Wind, Water, and Sunlight Power a Plan for a Better Economy

‘We can’t afford a green energy economy” is a myth, obvious to people who are paying attention to the hyper expensive effects of a planet-scorching fossil fuel economy.

However, now a group of scientists, headed by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford have crunched the numbers and laid out a serious plan for a transition to an affordable energy infrastructure in New York State that uses primarily wind, water and sun. It does not require that we ‘live in trees and eat bugs’. To the contrary, it reduces our energy costs, creates millions of jobs, improves public health and costs less than the side effects of continuing to burn fossil fuels.

The report is Examining the Feasibility of Converting NY State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water, and Sunlight  2013  Mark Z Jacobson, Robert W Howarth, Mark A Delucchi et al.

This plan calls for electricity to be generated by solar, wind, geothermal and some hydro and wave technology.  It calls for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells in cars, trucks, buses, locomotives and ships. For heating and cooling buildings, it uses ground source heat pumps and heat exchangers.

The investment in new energy infrastructure would increasingly develop low-carbon technologies and by 2020, all new investment would be in these systems, The savings would help us phase out old fuel dependent systems by 2050.

Since renewable electricity is several times more efficient than fossil fuel combustion, losing very little energy to waste heat, the plan reduces electric usage.  

It would stabilize energy prices bringing electric rates down   from $.18/kWh to $.13/kWh, create millions of new jobs, reduce air pollution and improve public health.

The transition would help us deal with what Jacobson describes as “the epic environmental and ecological costs we all pay for our current energy supply,”  a “Fiscal Energy Cliff.” See Interviews and story on the report in Huff post.


Washington State Clean Energy Industry

Where can you find the most new jobs in technology? According to Forbes, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area took first place last year in growth in technology jobs, including software, internet publishing, science, engineering and math.  The growth is not just in large corporations, but also in new, innovative start-ups. Appropriately Washington, with its natural beauty, is a leader in advancements in green technology.  

McKinstry is a leader in consulting and construction for energy efficient buildings, both public and private projects, employing over 1600 people. Silicon Energy in Marysville makes solar panels with a durable glass-on-glass design. From Liberty Lake come storage batteries and control systems by Demand Energy Networks. Larger institutions participate also; Boeing’s new 787 uses 20% less fuel, and it is working to develop aviation fuel from algae.

Research helps prime the pump. At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, researchers are working on batteries for vehicles and for grid-scale storage, bio-based fuel alternatives and a range of energy saving technologies.



Coal shipments from Montana to China not good for the economy

The Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies are holding hearings on proposals to take coal by train from Wyoming and Montana through Idaho, Oregon and Washington to terminals on the Washington and Oregon Coast for shipment to China. More information at the Power Past Coal Campaign.

Testimony we submitted: 

As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)  for the proposed coal terminal, please include data detailing the results of shipping and burning that coal on climate, on human health, the environment and the economy.

If a government official has control of a loaded gun, someone asks if they can pass it to another person, the official agrees and it’s used for murder, the official and the government become part of that crime. We are asking you to make our government take responsibility for the results of its actions.

Building a terminal to ship coal will result in an increase in global warming. Emissions from burning and shipping  fossil fuel kill 5 million people a year now, through drought, flood, hunger, disease and trauma according to the  DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor.

If the EIS considers the economy and employment, it needs to include study of how global warming reduces productivity now and over the coming decades and the alternative of a green energy economy.

According to DARA, continued burning of fossil fuels will shrink the gross domestic product, costing us 6 times more than it would cost us to invest in energy efficiency and clean technology and reduce the risks of global warming.

The fossil fuel industry is spending its ample profits on intense lobbying and public relations to keep their 85% monopoly of the energy market, We have a responsibility to resist, to champion competitiveness. Society should no longer pick up the tab for the many external costs of fossil fuel or give permission for hazardous investments.

The cost of wind and solar electricity has been dropping steadily over the past decades and is already competitive with electricity generated by gas or coal in many places. By the time the terminal would be completed, solar electricity will clearly be a cheaper option.

Why would China then want to buy our coal?  China is already producing wind power for as low as 7 cents a kilowatt-hour and overflowing with cheap solar panel production. Green technology, including batteries, grids and efficiency innovations manufactured in America are the key to a stronger economy, increased exports and profits to our communities. 

Green Energy Economy, Vision for a Healthier, Happier Future

Baby Sally, when you graduate from college in 2032, the world will be different than it is today.

You will have a comfortable home, so well insulated and ventilated that it will need very little heat or cooling, and may get these from geothermal. Your electricity will be mainly from clean energy sources, wind and solar, powering highly efficient appliances and lighting. You may have a car or scooter, and its battery will add to your home’s electric storage.

For most of your transportation, you will be able to use transit, frequent electric mini-buses and high speed trains and buses, giving you a relaxing ride to work, stores or recreation without traffic delays. You may live close enough to schools, community centers and parks so that you can walk or bike to them on tree lined paths, and use a shared car for longer trips.

You may work in the booming clean energy industry. American inventors and entrepreneurs will be manufacturing green technologies such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, battery, algae fuel, smart grids, and charging stations. They will be hiring people with skills in engineering, software, marketing and international sales to serve these vibrant new domestic businesses. Sustainability policies will have become normal, – zero pollution, recycling and composting, preservation of sources of clean water, and methane and heat recovery, and protection against pollution of air, soil and food supplies.

We will be encouraged by our success in slowing the warming of the Earth with conservation, efficiency and clean energy. Around the world people will be farming in new ways that conserve water and topsoil, planting trees, restoring wetlands, and meeting many of their needs with local resources and efficient methods informed by high tech information services.

The carbon pollution already in the atmosphere will probably have melted so much of Greenland and West Antarctic ice that the oceans will flood many seacoast cities. We will have to make painful decisions to stop trying to protect or rebuild some areas and instead move homes, businesses, schools, airports and port facilities inland. Hopefully our patriotism and democracy will help us work together for the needs of our communities.

Money to finance these changes will be available from consumers who previously paid fossil fuel companies for oil, coal or natural gas. Our government will not have to pay to protect foreign sources and shipments of oil. Investments in efficiency measures in buildings and transportation will be paying back with lower energy costs. American made green technology will bring increased export earnings and spur markets for other products. Corporations that had accumulated trillions in savings while they waited for relief from volatile fuel costs will enjoy the steady energy rates and profitably invest in the new clean energy markets.

Will we get everything we want? No. We will still be consumers, greedy for toys and pretty things. However, we can rein in our indulgence in wasteful luxuries. We can courageously listen to and follow the treatment plan advised the climate scientists, specialists in the health of the world. We can heed the dire warnings of the consequences of continuing to release warming emissions and make carbon free policies and lifestyle our first priority.

It will not be easy, but the alternative is to fail to protect you from the worst outcomes of uncontrolled weather disruption. I promise to do everything I can to save, for you, a world with butterflies, that can feed the children, and educate them to take care of their children. We can do this; we can change from a fossil fuel based economy to sustainability in a green economy, stabilizing the climate and living healthier lives.

Cities creating a green economy

The role of cities in helping create a new green energy economy was discussed in a   Clean Edge webinar, ‘Creating Smarter and Cleaner Cities’ on Nov 27, 2012.

Ron Pernick, Managing Director for Clean Edge, moderated. He said that 87% of the clean-tech market is in 50 metropolitan areas, the top five being San Jose, San Francisco, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle. He said these 50 cities have 70% of the LEED square footage and 72% of the patent activities.

Greg Nickels, Mayor of Seattle from 2002 to 2009, talked about launching the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which has been signed by mayors of over 1000 cities.

“I started it when the nations of world signed onto Kyoto. I realized that we are vulnerable. Cities need not to deny the problem. I did not want this to be just symbolic, but leadership by example. Cities’ role is important now, as the federal government is not leading. Cities are engines of the economy, so it is important to find ways there to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Johanna Partin, director of City Programs at C40, talked about this network of cities and how they are implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions.

“The good news is that city policies that are producing benefits, with the clean tech sector driving the economy. Clustered clean tech incubators attract and mentor technologies, enabling cities and ports to meet future needs.”

She said that there are public-private partnerships and cooperation between cities, and alliances among firms to work on clean tech together and with a city.  Many cities have incentives and energy benchmarking, property tax incentives and green building requirements for new construction.

Jacques Chirazi, Manager of San Diego’s clean tech program, said that his city brought together all elements of society, non-profits, the University, utilities, and businesses to work on ideas. They got a concentrated solar manufacturer to come to San Diego, providing good jobs and a stable economy.

Greg Nickels pointed out that the Western Climate Initiative promoted economic opportunities.

Johanna Partin: The biggest value cities can add to the climate agenda is to show that it can be done. Also, cities can make aggressive goals and then engage in competition to spur them to beat their goals.

Ron Pernick: Cities act as pockets of innovation, and testing of technology.

Jacques Chirazi:  San Diego has lots of electric vehicle (EV) drivers. Officials asked  how to deal with high power needs in middle of day. Our solar EV project is going live today; we could not do it alone. We own a lot of parking lots and buildings that can have solar. We engaged nonprofit and utilities and academic institutions to share ideas. Our corporate partner is GE, there are other small contractors.

Ron Pernick: What are some of the tools people have found to deal with the dearth of capital?

Johanna Partin:  Chicago is working to reduce energy consumption in buildings and creating construction jobs. New York used performance contacts for the Empire State Building. A number of partners install and monitor the system to the quality expected and the building owner pays for installation through improved energy efficiency, with energy savings guaranteed over time. The building is now saving  50% on energy.

Greg Nickels: Seattle owned the electric utility so even though there were restrictions on how we could invest or loan, it gave us ability to work with customers, requiring energy audits with all transactions and using the sale of buildings as a catalyst to invest in energy saving.

Johanna Partin: There is a new OECD report saying that installing PVs creates more jobs. If a city aggressively promotes policies for more installation will get bigger jobs jump than by putting money into conventional energy.

Ron Pernick: In the next 3 to 5 years, what areas will get most traction at a city level?

Jacques Chirazi:  The greatest focus will be in integrating renewables with the existing grid, making buildings more intelligent, transportation and upgrading the building stock [to make it more energy efficient.] San Diego has had wildfires, so the community is interested in these technologies and also in adaptation strategy.

Greg Nickels:  Seattle City Light, our public utility, has zero net emissions because it is hydro based. What we can do is to help people conserve and use conservation resources to serve the growth, so we do not need to buy into non-renewable sources of energy.  We can continue to emphasize green building. Today the market demands that buildings are green, so we do not need regulations. Recycling is energy and water consumptive. We need to reduce packaging and waste with a culture of conservation.

Johanna Partin: We need to see more innovation around transportation; in most cities it is half of the footprint.  Some cities are using bus rapid transit, or planning for centralized transit centers.

Sunbelt clean energy industry

Industries left the sunbelt for cheaper hires abroad, so workers should get more skills training, according to a WSJ writer.


Support for clean energy manufacturing would help the sunbelt.

There are already some bright spots.  In Georgia, for example, there are 20 wind energy companies and solar industries are hiring, providing thousands of jobs and growing.

Bloomberg analysts point to signs that clean energy is on its way to provide some serious competition to fossil fuel and some freedom for consumers to choose cheaper alternatives.

There is new investment in wind projects in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain with no  dependence on subsidies.

Small-scale residential PVs are increasingly popular because they can meet partial electric needs at lower prices.

In areas where wind power is proliferating, like Texas and Colorado, it is exerting downward pressure on the prices of conventional electricity

A few major industrials are now producing clean technology.

Every car company is instituting some electric models.

Demand for clean energy technology is  which was mainly in Europe, Brazil and North America, is now growing in China, Korea, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, India, Japan and Africa.

For American jobs, exports and profits, we should incentivize the energy companies to switch their investment from developing more and more expensive fossil fuel to setting up factories, in the US to manufacture clean energy.

Green energy jobs

Light rail construction in Seattle, CHS blog

Media report of slower job growth.


A growing clean energy industry is the best way to increase job growth.

The petroleum industry requests for permits for more oil and natural gas pipelines state that they will spur employment.

Likewise, wind turbine manufacturers claim the same thing. Wind industry growth from 2004-9 prompted creation of 75,000 U.S. jobs and several thousand U.S companies according to John Regan of TPI Composites, Inc,, a manufacturer of wind turbine blades. John Purcell, a VP of the Wind Energy division of Leeco Steel said in a congressional hearings that extension of the wind tax credit would mean preservation or creation of 37,000 jobs.

An independent analysis of job creation at UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group found that renewable energy would create more jobs per unit of energy than coal or natural gas. They estimate that combining aggressive energy efficiency measures and a 30% renewable portfolio standard could generate over 4 million full time jobs years by 2030.