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China Now Leads in Clean Energy Investments

Will new Obama proposals help U.S. regain lead?

by on Mar.30, 2011

As President Barack Obama exhorts Americans to get behind a coherent energy policy, a new study shows the U.S. falling  behind in the race to develop new, clean sources of energy, according to a new study by Pew Charitable Trusts.

Last year, clean energy investment across the globe grew by 30%, to $243 billion last year, with China continuing to solidify its position as the world’s clean energy leader by investing a record $54.4 billion in 2010.

China’s investment represented a 39% increase from 2009, the new Pew Study said.  Germany was second in the G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100% increase in investment, to $41.2 billion.

“The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630% growth in finance and investments since 2004,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.

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“Countries like China, Germany and India were attractive to financiers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors,” she said.

The United States, which had maintained the top spot until 2008, dropped another rung in 2010 to third, with $34 billion invested.


Obama to Visit Michigan Battery Plant That Will Now Supply Both GM and Ford EVs.

Ford signs up LG Chem’s Compact Power subsidiary as new battery supplier.

by on Jul.14, 2010

Power to the People? President Barack Obama will visit Michigan to press for more battery production.

President Obama will be charging through Michigan Thursday, stopping in Holland to mark the groundbreaking of the new LG Chem battery plant that will begin supplying lithium-ion packs to the nation’s two largest domestic automakers in 2012.

The Korean-owned plant, scheduled to be one of the first in this country to produce the basic lithium-ion cells for battery vehicles like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will also produce batteries for Ford’s upcoming Focus Electric model, that automaker announced Tuesday.

Obama’s visit will be more than the classic political meet-and-greet session.  The president will use his visit to the site of the LG Chem plant to focus on his administration’s efforts to expand the production and sales of plug-in hybrids, pure battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and other battery-based cars, trucks and crossover.

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For his part, the president is calling for the auto industry to be selling 1 million plug-ins, extended-range electric vehicles (the proper description of the Volt) and battery-electric vehicles by 2015.

While skeptics warn the technology is likely to remain expensive and limited in application for more than a decade to come, proponents insist that costs will come down –while consumer demand should rise — as manufacturers ramp up production of both batteries and battery vehicles.  Though LG Chem’s facility is still two years from production, as many as four high-volume lithium-ion factories are expected to be operating by year’s end, including one in Indianapolis supplying the Norwegian-based Think!, which plans to produce its 2-seat City minicar in Elkhart, Indiana.


Happy Non-Independence Day!

As the U.S. celebrates the Declaration of Independence and the free nation it led to, it remains too dependent on oil imports.

by on Jul.04, 2010

We need another War of Independence.

The Fourth of July celebration and the three-day weekend that accompanies it this year are right in the middle of the peak driving season in the United States.

It also marks our non-independence days, as the U.S. continues to import oil at a gas guzzling rate of about 10  million barrels per day, the highest level in 15 months as highway travel grows along with a fragile jobless recovery.

This national security threat distorts our foreign policy, sends our patriotic young men and women off to needless wars,  and is a massive transfer of our wealth to other nations, including some that would destroy us – if given the chance. It has been a problem we have ignored for decades.

There is a sorry history here of failed policy initiatives and big money lobbying against them  going all the way back to the Carter Administration, which proposed a comprehensive or omnibus bill, crucial – then as now – to wean the U.S. from foreign oil after the first OPEC oil embargo and crisis.  Carter failed to prevail against big oil, and we still have no coherent energy policy. (See Former President Carter at Energy Security Hearing Blasts U.S. Record on Imported Oil)

As is now the case – and was then – enormous sums of money are involved, and there are  no lobbyists for American Energy Independence, but armies upon armies of them for special interest, multi-national corporations benefitting from the status quo – and they care not a sack of tea about our independence, quite the contrary. In an earlier time, they would have been in favor of enforcing the Stamp Act and staying loyal to British rule.

Oh where, oh where, are the latter day descendants of Paul Revere and Sam or John Adams or Benjamin Franklin, who went to war as a grandfather while his son, the fat cat governor of New Jersey remained loyal to the Crown? Our current plight gives a whole new meaning to Green Mountain Boys, and we now need “green” mountain boys and girls more than ever.

The U.S. national average retail price for regular gasoline was $2.91 per gallon on May 10 before Memorial Day. Uncharacteristically, prices then fell for five weeks (beware of Greeks bearing debts?), before rising during the last two weeks to reach $2.76 per gallon as of June 28, the last government reporting period. Current retail gasoline prices are above their year-ago levels, but lower than prices during the same period in 2007 and 2006.

In 2008, of course, the highest gasoline prices ever were recorded (not inflation-adjusted) in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s survey, including the record price of $4.11 on July 7. That record, however, was followed by a sharp decline to $1.61 per gallon by the end of 2008, and the U.S. average price has not breached the $3-per-gallon mark since then. Recently sales of trucks have been rising as a result. How quick we forget. (See Here We Go Again: With Crude Oil at Record 2009 Prices, Where is Our Energy Policy?)

Oil will ultimately rise more in price if the Global Great Recession ever subsides, which it will, and hopefully in your lifetime. Moreover, even at current prices importing so much oil hurts us. We need to be free of this oil curse that is currently on full, floating display in the Gulf of Mexico.

So shame on us for forgetting that independence is our tradition, and independence is our national strength.

Shame on us for forgetting that independence of foreign entanglements made us a great country that looked after its own citizens and eschewed alliances with corrupt overseas governments.

Shame on us for easily giving up our independence won with blood so we could continue to drive gas-guzzlers, as auto, oil and power company lobbyists and the politicians in their pockets thwart real reforms.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of 1776, the 18th century year that was the start of something great and thus far enduring, let us find the fighting spirit once again and move toward another type independence.

So happy Independence Day!

We should celebrate our past, and the men and women of vision who created this country starting with the War of Independence, through the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, as fine a document of governance of the people, by the people and for the people that ever existed.

Moreover, may we celebrate an Energy Independence Day sometime in the  future – for our people and by our people.

Plug-In Hybrid Costs to Stay High, Benefits Modest

Are hundreds of billions in taxpayer subsidies really needed?

by on Dec.22, 2009

Even a small battery pack adds $3,300 in cost.

Costs of plug-in hybrid electric cars are high — largely due to their lithium-ion batteries — and unlikely to decrease drastically in the near future, claims a new report from the National Research Council.

Costs to manufacture plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2010 similar to the Chevrolet Volt are estimated to be as much as $18,000 more than for an equivalent conventional vehicle, $14,000 for the battery pack alone. And the cost estimates in the report are incremental manufacturing costs. They do include engineering and overhead costs, or the profits that automakers will try to pass on to customers.

Although a mile driven on electricity is cheaper than one driven on gasoline, it will likely take several decades before the upfront costs decline enough to be offset by lifetime fuel savings.

Subsidies in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars over that period will be needed if plug-ins are to achieve rapid penetration of the U.S. automotive market.

Worse, even with these efforts, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are not expected to reduce oil consumption significantly or carbon emissions before 2030.


The report looks at plug-ins that can operate on electricity for 10 or 40 miles. A theoretical PHEV-10 is similar to the existing Toyota Prius, but with a larger battery. The PHEV-40 is similar to the Chevrolet Volt since it has a larger motor and a much larger battery than the PHEV-10 to get 40 miles of electric range.


President to USDA: Expand Access to Biofuels Now

Agricultural Department has 30 days to get the money flowing.

by on May.05, 2009


At the very least, the President is attempting to channel the huge taxpayer financed subsidies of agribusiness in a way that helps national security.

President Obama issued a directive this morning to Secretary Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels,” by making use of renewable energy financing opportunities from the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 available within 30 days.

The order is an attempt by the President to make the U.S. completely free from importing foreign oil. It is also the beginnings of a transition away from corn-based ethanol to advanced bio fuels, as well as an attempt reduce greenhouse gas emissions that the EPA has identified as harmful. The estimated costs of the latest moves were not disclosed.

“President Obama’s announcement today demonstrates his deep commitment to establishing a permanent biofuels industry in America,” said Vilsack. “Expanding our biofuels infrastructure provides a unique opportunity to spur rural economic development while reducing our dependence on foreign oil — one of the great challenges of the 21st century.”

Vilsack also announced that he will help lead an interagency effort to increase America’s energy independence and spur rural economic development. was on a conference call with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary Vilsack when the announcement was made. 

This looks to be the beginnings of a promised comprehensive energy policy that will cut across the vast federal bureaucracy to take back control of U.S. energy use from off-shore based sources that are clearly not our friends. At the very least, it is an attempt to channel huge taxpayer subsidies of agribusiness in a way that helps national security. The President, thus far, has been unsuccessful at trimming such politically popular subsidies, even as the national debt reaches monstrous, unsustainable proportions of the gross domestic product. (more…)