US protest against coal / US wind power overtook coal in 2008.

coal-station-washington

image: the Capitol Power Plant to the right (behind road signs), not far from Capitol Hill

US Protest.

A national coalition of more than 40 environmental, public health, labor, social justice and other advocacy groups today announce plans to engage in civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of March 2, 2009. The Capitol Climate Action (CCA), the largest mass mobilization on global warming in the country’s history (according to Greenpeace USA), reflects the growing public demand for bold action to address the climate and energy crises.

If you are nearby and want to join in the protest see Capitol Climate Action, March 2nd.

The Capitol Power Plant, which is owned by Congress and sits just blocks from the American seat of power, burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill. The facility no longer generates electricity but its reliance on coal has made it the focus of political controversy and a powerful symbol of coal’s stranglehold impact on the environment and public health.

In response to public pressure, the House of Representatives converted half of the plant’s fuel to cleaner natural gas. But attempts to remove coal from the fuel mix entirely have been blocked by powerful coal-state Senators Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Wind power jobs overtake coal industry

A recent University of Massachusetts study found investing in clean energy projects like wind power and mass transit creates three to four times more jobs than the same expenditure on the coal industry. The wind power sector has grown to employ more Americans than coal mining as demand for clean energy has jumped over the past decade. See CNN article.

The big spike in wind jobs was a result of a record-setting 50% increase in installed wind capacity, with 8,358 megawatts coming online in 2008 (enough to power some 2 million homes).  That’s a third of the nation’s total 25,170 megawatts of wind power generation. Another sign that wind power is no longer a niche green energy play: Wind accounted for 42% of all new electricity generation installed last year in the U.S.

Texas continues to lead the country, with 7,116 megawatts of wind capacity but Iowa in 2008 overtook California for the No. 2 spot, with 2,790 megawatts of wind generation. Other new wind powers include Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and Washington state.

The U.S. wind industry is dominated by European wind developers and turbine makers – General Electric (GE) and Clipper are the only two domestic turbine manufacturers. European companies have been moving production close to their customers – the percentage of domestically manufactured wind turbine components rose from 30% to 50% between 2005 and 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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4 Responses to US protest against coal / US wind power overtook coal in 2008.

  1. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    While I’m all in favor of alternative energy, I also want to stick to the truth where it’s concerned. With this in mind, I’d point out that if the technology is producing more jobs, it’s probably more expensive and is only surviving because of Government subsidies. To the average person, this is BAD! In the US it’s also pointless because coal fired generating plants are reliable, coal is cheap, and we have a whole lot of it that can be mined for a very modest cost. The same, you should note, also goes for China.

    Thus, even if Global Warming was true, the environmentalist movement needs to factor in the consideration that the average consumer of electricity could care less about anything except their monthly bill, and over here at least, our utility companies are Government granted monopolies, which are extremely susceptible to public pressure, so coal is going to be king for quite some time. Watch and see, even the great Obama is going to back off on this issue since his base of support, the poor, would be most significantly hurt by increased electric rates if He followed through on His campaign promises to drive coal fired electric production out of business. Sometimes, even the high and mighty run into the real world.

    the Grit

  2. Stephan says:

    Hi Grit,

    Firstly, can no longer refrain from making some comment about your climate change scepticism, I could show you countless examples of well structured and verified science that demonstrates to a very high level of confidence that it is real and that human activity is at least partly to blame – and note the terms ‘Global’ and ‘Climate change’ not ‘North American’ and ‘Warming’ 🙂 Whether it’s worth doing anything about it and how much – this late in the day – is another matter and open to debate. It probably comes down to the number of developing world citizens we are willing to allow to live in poverty, or let across our borders. Now that’s out of the way, I agree with you that where coal is plentiful and commercially extractable it will continue to be used, as you point out it is a reliable primary fuel and not subject to manipulation by unscrupulous regimes. We can’t go 100% renewables without ridiculous levels of redundancy, a completely new distribution grid and overly expensive fuel bills – at least not yet. And at the moment installed capacity is so low that each time a country constructs a new wind farm it leapfrogs the last to become the world’s biggest (as Matt’s stats might be attesting to). The UK will probably be the next with the London Array http://www.londonarray.com/about/. With the aim of getting 10% of our power from renewables within the next few years it will interesting to see how they keep the lights on as they haven’t even started on the new nukes for those non-windy days yet. We will probably need to dig up more of our coal, use whats left of the North Sea oil and gas, get more gas from Russia and import more electricity from France (Nuclear) – for the foreseeable future anyway.

    Stephan

  3. the Grit says:

    Hi Stephan,

    Sorry I didn’t see this sooner, but it’s been a bit hectic around the farm – tractor problems during the peak of hay season.

    As to Global Warming, I can show you countless reports that cast serious doubt on the underlying science. Most significantly, I can list lots of reputable sources that cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the underlying data. Beyond that, it really only takes a bit of common sense to realize that mixing fixed surface station air temperature data and random ocean temperature data taken by passing ships and considering the two equably reliable is nonsense. This concept is stretched beyond even the limits of a comedy show when it’s used to declare that there has been a one degree average global temperature increase over 100 years! Get real. I would also point out that this one degree increase is only based on daily high and low temperatures, which hardly reflect the total atmospheric heat energy of a given location for a given day, which means that it’s a pretty much useless bit of information, even if it’s accurate.

    That, however, doesn’t mean that I’m not all in favor of using renewable energy resources as much as possible. Hell, I’m all in favor of it when the technology is there. No one, I would bet, is more pissed off at their local utility company than me, and I only wish that there was some reality show contest on that subject so I could win some hard cash.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if I could scrape up the investment money I’d have several acres of solar panels here and there around my farm and give a hearty chuckle every time my local power broker had to write me a monthly check for my contribution. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t competitive yet, and none of our Government’s spending seems to find its way to individuals like me. Surprise, surprise.

    On the bright side, buried in the enormous spending/stimulus bill our Congress just passed is a modest amount of money to start upgrading our electrical distribution system to make long distance power shipping economical. Assuming we pony up the additional hundreds of billions of dollars to finish the project, this will mean that we can distribute wind and solar power from those parts of the US where they are best suited over here where I need it. Still, I’d rather generate my own power, but one takes what they can get.

    Oh, and as to adding wind power capability, we’re going at it faster than people seem to think. I live in an area next to one of our major east/west interstate roads, I-40, and the main local road that goes by runs parallel to said interstate. For months now I’ve noticed, on a frequent basis, trucks carrying massive parts for windmills. This puzzled me for a long time – why would they be shipping on a back road instead of the major road a few miles over? It turns out that the parts are too big to fit through some of the mountain tunnels the interstate passes through, so they come this way. On the other hand, this lets me see at least part of what is being shipped, and it is a LOT. Each one of these things can generate a mega watt of power, assuming the wind blows, and, just from my personal observations, there’s at least three of them a week passing through here. They are, by the way, really impressive machines when you see them up close – much larger than they appear in pictures of wind farms.

    Thus, except for the Global Warming thing, I think we agree. It’s mostly a good idea to go with renewable sources of energy when we can afford to, but we have to avoid a panic driven rush to do what isn’t possible.

    Hoping that our giant Government “stimulus” bill has a few dollars in it to buy me some solar power,
    the Grit

  4. Stephan says:

    Hi Grit,

    There are data from buoys – some at fixed locations and some drifting – that simultaneously measure the sub-surface ocean temperature and the air directly above. Many have been recording regularly for more than 25 years and although there is still some debate about ocean and air temperatures are linked there is a statistically significant warming trend in both measurements on a global scale.

    Otherwise I think we do agree.

    Stephan

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