Higher energy prices and energy shortages on the way

Posted on 26. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

“Once real numbers have come out about renewable energy costs, people are having second thoughts,” reported Maureen Masten, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources and Senior Advisor on Energy to Governor Bob McDonnell, VA,  while addressing his “all of the above energy” strategy to meet the state’s energy needs.

The real costs of renewable energy are coming out—both in dollars and daily impacts. After years of hearing about “free” energy from the sun and wind, people are discovering that they’ve been lied to.

On Tuesday, August 14, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) approved a new renewable energy rate rider that will allow the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to start recovering a portion of its recent development costs for building five solar facilities around the state, a pilot solar facility with battery storage, and wind resource procurements.

The renewable rider could be on ratepayers’ bills by the end of the month—“depending on when the commission publishes its final order,” said PNM spokeswoman Susan Spooner.

The rate rider currently represents about a $1.34 increase for an average residence using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity per month—or a little more than $16 per year.

This increase seems miniscule until you realize that this is only a small part of increases to come. PNM needs to recover $18.29 million in renewable expenditures in 2012 and the rate rider only addresses monies spent in the last four to five months. The remaining expense will be carried into 2013.

Like more than half of the states in the US, New Mexico has a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that mandates public utilities have set percentages of their electricity from renewable sources. In New Mexico the mandate is 10 percent this year, 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.

Most states—with the exception of California (which is 33 percent by 2020)—have similar benchmarks. To meet the mandates, PNM will need considerably more renewable energy with dramatically more expense—all of which ultimately gets passed on to the customer. PNM acknowledges that the rider will increase next year and predicts the total cost recovery for 2013 to be about $23 million.

By 2020, based on the current numbers of approximately $20 million a year invested, resulting in a $24 a year increase, consumers’ bills will go up about $200 a year just for the additional cost of inefficient renewable energy.

Had the PRC not approved the special rate rider, costs would be even higher. Typically rate increases are only approved at periodic rate case hearings, usually held every few years.

The system of only allowing rate increases after a lengthy hearing, keeps the costs hidden from the consumer for longer but increases costs to the utility and, ultimately, the consumer, due to interest charges on the borrowed money. PNM believes the rider will allow for more “timely recovery of costs,” resulting in a $2.7 million savings.

Environmental groups, who’ve been pushing for the renewable energy increases, opposed the special renewable rate rider and have threatened a potential appeal of the PRC’s decision. It is hard to tout “free” energy when there is a special line on the utility bill that clearly points out the new charge for renewables.

Pat Lyons, Chairman of the Public Regulation Commission, told me that he’d pushed for a year and a half to get the rate rider listed on utility bills: “With the support of the commissioners, ratepayers will now have transparency. This is the first step toward full disclosure regarding the real cost of renewables. Once we have that, maybe we can let the free market work.”

So, renewable electricity is hardly free. It also isn’t there when you need it—like in the predictable summer heat of California.

To meet their 33 percent renewable mandate, California’s utility companies, like New Mexico, have been installing commercial renewable electricity facilities—with wind capable of providing about 6 percent, and solar 2 percent, of the state’s electric demand.

But in the summer heat, the wind doesn’t blow much and the solar capacity drops by about 50 percent when the demand is the highest.

Despite increasing renewable capacity and an exodus of the population, California has been facing threats of rolling brown/blackouts due to potential shortages. TV and radio ads blanket the air waves begging consumers to limit electricity usage by setting their air conditioners at 78 degrees and using household appliances only after 6PM.

Flex Alerts” have been issued stating: “conservation remains critical.” “Consumers are urged to reduce energy use,” “California ISO balances high demand for electricity with tight power supplies” and “maintain grid reliability.”

Even with expedited permitting, California cannot build renewable electricity generation fast enough. Environmentalists block construction due to species habitat, such as that of the desert tortoise or the kit fox.

If they oppose renewable energy construction, you can imagine the vitriol they extend toward coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

There is a big push to shut down nuclear power plants and new natural-gas plants, which are ideal for meeting the needs of “peak demand,”are fought by the very same groups that are pushing electric cars.

San Diego-based, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock observed: “Right at the moment in California, building new electricity generating power plants of any kind is politically taboo. Electricity itself is becoming politically taboo.”

Texas has been faced with both increasing costs and fears of shortages. “Concerned about adequate electricity supplies,” the Texas Public Utility Commission recently voted to allow electricity generators to charge up to 50 percent more for wholesale power.

The increase is to encourage the building of new power plants in the state with the highest capacity in the country for wind electricity generation.

Apparently new electricity-generating power plants are politically taboo in Texas, too—at least within the environmental community. Instead of encouraging new power plants to be built, Ken Kramer, the Texas head of the Sierra Club, said, “A better idea would be to encourage more energy-saving programs”—perhaps like setting the thermostat to 78 degrees and not turning on appliances until after 6PM.

When will Americans revolt over being forced to use less while paying more?

We know that high energy prices are just the beginning of inflation that raises the cost of everything from food to clothing to manufactured goods.

When the cost of manufacturing goes up, industry moves to countries with lower-priced energy, cheaper labor, and more reasonable regulations. Jobs go overseas and we import more. The trade deficit grows, and America is less competitive.

The higher electricity costs are 100 percent due to government regulation and legislation that are unreasonably crushing American businesses and ratepayers—much like the pressure England imposed on the American colonies that launched the American Revolution.

Paul Revere alerted the early settlers—“the Red Coats are coming, the Red Coats are coming”—which brought people into the town square where they joined forces and rallied together. Their cooperative effort was so effective that those early Americans made it so painful for the Red Coats that they abandoned their objective.

People who hear me speak often describe me as the Ann Coulter of energy.

Due to the childhood nickname of “Bunny,” my family refers to me as the Energizer Bunny. But today, I feel like the Paul Revere of energy: “Higher energy prices are coming. Energy shortages are coming.”

What remains to be seen is how the citizens of America will respond. Will we gather in the figurative town square and join forces, making it too painful for the use-less, pay-more agenda to continue?

Will we force state legislators to abandon the RPS? Will we rally together in opposition to the EPA’s cost-increasing regulations? Will we turn out a president who is more concerned with lining his cronies’ pockets than doing what is best for Americans?

Unless the publicly-inflicted pain forces the abandonment of the objective, “Higher energy prices are coming. Energy shortages are coming.”

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

 

 

Republican Party should stand with nominee on wind energy

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

For twenty years American taxpayers have been supporting the wind energy industry through the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and twenty before that in various forms of favoritism.

Each time it is scheduled to expire, the lobbyists from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) fight for its extension, claiming the infant industry is almost ready to stand on its own and just needs a little more help. The PTC appeals to an emotional and ideological viewpoint as the idea of “free” energy seems attractive—but it can’t stand up when viewed through the filter of facts and science.

Now that the true costs—both in dollars and daily impacts—of inefficient, ineffective, and uneconomical renewable electricity are becoming known, people are having second thoughts and public support has waned.

Like wind energy is from a different century (specifically the 18th century), the PTC comes from a different political era—a time when politicians were reelected based on the “pork” they could bring home to their constituents.

Today, America is in an economic war and her citizens know it. Big spenders are being ostracized, replaced with political newbies who understand the timbre of the times. Republicans, especially, want fiscal responsibility.

They see the public failure of the Obama administration’s funding of solar energy projects as crony corruption. Republicans understand that the wind energy industry, as the AWEA and wind energy manufacturers happily tout, will totally collapse without government support and there is no appetite for more government spending especially when it results in higher electricity prices and lost manufacturing jobs.

The monies spent on renewable energy subsidies—such as the PTC—will never be recouped. These industries are a net drain on the Treasury.

Mitt Romney boldly announced his opposition to the extension of the PTC—while Obama continues to emphasize his belief in emotion and ideology over fact and science.

Democrats, and a few misguided Republicans, point to “energy independence” as the rationale for more expensive renewable energy such wind and solar.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Government programs throw taxpayer dollars at these industries to provide electricity, but America is already electricity independent.

We do not import electricity and we have enough coal, natural gas, and uranium within our shores to provide for our growing electricity needs for centuries to come. Any electricity shortages being felt in this hot, summer season are as a result of the dearth of new power plants being built—not due to fuel shortages.

While delegates are packing, members of the platform committee were communicating; presenting various ideas as to what should be included.

The Republican Party should have joined with their nominee and made opposition to the PTC an official part of the party platform. Instead, Tuesday night, it missed an opportunity to differentiate itself from the opposition and “decided to speak in generalities about an all-of-the-above energy policy”—even when “all-of-the-above” doesn’t make economic sense.  What about “all that is sensible?”

These comments were submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


Decline of the suburbs?

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

The suburbs are changing. Thanks to a re-invigoration of urban areas, as well as increasing poverty and crime rates in the suburbs, bedroom communities aren’t what they once were.

Has the national love affair with sprawl begun to decline? It would seem so. For prospective and current homeowners, knowledge of this trend is necessary, as is awareness of the impact it has on home prices, property values, and school districts.

40 years ago, the United States was called “a nation of suburbs.” Today, that prevailing notion is not true.

If you’re deciding when and where to buy a home, be aware: The 21st century has seen a decline in both quality and population of America’s suburbs.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the amount of Americans below the poverty line grew 23% in U.S. cities, but 53% in major suburbs.

In 2010, a record population of 15.4 million suburban residents were living in poverty. These are not your mother’s suburbs.

While the American dream of the picket fence and neatly mowed lawn may entice many homeowners to look to the suburbs, suburban jobs are also on a rapid decline.

In 2011, suburban businesses vacated 16 million square feet of office space. Gas prices have exploded in the past 10 years, with the average suburban driver’s gas expenditures increasing 109%.

With walking and public transportation available in urban areas, homeowners are looking more toward cities to settle down. And the days of the mortgage and foreclosure crisis are not behind us; in the next several years, more than 3 million homeowners are expected to become renters.

This article was submitted by Allison Morris. She can be reached at morris.allison85@gmail.com or you can contact insurancequotes.org for more information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Scholar: Bringing the World to New Mexico

Posted on 25. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

Speaking with Mary Ann Slattery (Regional Program Director for Road Scholar Programs in Santa Fe), is speaking with a true believer in the value of bringing people together.

Started in 1975, Road Scholar offers programs in all 50 states and in 150 countries in regional studies, archaeology, art, nature, music, literature, culinary arts and in many other areas. One of their newest and most popular programs is Tony Hillerman’s Landscape where participants visit many of the sites mentioned in the famous author’s books.

A multi-talented woman with a diverse background, Slattery and her staff have created some truly unique programs which bring nearly 2,000 visitors a year to New Mexico. Coming off a successful Great American Get-together (March in Santa Fe), Road Scholar hosted 280 participants from out-of-state and booked 1,400 room nights in the City Different, a welcome boost to the local economy.

She credits the organization’s success to the diversity of programs, the individual attention paid to the program participants and the organization’s efforts to constantly improve each participant’s overall experience.

While the average age of participants in Road Scholar programs is 72, there is no age restriction, except that every enrollee must be 21 years of age or older.

Quite a few are in their 80s and 90s, but a good number are in their mid-50s.  All programs have an activity level assigned to them so people can choose the ones that best match their capabilities, from very active outdoor programs to less physically demanding ones. Programs range from one-day to two weeks or more (the average program is typically 5-7 nights).  Almost all meals, housing, transportation and admission fees are included in the price.

Road Scholar’s close working relationship with local hoteliers and other businesses have kept the programs very affordable.

To hear Slattery tell it, “the future looks bright for us as more people are choosing Road Scholar because of our commitment to excellence and because we offer true value for the money, an important consideration in today’s economy. That’s also why we chose Richards Avenue Business Park, as they offer good service, fair costs and have a strong interest in working with all types of companies.”

For more information on their broad range of programs, contact: Mary Ann Slattery at the Santa Fe Road Scholar office at 505/983-0613, or by email at: maryann.slattery@roadscholar.org.  Their website is located at: www.roadscholar.org

- Editor

Cracking the political code

Posted on 21. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

What our country desperately needs during these last eleven weeks leading up to the Presidential election is a reverse ‘code-talker’ to help us decipher the true meaning of the political newspeak being served up in advertising, interviews and speeches by the two parties’ candidates. Let’s explore a few of the more recent examples…

1. ‘Paying their fair share’ – Decoded: the administration believes that there is a definition of what a fair share of anything is, but that they are either reluctant to tell the American people what that definition is or admit that they really don’t have one.

The phrase is often paired with a controversial idiom and concept, social justice. Both are related to a belief in income redistribution. To be fair to income redistribution disciples, our tax code has been doing social/economic engineering and re-distribution of wealth since 1913 when the income tax was enshrined into law by the 16th amendment. The more cynical among us may also be reminded of another famous quote in the same vein, “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.”

2. “You didn’t build that” – Decoded: a Freudian slip (maybe) of the Presidential tongue in August that refers to small business owners.

It means that you as an individual are part of a greater whole – a collective – and that the credit for anything you’ve built or done to increase your wealth or standing like engaging in hard work or good decision-making MUST be shared with the rest of society to be considered fair. The Progressives worry that if you are able to take full credit for what you’ve done, you might oppose the federal government taking your fair share in taxes, hence the collectivization of your toil. What naturally follows is a debt owed to the American people by American businesses.

3. “Y’all will be back in chains!” – Decoded: a certainly inappropriate and possibly racially-charged comment made recently by the Vice-President, presumably about black Americans being returned to slavery if they vote for the opposition who would take the country backwards to a time of economic or other bondage. In short,“vote for us and you will continue to enjoy economic security through government entitlement programs.”

4. “Saved or created jobs” (as it relates to the so-called ‘Stimulus Plan’) – Decoded: the Administration added saved jobs because they knew that an increase in created jobs would be too difficult to achieve and thus they could fall back on the saved jobs number when created jobs didn’t materialize.

5.  “Kick the can down the road” – Decoded: a very worn out term meaning to procrastinate or put off making a difficult decision (like passing a budget which the Senate hasn’t done in over three years). Usually meant to demean the other side’s willingness to tackle the tough issues.

6. “This guy” – Decoded: often used to diminish a person, make him/her less legitimate (frequently used instead of this gentleman, this man, my opponent, President blank or Governor blank, etc.).

7. “Extremist” – Decoded: frequently employed by the candidates’ political surrogates to conjure up a mental picture of a ‘Molotov cocktail throwing radical’ with an agenda that will turn back the clock to perilous times of social and economic uncertainty.

8. “Social Darwinism” – Decoded: recently used by the President to describe the Republicans’ budget and specifically their proposed welfare (entitlement) program changes. Great sound bite and works on the college campus, but makes the President sound like he’s rehearsing for the Mensa Society instead of speaking to the folks.

Taken from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection (in Origin of the Species), the President’s phrase alludes to purported Republican socio-economic policies that would promote unchecked growth and the influence of special interest groups on the rest of the country.

You probably have your own favorite political code words or phrases that raise your hackles, and I would encourage you to dust off your decoder ring and find their true hidden meanings. By the way, raising your hackles refers to the hairs on the back of a dog’s neck which stand up when the animal is angry or threatened. Isn’t our language rich even in an election year?

- Editor

Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir

Posted on 19. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

The fight for America’s soul and the debate on socialism is not new in America.

It’s just entered our orbit of consciousness with a vengeance since the election of a president who, in his own words in October of 2008, said, “We are five days from fundamentally transforming America.”

Pundits and parsers will probably say that was just a candidate being political, but those of us on terra firma will recognize it as a prophetic statement about a radical transformation of our economic and political system that would soon be made by a committed ideologue who was days away from doing it!

Either way, it was a clear marketing victory.

Those who say Mr. Obama didn’t live up to his central campaign promises weren’t paying attention. He told us, repeatedly, that he was a change agent. Knowing that, why wouldn’t we believe that he would change his positions once he was elected? Americans weren’t listening with their ears. They were in a shopping trance, wanting to buy something new that reflected their own self-image.

They were searching for a product that would cure all their ills. What they wanted was actually a miracle wonder product from an earlier century, routinely sold on street corners and at carnivals all over this land. It was commonly known as, ‘snake oil.’

They found exactly what they were looking for in Dr. Obama’s Amazing American Elixir.

By voting for him, they cleansed their consciences about America’s past racial transgressions. Younger voters got their cool guy who was slim, played basketball, had smoked cocaine and was only slightly removed from their generation.

The Black and Hispanic communities elected a man seemingly sympathetic to them. Barack Obama made the presidency attractive to first-time voters who were looking for transformational change.

The only problem was that many in these groups knew little about how America actually worked let alone how to transform it. They only knew how it looked to them and hadn’t a clue how Wall Street, Main Street and Capitol Hill fit together.

Ideologies have always needed memorable images, words, songs and symbols to sell their message, and secularism and socialism are no different.

Secularism sells itself on a simple premise: society is better served, more fair and easier to manage without all this religious nonsense. Socialism is not far behind with: the needs of the many outweigh the inconvenience of the few.

The truth is we’ve always had a dollop of secularism and socialism in America and seen its ebb and flow, especially during times of crisis when standing together made for a solid defense (in the Great Depression, during WWII, and now in the Age of Obama and the Great Recession).

The danger now is that we’ll jettison our traditional capitalistic system and adopt an unworkable government-managed economic model out of fear.

Pushing a social justice theme and espousing income redistribution with a “you didn’t build that” mantra, the 44th president continues to ride a populist wave of support on a surfboard of pointed rhetoric, rhetoric that has worked up until now.

Americans have always been suckers for a good slogan whether it’s where’s the beef or the pause that refreshes.

We bought big cars with shark fins, hula hoops and pet rocks, spiked our hair, wore dog collars and suffered high colonics. With all that consumer history, why would anyone think that we couldn’t be sold and re-sold a president and that he would ride in on a messianic message of hope?

Ad men were proud of candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. It was masterful, right down to the use of the new social media which became the message.

Young people self-identified with the media Mr. Obama used and the bond was forged. They bought the T-shirt, the new world decals for their back packs AND the message.

It was change we could believe in…at first sight and any thinking person had to be thinking Obama. The others were just unenlightened.

It wasn’t a hostile takeover that America experienced on January 20, 2009.  We got a taste of the classic leveraged buy-out. The financial sponsor (the candidate) acquired the controlling interest (our votes) in our equity (the running of the country) and then financed his operation through leveraged borrowing (increased national debt), trillions of dollars of it, in record time.

That was then, but in eleven short weeks Americans will have a choice: sign on to four more years of the same or turn around, go back to the place where we left our values and start anew.

We may have to face facts, however…that we have become mere consumers of promises and have lost our taste for critical thought. If that is the case, we should all be investing our money in the media, because that is where the battle for the hearts, minds, pocketbooks and votes of Americans will be fought, at least until November. Caveat emptor.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flights from fancy

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Social/Cultural

There was a time when flying was downright exciting, even romantic. I’m not talking about the 1950s here, but just 30 or 40 years ago.

That was when we still thought it was proper to dress for the occasion instead of donning jogging suits and looking like fugitives from a Richard Simmons exercise video. Men wore suits and ties and ladies, dresses. My how times have changed.

I took my very first flight in an experimental airplane in Rockford, Illinois at the first Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in in 1959.  The plane was a home-made two-seater, just big enough for a pilot and a passenger that sat immediately behind him. I wore a Milwaukee Braves baseball jacket, cap and my favorite P.F. Flyer tennis shoes.

When the engine turned over I was immediately struck with a feeling of enormous excitement and total fear. Hearing the rapid whoosh of the propeller blades and feeling the whole plane shake as if it were a ride in the fun house we taxied down the runway. It made quite an impression on this lad whose bedroom ceiling was festooned with model airplanes. At last I was an aviator!

Well not quite, but I was an aviator’s passenger at least. That was the beginning of my true love of flying which is why it’s so sad to reflect on my love/hate relationship with it today.

Like many businesspeople, flying became part of my job. For 30 years I flew to the world’s capitals on at least a dozen different carriers. Two stick out in my mind: Pan Am and Aeroflot for two very different reasons. Pan Am was America’s gold standard and never failed to live up to its advertising.

I once turned down a ticket on the British/French supersonic Concorde and instead opted for a first-class ticket from Paris to New York on old Pan Am. The service was just that great!  It just so happened I was seated next to a fellow with Rastafarian dreadlocks. A few minutes later I learned he was a member of the reggae band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, who were on their way to NYC for a concert.

I remember my fellow first class passengers being a bit squeamish when the band, dressed in camouflage clothes and wearing dark sunglasses, boarded the plane in Charles De Gaulle Airport (this was when skyjacking was at its peak).  After admitting I didn’t know a thing about his band, he began to sing a few of their best-known songs with a strong Jamaican accent. The time passed all too quickly and so did the champagne.

This was not the case a few years later when I boarded an Aeroflot jet in Moscow bound for Europe. It was a surreal experience. After what seemed like an eternity we reached cruising altitude. The German gentleman next to me wanted a whiskey and pressed the stewardess’ call button. At the forward galley, the curtains parted and a stout-looking Russian flight attendant peered out looking very irritated.

With an almost olympian stride she arrived at our row, and just as the German was about to give her his order she reached up and shut off the call button and in one motion sprinted back to the galley.

Astonished, the man looked at me and then decided to press the button again, thinking it must have been a mistake. The whole process was repeated and afterwards the German looked mortified. I remember snickering under my breath and thinking that would never ever happen on an American airline. How wrong I was.

Thirty years later, Americans were shelling out $15 for a checked bag, forced to buy overpriced sandwiches to stave off their hunger, paying a surcharge for a little more legroom and were subjected to the third degree by the TSA even before they got on board!

Oh, to return to the days of PanAm and civility! At this point I’d even take Aeroflot.

- Editor

World’s Third Largest Power Company Third Largest Recipient of Risky DOE Loans

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

Through this special series on green-energy crony-corruption, we’ve been highlighting specific examples of green-energy loan guarantees and grants.

What connects each of these cases is that they received fast-tracked approval from the Department of Interior (DOI) for their projects. Of course, they also have many other dots that connect, such as key players with White House visits, raising funds for Democratic campaigns, and serving within government agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE) or as an appointed member to President Obama’s Job’s Council.

Now we come to the last of our “special seven” series. Like those before it, it contains many inside players and funding from various “stimulus” government programs.

While Lewis Hay (the CEO of NextEra Energy) with his White House involvement and friendship with former Florida Governor Charlie Crist make for some juicy details in the NextEra story, we’ll begin with a brief background that will help put this next piece of the green-energy crony-corruption scandal in perspective.

NextEra Energy, Inc. is one of the oldest, third largest, and arguably one of the most solid power companies in the world, with “2011 revenues [that] totaled more than $15.3 billion.” It is estimated by Forbes, that CEO “Hay earns nearly $10 million in total compensation from NextEra.”

NextEra Energy Inc. has two primary subsidiaries:

  • Florida Power & Light is the third largest electricity producer in the US (about which a September 2009 report states: “it’s a political dynamo, making millions in political contributions and lobbying assiduously to achieve its goals”).
  • NextEra Energy Resources is the largest generator of energy from sun and wind resources in North America. The company also has the third largest fleet (8) of nuclear powered electricity generating plants in the United States.

Money

With its wealth and widespread influence, the DOE gave this huge energy conglomerate nearly $2 billion of taxpayer money, which includes the two risky projects listed below, plus hundreds of millions more in various stimulus grants.

Desert Sunlight: $1.2 billion - In September 2011, the DOE approved a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for the junk-rated Desert Sunlight project in California. A day after the loan was approved, First Solar, the project developer/owner sold Desert Sunlight to NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, the competitive energy subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. and GE Energy Financial Services.

Both CEO’s are on President Obama’s Job Council: Lewis Hay of NextEra Energy and Jeffrey Immelt of GE.  (Immelt is another top Obama donor, donating $529,855 to his 2008 campaign. Note: GE has raked in more than $3 billion of stimulus money, and counting.)

Genesis Solar Project: $681.6 million - But as we reported in the beginning of this series, the Desert Sunlight Project is not the only large DOE “risky” loan that NextEra secured. NextEra Energy Resources also received $681.6 million from the DOE for its Genesis Solar project in Blythe, California. This was one of the few DOE 1705 loans that were not considered junk rated, as S&P placed it at a “lower medium grade.”

Environment

Remember that the common denominator of these “special seven” projects was a “fast-tracked DOI approval?” The policy has come back to bite the projects.

According to the Los Angeles Times (LAT), “The $1-billion Genesis Solar Energy Project has been expedited by state and federal regulatory agencies that are eager to demonstrate that the nation can build solar plants quickly to ease dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming.

Instead, the project is providing a cautionary example of how the rush to harness solar power in the desert can go wrong—possibly costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and dealing an embarrassing blow to the Obama administration’s solar initiative.”

The problem is the “expedited” process may endanger the whole project. The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform’s March 20, 2012 report says, “To expedite site approval, NextEra opted for a less thorough process.” As a result, the site “encroached on the habitat of the endangered kit foxes.” NextEra had to move the foxes prior to grading the site. “Ultimately, seven foxes died from NextEra’s removal process.”

Additionally, there have been concerns of desert tortoises and a “prehistoric human settlement.”

But warring factions within the environmental movement also plague the NextEra Genesis Solar project.

A small environmental group, the Wildlands Conservancy, raised $45 million to preserve 600,000 acres of the Mojave Desert—with the intent that it would be protected forever.

The LAT reports, the Wildlands Conservancy bought the land and deeded it to the federal government only to have 50,000 acres of that bequest opened up for solar development.

April Sall, the organization’s conservation director says, the group is “watching this big conservation legacy practically go under a bulldozer.” Sall’s group and others are feeling “burned by the rush to build solar projects.”

The small environmental groups are trying to fight utility-scale solar projects while the big national groups, such as the Sierra Club, have “scolded” some of the local chapters for opposing the projects. A national office directive instructed local chapters to “fall in line.”

Michael O’ Sullivan, senior vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources, says that “the problems threaten the entire project” and “the project could become uneconomical.”

If that were to happen, the LAT explains, “80% of the project’s outstanding loans would be covered by the federal government, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would begin shopping for another renewable energy company that was interested in leasing the property. If there were no takers, the scarred land would be restored with reclamation bond funds.”

Smart-Grid and Wind Energy Grants

In October 2009, Florida Power & Light (FLP) was awarded the maximum grant amount of $200 million for Energy Smart Florida.

Interestingly, this is connected to Silver Spring Networks, one of Kleiner Perkins shining green companies, where John Doerr (another jobs council member that was influential in what went into the energy-sector of the 2009-stimulus) and Al Gore are partners, of which their 2008, $75 million investment had scored over $700 million.

The DOE started dishing out billions from the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program (part of the stimulus plan) in August 2009 and awarded select utility companies for particular smart-grid projects––close to 60% of Silver Spring “customers” were winners.

In fact, Florida Power and Light, Silver Spring, General Electric, and a few others have joined forces on a Smart Grid Miami project, which was announced in 2009.

(Note: if you are not familiar with the Smart Grid, Brian Sussman’s book Eco-Tyranny offers an overview which includes this: “President Obama cleverly sold it like this: ‘We want to invest in the next-generation of high-speed wireless coverage for 98 percent of Americans.

This isn’t just about a faster Internet or being able to friend someone on Facebook. It’s about connecting every corner of America to the digital age.’ The digital age Obama spoke of is the age of Big Brother monitoring your carbon footprint.

The Smart Grid’s interactive broadband capability will enable your home’s PCT, HAN, and smart meter to be connected and communicating with your utility provider. Once complete, the utility company will be your government-sponsored Big Brother, constantly monitoring and regulating your carbon footprint. With a bureaucratic keystroke any electrical device in your home could be selectively turned off—or on—without your approval.”)

Also, you’ll be “blown away” by the billions ($4.4) of “wind energy grants” that blew out of the stimulus package back in February 2010. General Electric is connected to at least 26% of these wind energy grants as the “Turbine Manufacturer.” NextEra is the “project owner” and the recipient of a $99.9 million grant for a wind project in Colorado.

Politics

So, NextEra Energy, a multi-billion dollar company with a CEO who’s paid multi-millions, gets government grants and loan guarantees worth billions for risky projects that you and I wouldn’t have voluntarily invested in that even the environmentalists can’t agree on.

Despite the fact that NextEra CEO Hay was actually a “major political contributor to Sen. John McCain,” Hay quickly learned which side his bread was buttered on. (FPL employees and PACs have been known to give generously to both sides including $18,800 to Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.)

On October 8, 2009, Hay dined at the White House in an intimate lunch “with President Barack Obama and a handful of other Fortune 500 executives.” Hay reportedly “boasted to the president about FPL Group’s environmental achievements and Florida Power & Light’s plans to open the nation’s largest solar power plant.”

He also “discussed his belief that forward-looking, clean-energy policies are vital to America’s economic recovery and FPL Group’s strong support for legislation to combat global warming and strengthen America’s energy security.”

The opportunity to grandstand obviously worked. Later, in the same month, Hay’s FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Aracadia, Florida, provided Obama with the perfect backdrop for his announcement about the “nation’s biggest investment in clean energy.”

The press release from the White House said: “President Barack Obama today announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will spur the nation’s transition to a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system. … The $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.”

While the announcement regarding the smart-grid grant disbursement was like “Christmas morning” for the 100 recipients, FPL received the maximum $200 million grant, as previously addressed, “to buy 2.6 million new smart utility meters to be placed in homes over the next two years and invest in other technology aimed at cutting energy costs.”

And those risky loan guarantees issued to NextEra for the Desert Sunlight and Genesis Solar projects were approved after Obama’s “stimulus PR swing” appearance at FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center.

Hay and FPL have a long history of political contributions and have a “cozy relationship” with career politician former Governor Charlie Crist—Republican turned Independent to run against Marco Rubio in 2010, only to lose.

In June 2009, FPL and its executives donated more than $36,000 to Crist’s Senate campaign, and Hay was an invited guest at Crist’s December 2008 wedding. While, we don’t know if Hay actually attended the Crist wedding, we do know that he donated to Marco Rubio’s 2010 campaign––what a difference two years make.

Thomas Saporito, an energy consultant and former FPL employee is quoted as saying: “It certainly appears to me that Gov. Crist and certain PSC Commissioners have a very cozy relationship with FPL at a time when FPL is seeking an unprecedented $1.3-billion dollar rate increase.” Crist announced his opposition to FPL’s rate hike but objections were limited to a press release and a few comments to reporters.

Keeping with the “cozy relationship” model of doing business, Hay joined wealthy Democratic donors on Obama’s Jobs Council in 2011—of which at least five members have direct ties (two indirect) to firms that were awarded billions of clean-energy stimulus money and four are confirmed Obama donors.

Since the creation of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the members have pushed for renewable energy subsidies. In October 2011, these Obama advisors who’ve financially benefited from green energy projects—such as Hay—issued a report calling for among other things, “a new federal financing program to attract private investment for clean energy projects via loan guarantees and other tools.”

Hay is just one of the many Council members with green energy connections. Citigroup’s Richard Parsons with ties to SolarReserve, , GE’s Jeffrey Immelt and its $3 billion of green-government subsidies, as well as John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins ,withmore than fifty percent of its Greentech Portfolio having received money from the energy-sector of the stimulus package and through other government programs approved by the Obama administration.

These Jobs Council members (known for their “job outsourcing”) —and others—who’ve benefited from the deal making, deserve a more thorough (forthcoming) exposé. We’ll call it “Spreading the Wealth to Obama’s Wealthy Jobs Council Members.”

Author’s note: Thanks to Christine Lakatos, the Green Corruption blogger, for research assistance. Unless project-specific funding is raised, this will be the last in the green-energy crony-corruption series.

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Home Sales Numbers Up in July

Posted on 18. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

The number of sales in July 2012 reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) is higher than the number reported during both July 2011 and July 2010.  This year, 1,366 total sales were reported for July.  In 2011, there were 1,201 sales reported; in 2010, 1,130 sales were reported.

Median prices still continue to drop.  According to RANM President Debbie Rogers, “The July 2012 median of $170,000 reflects the number of distressed properties still being included in the market.  In July of 2011, the reported median was $177,000; July 2010 reported median was $180,000.”   Median price indicates half the properties sold for more and half for less.

The July numbers also mean the year-to-date number of sales and median prices reflect an increase in sales and a decrease in price compared to the same period during 2011 and 2010.  8,420 sales have been reported during the first seven months of 2012.  7,591 sales were reported for January through July of 2011 and 8,195 sales were reported during this period in 2010.

The 2012 year-to-date median price is reported at $165,000.  2011 January through July median was $167,500; 2010 median for same period was $172,500.

The silver lining is that sales numbers continue to climb and median prices are dropping at a slower pace than previously.  From 2010 to 2011 (for the first seven months of the year) median prices dropped 2.9 percent; from 2011 to 2012, median prices dropped 1.5 percent.

Steven Anaya, Executive Vice President of RANM, offers more optimism, citing the July REALTORS Confidence Index Report, which indicates time on the market when a property is sold has been declining.  “Approximately a third of REALTORS nationally noted that recently sold properties were on the market for less than a month when sold, and 59 percent were sold within 3 months.”

The trends and numbers reported are only a snapshot of market activity.  If you are interested in buying or selling, consult a REALTOR familiar with your market area; he/she can provide information on specific trends in your neighborhood.

Statistical information and trends are based on information furnished by New Mexico Member Boards and MLSs to U. S. House Stats. Current reporting participants are: Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, Las Cruces Association of REALTORS MLIS, New Mexico Multi-Board MLS (Artesia, Carlsbad, Clovis/Portales, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Vegas, Sierra County areas), Otero County Board of REALTORS, Roswell Association of REALTORS, Ruidoso/Lincoln County Association of REALTORS, Santa Fe Association of REALTORS, San Juan County Board of REALTORS, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS, and the Taos County Association of REALTORS. Reports represent single family residential data only.  Information does not necessarily represent all activity in any market/county.  Figures based on reports run 8/16/12.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This article was submitted by the REALTORS Association of New Mexico which is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,500 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

 

By the end of an Obama second term, 40% of our natural resources will be imported!

Posted on 14. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment, Politics

During a recent trip to Washington DC, I heard that “by the end of his second term, President Obama wants 40% of our natural resources to be imported.” Like Harry Reid’s “Bain Capital investor,” my source is reliable: a Capitol Hill staffer. While I do not have a secret White House memo to validate the premise, it explains a lot.

Oil — During his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama made it clear that he doesn’t have a problem with $4-a-gallon gas. His Energy Secretary is on record as having said that he thinks our gasoline prices should be more in line with those of Europe—which are typically more than double ours in the US. We know that supply issues are one of the leading drivers of higher gasoline prices, yet Obama’s policy decisions—such as Keystone—lead to reducing the resource.

In his first campaign ad of the season, President Obama touted his record on oil, claiming that we have more domestic production in America than at any time in recent history. While this is true, it is not thanks to his policies.

The majority of the oil extraction is on private land, mostly thanks to North Dakota’s Bakken Field. The development that is being done on federal lands is thanks to leases made and wells permitted during the Bush administration.

New oil and gas leases and permits on federal land are down 50% under the Obama administration compared to the Clinton administration.

Because of the time it takes to bring a federal lease into production (5-10 years)—especially with the Obama Department of Interior policies, he is likely setting the US up for an oil shortage (even without Middle Eastern unrest) by the end of a potential second term that will send gasoline prices past his acceptable $4 a gallon, toward Secretary Chu’s “European levels.” With a dearth of new American oil development, we’ll need to import more from places like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

Coal — Candidate Obama’s comment about bankrupting anyone wanting to build a coal-fueled power plant is now widely known. His EPA’s actions surely support the statement as we are seeing record power plant closures.

But it is not just power generation that is under attack, it is the extraction of the source fuel: coal, as well. Earlier this year, the EPA’s decision to pull a legally issued coal-mining permit that had been through years of environmental impact studies and analysis was overturned by the US District Court.

Last week, his EPA was shot down once again. On July 31, the DC district court sided with coal miners. The decision declared that the EPA’s insistence that water discharged from a coal mine be clearer than bottled water was an overreach and should not hold up new mining permits.

While blocking new coal mining will probably not cause the US to import coal, it will prevent us from exporting it. Currently coal is a major export—one of our few exports—that helps bring a balancing element to our trade deficit.

Rare Earth Elements – On March 13, President Obama announced that the US was joining with Japan and the European Union to file a trade complaint before the World Trade Organization in Brussels to insure that China keeps exporting rare-earth elements.

These unique elements, with names like neodymium, europium and dysprosium are what the Japanese call the “seeds of technology” due to their astounding electrical, magnetic, phosphorescent, catalytic, and chemical capabilities. While most Americans are unaware of their existence, rare earths enable everything high-tech we use today—from MRIs, cellphones and iPods to hybrid automobiles and wind turbines—and are extremely important to today’s high-tech defense capabilities.

President Obama is going after China because the Chinese produce more than 95% of all rare earths used in the world by high-tech industry, while sitting on only 23% of the world’s resources.

Obama insists that the Chinese continue to ship rare earths to the rest of the world’s economies despite the fact that the Chinese require the use of essentially all of their rare-earth production in Chinese industries.

The Chinese had announced, in 2011, they could become net importers of some of the most critical rare earths by 2015.  But in July, they said they would be importers a year sooner—in 2014.

And on top of that, the Chinese are creating a national rare-earths stockpile, shutting down production from the worst polluters, and tacking on higher tariffs for those rare earths they will export.

We don’t need a protracted legal hassle in Brussels that won’t produce a single American job or a pound of rare earth produced from America.

The solution is streamlined and accelerated permitting, recognizing that American miners and manufacturers employ the world’s best environmental scientists and engineers and geologists. Instead of paying lawyers to push paper in Brussels, we need to be creating jobs from mining and the upgrading of rare earths in America, providing a secure domestic source of these vital “seeds of technology.”

Land Access — Early in President Obama’s first term, he announced his intention to increase the quantity of national monuments and introduced a new “wild lands” designation—both of which serve to limit the extraction of natural resources. Two such cases I’ve repeatedly addressed are the proposed tungsten mine in Montana and the swath of land that extends from the Mexican border up into rich farming/ranching land that also includes potential oil, gas, and rare-earth extraction in New Mexico.

In the Montana case, the Forest Service continually throws obstacles to extraction in the way of potential mining activity.

Because the tungsten—needed for the manufacture of steel—is located in an inventoried roadless area, the Forest Service has mandated that, among other things, the site must be cleared and, later reclaimed, with hand tools.

The drilling equipment must be hauled to the site with a team of pack mules which must be fed certified weed-free hay—all this to move equipment less than 1000 feet from a Forest Service road. If the case were not so tragic, so representative of similar stories being played out all over America, it would be comical.

In the New Mexico case, ranchers and farmers fear being thrown off of land that has been in their family for generations. With a simple stroke of President Obama’s executive-order pen he could remove 2.5 million acres—though 600,000 is the number generally bandied about—from any economic development or useful purpose by creating a new national monument.

Natural Gas – The currently verbiage coming out of the White House favors natural gas extraction—but actions speak louder than words. America’s newfound natural gas abundance is made possible through the use of multi-stage hydraulic fracturing—which Obama’s EPA has, unsuccessfully, been trying to link to the contamination of drinking water. Plus, we know that much of Obama’s energy policy is driven by an environmentalist agenda—with the Keystone pipeline being the most obvious example.

A few weeks ago, the Sierra Club announced its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign attacking natural gas, saying “The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok,” and “the closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be.”

With this in mind, by the end of an Obama second term, we can expect the availability of natural gas to be diminished—and what we will have will be far more expensive, driving up the price of what is currently low-cost electricity generation.

Nuclear — We may not think of electricity as a natural resource, but effective, efficient, economical electricity generation requires natural resources: coal, natural gas, uranium, and, occasionally, oil.

Uranium is the source fuel for nuclear power and we have an abundance of it in America—yet we import more than 90% of what we use. A couple of days ago, it was announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “would stop issuing licenses for nuclear plants until it addresses problems with its nuclear-waste policy.”

The “problems with nuclear-waste” are a direct result of White House policy. The Obama administration effectively shut down Yucca Mountain with a 2009 decision to reduce Yucca Mountain’s budget. This new problem for nuclear power has the potential to impact many US reactors.

In Germany, they used to export their nuclear-generated electricity. Since they shut down nearly half of their reactors, they are importing electricity from other countries.

Export or Import??

Former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee has been out talking about getting the economy “revved up.” Part of his solution? “More exports.”

The goal should be to have 100% of our natural resources to come from within our shores. Yet, as you can see, the Obama plan seems to call for more natural resource imports. 40% by 2016 adds up.

The countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are the countries with the highest energy consumption. So, why is it that Obama’s policies push us to use less energy, while paying more for it?

As we head toward the November 6 Election Day, keep in mind the stark contrast the satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night points out—the country without freedom, North Korea, is dark. With nothing separating them but an invisible line and a vastly different style of government, South Korea, the free-market, democratic, and developed country is bright.

Which do you want?

Do you want a bright future badly enough to step out of your comfort zone and talk to friends, family and neighbors; to talk to them about energy and its importance? Take the points made here and share them in good, old-fashioned conversations, and through new media like Facebook and Twitter.

We are down to 8 weeks to save America. Can we do it? With your engagement, “yes, we can!”

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

 

 

 

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