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Renewable Energy: Why Emissions and the Economy Don’t Tell the Whole Story


Renewable Energy: Why Emissions and the Economy Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Tara Ritter

Last week, President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan, the United States’ strongest climate policy to date. The plan aims to reduce coal-fired power plant emissions by allowing states to devise their own plans to reach federally-mandated emissions reduction targets. This choose-your-own-adventure policy could send states down very different paths, some worse for the environment and community resilience than others.


It always seems like the subsidies to the fossil fuel industries ( in particular that to oil companies) is the hump that we must get over first. When alternatives are compared to fossil fuel and spoken of as being competitive - they are being compared to heavily subsidized fuels. Whether direct subsidies, tax breaks, depletion allowances, rebates and reduced fee and non competitive allocations of public land use etc. it reduces the cost of drilling, refining, transporting, distributing etc. of every barrel of oil to the point where the use of free sunlight (no drilling, no refining, no transporting etc.) is ‘almost’ competitive.

Talk about con games this one is about the biggest that humanity will ever see. I wish that someone would compare the actual true cost of oil without all the subsidies and that of … sunlight.

Now that we see that our world is being poisoned by the prolonged excessive use of fossil fuel… it is time to talk of the true costs of producing a barrel of oil. Honest comparison of the price of a gallon of gasoline that was produced without subsidies would shock people out of their lethargy and apathy.

The long con… the biggest long con ever.


Why are you so dishonest Robert L18? You say you are not a progressive which is your choice but you keep spreading disinformation. This is another example.

If a coal burning plant produces 3.5 million tons of carbon per year according to the Union Of Concerned Scientists A cap and trade program would not reduce that coal burning plant’s carbon output at all. Nada! Not one bit. What it would do is allow that plant to buy non carbon producing credits (like from a dam or a forest etc) and then the state would total up the two figures and claim that they’ve reduced their state’s carbon emissions meanwhile the coal burning plant keeps emitting that 3.5 billion tons of carbon without stopping for decades to come.


Germany, with much less available sunlight and fewer sparsely populated spaces, has found a way to lead the world in displacing fossil-fueled power with a decentralized solar and wind farm program.
From an article on German renewable energy in Wikipedia:

Germany’s renewable energy sector is among the most innovative and successful worldwide. Net-generation from renewable energy sources in the German electricity sector has increased from 6.3% in 2000 to about 30% in 2014.[1][2] For the first time ever, wind, biogas, and solar combined accounted for a larger portion of net electricity production than brown coal.[3] While peak-generation from combined wind and solar reached a new all-time high of 74% in April 2014,[4] wind power saw its best day ever on December 12, 2014, generating 562 GWh.[5] Germany has been called “the world’s first major renewable energy economy”.

The key to success for Germany has been a national policy. While Minnesota and other states are to be commended for their initiatives in that area, this problem will only be solved with a national policy (with the kind of financial and tax incentives that fossil fuels get) in the US. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.


I love the whole idea of the ‘Made in Minnesota’ effort but how in the world will it get past NAFTA (not to mention the TPP)?


You do not explain how that cap and trade actually works. The state sets an artificial cap it wants as a future goal for say 30 years hence. It auctions (or grandfathers in for free) carbon credits. So here is a wind farm. It gets a certain number of credits for not producing carbon past the cap. It sells these credits to a coal burning plant. The state then averages out the two and says this year we built another wind farm with the money invested from the auctioned carbon credits. (it could also be nuclear or even a natural gas plant which is cleaner than coal btw). The state announces that next year they will will have cut projected emissions by having built this new wind farm etc.

However every coal burning plant remains in operation and continuing to burn dirty coal without any change. each one 3.5 billion tons of carbon a year. No change in those emissions.

Cap and trade may have a role in helping investment in alternatives but it does not reduce actual emissions.


Honest comparison of the price of a gallon of gasoline that was produced without subsidies would shock people out of their lethargy and apathy. The long con… the biggest long con ever.

yuppers - equaled only by the cabal of counterfeiters sucking life out of the planet by hyper trading debt on debt on debt derivatives from the derivatives of the derivativs extracted from the legitimate lives of billions of people through fractional reserve banking. Time to bring a long overdue end to the imposed pressure cooker model futile feudal system once and for all.


This is new to me. How does the following work into this? Any insight you might provide would be appreciated.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
The World’s Carbon Markets: A Case Study Guide to Emissions
Last Updated: May, 2013

" During the first and second control periods, RGGI has provisions whereby if average allowance prices increase over the first 14 months to above USD $7 or USD $10, allowance usage increases to 5 and 10 percent, respectively. In addition, at the USD $10 price trigger RGGI can accept international offset units, such as Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs). " (bold added)

Doesn’t this mean that it is linked to the ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) cap and trade mechanism?

From the Q1 2015 RGGI report:
Key observations regarding the pricing of options for CO2 allowances in the first quarter of 2015:
 Twenty-seven option trades were recorded on ICE during the first quarter of 2015, up from 19 trades in the previous quarter.
 Forty-five percent of the volume was for contracts with March 2016 expiration, while 37 percent of the volume was for contracts with December 2015 expiration.
 Sixty-eight percent of the volume was for call options and 32 percent of the volume was for put options.
 The strike prices of the 12 call options ranged from $5.25 to $7.25, while 15 put options were sold at strike prices of $5.00 to $5.50. These strike prices provide some indication of the market’s expectations for the potential range of variation in allowance prices.


The fine print

And the false promise


“Germany, with much less available sunlight and fewer sparsely populated spaces, has found a way to lead the world in displacing fossil-fueled power with a decentralized solar and wind farm program.”

Nearly half of German electricity production comes from coal, and there are several other places which have a much smaller per capita carbon footprint despite being about as energy intensive, such as France, Sweden, and Ontario.

“wind power saw its best day ever on December 12, 2014”

And this is what that looked like:


Of course, nobody mentions how much energy wind produced one week before. Notice something else about that graph: The oscillations at the top of the graph represent variations in demand, and the changes in the thickness of each swath represents changes in production. From this graph, you can see how wind production is rather poorly correlated with demand, so some form of dispatchable energy has to take up the slack between the variable demand and the variable production. Solar helps a bit here because during the winter, it is correlated with demand, but during the winter, its output is also small. Hydropower helps a bit, but Germany has meager hydropower capacity to draw on. Pumped storage helps a bit, but there too, the capacity is pretty small. So the bulk of the adaptive load matching is being borne by coal and natural gas. Germany is on a trend to reduce natural gas, but they are building a couple dozen new coal plants (partly to replace old coal plants) and a big feature of the new plants is that they will be much better at load following. The good news is that means that when the variable renewables are producing well, coal burning goes down. The bad news is that Germany is locking in coal as its primary backup for intermittents, and as the share of intermittents increases, so will the size of the swings coal will have to cover, especially as relatively stable nuclear gets phased out.


Funny how simple facts get reworded to become complex and confusing. Germany started a program to use solar and wind. Over a comparatively short period of time, about 10 + years, Germany has installed enough solar and wind to produce about a 1/4 of it’s energy needs. That is spectacular growth is it not?

They intend to be renewable energy sufficient (80 to 100%) by 2050. Somehow conservatives never mention Denmark which gets 33% of it total energy needs from wind alone at this moment, intends to get 50% by 2020 (approx 5 years from now) and to get 84% by 2035 (according the the Danish government plan.

Nevertheless Germany is always quoted and that ‘they still use coal’ line especially. Well Germany does use coal but a helluva lot less than it dd ten years ago btw.

I seriously have to ask…do progressives believe in progress because the fact is that progress is being made.


I swear I never knew how ‘nit picky cranky’ progressives were till I came in here! Seriously (and I don’t mean you in particular at all) it is amazing at how so many progressives can’t be positive and supportive of progress. It is like many seem to be saying. >>> "I will say that it is good only after it has become perfect but meanwhile I will continue to criticize even the best of efforts being made because …

Because why?

It is my theory that progressives have after long exposure to republican crap and Obama let downs and oligarchic supportive supreme court injustices…

…Well I just have to think that progressives have become permanently cranky. My God and/or the Amorphous! I think it is true that progressives are most likely lousy dates. We just aren’t able to have fun. I see it now… we are just too damn cranky and always critical about even stuff we like. This penchant to complain about a lack of perfection has made us become downright tiresome nerdy fuddy duddies.

The kind of people who take too little pleasure from far too much.

We should be the kind of people who enjoy progress being made whenever and wherever and support it, root for it, applaud it. Instead we criticize every little technicality, every step of the way.

We have met the tiresome hyper-critical twits (and never having applied that hyper-critical eye to ourselves) and he is us!


Germany and Scandinavia are proving right before world’s eyes that the transition to renewables (wind, solar, biomass) and hydro can keep up with energy demand and be a net contributor to economic growth and jobs. In 2013, Germany’s hydro-renewable shares of primary energy consumption and electricity generation were 20% and 24%, respectively, Scandinavia’s shares were 41% and 65%, respectively. U.S. shares were 9% and 13%, respectively. If nuclear energy is included, Germany’s shares of primary energy consumption and electricity generation rose to 28% and 39%, respectively, in 2013 … vs. U.S. shares of 17.5% and 32.5%, respectively. (see: “Conversion to Renewable Energy Is Going Too Slow to Avoid Catastrophe - Part 4,” Feb. 25, 2015, published on internet by Will Blog For Food)

But Germany is phasing out of its nuclear plants by 2022. So its fossil fuels, including coal, (which Germany also plans to phase out of) are critical to the renewable transition process. During this transition, Germany has the option to go slower with the nuclear phase out and faster with the coal phase out. Oil, coal and natural gas supply about 70% of Germany’s primary energy supply. By 2050, this percentage is expected to go below 30% - spurred by all-inclusive, innovative, primary energy efficiency measures that have led to a 22% reduction of 22% in primary energy use to date vs. 2008 with the goal of a 50% reduction by 2050. So, besides renewables, vastly improved energy efficiency plays a very significant role in Germany’s transition to a 60% renewable share in end-use energy by 2050, to an 80-95% renewable energy share in electricity use by 2050, and an 80-95% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 (vs. 1990).

The advanced software technology, equipment, and transmission methods Germany and Scandinavia are employing to integrate and balance quickly very high shares of variable renewables (wind, solar PV, hydro, biomass) into their primary and electrical energy mixes have regional and worldwide applications. In January 2014, wind supplied an average 62% of Denmark’s total power demand … and this level also has been reached by Germany’s renewable system where high winds offset low sun periods and high sun periods offset low wind periods. Germany expects to be importing renewable hydropower from Norway. Germany, Norway and the UK are planning subsea electric power connects among their countries to strengthen the northern electricity supply and increase supply security. The wider regional and cross-border grid infrastructure links are, the easier it is to integrate and balance out renewable energy supply and demand fluctuations.

In his article, Eric Martinot raises the question, “How Is Denmark Integrating and Balancing Renewables Today?” (Renewable Energy Futures to 2050, Jan. 2015) . His answer is: “This question must be considered in the context of the “prevailing wisdom” of 15-20 years ago among virtually all electric power companies and power engineers. The “prevailing wisdom” was that going above 5-10% shares of (intermittent) “variable” renewables like wind and solar would spell doom for the reliability of the power grid, and THE LIGHTS WOULD GO OUT.”

But here’s Denmark’s wind alone and Germany’s wind, solar PV, and biomass providing 39% and 27%, respectively, of annual electricity generation in 2014, going to 50% by 2030 … AND THE LIGHTS AREN"T GOING OUT.

Can the U.S. catch up? Certainly … if the will is there as is being impressively shown by states like California and Minnesota. This is all about recognizing that a Fundamental Change is needed … but at a much faster pace!