The Petroleum Ceiling and the Limits of Growth
Since the credit crisis began, we’ve been hearing a lot about how investing in a ‚ÄòGreen New Deal‘, ‚ÄòA Green Economy‘, and ‚ÄòA Clean Energy Economy‘ will rescue us. But how, specifically, will green solutions be our savior, and why – at the end of the age of oil and a time of increasingly dangerous human-caused climatic instability – is this type of policy package so crucial for President Obama to implement during his first 100 Days?
Over the past few months, as I’ve talked about how our economy won’t experience a prolonged period of growth until we wean ourselves from our addiction to oil, I’ve referred to this limit on growth as the “Petroleum Ceiling” on our economy. What I mean – even now as gas prices have temporarily dropped due to recessional demand and investors’ flight to safety in the dollar (among other reasons) – is that as long as our economy is so foolishly dependent on oil, once the business cycle starts to heat up again, demand for oil will go up and with it, the prices of food, commodities and other critical goods and services – bringing the period of growth to a screeching halt.
The Petroleum Ceiling and the Limits of Growth
As renewable energy, particularly concentrated and other solar power project developers are flocking to remote parts of the southwest, the Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and Spain’s Iberdrola Renewables are building a network of solar resource monitoring stations across the region to minimize the uncertainties and risks.
The public-private sector partnership today announced that they have deployed the first of several such stations in Arizona as part of a planned instrumentation network – NREL’s Solar Resource and Meteorological Assessment Project, or SOLRMAP, that will extend across the United States, according to a media release.
With funding supplied by industry partners, SOLRMAP’s installations in Arizona will collect “precise, long-term solar resource measurements” that will be incorporated into technical analysis that aims to minimize the risk of commercial solar energy conversion projects, including concentrated solar power plants, according to the partners.
For the first set of measuring stations in Arizona, NREL and Iberdrola are using Irradiance Inc.’s rotating shadowband radiometer to collect direct and diffuse solar measurements. These measure and record the strength and consistency of sunlight at the station locations, as well as wind and temperature data.
NREL is going to combine the SOLRMAP data with information from existing regional solar radiation networks to upgrade models that populate a database of 10-km resolution solar resource data across the United States. The data collected will be used by NREL researchers and analysts to sharpen solar modeling, solar resource forecasting, and database development, according to NREL.
“The project is a win-win collaboration between NREL and industry to optimize the quality of solar resource data used to evaluate the viability of large-scale projects in the southwest U.S.,” said Steve Wilcox, a senior scientist with NREL’s Solar Radiation research program, and the Laboratory’s lead in the SOLRMAP collaboration.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced this week his Green Jobs Initiative for consideration in the 2009 legislative session.
The initiative offers a range of tax incentives for companies that produce renewable energy, manufacture renewable energy system components, or make green building products. The definition of green jobs could also include those in the service sector that support green business or install energy management systems.
Some of the specific elements of the Pawlenty’s initiative include:
- A new tax incentive for qualifying green jobs through an extension of the states JOBZ program, which gives tax breaks for businesses that create jobs in economically struggling, mostly rural areas of the state.
- $20 million in new Job Growth Investment Tax Credits. Half of the credits will go for job projects that promote the state’s renewable energy targets.
- $60 million for new Small Business Investment Tax Credits for qualifying Minnesota businesses, half of which will go for green job projects.
- Incentives to expand renewable energy projects throughout the state.
- A “Clean and Green” category for the Minnesota Cup, a competition that rewards entrepreneurial innovation.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development states there are currently 15,000 residents employed in green jobs, with the potential to 114,000 more jobs by 2038.Click to continue reading »
Napoleon Wallace - As sustainable entrepreneurship has evolved, the growing need for innovative resources that can provide support to this niche entrepreneur has become increasingly evident. The result has been a wave of innovation that is providing new platforms and resources so that good ideas can be nurtured to fruition for the benefit of both entrepreneurs and stakeholders.
One such company is Ideablob.com, an online community that allows entrepreneurs to share and grow their business ideas. In addition, each month a “winning” idea is awarded $10,000 based on votes from the rest of the ideablob.com community.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ami Kassar, founder and the Chief Innovation Officer of Ideablob (his bio can be found here), to briefly discuss his thoughts on the growing need for resources that support new ideas, and Ideablob’s role in helping to fill this gap. He will be a part of the “Web 2.0 Panel” on Friday during the Net Impact North America Conference.
Joyce Ferris is a managing director of Blue Hill Partners (her bio can be found here). She will be a part of the panel for “Early Stage Financing for Clean Tech” on Friday during the Net Impact North America Conference.
When reading through the Blue Hill website, one thing in particular caught my eye. I’ve looked through more than 50 cleantech private equity firms’ websites but haven’t seen anyone else with this type of strategy:
We concentrate in areas within the GreenTech sector and build investment ‘clusters’. To date, Blue Hill has built a cluster around energy efficiency technologies for application in commercial and industrial buildings and facilities. (link)
I asked Joyce to elaborate on her cluster strategy:Click to continue reading »
As GreenBiz reported on Tuesday, the 2008 CleanTech Open concluded earlier this week, showcasing some of the most exciting new innovations in the world of sustainability. Among the winners walking away with a prize package worth $100,000 in cash and business resources was BottleStone, a Los Altos Hills company that makes ceramic stone countertops out of recycled glass.
It takes about six wine bottles to create a square foot of BottleStone, which is a wonder to think used wine bottles do more than to serve as evidence of one’s drinking habits. What’s more interesting is BottleStone’s durability. In tests, the material proved to be just as strong as 1.5″ thick brick or 2.5″ thick concrete paver.
I recently interviewed Tucker Twitmyer, a managing director of EnerTech Capital (his bio can be found here). Tucker will be a part of the panel for “Early Stage Financing for Clean Tech” on Friday during the Net Impact North America Conference.
We spoke briefly about oil prices and EnerTech’s reactions to recent drops in oil prices. Many cleantech investments require oil at recent prices ($80+) in order to be competitive, but apparently EnerTech isn’t worried.
The term “green jobs” has been tossed around quite a bit this seemingly campaign season. While we may not all see eye to eye on plans for growing the green job market, we can agree that green jobs – jobs that serve a dual purpose of strengthening the U.S. economy while combating climate change and other environmental ills – are a critical step towards achieving both environmental and economic sustainability.
Like the majority of Americans, we are concerned about the state of our national economy (and, in turn, our impact on global markets). The assertion that we must learn to live sustainability, in all senses of that term, has never rung truer that it does right now. Simply put, our nation’s disposable, consumerist culture cannot be sustained. It’s time for not just more, but more of what matters.
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Last month Business Week calculated that consumers borrowed and spent about $3 trillion over the last decade, “consumption that was not justified by income growth.” Economic growth in the U.S. over the same period averaged 2.7 percent, the slowest rate since the 1950s. Personal consumption growth continued to grow while the rest of the U.S. economy declined, as the graph shows, which appeared in a 2008 Business Week article shows.
Michael Mandel, the chief economist for Business Week, believes that two things need to happen to “get the economy off the slow-growth track.” First, the private sector must concentrate on generating more productivity gains at home. U.S. multinational corporations moved many of their operations to other countries, which “created an unsustainable situation in which the U.S. had to keep borrowing from overseas to buy the goods made overseas.” Perhaps the old slogan “be American, buy American” needs to be revised to “be American, produce in America.”
The much anticipated International Energy Agency (IEA) report was released today, and basically told the world exactly what renewable energy advocates have been screaming from the rooftops for the past decade – energy demand is rising dramatically, and massive investment in new energy infrastructure development is an absolute necessity.
The IEA expects demand for oil to rise from 85 million barrels per day to106 million barrels per day by 2030. And in order to keep pace with demand, the agency noted that an energy supply investment of $1 trillion a year is necessary. That’s trillion – with a “T.”
It’s all over the news today: the International Energy Agency is warning that another spike in oil and gas prices is impending. The recent sharp drop in crude oil prices – thanks largely to purging of speculative demand for paper, exchange-traded oil contracts from hedge funds such as T. Boone Pickens’ BP Capital– is leading the world’s major oil and gas producers and refiners to cut back, if not zero out, their capital expenditure plans.
It seems that even the most flush, reserve-rich oil producers aren’t willing to invest in new exploration, production and refining at current prices, prices that are still 33% or more higher than they were before the liquidity-fed speculative bubble began shifting into oil and commodities several years ago. The effects of the banking and credit crisis is rippling through and resulting in recession, and prompting major oil and gas companies to drastically revise their capital spending plans downward. This as best revised forecasts are that energy demand will grow 1.6% per annum between 2006 and 2030.
If that’s not a strong argument for investing as much as possible now in the development of alternative, renewable energy resources I don’t know what is. If Saudi Arabia is having trouble meeting its recently upgraded capital spending plans, can we expect that drilling and producing here in the US is going to yield even a small percentage as much oil, or as cheaply. Clearly not.
It looks like there’s going to be short-term pain across the energy sector – from the pump to the plug – in the short-term. “Drill, baby drill,” is no solution. It takes years to locate and bring oil and gas resources into production, just tightens the ties that bind our energy and economic system, as well as foreign policy, to foreign oil and gas. That means our military personnel and arms will continue to our biggest export as we will have to continue to send them abroad to defend our energy exporting allies and intercede in local conflicts and politics.
Add to that the very real and enormous costs and risks of climate change and environmental degradation and it seems clear that we’re behind the curve when it comes to developing renewable energy resources and upgrading power infrastructure, fuel distribution networks and fleets of low carbon or emissions free vehicles, as well as a new generation of rail and other mass transportation networks. And of course, that’s not to mention the benefits to national security, as well as savings in lives and financial cost, reduced military involvement in the Middle East, eastern Europe and Eurasia could yield.
While NYC is having a hard time clearing the air when it comes to taxis, some claiming they’re not as safe as the 15 mpg relics common on the road now, Boston and San Francisco have a solid option that goes far beyond being a transportation service that’s replaced the black car with a green car.
But let’s start there. Just having a Toyota Prius do the hauling saves 700 gallons of fuel on 1000 fifteen mile trips, and nearly 14,000 pounds of emissions as compared to the usual Crown Vics, Lincoln Town Car (black car) and minivans that rule the roads these days.
Planet Tran takes it further, both in terms of convenience, environmental responsibility, and quantification of impact.
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Yesterday, American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), an organization of nearly 600 leading colleges and universities, released its own carbon protocol. Don’t we have enough of those, you might ask? There’s the Chicago Climate Exchange, the Voluntary Carbon Standard, CDM, the Gold Standard, Green-e, and the California Climate Action Registry has their climate action reserve. The thing is, all of these protocols just serve to make us all more confused, right? This protocol takes a different approach, offering university offset buyers a practical solution to the quandary of which offsets to buy.