Institute for Energy Research
Institute for Energy Research
News Article | May 10, 2017
Watching the Trump Administration evolve (I write this a few days after its 100 day anniversary) is a painful and scary activity. As I wrote in a commentary for Energy Post on the Administration’s first week: “.. we do already know a few things: the next few years, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, will be a real test of the Republican Party, where party loyalty in a number of cases will come into conflict with national values and interests. Checks and balances among the three branches of the U.S. government, a pillar of our form of democracy, will be tested as never before in my lifetime. Not only was the recent election a test of the American people but the next few years will be a test of our democratic institutions as well.” What are my views now that the first 100 days have passed? Before Trump was elected, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank that espouses fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement. On the 102nd day Yale University historian Timothy Snyder warned that “..it’s inevitable Trump will look to expand his power and take full control of the government by declaring a state of emergency sometime next year. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them.” This is not the first time I have seen or heard such speculation, sometimes in the media and most immediately from an older friend who grew up in Europe during his most formative years. I take these comments seriously as I recognize that democracy is vulnerable to demagogues, as De Toqueville pointed out almost two hundred years ago, but cannot yet bring myself to believe that that is where we are today. My hesitation is bolstered by the behavior of our courts and our media in these past 100 days, two pillars of our democratic system. The courts have resisted what they have perceived as Trump’s unconstitutional initiatives on immigration and sanctuary cities, and the media have been unusually outspoken on Trump’s inconsistent statements and lies. Where I have been extremely disappointed is in the behavior of our legislative branch, controlled by a Republican Party leadership that has often put party and political advantage over national interest. I also stated in the earlier commentary my belief that we would learn a lot from President Trump’s appointments to his cabinet, White House staff and to the 4,000 positions in the federal agencies and departments he controls. These have been, for the most part, highly discouraging. While he has appointed a few experienced people to his cabinet and personal staff, his agency and departmental appointments have often gone to individuals who have expressed limited to no support for, and even hostility to, the missions entrusted to them. The case of Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency has been well documented. Trump’s recent appointment of Daniel Simmons as the acting head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is another case in point. It puts this important office in the hands of someone who has, according to the Washington Post, “… questioned the value of promoting renewable energy sources and curbing greenhouse gas emissions… ” The Washington Post writes that “Before Trump was elected, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank that espouses fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement that nearly 200 countries struck in Paris in late 2015.” There is little doubt anymore that the world is moving inexorably to an energy system that relies less and less on traditional energy sources The week before, Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a lobbyist who served at the Interior Department under George W. Bush, as Interior’s deputy secretary. Bernhardt was a partner at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, a consultancy representing oil and gas firms, mining companies and agricultural interests. This is in sharp contrast to the policies of the Obama Administration which sought to move the country onto a clean energy path and places Trump and his administration on the wrong side of history. There is little doubt anymore that the world is moving inexorably to an energy system that relies less and less on traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear, and toward a clean energy system that relies increasingly on energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is not an ideological position but one that recognizes the climate change and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel use, the costs and other difficulties associated with nuclear fission power, and the increasingly attractive economics and job creation potential of renewable energy technologies. President Trump’s actions and appointments may affect the pace of U.S. movement onto this path, but he cannot stop it. Other countries are moving rapidly in this direction, recognizing the many benefits to be derived, and individual U.S. states will continue their encouragement of clean energy technologies. The U.S. Congress can enact policies that reverse this potential slowdown, or support it and take a chance that it will not be punished by American voters in future elections. Public opinion polls clearly indicate that this would be a foolish bet. Check out our new 93-page EV report. Join us for an upcoming Cleantech Revolution Tour conference! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | May 11, 2017
His most recent energy appointments show that president Trump insists on moving the U.S. away from clean energy. This goes against the global trend and will put this Administration on the wrong side of energy history, writes Allan Hoffman, a former official at the U.S. Department of Energy and contributor to a new handbook on the history and future of solar power. Watching the Trump Administration evolve (I write this a few days after its 100 day anniversary) is a painful and scary activity. As I wrote in a commentary for Energy Post on the Administration’s first week: “.. we do already know a few things: the next few years, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, will be a real test of the Republican Party, where party loyalty in a number of cases will come into conflict with national values and interests. Checks and balances among the three branches of the U.S. government, a pillar of our form of democracy, will be tested as never before in my lifetime. Not only was the recent election a test of the American people but the next few years will be a test of our democratic institutions as well.” What are my views now that the first 100 days have passed? On the 102nd day Yale University historian Timothy Snyder warned that “..it’s inevitable Trump will look to expand his power and take full control of the government by declaring a state of emergency sometime next year. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them.” This is not the first time I have seen or heard such speculation, sometimes in the media and most immediately from an older friend who grew up in Europe during his most formative years. I take these comments seriously as I recognize that democracy is vulnerable to demagogues, as De Toqueville pointed out almost two hundred years ago, but cannot yet bring myself to believe that that is where we are today. My hesitation is bolstered by the behavior of our courts and our media in these past 100 days, two pillars of our democratic system. The courts have resisted what they have perceived as Trump’s unconstitutional initiatives on immigration and sanctuary cities, and the media have been unusually outspoken on Trump’s inconsistent statements and lies. Where I have been extremely disappointed is in the behavior of our legislative branch, controlled by a Republican Party leadership that has often put party and political advantage over national interest. I also stated in the earlier commentary my belief that we would learn a lot from President Trump’s appointments to his cabinet, White House staff and to the 4,000 positions in the federal agencies and departments he controls. These have been, for the most part, highly discouraging. While he has appointed a few experienced people to his cabinet and personal staff, his agency and departmental appointments have often gone to individuals who have expressed limited to no support for, and even hostility to, the missions entrusted to them. The case of Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency has been well documented. Trump’s recent appointment of Daniel Simmons as the acting head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is another case in point. It puts this important office in the hands of someone who has, according to the Washington Post, “… questioned the value of promoting renewable energy sources and curbing greenhouse gas emissions… ” The Washington Post writes that “Before Trump was elected, Simmons served as vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank that espouses fossil fuel use and opposes the international climate agreement that nearly 200 countries struck in Paris in late 2015.” The week before, Trump nominated David Bernhardt, a lobbyist who served at the Interior Department under George W. Bush, as Interior’s deputy secretary. Bernhardt was a partner at Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, a consultancy representing oil and gas firms, mining companies and agricultural interests. This is in sharp contrast to the policies of the Obama Administration which sought to move the country onto a clean energy path and places Trump and his administration on the wrong side of history. There is little doubt anymore that the world is moving inexorably to an energy system that relies less and less on traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels and nuclear, and toward a clean energy system that relies increasingly on energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is not an ideological position but one that recognizes the climate change and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel use, the costs and other difficulties associated with nuclear fission power, and the increasingly attractive economics and job creation potential of renewable energy technologies. President Trump’s actions and appointments may affect the pace of U.S. movement onto this path, but he cannot stop it. Other countries are moving rapidly in this direction, recognizing the many benefits to be derived, and individual U.S. states will continue their encouragement of clean energy technologies. The U.S. Congress can enact policies that reverse this potential slowdown, or support it and take a chance that it will not be punished by American voters in future elections. Public opinion polls clearly indicate that this would be a foolish bet.
News Article | December 7, 2016
Donald Trump: Please think about calling Elon Musk. President-elect Trump has spent a lot of time talking about how he plans to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector, repeatedly telling the public on the campaign trail, “We are going to bring back jobs that have been stolen from you.” And yet the group of business luminaries he named on Friday to advise him on “job creation” -- which included Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Robert Iger of Disney and Mary Barra of General Motors -- was missing a key name: Mr. Musk, the real-life Tony Stark behind Tesla, the electric car company; SolarCity, the solar power provider; and SpaceX, the rocket company. In August, San Diego Gas & Electric tapped energy storage company AES to install two energy storage projects totaling 37.5 MW/150 MWh. When completed, the larger 120 MWh project is expected to be the single biggest lithium-ion battery in service on a utility grid in the world. Both battery facilities are expected to be on-line by the end of January 2017 -- nothing short of miraculous in an industry where deploying assets, especially newfangled technologies, can take years. And the companies are not alone. Southern California Edison and Tesla announced a 30 MW/80 MWh project in September that is expected to be on-line even sooner, and will be the largest operating battery for a time. Google’s announcement Tuesday that it will soon power its offices and data centers with 100 percent renewable energy received applause from green-power experts, but was slammed by a group led by a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. The Mountain View tech giant said it expects to achieve that green-energy goal by the end of 2017. “Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power...bigger than many large utilities,” Google senior vice president of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle said in an online announcement. “What Google is doing is green window dressing,” said Chris Warren of the Institute for Energy Research. “It’s a PR stunt, claiming 100 percent renewables when that’s not actually the case. “You can’t pick and choose what source you’re getting your electricity from when you’re connected to the grid. The way they’re presenting it is misleading.” Weather Channel: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans Global warming is not expected to end anytime soon, despite what Breitbart.com wrote in an article published last week. Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents -- especially because a video clip from weather.com ("La Niña in Pacific Affects Weather in New England") was prominently featured at the top of the Breitbart article. Breitbart had the legal right to use this clip as part of a content-sharing agreement with another company, but there should be no assumption that The Weather Company endorses the article associated with it. The Breitbart article -- a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case -- includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare." In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet’s climate and will keep doing so. The Buffalo News: SolarCity Begins Its Hunt for Factory Workers Nearly 2 1/2 years after plans were first announced for a solar panel factory in South Buffalo, SolarCity is starting to look for its first production workers. The company is holding a series of information sessions over the next two weeks to try to drum up interest in entry-level positions at the massive solar panel factory on South Park Avenue. The positions include manufacturing specialists, shipping and receiving clerks and material handlers, said Kady Cooper, a SolarCity spokeswoman. The company isn't saying how much the positions will pay. It also isn't saying how many workers it plans to bring on in its first wave of hiring as the company prepares to begin production during the first half of next year.
News Article | December 13, 2016
Fossil fuel and utility interests have used lobbyists and 2016 campaign contributions to influence state legislators in Ohio, and drive renewed attacks on clean energy policies in the Buckeye State. State legislators will soon vote on companion bills — SB 320 and HB 554 — that would effectively continue the controversial freeze on Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards until 2020. There has been no shortage of public support for unfreezing Ohio’s clean energy standards, but behind the scenes, fossil fuel and utility interests have been using money to influence the debate in Columbus. According to disclosure forms filed with the Ohio Lobbying Activity Center, a number of electric utility companies have paid their lobbyists to engage in “active advocacy” on SB 320 and/or HB 554 during 2016: AEP and FirstEnergy have publicly backed efforts to freeze Ohio’s clean energy standards before. And last year, Dynegy favored continuing the freeze in testimony before the Energy Mandates Study Committee. Other electric utilities have been relatively coy about their positions on SB 320 and HB 554 publicly, but apparently have not been shy about lobbying on the bills behind closed doors. Lobbyists for the utility industry have filed disclosure forms populated with expenditures on meals and events for state legislators. For example, a bevy of FirstEnergy lobbyists disclosed spending $1,068 for an “RNC Reception” that all state legislators were supposedly invited to, during the same time period that they lobbied on SB 320 and HB 554. Lobbyists for several major fossil fuel companies have also lobbied on SB 320 and HB 554, including: ExxonMobil remains a leading member and funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has for several years peddled a so-called “model policy” written by the climate change denying Heartland Institute and aimed at rolling back state renewable energy standards like Ohio’s. In 2014, Ohio Senator Bill Seitz denied that SB 310, which froze the state’s clean energy standards through 2016, was influenced by ALEC. However, ALEC has since pointed to passage of SB 310 as one of the few signs of success for its campaign against renewable energy standards. Senator Seitz, who has now sponsored SB 320 to continue the freeze, remains a member of ALEC’s board of directors. Seitz also spoke on a panel on “Renewable energy mandates reform” at ALEC’s 2015 Annual Meeting, which was sponsored by AEP, Duke Energy, and ExxonMobil. AEP has since joined the more than 100 corporation that have left ALEC, but the company is still trying to implement ALEC’s dirty energy agenda in Ohio. Lobbyists for industry associations that represent fossil fuel and utility interests have also lobbied on SB 320 and HB 554, including: Attorney and lobbyist Samuel Randazzo has for years led the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio’s (IEU-Ohio) attacks on clean energy in Ohio. The group’s membership includes several utilities such as Vendor Affiliates and FirstEnergy Solutions. IEU-Ohio has promoted itself as an “active partner in shaping” the SB 310 freeze on renewables and energy efficiency. And Randazzo has been called “a chief guide on Ohio utility legislation” by his law firm McNees, Wallace, and Yurick, LLC. According to Ohio’s campaign finance database, the primary sponsors of HB 554 and SB 310 have received 2016 campaign contributions from some of the same fossil fuel and utility interests that have lobbied on their bills: Term limits prevented Senator Seitz from seeking another term in the Ohio Senate in 2016, but a loophole allowed him to run for and win back his old seat in the Ohio House, where he willsoon serve as Policy Chair. Earlier this year, PolluterWatch provided a useful roundup of the campaign cash that Senator Seitz and Representative Amstutz have previously received from fossil fuel and utility interests. Campaign contributions from these same special interests have also helped to fuel the campaigns of the president of the Ohio Senate and the speaker of the Ohio House, as well as the majority caucuses for both chambers. A recent story in the Los Angeles Times provided an update on the funding behind two associated climate skeptic groups that have been involved in attacks on clean energy in Ohio. The American Energy Alliance (AEA) and Institute for Energy Research (IER) together received at least $3 million from the Koch network in 2015, according to the Times. The groups also have financial ties to coal interests, including Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy. Donald Trump has tapped Thomas Pyle, the president of AEA and IER, to lead his Department of Energy Transition team. The pick has fueled concerns that the incoming administration will pursue the same kind of ideological attacks on clean energy that have impacted Ohio. A leaked memo on Trump’s “likely” energy policies that was written by Pyle and obtained by the Center for Media & Democracy affirms those fears. Governor John Kasich, a Republican, has spoken out against efforts to continue the freeze on clean energy in Ohio, telling reporters that he does not want to see the Buckeye State have to endure any more bad headlines on the issue. In fact, most states with renewable energy standards have chosen to stand by their bipartisan commitments to clean energy, and reject the disinformation campaign funded by fossil fuel and utility interests. These states will continue to lead the way on clean energy, regardless of what direction the Trump administration decides to take on energy. The clean energy economy in Ohio is still heating up, despite the freeze. Policymakers in Ohio now have another chance to embrace the facts and reestablish their state as a true clean energy leader by rejecting SB 320 and HB 552. Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. This article was originally posted on the Energy and Policy Institute. Read the original.
News Article | September 26, 2016
I’ve been nearly invisible here on CleanTechnica for the past few weeks because our 2nd daughter (Julia) was just born on September 9 and I’ve been playing mommy + daddy to our 2-year-old daughter Lily for a few weeks, while also trying to help mommy + the newborn as much as I can. But US political insanity and a sense of civic duty have pulled me to write a “quick” article about Donald Trump and American society. Donald Trump’s decision to jump into the presidential race was initially seen as a joke by many people, probably most people aware of his entry into the contest. After all, he’s a “reality TV” star, a real estate developer, and a casino owner, not a politician. He’s not even someone who has been very involved in political matters through business or charitable work, and his main entry into political discussion prior to the election was claiming for years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States (something I’ll come back to later in this article). Even Donald seemed shocked when he actually started winning the GOP nomination. No doubt about it, this presidential election season has been an anomaly. Candidates, campaigns, fundraising, media coverage, and Twitter battles have been stranger than any election season any of us have lived through — perhaps stranger than any in US history, but I’m sure there are a number of odd elections back there that could compete for the title. There are several reasons why Donald’s political rise has been a surprise to many of us, but I’ll start by more pointedly highlighting a few of the most obvious ones (which I think are basically beyond debate): Despite all of the above (and, in some cases, because of it), Donald won the GOP nomination and has a decent chance of winning the US presidential election. Even if he doesn’t, though, his support among a large portion of the public brings up many red flags (for me at least) about the US population. After all, Donald hasn’t simply hypnotized the voters who support him — and that tells us something about out country and the humans who currently populate it. Since this is CleanTechnica, not CleanPOLITICO, I’ll start off by focusing on some energy and environment matters. However, I will jump into other matters further down in order to try to be a bit comprehensive, so feel free to stop reading once you hit “Are we really so duped by fake ‘reality’ shows?” if you aren’t interested in the other matters. Apologies if anyone here supports Donald Trump. However, if you do, read on and please consider these matters with an open mind. It seems dubious to say Donald has any detailed policy plans — his campaign has basically just been soundbites, contradictory soundbites, and then a return to the original soundbites. However, going by who seems to be in line to run energy matters under a Trump presidency (as well as his own energy soundbites), Trump’s focus seems to be on providing more access to oil & gas companies and cutting regulations that protect US health and the climate. As reported previously, fossil billionaire Harold Hamm is a top option to be offered the “Secretary of Energy” office. That would surely mean more oil drilling and natural gas fracking, and probably less support for renewables. POLITICO also now reports that, “Forrest Lucas, co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil and an outspoken opponent of animal rights, is a leading contender for Interior secretary should Donald Trump win the White House, say two sources familiar with the campaign’s deliberations.” Lucas reportedly gave $50,000 to VP candidate Mike Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns. As Sierra Club political director Khalid Pitts nicely summarizes, “At this rate, Donald Trump’s cabinet meetings will be so oil-soaked that they’ll need fire retardant carpeting installed in the White House out of fear of setting the place on fire.” Now, Trump has just unveiled that GOP energy lobbyist Mike McKenna and global warming denier Myron Ebell would lead his energy transition team. Here’s a short summary of these anti-cleantech, fossil-focused men: McKenna, is a well-connected energy lobbyist with ties to the industry-backed American Energy Alliance and Institute for Energy Research. McKenna has lobbied for the Dow Chemical Company, Southern Company and Koch Companies Public Sector, which terminated his contract in May, according to public records. According to his website, McKenna previously served as an “external relations specialist” at the Energy Department. Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He is a prominent skeptic of climate science and a regular critic of the Obama administration’s environmental policies. But he has never worked at the EPA. If you’re concerned about energy and climate matters, that should be enough for you, but in case it’s not, please keep reading. As noted in a previous article about Trump and GOP “leadership,” here are some other concerning points: What does all of this tell me about the US? It tells me that approximately half of the population doesn’t care that Trump’s energy agenda is ~100% focused on human-killing, climate-destroying fossil fuels and that Trump is woefully ignorant of current solar & wind energy prices and trends. Well, it’s scary either way — whether Trump actually believes the conspiracy theories or simply uses them to get his way. These conspiracy theories cover a wide variety of topics — global warming (which Donald claims is a hoax created by the Chinese), Obama’s birthplace (which Donald claimed for 5 years was not in the USA), (in 2012) that Obama may start a war to win re-election, that Obama didn’t attend Columbia University, that Obama didn’t write Dreams From My Father (ironic, since Donald didn’t write The Art of the Deal), that Obama is aiding ISIS and founded ISIS and didn’t stop the Orlando massacre even though he knew about it, that Justice Scalia may have been murdered, that thousands of Muslim-Americans celebrated in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came down, that the Mexican government deliberately sends the US its criminals, that ISIS (rather than a simple protester) tried to attack him in Ohio, that Syrian refugees bill ISIS for their phones, that Syrian refugees are only sent to GOP-led states, that immigrants are being permitted into the US with Ebola and the CDC is lying about it, that the US unemployment rate is 42% and that is being covered up, that Obama won re-election by making a deal with Saudi Arabia to flood the market with cheap oil, that Christians can’t come into the USA … and plenty of other nonsense. The point is that Trump is prone — very prone — to either believe in or parrot conspiracy theories. How that would turn out if he became leader of “the free world,” I don’t know, but I’m not confident it would turn out well. On this topic, by the way, I recommend: “In Poland, a preview of what Trump could do to America.” What does all of this tell me about the US? It tells me that approximately half of the population is either onboard with ridiculous conspiracy theories or at least doesn’t mind putting a routine conspiracy theorist into the highest political position in the country, and perhaps the world. Hey, what does it matter if the president spends 4 years chasing innocent people down, screwing up policy, and embarrassing the United States because of conspiracy theories? Maybe Donald is so drawn to conspiracy theories because he’s so accustomed to misleading people. There were his completely false claims about the financial solvency of his businesses, there’s Trump University, and then there’s his whole “reality show” life/fame. I sometimes wonder how many people think outlandish reality shows are actually candid affairs. Some are so ridiculous that it’s obvious the whole thing is staged, while others are more subtle about it. However, even if you’re a contestant on an obviously framed reality contest with Trump as the big boss, you can get sucked in by the brainwashing nature of it. What of the millions of viewers? Some are surely aware that the show has a few purposes and isn’t completely (or even mildly) realistic, but most of them they may still be influenced. Other people may assume the whole thing is 100% genuine. They would be massively mistaken, as people behind the show can explain. What does all of this tell me about the US? Unfortunately, it tells me that crappy media is probably more powerful at shaping perceptions than I thought, and that Americans are maybe also a very gullible bunch, with people not looking far beyond the surface. I guess this was already obvious, but it is being emphasized to an insane degree now. The United States as we know it today was built by immigrants, for immigrants. There’s a strong focus on freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of movement in the country. The founders and early shapers didn’t have everything right, but they seemed to get that right. Trump’s campaign is built on the idea of blocking people out and being closed-minded — it’s the antithesis of US principles and values. As Bono recently stated, “America is like the best idea the world ever came up with. Donald Trump is potentially the worst idea that ever happened to America. … America’s not just a country. Ireland’s a nice country, great country. Great Britain’s a great country. It’s not an idea. America is an idea and that idea is bound up in justice and equality for all — equality and justice for all, you know. I think he’s hijacked the party. I think he’s trying to hijack the idea of America. And I think it’s bigger than all of us. I think it’s — it’s — this is really dangerous.” For more on how Trump’s campaign is built around destroying what made America great in the first place, see this John Oliver clip: What does all of this tell me about the US? A lot of Americans are really bad — really, really, really bad — at understanding what is special about our country and what should be praised and protected. Heck, even simply about understanding some of the most basic tenets of the US Constitution has proven too much for many people! How do people so hugely ignore or misunderstand their own grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ histories. Trump has demonstrated, perhaps more than anything else, that he’s a bully. He worked his way through the Republican contenders for the nomination by bullying the others — not by talking about realistic policy proposals. Long before that, he built his career on bullying people as well — threatening lawsuits like this was his favorite hobby. Regarding another candidate for the Republican nomination, he said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” Regarding a popular female TV anchor for Fox News, he said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Donald labeled top opponents Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas (for Elizabeth Warren), Crazy Bernie (that one might have actually won Bernie some points, imho). At one of his rallies, Trump encouraged violence among his supporters, saying, “So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.” Implying that someone shoot political opponent Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Speaking about Senator John McCain, Trump shocked the political world and claimed, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Speaking about Rosie O’Donnell, he said, “I was never a fan. She came to my wedding, she ate like a pig.” Here are more quotes on women: That’s really just the tip of the iceberg for Trump. What does all of this tell me about the US? Sadly, this tells me that much of the US public doesn’t mind electing someone as president who acts in this lousy way, and that they may even support the racist, sexist, xenophobic bullying. If we honestly look at why Donald Trump has garnered as much success as he has, it comes down to just a few things — one of those things is grand, hopeful promises. The problem is, Trump’s promises are often completely ridiculous, completely ridiculous. They are so impossible, they’re laughable. But all of these grand promises seem to add up for people. Despite having horrible, horrible policy proposals, many people somehow think he would help them. It’s nothing new for presidential candidates to promise more than they can deliver, but The Donald has taken it to another level. Rather than be laughed out of the room or identified as a lying sack of cheese, however, he is being rewarded by pulling more and more potential voters to his side. It makes no sense, yet it makes a lot of sense — it’s a lesson in how poorly informed the public is and how embarrassingly lame we are at holding politicians (or potential politicians) responsible. Is anyone else here expecting a sorely disappointed public a few years from now if Donald becomes president? What does all of this tell me about the US? That we really aren’t fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens, and we may pay dearly for it. As noted previously (following Peter Sinclair’s insights on the matter), racism and global warming denial seem to go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the Republican Party — from the heads of Congress to the voters supporting Trump — are basically accepting and institutionalizing Trump’s racism and his global warming denial. The article linked directly above starts out like this: “So it’s come to this: The institutional position of the Republican Party in the great birther controversy roiling the 2016 campaign — a consequential chapter in our political history — is now essentially that Donald Trump did the nation a service by forcing the first African American president to finally show his papers.” Yikes. The racism runs deep, and wide. To keep going on this topic, though, here’s a recent line from Trump: “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever.” Worst ever? What the heck is Trump smoking — racist lying powder? As Rep. John Lewis responded, “I don’t know what Mr. Trump is talking about to say that the situation for African-Americans is worse than it’s ever been. Is he talking about worse than slavery? Worse than the system of segregation and racial discrimination — when we couldn’t take a seat at the lunch counter and be served? Worse than being denied the right to register to vote, to participate in the democratic process and live in certain neighborhoods and communities?” You might try to be generous to Trump and assume he didn’t mean “worst ever,” but he specifically emphasized “Ever, ever, ever.” Remember, Trump’s tagline is “Make America Great Again,” which presumes it was greater in the past than it is now. What past is that? The times of slavery, of segregation, of black people not being allowed to sit in the front of the bus? One really has to wonder at this point. Of course, Trump’s long contention that Obama isn’t a US citizen isn’t a great sign either. What does all of this tell me about the US? That much of the country is still racist or doesn’t mind if their president is … or they are just completely out of touch with one of the two main candidates. It’s a little bit beyond concerning that none of the above raises enough red flags for ~50% of the country to swear off voting for Donald Trump. Many prominent, lifelong Republican leaders have done so, but apparently not tens of millions of people. We’ve ordered up a large serving of “Oh no, what have I done?! …” and that must go far beyond Trump. Otherwise, Trump wouldn’t be on anyone’s mind right now, let alone a debate stage with Hillary Clinton! Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | December 22, 2016
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump boasted that he had no need for the Koch brothers, claiming to have rejected meetings with them and calling his Republican primary opponents “puppets” for meeting with the Kochs. Yet, today, Trump’s transition team and Cabinet are quickly filling with a number of Koch affiliates, confidantes, and business associates. Politico has called it Trump’s Koch administration. Talking Points Memo noted that “Behind Make America Great, the Koch agenda has returned with a vengeance.” Others have called Trump an unwitting “puppet” of the Koch brothers. On the LittleSis network map embedded below, you can see how Trump’s top officials and his energy, climate, and environment staff are tied to the Koch brothers and their donor networks. A full survey of all Koch-ties in Trump’s transition team and Cabinet would feature a dozen or so more names—including Mike Pompeo and Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominees for CIA director and Attorney General, respectively—and look even more cluttered than the map you see. For the sake of navigability and clarity, the top staff and those most directly tied to energy and the environment are included in this map created for KochVsClean, a project of DeSmog. Scroll and zoom on the map to explore all the connections, or click “Next” to zoom in on some of the featured relationships. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has been a favorite of the Kochs for years, and his Chief of Staff Marc Short recently ran the Kochs’ political umbrella group Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Kellyanne Conway, through her polling company, has done work for Pence and for Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded advocacy group. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus formed close ties with the Kochs while coordinating with the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Properity on voter caging efforts. Priebus’s RNC was described by AlterNet as a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.” Michael McKenna and Michael Catanzaro were both original members of Trump’s Department of Energy transition team, and both had recent lobbying contracts with Koch Industries. Both McKenna and Catanzaro stepped down after refusing to deregister as lobbyists. Don McGahn was named White House Counsel, or the top legal advisor to the President. McGahn has a long history of “courting controversy,” defending then House Majority Whip Tom Delay in his ethics scandals. McGahn has recently represented Freedom Partners, which Politico has called the “secret bank” of the Koch brothers. Daniel Jorjani is General Counsel to Freedom Partners, and was named to the Department of the Interior transition team. Thomas Pyle replaced Catanzara as head of the Department of Energy’s transition team. Pyle serves as President of the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance, sister organizations that are funded by the Koch network. Documents obtained by the Republic Report revealed that Charles Koch was directly involved with the IER at its formation. Pyle also worked as a registered lobbyist for Koch Industries and served as the Koch Industries Director of Federal Affairs, a lobbying job, from 2001 through 2005. Pyle presumably brought his colleague, Travis Fisher, an economist with IER, on to the DOE transition efforts. Doug Domenech was assigned to lead the transition to the Department of the Interior. Domenech is Director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The TPPF depends on donations from Koch-related foundations and from the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement” that also receive millions from Koch-related foundations. Another TPPF Fellow, Kathleen Hartnett White, was a finalist to serve as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, before the job went to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Trump picked Myron Ebell to lead the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell is the Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public policy advocacy organization with close ties to the Koch brothers. CEI has received over $4 million from Donors Trust, as well as donations directly from David Koch and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Chris Horner, a policy fellow at CEI and climate denier, was named to the EPA transition team. Horner has made a living harassing climate scientists with legal intimidation tactics while at CEI, the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI), and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FMELC). The FMELC at George Mason University serves as the official attorney for the EELI — the two organizations are inextricably linked. David Schnare, who has also waged intimidation campaigns against climate scientists, was tapped to serve on the EPA transition team. Schnare is Director of the FMELC, General Counsel at the EELI, as well as the “Director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship” at the Thomas Jefferson Institute. What do these three organizations have in common? They are all funded extensively by Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Schnare is also an energy policy expert at the Heartland Institute. As more team members with Koch ties are named and nominated, DeSmog will continue to update this post and the network map above.
News Article | December 1, 2016
Donald Trump won the presidency with a pledge to "drain the swamp," reducing the undue influence of elites and Beltway insiders on the functioning of the government. To uphold this pledge, the incoming administration instituted a policy that bars registered lobbyists from participating in the teams that land in the federal departments to oversee the transition. That made things a little awkward for the lobbyists Trump had chosen months before to run the energy policy handoff. "Although I have reluctantly decided that I cannot continue on the transition in an official capacity, I am excited about continuing to work to make America great again," said Mike McKenna, the Republican energy lobbyist who led the transition team for the Department of Energy, in a statement earlier this month. Another lobbyist on Trump's energy policy team, Mike Catanzaro of CGCN Group, also stepped down. The departures turned the routine process of bureaucratic stewardship into a rather more suspenseful and unpredictable affair. Which brings us to today. A new leader has taken the reins of Trump's energy stagecoach mid-ride. Thomas Pyle currently serves as president of the American Energy Alliance, founded in 2008 as a self-described non-partisan, nonprofit, "grassroots public policy advocacy" group. This group is also the advocacy arm of the Institute for Energy Research, a D.C.-based think tank that supports free-market policies over "wealth-reducing government activism" when it comes to energy and environmental policy. Pyle simultaneously serves as president of that organization. In the mid-2000s, he worked for three lobbying firms, including one that he founded (see the full list at Open Secrets). Before that, he served as director of federal affairs for Koch Industries, which includes petroleum pipelines and energy trading businesses in its broad consortium. The leadership of that corporation has worked to oppose policies favorable to wind and solar energy as well as electric vehicles. Interestingly, Pyle chose not to name his former employer on his current work bio, instead referring to it as "a major integrated manufacturing and services company." And immediately before becoming the Koch Industries envoy to Washington, Pyle worked in Congress, most prominently as a policy analyst for Tom DeLay, the Republican House Majority Whip at the time. This trajectory demonstrates Pyle's ability to parlay work in government into professional opportunities to lobby the government on behalf of oil and gas industry groups. Pyle has gone on the record, though, to oppose policies intended to foster renewable energy. "Extending these subsidies is not about promoting viable energy sources," he wrote in a critique of efforts this spring to pass tax cut extenders for renewables like small wind and geothermal. "It is about perpetuating a cycle of dependency where politicians feed money to industries that then instruct their lobbyists to support those same politicians." To recap: when he lobbied for the petroleum industry, Pyle was simply assisting clients "in meeting their strategic public policy goals and priorities." But when the clean energy does the same thing, Pyle says, "It’s time to end the cycle of dependency for wealthy energy speculators and their lobbyists. Enough is enough." He now brings that philosophy to the Energy Department, which has brokered tens of billions of dollars in clean energy investments under the Obama administration.
News Article | December 16, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump has made no secret of his intention to dramatically reshape U.S. climate and energy policy. He has said he intends to name staunch allies of the fossil fuel industry to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the state, interior, and energy departments, and promised to walk away from international climate agreements. And last week a provocative leaked memo hinted at another likely element of the incoming administration's plan for weakening climate regulations: tweaking an obscure but increasingly utilized economic measure that tallies the costs and benefits of controlling carbon pollution. The memo, which included 74 questions from Trump's Department of Energy (DOE) transition team to agency officials, caused a stir because it asked for the names of agency employees involved in developing climate policy. The transition team was silent on why it asked for the names, DOE officials ultimately refused to provide them, and Trump's team ultimately disowned the questionnaire, saying it was "unauthorized." But the move spurred fears that the new administration would seek to fire or punish those employees, and it drew condemnation from science advocacy groups and some lawmakers in Congress. "It harkens back to an era when politicians sought out individuals for partisan politics with little basis of any wrongdoing," said Representative Bill Foster (D–IL), a physicist who spent 22 years at DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. "These Cold War–era tactics threaten to undo the decades of progress we have made on climate change and to dissuade a new generation of scientists from tackling our world's biggest problems." Many of the other questions have a technical flavor, asking about DOE's role in developing the nitty-gritty statistical and economic data that often underpin regulatory efforts. One set of inquiries, for example, focuses on an economic measure called the social cost of carbon (SCC), which attempts to quantify the economic damage associated with carbon emissions and the climate change they drive. It is meant to tally the cost of impacts such as coastal erosion, reduced harvests, and increased disease, and it provides crucial guidance about how much society should pay now to avoid future damage from carbon emissions. As economist Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who served as a senior economic official in the Obama administration, puts it, "If you want to be hostile to climate regulations, the SCC is kind of a pivot joint." As a result of a 2008 court case, federal agencies typically consider the SCC in analyzing the costs and benefits of new regulations. And although the SCC alone doesn't determine whether a new rule moves forward, the measure has played a role in developing some 100 new regulations. They address issues including vehicle fuel efficiency, pollution from coal-fired power plants, and energy efficiency standards for home appliances. The SCC "has become increasingly important in the federal regulatory arena because carbon emissions are pervasive throughout the economy," says Richard Newell, president of Resources for the Future, a think tank in Washington, D.C., and the co-chair of a panel at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that will soon issue a report on the measure. That report is likely to confirm that calculating the SCC, which melds projections about likely impacts of climate change with economic assumptions, isn't easy. Government and academic scholars have debated the best methods for years, and researchers have developed three major computer models dedicated to the task. In 2010, a working group assembled by President Barack Obama's administration recommended that agencies set the SCC at $21 per ton of carbon, and in 2013 the administration boosted the number to $36 per ton, citing increasingly dire predictions about the global impacts of climate change. Not surprisingly, opponents of regulation have accused the Obama administration of manipulating SCC values to justify costly new rules. For example, critics have panned the administration's estimate that its Clean Power Plan to reduce power plant pollution would produce climate benefits of up to $29 billion in 2030, compared with costs of just $8.4 billion. One of the leading SCC skeptics—Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, an industry-affiliated think tank in Washington, D.C.—is leading the DOE transition team that asked questions about how the measure is developed and used. Shortly before being named to that post, Pyle predicted in a statement that, under Trump, "the SCC will likely be reviewed and the latest science brought to bear. If the SCC were subjected to the latest science, it would certainly be much lower than what the Obama administration has been using." There are at least two major ways a new administration could tweak the SCC to produce lower values, analysts say. One is to change the discount rate—a value, expressed as a percent, that attempts to quantify what society would spend today to avoid damage in the future. "The discount rate is the most important question," but it is also "extremely controversial," says William Nordhaus, an economist at Yale University, who has written extensively about the SCC. Currently, the Obama administration asks agencies to calculate the SCC using a range of discount rates, from 2.5% to 5%, and it has tended to rely on the lower rates, which produce higher SCC values. For example, in 2020 the SCC is $62 per ton at a 2.5% rate, but $12 per ton at 5%. So moving to a higher rate makes rules appear less beneficial. Another is to change the geographic scope of the calculation. Currently, the Obama administration takes into account the potential global benefits of any new regulation, not just the benefits within the United States. It says that's because climate change is a global problem. But some economists question that approach, arguing it overstates the benefits. An effort to narrow the scope of the SCC could fit in with Trump's nationalistic leanings, notes Ted Gayer, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., who has been critical of the global approach. "If you put it in the perspective of the Trump campaign and ‘America first,’ it makes sense," Gayer says. Although a Trump administration could tweak the SCC, it is unlikely to be able to completely eliminate it, Greenstone says. "This is not the first time people have come hunting for the social cost of carbon," he says. Industry groups have challenged it in court, but judges have tended to find the concept sound. "For reasons of law and science, it looks like a very bumpy, windy road to me to greatly reduce the social cost of carbon."
News Article | October 2, 2016
Investing in the past is a good way to lose money. Just ask anyone who has been investing in coal stocks since Obama we re-elected. A glance at the chart above shows that the VanEck Vectors Coal ETF (KOL) is down about 50% over the last four years, even while the broad market (as represented by the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)) has gained almost 50%. But even if we knew this was going to happen, should investors have rushed into the energy sectors most loved by liberals: That is, Wind, Solar, or Clean Energy Stocks in general? Hindsight says "Yes, No, and No," which is hardly a comforting response to a an investor looking to understand what might happen over the next four years. Wind stocks were up 90%, as shown by the First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF (FAN). Solar stocks were volatile, and ended basically flat, significantly lagging the market as a whole, as embodied in The Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN). Finally, the PowerShares Clean Energy (PBW), a widely held basket of clean energy stocks. Shortly after the election in 2012, a reporter with USA Today called to ask me why wind and solar stocks had not taken off. As you can read in his article, I told him that essentially, one presidential election would not transform the economy. I predicted legislation promoting alternative energy or attacking coal was off the table- an easy prediction to make, given Republican control of Congress. I also predicted that Obama would continue doing "Pretty much what he [had] been doing for the" previous three years: doing what he can through rule-making. Which is what he did. What many may find surprising is that Obama's rule-making was only a minor factor in the recent decline of coal stocks. His administration's most important energy policy, the Clean Power Plan remains tied up at the Supreme Court. True, coal advocates like the Institute for Energy Research (IER) will point at two other regulations, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR.) The coal industry is like a coddled child sent out into the world: It's not flexible or tough enough for a real-world job, it's bankrupt from credit card debt, and it still has not learned to clean up its room. The coal industry's problems with MATS and CSAPR hint at the underlying cause of the industry's troubles. The industry is like a coddled child sent out into the world: It's not flexible or tough enough for a real-world job, it's bankrupt from credit card debt, and it still has not learned to clean up its room. Take these points in reverse order. MATS, CSAPR, and even the Clean Power Plan are regulations telling coal plants to be a little less dirty than they are, but not nearly as clean as any of their power generation siblings: natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar. Like any wayward child, coal promised to clean up its room... remember "Clean Coal?" Fantasies like Clean Coal and hiring a professional housekeeper to keep a child's room tidy might have been affordable before technology innovation in natural gas drilling, solar, and wind started cutting into the price of power. But even without affordable clean coal, MATS is not causing the wholesale closure of coal plants, according to the nonpartisan Energy Information Administration. Technology has recently been sending the price of power in the opposite direction: down. Ten years ago, coal power could legitimately call itself a source of cheap (if not clean) power. Now, technology innovation have left coal choking on its own fumes, while clean coal (a.k.a. IGCC) and nuclear as simply too expensive to compete without subsidies, as shown by in this 2015 analysis by financial advisory firm Lazard. Lazard found that, without subsidies, the cheapest sources of power were: Coal was far behind, with the cheapest coal costing almost as much as the most expensive wind, solar, and combined cycle gas at $65 per MWh. The cheapest nuclear and clean coal (IGCC) were far behind, at $97 and $96. Keep in mind that these are unsubsidized numbers. If the Obama Administration declared a war on coal, it's the invisible hand of economics that won all the battles. And that is why new capacity additions are overwhelmingly wind, solar, and natural gas: Adding to the poor economics of coal power, the coal mining industry racked up debt like an irresponsible teenager with a credit card at the worst possible time. Arch Coal borrowed heavily to fund acquisitions in 2011, Peabody borrowed to fund acquisitions in Australia. And these are just two in a string of bankruptcies that have left nearly every big coal firm in bankruptcy or emerging from it. They also play back into the theme of coal not cleaning up its own room: Coal producer bankruptcies are shifting the costs of cleaning up mines to the states. Coal advocates like to point out that "the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow." They then go on to call solar and wind power "unreliable" and claim that the grid cannot operate without backup power always at the ready. Coal and nuclear power plants are what is called "baseload" power: they run at a near constant level. That's not the same as being reliable: Reliable people show up when they say and do what they say they are going to do. A person who is always there, never goes away even when you want a little privacy, and is always doing things for you even when you don't want anything is more likely to be called an unwanted suitor than "reliable." We're actually pretty good at predicting the weather, especially over large areas and a few days or hours in advance. While wind and solar power on the electric grid does vary over time, it's usually there in approximately the quantity we expect. It would be a great complement to say that a large coal or nuclear power plant was "as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning." The "Equivalent Forced Outage Rate- Demand" (EFORd), a measure of how often a power plant is out when it's needed, is about 4% for nuclear, 7.5% for coal, and 10% for gas plants [ pdf , 2008-2012 data]. So coal power is there most the time (even producing power at 3am when everyone is asleep and it may not be needed.) Yet even this unwanted suitor fails to show up about one time in 13 when he's really needed.Solar arrays and wind turbines also go down unexpectedly, but the small size (relative to coal) of solar arrays and individual wind turbines means that they don't all go out at once. A single 250 MW coal plant produces approximately the same amount of energy as 400 typical 1.5MW wind turbines, or 100,000 to 200,000 home solar arrays. Some of these will be down at any time, but they won't all go down at once, especially if they are scattered over a wide area.In this sense, solar and wind are far more reliable than coal. It's true that solar and wind need to be supplemented with more flexible generation, energy storage, or flexible demand response in order to match the patterns of electricity demand. But baseload power also needs flexible power resources to match the normal fluctuations of demand, and to stand by at the ready for that one time in 13 when you're hoping it will be there, but it isn't. The heated rhetoric from fossil fuel advocates and environmentalists alike served to hide the very real economic problems coal power has had in adapting to the new reality of falling technology costs for solar and wind and falling fuel prices for natural gas generation. The continued decline in the cost of wind and solar generation guarantee that these technologies will continue to be the leading forms of new power on the electric grid. In turn, their variability will make it more expensive to run baseload power stations such as coal and nuclear, making them even less economic than they already are. The free market is much more powerful than any president. Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to 'save' the coal industry. If elected, he is certain to be even less effective at reviving coal than Obama was at killing it. The free market is much more powerful than any president, and coal simply cannot compete in a free market. If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will almost certainly be accused of putting more coal miners out of work as she tries to promote renewable energy, but she will not deserve the blame or the credit any more than Trump or Obama. The true blame and credit for the changes in the way we produce and use electricity fall squarely on technological progress and market economics. Investors who observed the gridlock in Washington, D.C.four years ago, and rightly concluded that Obama would be ineffective at reigning in fossil fuels were correct. Nevertheless, they have lost most of the money. Would they have done better if they had plowed their money into solar and wind? Not if they bought a solar ETF like TAN or a clean energy ETF like PBW. Conservative investors (in the financial sense of the word: risk-averse) investors had an additional problem. The future of energy may lie in solar, wind, and other energy technology, but technology companies are not conservative investments. The technological innovation driving the rapid price declines for wind and solar is a problem for incumbent companies as well. Today's leading solar manufacturer is tomorrow's has-been, a fact I pointed out in 2009. In the same article, I also said my top pick at the time was a company that few people would think of as "green:" a Toronto-listed bus manufacturer called New Flyer (NFYEF.) At the time, New Flyer was trading at C$9 and paid a C$0.62 (7%) annual dividend. Today, seven years later, the stock trades at C$43, the dividend has been maintained and recently increased, and my readers and I still own it. In 2012, I could not give the USA Today reporter a similar conservative income pick in what I told him was my favorite energy sector at the time, energy efficiency: Such stocks did not exist. That changed in early 2013 with the IPO of Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (HASI.) After interviewing the CEO of Hannon Armstrong, I said, "I can't help but be enthusiastic about the company," which was then trading at $11.75, slightly below the IPO price. HASI was about to start paying an annual dividend which I estimated would exceed 15 cents a quarter (5%). The company quickly increased its dividend to $0.22 a quarter that December, than to $0.26 in 2014, and $0.30 last year. I expect it to increase the quarterly dividend to at least 34 cents this year, or 5.9% at the current price. Did I mention the stock price has doubled? How do I find conservative income stocks that double or quintuple in a handful of years, while solar and coal investors are losing their shirts? Not just by understanding the technology. Anyone who understood solar technology in 2009 would have rightly predicted the enormous growth of the industry - from 2% of new generation capacity in 2010, to 64% in the first quarter of 2016. But if they had taken that prediction, ignored my warning and bought the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN), they would have lost 77% of their money, despite Obama's attepts to promote the solar industry. Even coal investors would have done better with the VanEck Vectors Coal ETF (KOL): It "only" fell 64% over the same period. It takes knowledge of economics, technology, and the whole energy system to successfully navigate the Future of Energy. Knowing who is going to win the election in November might help on the margin, but neither Trump nor Clinton can roll back the progress of technology nor battle with Adam Smith's Invisible Hand of the market. Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA is a freelance writer and portfolio manager specializing in income stocks positioned to benefit from ongoing changes in the energy economy.
News Article | December 21, 2016
Or so a new cache of letters reveals. Earlier this year, Alex Salmond, who was Scottish First Minister from 2007 to 2014, told Huffington Post U.K. that Trump sent him many letters criticizing the Scottish government’s support of an offshore wind project planned near Trump International Golf Links. Huffington Post U.K. filed a public records request for the letters, and what they got back is a doozy. Some of the letters object to the project on the grounds that offshore wind is bad technology (one letter includes an analysis from the Institute for Energy Research, a Koch-backed fossil fuel front group). Just as clear is a feeling of aesthetic panic. In the same way that Trump has a fear of insufficiently attractive women waiting tables at Trump-branded golf courses, he seems to have a primal objection to just looking at windmills. “Hopefully,” he writes in one letter. “Aberdeen’s coastline will not be destroyed by these monsters.” In another: “Do you want to be known as ‘Mad Alex’ – the man who destroyed Scotland?” he asks Salmond. Trump has continued to criticize the wind farm since becoming president-elect, a conflict of interest that may be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.