter altogether.

“The Obama administration is the embodiment of the failure of politics because it is not about politics—politics involves concession and compromise—it is about victory at any cost. The American people expected hope and change, as that is what they voted for, but what they really wanted was stability and prosperity.”

Well, no wonder the people are so angry with their government— and looking for someone, anyone, who can fix it. Their government has been furiously busy trying “to rub raw the sores of discontent.” They not only didn’t get “hope and change” — they didn’t get stability and prosperity either. “Diversity” has been a false promise. The people know and like people of all different races and ethnic backgrounds, and we like the ideas and the foods they have brought with them as well.

The race riots in Ferguson and Baltimore were urged on by imported community organizers. The campus protests and demands for more racial equality and more racial segregation at the same time, the banishing of statues or buildings named for anyone who once owned slaves, the racial hoaxes, were all stirred up by organizers from Black Lives Matter, Acorn, Occupy, and Organizing for America. Did you wonder why race relations seemed to get worse rather than better? Did you wonder why Black Lives Matter seemed to be stirring up animus against the police instead of improving relations? Why more policemen were being attacked or killed? That was deliberate community organizing.

Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention:

“Barack stood up that day,” talking about a visit to Chicago neighborhoods, “and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be…”
“All of us are driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.”
“There is no utopia; those who have strived to make the impossible real, to implement their grand visions of life have been the agents of death and destruction on a scale surpassed only perhaps by Islam. Alinsky, like the Koran, Sira, and Hadith, represents morality turned upside down or abandoned entirely in favor of cold pragmatism. …It is no surprise that they have been deeply involved in voter fraud and other nefarious practices. “

Here’s David Horowitz:

This is something that conservatives generally have a hard time understanding. As a former radical, I am constantly asked how radicals could hate America and why they would want to destroy a society that compared to others is tolerant, inclusive and open, and treats all people with a dignity and respect that is the envy of the world. The answer to the this question is that radicals are not comparing America to other real world societies. They are comparing America to the heaven on earth — the kingdom of social justice and freedom — they think they are building. And compared to this heaven even America is hell.

Freedom is important to Americans, but it is sometimes hard to recognize where and why and how it is being taken away. We hate the EPA for its dumb overregulation, are shocked when Condoleeza Rice is invited to speak at an American university, and turned away because students protest. Environmentalists suggest prison terms for people who claim that global warming is natural. People are laid off, but will not get severance pay unless they train the foreign workers who will replace them. Scandals erupt throughout the government, but no one is ever fired. Veterans are denied medical care, but the promised changes never take place. Government workers who break the law are placed on paid leave, instead of being dismissed.

Detainees are released from Gitmo, and turn up as spokesmen for al-Qaeda. Relations are resumed with a nasty little Communist dictatorship just south of Florida, who continue to abuse their people and emphasize that they will change nothing at all — in return for a resumption of trade. Immigration laws are ignored, the borders are ignored as well, and illegals flow into the country to be distributed to every state. Obama makes speeches about the importance of constitutional law regarding appointment of a judge to replace the distinguished Antonio Scalia, but notes that he has a phone and a pen, and he cannot be bothered to attend the distinguished jurist’s funeral.

The American people are indeed angry. But their anger is somewhat misplaced. It is not “the establishment” that is turning loose drug pushers to go back to the streets in the name of “prison reform.” It’s not “the establishment” that is letting convicted criminal illegal aliens back into the country to commit more crimes. It’s not “the establishment” that made an impossible deal with Iran that practically assures that we will be attacked with nuclear weapons. It is not “the establishment” that has so weakened our national security that we are warned to expect a direct attack from ISIS this summer. And it’s not the establishment that stuck us with ObamaCare, nor “the establishment” that has reduced our army to the smallest since 1940 and the Navy the smallest since 1915. Nor is it “the establishment”  that has given us the worst economic recovery in the last 70 years.

I think we need to do some serious reassessing.

ADDENDUM: “White college students are undergoing a weekly “deconstructing whiteness” program at Northwestern University. The ‘6-part’ workshop series for undergraduate students who self-identify as white” launched in January and runs through March according to the university’s website.” The program is voluntary, but comes under the rubric of “Social Justice Education.” Forgive me, but there is no such thing as “social justice”— we have one kind of justice in the United States of America which involves the Constitution, the body of laws, the courts, the judicial system and the officers of the law. Northwestern University declined to give any details.

F.I.R.E. reports that 33 “public colleges have elected to ignore a deadline to respond to the House Judiciary Committee’s request to adopt new speech codes on campus. Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, asked 160 schools to change at least one of their existing policies after a FIRE report showed that these schools substantially restricted their students’ free speech rights.”



It’s Not About Clean Water. Another Big Lie From the EPA. by The Elephant's Child

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The House has joined with the Senate in voting to overturn the EPA’s attempt to extend their control of “navigable waters” to every creek, stream, ditch and trickle to exert control over privately owned land across the United States.

The EPA has been acting with Congressional authority over “navigable waterways” since the 1972 Clean Water Act became law. Earlier this year they extended without any input from Congress their “clean water rule” as authority to control dry creeks, potholes and puddles. The intent was that private individuals or businesses would require government permission to do anything on their own property that was remotely related to water — like digging a drainage ditch, for example —that would give Washington sweeping powers over private land.

A federal judge told the EPA in August that it had gone too far, but the EPA shrugged and said they would continue to impose the rule in the 37 states that were not part of the lawsuit.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the EPA’s attempted rule a “power grab’ last Wednesday —the day the House voted 253-166, with the support of 12 Democrats to overturn the rule. It is the same resolution that was passed by the Senate in November. Now it will go to President Obama’s desk. He will undoubtedly veto the bill.

I’m not sure just when the current crop of Democrats decided that they could be Socialists without actually using the name — by controlling everything with regulation instead of owning the means of production. They are, however, well on their way to extend a web of federal power over everything, including private property.

I don’t know how the Navajos’ lawsuits against the EPA are proceeding over the agency’s toxic spill into the waters that serve the Navajo Nation for drinking water, irrigation and stock feed, but it is simply further proof that the EPA’s efforts are just a power grab, and have nothing to do with clean water — nothing at all.




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