Energy remained the centerpiece of the election campaign as Republican candidates vied to take advantage of President Obama’s energy remarks on Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich launched the first salvo against the President’s espousal of algae-for-oil, saying it came from “cloud-cuckoo-land,” the first reference to Aristophanes (above) in the campaign. Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney was telling Ohio voters “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on top” – perhaps hoping voters would forget his adventures with the dog-on-the-car. In any case, rising gas prices probably mean the issue of energy will be with us throughout the election season.
Senator Jeff Bingaman’s proposal for a national “clean energy standard” is meeting mixed reactions on Capitol Hill. The Biogas Council and other vendors of renewable energy are giving it a “go” while others are saying it’s dead-on-arrival. Bloomberg speculates that natural gas would be the big winner, since it is already gaining a leg up on coal. The expansion of a mandate to include gas and nuclear is obviously designed to broaden the base but the move could backfire if environmentalists turn against it. The Sierra Club, already stung by its $26 bonanza from the natural gas industry, may be ready to prove its bone fides once again by hitting on the Bingaman bill.
There are plenty of renewable energy conferences around but the American Enterprise Institute turned the issue on its head this week with an anti-renewables conference. “Clean, Green, Renewable: What Could Go Wrong?’ was the title of a confab on February 24th. Although it didn’t attract much attention at the moment, the debate is now reverberating around the Internet.
The first fruits of Germany’s quest to give up nuclear have come to market and they don’t taste good. RWE, the nation’s largest utility, announced a big hit in profits (anywhere from 15 to 45 percent, according to various reports) and the loss of about $1 billion. The company has gotten caught paying high prices for natural gas to replace nuclear and back up the so far unreliable renewables. The company is trying to reassure investors that Russia will be showing a little mercy on gas prices.
Finally, the search for a viable means of electrical storage continues as an Irish company experiments with storing compressed air in salt deposits. British researchers are also looking at liquid air. Drexel University’s Dr. Yury Gogotsi reports some progress in improving the performance of electrodes – research that mirrors Envios’ announcement last week that it has made huge improvements in the lithium-ion battery. Ener1, a manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, announced it is ready to come out of bankruptcy and AOL’s Elisa Wood asks if it isn’t time to extend the tax credits already granted to renewables and nuclear to energy storage technologies.