Joel Page for The New York Times

Turbine blades bound for a wind farm on Kibby Mountain, Me. The technology has changed, but energy turf wars are familiar.

Published: July 13, 2009

WASHINGTON — While most lawmakers accept that more renewable energy is needed on the nation’s grid, the debate over the giant climate-change and energy bill now before Congress is exposing a fundamental rift. For many players, the energy not only has to be clean and free of carbon-dioxide emissions, it also has to be generated nearby.

The division has set off a fight between Eastern and Midwestern politicians and grid officials over parts of the bill dealing with transmission lines and solar and wind energy. Many officials, including President Obama, say that the grid is antiquated and that thousands of miles of new power lines are needed to allow construction of wind farms and solar fields in the most promising spots. Many of the best wind sites are in the Midwest, far from the electric load in populous East Coast cities.

An influential coalition of East Coast governors and power companies fears that building wind and solar sites in the Midwest would cause their region to miss out on jobs and other economic benefits. The coalition is therefore trying to block a mandate for transcontinental lines.

They want the wind farms built in rural New England and offshore from Massachusetts to Delaware, and for now it appears that they may get a chance to do that. They are campaigning to keep a provision out of the legislation that would mandate a huge super-high-voltage grid, with the cost spread among millions of electric customers.

“While we support the development of wind resources for the United States wherever they exist,” the governors warned in a May 4 letter to House and Senate leaders, “this ratepayer-funded revenue guarantee for land-based wind and other generation resources in the Great Plains would have significant, negative consequences for our region.”

Dan W. Reicher, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration who now leads energy initiatives at Google, said the debate exposed a conundrum. “The areas with the most attractive renewable energy resources often don’t overlap with the places where the push for job creation is strongest,” Mr. Reicher said.

For example, a wind machine in North Dakota would produce more energy than the same machine in some Eastern states — but energy projects tend to get built in places where they are most wanted.

The East Coast advocates may have won a crucial first round. When the House passed its sweeping energy and climate-change bill on June 26, it included a provision that lets the federal government overrule state objections to new power lines — but only west of the Rockies. Western states would be unlikely to oppose the new power lines in any case: the region has long been accustomed to huge generation projects built at a great distance from load centers.

But the bill would not give the federal government a mandate to overrule the Eastern states on transmission lines. The issue will be on the table again as the Senate takes up the bill in the next few weeks.

A two-year effort by transmission authorities in the eastern half of the country to draw up plans for a strong grid collapsed after grid officials in New York and New England pulled out, saying that the plans were too centered on moving Midwestern energy eastward.

In an interview, Ian A. Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said he questioned “whether or not we need national transmission legislation at all.”

Mr. Bowles suggested that all Congress needed to do was impose a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and mandate a national renewable energy quota. Then the market could determine whether resources should be in distant spots with long transmission lines or places closer to load centers, he said.

The debate echoes others in past years about whether to build conventional power plants locally or build stronger connections to distant conventional plants.

The governors’ concern, said James B. Robb, a senior vice president of Northeast Utilities, was not only the optimal cost and use of the electricity but also “any fringes that come along with it — the local tax base, local employment, all those kinds of things.”

For years, some planners have talked about a grid powerful enough to allow for “postage-stamp rates,” transmission charges that are small and independent of distance, so that power will be produced wherever it is most economical, even if that is half a continent away from where it is needed. But for local economic reasons some people resisted that idea, even in the days before tapping wind on the plains and sun in the desert became a national goal.

And a weak grid helps some electric companies. Local generators have often been able to charge more by being in the right place at the right time, with no competition because the long-distance lines are already fully loaded, experts say.

“When you have a constrained transmission system and you seek to unconstrain it,” said Mary Ellen Paravalos, the vice president for transmission at National Grid, a New York and New England company, some local parties stand to lose. This is true “even if the wider societal benefit is net positive,” Ms. Paravalos said.

Complicating the debate, many proposed power lines that could carry renewable energy to market could also end up carrying coal-fired power. An improved national grid would end the situation that prevails at many hours in the East today, when coal plants that can produce power cheaply sit idle while cleaner natural gas plants are running full tilt, able to sell their more expensive power because grid traffic is so bad that the coal power cannot reach the market.

That configuration costs consumers money but also reduces emissions of the carbon-dioxide emissions that cause climate change. So contrary to expectations, one effect of a stronger grid, although ardently sought by supporters of renewable energy, could be to push costs down but nudge coal-fired emissions up.

But the basic conflict remains distant energy versus local energy.

“Some states dealing with this issue see it not only as an environmental and least-cost-supply question but also as a potential economic development tool,” said Branko Terzic, a former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates some power lines.

Mr. Terzic added, “Those three goals are not always concurrent and could be in conflict.”

Just Do It

July 2, 2009

Published: June 30, 2009
There is much in the House cap-and-trade energy bill that just passed that I absolutely hate. It is too weak in key areas and way too complicated in others. A simple, straightforward carbon tax would have made much more sense than this Rube Goldberg contraption. It is pathetic that we couldn’t do better. It is appalling that so much had to be given away to polluters. It stinks. It’s a mess. I detest it.

Skip to next paragraph

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

Now let’s get it passed in the Senate and make it law.

Why? Because, for all its flaws, this bill is the first comprehensive attempt by America to mitigate climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions. Rejecting this bill would have been read in the world as America voting against the reality and urgency of climate change and would have undermined clean energy initiatives everywhere.

More important, my gut tells me that if the U.S. government puts a price on carbon, even a weak one, it will usher in a new mind-set among consumers, investors, farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs that in time will make a big difference — much like the first warnings that cigarettes could cause cancer. The morning after that warning no one ever looked at smoking the same again.

Ditto if this bill passes. Henceforth, every investment decision made in America — about how homes are built, products manufactured or electricity generated — will look for the least-cost low-carbon option. And weaving carbon emissions into every business decision will drive innovation and deployment of clean technologies to a whole new level and make energy efficiency much more affordable. That ain’t beanbag.

Now that the bill is heading for the Senate, though, we must, ideally, try to improve it, but, at a minimum, guard against diluting it any further. To do that we need the help of the three parties most responsible for how weak the bill already is: the Republican Party, President Barack Obama and We the People.

This bill is not weak because its framers, Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, wanted it this way. “They had to make the compromises they did,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, “because almost every House Republican voted against the bill and did nothing to try to improve it. So to get it passed, they needed every coal-state Democrat, and that meant they had to water it down to bring them on board.”

What are Republicans thinking? It is not as if they put forward a different strategy, like a carbon tax. Does the G.O.P. want to be the party of sex scandals and polluters or does it want to be a partner in helping America dominate the next great global industry: E.T. — energy technology? How could Republicans become so anti-environment, just when the country is going green?

Historically speaking, “Republicans can claim as much credit for America’s environmental leadership as Democrats,” noted Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. “The two greatest environmental presidents in American history were Teddy Roosevelt, who created our national park system, and Richard Nixon, whose administration gave us the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.” George Bush Sr. signed the 1993 Rio Treaty, to preserve biodiversity.

Yes, this bill’s goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 is nowhere near what science tells us we need to mitigate climate change. But it also contains significant provisions to prevent new buildings from becoming energy hogs, to make our appliances the most energy efficient in the world and to help preserve forests in places like the Amazon.

We need Republicans who believe in fiscal conservatism and conservation joining this legislation in the Senate. We want a bill that transforms the whole country not one that just threads a political needle. I hope they start listening to green Republicans like Dick Lugar, George Shultz and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I also hope we will hear more from President Obama. Something feels very calculating in how he has approached this bill, as if he doesn’t quite want to get his hands dirty, as if he is ready to twist arms in private, but not so much that if the bill goes down he will get tarnished. That is no way to fight this war. He is going to have to mobilize the whole country to pressure the Senate — by educating Americans, with speech after speech, about the opportunities and necessities of a serious climate/energy bill. If he is not ready to risk failure by going all out, failure will be the most likely result.

And then there is We the People. Attention all young Americans: your climate future is being decided right now in the cloakrooms of the Capitol, where the coal lobby holds huge sway. You want to make a difference? Then get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face. Get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon. That will get the Senate’s attention. Play hardball or don’t play at all.

Our Perspective:

Finally the Congress is recognizing there is an issue with emissions. For years, many have denied there is any correlation between emissions and climate change.

Leave it to the politicians to throw pork into an important issue.

Why would they recognize an issue, claim it and take responsibility for fixing it. They do not want to be held accountable for they have to run for reelection.

We can’t afford to push the rock any further.

Our ignorance has caused this problem.

But now that we acknowledge there is a problem, our arrogance can not let it continue.

We are only here for a short time. 

Everyday is a gift.

It is our responsibility to hand it over to the next generation, a world; that is in better condition than what we received.

This bill is flawed and we have to make our voices heard.

Have them pull the pork and make a real statement.

We can choose to lead by example! Just do it!

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ANGELA CHARLTON | May 28, 2009 05:01 PM EST | AP

PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it’s time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.

After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is back on the job,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.

What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.

Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.

She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.

“We have to get in the race now _ and win it,” she said. “I don’t expect a moving backwards because of recession.”

At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn’t aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.

Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.

Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ “that’s a revolutionary message for our country,” she said.

For a long time, she said, “People didn’t even expect the EPA to show up” at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.

“Now it seems like every day we’re rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air,” she said.

She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.

The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.

Our Perspective:

It is good to hear the administration making positive comments about our energy’s future. Alternative energy is a growth business and the correct path for insuring our future energy indepenence.

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Would you like to know more about the financial opportunities that drive this investment. Feel free to contct us.

Thu May 21, 2009 10:24am EDT

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by James Dalgleish

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy will likely start growing again in the second half of this year but unemployment will likely keep rising through 2010 to peak over 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.

“The growth in output later this year and next year is likely to be sufficiently weak that the unemployment rate will probably continue to rise into the second half of next year and peak above 10 percent,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said in prepared testimony to the U.S. House Budget Committee.

It will likely take several years for the unemployment rate to fall back to levels seen before the recession hit, in the neighborhood of 5 percent, he said in the prepared remarks.


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By Chris Nelder | Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

A new battle is brewing over offshore oil drilling. Nine months ago, President Bush lifted a ban on new oil and gas leases off the nation’s coastlines, and the congressional moratorium on offshore leasing expired last September. 

Now Obama’s Department of Interior officials are considering reopening the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to leasing, and once again the oil industry is pitted against environmentalists, as well as California residents who remember the ugly mess that a 200,000 gallon crude spill made of the Santa Barbara coast in 1969 after an offshore rig blowout.

 I remember that mess. Some time in the mid-70s, when I was 10 years old or so, my family took a trip to California to visit relatives. After nine long hours in the car from our home in the Arizona desert, I wanted nothing except to frolic on the beach when we finally got there, and I wasn’t about to let my uncle talk me out of going there no matter how bad it was. 

It was nasty. The beach was covered in globs of black goo—so much of it you couldn’t avoid stepping in it—and the whole place reeked. (If you haven’t ever smelled crude oil, it’s smells like exactly what it is: a combination of asphalt and gasoline and everything in between.) We had our fun on the beach, but when we got home, we had to endure a good scrubbing down with turpentine (or maybe it was gasoline) to get the gunk off of our skin.

 So I have sympathy for those who don’t want to see that sort of thing happen ever again. I’ve also been an environmentalist all my life. 

On the other hand, I believe our energy predicament is shaping up to be so dire as to render all such ideology moot. Taking a principled stance on environmental grounds may soon seem like a luxury of a far-gone age. 

Outer Continental Shelf Potential 

Let’s take a look at the numbers. 

According to the EIA (2007 data rounded to billions), total US proven reserves of conventional oil are about 21 billion barrels, of which 4 billion are proved offshore reserves. 

US demand is currently about 6.7 billion barrels per year, so if we relied solely upon our proven reserves and were able to produce it as quickly as we like, we’d only have about a three-year supply. Fortunately, we are able to import more than two-thirds of our oil consumption from elsewhere. Nature limits the rate at which we can pump our domestic oil, a rate which has been in steady decline since US domestic oil production peaked in 1970.

Three years’ worth isn’t much, so we have turned to the difficult and expensive stuff that remains, some of which isn’t even oil: low-grade tar sands from Canada, thin seams of shale in the Midwest, and the OCS.

Energy and Capital readers are no doubt familiar with our articles on tar sands and the shales (Bakken, Barnett, Marcellus, and others), but an update on the OCS is probably in order.

The EIA estimates that “technically recoverable undiscovered” offshore oil in the US is in the range of 59 billion barrels—nearly three times as much as our remaining “proved reserves.” Most of it, about 45 billion barrels, is expected to lie in the Gulf of Mexico.

The remaining 31% is what was unavailable under the Congressional moratorium, but according to a testimony before the House last month by acting EIA administrator Dr. Howard Gruenspecht, only about 20% of the total technically recoverable oil in the OCS has been under moratoria.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) numbers are considerably larger, suggesting that some 85 billion barrels of technically recoverable undiscovered oil may remain offshore. (For the present article, I will avoid delving into the murky details of probabilistic reserve estimates and why they differ from source to source.)

In any case, it’s clear that the remaining oil prize in the US is offshore. So why aren’t we producing it?

Partisans like Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) would have us believe that it is simply the politics of overzealous environmentalism, banging the drum loudly for offshore drilling and complaining that 85% of the OCS has been off-limits “leaving some of our greatest energy reserves untapped.” Indeed, the “Drill Baby Drill” crowd claims that if only we’d drill the OCS everywhere, we could achieve “energy independence.”

But if only 20-31% of the OCS has been off-limits, why hasn’t the rest been drilled yet?

Risky Business 

One part of the answer is that there simply isn’t any oil in some of those areas. Last July, John Hoffmeister, former CEO and president of Shell Oil’s US operations, told CNBC “The industry is pursuing the leases it has, but to be blunt, the prospective nature of many of those leases is very low. And you don’t go drill oil where you know it doesn’t exist.”

The second part of the answer is also simple: poor economics.

 Offshore oil is expensive, and deepwater oil—wells drilled in more than 1000 feet of water—is more expensive still. Leasing rates for high specification drillships able to produce oil from deepwater formations have run as high as $600,000 per day, which is why we have liked our deepwater drilling players for a long time now.

 Consider the economics of the Mars field as an example. At a water depth of 2,940 feet, it is believed to contain 500 million barrels of oil equivalent. The platform produces some 220,000 barrels per day, at a reported development cost of $100 million. Prior to the development of BPs Thunder Horse platform, it was the most advanced platform in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where the best prospects for new US oil production are. The Mars platform was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and rebuilt by Shell at a reported cost of $200 million. Assuming those numbers are still correct, at a $300 million total cost the project would take 34 years to pay for itself at $40 a barrel. (By comparison, the Thunder Horse platform produces oil at about the same rate, but has a total cost of around $5 billion.)

Deepwater oil also remains a very risky enterprise, even with modern seismic imaging technology. This week Contango Oil & Gas Co. (AMEX: MCF) reported that it would take a $12.5 million write-off for drilling a dry hole in the Gulf of Mexico. It takes a fluid and committed credit market to sustain that kind of risk, but the world is still in the grips of a credit market freeze.

Morgan Stanley recently reported that enough deepwater projects have been scrapped in the global economic downturn to reduce future crude supplies by as much as 2.4 million barrels per day (mbpd) by 2011, a substantial chunk of anticipated supply. Since August 2008, the company reported that no new lease contracts had been awarded, but 11 orders were canceled and 46 more were delayed.

Perhaps the largest project to be delayed recently is the Manifa project in Saudi Arabia. With a $9 billion price tag and a possible 900,000 barrel per day flow rate, it would be the country’s largest offshore oil development, but progress has been delayed by six months, probably to take advantage of lower construction costs.

How Do We Reach Energy Independence?

Finally, we must also address the flow rate of any new domestic oil. True “energy independence” would mean producing 18 to 20 mbpd, not the roughly 5.5 mbpd we are producing today. Could we do that?

Through drilling alone, the answer is “not even close.” In total, I estimate that if all limits on drilling were removed, including the OCS and ANWR, we could only increase US oil production by a maximum of 2-3 mbpd. That new production would come online slowly, and the additional flow would be hardly noticeable as it compensated for the loss in conventional oil production due to sheer depletion. If it lowered prices at all, it would be by a few pennies per gallon, at best.

Now I have no doubt that Sen. Hutchison understands this, but within the parameters of politics, she must state her case as strongly as possible and try to overcome the resistance to offshore drilling.

Nor do I have any doubt that the hearts of anti-drilling environmentalists are in the right place. Why continue down the doomed path of oil dependency when renewables appear to be right around the corner? Why would the good people of Florida want to court the disaster of oil spills, or look at oil rigs in the distance of their beautiful beaches?

Both sides of the issue, unfortunately, are wrong-headed, and would lead to poor policy. If the public were successfully convinced that we could drill our way out of our energy dilemma, it would stifle development of a renewable-powered infrastructure that will survive in a future of declining oil. Conversely, large oil spills from offshore drilling are a thing of the past, and if we do not drill our remaining reserves with all possible haste we will undoubtedly find ourselves without sufficient oil at an acceptable price within just a few years.

The IEA’s warning in February should remain foremost in our minds: If oil demand recovers in 2010, global spare capacity would fall to zero by 2013. And as the world’s largest nation dependent on imported oil, we could be in for a very difficult time. The last thing we should do is pull the plug on the majority of our energy supply, which is oil, before we have new forms of energy to replace it. To do so would have terrible consequences on the economy, and hamstring our capability to continue evolving to a new energy regime.

Our only real path to energy independence is to pursue all options, within acceptable emissions limits, and gradually phase out fossil fuels as we ramp up renewables and the electric infrastructure to support them. But while renewables remain less than two percent of our energy mix, we should be careful not to expect too much of them. We will need oil and natural gas for decades to come, and in time we will need to develop our offshore resources or face the prospect of shortages.

Our perspective:

Oil is a finite fossil resource. As our demand for energy continues to increase, we must turn to alternative energy resources to support this growing demand.

There is no silver bullet.

We must look to implement multiple resources, weaning from fossil and reaching for the sun, wind, earth and water.

God placed them here, right in front of our eyes, yet we refuse to see.

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Written by Jeff Schweitzer As reported in Huffington Post Green

A sad fact of modern life is that our ability to plan for long-term energy independence is stymied by fluctuating oil prices. At $150 per barrel and $4.00 per gallon, gas-guzzling SUVs were being dropped faster than quarters at a slot convention in Las Vegas. Panic selling of large cars was fueled by punditry calling for permanently high fuel prices, with some talking heads ruminating about $200 per barrel. Politicians were falling over each other to demand a switch to renewable energies. We wondered with pious regret why the country had not invested more heavily in solar and wind power.

How quickly we forget. At $40 per barrel, we have developed an intense case of amnesia and have quickly mortgaged our future for more immediate gratification. We learned exactly nothing from the oil crisis of the 1970s or from any subsequent spike in oil prices. With every peak we express regret at our shortsightedness and promise to reform, never to drink again, and then with every valley we forget our commitment to a better future, and pick up the bottle once more.

We are behaving like alcoholics oscillating between bouts of sobriety and weakness because that is precisely what we are: oil addicts. Exhibit A is the precipitous decline in hybrid values, which are down almost 24% from the peak last summer simply because fuel is now cheaper. That rational market response is a rather pathetic reflection of our collective obsession with the short-term at the expense of a healthy future.

We need an intervention. We need to change our ways. We need help. Like all addicts, we will not get sober alone. Market forces alone will not come to our rescue. Ronald Reagan famously said that government is the problem, not the solution. He could not have been more wrong.

The immediate demands of the market cannot properly anticipate our longer-term future needs. The current price of oil, for example, does not incorporate the value of energy independence, and with that the commensurate benefits to national security. The cost of gasoline fails to include the future costs of climate change. Refineries do not consider the costs of protecting sources of oil in the Middle East in their price structure. The temporal gap between market forces and societal goals cannot be bridged by appealing to the magic of free enterprise. Government must play a catalytic role.

The time has come for society to pay the true environmental and national security price tag of burning fossil fuels. Even during these times of economic crises, gasoline must be taxed so that the actual costs to society are recovered and properly reflected in the price of fuel. The revenue generated from such a carbon tax must then be used to fund renewable energy infrastructure development and research.

Reliance on foreign oil from the world’s most unstable regions is one of our greatest national security threats. Dumping six billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year is one of our greatest environmental threats. We can solve both problems with an aggressive move to renewable energies. To do so, we must not fall prey to the bad habits of our addiction every time a bottle of our poison comes down in price.

We have a moral obligation to bequeath to our children a world that is at least as good as the one we inherited from our parents. We will not meet that obligation if we cannot see past the next fiscal quarter. Our government policies and personal actions must look toward a more distant horizon. We have to move beyond our ridiculous propensity to abandon our quest for energy independence with every dip in the price of oil. We can do better than this.

Our Perspective:

Alternative Energy is the new Buzzword. We are poised to enter a new energy era. Are we willing to take that step? We can’t afford not to!

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By Philip Elliott  from AP

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s aides say the administration will work with Congress on his budget proposal, but energy independence is not subject to wheeling and dealing.

Obama planned to make the case Monday for a budget proposal that invests billions in research designed to reduce climate change and guarantees loans for companies that develop clean energy technologies. Obama has tied his first budget proposal as president to a renewable energy program to help the United States move toward energy independence.

In a fact sheet released Monday, the White House said Obama’s meeting with “clean energy entrepreneurs and leaders of the research community” will outline an energy program that draws on the administration’s $787 billion stimulus package for $39 billion at the Department of Energy and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy.

It also disclosed that his 10-year budget proposal contains spending of nearly $75 billion to make permanent existing tax cuts for energy research and experimentation.

“The president is prepared to negotiate on this budget with folks like those at this table … and the president’s been very clear about this, as has our budget director: We don’t expect these folks to sign on the dotted line,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s economics adviser.

“What we do expect and what we are going to stand very firm on _ because this president, this vice president have made this clear _ that there are these priorities that brought them to the dance here: energy reform, health care reform, education, all done in the context of a budget that cuts the deficit in half over our first term.”

Obama and his aides plan an aggressive push to deliver a $3.6 trillion budget that contains many of his campaign promises. He plans to speak about the energy portion of his budget at the White House on Monday, highlighting research and development in clean energy. He also will highlight how part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package already is working to create much-needed jobs.

Obama plans to follow that with a prime-time news conference on Tuesday. The president is back in campaign mode as he stumps for a budget proposal that, so far, has faced opposition from members of both parties.

Democrats worry the plan inflates deficit spending; the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama’s budget would generate $9.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade. Republicans say it would impose massive tax increases, including on polluters; Washington could raise billions from companies that use unclean fuels, what GOP leaders called a carbon tax.

Obama said the country must provide incentives for so-called green businesses.

“I realize there are those who say these plans are too ambitious to enact,” Obama said in his weekly video and Internet message. “To that I say that the challenges we face are too large to ignore. I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next president or the next generation. I came here to solve them.”

Bernstein spoke Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Written by Paul Krugman  NY Times

The Geithner plan has now been leaked in detail. It’s exactly the plan that was widely analyzed — and found wanting — a couple of weeks ago. The zombie ideas have won.

The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. As Tim Duy put it, there are no bad assets, only misunderstood assets. And if we get investors to understand that toxic waste is really, truly worth much more than anyone is willing to pay for it, all our problems will be solved.

To this end the plan proposes to create funds in which private investors put in a small amount of their own money, and in return get large, non-recourse loans from the taxpayer, with which to buy bad — I mean misunderstood — assets. This is supposed to lead to fair prices because the funds will engage in competitive bidding.

But it’s immediately obvious, if you think about it, that these funds will have skewed incentives. In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem.

Or to put it another way, Treasury has decided that what we have is nothing but a confidence problem, which it proposes to cure by creating massive moral hazard.

This plan will produce big gains for banks that didn’t actually need any help; it will, however, do little to reassure the public about banks that are seriously undercapitalized. And I fear that when the plan fails, as it almost surely will, the administration will have shot its bolt: it won’t be able to come back to Congress for a plan that might actually work.

What an awful mess.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment.

As reported in Huffington Post

AP March 12

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is encouraging state officials to get on the front lines of the government’s program to revive the ailing economy.

Obama stopped by a conference Thursday with state officials gathered in the capital to discuss carrying out the $787 billion economic stimulus program. He said he believes the American people are behind his administration’s efforts but also said that officials at all levels of government must spend the money wisely.

Obama told his audience: “You’ve got this wonderful mission. And it’s rare where you get your chance to put your shoulder to the wheel of history and put it in a better direction.”

Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced $8 billion in stimulus money to be directed to state and local weatherization and energy efficiency efforts.

From the Vice President’s press release:

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Chu today detailed an investment of nearly $8 billion in state and local weatherization and energy efficiency efforts as part of the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With an investment of about $5 billion through the Weatherization Assistance Program and about $3 billion for the State Energy Program, the Department of Energy will partner with state and local governments to put 87,000 Americans to work and save families hundreds of dollars per year on their energy bills.
To jump-start job creation and weatherization work, the Department of Energy is releasing the first installment of the funding – about $780 million — in the next few days. The Department will release additional funding over time as states demonstrate that they are using the funding effectively and responsibly to create jobs and cut energy use.


As reported in Huffington Post Green

Written by Dave Burdick

Green vs. greenbacks.

It’s a balance we’ve been told we have to accept. But somebody who knows a lot more about making greenbacks than the vast majority of people says it’s not so. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has patiently been telling Google investors not to worry about the company’s massive interest in the US energy grid. Changes have to be made to the way energy gets transported around the country in order for renewable sources of energy to play a larger role, and Google is in on the ground floor, along with IBM, Cisco, GE and others.

But the investors would still like Schmidt to show them the money.

At the WSJ’s ECO:nomics conference in California, Mr. Schmidt was asked how he would respond to Google shareholders who worry the Internet titan is taking its eye off the ball by paying so much attention lately to alternative energy.
“Money we save on energy goes straight to the bottom line. Lower costs mean higher earnings. Green energy done right is more profitable than old energy,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Is that a crisp enough answer for you?”

He cited Google’s own multi-trillion dollar blueprint for overhauling the U.S. energy mix. Sure, the pricetag looks hefty–but it would more than pay for itself.

“That’s $3.5 trillion, but over 22 years, not a matter of months,” Mr. Schmidt said. “And the benefit would be $4.4 trillion.”


But don’t blame the investors for asking — it’s a confusing issue, and one that’s bound to come up very frequently for a while, since President Obama has committed to spending some $4.5 billion on smart grid technology. Schmidt was, of course, a big Obama supporter during the election.

Grist’s David Roberts has a primer (with maps, which we all know I love) on the tangled problem of the national energy grid vs. the “smart grid.”

• First, there aren’t many high-voltage lines that go to the places where renewable energy is most abundant (e.g., the Southwest for solar, the Midwest for wind).
• Second, right now there are (depending on how you count) anywhere from three to seven distinct regional grids that make up the national grid, and they aren’t very well connected. While juice circulates relatively freely within these grids, it’s difficult to get juice from one grid to another.