March 31, 2008

Babcock & Brown to sell European wind facilities -- to itself

Hello, Enron!

The Financial Times reports (click on the title of this post) that Australian energy investor Babcock & Brown is hoping to cash in its European wind energy assets.

The likely buyer is Portuguese wind company Enersis, which is jointly owned by Babcock & Brown and Babcock & Brown Wind Partners.


wind power, wind energy, wind farms

March 27, 2008

Wind farm follies

A couple of recent news items show the folly of industrial wind.

First, a press release from the Major Electricity Users' Group (MEUG) of New Zealand describes how the unreliability of wind energy is costing utilities more on the spot market and requiring more diesel backup.
"[T]he underlying driver of current high spot prices is that water is relatively short because of low seasonal inflows and wind generation has been unreliable. These are the types of renewables the government puts much faith in to achieve its 90% renewables by 2025 target, assisted by a ban on new thermal power stations.

"Yesterday the Te Apiti wind farm had peak generation of approximately 30 MW. Installed wind turbine capacity at Te Apiti is 90 MW. Average wind generation for the whole day from Te Apiti was approximately 12 MW. Just when we need as much supply as possible to cover known outages and hence put pressure on spot prices, wind has been missing.

"Once again the expensive to run government owned Whirinaki power station burning diesel entered the market yesterday. Whirinaki has been used partly for 13 days over the last 5 weeks. If government dictates more wind generation should be built by banning new cheaper gas fired base load power stations, we will need a lot more Whirinaki type plants around New Zealand. The operating costs of Whirinaki are estimated to be in excess of 30 c/kWh so using diesel plants in the future to cover dry years or windless periods will penalise all consumers of electricity.

"The evidence that relying on more renewables rather than a mix of generation types will lead to extreme spot prices and the need for inefficient peaking thermal plant is happening almost everyday with the current prolonged summer weather. Government needs to heed the signs and urgently rethink the proposed ban on thermal generation," concluded Ralph Matthes, Executive Director of the MEUG.
Second, a Mar. 27 news story from the Colorodoan describes the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA)'s maintenance problems with their 10-year-old Vestas turbines. It also shows the sham of renewable energy credits, or "green tags", as a substitute for actual energy, since they cost the PRPA one-fifth what operating their own turbines costs.
Some components on Vestas Wind Systems-manufactured wind turbines at Platte River Power Authority's Medicine Bow Wind Project are failing more than 15 years earlier than expected, according to PRPA.

Since the Medicine Bow, which is in southern Wyoming, went online in 1998, 30 major outages have occurred on the wind farm's nine turbines due to component failure, said John Bleem, PRPA division manager.

Although outages vary, Bleem said repairs have led to turbines being down for as long as three months and costing as much as $100,000 -- paid for by Vestas under its manufacturer warranty set to expire in 2011. ...

"When that warranty expires, then it's treated just like a warranty on a car where we will be responsible for the cost of repairs," Bleem said. "We are negotiating service contracts; and those costs have gone up for repairs and maintenance on the machines, and it will continue to go up with labor rates and parts costs." ...

Historically, PRPA has bolstered its renewable portfolio through the purchase of renewable energy credits, or RECs, that allow it to invest in wind farms owned by others who pay for maintenance and repairs. ...

Although PRPA receives a majority of its renewable energy through RECs, its homegrown Medicine Bow project has been far more costly despite producing less energy.

"We spend two-thirds of our renewable budget on energy and one-third on purchasing RECs," Bleem said. "About 80 percent of our portfolio supply comes from RECs, and 20 percent is coming from energy. So what that tells you is that renewable energy is much more expensive than purchasing RECs."

Nearly five to six times more expensive.

"We pay about 1 cent (per kilowatt-hour) for RECs, and we pay about 5 to 6 cents (per kilowatt-hour) for the wind energy we produce ourselves," Bleem said. ...

PRPA has been negotiating with Vestas to extend its Medicine Bow warranty beyond 2011 with some success, but the final result will likely leave the power authority paying a higher premium and more for repairs to its nine turbines. ...

"There is regular scheduled maintenance," Bleem said. "Lubrication is the major thing as well as some minor components that need replacement like filters, but the biggest concern is unscheduled outages. The unscheduled repairs are what have us concerned the most."
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

March 24, 2008



Tens of thousands maimed.

And of course there's the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, maimed, and displaced.

March 20, 2008

The Family: Hillary Clinton's fascist spiritual guide

Barbara Ehrenreich writes:

There's a reason why Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she's a lot more vulnerable than Obama.

You can find all about it in a widely under-read article in the September 2007 issue of Mother Jones, in which Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet reported that "through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the "Fellowship," aka The Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.

Sean Hannity has called Obama's church a "cult," but that term applies far more aptly to Clinton's "Family," which is organized into "cells" -- their term -- and operates sex-segregated group homes for young people in northern Virginia. In 2002, writer Jeff Sharlet joined the Family's home for young men, foreswearing sex, drugs, and alcohol, and participating in endless discussions of Jesus and power. He wasn't undercover; he used his own name and admitted to being a writer. But he wasn't completely out of danger either. When he went outdoors one night to make a cell phone call, he was followed. He still gets calls from Family associates asking him to meet them in diners -- alone.

The Family's most visible activity is its blandly innocuous National Prayer Breakfast, held every February in Washington. But almost all its real work goes on behind the scenes -- knitting together international networks of rightwing leaders, most of them ostensibly Christian. In the 1940s, The Family reached out to former and not-so-former Nazis, and its fascination with that exemplary leader, Adolph Hitler, has continued, along with ties to a whole bestiary of murderous thugs. As Sharlet reported in Harper's in 2003:
During the 1960s the Family forged relationships between the U.S. government and some of the most anti-Communist (and dictatorial) elements within Africa's postcolonial leadership. The Brazilian dictator General Costa e Silva, with Family support, was overseeing regular fellowship groups for Latin American leaders, while, in Indonesia, General Suharto (whose tally of several hundred thousand "Communists" killed marks him as one of the century's most murderous dictators) was presiding over a group of fifty Indonesian legislators. During the Reagan Administration the Family helped build friendships between the U.S. government and men such as Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, convicted by a Florida jury of the torture of thousands, and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, himself an evangelical minister, who was linked to both the CIA and death squads before his own demise.
At the heart of the Family's American branch is a collection of powerful rightwing politicos, who include, or have included, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, James Inhofe, and Rick Santorum. They get to use the Family's spacious estate on the Potomac, the Cedars, which is maintained by young men in Family group homes and where meals are served by the Family's young women's group. And, at the Family's frequent prayer gatherings, they get powerful jolts of spiritual refreshment, tailored to the already-powerful.

Clinton fell in with the Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen. This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, the Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

Furthermore, the Family takes credit for some of Clinton's rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing "religious freedom" in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics. ...

March 17, 2008

Obama's Minister Committed "Treason" But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero

Frank Schaeffer writes:

When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr.

Every Sunday, thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison, Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

Dad and I were amongst the founders of the Religious right. In the 1970s and 1980s, while Dad and I crisscrossed America denouncing our nation's sins instead of getting in trouble we became darlings of the Republican Party. (This was while I was my father's sidekick before I dropped out of the evangelical movement altogether.) We were rewarded for our "stand" by people such as Congressman Jack Kemp, the Fords, Reagan and the Bush family. The top Republican leadership depended on preachers and agitators like us to energize their rank and file. No one called us un-American.

Consider a few passages from my father's immensely influential America-bashing book A Christian Manifesto. It sailed under the radar of the major media who, back when it was published in 1980, were not paying particular attention to best-selling religious books. Nevertheless it sold more than a million copies. ...

Take Dad's words and put them in the mouth of Obama's preacher (or in the mouth of any black American preacher) and people would be accusing that preacher of treason. Yet when we of the white Religious Right denounced America white conservative Americans and top political leaders, called our words "godly" and "prophetic" and a "call to repentance." ...

My dad's books denouncing America and comparing the USA to Hitler are still best sellers in the "respectable" evangelical community and he's still hailed as a prophet by many Republican leaders. When Mike Huckabee was recently asked by Katie Couric to name one book he'd take with him to a desert island, besides the Bible, he named Dad's Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, a book where Dad also compared America to Hitler's Germany.

The hypocrisy of the right denouncing Obama, because of his minister's words, is staggering. They are the same people who argue for the right to "bear arms" as "insurance" to limit government power. They are the same people that (in the early 1980s) roared and cheered when I called down damnation on America as "fallen away from God" at their national meetings where I was keynote speaker, including the annual meeting of the ultraconservative Southern Baptist convention, and the religious broadcasters that I addressed.

Today we have a marriage of convenience between the right wing fundamentalists who hate Obama and the "progressive" Clintons who are playing the race card through their own smear machine. As Jane Smiley writes in the Huffington Post, "[The Clinton's] are, indeed, now part of the 'vast right wing conspiracy."

Both the far right Republicans and the stop-at-nothing Clintons are using the "scandal" of Obama's preacher to undermine the first black American candidate with a serious shot at the presidency. Funny thing is, the racist Clinton/Far Right smear machine proves that Obama's minister had a valid point. There is plenty to yell about these days.


Vatican Lists “Polluting” Among Modern Sins.

Unless it's offset by carbon credits.

--Ironic Times, Mar. 17, 2008

March 11, 2008

Clinton brings it on

Back in January, Gloria Steinem argued that supporting Hillary Clinton is the radical progressive choice and that if Barack Obama was a woman he wouldn't have gotten anywhere.

Thursday, Geraldine Ferraro added that if Barack Obama wasn't black (his father was from Kenya) he wouldn't have gotten anywhere, either.

So, Obama is the frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination simply because he's black and not a woman (that must be why John Edwards, the born-again populist, bombed: not black). Whereas Clinton's bid (justified mostly on the basis of enormous name recognition, having been married to a recent President -- not such a great symbol of feminist achievement) fell apart as soon as it faced a challenge because she's a white woman.

And that's why Ferraro and Steinem support Clinton and want you to as well: because she's a woman. It's sexist to oppose Hillary but not sexist to support her only on that basis. And it's progressive, not racist, to oppose Obama because he's a black man.

They seem to be trying to reclaim the Nixonian coalition of wine-track bigots and beer-track bigots for the Democrats.

The 3 a.m. phone call ad made that clear, invoking fears of the predatory black man threatening suburban tranquility. It is compounded by Clinton's refusal to denounce (and reject) claims that Obama is Muslim.

If Clinton was any other 2nd-term senator, she wouldn't have gotten anywhere. Her success relies more on fame than anything else (I mean, Laura Bush has the same pre-Senate "experience" that Clinton claims), and when a viable alternative to her soap opera candidacy overtook it she has resorted to racist fear mongering to try to stay in the running.

To recap: In South Carolina, she tried to belittle Obama's success as merely due to high African-American (sexist, racist) turnout. But after Obama starting to prove his electability with whites, both men and women, she tried to claim that it was because she was a woman. Now it's also because he's black. So now, her effort is to make his African heritage (and his Arab name) a liability rather than an asset (ignoring the obvious fact that he's simply the better candidate for the majority of all voters). These are not the actions of a progressive, or even of a liberal. In Hell, Richard Nixon is cackling.