solar power

Obama's State of the Union punts on climate change... but what did you expect?

rm iwest mugWell, President Obama certainly did go on at some length tonight in his just-concluded State of the Union address. But he once again failed to elevate the climate issue to urgency. I have to agree with David Roberts over at Grist.org: "Pretty weak tea." (Hat tip to Roberts for posting the transcript of that part of the speech before Obama was even done talking.)

Now, some of our faithful correspondents and even some friends thought it curious that Dateline Earth faulted Obama for falling short on the climate and energy issue in his inaugural address a year ago, after which we held forth thusly:

 That is not the speech of a man who intends to launch a World War II-style domestic campaign -- think Rosie the Riveter and the Manahattan Project. And that's what scientists are saying we'll need.

He did it again tonight. The president -- wisely -- started out talking about jobs or, as we've put it before, "Fighting climate change = ending the recession." He was clearly aware that Americans are saying in polls now that climate is pretty low on their list of concerns. And just a day before the talk, Republican Lindsey Graham caved on Cap'n Trade, provoking Roberts, for one, to accept that we probably won't be going down that road this year, if ever in Obama's presidency.

But the sheer brevity of what Obama had to say tonight portrays a president so pummeled by problems that on climate, he punted.

Solar power sucks water -- now what?

By definition, deserts get lots of sun and little water.

Solar power proponents have found a way to harness the abundance of light, but some of their technologies require too much of what deserts lack: water.

The New York Times' Todd Woody reports that some desert communities in Nevada and other western states are fighting solar projects because they drain too much water.  As billions of dollars are spent on solar farms unfolding across the Southwest, what is the balance between making solar power economical and using the more expensive technologies that conserve scant moisture?  Will California politicians cave to the prospect of clean energy jobs and allow solar farms to tap drinking water, as proposed by a recent bill?

For more information on solar energy, visit the NYTimes' excellent solar page.

-- Kristen 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.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Timber companies looking to sun, wind for future

Timber companies and their unemployed workers are going green -renewable energy green - as the timber industry in Washington state continues to wither and die. Alternative energy projects involving wind and solar power, and some just plain alternatives - like producing products used in toothpaste and ice cream - are coming out of the companies that once pumped out logs, reports Arla Shepherd in High Country News.

Projects include participation in the largest solar plant ever proposed in the Northwest, the 400,000 photovoltaic panel Teanaway Solar Reserve in Kittitas County. Timber company American Forest Land Co. is leasing the project 400 acres of clear-cut land near Cle Elum, Wa. InvestigateWest also wrote about the Teanaway Researve in July.

"Since 2001, 16 wind projects -- totaling nearly 1,600 megawatts -- have sprung up in the state, which now ranks fifth in the nation for wind capacity. On Earth Day this year, Gov. Chris Gregoire authorized two pilot projects in eastern and western Washington that would experiment with converting wood waste into energy. And in the lower Kittitas Valley, Puget Sound Energy operates a small-scale solar project -- 500 kilowatts from 3,000 panels -- which has demonstrated that solar can work just fine even in the relatively cloudy Northwest.

-- Rita Hibbard

Green jobs going strong in OR

Jobs in wind power, solar energy and other "green" fields show signs of continuing to grow despite the recession, Kate Ramsayer reports for the Bend Bulletin. Some of the state-identified "green" jobs aren't what one might attach to loving the earth, though. For example, the biggest 2008-2010 forecast increase, 68 percent, is for "community and social services."