Renewables in the new year: action and reaction

Renewable get lots of attention, positive and negative, in the new year.

The green jobs are happening, says the White House. Today the Obama Administration said the 2009 economic stimulus act created over 50-thousand jobs in the renewable energy sector last year. The jobs figure comes from the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Republicans called the report “propaganda.”

Goodwill was among recipients of green job training money. Goodwill gets over $7-million. Thirty-eight organizations will get a total of $150-million. Here’s a list of all the grants.

One California wind power company sees huge growth in “community wind.” Large turbines that can serve localized needs: schools, stores, hospitals. No need to rebuild the entire grid. Generate and use it locally, they suggest.

CNET has a profile of another California firm that is going to make biofuel from wood by-products, not food like corn or sugar.

And in New England it now looks like there’ll soon be a final decision on whether Cape Wind strikes a blow for clean energy. Or whether opponents will prevent its construction. The offshore wind farm has been proposed for Nantucket Sound. Major opposition comes from Native American groups citing their historic reverence for the sound. The Interior Department promises a decision this spring.

Map of Cape Wind project courtesy Cape Wind. See talkbacks for one Cape Wind opponents' arguments against the controversial proposal.

Despite all this action on the renewable energy front, there’s strong criticism coming from some quarters. “Foreign Policy” has a strong piece saying the U.S. cannot painlessly become energy independent or curtail greenhouse gases. No pain, no gain, the piece says. It accuses many in Washington of “magical thinking,” trying to make global warming look like a positive economic opportunity, rather than the dire threat that requires serious changes in Americans’ living and behavior. Profiting from carbon emission controls is doomed to failure, the writers claim.

Perhaps the most crucial skepticism of renewable energy is coming from...bankers. Energy investment bankers look at slack electricity prices and get very cool toward plans to build clean energy plants. Electricity use in the U.S. fell over 3% last year and has fallen over 5% in the past two years. So, reason the bankers, who needs more electricity generation? And who can foresee profit from building more capacity? Thus sayeth the market. [poll id="215"]