Climate CentralBiomass Power Slumps as EPA, Industry Spar on Science

The industry that burns wood to produce electricity is floundering nationwide because of low power prices, and some lawmakers from heavily forested states are pushing to provide it with an extraordinary market advantage.

Six times during the past two years, federal lawmakers have included language in bills in attempts to force EPA regulations to ignore climate pollution from biomass power plants.

With the biomass power industry in financial tumult, its leaders are pinning hopes for revival on Congress’ potential willingness to interfere with science at a time when the EPA is rolling out flagship climate rules.

The legislative language, introduced by some Republicans in the House and Senate and by a Democrat-aligned independent senator, varies slightly. But it all requires that most wood power be regulated as though it’s as clean as solar or wind energy -- when it can actually be more polluting than gas or coal.

The persistent efforts, which have so far failed, are supported by America’s forestry sector. They have triggered anger from environmentalists, a veto threat from the White House, and derision from scientists.

Vox: Wind Power Is Flourishing in the U.S.

Here’s some good news for your weekend: Wind power is kicking ass in the U.S.

That is the TL;DR version of the annual Wind Technologies Market Report just released by the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

With 73,992 MW, the U.S. is now the No. 2 country in the world in installed wind capacity (after China, which has a mind-boggling 145,053 MW). And we are No. 1 in actual wind electricity generated.

All that wind only provides about 5.6 percent of U.S. electricity, though, which puts us well behind leaders like Denmark (40 percent), Portugal, Ireland and Spain (between 20 percent and 30 percent).

New York Times: A Danish Wind Turbine Maker Harnesses Data in a Push to Stay Ahead

Vestas understands the fickleness of the renewable energy business.

After the financial crisis and global downturn, Vestas struggled with costs that were too high, as subsidies fell and orders for wind turbines plummeted. It was not the first misfortune for Vestas -- it nearly went bankrupt in the 1980s.

Confidence in the company had “hit rock-bottom,” acknowledged Bert Nordberg, who became chairman in the midst of the recent crisis. A painful round of cost-cutting followed. Vestas closed or sold off 19 of its 31 factories around the world, cut its workforce by about a third to 15,500, and focused on fewer lines of wind turbines.

In 2013, it hired a new chief executive, Anders Runevad, who like Mr. Nordberg is a Swede and a former Ericsson executive. In Denmark, which bore the brunt of the cuts, workers joked about the new “Swedish” approach to doing business.

Green Car Reports: 1 in 6 Cars Sold in 2020 Must Be Electric to Meet Fuel-Economy Rules

Several nations have enacted strict fuel economy standards but, for the most part, they have not required automakers to sell electric cars. In the U.S., only the state of California has a zero-emission vehicle mandate that puts such a requirement on carmakers.

Yet even without mandates, automakers may soon be forced to sell large numbers of electric cars just to meet fuel-economy rules.

That's the conclusion of a study published in June by the World Energy Council (WEC), which argues that automakers will need quite a lot of electric cars indeed.

Cannabis Now: Using LED Lighting Tech in Commercial Grows

Indoor-grown marijuana is an energy-hungry leviathan. A national study released by the U.S. Department of Energy reports that a full 1 percent of the U.S. electric grid is now dedicated to growing cannabis. Equivalent to the energy output of 1.7 million American homes (and counting) the emerging industry is putting a significant strain on the national power grid and is the country’s most energy-intensive crop at a cost of nearly $6 billion annually.

For decades, the traditional indoor grow light of choice has been high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. The same sodium lamps that illuminate a majority of the world’s city streets have for years been lighting grow rooms from San Diego to Syracuse. Meant to mimic the intense rays of the sun, flowering rooms equipped with HIDs -- typically outfitted with multiple lamps burning for 12 hours at a time -- require continuous air conditioning and de-humidification. And all that usage translates to excessive power waste. LED lighting, on the other hand, consumes less power and emits far less heat, which means bigger returns to the grower’s bottom line.