Archive for Politics

San Miguel Power Association leaves CREA

I never thought it was going to become a movement!

Delta-Montrose was first.
Who’s next? Holy Cross, maybe?

Press release follows
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Green Jobs Demystified

I read a lot of Green Jobs reports over the last couple of months, and the research culminated in three articles. One is for the next issue of Smart Energy Living, and will be published in the Fall ’09 issue, but the other two are available now.

In the first, I look at the differences in the potential clean energy sectors to create jobs (they’re all a lot better than fossil fuels), while in the second I analyze the arguments against a green stimulus.

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Ethanol, Cellulosic Ethanol, and Advanced Biofuels

Last week, I attended the 2009 Fuel Ethanol Workshop and the Advanced Biofuels Workshop, writing two articles.  The first is a commentary on what the corn ethanol industry needs to do to rehabilitate its image, and the second looks into how the stock investor can benefit from emerging advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol, and
algae technologies.

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ARRA Symposium notes, March 10 2009

I’ll be referencing these notes in an article to be published on AltEnergyStocks.com as What the ARRA Means for Clean Energy: One State’s Example on March 15th.

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AltEnergyStocks.com Endorses Obama

My partners and I received a couple angry emails because of what I consider very well reasoned arguments as to why Barack Obama would be better on Energy and Climate than John McCain. It still shocks me that anyone interested in alternative energy investing would even consider this controversial. If they support McCain, they might not like the fact that their candidate isn’t the best on energy issues, but simply consider other matters more important.

YouTube Removes Clip of McCain mocking tire inflation.

It’s a crazy world we live in. In the first draft, we had found a video where McCain was shown deriding Obama’s advocacy for energy efficiency in the form of well-inflated tires, but it had been taken down by YouTube a day later. We had to settle for a news story talking about the McCain campaign and their tire guages, not McCain himself.

On what grounds was it removed, I have to wonder? It was a public appearance of a public figure, so you would think that it would not have been removed on copyright grounds, but your guess is as good as mine. Does YouTube remove all videos of public figures making fools of themselves?

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Votes for Clean Energy in Colorado

I vote in Colorado, and we actually have more initiatives on the ballot than in California. Again, from the perspective of a voter primarily concerned about climate change and clean, renewable energy, here are the propositions that are relevant. (I’ll spare you my opinion on if eggs should be people.)

Amendment 52 – Redirect severance tax revenues for road repairs. No.
A quick look at who’s backing this thing is enough to convince me it’s crazy. See my article on Colorado Republicans.

Amendment 58 – Ends a tax subsidy for the oil and gas industry. The saved money would be used to expand college scholarships, preserve wildlife habitat, support clean energy projects and help local communities deal with the impacts of oil and gas drilling. Yes.
I looked into this in detail as Policy Committee Chair for the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES), which endorses the bill. Naturally the oil and gas drillers want to keep thier subsidies, which is why you’ve probably seen more ads against it than for it. See A Smarter Colorado for the other side’s take.

Boulder Initiative 1A. Yes. This would allow Boulder county to issue municipal bonds and use the proceeds for loans to help fund home energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in residents’ homes. CRES has also endorsed this one, for pretty obvious reasons.

And, of course, if you care about clean energy, you’ll be voting for Mark Udall and Barack Obama. I used to like John McCain, and once even voted for him in a primary… back when he was a maverick. Now he’s just old, and in the pocket of his party.

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Votes for Clean Energy in California

I’m not a California voter, but my father is, so he asked me my advice on the energy propositions. Here are the intiatives I see as affecting the clean energy global warming picture.

Prop 1: High Speed Rail Bonds. Yes. Rail is the most efficient form of transport we have.

Prop 7: Renewable Energy Generation Initiative Statute. Yes. This bill raises targets for CA’s RPS, but lowers the level of penalties for noncompliance. However, it does make the penalties slightly more enforcable. See CEERT for more details.

Prop 10: Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds Initiative Statute. Nah. This bill would mainly subsidize conversion of vehicles to natural gas and subsidize natural gas transport infrastructure. This would be an improvement over gasoline, but is not renewable. It would also be a windfall for T Boone Pickens and his Pickens Plan. Clean Energy Fuels, a company which Pickens Controls (and I own some stock in) would be the greatest beneficiary… it’s also the primary funder.

In addition, there are some worries that California would be subsidizing conversion of vehicles to natural gas, and then the vehicles would leave the state. If your main concern is global warming and energy security, however, natural gas vehicles would help both, no matter where they are in the country. But it is rather unfair to ask CA to subsidize the rest of the nation. I’d like this much better if it were a national initiative, rather than just California; the fairness issue bothers me most.

My dad’s voting for Prop 10… but he’s more enthusiastic about natural gas vehicles than I am, and seems unfazed by the fairness issue.

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Enery Efficiency And Utilities

In addition to investing, I’m also a consultant for the Energy Efficiency Busisness Coalition for regulatory matters. This work has spawned a series of articles, looking into what it really takes to make an energy efficiency business work, and what constitutes progressive regulation. Here they are:

Barriers to Selling Energy Efficiency

There’s Much More to Energy Efficiency than Saving Money

Demand Side Management Policies That Work

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Investments for Peak Oil

I’ve written a series of articles over the past few weeks focussing on what a green investor can do to prepare for and profit from peak oil:

Peak Oil and Your Lifestyle

Behavioral Finance and Mass Transit

New Flyer: A Stock to Hedge Peak Oil

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Clean Energy Needs More Brawn, Less Brains

We’re way behind the curve on climate change.  Only after we have a new President is the US likely to take action to limit greenhouse gasses.  Meanwhile the artic ice sheet is vanishing faster than any of our models predicted, and the world is emitting more carbon than even the most pessimistic IPCC projections.

Given that backdrop, it’s too late to wait for some new technology to come along and save us, be it cellulosic ethanol or carbon capture and storage.  Investors should keep that in mind, too. 
When the world wakes up to the urgency of Climate Change, more money will be spent on near term solutions than research into new technology.  

The scale of the problem is daunting, which is why I believe there is such a temptation to invest our hopes in new technology, as opposed to investing our dollars in the technology we have today, which can take us most of the way we want to go, if only we can muster the political capital (the cost is negligible, because the efficient use of energy almost always than pays for itself and then some.)

That’s why I’m calling for a Clean Energy Marshall Plan.

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Off topic: How Do the Candidates Stack up on Clean Energy?

A trip down to the local national party offices to participate in a press conference asking the presidential candidates to pledge their support for clean energy legislation got me thinking about the candidates… I wasn’t sure which candidate has the best clean energy platfom. So I spent a day reading thorough thier platforms, and came to a surprising (to me answer).2008 Election

You can read how I think the candidates’ platforms compare on clean energy here.

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Matt Baker appointed to Colorado Public Utilites Commission

I had just written an articles for the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s e-newsletter CRES Clips about goings on at the Colorado Public Utilites Comission (PUC), when a piece of big piece of PUC related news came out:

Governor Ritter appointed the current Executive Director of Environment Colorado to fill a recently vacated seat on the PUC.

Why should every advocate in Colorado care? Because it’s great to have another sympathetic ear!

What follows is the article I wrote for CRES Clips, to give readers unfamiliar with the PUC an idea of why I think this is so important:

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission: Where Energy Policy is Implemented

 2007 was a banner year for the

Colorado

lawmakers when it comes to energy policy, and with all the successes.  While it would be tempting for clean energy advocates to declare victory and go home, getting good laws passed is only the beginning. When it comes to implementing laws that pertain to investor-owned utilities, the responsibility falls on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to interpret the legislation and ensure that our state’s public utilities comply with that interpretation.  Here, “public utilities” means Xcel and Aquila , since rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities are generally exempt from PUC regulation.

 The PUC accomplishes its business in a series of “dockets” in which various “interveners” submit testimony (and respond to other interveners’ testimony) for the PUC to consider.  Individuals can become interveners, but it is time consuming and requires
knowledge of PUC procedure.  Public interest groups with an attorney can also intervene, with various expert witnesses submitting testimony on behalf of that group.

 CRES is not currently intervening in any dockets, although several members of the Policy Committee (including myself) are involved in one way or another.  Given those inherent conflicts of interest, CRES is not currently endorsing any particular intervening group. 

 What follows is a quick summary of some of the most important dockets before the PUC this year, and the groups who support Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency who are intervening, and whom you can support or contact for more information about their activities. Also, it is possible that the PUC will combine some of these dockets. 

07A-447E Xcel Resource Plan.  These dockets will determine the mix of new generation and energy efficiency resources with which Xcel plans to meet our anticipated electricity needs in the coming years.  Anticipated/ current interveners: EEBC, IEA, RUC, SWEEP, WRA.

07A-420E—Xcel
DSM Plan
in which the PUC will review Xcel’s proposals for electricity DSM policy including energy savings and DSM budget goals, DSM program cost recovery, and incentive to the utility for implementing effective DSM programs. This docket was initiated in response to DSM legislation enacted last year, HB 07-1037.

07A-462E—Xcel
Renewable Energy Plan
in which the PUC will review Xcel’s plans for complying with the recently doubled Renewable Energy Standard.  Interveners: CoSEIA, WRA.

07M-446E—Xcel
Plan on Transmission
.  Transmission is essential to bringing the power from renewable energy sources to population centers.  This docket will determine much of when and where transmission is upgraded or built, and so will have a long term impact on what Renewables can be developed. Current Interveners: IEA, WRA.

07R-371G—Gas
DSM Rules.
This docket will determine the key policies governing gas utility energy efficiency programs, including energy savings goals and how utilities will be compensated and rewarded for reductions in natural gas usage.  Current Interveners: EEBC, RUC, SWEEP.

 

Key
to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advocacy Groups intervening at
the Public Utilities Commission (alphabetical.)

Note:
CRES has not reviewed the testimony of any of these parties, and their
opinions are their own.  Their
information is included because they are known to be aligned with CRES’s
mission of promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in

Colorado

.

Abbr.

Name

Contact

Description/
website

CoSEIA

Colorado

Solar Energy Industries Association

Lynn Hirshman, Executive Director

lynn at coseia dot org

 

www.coseia.org

Trade association for the Solar industries in

Colorado

.

EEBC

Energy Efficiency Business Coalition of

Colorado

Paul Kriescher, President

PaulK at lightlytreading dot com

 

Industry Association of Energy Efficiency Businesses,
dedicated to promoting Energy Efficiency in

Colorado

IEA

Interwest Energy

Alliance

Craig Cox, Executive Director

cox at interwest dot org

 

www.interwest.org 
Group of RE businesses and advocacy groups promoting RE project
development in the West.

 

RUC

Ratepayers United

Colorado

Gina Hardin, Attorney

ginahardin at msn dot com

 

www.ratepayersunited.org

Nonprofit advocating for responsible and accountable
energy at the PUC.

SWEEP

Southwest Energy Efficiency Project

Howard Geller, Executive Director

hgeller at swenergy dot
org

 

www.swenergy.org

Promotes Energy Efficiency in Southwestern States

WRA

Western Resource Advocates

John Nielsen, Energy Project Director jnielsen at westernresources dot org  


 

www.westernresourceadvocates.org

Nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the
natural resources of the states of the interior west.

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The Scary Side of Colorado’s “New Energy Economy”

Here’s a disturbing article about how Colorado Governor Ritter, who has done great things revitalizing Colorado’s renewable energy and energy efficiency economy, but is also a fan of Alberta’s Tar Sands, and Shell’s plans for extracting energy from Colorado’s Oil Shale.

If extracting Tar Sands has a massive carbon footprint and environmental impact, the Oil Shale is likely to be much, much worse.

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Waste Oil Recycling Facility Blocked by NIMBYS in Industrial Area

UPDATE: Thanks for all your help! The zoning comission upheld Co Bioenergy’s recycling permit, allowing them to get back to the business of taking used oil and trap grease and turing it into something useful again.

—-

A local biodiesel company is in danger of losing its permit to recycle used vegetable oil in an industrial area of north Denver. Please send the following requests to anyone you know who might be willing to help out with an email of by showing up to the meeting tomorrow morning.

Doing any of the following will help!

  • Send an email to Janice Tilden, janice.tilden@ci.denver.co.us, stating your support for BioEnergy of Colorado’s oil recycling efforts in the Elyria nighborhood. Here is a draft letter (make sure to include your address and contact information.)
  • Call Ms. Tilden at (720) 913-3050 and express your support for Bioenergy of Colorado
  • Show up to the hearing to support Bioenergy.
  • When: Tuesday, October 2nd at 11AM.
    Where: Web Municipal Office Building
    201 West Colfax Ave. Room 2.H.14
    2nd Floor ­ ask for the Board of Adjustment Hearing Room
    Who: BioEnergy of Colorado, LLC 4875 National Western Dr. (303) 887-6997
    Opponent: Elyria Neighborhood Assoc., Tom Anthony, President

  • Pass on the word to others you know who can do any of the above.
  • More information from BioEnergy of Colorado:

    In February of this year, the neighborhood assoc prevailed at the 1st BOA hearing where the board ruled that the Zoning Administrator erred when, in October 2006, he issued BioEnergy a conditional-use-permit to make biodiesel. Of particular interest though, they also ruled that we could continue to operate until our permit expires on October 20th, 2007 (about 3 weeks from now).
    As a back-up plan to achieve some utilization of the assets already in place, we decided to shift our business model. We applied for a use-permit to recycle used vegetable oil at this facility. In anticipation of this new application, we sought the help of the Denver Fire Department and they signed a letter of support on our behalf. We submitted the permit documentation for a ‘Recycling Facility’ about 2 months ago and we were awarded an ‘unconditional-use-permit’ which means that this activity is allowed in this zone district. No need for public hearings or special meetings with the Board of Adjustment.
    Much to our amazement, the neighborhood association, once again, appealed this decision, saying that the zoning administrator erred. Their reason will astound you. In the technical paper work that we provided the Denver Fire Department, the term ‘esterification’ (not transesterferication) was included. Esterification is the chemical reaction that occurs in the recycling process.
    Here’s the Neighborhood Association Statement;
    The Zoning Code forbids a use not specifically authorized. The applicant’s filing documents stating “the waste oil recycling process is technically known as an ‘esterification process’.” “Esterification Facility” is not authorized as a use in the Zoning Code and therefore the administrator erred.
    Denver’s Board of Adjustment decided to take this appeal and we need your support by attending this hearing in big numbers. The neighborhood association’s tact has been to attack us, our business practices, and even us personally. This is not a hearing about BioEnergy of Colorado; it is a hearing whether a recycling facility can be located in an I-2 Zone district. The next hearing could and probably will be about your expansion plans in the area.
    What’s at risk: The most valuable resource, time, that we all have spent to pave the way toward a greater use of biofuels. The many million$ invested in technology, capital equipment, infrastructure and marketing trying to get the word out about our great businesses. The local market is at stake. The Denver Biodiesel Coop can buy fuel from out of state from someone who bought it, from someone else who made it, and pay all the foreign markups and transportation costs. Or, they can buy it directly from a local supplier….a neighbor …and, much more.

    Contact:
    Tom Foley
    BioEnergy of Colorado, LLC
    Cell (303) 887-6997
    TommyFoley AT Comcast DOT net

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    War, Regulation, Finance, and Renewable Energy

    So far this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about regulation of the electric sector, in large part because I’ve been getting ready for the next Resource Planning Docket at the Colorado Public Utilities commission, and have been participating in the various actions and negotiations the lead up to it.

    On September 2, I speculated about the effects of a war with Iran on Alternative Energy Stocks

    On September 9, I looked at why coming up with a good net metering law for distribute generation is so difficult, and made my recommendations.

    And on September 12, I looked at the implications of structured finance for Concentrating Solar Power.

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    CSP for Dictators

    When I heard
    France had offered to provide a nuclear reactor
    to power a desalinization
    plant in Libya, it knocked me for a loop.  I do believe in carrots to show
    countries that we don’t always get along with that there is some reason to be on
    our good side, but I fail to see any circumstances under which adding one more
    batch of radioactive material (even if not bomb-making grade) in a troubled
    region of the world is going to aid our long term security.

    If we want to help Gaddafi (or
    perhaps pay him off for returning hostages
    ,) wouldn’t it make more sense to
    give him something just a little less dangerous?  Concentrating Solar Power
    (CSP) is ideally suited for Libya’s hat and dry climate, and it works well for
    desalinization… why not use this opportunity to advance CSP technology, and
    not have to worry about proliferation to boot?

    That’s the question I ask in my most recent Alternative
    Energy Stocks
    article.  And while I’m at it, I ask similar questions
    about our relations with Iran and North Korea. 

    Click
    here to read the entire article.

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    Western Governor’s Association Energy Efficient Buildings Workshop

    This week, I’ll be covering the WGA’s Energy Efficient Buildings Workshop, which took place in Denver on July 17 and 18. I have drafts of 4 articles, the first two of which are an overview of the workshop, and a Western States Energy Efficiency Political update, which I just published on AltEnergyStocks. I’ll be publishing articles on Homebuilding and Performance Contracting later this week.

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    The Week in Energy Storage and Carbon Regulation

    This week, I sat in on Charles Morand’s weekly The Week in Cleantech column on AltEnergy Stocks. It may be just me, but it seemed like there were a ton of interesting articles about energy storage this week, from utracapcitors to sodium-sulfur batteries. Maybe it wasn’t the week, though: batteries are one of the areas I’m most interested in investing in right now… better energy storage is critical to a better functioning electricial grid, as well as to replacing foreign petroleum.

    I also go a plug in for a move to a Colorado Carbon Tax… much simpler and less open to special interests than a cap-and-trade initiative. And, as Lori Bird of NREL says, a cap-and-trade regime for carbon must be very carefully designed in order for voluntary REC (Renewable Energy Credit) purchases by consumers to help decrease carbon usage, while RECs will always help reduce carbon emissions in a Carbon Tax regime.

    You can read The Week In Cleantech, July 9-15, here.

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    Coal Companies vs. US-CAP

    It’s unfortunate, but even many environmental advocates also have money invested in companies that are doing a lot to make our world a lot less pleasant place to live. After all, we need to put our money somewhere, and a nonprofit salary isn’t going to fund your 401k to the point when you can retire after having saved the world if you’re money is in CDs.

    However, renewable energy and more generally progressive companies that advocate for action on global warming are giving us more and more opportunities to profit from our principles. Here is a brief look at how the stocks of the members of the United States Climate Action Partnership are doing in comparison to Big Coal so far this year.

    Coal is off to an early lead, but if you want reason to hope, I give a few at the end of the column. But the best reason for me is the ability to sleep at night.

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    Divestment from Sudan

    Monday I was speaking to a client who brought up some concerns about investments in Sudan/Darfur. Mia Farrow had come to her workplace and given a talk about how Fidelity has investments in Darfur, and she was happy because I had had her sell all her Fidelity funds when she moved her assets into my care.

    Because I use individual stocks, however, she wanted to be reassured that she didn’t own any companies which do business there. Since I don’t invest in oil companies as a general rule, and most of the companies doing business there are involved in oil, I knew she wasn’t overly exposed to the country, but I wanted to check for some of the large conglomerates I inculded in her portfolio as part of my blue chip alternative energy strategy.

    It turns out Amherst College has published it’s list of companies they won’t invest in because of investments in Sudan, and I thought this list would be useful to those of my readers who manage their own portfolios using individual stocks.

    Here’s the current list:

      Alcatel SA
      Alstom S.A.
      Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited
      China National Petroleum Corp. (PetroChina and CNPC Hong Kong Ltd)
      China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (Sinopec and Sinopec Shanghai)
      Dong Feng Automotive Company Ltd.
      Harbin Power Equipment Co. Ltd
      Lundin International SA
      Muhibbah Petrochemical Engineering Sdn Bhd
      Nam Fatt Co. Bhd
      Norinco
      Oil & Natural Gas Co. Ltd. (ONGC)
      Ranhill Bhd
      PECD Berhard
      PETRONAS and subsidiaries: PETRONAS Dagangan BHD, PETRONAS Gas BHD and MISC Berhad
      Schlumberger Ltd.
      Sumatec Resources (IR OilRigs International Ltd)
      Tatneft
      Videocon Industries Ltd.
      Weir Group PLC (Weir Pumps Ltd.)

    The original list included two companies I like because of their electricity transmission businesses, so I was happy to see that both Siemens and ABB SA had pulled out of the country, which gives me one more reason to like them both.

    UPDATE 4/10/07

    I just received an email from Max Croes at Sudan Divestment Task Force. They have their own, more in depth list developed in conjunction with Calvert. You can get an updated list from them by emailing info@sudandivestment.org, and much more useful infromation is on their web site.

    They use more nuanced critera:

      1. Has a business relationship with the government, a government-created project, or companies affiliated with a government-created project; AND

      2. Provides little benefit to the disadvantaged populations of Sudan; AND

      3. Has not developed a substantial business-practice policy that acknowledges and deals with the fact that the company may be inadvertently contributing to the Sudanese government’s genocidal capacity.

    UPDATE 4/14/07

    And now we hear that The New York Times, CNN, Newsweek, Business Week and the Boston Globe all turned down anti-Fidelity ads sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition.

    My thought: Fidelity is a BIG advertiser.

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