solar

Bill Gates: Boost federal funds for energy research to fight climate change

There’s an urgent need – recognized by leaders of such venerable corporate giants as Xerox, GE and Lockheed Martin – for the American government to inject a lot of cash in a big hurry into alternative energy research, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told 1,200 climate activists and business people in Seattle on Tuesday.

To head off climate catastrophe, “the innovation piece is so important,” Gates said at a fundraising breakfast for the Seattle-based non-profit Climate Solutions. “The lip service that has been paid to energy innovation over the last few decades is disappointing.”

Gates and others from the upper echelons of the corporate world banded together as the American Energy Innovation Council and pushed hard for a boost in federal energy research spending from $5 billion to $16 billion annually.

“President Obama did see us. He said nice things, and I think he meant them,” Gates joked during an on-stage interview by Jabe Blumenthal, a former Microsoft executive who is co-president of Climate Solutions.

Nevertheless, the CEOs’ bid ultimately was shot down. Gates said that at a less dire time financially, it’s likely the group would have succeeded, and that the executives must keep trying.

Gates advocated research into many different energy sources, including nuclear, solar and wind power, that do not produce the gases scientists say are unnaturally heating the earth’s atmosphere, chiefly carbon dioxide. Many research projects won’t get very far but lots of them should be tried, said Gates, who is known widely for his philanthropy as well as his success at Redmond-based Microsoft.

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Cali boosts clean energy -- from other states?

California Democrats and environmentalists didn't like the executive order signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday, but all the other Western states might.

Surrounded by smiling energy company executives, Schwarzenegger's decree will require California's electric utilities to draw at least a third of their power from wind, solar and other renewable resources by 2020, according to the LATimes' Marc Lifsher.

Sounds good, right? 

But California Democrats and environmentalists had been slogging through crafting their own bills to that effect for nine months, and they had support from some utilities as well as labor unions. 

Schwarzenegger said he slapped those bills down because they would favor alternative power produced in California at the expense of other Western states, increase the cost to consumers and compromise electric utilities' easy access  to renewable power.

As of July 2009, California's unemployment rate was pressing 12 percent, but hey, we're all suffering.  Send the jobs up the coast!

- K. Young

U.S. missed the boat on China solar help

If the reports we're hearing about U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell's trip to China this week are accurate, it's another reminder of how badly the Clinton-Gore administration botched the Kyoto Protocol.

[caption id="attachment_3613" align="alignright" width="160" caption="The globe-trottin' senator herownself"]The globe-trottin' senator herownself[/caption]

Remember that the idea coming out of Kyoto among American negotiators was that the U.S. could invent a lot of technology to reduce emissions, and then sell it to the developing world. When the Senate unanimously rejected the treaty, though, research and development of greenhouse-friendly energy technologies -- predictably -- did not take off in this country.

But apparently it did in China. According what Cantwell told participants at a green-tech conference in Shanghai, 650,000 of the 800,000 jobs related to solar energy worldwide are in China. Oh, well, that's one opportunity missed for the United States.

Overall, though, the tone at the conference was that if Americans can be assured that China will crack down on violations of intellectual property rights, the two countries can make beautiful technology together, according to a dispatch by Elaine Kurtenbach of the Associated Press. Said Cantwell:

Technology exchange and intellectual property protection are wrapped together. It's safe to say we have a lot of work to go. ... If we can deal with these intellectual property issues, it's huge. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created in both countries.

Now, keep in mind that as she spoke, it's a fair bet that somewhere on the streets of Shanghai, someone was selling pirated copies of Inglourious Basterds.

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New Mexico company to build first zero-emissions hydrogen power plant

Jetstream Wind Inc. of New Mexico plans to build what it believes will be the first utility-scale, zero-emissions power plant to use electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be stored, then used to generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes and businesses, while the oxygen would be sold to the medical field and other secondary markets, Susan Montoya Bryan of the Associated Press reports.

Whether such a plant would ultimately be cost-effective way to produce fuel remains to be seen. "You have to start somewhere with a lot of these technologies and over time these things decline in costs," Mike Taylor, director of research and education at the Solar Electric Power Association in Washington D.C. told the Associated Press.

The privately financed 10-megawatt plant is being built in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and the company eventually hopes to build two more plants for American Indian pueblos and one in Hawaii.