America’s energy future

Robert J. Samuelson is usually a grouch when it comes to economics and energy. That includes his harsh skepticism on the ability to do something about global warming.

He’s actually rather optimistic about America’s energy future, but he notes that renewables will not be as big a part of our energy future as environmentalists would want. Coal, natural gas and oil will still be important parts of the energy equation.

Big geothermal test

The potential of geothermal energy is incredible, but we’ll see soon whether we’re making real progress in this area.

Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in central Oregon this summer to demonstrate technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.

They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn’t dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes — without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.

Renewable energy has been held back by cheap natural gas, weak demand for power and lack of political concern over global warming. Efforts to use the earth’s heat to generate power, known as geothermal energy, have been further hampered by technical problems and worries that tapping it can cause earthquakes.

Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project.

Geothermal can be the ultimate example of clean energy, so many environmentalists are excited about this technology.

Obama rejects fast track for Keystone pipeline

This pipeline has become a political football.

President Obama has rejected fast-tracking approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, turning aside Republican demands that he sign off on the deal they claim will create 20,000 new jobs and strengthen American energy security.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Obama said that he received a recommendation from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier today recommending that the application be denied.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”

The Canadian tar sands are very controversial in the environmental community, so it will fascinating to see how all this plays out.

GM making commitment to solar energy to save money

Many companies are going green because it makes sense financially. GM is a great example, as they are installing fields of solar panels at various location.

General Motors broke ground Wednesday on a six-acre field of solar panels in front of its Detroit-Hamtramck plant as part of an effort to green the production of its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car.

DTE Energy will own and operate the 516-kilowatt system as part of its Solar Currents program, which is installing photovoltaic systems at sites such as Monroe County Community College and a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan parking structure in downtown Detroit.

DTE will lower GM’s energy bill because of the solar panels, which were first reported by the Free Press. That savings, about $15,000 a year, will combine with more efficient lighting and equipment updates to lower Detroit-Hamtramck’s energy costs by nearly $3 million annually.

With the large investment GM is making in US auto plants, hopefully we’ll see this kind of progress from them on green energy around the country.

This is just one of many examples of corporate American being ahead of the curve compared to those who view alternative energy in a skeptical light. This is our future . . .

Investing in a green future

With the budget battle raging in Washington, our investments in a green future are in jeopardy. President Obama wants to make responsible cuts to spending while preserving our investments in clean energy that can help us gain energy independence and a greener future. Here’s President Obama from his weekly radio address:

Both Democrats and Republicans believe we need to reduce the deficit. That’s where we agree. The question we’re debating is how we do it. I’ve proposed a balanced approach that cuts spending while still investing in things like education and clean energy that are so critical to creating jobs and opportunities for the middle class. It’s a simple idea: we need to live within our means while at the same time investing in our future.

That’s why I disagree so strongly with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent. Yes, we have to get rid of wasteful spending—and make no mistake, we’re going through every line of the budget scouring for savings. But we can do that without sacrificing our future. We can do that while still investing in the technologies that will create jobs and allow the United States to lead the world in new industries. That’s how we’ll not only reduce the deficit, but also lower our dependence on foreign oil, grow the economy, and leave for our children a safer planet. And that’s what our mission has to be.

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Stay involved. Remember that the decisions you make at the ballot box have real implications for your lives.

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