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Tuesday July 5th 2011

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Energy and global warming news for December 23: More scrapped coal plants, oil hits $90, and Big Oil works to whitewash the history of BP disaster

More scrapped plans, retirements for U.S. plants in 2010

Over the course of this year, more U.S. coal-fired power plants were tapped for retirement and more proposed plants were canceled than in 2009, according to an end-of-year report by the Sierra Club, which is fighting the continued use of coal.

Data collected by the advocacy group show that 38 coal plant projects were dropped or delayed in 2010, up from 26 the year before and 27 in 2008. Meanwhile, power producers announced plans to retire 48 existing plants this year, four times as many as in 2009 and 12 times as many as in the year before that.

The retirements announced this year would take 12,000 megawatts of coal-fired power off the grid — roughly 4 percent of the nation’s total coal-fired capacity and enough electricity to power about 6 million American homes.

Construction was not started on any new coal plants this year, as was the case last year, and the same situation is expected for 2011, the Sierra Club said. Environmentalists, who have sought to slow the construction of coal plants by challenging their permits and supporting strict new rules on the production and use of coal, see the numbers as a victory.

“Coal is a fuel of the past. What we’re seeing now is the beginning of growing trend to leave it there,” said Mary Anne Hitt, the director of the advocacy group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, in a statement today.

Oil tops $90 for first time in more than two years

Crude oil rose to its highest closing price in more than two years today after government reports showed that U.S. supplies dropped and the country’s economy grew more than previously estimated in the third quarter.

Stockpiles fell 5.33 million barrels to 340.7 million last week, the Energy Department said. A 3.4 million-barrel decline was forecast, according to the median of 14 responses in a Bloomberg News survey. The Commerce Department said gross domestic product expanded 2.6 percent in the third quarter, up from a previous estimate of 2.5 percent.

“Today’s crude numbers were very bullish,” said Andre Julian, chief financial officer and senior market strategist at OpVest Wealth Management in Irvine, California. “The GDP numbers point to extended growth in the U.S. Previously, we were seeing economic and demand growth in China and emerging markets, now it’s spreading here.”

Clean-tech investments will continue growing faster in 2011, Ernst & Young forecasts (subs req’d)

Clean technology investments will continue to accelerate next year after building momentum this year, according to a report from accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Venture capital investment in companies that produce everything from renewable power generators to batteries and biofuels rose 25 percent in the first three quarters of 2010 over the same period last year, and overall venture capital is set to reach $4.9 billion by the end of the year, the report says. That’s on top of the clean energy business incentives offered by governments across the world that have already helped grow the green industry.

“Governments have really realized the essence and benefits of clean tech, and at the corporate level there’s an acceleration of activity on the investment and acquisition side,” said Ernst & Young global clean tech leader, Gil Forer. “We definitely expect it will continue to accelerate in 2011 and going forward.”

Big Oil Money Working to Rewrite History of Gulf Oil Disaster

Big polluters have spent years funding think tanks to give a veneer of credibility to their push for profit. I mean, if the CEO of Exxon Mobil comes out and says Congress should roll back the Clean Air Act, it would just rally people behind pollution limits. So instead, Exxon Mobil has given more than $2 million to the Competitive Enterprise Institute to say it for them.

Now the polluter-funded think tank-media complex has a new target – whitewashing the Gulf oil disaster. Robert Nelson has an opinion piece made up to look like a news article in the Weekly Standard claiming the Gulf oil disaster caused little damage and calling anyone who would claim otherwise “secular equivalents to the devil.”

Why would a public policy professor at the University of Maryland write something not just so wrong, but with such an angry, combative tone? A look at Nelson’s extracurricular activities reveals a web of connections to big polluters like Koch Industries & Exxon Mobil:

Given those polluter ties, it becomes less shocking that Nelson would go to such incredible lengths to bend some facts & ignore many others to suit his purposes:

  • Those incredibly high rates of dolphin & endangered sea turtle deaths in the Gulf this summer? Unrelated to the BP oil, says Nelson. That’s right – according to Nelson, unless the creature was found literally covered in oil, it should not even be considered in the conversation of oil disaster impacts.
  • If a creature dies in the oil slick & sinks to the bottom, Nelson believes that doesn’t count as part of the disaster toll either.
  • That many of the worst impacts of the Exxon Valdez disaster took years to reveal themselves? Nelson doesn’t want to talk about that.

I could spend all day debunking all the distortions & deliberate omissions in Nelson’s piece, but that would miss the big picture. The same groups who denied the link between cancer & smoking and deny the link between carbon pollution & global warming are now being enlisted to deny the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster, and by extension the risks of our oil addiction.

Spain’s Cuts to Solar Aid Draw Fire

A group of international investors has called on the Spanish government to reconsider plans to cut costly subsidies for solar power, saying they would cause a wave of defaults and more bad loans for Europe’s banks.

Tom Murley, head of the renewable-energy team at U.K. private-equity firm HgCapital, said the changes represented a “breach of trust” that would increase regulatory uncertainty in the Spanish renewables industry.

“If they proceed on this path, they’ll endanger not only our investment, but the whole sector,” said Mr. Murley, who represents a group of 20 pension-fund managers and strategic investors…

White House: Polar bears not ‘endangered’

The Obama administration is sticking with a George W. Bush-era decision to deny polar bears endangered species status.

In a court filing Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service defended the previous administration’s decision to give the polar bear the less-protective “threatened” species designation, a move that will frustrate environmentalists who hoped for stronger protections under the Endangered Species Act.

JR:  Polar bears are indeed endangered — see Polar bear, Arctic sea ice all-but doomed: Misleading Nature cover story misleads the media, public

This article was originally posted on Climate Progress