As the dust settles on the Fiscal Cliff Compromise, energy companies are coming away thinking they hit the jackpot. Just about every form of alternative energy has had its tax break extended. Biodiesel from soybeans, two-wheeled electric scooters – you name it. They’ll all be subsidized for another year. Wind, which was the focus of most of the attention, has scored a $12.1 billion tax harvest for 2013. Geothermal is happy with its extension. Biodiesel firms are so happy with their windfall that they’re starting to explore running cars on discarded cooking oil – even though the estimated that all the restaurants in the country annually produce 300 million gallons of waste grease, enough to produce one gallon for every American. There’s nothing like a federal subsidy to send entrepreneurs scurrying off in the wrong direction.
On the world level, coal, gas and oil are the big news. Russia has achieved a post-Soviet high in oil output. Fracking is shifting the world’s energy balance, according to Julie Y on Seeking Alpha, and Environmental Protection reports coal and gas use on the rise. The United Arab Emirates has signed a $12-billion pact to develop Turkish coal, even though that country is also building five nuclear reactors. And Africa’s consumption of energy is growing fast. Is American energy independence to be the next big thing on the world stage?
Back in the future, Warren Buffet has sunk $2.5 billion into two subsidized, mandated solar projects in California. EDF, the French electric company, is also piling into the Golden State, which now has a separate renewable solar mandate to go with its more general renewable mandate, which mostly promoted wind. In Marin County, however, solar homeowners are complaining that they’re not getting as much money back from the electric company as promised for putting power back on the grid. (Wait until more people start doing it and the price is depressed further.) And in St. Joseph, MO an elderly couple has gotten in trouble with their neighbors for putting PV panels all over their lawn.
Finally, the news about electric vehicles continues to be contradictory. One study says the industry is due for a big sales spike, another says EVs are generating no interest among car buyers. Forbes predicts sales of 3.8 million by 2020 but who know what will happen seven years down the road? Oregon is mulling a per-mile tax on EVs so they can’t avoid the costs of road maintenance, currently funded through the tax on gasoline. But the real future of EVs may have arrived in Germany – an eight-foot-long EV that folds up to five feet so you can fit it in a parking space (above).