The U.S. government released $28 million in federal grants to 13 coal-producing states on Wednesday to help them cope with the decline of the coal industry, driven by the move toward cleaner energy. With the Obama administration's announcement, over $66 million has been awarded this year to 71 projects that aim to aid workers displaced from coal company bankruptcies and create new industries in these areas. The competitive grants are part of President Barack Obama's POWER Initiative that provides federal resources to fund locally-created initiatives that help communities affected by coal job losses to prepare them for new economic activity.
Florida's largest utilities decided last week that $22 million wasn't enough to spend on Amendment 1, so they pumped in another $3.5 million into the effort, according new campaign finance reports. Amendment 1, which has been dubbed a "pro solar" amendment by the political committee financed by the utility giants, would inject language into the state Constitution that could be used to keep solar competition out of Florida, making it easier for the utilities to control the solar market and preserve their utility monopolies.
Nearly 20 megawatts of solar energy due to come online in Utah in early 2017 has been sold to residential and business consumers who want to cut their monthly utility bills or become more reliant on clean energy. Rocky Mountain Power's Subscriber Solar program is 95 percent sold out, and officials anticipate the last few blocks of power will be sold by this week or next.
A judge in Columbus is preparing to hear arguments in a dispute over Ohio’s authority to regulate oil-and-gas operations, including wells disposing of fracking wastewater. Attorneys for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the operator of a Youngstown-area wastewater injection well address Judge Kimberly Cocroft. At issue is the department’s power to take action against the well, which disposes of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and sits nearby at least 20 small seismic events that occurred in 2014.
Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are turning wood pulp, a common waste material, into a flooring that generates electricity. The researchers chemically treated the wood pulp nanofibers that the flooring is made out of with two differently charged materials, so that when someone walks across the floor, these fibers then interact with one another, similar to static electricity. The electrons released by this vibration are then captured by a capacitor that is attached to the flooring and the energy is stored for later use. Plug a battery or other device into the capacitor, and the energy can be used.
Don't call it a solar "farm" — at least not to a Maryland farmer. The Maryland Farm Bureau's membership voted in 2014 to oppose appending the word "farm" to the label of any alternative energy-generation plant, including a solar farm facility. Photovoltaic cells are springing up across the Eastern Shore at an unprecedented clip. Fueled by hefty government subsidies and relatively cheap prices for acreage, utility-scale solar facilities are supplanting one farm after another. Cue the backlash: Farmers say the loss of valuable cropland threatens the very existence of their industry in the Free State. When the Farm Bureau convenes its annual gathering in Ocean City in December, the powerful lobby plans to debate and vote on a more full-throated policy toward solar energy development.
A project that would turn gases released at landfill in southern Idaho into energy is moving forward. Commissioners from seven counties that own Southern Idaho Solid Waste voted Wednesday for the project at Milner Butte Landfill in Burley to proceed. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that the project involves taking methane gases produced by decomposing garbage and burning it for energy. The landfill already captures methane gas and burns it, but doesn't yet generate energy through the process. Commissioners from Blaine, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Twin Falls counties voted in favor of the move, while Minidoka's commissioner abstained. The waste district will finalize a lease agreement and pursue an agreement for Idaho Power Co. to buy the energy that's produced.
In its recent report, “Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy,” The Heritage Foundation calls for the elimination of constructive energy programs in the next Farm Bill. That's a nonsensical proposition. The Farm Bill's Energy Title reduces our dependence on oil, reduces carbon emissions, and helps meet growing consumer demand for sustainable energy and bioproducts. Further, the programs have unlocked billions of dollars of private lending for rural communities, which otherwise lack access to capital. The programs are supporting a resurgence of manufacturing in the United States, which drives job creation and economic growth for rural communities across the United States. The bi-partisan renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, like previous farm bills, have undoubtedly made a difference in growing our nation's agricultural and clean energy economy. Examples abound.
Just maybe, a few of the legislators were praying for the next oil boom, the way their fathers and grandfathers did. But this oil bust could be different. A growing body of research says that changes in the international oil market, rapid advances in wind- and solar-powered generation and regulations aimed at curbing climate change may hold down the price of oil and natural gas for years or even a decade. That means the fracking-fueled bonanza that pushed American oil production to levels not seen since the early 1970s may be remembered as more than just another high point for the states that depend on the oil industry. It could be the last oil boom. "We've actually hit a point that this isn't your daddy's kind of boom and bust — it's a new set of factors that are influencing demand," said Shanna Cleveland, a manager of the carbon asset risk program at the nonprofit group Ceres. A lot of people disagree with the idea. And even among those who agree, there are different ideas about how a long-term decline in oil demand could happen and, crucially, when it could happen. But if the predictions are accurate, it could mean that even though oil prices are recovering, they may not hit the $100-a-barrel peaks they reached just two summers ago. And it could extend the economic pain that's already rippling across a half-dozen states dependent on taxes on oil production, from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico. In North Dakota, a handful of small towns took on hundreds of millions in debt to pay for schools, parks and other projects. A prolonged oil bust could send those communities into a downward spiral in which a dwindling population is forced to pay for boom-time debts with a shrinking tax base.
A new report shows Iowa is deriving more than 35 percent of its electricity from wind energy, an increase from statistics made public earlier this year. The American Wind Energy Association says in a report released Thursday that Iowa has increased its percentage of in-state electricity that comes from wind turbines. The data, backed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is based on a 12-month rolling average through the end of August 2016. The association says Iowa is now the first state to generate more than one-third of its electricity from wind energy.