Green Crony Capitalism: Oregon’s Governor and the Grifter(s)

- by Michael Donnelly, February 13, 2015, Salem News

Oregon’s Governor-for-Life John Kitzhaber, 68, resigned Friday the 13th. His resignation letter was the usual lawyerly-parsed, blame-the-media/take no responsibility sham we’re used to seeing. 

He had been governor from 1995-2003 and again from 2011 until now. 

The basic allegations which forced the rest of the state’s Democratic Party elite – Senate President, House Speaker, State Treasurer and others to join the state’s largest newspaper and call for his resignation - involve influence-peddling by his ten-year girlfriend/fiancée Cylvia Hayes. 

Hayes, 48, - a woman with a grifter’s history - pretty much publicly advertised that her clout with the governor was for sale and cashed in for over $200,000 at the same time she was his advisor on energy policy, working out of the governor’s mansion and using government employees as subordinates. 

The most damning allegation? She took over $118,000 from a sham non-profit that went defunct without ever filing a report with the IRS. She herself never reported her payments. The entire purpose was to shake loose tens of millions of state subsidies for “Green” Energy projects. 

The Energy Foundation - Banksters for the “Green” “Movement.”

 

It’s all because of something called the 25 by 25 Renewable Energy Portfolio standards that were quietly adopted in Oregon (and many other states). It requires that 25% of the energy mix in Oregon’s grid to come from Renewable sources by 2025. 

 

A shadowy non-profit called The Apollo Alliance went state to state pushing the concept. Suddenly, there was a huge pool of tax money to be tapped by private entities with ties to renewable energy. Mission Accomplished!

 

In 2013, Cylvia Hayes was hired by the Energy Foundation. This San Francisco group, tied to billionaire Democrat sugar daddy and potential California US Senate candidate Tom Steyer, paid her $40,000 dollars and funded part of her fellowship with Clean Economy Development Center (CEDC), a clean energy group based in Washington, D.C, though Hayes seems to have been their only paid fellow. Another top green paymaster, the Rockefeller Bros. Fund also contributed. 

 

Jessica Bailey, of 1sky/350.org and a former program officer for sustainable development at the Rockefeller Bros. Fund also was a strategic adviser to CEDC. Hayes’ fellowship salary was the $118,000 she did not report. The CEDC was stripped of its tax status in 2014 for failing to file IRS returns for three consecutive years. 

 

The most damning thing for Kitzhaber is that he then hired the guy, Dan Carol who arranged for Hayes’ Fellowship as his own highest-paid aide - at a $162,720 annual salary; nearly twic Kitzhaber’s own $98,600 salary. Somehow, they thought no one would notice!

 

The “Green” Biomassacre

 

Number of years the United States could meet its energy needs by burning all its trees: 1 - Harpers List, January 2006

 

The Apollo Alliance and allies have also been traveling around pushing Biomass projects, greenwashing the forest habitat, species and huge carbon cost of burning trees (let alone trash which they also consider “renewable”) - a process 1.5 times dirtier than burning coal - for small amounts of electrons. 

 

There’s a reason for it. After all the tens of millions in wind farm subsidies and other renewables, they make up about 4.7% of the power in Oregon’s grid – power that is useless on its own without coal-powered, steam-generated baseload energy regulating the grid from the Boardman Coal Plant, Oregon’s largest carbon polluter.

 

That 4.7% barely keeps up with the increases in consumption. And, now the Boardman Plant is being forced to go off coal and --- you guessed it --- switch over to Biomass. Burning our forests is the only way they can possibly meet the 25% target (Though some are trying to get Nukes declared renewables for portfolio purposes!)

 

Since the Democrats cannot call for the necessary reduced energy consumption in our grow-or-die economy (they’ve proven that time and again in their regular endorsements of oil wars), they have fully embraced forest liquidation for Biomass. 

 

Green groups funded by the same cabal of foundations (who collectively operate as the Environmental Grantmakers Association – EGA) have also come on board plans to strip forests for Biomass under the guise of fire-proofing them. 

 

That part of the equation has corrupted elected officials at the federal level with Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio echoing John Kitzhaber and the two other Democrats on the State Land Board in calling for massive increases in logging on public forests – state and federal - and successful plans to sell off parts of our state forests.

 

The quietly adopted 25 by 25 Renewable Energy Portfolio corrupted Oregon Democrats...as a whole, not just Kitzhaber. It’s also one of those tip of the iceberg things. 

 

Green Crony Capitalism is also a national phenomenon, not just Oregon. And it’s been exposed here and hit here in Oregon hard because it's partly a one-party state thing, the fact that the Oregon GOP is certifiable is a sad part of the equation. Flat Earthers would be a kind way of describing them. 

 

The fact that a lot of this was known before the election and Oregonians still voted for Kitzhaber is telling. His opponent was atrocious. There are no more Tom McCalls, Vic Atiyehs or even Bob Packwoods in the Oregon GOP. They’d be drummed out in a second these days. 

Out of the Garbage Can and Into the Fire

- by Josh Schlossberg and Mike Ewall, The Biomass Monitor

So-called “waste-to-energy” (WTE) is usually a euphemism for trash incineration, disposing of waste while making modest amounts of electricity and sometimes steam for heating purposes. Now, waste-to-fuels (WTF?) — turning waste into liquid fuels for transportation — is starting to emerge as a subset of WTE.

Noting their acronym problem, the industry has redubbed itself from “W2F” to “waste conversion.” These waste conversion facilities would turn such things as trash, sewage sludge, tires, plastics, organic wastes, or agricultural wastes into liquid fuels such as ethanol, diesel fuel or other fuels and chemicals.

Fifteen years ago, several companies tried to get into the trash-to-ethanol business, but couldn’t get off the ground. One company president told us that everyone wanted to be the first to invest in the second facility. It didn’t help that the leading company in the field, Pencor-Masada Oxynol, got as far as getting permits for a facility in Middletown, NY to turn trash and sewage sludge into ethanol, then financially collapsed.

In the past few years a resurgence of proposals, spurred by government incentives, is starting to gain ground. The industry is holding annual “waste conversion” conferences, and the chemical industry trade association giant, the American Chemistry Council, is pushing any sort of “plastics-to-energy” technologies that it can, even daring to call it “renewable.”

The Municipal Solid Waste to Biofuels and Bio-Products Summit held on October 6-7, 2014 and February 20-21, 2013 in Orlando, Florida, is touted by its host, Advanced Biofuels USA, as a place to “receive leading waste and biofuels market intelligence and analysis from the very best in the business.”

The annual conference is an informational and networking smorgasbord geared towards helping industry players “penetrate the high energy value of the municipal solid waste stream.” The conference is attended by biofuels and chemicals producers, developers, and stakeholders, investors and financial institutions, government agencies, and multinational consumer product companies.

If you ever wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes in the emerging waste-to-fuels industry, your wish has been granted.

Zero Waste to Landfill: How Incinerators Get Promoted

- by Caroline Eader

The incinerator industry promotes a false belief that the only choices we have in handling our waste is to either burn it for energy or to bury it in a landfill. The existence of what is known as a "waste-to-energy" (WTE) facility does not eliminate the need for a landfill. First, 10% to 15% of the waste stream cannot be incinerated and secondly, after burning there is a significant amount of ash (10% to 15% by volume, or about 30% by weight) which is still sent to a landfill. 

The industry notion that trash incineration doesn't compete with composting or recycling is misleading. Industry would have people believe only material which can't be recycled is processed, but the truth is incinerator contracts do not exclude recyclable material from being incinerated. When I´ve asked industry representatives why they do not remove the recoverable material, they say, "It's not my job."

If you read Covanta and Wheelabrator incinerator contracts, you'll find that their job is to get BTUs from municipal solid waste (including plastic and paper) for energy recovery. 

CONFERENCE CALL: Talking Trash (to Fuels) on Feb. 19 @ 4pm PT / 7 ET

Biomass Truth National Conference Call - Talking Trash (to Fuels) 
 
Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 4pm PST / 5 MT / 7 ET
 
Guest Speaker: Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network
 
The trash incineration industry wants to ensure a constant stream of garbage so they can burn more of it for electricity or to make liquid fuels. Mike Ewall, director of Philadelphia-based Energy Justice Network, has been fighting the industry for over two decades due its toxic pollution, climate impacts, siting in communities of color, and taxpayer expense. 
 
Hear what Mike has to say about the issue and join us for conversation and questions on Thursday, February 19 at 4pm PST / 5 MT / 7 ET.
 
Email thebiomassmonitor [at] gmail.com for call in number and access code. 

Compost Chicken Manure, Don't Burn It

- by Mike Ewall, December 19, 2014, Baltimore Sun 

Dan Rodricks' recent column urged the new governor to get a large-scale poultry waste incinerator built on the Eastern Shore ("Larry Hogan has a chance to be a green governor," Dec. 13). This awful idea has been floated for 15 years now and has gone nowhere despite an array of government subsidies. In that time, these incinerators have been banned in Delaware and at least 10 proposals have been stopped throughout the U.S. (and several more around the world). I know because my organization, Energy Justice Network, supported most of these communities in their justified opposition. One has been built in the U.S., in Minnesota, and it was plagued by air pollution violations requiring expensive new pollution controls and was later caught burning unauthorized waste streams.

Nearly all of these incinerators are in the United Kingdom. Data presented by university researchers in Ireland at a biomass industry conference a few years ago showed that dioxin pollution from burning poultry waste was 2.6 times the legal limit in Europe. Dioxins are the most toxic man-made chemicals known to science and mainly accumulate in meat and dairy products, including contaminating poultry.

Poultry waste burning, like other forms of "biomass" incineration, releases 50 percent more carbon dioxide than coal, creating problems for global warming. Releases of several other key pollutants would also be worse than a new coal power plant, as permit comparisons have shown in North Carolina. Green Planet Power Solutions is currently being subsidized by Maryland to burn 466 tons per day of poultry litter in Somerset County and is seeking to be exempt from pollution control requirements usually in place for incinerators.

There's a reason why Exelon and other power companies aren't pursuing building these. They're prohibitively expensive and can only exist with regulatory exemptions, federal "renewable" energy tax credits and state subsidies including power purchase agreements as well as renewable energy credits in the state's incinerator-heavy "renewable" energy mandate which some are seeking to double.

A real green governor would stop throwing public money at expensive and polluting incinerator "quick fixes" and deal directly with the problem: that there is too much poultry production in one place and that the waste currently produced can and should be handled with green alternatives such as aerobic composting.

Biofuels Company Won’t Pay State of Mississippi After Bankruptcy

- January 10, 2015, Fuel Fix

Bankrupt biofuel maker KiOR and controlling shareholder Vinod Khosla say the state of Mississippi is using legal tactics in an attempt to squeeze money from the company.

KiOR, based in Pasadena, fired back Thursday at the Mississippi Development Authority’s December call to convert KiOR’s case from Chapter 11 reorganization into Chapter 7 liquidation.

“The motion reflects a continuation of the MDA’s aggressive and scorched-earth litigation in this case, which apparently is intended to extort a recovery from the debtor and the Khosla-related plan support parties,” lawyers wrote in a papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

KiOR denies MDA’s claims that it’s manipulating its case to benefit Khosla, a billionaire venture capitalist who has invested heavily in alternative energy. A new company controlled by Khosla is in line to buy KiOR’s assets, saying it will continue KiOR’s research meant to turn wood chips into a crude oil substitute.

New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels

- by Justin Gillis, January 28, 2015, New York Times

Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.

Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.

Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions.

“I would say that many of the claims for biofuels have been dramatically exaggerated,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington that is publishing the report. “There are other, more effective routes to get to a low-carbon world.”

The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.

Biomass Destruction Entirely Predictable

- by Matt Miller and Raymond Plouride, February 4, 2015, Chronicle Herald

In a Jan. 9 story about damage to our forests as a result of the need to feed the giant new Nova Scotia Power biomass generator in Port Hawkesbury (“Biomass project raising green concerns”), Associate Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Allan Eddy suggested that these negative impacts were simply unintended consequences that “couldn’t have been predicted before the plant opened.”

This is simply wrong.

There were plenty of warnings that the proposed biomass project was too big to be sustainable and it strains the limits of credibility to suggest that the department responsible for managing our forests was unaware of the potential negative impacts.

Numerous stakeholders, individuals and experts predicted this outcome and laid out clear steps to try to mitigate the ecological damage that the advent of this huge new consumptive pressure would bring.

Dirt Cheap Clean Energy? | January issue of Energy Justice Now

Just in time, the January issue of Energy Justice Now — the national forum for the Dirty Energy Resistance — is here!

Inside this issue:

- Dirt Cheap Clean Energy

-  Energy Storage and Solar Inspiring Customers to Drop Utilities?

Destruction of Demand: How to Shrink Our Energy Footprint

...and more!

Please share the January 2015 issue of Energy Justice Now with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials! 

Subscribe to monthly email issues of Energy Justice Now!

 

 

Dirt Cheap Clean Energy

The most exciting news is coming sooner than I expected. The moment where the biggest fights become where to put all of the wind and solar, rather than having to endlessly fight off plans for nuclear, coal, oil, or gas power plants, or biomass or waste incinerators.

The lines are already crossing. These are the economic lines where the cost of wind and solar actually becomes cheaper than the cheapest of dirty energy sources (which, at the moment, is natural gas). In the past handful of months, research has shown that -- even without subsidies -- land-based wind power is now cheaper to build than natural gas combined cycle power plants which, themselves, have been undercutting nuclear, coal, biomass and trash incinerators in recent years, causing some to close because they can't compete with the momentarily cheap gas.

Solar power is on a path to undercut fossil fuels within five years, leading to headlines about how solar power could slay the fossil fuel empire by 2030 and whether new super efficient affordable solar panels could trump fossil fuels. The Boston Globe recently reported on how renewable energy is starting to win on price.

The most amazing chart is this one published in Bloomberg in October, titled "Welcome to the Terrordome." It shows solar prices coming down from the sky like a lightning bolt in the last few years, shooting down to levels under Brent (oil) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, and fast approaching U.S. bituminous coal and Henry Hub (natural gas) prices.

...and it's just in time, since we'll soon be running short on natural gas. As fracking for natural gas takes over in recent years, the myths about gas supply echo that of coal -- supposedly hundreds of years of supply left. However, coal production in the U.S. has peaked and U.S. gas production is likely to peak by 2017. When a resource peaks, we've used up the cheap half. This means costs will rise as production can't keep up with demand, and more extreme extraction methods become necessary.

Thankfully, nearly all of our energy needs can be met by a combination of conservation, efficiency, wind, solar and energy storage. Demand reduction must be prioritized, cutting use at least in half, which would put the U.S. on par with per capita energy use in Europe. A 2012 study out of the University of Delaware showed that wind, solar and energy storage can meet our electricity needs with 99.9% reliability by 2030, cost effectively, with no government subsidies. Stanford University researchers have shown that all energy (including transportation and heating sector use) can be provided by conservation, efficiency, wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower (including ocean power) by 2050, while saving money, improving health and creating jobs.

Of course, there is no free lunch. Normal wind turbines use about two tons of a rare earth metal, neodymium, which is mined in horribly destructive ways in China, yet neodymium-free turbines exist and could be something we demand. Solar has a toxic reputation, for good reason, yet solar technology keeps evolving. Some newer types (like nanotech varieties) could be highly toxic, while others reduce or eliminate use of toxic materials. Even energy efficiency can be wasteful where it involves having to replace materials in buildings, lighting, appliances and motors. Material shortages can limit the clean energy dream, and it's hard to say where this limit may be. However, the status quo is terribly worse. This transition must be done as soon as we can, and as just and as democratically as we can.

This clean energy revolution is freaking out the energy utilities, who are seeing the writing on the wall if wind and solar are produced in a decentralized way where their centralized business model isn't needed. Some are even organizing and getting states (like Arizona) to make it more expensive for people to put solar on their roof and are using race-baiting tactics such as encouraging the Congressional Black Caucus to see net metering as harming their constituents (a claim that NAACP and other environmental justice advocates are pushing back against).

Ultimately, we need our movement for energy justice to be a movement that not only stops dirty energy in its tracks, but builds solutions that are decentralized, publicly-owned, and democratically controlled. Public utilities must truly be public to have economic incentives to use less. We can do this. We must.

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