The Dernogalizer

January 30, 2009

Now More Wind Jobs than Coal

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 8:04 pm
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I wanted to cross post from a blog I found with information regarding the recent job figures in regards to the wind and the coal industry.  The link to the blog post is here:

Here’s a talking point in the green jobs debate: The wind industry now employs more people than coal mining in the United States.

Wind industry jobs jumped to 85,000 in 2008, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday from the American Wind Energy Association. In contrast, the coal industry employs about 81,000 workers. (Those figures are from a 2007 U.S. Department of Energy report but coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it’s down by nearly 50% since 1986.) Wind industry employment includes 13,000 manufacturing jobs concentrated in regions of the country hard hit by the deindustrialization of the past two decades.

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. Wind farms generating more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity were completed in the last three months of 2008 alone.

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. Power, literally, is shifting from the east to west, to the wind belt of the Midwest, west Texas and the West Coast. 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.

But last year’s record is unlikely to be repeated in 2009 as the global credit crisis delays or scuttles new projects because developers are unable to secure financing for wind farms. Layoffs have already hit turbine makers like Clipper Windpower and Gamesa as well as companies that produce turbine towers, blades and other components.

The Obama administration’s $825 billion stimulus package includes a three-year extension of a key production tax credit that has spurred the wind industry’s expansion. But given the dearth of investors with tax liabilities willing to invest in wind projects in exchange for the credits, the stimulus is unlikely to be stimulating to the industry unless the tax credit is made refundable to developers.

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 – and those companies’ fortunes rise and fall with the global economy.  As the U.S. market has boomed, 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.

My general feeling on all of this is that sooner rather than later the wind industry is going to be far more important than the coal industry when it comes to jobs, and therefore hold a lot more clout with the economic argument of increasing usage of altenative energy.  Coal’s sun is setting.

**Update 5/10/09**  Here is a newer article talking about US wind growth, China’s wind boom, and new global wind capacity.


January 28, 2009

Warning of ‘Food Crunch’

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 12:42 pm
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An article in the Financial Times about the threat of hunger from climate change and water scarcity I was sent by a professor of mine


This is part of the input I sent back, although he probably already knows all this..

Even if we were able to successfully hold carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to a safe threshhold(somewhere between 350-450 ppm), we're still going to get 1-2 degrees of warming from the pollution we've already caused. Under a successful mitigation scenario, a lot of countries in the global south are looking at sizable decreases in agricultural yields by 2050. It varies depending on the region obviously but the casual percentages seem to be around a 20-25% drop. This is why we don't only need to mitigate the damage of climate change, but also provide money for adaption and for sounder farming techniques that aren't used in much of the developing world... so that we can offset these yield losses.

At the same time, we need to stabilize carbon dioxide in the atomosphere at a threshhold below 450 ppm at the least, probably far lower. The consequences of going over 2 degrees of planetary warming are catastrophic, and there is no reasonable adaptation for it that will be able to prevent billions from going hungry.

January 27, 2009

Column on Stimulus Bill

So I have a column out today criticizing part of the stimulus bill and making a suggestion. Enjoy!

Environmental stimulus: Thinking like it’s 1999

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 1/27/09 Section: Opinion

Last year was a rough year. Layoffs at the unemployment office, foreclosures extending to our doghouses and a national debt in dollars approaching the distance in miles between the Earth and the nearest galaxy. Good news has been hard to come by. Fortunately, our elected officials are experts at spinning bad news into “good news.”

How else can local and state politicians proclaim with an infallible sense of pride that there are thousands of infrastructure projects backlogged and ready to go? The “good news” is they’re perfect for President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Why have we had trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure spending waiting for shovels to hit the ground since before I hit kindergarten? Is it because the government isn’t spending enough of your money? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Or is it because the majority of our land-use policies, transportation policies and infrastructure planning have been based on a flawed 20th century model for growth?

Our cities have been expanding at an unsustainable rate, swallowing up rural land that dares to reside on the edge. The creation of all these suburbs on the edges of cities means people and the new infrastructure they require – especially the roads connecting them back to the city – are spread out like butter on a slice of bread. This expansion took place at a pace so furiously irresponsible that governments could no longer raise the funds to upkeep the new roads, bridges, schools, firehouses or even Vice President Joe Biden’s hair plugs. All that stuff costs a lot of money.

There’s a major environmental negligence with these kinds of growth policies as well. Everyone driving to and from the city for work gets stuck in congestion. We end up with worsening air pollution, water pollution from runoff and increased gas consumption. Then, all of our local and state officials declare that we need to clean up our environment while promoting the same poor growth policies that were causing the pollution in the first place.

The majority of the delayed projects that Obama is planning to resurrect follow our 20th century growth model – that’s when they were designed. To an individual lacking peripheral vision, the stimulus money needs to go into these outdated initiatives where shovels are ready to hit the ground. But the leaders of our local governments, our state governments and our federal government need to stake a step back. Try looking at the whole picture rather than at just a single pixel.

There needs to be a conscious recognition that the way to address the economic, national security and environmental challenges we face is not by building new roads. It’s not by further expanding our cities. Poor land use and transportation decisions have driven each other for far too long. Investments need to be made that will have long-lasting positive ripple effects for decades.

Invest massively in bus transit by replacing and upgrading every single fleet of every region in the nation. The struggling automakers can learn how to make buses, right? Fast-track all of the mass transit projects in the books, and revitalize what we already have. This includes light rail, subways, rapid transit and freight rail. Make everything state of the art. This will take cars and trucks off the roads, reduce our infrastructure upkeep costs, decrease the check amounts we write to foreign countries for fuel and cut carbon emissions at the same time.

These investments should be the priority of the economic stimulus when it comes to transportation. The stakes couldn’t be higher. What do we want for our money? Good news, or “good news?” Change, or more of the same? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at

January 25, 2009

Follow up to “Solutions to a Green Economy”

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 1:17 am

I got a good question from a reader Gene in regards to a cross post I did for a nonprofit Green America titled ” Solutions to a Green Economy” (see here) which proposed how we can promote more sustainable economic growth and sustainable living at the same time. One of the suggestions involved local and community gardens so that we grow our food in a way that reduces it’s impact on the planet. For example, when we have to ship our food from far away it takes a lot of energy to get the food from point A to point B. If the food were to travel a shorter distance, we would dramatically reduce energy consumption. Also, when oil prices rise again, if the price of our food is less impacted by energy prices then people won’t see their food prices rise as much as they would if it were shipped from far away.

The point Gene makes is that while this might work for some small towns and places with a lot of arable land, what about large metropolitan areas such as New York and L.A. with large populations and towering skyscrapers? Before I answer his question I want to first be sure to say that my answer might not be the same as Green America’s.

The first thing I wanted to state is that at least for me, whenever I’m talking about a big change or shift, I usually have a gradual change in mind. For example, when I say we need to end our burning of coal, I’m well aware that we can’t end it tomorrow, or next year. What we can do is put in place a set of policies that allow us to move away from the energy source as quickly and reasonably as possible. This applies to the metropolitan areas in the sense that I don’t think Green America is saying that starting tomorrow everyone is going to start relying on locally grown food. Instead, how about starting tomorrow everyone should start looking at how personally and politically we can start a shift towards a greater dependence and emphasis on locally grown good?

Another important point is that these proposals aren’t “all or nothing” for every single place. I feel the attitude is more “do the best that you can with what you’ve got”. For example, one change my family is close to making is installing solar panels on our roof. However, because of where we live and how large our roof is, we can’t power our entire house from the sun. However, we can draw some of our power from the sun and reduce our impact as best we can. Just because the entire house can’t be powered by the sun doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the effort. The reason this applies to large metropolitan areas is that perhaps community gardens and locally grown food can’t feed the entire population of NY city. What if they could feed 20%? We should still focus on how we supply that 20% with locally grown food. Overall, I think the general idea is that our communities and our cities large or small should do the best they can with what they’ve got to reduce the ecological impact of the food they eat.

All of these being said, I also don’t want to give the idea that I’m underestimating our ingenuity and our ability to find ways to increase the amount of food we grow locally wherever we are. For example, there’s a great tool anyone can use at local to find out where the locally grown food is around them. If you check an area such as New York, you’d be surprised how much local food is being grown and is already accessible. Here’s an example.  If I moved to New York tomorrow and I wanted to reduce the impact of the food I eat I could go onto the site and find places to buy locally. Also, another interesting solution can be found here, where the NY Times did a story on how companies and businesses are making the option of locally grown food more of a reality.

But what else can we do? How about some innovation? Architects have been having fun drawing up exactly what eating more locally grown food would look like in one of these large cities. They certainly have some interesting ideas. Of course an idea is only an idea, but we have been getting pretty good at growing things in unusual places. One thing that’s spreading like wildfire is a concept called Green Roofs where we’re growing plants on top of buildings. Not only is this a solution for Storm water Management, but they block the sun from hitting the building, cooling it and reducing the need for air conditioning on warm days. This kind of concept is the one that I think we could tailor to grow food locally in even the unlikeliest of places.

January 24, 2009

The Collapse of Clean Coal

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 4:54 pm
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Clean Coal just got Burned

Clean Coal just got Burned

There are more reasons every day to phase out and regulate coal.  The coal industry has gotten a lot of much deserved negative press ever since the coal slurry dam disaster that happened a month ago.  This brought to light that, maybe we should regulate our coal ash.  Of course, no amount of regulation will ever make \”clean coal\” a reality, especially considering that it’s extraction often involves the very destructive mountain top removal.  Oh..and coal is getting more expensive. smells…sorry I don’t have link for that.

Here’s a link to a good editorial by the NY Times on the collapse of clean coal

January 23, 2009

Cleaner Air Equals Longer Lives

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:00 pm

A new study has been released disclosing the obvious: that our life spans have benefited from our cleaner air laws we have passed.  The study put some concrete numbers behind their findings, elaborating that reducing pollution from cars, power plants, and factories is responsible for 15% of the 2.72 years of extra longevity we’ve seen in the US since the 1980’s.  Another thing to point to in case somoene tries to tell you that further regulating this kind of pollution isn’t worth it.

January 22, 2009

Solutions from the Green Economy

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 7:16 pm
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A green non-profit group called Green America has proposed a number of fixes for the economic troubles which I very intelligent and in my opinion exactly what the country should be doing.  I think these suggestions would provide sustainable and just economic growth, and I wanted to repost the short and sweet version of their ideas below, and also to provide this link for great elaboration on each point they make.  Enjoy!


Solutions from the Green Economy
January 15, 2008

Green economyEveryone now understands that the economy is broken.

While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent indicators of an economy with fatal design flaws. Our economy has long been based on what economist Herman Daly calls “uneconomic growth” where increases in the GDP come at an expense in resources and well-being that is worth more than the goods and services provided.  When GNP growth exacerbates social and environmental problems—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth reduces well-being for people and the planet, and we’re all worse off.

Our fatally flawed economy creates economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can create a green economy: one that serves people and the planet and offers antidotes to the current breakdown.
Here are six green-economy solutions to today’s economic mess.

1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. It’s time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, large-scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? We at Green America propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, 85 million Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, and sharing (jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities) are crucial principles for restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on unsustainable growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink our over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity, such as planting gardens, conserving energy, and working cooperatively with our neighbors to share resources and build resilient communities.

4. Go Green and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases benefit the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. Our spending choices matter. We can support our local communities by moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and big-box stores and toward supporting local workers, businesses, and organic farmers.

5. Community Investing
All over the country, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hard-hit communities are strong, while the biggest banks required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep such institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, returns. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.

6. Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had GM listened to shareholders warning that relying on SUVs would be its downfall, it would have invested in greener technologies, and would not have needed a bailout. Had CitiGroup listened to its shareowners, it would have avoided the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Engaged shareholders are key to reforming conventional companies for the transition to this new economy – the green economy that we are building together.

It’s time to move from greed to green.

–Alisa Gravitz

Guantanamo to Close

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:16 pm
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So one of the first moves that President Obama has made is to sign an executive order mandating the Guantanamo be closed within a year, as well as move to end harsh interrogation techniques and return to the guidelines within the army field manual.  I’m definitely going to watch on with interest on how Obama’s anti-terror measures compare with Bush’s.  On one hand Obama made a lot of promises throughout the campaign to take a step back from the seemingly unethical and unconstitutional measures of the Bush Administration.  The catch though is that if America is attacked again by terrorists, it could ruin Obama’s presidency.  Regardless of whether or not Bush’s controversial techniques actually worked, if Obama discontinues them and then America is attacked, the press and a lot of people will correlate the attack to Obama’s new anti-terror policies.  Therefore, when it comes to issues like Guantanamo, harsh interrogations, lawyers for terror suspects, wire-tapping etc, Obama is going to have to walk the tightrope of appeasing his base that elected him and make good on his campaign promises while at the same time protecting America.  Definitely a difficult position to be in.

In case you’re interestsed in the article on Guantanamo closing within a year, here is the link :

January 21, 2009

Scientific Consensus

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 1:14 am
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all hands on deck

all hands on deck

So I’ve seen many examples before of incredible scientific consensus around the FACT that global warming is man-made. Anyone who’s looked at a report by the major scientific bodies of every or any country could figure it out. Or just check out the most recent IPCC report which is really a collection of the climate scientists’ literature from around the world. Somehow, too many people can’t figure it out and look for ways personally and politically to cut emissions and help solve the problem. Instead we get delay and denial. Now having had the unfortunate chore of arguing with far too many climate change skeptics, I’m pretty sure that nothing I say or show them absent the planet being engulfed in flames would convince them otherwise. Therefore, the best course of action is to ignore them and ram legislation down their throats.

However, every once in awhile I see something that’s worth posting just to reiterate how far into the sand climate change skeptics have dug their heads. Here’s a report below on a survey of over 3,000 scientists. 2 questions were asked. One was whether or not man is warming the climate. Two was whether man is the primary driver of this warming. 90% of scientists agreed with question one, and 82% with question two. Of course when the survey was broken down, it was found that climate scientists(yeah the ones who would know what they’re talking about), agree with these statements to the token of 97%! Amusingly only 47% of petroleum geologists think so. I wonder why? The article couldn’t figure out why only 64% of meteorologists agree. The funny thing is this made me laugh, because whenever I see global warming deniers on tv bringing on a “scientist” to refute the consensus, a lot of the time it’s a meteorologist. What is it with these guys? There’s even one named JC Watts on wordpress who gets a lot of “hawt posts” where he tries to deny man made global warming and make it look like he has a clue what he’s talking about. Too many drink his kool-aide. So anyways, the only thing I took away from this post is that meteorologists need to get paid less. Or just stick to their fields. Enjoy the article. (link is here: )


Human-induced global warming is real, according to a recent U.S. survey based on the opinions of 3,146 scientists. However there remains divisions between climatologists and scientists from other areas of earth sciences as to the extent of human responsibility.

A survey of more than 3,000 scientists found that the vast majority believe humans cause global warming.

Against a backdrop of harsh winter weather across much of North America and Europe, the concept of rising global temperatures might seem incongruous.

However the results of the investigation conducted at the end of 2008 reveal that vast majority of the Earth scientists surveyed agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

The study released today was conducted by academics from the University of Illinois, who used an online questionnaire of nine questions. The scientists approached were listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute’s Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Two questions were key: Have mean global temperatures risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and has human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures?

About 90 percent of the scientists agreed with the first question and 82 percent the second.

The strongest consensus on the causes of global warming came from climatologists who are active in climate research, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.

Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 percent and 64 percent, respectively, believing in human involvement.

“The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists’ is very interesting,” said Peter Doran associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the survey’s authors.

“Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon.”

However, Doran was not surprised by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists.

“They’re the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you’re likely to believe in global warming and humankind’s contribution to it.

“The debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes,” said Doran

January 18, 2009

The Clean Water Protection Act

I wanted to take a second to make a post about an important piece of legislation which will be introduced again in the upcoming Congress.  I touched upon this issue in a column of mine back in September.  Basically back in 2002 the Bush Administration’s Interior department changed the definition of “fill material” to include the toxic waste from mountaintop removal coal mining.  This allows coal companies to take the massive amounts of waste from mountaintop removal and dump them into valleys and streams.  The Clean Water Protection Act would overturn this ruling and reclassify the toxic waste as it actually is.

The implications of passing this kind of a bill are huge.  The coal companies favor mountaintop removal over just straight mining the coal because it doesn’t require hiring as many coal works and saves them a lot of money.  If the economics of this practice change, then mountaintop removal ceases to become a desirable option.  Not only would this go a long way towards protecting the environment and local communities that are affected by the strip mining, but it would make coal a less attractive energy option since it’s price would more accurately reflect its damage to the natural environment.

So what can you do?  Check HERE to see if you house representative has signed on to co-sponsor the bill.  If they have, thank them and ask them to take a leadership role in pushing the bill through Congress.  If they haven’t write to them, call their office, and meet with them to ask them to sign on.

Also, in case you’d like to find out more about the Clean Water Protection Act and mountaintop removal, check out this link.

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