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February 23, 2010

Another Clean Energy News Round-Up

It's that time again - time to highlight some interesting clean energy news of note that's come through my inbox recently.

Let's start with some great activism news - this time from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. Some fantastic students at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse held a public event on campus last Thursday to demonstrate the impacts of mountaintop removal coal - only they used a huge pile of snow instead of a real mountain. They want the university to move beyond coal and switch to cleaner energy sources.

Check out this video from WKBT-TV to see some great images of the event (sorry, you have to watch a 15-second ad first):


There's a short video from WXOW-TV, too, on the students' display.

Next up, some innovative news related to renewable energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is teaming up with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Brownfields/Superfund program to study the idea of placing renewable energy sites on contaminated land. From the news release:
The project is part of the RE-Powering America's Land initiative, which aims to decrease the amount of green space used for development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide health and economic benefits to local communities, including job creation.

The project will analyze the potential development of wind, solar, or small hydro development at 12 sites.   The analysis will include determining the best renewable energy technology for the site, the optimal location for placement of the renewable energy technology on the site, potential energy generating capacity, the return on the investment, and the economic feasibility of the renewable energy projects.  The 12 sites are located in Calif., Fla., Kan., Mass., Mich., Minn., Pa., Puerto Rico, R.I., W.Va., and Wis.

You can learn more on this EPA website.

Related to renewable energy, the Wall Street Journal has an interested series of short articles entitled "Why Alternative Energy Will Be Slow to Make Inroads." The article covers nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, biofuels, wind, solar, and electric vehicles. Each power source is broken down into its technology, its current status, and why it's going to take so long. Nothing like the WSJ to bring a positive spin to renewable energy.

To take another swing into bad news, did you see the Guardian news story about a new report that estimates the world's top businesses caused $2.2 trillion in environmental damage in 2008? Yeesh. That's a "figure bigger than the national economies of all but seven countries in the world that year." The article even breaks down the damage by type in a helpful but depressing chart.

And the U.S. government is attempting to tackle the immense handouts that the oil and gas industry gets in the form of tax breaks. In this Houston Chronicle article, watch the oil and gas industries whine and dump millions into PR campaigns aimed at keeping this money. Here's a good section from the article:
Environmentalists say the industry's reaction is blown out of proportion. Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope called the arguments about job losses "scare tactics." Ending "wasteful and unnecessary giveaways … will help correct some of the market distortions that unfairly advantage dirty energy at the expense of clean energy," Pope said.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the oil and gas sector reported spending more than $168 million to lobby Congress last year on climate change, taxes and other issues, a 26 percent jump over $133 million in 2008. Energy industry spending last year dwarfed expenditures by environmental groups that reported $22.5 million in lobbying last year. That included $1.9 million from the Environmental Defense Fund and $2.2 million from the Nature Conservancy.

Exxon Mobil's lobbying bill was $27.4 million last year, while Chevron Corp. invested $20.8 million and ConocoPhillips $18 million.
And finally, as those Congressional pushes to end those tax breaks for oil and gas companies, you can use this handy new 2009 Congressional Scorecard from the League of Conservation Voters to figure out just how your elected official will most likely vote on legislation related to it all.

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