March 14, 2010

10 Truths About Big Oil

Bill Georgevich

The fossil fuel economy is literally a dinosaur that should have ended soon after World War II. For decades, Big Oil and Gas have enjoyed a massively successful global hegemony over this planet's energy. More than world domination in the marketplace, the Oil and Gas industry has succeeded in convincing mankind that fossil fuel is still the cheapest, most viable source of energy. This has simply not been true since the mid 1970's.

Here are some astonishing facts:
  • The first hydrogen powered fuel cell battery was invented before the Civil War.

  • Electric cars were the preferred method of transportation for the very rich in the U.S. until 1925.

  • After making 1200 all-electric cars to comply with a California zero-emissions mandate, General Motors repossessed those cars from their owners and crushed them, even though movie stars offered the car maker millions of dollars not to.

  • There can be no 'energy crisis' in a universe where the most plentiful element is hydrogen, the preferred fuel for NASA spacecraft.

  • There is a enough sunlight in the U.S .Southwest to provide electricity for one half of the country.

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's hydrogen car initiative includes hydrogen fueling stations, whose hydrogen is made and provided by Shell Oil -- despite the fact that hydrogen can be made at home with ordinary tap water.

  • The first hydrogen fuel cell passenger car is not the (unavailable) 2008 Chevy Equinox, but was a 1966 van that GM secretly and successfully tested.

  • The Oil and Gas industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public relations efforts to convince the public and law makers they should remain unregulated, while at the same time encouraging consumer conservation so that less and less gasoline can be sold for more and more money.

  • Major car makers the world over don't want you to own an electric or hydrogen fuel cell car as there is virtually no mechanical maintenance compared to an internal combustion engine, eliminating tremendous profits from the sale of parts and services.

  • Every U.S. president for the last 100 years has been an "Oil President" as there has been no major government initiative to remove us from the fossil fuel economy -- unlike France, which has been 85% fossil fuel independent since 1985.


February 10, 2010

Making Waves in California

Melanie Pahlmann reporting

Hear the 1 minute show:

Last December, California's largest utility company PG&E committed to the development of an Offshore Wave Energy Power Plant on the shores of Humboldt County. The Canadian company Finavera Renewables has cut a deal with California to build an ocean wave energy plant 2.5 miles off the coast that will service PG&E's customers throughout northern and central California.

The plant is expected to offset greenhouse gas emissions by displacing an estimated 245 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. The plant is expected to begin delivering clean, renewable electricity to northern Californians in 2012 -- granted it passes an extensive regulatory analysis.

Before any construction is started on the project, this two to three year regulatory "permitting process" will be undertaken, involving several tiers of regulators and community stakeholders, and extensive, if not exhaustive, impact studies by a variety of organizations. This regulatory process is not only slow and painstaking, it is particularly difficult for non-existing energy technologies, which is to say, the clean technologies.

The regulatory process that any renewable energy company must face today was designed over half a century ago and thus does not allow for the multitudinous aspects of today's technologies. This slows an disrupts the approval time for clean energy power projects. "And so," says tidal power developer Trey Taylor, " already underworked, understaffed resource agencies like FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] would just as soon as have these new technologies go away."

Indeed, outdated regulations are what's holding the renewable energy industry back in the U.S., according to Roger Bedard of EPRI, an electric power research institute in Palo Alto.

Despite the hurdles and delays of the permit process, Finavera is obviously very excited about wave energy. From an entrepreneurial perspective, Finavera is quite clearly enthused about the short and long term potential of wave energy. "Propelled by the worldwide demand for renewable energy, ocean wave energy has the potential to become commercially viable quicker than other renewable technologies, achieving the fastest growth rate of all energy sources and generating significant wealth."

While I would never go as far as to agree that "greed is good", in the case of renewable energy technology, a balanced amount of profit motive is essential, at least until our government gets off its duff, stops subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and begins funding clean energy projects, as we all know it should. In lieu of that, venture capital funding will be the life blood of renewable energy research, development and implementation.