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On Deficits and Energy

"We seem to be stuck in a zone in which the only real solutions are unpopular, while most of the ideas that are popular wouldn't be real solutions."

And so what is else new in Congress these days?!
February 3, 2010    View Comment    

On Deficits and Energy

"In case you're wondering why we should care about that in light of our new emphasis on green energy, it turns out that the entire energy contribution of the record 10,000 MW of wind turbines installed in the US last year equates to about 100,000 BOE per day, the equivalent of one good-sized Gulf of Mexico oil platform or roughly 0.2% of our total energy consumption. We need more renewables and more conventional energy."

BTW, I'm not sure this is an entirely fair comparison, is it? Assuming this is based on the heat content (BTUs) of those MWhs of wind powered electricity and the barrels of oil, this comparison would ignore the relative levels of useful work/energy quality of the two energy sources.  Electricity can be put to more useful work than the equivalent BTUs of oil, can it not? 

Still, even if you double or triple the relative contribution to useful work from wind power, your overall point stands.  Just picking nits...
February 3, 2010    View Comment    

On Advantage China?

Geoff, thoughtful as always.  We should certainly be cautious to assume China is as "unstoppable" as we assumed Japan was in the 1970s/80s.  That would over-inflate the situation and be to our detriment.

However, the China's cleantech dominance is certainly worrisome from a U.S. economic perspective.  You're right that the analogy to imported oil is a stretch.  But the impact to our trade deficit - and to future job growth and shared prosperity - of ceding the clean tech sectors to China (or Japan or South Korea or the EU or anyone else) are not to be ignored.  According to a report from Senator Wyden's office and the Senate Subcommittee on Trade and Competitiveness (Finance), the U.S. trade deficit in "environmental goods" had already soared to $215 billion in 2008, more than doubling from 2004 levels, with renewables and efficiency technologies accounting for the bulk of that deficit.

If wind and solar alone are already as large as the U.S. aerospace industry, as you note, that's clearly no small potatoes.  For an economy in recovery and a nation looking to find paths to real, sustained economic growth and shared prosperity (not the bubble economy of the past decade), we don't have too many industries of that size with growth prospects to choose from.  And it's not just wind and solar we are falling behind in.  As our Breakthrough Institute/ITIF report, "Rising Tigers" documents, the U.S. already lags one or more of the three rising Asian "clean tech tigers" - Japan, South Korea and China - in the production of wind, solar, and nuclear power, high-speed rail, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and the batteries that power them.

As I argued on "The Conversation" with Diane Sawyer yesterday, what the U.S. needs, if it wants to retain market share in these sectors, is to develop a comprehensive national clean energy competitiveness strategy.  Not a climate emissions reduction strategy.  Not a hodge-podge of isolated tax incentives and RPS policies and loan guarantees.  A national strategy, spanning support for research and innovation; manufacturing; and domestic markets.  

We need to avoid hysteria, as you appropriately caution.  But nor can we be lax in rising to this economic challenge.  It's time for America to get in the game.

Cheers,

Jesse Jenkins
February 2, 2010    View Comment    

On The Dependence of Renewables on Government

"While the points you make certainly resonate with me, I can't help wondering how in practice one avoids that turning into the kind of mess Germany created"

Well therein lies the rub, Geoff! And that's what need to figure that out.
January 28, 2010    View Comment    

On The Dependence of Renewables on Government

Some very good food for thought here.  Thanks Geoff for cogent and clear writing (as usual).  Some things I'll have to mull over. 

I'm not sure I agree with your prescription (e.g. level playing field that doesn't pick "winners and losers"and treats all non-fossil BTUs or KWhs equally); after all techs come into the marketplace at different price points which don't always speak to their ultimate potential to come down price and learning curves and compete without permanent subsidy after early markets are developed. 

We need some way to give every emerging tech an equal chance to thrive, and the conditions to do that may vary by technology. I agree we can't be anointing permanently-subsidized industries, but what we need to focus on is creating the conditions where winners can emerge in the first place.  Markets won't do that on their own, especially given many barriers to emerging clean techs.  And a single carbon price or per-KWH/BTU incentive price won't solve the barriers for each technology.  

For example, if the price is $20 per ton/MWh, wind may win while thin-film solar won't have a chance to emerge at all.  Focus on prices alone and those requiring infrastructures that don't match today's energy system won't emerge at all (like charging stations or biofuel distribution or transmission to wind and solar and geothermal resource areas). After all, our current energy system is built to serve (and thus perpetuate) incumbent techs.  And so on.

You've got the right concerns I think.  But we need more creative thought as to the right solutions.  I welcome your thoughts.  Cheers,

Jesse Jenkins
January 27, 2010    View Comment    

On Tesla Lands $465 Million Loan from Department of Energy for Model S Plant

Geoff:

A) You're not the only one: Marc Gunther has been pretty skeptical as well (prompting several rounds of debate between us about the role of government in our clean energy future!).

B) As far as bets on established companies, Ford gets $5.9 billion. Tesla gets $465 million.  So it would appear the established players are getting bigger bets.  I'd also suggest that given the track record to date of the big players in driving innovation, betting on a few upstarts is probably not the wrong move.


January 22, 2010    View Comment    

On Werbach: Brown's Election Means Time for a Climate Agenda Plan B

Yeah, it's been a pretty damn rough week, eh?!  In times like these, I turn to this:


Enjoy your weekends everyone...
January 22, 2010    View Comment    

On A Naval officer’s “Atomic Insights”

Excellent profile.  Thanks for spotlighting Rod and giving me (who came across Rod's writing relatively recently here at TEC) a bit more background on one of theEnergyCollective.com's most prolific contributors.
January 22, 2010    View Comment    

On Werbach: Brown's Election Means Time for a Climate Agenda Plan B

Well this didn't take long: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is already suggesting that cap and trade legislation pending in Congress could be split in two this year (as previously suggested by several moderate Democratic Senators, including Sens. Dorgan and Bingaman) to ensure a push to expand the United States' use of clean and alternative energy sources doesn't "fall victim" to the politics of cap and trade.

"We ought not to let one be the victim to the other, if you will," Hoyer told Reuters today. "I think we can move ahead on energy independence, I'm hopeful we can move ahead on the CO2 issue as well but I don't want to have one be the victim of saying we can't do one without the other."
January 20, 2010    View Comment    

On A CLEAR Look at the Cantwell-Collins Climate Bill, Part 2: Structural Advantages

Thanks Wilmot for the encouraging comment!  Stay tuned for more of what I hope will sufficiently be calm and lucid analysis...
January 14, 2010    View Comment    

On Communicating Climate Change: A Conversation With Andy Revkin

Excellent Q&A.  Thanks for posting this here.
January 12, 2010    View Comment    

On Green China: Friend or foe?

Also, I wanted to encourage you Marc (and anyone else) to take a look at a chapter in our recent Rising Tigers report, "Barriers to Widespread Clean Energy Adoption and the Public Investment Imperative" that explains why we see a more expansive role for government than you prefer as a necessity if we want to see the kind of clean energy innovation and adoption that we need.  Summary version of the report, with the relevant chapter, here.
January 12, 2010    View Comment