Kokichi Sugihara, a professor at Meiji University in Japan, won second prize in the international Best Illusion of the Year Contest last week for creating a brand-new visual illusion in which a perfectly rectangular shape appears circular when reflected in a mirror.
Source: The Huffington Post
Yes; BarryOnEnergy serves as a reflection of today’s energy situation in our global community and not necessarily a site for political discussions. However, the topic of Energy, its source and consumption, turns out to be as political as it is scientific and empirical.
In this respect, there comes a time when BarryOnEnergy has to present issues that are at the epicenter of current debates. On such item is “gun violence in America.”
This article, The NRA’s Fraud: Fabrication of Second Amendment Rights, by Burton Newman, Attorney; Adjunct professor, Washington University School of Law, published by Huffington Post, is posted in its entirety. It was chosen as a credible source of information that gets to the heart of the matter in a fair, impartial, and factual way. Most likely this piece will not change anyone’s position. Yet, to fix a problem, ultimately we need to deal in facts rather than anecdotes.
Here we go!
“A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.“ ~ Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution
Following the Sandy Hook massacre, gun rights, gun laws and the Second Amendment have been the subject of a national dialogue. Any discussion of these topics is severely tainted by calculated messaging by the NRA to deceive and mislead our citizens to believe that the Second Amendment grants far reaching gun rights which have not and do not exist.
The Second Amendment became part of our constitution in 1791. For well over two centuries the Supreme Court never decided that the Amendment granted a constitutional right to individuals to bear arms. The widely held notion that such a right existed was a myth fabricated by the NRA for its own self-interest and for the corporate profits of gun manufacturers. This fabrication altered the mindset of most Americans to accept fictional Second Amendment rights that permitted the proliferation of all manner and kind of dangerous weapons. We became a gun culture run rampant. The gun manufacturers reaped enormous profits as gun sales soared. In 2011 industry wide gun sales were $4.3 billion. Misconceptions generated by the NRA created a warped interpretation of Second Amendment that generated these sales.
The fraud perpetrated by the NRA is patent. We do not heed the warnings of prominent citizens such as former attorneys general Nicholas Katzenbach, Ramsey Clark, Elliot L. Richardson, Edward Levi, Griffin B. Bell and Benjamin R. Civiletti. The joint statement in the Washington Post of these former attorneys general in 1992 reads as follows:
“For more than 200 years, the federal courts have unanimously determined that the Second Amendment concerns only the arming of the people in service to an organized state Militia: it does not guarantee immediate access to guns for private purposes. The nation can no longer afford to let the gun lobbies’ distortion of the constitution cripple every reasonable attempt to implement an effective national policy towards guns and crime.”
In a PBS News Hour interview in 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger referred to the NRA Second Amendment myth as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by any special interest group that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The opinions of these distinguished legal scholars had no bearing on NRA propaganda that continued unabated. During the weeks before the 2000 general election, a self-anointed constitution “scholar,” Charleton Heston, ceremonial president of the NRA, flooded the airways to urge voters to support candidates who would protect and preserve Second Amendment rights. Little did most Americans realize that such rights did not exist. The NRA’s reading of the Second Amendment was purely fictional and unsupported by the law of the land.
Candidates for public office both state and federal reaped in political contributions from the NRA. These elected officials feared the wrath of the NRA should they stray from the NRA’s Second Amendment myth.
A norm evolved offering sanctity to gun owners and manufacturers. Gun manufacturers and the NRA prospered and profited. As one gun manufacturing executive states the equation, the NRA “protects our Second Amendment rights and those rights protect the ability to buy our products.” Elected officials stand idly by while gun deaths and massacres escalate without lasting public outcry or meaningful legislative efforts.
The statistics are staggering. The depth of lost life is evident by comparing deaths in foreign wars and firearm deaths of citizens within our borders. In all foreign wars during our history about 650,000 soldiers died. In the 45 years since Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in 1968, there have been over 1.3 million deaths in our country caused by firearms. The fraud perpetrated by the NRA as recognized by former Chief Justice Burger is linked to these deaths. The blood of thousands upon thousands of Americans permanently stain the hands of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
How did the NRA gain such power and influence on our citizenry? For the first century of its existence beginning in 1871, the NRA primarily devoted its efforts to gun safety. Following enactment of new restrictive gun laws requiring gun licensing and taxes, a 1977 coup within the NRA membership led by militants resulted in a new harder edged and more aggressive NRA. The truth mattered not. The edifice of the NRA headquarters would now bear an abbreviated version of the Second Amendment: “The Right of the People to keep and Bear Arms Shall not be infringed.” The NRA amended the Constitution unilaterally to avoid even a hint that the language pertaining to a Militia had any meaning. The law of the land spoke otherwise.
In 1939 the Supreme Court issued the Miller decision. The justices ruled that “the Second Amendment must be interpreted and applied with the view of its purpose of rendering effective Militia.” That was the state of Second Amendment law until the 2008 Heller decision. Prior to Heller, the Supreme Court never recognized that individuals had an individual right to keep and bear arms. It was the NRA propaganda, not the law of the land, that led the cry for unlimited gun ownership and protection of gun owner rights. The NRA myths allowed the cycle of expanded gun sales and NRA power to purchase political influence. Democrats and Republican alike announced their allegiance to the Second Amendment and the public grew to believe that the NRA view of the Second Amendment was consistent with constitutional law. The NRA controlled too many elected officials to allow for protection of our citizens from gun violence, gun deaths and unspeakable gun horrors in schools and public places.
The NRA myths were disseminated on other fronts. Articles appeared in NRA publications and rewrote history by declaring that “Armed citizens [were] unregulated except by his own ability to buy a gun at whatever price he could afford.” This credo became an NRA rallying cry.
The NRA poured millions upon millions of dollars into congressional and state legislative campaigns. Gun owners and manufacturers poured more money into the NRA. The revisionist view of Second Amendment rights gained momentum in 1982 when a Senate judiciary subcommittee issued a report about the discovery of “long lost proof” of an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms. The chair of the subcommittee was Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. The “proof” has never surfaced.
For over three decades the NRA funded legal research, legal seminars and pushed for law review articles supporting individual rights to bear arms. This and the NRA persuasion of elected officials led to a dramatic shift in Second Amendment legal views. In 2003 the NRA established a $1 million chair at George Mason University law school. The views of NRA supported professors and legal scholars were relied on in the 2008 Supreme Court decision finding an individual right to bear arms for the first time.
What did the Supreme Court say in the 2008 Heller decision? The Court held that there existed an individual right to bear arms only for traditional purposes such as self-defense in the home. The Court declared that the Second Amendment should not be understood as conferring a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court gave examples of firearms laws presumed to be lawful. These included laws prohibiting firearm possession by felons, mentally ill persons and possession of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings. The Court found that conditions on the commercial sale of firearms were presumptively lawful. The Court said this list was not exhaustive; and found that the Second Amendment is consistent with laws banning firearms that are “dangerous and unusual.”
The ruling in Heller was a departure from the 1939 decision in the Miller case where the court stated that the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was to ensure effectiveness of the stated Militia. However, even with this departure the decision in Heller is limited in its scope. The only right specifically mentioned in the Supreme Court’s opinion is the right of an individual to possess a gun for self-defense in the home.
Did this limited decision stop the NRA from its propaganda campaign? Of course not. On Meet the Press on March 24, 2013, Wayne LaPierre declared to the nation that under the Heller decision it would be an “absolute abridgement” of constitutional rights to regulate assault weapons. That myth, heard by millions, was intended to again mislead the country into believing that there are sweeping Second Amendment rights that cannot be regulated. Nonsense. The very language of the Supreme Court opinion in Heller calls out LaPierre as a liar.
How can the American people be educated to understand the true meaning of the Second Amendment consistent with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of that Amendment? Such an education process could lead to sweeping reform of state and federal regulation of firearms. But how is the mindset of the American people to be changed? The same way our mindset about drunk driving and smoking changed over time. Let’s take a look at the circumstances involved in smoking. Smokers 35 years ago would never have believed there would be no public smoking. When harms caused by drunk drivers and tobacco users were known in clear terms, the mindset of the public changed. New reforms, enforcement of laws and demands for a safer society became reachable goals. The change in that mindset did not take place in a day a week or a year. Nor will the change in the mindset regarding Second Amendment rights change overnight. But it is the education of the citizenry and the education of our lawmakers that is necessary in order for the calculated messaging of the NRA to be known for what it is: Lies, myths and fictions that have harmed and killed our citizens and will continue to do so until an enlightened view of the very limited scope of Second Amendment rights is known, understood and acted upon.
tmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been steadily rising, from approximately 316 ppm in 1959 to a current atmospheric average of 407 ppm (Mauna Loa Observatory). Antarctic ice-core records show “at no point during the last 800,000 years have CO2 levels been as high as they are now.” (Climate Central, 2013). And, current projections forecast CO2 levels will nearly double by 2100.
While debates concerning the impact of elevated CO2 levels (eCO2) on climate change are slowly converging on agreement of CO2 induced global warming, public opinion seems to diverge on whether high levels of atmospheric CO2 are beneficial or harmful to plant life.
This stands to reason, since it universally known that plant life depends on atmospheric carbon dioxide, light energy from the sun, water and nutrients to produce oxygen and sugars that builds roots, stems and leaves – cell wall, biomass and seeds – during photosynthesis. Without carbon dioxide, plants cannot get carbon and therefore, cannot live. Common logic then suggests that, as the level of atmospheric CO2 increases, so would plant growth. But is this true?
To find the answer, this paper surveyed thirteen scientific studies, from September 1992 through April 2016, investigating the impact of elevated levels of CO2 on plant growth. Understandably, this review constitutes a micro view of the vast number of research projects on this subject, which possibly goes back as far as 1779 when Jan Ingenhousz, a Dutch scientist, discovered photosynthesis.
This article gives only a brief statement on the results of each study. Methodologies used in these investigations range from a compilation of prior research projects to in-situ and ex-situ experimentation. Studies also involved mathematical modeling, genetic variations, nitrogen availability, temperature and rainfall variations, protein buildup, CO2 levels up to 1000 ppm, and rain-forest ecologies. To draw your own conclusions, the title of each study links to the published paper, abstract or press release.
Whatever the case, for those that have faith in the scientific community’s ability to find the truth, this article should have value. For those that think scientists conspire to deceive the public, you might as well stop reading and turn on Fox News
Selected Studies, from most recent to oldest:
An international team of 32 authors from 24 institutions collaborated on prior research and published in the journal Nature Climate Change Greening of the Earth and Its Drivers, April 2016. The team reported over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated lands became significantly greener in the last 33 years. The researchers concluded that CO2 fertilization effects – an effect by which higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations fertilize, enhance plant growth – explain 70% of the observed greening trend, followed by nitrogen deposition (9%), climate change (8%) and land cover change (4%) (Cayla Dengate, The Huffington Post Australia).
A research team from the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Spanish National Research Council published, Elevated CO2 impacts bell pepper growth with consequences to Myzus persicae life history, feeding behaviour and virus transmission ability, Scientific Reports, January 2016. The team reported, “Among the observed effects on plants, typical responses to elevated CO2 include increased plant growth and biomass, canopy size, reduction in stomatal conductance and transpiration, improved water-use efficiency and higher photosynthetic rates. At the same time, increasing CO2 alters the chemical composition of plant tissue, with the accumulation of non-structural carbohydrates such as soluble sugars and starch. Elevated CO2 also has an impact on the nitrogen cycle that translates into a decrease in protein content and higher C:N ratio. The reduction in stomatal conductance may lead to a decrease in micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium or phosphorus due to the lower water uptake from the soil.”
A research team from the University of Hong Kong reported at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit the Discovery of a new plant growth technology that may alleviate climate change and food shortage, October 2015. The technology promotes plant growth and seed yield by 38% to 57% in a model plant by increasing CO2 absorption from the atmosphere. The researchers identified a plant-growth promoting gene that imports specific proteins into chloroplasts and mitochondria, thereby, stimulating growth of the engineered plant (University of Hong Kong), see also Plant growth in elevated CO2 alters mitochondrial number and chloroplast fine structure, February 2001.
Researcher Johan Uddling senior lecturer at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg working with Swedish and international colleagues published Constraints to nitrogen acquisition of terrestrial plants under elevated CO2, Global Change Biology, May 2015. The team investigated “to what extent nitrogen availability constrains the stimulation of terrestrial productivity by elevated CO2 (eCO2), and whether or not this constraint will become stronger over time.” The study examined various types of ecosystems, including crops, grasslands and forests, and involves large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries on four continents. They found increased carbon dioxide levels in air restrict plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. For all types of ecosystem, increased carbon dioxide levels impaired plant quality.”
Researches from The Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota and Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire reported Plant growth enhancement by elevated CO2 eliminated by joint water and nitrogen limitation, Journal Nature Geoscience, November 2014. The scientists analyzed plant biomass levels during a five-year, open-air experiment in a perennial grassland under two contrasting levels of atmospheric CO2, soil nitrogen and summer rainfall, respectively. They found that the presence of a CO2 fertilization effect depends on the amount of available nitrogen and water. Specifically, elevated CO2 levels led to an increase in plant biomass of more than 33% when summer rainfall, nitrogen supply, or both were at the higher levels (ambient for rainfall and elevated for soil nitrogen). But elevated CO2 concentrations did not increase plant biomass when both rainfall and nitrogen were at their lower level. They concluded that given widespread, simultaneous limitation by water and nutrients, large stimulation of biomass by rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations may not be universal.”
Scientists at the University of California, Davis reported Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown, Journal of Nature Climate Change April 2014. “This first of its kind study demonstrated the inhibition of wheat crops to convert nitrate into a protein, due to increased CO2 levels. Previously, studies suggested this reaction in plants, but this is the first time it is shown in field grown crops” (Twanna Harps, Guardian).
A study by several Australian scientists published Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments, Geophysical Research Letters, June 2013. They found plant growth surges as CO2 levels rise. “Using a mathematical model to predict the extent of this carbon dioxide fertilization effect, the scientists calculated that in warm, dry conditions, plants would make more leaves if they had the water to do so. They also determined this fertilization effect could account for an 11 percent increase in global foliage since 1982” (Tim Radford, Climate News Network).
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the University of Potsdam reported Carbon dioxide could reduce crop yields, AlphaGalileo, November 2012. The researchers discovered that an increase in carbon dioxide levels could cancel out the beneficial effects of dwarf varieties of plants, such as rice, which ensure our basic food supply. These plants are bred for short stalks and high grain yields not for vertical growth. Thus, in the experiment, the dwarf plants gradually lost their advantage and increasingly resembled the control plants” (Philip Bump , Grist).
In a paper, Genetic manipulation of stomatal density influences stomatal size, plant growth and tolerance to restricted water supply across a growth carbon dioxide gradient published by Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, February 2012, a team of scientists from the University of Sheffield, UK and the University of Sydney, Australia investigated the impact of manipulating stomatal density on a collection of mutant plants with a 16-fold range of stomatal densities (approx. 20–325% of that of control plants). The plants were grown at three atmospheric CO2 concentrations (200, 450 and 1000 ppm), and 30 per cent or 70 per cent soil water content. The researchers found under some but not all conditions, mutant plants exhibited abnormal stomatal density responses to CO2 concentration. Plant size negatively correlated with stromal density. For example, at 450 ppm CO2, overexpressing plants, with reduced density, had larger leaves and increased dry weight.
An international team of scientist reported the results of a study, Climate change effects on beneficial plant–microorganism interactions, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, August 2010. The researchers reviewed the results of 135 studies investigating the effects of climate change factors on beneficial microorganisms and their interaction with host plants. “In most cases, plant-associated microorganisms had a beneficial effect on plants under elevated CO2. The effects of increased temperature on beneficial plant-associated microorganisms were more variable, positive and neutral, and negative effects were equally common and varied considerably with the study system and the temperature range investigated. Overall, the review shows that plant-associated microorganisms are an important factor influencing the response of plants to climate change.”
A study on Carbon dioxide and high temperature effects on growth of young orange trees in a humid, subtropical environment by Hartwell and Vu published by Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, January 2009, concluded that at lower temperatures an increased CO2 environment does indeed lead to an increase in plant biomass. However, they also showed that as temperature increases the biomass yield drops as a result of higher temperatures limiting stomatal water flow (Mark Cresswell, UK Science).
The Jasper Ridge Global Change Project, December 2002, an unprecedented three-year experiment, conducted at Stanford University concluded “that elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide actually reduces plant growth when combined with other likely consequences of climate change — namely, higher temperatures, increased precipitation or increased nitrogen deposits in the soil. The results revealed while treatments involving increased temperature, nitrogen deposition or precipitation — alone or in combination — promoted plant growth by as much as 84 percent, the addition of elevated carbon dioxide consistently dampened those increases by 40 percent.”
Dr. Christian Korner and Dr. John A. Arnone of the University of Basel, Switzerland reported Responses to Elevated Carbon Dioxide in Artificial Tropical Ecosystems, Journal Science, September 1992. The scientists disclosed that excessive amounts of carbon dioxide may impair plant health. “For their experiments, the scientists built identical sets of greenhouses and recreated complete rain-forest ecologies. In one set of greenhouses, the CO2 content of the air was maintained at 340 parts per million. In the other set of greenhouses, the CO2 content was increased to 610 parts per million. Both sets of plants grew vigorously, but the high-carbon-dioxide group produced no more weight of vegetation than the other group. Moreover, plants exposed to high carbon dioxide formed “massive” amounts of starch grains in their uppermost leaves” (Malcolm W. Browne, The New York Times).
In closing, the answer to the question – is it true that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 increase plant growth is a qualitative Yes when viewed only from the standpoint of CO2 and a resounding No when other factors are considered. While the preponderance of studies endorse the conventional notion of a direct relationship between CO2 concentration and plant growth, a number of well-designed investigations that incorporate secondary factors indirectly associated with the rise in CO2, support the opposing thesis that excessive amounts of ambient CO2 may adversely influence plant growth.
These “secondary” factors – ambient temperature, local precipitation, soil condition, nutrient availability, and microorganism plant interactions – relate to climate change rather than a direct effect of CO2. Plant growth is a complex process not readily explainable through one-dimensional thinking. Future studies need to consider the confounding interactions between these factors as well as the impact of climate and competition on forests, cropland and pastures. Only then, would it be possible to answer the question with a resounding Yes or No.
By Twanna Harps on April 8, 2014
We’ve seen it before. Tough talk in the early ‘70s for an energy independent America as OPEC’s oil embargo quadrupled the price of petroleum from $2.90 a barrel to $11.65 a barrel. Then, in close pursuit, came the second oil shock of 1980 as the Iranian Revolution halted oil shipments, skyrocketing prices from $13 to $34 a barrel. The same narrative unfolded as the oil crisis of 2000s forced crude prices to unseen thresholds, rising above $30 a barrel in 2003, peaking at $147.30 in July 2008. In all cases, the call for alternate and cleaner energy resources resonated throughout America.
The U.S. government responded by pumping research dollars into new energy and conservation technologies. According to Council on Foreign Relations, “some of these investments yielded little, including the billions of dollars that were sunk into synthetic fuel and nuclear fission. But other investments paid off. The remarkable growth in shale gas production in the 2000s can be partly traced to these federally funded programs and subsidies in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, which led to breakthroughs in drilling, fracturing, mapping, and shale gas recovery. Of course, none of these policies or programs were designed to reduce carbon emissions.”
To the extent that energy consumption has global ramifications, it’s best to compare America’s energy inventory to the rest of the world. Enerdata’s study of the percent share of renewables (hydro, wind, geothermal, solar) by country, Figure 1, shows the U.S. trailing most developed and many developing nations. Of the 44 countries studied, America ranked #25 with a 12.3% share and #26 with a 13.7% in 1990 and 2014, respectively.
Figure 1: Percent Share of Renewables by Country – 1990 and 2014Source of Data: Enerdata
A recently released report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration gives further insight into the question – whether America is gaining or losing ground on renewable energy consumption (hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass) for electricity generation, Figure 2.
Over a 66-year period from 1949 through 2015, the U.S. showed negligible growth in renewable and nuclear energy generation. During the same time period, petroleum consumption grew at an erratic rate while natural gas and coal continued an upward trend until 2008 when natural gas consumption soared at the expense of coal utilization.
Furthermore, as a percentage of total fossil fuel consumption (petroleum, natural gas, coal), total utilization of renewable energy (hydropower, geothermal, solar (PV and thermal), wind and biomass) never exceeded 14% of U.S. energy inventory. Excluding conventional hydro power, which is generally not considered a renewable source of energy, renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) constituted only 7% of America’s energy mix.
Figure 3 presents the U.S. consumption of renewable energy (in trillion Btu) by source from 1949 to 2015. Over the 66-year period, hydropower and biomass (wood energy, waste energy and biofuels) were the bastion of renewable energy production, averaging a combined total of 96% of all renewable resources throughout the period. The remaining 4% consists of geothermal, wind, and solar.
The consumption of wind and bioenergy started to rise by mid 2000s, growing from less than 1% of renewable energy generation in 2000 to 19% of by the start of 2016. Solar production lagged behind until early 2010s when the influx of cheap modules started to come online.
Nevertheless, by yearend 2015, the combined share of wind and solar power generation only amounted to 2.4% of the total primary energy consumption in the U.S., Figure 4.
The demand for wind and solar energy is driven by several factors? While, one can point to political survival, social awareness, economies of scale, and technological improvements; the answer lies in the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). Here, the LCOE of renewable energy plummeted to levels on par with the price of purchasing power from the electricity grid, i.e., reached grid parity.
LCOE represents, the per kilowatt-hour cost of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. LCOE takes into consideration overnight capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance costs, financing costs, and projected utilization rates for each type of facility.
Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis shows a decline of more than a 100% in the unsubsidized LCOE of wind over the past six years, reaching grid party with traditional energy sources such as coal, nuclear and gas in America by 2015, Figure 5.
Much of the cost reduction in wind and solar power lies in more efficient wind turbines, an oversupply of PV solar panels from China, and federal and state incentives. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided three federal incentive programs for renewable electricity projects – Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC), Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC), and Section 1603 Cash Grant for Renewable Energy (1603 Grant). Congress, however, enacted only temporary incentives for all renewable energy projects.
The EIA reported, “From fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2013, the largest increases in federal energy subsidies were in electricity-related renewable energy, which increased from $8.6 billion to $13.2 billion. Total federal energy subsidies declined 23%, from $38 billion to $29 billion due to the expiration of tax incentives for biofuels, the depletion of stimulus funds, and a decrease in energy assistance funds.”
Also, “Domestic wind farm development thrived under the PTC and ITC, resulting in a lowering of cost by more than half over the course of the past five years and driving the U.S. to become the top wind energy producer in the world. Expiration of wind tax credits in 2013 dropped construction of new wind farms by 92% and resulted in the loss of 30,000 industry jobs. Following the renewal of the PTC in 2014, U.S. wind energy jobs increased by 23,000,” according to Renewable Energy World.
The PTC is a per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax credit for electricity generated and sold by qualified energy resources during the taxable year. The PTC, first enacted in 1992, has been extended ten times. This Includes Congress’s December 2015 approval to extend the PTC through 2016, after which it will decline each year until it fully expires in 2020.
The ITC allows owners of PTC-eligible renewable projects to earn a one-time corporate investment tax credit (ITC) in lieu of claiming the PTC. The ITC is equal to 30 percent of the costs attributable to the facility, which typically excludes other project costs, such as transmission equipment or ancillary site improvements.
The 1603 program offered renewable energy project developers cash payments in lieu of the ITC. The value of a grant is equivalent to 30% of the project’s total eligible cost basis, in most cases. The program allows taxpayers to maximize the return and value of existing tax incentives. The Federal government reported, as of December 31, 2015,
- total number of projects funded under 1603 = 104,211
- total 1603 funding = $24.9 Billion
- total estimated private, regional, state, and federal investment in 1603 projects = $90 Billion
- total installed capacity of funded projects = 33.3 GW
- total estimated annual electricity generation from funded projects = 88.7 TWh (roughly equivalent to 8,110,000 homes).
Lesser-known are twelve fossil fuel tax incentives covering production and consumption tax incentives in the U.S. All subsidies are permanent provisions in the tax code.Combined, these fossil fuel provisions totaled USD 4.7 billion in annual revenue cost and include:
- Expensing of intangible drilling costs
- Percentage depletion for oil and natural gas wells
- Domestic manufacturing deduction for fossil fuels
- Two-year amortization period for geological & geophysical expenditures
- Percentage depletion for hard mineral fossil fuels
- Expensing of exploration and development costs for hard mineral fuels
- Capital gains treatment for royalties of coal
- Deduction for tertiary injectants
- Exception to passive loss limitation for working interests in oil and natural gas properties
- Enhanced oil recovery credit
- Marginal wells credit
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
These incentives are only part of the story. There exist hidden incentives with deeper pockets.
A July 2014 report by Oil Change International, stated; “In addition to exploration and production subsidies to oil, gas, and coal companies, the U.S. government also provides billions of dollars of additional support to the fossil fuel industry to lower the cost of fossil fuels to consumers, finance fossil fuel projects overseas, and to protect U.S. oil interests abroad with the military. In 2013, the U.S. federal and state governments gave away $21.6 billion in subsidies for oil, gas, and coal exploration and production. President Obama has repeatedly tried to repeal some of the most egregious of these subsidies, but these attempts have been blocked by a U.S. Congress that has been bought out by campaign finance and lobbying expenditures from the fossil fuel industry.”
If America’s push towards alternate energy was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then it’s an apparent failure, Figure 6. The good news, if any, is a slight decline in GHG emissions in recent years. The bad news is emissions in 2013 were somewhat higher than that in 1990.
Figure 6: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas, 1990 – 2013Source: U.S. EPA, 2015 https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghg-emissions/usinventoryreport.html
In closing, energy security exists in the U.S. today not by a hefty diet of alternative energy but by increased production of domestic petroleum and natural gas. But energy security is only one part of America’s energy vision. The other is a cleaner environment. The fundamental issue is whether the U.S. can expand renewable energy production at a rate that significantly cuts into the inventory fossil fuels. As ideological divisions widen on Capitol Hill, America’s energy policy becomes more reactionary and untethered to any long-term strategic plan. That is of course if one believes the carbon footprint from the combustion of fossil fuels is an environmental asset.
This piece is reprinted in its entirety from an article by Andrew Freedman, that appeared in mashable.com on March 12, 2016.
February was Earth’s most unusually warm month on record, blowing away the record that had been set just one month prior.
The new findings, contained in preliminary data released Saturday by NASA and backed up by information from other research groups, show that the combination of a record strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean and human-caused global warming drove global temperatures to levels never before seen since instrument records began in 1880.
The NASA data, which is subject to adjustment as scientists refine their analysis, shows that February had a global average surface temperature of 1.35 degrees Celsius above the 1951 to 1980 average, or 2.43 degrees Fahrenheit above average.
The 1.35-degree Celsius temperature anomaly in February beat the anomaly recorded in January, which itself was a record high departure from average for any month. According to NASA, the global average surface temperature during January was 1.14 degrees Celsius above average, or 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the 1951 to 1980 average.
This means that temperatures in February 2016 had the largest departure from average of any month in NASA’s records since 1880.
To put it more plainly, February stands out for its unusual heat more than any other month in modern climate record.
The previous warmest February, according to NASA, was in 1998, which was also a year with an extremely strong El Niño.
However, in an important indication of how far human-caused global warming has shifted the baseline state of the planet’s climate, February 2016 came out 0.846 degrees Celsius, or 1.52 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than February 1998, despite the similar intensity of the El Niño events in both years.
In fact, studies indicate that with the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere in all of human history, global average temperatures may now be higher than any time since at least 4,000 years ago.
In an indication of how striking February’s data is, consider the reaction of Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), who helps conduct these analyses:
What started as a precursory investigation into the U.S. Department of Energy’s imbalance of appropriations between the Office of Atomic Energy Defense and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, turned into a deeper examination of DoE’s effectiveness of transitioning America to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy economy.
Without exception, the DoE is all about Atomic Energy Defense (AED). Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), on the other hand, is not mission critical. To the extent that the Energy Department’s FY 2016 congressional budget request allocates 63% of its total budget to AED activities and only 9% to EERE programs, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs appear to be at an extreme disadvantage. This concern is also mirrored in the Enacted DoE budget for FY 2015 where 64% was allocated to AED activities and 7% for EERE programs.
The argument is not whether AED is more important than EERE; rather it is a question of the horsepower behind EERE and the Energy Department’s performance in “ensuring America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” Unfortunately, no government-approved standardized measures exist to quantify the success or failure of the AED activities and EERE programs.
The DoE and in particular their Office of AED has significant challenges. When it comes to just one of the many activities under the Office of AED – the cleanup of abandoned mine lands – the task is highly complex and seemingly endless. There are estimates of as many as 500,000 abandoned mines – coal, hardrock, uranium, and others mines such as iron, phosphate, sand, gravel, clay pits and quarries – in our nation.”
When it comes just to uranium mines, the DoE is responsible to “provide for the disposal, long-term stabilization, and control of uranium mill tailings in a safe and environmentally sound manner and to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public. Currently, the DOE is charged with “completing surface reclamation at 24 inactive uranium mill tailings piles and the cleanup at 16 uranium recovery facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. “There are about 4,000 mines with documented production, including 15,000 mine locations with uranium occurrence in 14 western states.’
According to the DoE, “The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is the U.S. Government’s primary clean energy technology organization. EERE works with many of America’s best innovators and businesses to support high-impact applied research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) activities in sustainable transportation, renewable power, and end-use energy efficiency. EERE implements a range of strategies aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on oil, saving American families and businesses money, creating jobs, and reducing pollution. EERE works to ensure that the clean energy technologies of today and tomorrow are not only invented in America, but also manufactured in America.”
The Department also states, “The FY 2016 Budget Request includes robust funding levels for clean energy technologies that advance American leadership in nuclear power, fossil energy, renewables, efficiency, and grid security for the 21st century. To sustain the Nation’s primacy in scientific discovery, the Request also increases funding for basic research.”
Figure 1 shows funding levels by Apportions allocated for the Department’s FY 2015 Enacted Budget and the FY 2016 Congressional Budget Request; $27.4 billion and $29.9 billion, respectively. The top section is a high-level view; segmented into five major areas of investments:
- Atomic Defense Activities,
- Energy Programs (not including EERE),
- EERE Programs,
- Power Marketing, and
- Adjustments (Discretionary Payments, Excess Fees and Recoveries – FERC).
EERE appropriations consist of four primary areas:
- Sustainable Transportation,
- Renewable Energy,
- Energy Efficiency, and
- Corporate Support.
The last section of Figure 1 contains all other Energy programs, and expenditures.
Figure 1 shows:
- FY 2015 EERE enacted investments of $1.9 billion, 7% of the total budget;
- FY 2016 EERE requested investments of $2.7 billion, 9.1% of the total budget t, a 42% increase from FY 2015;
- FY 2015 enacted funding levels for AED activities ran about 820% of EERE Programs;
- FY 2016 requested funding levels for AED activities run about 600% of EERE Programs;
- The EERE Vehicle Technologies program received the largest amount of fund in the enacted FY 2015 and the requested FY 2016 budgets, $280 million and $444 million, respectively;
- FY 2015 enacted investments in Renewable Energy programs are $456 million or 1.7% of the total DoE budget;
- FY 2016 requested investments in Renewable Energy programs are $645 million or 2.2% of the total DoE budget, an increase of $189 million from FY 2015 levels;
- FY 2015 enacted investments in Energy Efficiency programs are $642 million or 2.3% of the total DoE budget; and
- FY 2016 requested investments in Renewable Energy programs are $1.0 billion or 3.4% of the total DoE budget, an increase of $387 million from FY 2015 enacted levels.
When viewed from the standpoint of the Solyndra Scandal, the solar-panel maker that defaulted on a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department, appropriations for EERE programs seem rather thin.
Figure 2 illustrates the relationship between the total DoE and EERE congressional budget requests from FY 2000 through 2016. The total DoE budget for any one year is indicated by the red columns; the total EERE appropriation by the blue columns. The callout above each blue column gives the percentage of EERE appropriation to total DoE budget for that year. EERE allocations ranged from a low of 1.4% in FY 2003 to a high of 9.8% in FY 2014. EERE allocations averaged about 5.8% during the 17-year period, with a slight upward trend in the latter years, though never exceeding 10%.
Figure 3 shows FY 2012 to 2016 EERE budget allocations for each of the 14 programs. In general, for any given program, there is little difference between the yearly allocations from FY 2012 to 2016, i.e., little variation in yearly investment for any one program. Major expectations are Vehicle Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, and Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs, all of which showed an increase in funding after 2013. Of the 14 programs, the DoE consistently invested the most in Vehicle Technologies and the least in Strategic Programs. Within Renewable Energy, the lion’s share of investments went to Solar projects. When combined, the three Corporate Support activities (Facilities and Infrastructure, Program Direction and Strategic Programs) absorbed about 12% of all EERE dollars.
In general, the yearly allocations for any one program or expenditure show only minor changes from 2012 to 2016. Exceptions are Vehicle Technologies, Advanced Manufacturing, and Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs, all of which spiked after 2013. Of the 14 budget items, Vehicle Technologies receive the most dollars and Strategic Programs the lowest. Within the Renewable Energy category, Solar receives the lion’s share of investments. Energy Efficiency distributions show similarities within the later years between Advanced Manufacturing, Weatherization and Intergovernmental programs, and Building Technologies. Combined, the three Corporate Support activities (Facilities and Infrastructure, Program Direction and Strategic Programs) took about 12% of all dollars earmarked to EERE.
The FY 2016 budget request also contains an appropriation item – Fossil Energy Programs. Investment in these programs is approximately $842 million; 30% of the total EERE request. Fossil Fuel Programs include:
- Clean Coal Technology,
- Fossil Energy Research and Development,
- Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves,
- Elk Hills School Lands Fund,
- Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and
- Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.
The request “provides for the development of advance carbon capture and storage and natural gas technologies. The $257 million for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, $57 million above the FY 2015 Enacted level, is allocated to increase the system’s durability and reliability and begin addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance.”
“Fossil Energy Research and Development (FER&D) advances technologies related to the reliable, efficient, affordable, and environmentally sound use of fossil fuels that are an important component of the President’s “All of the Above” energy strategy to ensure our Nation’s security and economic prosperity. FER&D leads Federal research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) efforts on advanced carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to facilitate achievement of the President’s climate goals. FER&D also conducts research and development (R&D) associated with the prudent, safe, and sustainable development of our unconventional domestic resources.” When compared to FY 2016 EERE appropriations, FER&D funding levels are 66% and 26% greater than Solar Energy Programs and Vehicle Technologies, respectively.
Science Program appropriations at $5.3 billion for FY 2016 is the single largest Energy Program expenditure outside of Weapons ($9.2 billion) and Defense Environmental Cleanup ($5.6 billion) Activities. “Science (SC) is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and funds programs in physics, chemistry, materials science, biology, environmental science, applied mathematics, and computational science. The Office of Science portfolio has two principal thrusts: direct support of scientific research, and direct support of the design, development, construction, and operation of unique, open-access scientific user facilities. SC supports researchers at all of the DoE laboratories and approximately 300 universities and other institutions of higher learning nationwide. Approximately 31,000 researchers from universities, National Laboratories, industry, and international partners are expected to use SC user facilities in FY 2016. SC programs invest in foundational science, including basic research in clean energy, to transform our understanding of nature and support advances in fundamental science and technology innovation.”
One note of caution about reading too much into the DoE FY 2016 Congressional Budget Request. Like most budgets, there are differences between submitted and approved. Figure 4 shows these changes in the FY 2015 budget – the most recent year where both requested and enacted budgets are available. While the total DoE enacted budget was 1.9% lower than the request, the highest reduction in an appropriation line item was EERE programs at 17.4%. This is also true in terms of dollars. The total budget reduction of $538 million was primarily due a $402 million drop in allocations for EERE programs. The Atomic Energy Defense request of $17.7 billion was only reduced $133 million, a mere 0.7% change.
Using total renewable energy capacity as a measure of DoE’s effectiveness in transitioning the U.S. to a low-carbon secure energy future, America’s prowess is unquestioned. According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network (REN), by the end of 2014, the seven countries with the highest capacity of renewable energy (not including hydro power) are China, the United States, and Germany followed by Italy, Spain, Japan, and India, Figure 5.
REN states “By dollars spent, the leading countries for investment in 2014 were China, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany. However, considering investments made in new renewable power and fuels relative to annual GDP, top countries included Burundi, Kenya, Honduras, Jordan, and Uruguay. The leading countries for investment per inhabitant were the Netherlands, Japan, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and Ireland and Canada (both about even).”
Another, possibly more meaningful, measure to determine DoE’s effectiveness in transitioning the U.S. to a low-carbon secure energy future is the share (percentage) of electricity production from renewable energy (hydro, wind, geothermal and solar) to total electricity production.
This measure gives an entirely different picture from capacity statistics. Enerdata – a provider of energy data, forecasts, market reports, research, news, consulting and training on the global energy industry – established the data used Figure 6 – the percentage of renewables in electric energy production by country. Figure 6 shows the 2014 share of renewables in electricity production (including hydropower) by countries. The red column indicates the U.S. share (13.7%). Norway with a 98% share is the world leader and benchmark towards 100% renewable energy. The data set includes:
- 44 Countries,
- OECD Countries (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development),
- G7 Group of Counties (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States),
- BRICS Countries (emerging national economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa),
- CIS (The Commonwealth of Independent States formed when the former Soviet Union, now called Russia, dissolved in 1991), and
- 10 Regions (Europe, European Union, CIS, America, North America, Latin America, Asia, Pacific, Africa, and the Middle-East). Note: America includes the sovereign states that are located landmasses of North America and South America.
Not including conventional hydropower as a renewable source of energy, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows America’s makeup of renewable energy is below 10%. In contrast to Enerdata’s statistics that includes hydropower, EIA’s 2014 data shows 8% renewables (wind, solar, biomass and geothermal), Figure 7. Coal (39%) and Natural Gas (27%) dominated US electricity energy production capacity. Nuclear (19%) edged out Hydroelectric (6%) and Renewables (7%). Renewable electricity output consisted of Solar (4%), Biomass (2%) and Solar (1%). Electricity production from Geothermal was essentially nil. Note, other countries generating hydropower would also show a lower share of renewable energy .
Conventional hydropower is not considered a renewable source of energy. Unconventional hydropower using currents, waves, and tidal energy to produce electricity is less disruptive and qualifies as renewable. Conventional hydropower refers to the use of dams or impoundments to store water in a reservoir. Argument against qualification of available hydropower renewable is that most hydroelectric facilities were built long before the adoption of regulations that require states to increase production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. Another argument points out that traditional hydroelectric plants interrupt the flow of rivers and can harm local ecosystems, and that building large dams and reservoirs involves displacing people and wildlife. 
From the perspective of the role of renewable energy in total electricity output, the United States with the second highest installed capacity of renewable energy in the world, falls short at 13.7% with hydro and 8%, without hydro. Of the 44 counties in the study, 26 had a higher percentage of renewables than the U.S. This included such countries as Canada, Romania, Nigeria, China, India, Russia and Mexico. The U.S. share of renewables was also below the average share for the World, OECD, G7, BRICS, Europe, European Union, CIS, America and North America.
Most developed countries showed higher rates of renewables in their energy mix than U.S. Countries with developed economies that fared worse than the U.S. include the Netherland, Poland, Australia, the Czech Republic, and South Korea. Poland and the Czech Republic are way less developed then most western European countries and South Korea was accepted as a developed country as of 2015.
Figure 8 displays the share of renewable energy by country on a world map. Countries are shaded in proportion to their share of renewable energy, i.e., the darker the shading, the higher the share.
Figure 9 presents the U.S. share of renewable energy (including hydro) from 1990 to 2014. America’s contribution of renewable energy averaged 10.9% over the 25-year period. Overall, from 1990 (12.3%) to 2014 (13.7%), the U.S. increased utilization of renewable energy by 1.4%. The highest percentage of renewable energy to the electric power mix was 13.7% in 2014, the last reporting year. The lowest level was 7.8% in 2001. The last four reporting years experienced an upward trend approaching a 14% share.
The other major program under EERE is the Energy Efficiency. Useful statistics are available from The 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Figure 10. The Scorecard evaluates “the energy efficiency of world’s 16 largest economies The council looked at 31 metrics divided roughly in half between policies and quantifiable performance to evaluate how efficiently these economies use energy.”
The “metrics are distributed across three primary sectors responsible for energy consumption in an economically developed country: Buildings (blue), Industry (green), and Transportation (yellow). Also included is a section devoted to National Efforts (orange). National Effort profiles a nation’s commitment to energy efficiency.” Taken together, these metrics give an indication of overall energy efficiency in a country compared to other countries. Note: The color in parenthesis next to each sector indicates the sector’s contribution to the overall country scores graphically illustrated in the bottom left hand corner of Figure 9.
The analysis finds “the U.S., long considered an innovative and competitive world leader has allowed 12 of the 16 counties studied to surge ahead. Germany has the highest overall score. The top-scoring countries in each sector are:
- China in buildings,
- Germany in industry,
- Italy in transportation, and
- France, Italy, and the European Union in national efforts.
The report suggests the U.S. can improve by:
- National Effort – The U.S. Congress should pass a national energy saving target,
- Buildings – The U.S. Federal government should strengthen national model building codes,
- Industry – The federal government should support education and training in the manufacturing and industrial sectors, and
- Transportation – The U.S. Congress should prioritize energy efficiency in transportation spending. Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
The U.S. “made some progress toward greater energy efficiency in recent years, particularly in areas such as building codes, appliance standards, voluntary partnerships between government and industry, and, recently, fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks.
In closing, DoE’s performance in transitioning America to an energy efficient and renewable energy economy is rather disappointing when compared to other developed and developing economies of the world. The million-dollar question is Why. The easy answer is America is a capitalistic society and renewable energy costs more than traditional energy and the high upfront costs to become energy efficient. A more plausible answer is fourfold – insufficient funds, politics at play, mismanagement, and lack of accountability.
Fixing the problem is simple but politically impossible. Take the DoE completely out of EERE business, appropriations and all. Transition the cost of the programs to bottom line incentives from the IRS, such as Section 1603 Treasury Cash Grant Program. Allow income tax deductions for the cost of becoming more energy efficient for new and existing residential, commercial and industrial facilities. If incentives become a point of contention, then take stop incentivizing the fossil fuel industry. With these measures in place, possibly capitalism can fix the problem.
 Department of Energy FY 2016 Congressional Budget Request; http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/02/f19/FY2016BudgetInBrief.pdf
 U.S. Department of Energy, Mission; http://energy.gov/mission
 U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Abandoned Mine Lands; http://www.abandonedmines.gov/wbd_um.html
 The Washington Post, Solyndra Scandal; https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/specialreports/solyndra-scandal
 REN21. Renewables 2015 – Global Status Report; http://www.ren21.net/status-of-renewables/global-status-report
 Enerdata, Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2015, Share of renewables in electricity production (including hydropower); https://yearbook.enerdata.net/#renewable-in-electricity-production-share-by-region.html
 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Annual; http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/pdf/epm.pdf
 Midwest Energy News, Renewable or not? How states count hydropower; http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2012/01/13/renewable-or-not-how-states-count-hydropowe/
 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, The 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard; http://aceee.org/sites/default/files/publications/researchreports/e1402.pdf
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author Dr. Barry Stevens, an accomplished business developer and entrepreneur in technology-driven enterprises. He is the founder of TBD America Inc., a global technology business development group. In this role, he is responsible for leading the development of emerging and mature technology driven enterprises in the shale gas, natural gas, renewable energy and sustainability industries. To learn more about TBD America, please visit: http://tbdamericainc.com/