Gates Launches Breakthrough Energy Coalition @ #COP21

In Paris this past weekend, leading up to COP21 and the World Climate Summit, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, launched a new clean energy initiative, The Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Gates announced the news on his blog, “Gates Notes,” where he wrote that a global group of investors are taking innovative clean-energy ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace. The primary goal of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, says Gates, is as much to accelerate progress on clean energy as it is to make a profit.

The Principles of the Organization:

Technology will help solve our energy issues. The urgency of climate change and the energy needs in the poorest parts of the world require an aggressive global program for zero-emission energy innovation. The new model will be a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions, and investors. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs can invent and scale the innovative technologies that will limit the impact of climate change while providing affordable and reliable energy to everyone. The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.

The foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research, and here governments play the key role. Only our governments have the mandate to protect the public interest as well as the resources and mechanisms to do this. We know government investment in research can lead to the creation of industries that advance the common good and are driven by private capital. We have seen big successes before with government-funded research programs in space, defense, technology, and medical research, seeding private creativity which has produced many of the innovations that define our current way of life. The political will is emerging to do this again, through aggressive increases in government funding for basic and applied energy research, which can lead to breakthrough technologies for our energy future. However, current governmental funding levels for clean energy are simply insufficient to meet the challenges before us.

Gates writes that the Coalition will focus on early state companies that have the potential of energy future that produces near zero carbon emissions while providing everyone with affordable, reliable energy. He also announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition will work in conjunction with Mission Innovation, a commitment by more than ten countries to invest more in research on clean energy that was also announced this weekend.

Watch Bill Gates’ video to learn more about why these global tech leaders launched Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Rubio Commits to Supporting RFS

At a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa this week, presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio committed to supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) through 2022. According to America’s Renewable Future (ARF), this is the most in-depth answer Sen. Rubio has given on the subject saying, “Whether you like it or not, it isn’t fair to yank away something in the middle of it, after people have invested in it based on an existing government program. So, what I have argued is since it is already in place until 2022, let it stay in place until 2022 to respect the investment that people have made.”

ARF Co-Chair Rep. Annette Sweeney, said of his remarks, “Sen. Rubio’s comments show that he has spent time learning about this issue and we’re glad to see that he understands that the government needs to keep a promise to the Main Street investments made with the RFS. We’re also thankful that he is committed to supporting the law through 2022 and certainly hope to hear more from him on the topic.”

Rubio recently received a “needs work” rating from ARF on its midterm report card. The comments from senator come following the airing of ARF’s digital ads calling on the senator to stand up for Iowa farmers and support the RFS.

Fuels America TV Ad Blasts Anti-RFS Congressmen

Fuels America has launched a new TV ad that blasts the Congressional leaders who sent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy a letter requesting that corn-based ethanol volumes be reduced in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules. The final rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are expected by the end of this month.

The ad calls out Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) for protecting oil company profits and criticizes the signers who Fuels America calls climate change deniers. It continues by urging viewers to “Remind Peter Welch to stand up for Vermont, not oil companies and climate deniers.”

As noted in a previous story, the 184 Members of Congress who signed on have collectively received more than $39 million from the oil and gas industry throughout their careers. When combined, the signers have a National Environmental Scorecard of 2.74 out of a possible 100 (based on voting records) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCVs). The Scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health, and energy issues. In addition 154 signers have an LCV score below 10, 140 have an LCV score below 5, and 76 have an LCV score of 0.

“After years of pleading with Congressman Welch, it is time to inform Vermonters about his beltway exploits with the oil industry attacking renewable fuels,” Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman said in regards to the Congressional letter. “Mr. Welch didn’t just join an anti-biofuel campaign underwritten by the oil industry, he led the effort to recruit others. It is time to shine a brighter light on those encouraging EPA and the President to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). It’s not a chorus, it is the oil industry, climate deniers and EPA bashers disguised as one. This letter and the millions of dollars of oil contributions flowing to its signers tell you everything you need to know about the anti-RFS crowd.”

The anti-RFS letter came shortly after several members of the Congressional Black Caucus called on the EPA to support the RFS citing negative health an environmental benefits of biofuels and the negative effects of emissions especially in vulnerable communities. Continue reading

Hail a “Clean Energy” Beltway Taxi

People hailing taxis in the Beltway will be riding with “clean energy”. Well, not actually. (But wouldn’t that be awesome?) The clean energy will be in the form of an ad running on screen inside the cabs sponsored by Americans for Energy Security and Innovation. The ad highlights President Obama’s “hypocrisy” on promoting clean energy – a message the group wants the country to hear as President Obama heads to Paris for a global conference on climate change at the end of November. As is stands today, pro-biofuel groups are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop gutting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reverse its proposed 2014, 2015 and 2016 fuels to increase the amount of renewable fuels mandated across all categories.

“Regardless of your position on climate change, it’s clear that President Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth on renewable energy. Despite his environmental rhetoric, the Obama Administration has tried to gut the Renewable Fuel Standard – the only successful federal law that has effectively promoted clean fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The President’s stunning hypocrisy has undermined his credibility and proven that he cannot be trusted to keep his word and follow through on his promises,” said American for Energy Security and Innovation Chairman and former United States Senator Jim Talent.

Bachelor Chris Soules’ Delivers Pro RFS Message

The end of this week mark’s the final countdown to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 required volumes for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). To continue to gain support for the renewable energy legislation, Iowa-based America’s Renewable Future (ARF), has tapped in to Bachelor Chris Soules’ fame, who is an Iowa farmer, to raise awareness of the benefits of the RFS. He is also sharing the message of the importance of caucusing for pro-ethanol, pro RFS candidate for president.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.51.30 AM“As a farmer and an Iowan Chris knows firsthand just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is to preserving 73,000 Iowa jobs, our agricultural economy, and our environment,” said ARF Co-Chair Rep. Annette Sweeney, “We are thankful that he is using his voice to tell Iowans about the choice we face this election. The choice is stark—politicians who do Big Oil’s bidding and want to repeal the RFS and candidates who stand with Iowans and support this commonsense policy.”

ARF has been following the candidates’ views on biofuels and the RFS, as have we at DomesticFuel, during the campaign process and this week marked the 100 day countdown to the Iowa caucuses. (And in case you missed it, yesterday fellow Iowa-based journalist Jerry Perkins with Biofuels Journal and I announced our “run” across Iowa for the 2015 presidency at the Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo in Omaha Nebraska. Running T-Shirt compliments of Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines, IA.)

The video shows Soules on his farm in Northeast Iowa as he harvests field corn, which will eventually be turned into ethanol and Distiller’s Grain (DDG) for livestock feed. For farmers like him, the RFS protects his livelihood and the economic well-being of his tight-knit rural town of Arlington.

“Choosing who to caucus for is a very important decision – especially for Iowa farmers. We need to know if the candidates support the RFS and if they’ll defend this industry for farmers like me,” says Soules says in the video. “I hope you’ll join me in caucusing February 1st for a presidential candidate who stands with us and protects our livelihood through the RFS.”

The Clean Power Plan: The Fight is On

Fighting over the Clean Power Plan is getting heated with the Republican Attorneys General filing a lawsuit against the Obama Administrations for the recently published legislation. Focused on utilities, the goal of the program is to reduce carbon pollution by 32 percent. In response to the suit, Americans United for Change launched a digital ad campaign challenging the Attorneys General to quit doing the work of their “corporate polluter donors” like the Koch brothers. The campaign will be seen on Twitter and Facebook.

A December 2014 New York Times exposé revealed an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” and coordination between Big Oil and Republican AGs against environmental regulations. The article cited one Attorney General literally copying and pasting a letter drafted by energy lobbyists and sending it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on official letterhead. Such legal and legislative efforts have been rewarded with campaign contributions to the tune of $2.4 million in the last two election cycles according to Americans United for Change.

While accusations fly that the EPA has overstepped their bounds, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s authority to take action to limit carbon pollution three times. The argument also points to the Clean Power Plan hurting the economy, but according to Americans United for Change, limits will save the average American nearly $85 a year on energy bills as well as bring down costs for asthma, lunch cancer and other air pollution-related illnesses while supporting more than a quarter million new jobs.

“Some might call it a coincidence that the Republicans AGs who’ve taken tens of thousands of dollars from dirty energy interests are the same ones filing lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan, but I’d call it a serious conflict of interest and a breach of the public trust,” said Brad Woodhouse, president, Americans United for Change. “When a state AG chooses to serve as part of dirty energy’s unofficial defense team, who is left looking out for the public interests? If you’re a public servant and find yourself standing in the way of something that will save thousands of lives and leave millions of Americans less susceptible to air-pollution related illnesses like lung cancer to asthma attacks in children, maybe it’s time to consider a clean break from your dirty energy friends. Or perhaps a new line of work.”

U.S. Census Fun Fact: Wind

Did you know that the first practical wind turbine generator dates back 74 years to 1941? It was then that Palmer Putnamof Vermont demonstrated his device. His 1.5 MW wind turbine had blades 66 feet in length, and in 700 hours of operation, produced nearly 300,000 kilowatt hours.

Innovators were working on wind turbines between the World Wars, mostly for rural areas in Canada and America where people had difficulty getting power. However, it was Putnam who realized that to generate more power, more efficiently, location and high wind speeds were vital. When searching for his ideal location, Putnam looked for wind speeds in excess of 30 mph. He also wanted to be able to supply alternating current to the grid without the losses incurred by converting direct current to alternative current.

According to his patent, he found his “advantageously exposed” location in that of Grandpa’s Knob, a 1976 foot high forested summit with a rocky base. During the winter of 1940-1941, workers built the 120 foot (36 meter) tower and turbine. The wind turbine featured just two steel blades, each weighing 7.5 tons each and were 66 feet (20 meters) long —bigger than the wings of all but a handful of bombers flying at the time. The turbine was designed to operate in wind velocities between 30 and 60 miles per hour and to withstand gusts stronger than 140 mph.

Today, there are more than 2,700 electric power generating facilities (i.e. wind farms) producing 4.1 million megawatt hours. Wind power now provides 4.5 percent of the U.S. electricity production. Siemens is building the world’s longest blade that is 74 meters long, nearly 243 feet, the length of an A-380 Airbus airplane,

Brookings Institute Hosts RFS Panel

The Brookings Institute hosted a panel discussion today entitled, “Ten years of the Renewable Fuel Standard: What’s been the impact on energy and the environment?“. Two of the featured speakers were Chris Knittel and Tim Searchinger and prior to the event, Americans United for Change called on them to fully disclose their past work against the biofuels industry. Back in 2008, Searchinger released a report on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) elements of biofuel production, that even though was found to have been found highly flawed, discussions around ILUC continue today.

According to Americans United for Change (AUC) Communications Director Jeremy Funk, criticism of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would be put in proper context for the audience if they knew if was coming from those who benefited financially from the oil industry, who has aggressively lobbied against biofuels and the RFS.

The organization cites Knittel as a long-term academic critic of the RFS who between 2007 to 2009 received nearly $500,000 in grants from Chevron. Knittel is currently an associate scholar at the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, which is sponsored by BP, Chevron and Shell among other companies. Also, notes AUC, the ‘event materials’ the Brookings panel attendees are encouraged to download are all, with the exception of a CBO report, co-authored by Knittel.

“We hope Mr. Knittel and Mr. Searchinger will be transparent about their financial ties to Big Oil and not present themselves as objective critics of the RFS,” said Funk prior to event. “Refusing to disclose their relationship with the oil industry would put them in poor company with Dr. ‘Willie’ Soon who controversially published a number of academic papers playing down the consequences of climate-change without disclosing that his work was financed with over a million dollars from the fossil-fuel industry, which of course is a leading producer of carbon pollution. It’s only fair the audience knows whose interests are really being represented at the table. And those interests hate the fact that over the last 10 years, the RFS has successfully displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil with cleaner homegrown fuels like ethanol. When Big Oil pretends to care about the environment, it should be taken with a grain of tar sand.”

Funk added, “And in case it doesn’t come up among the panelists, we would also encourage the Brookings moderator to note there is mountain of independent academic research showing that ethanol use significantly cuts down carbon emissions compared to gasoline made from dirty fossil fuels, whether it be from the Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and others.”

The panel was moderated by Ted Gayer, Vice president and Director, Economic Studies Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow and also featured Bruce Babcock, Director of the Biobased Industry Center and Economics Professor for Iowa State and Terry Dinan, Senior Advisor, Microeconomic Studies Division of the Congressional Budget Office.

Free 10 Percent Ethanol at Sturgis Buffalo Chip

sturgis-15-woodyThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has been providing free E10 fuel fill-ups for bikers at the Buffalo Chip Campground during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for the past four years, and every year Chip owner Rod “Woody” Woodruff is first in line.

“RFA has been here for a long time getting the word out about ethanol, that it is safe, because there’s all that false information going out there,” said Woodruff. “But, what’s important, when they’re at the Buffalo Chip, they’re extending the hand of friendship in good faith to anybody that wants to accept it and it’s very well received here.” Woodruff has been a strong supporter of ethanol since 1999 when he bought the motorcycle he rides all the time and he says he has never used anything but E10 in it.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the 34th anniversary of the Buffalo Chip Campground, the place where a big percentage of bikers call home during the rally. Woodruff says they made lots of improvements to the facility in anticipation of increased traffic this year. Early estimates were for a million plus visitors to the rally, which is called “one of” the biggest in the country – but probably really is the biggest.

In addition, earlier this year Buffalo Chip became South Dakota’s newest town. “The idea of the town was to be a town for bikers, by bikers, just to have as little regulation and government intervention as possible,” said Woodruff.

RFA will be providing free 93 octane premium E10 fuel from 1-4 pm through Thursday at the Buffalo Chip.

Listen to my interview with Woody here: Interview with Woody Woodruff, Buffalo Chip Campground

You can also watch Woody in action in this video:


2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with RFA at the Buffalo Chip Photos

Voters Want Pro Clean Energy Prez Candidates

NextGen Climate has released the results of a survey that finds voters in key presidential swing states support transitioning to at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030. Hart Research conducted the poll in eight battleground states including: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. In particular, the survey found that young voters (Millennials) are more likely to vote for a candidate who embraces aggressive climate change goals.

The survey also found:

  • 70% of voters had a favorable reaction to a goal of at least 50% clean energy by 2030 — including 69% of independents and 54% of Republicans.
  • 61% of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who embraced this goal, while only 14% say they would be less likely.

“Transitioning to a clean energy economy is an ambitious goal, but one that is necessary and achievable — and politically potent, ” said NextGen Climate President and Founder Tom Steyer. “It’s time for presidential candidates in both parties to produce plans to achieve at least 50% clean energy by 2030 and put us on a path to a completely clean energy economy by 2050—creating millions of jobs across the country and protecting our economy from the most devastating impacts of climate change.”

The survey supports that swing state voters believe achieving at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030 is an “important priority” and “necessary” and favor specific policies and initiatives that will build a clean energy economy. Millennial voters are particularly likely to support the goal, and see it as “inspiring.”

The poll is part of an NextGen Climate initiative to call on leaders to embrace policies that accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.