Clean Power

Published on January 26th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer

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US Must Transition to Clean Power by 2012 or Miss the Chance

January 26th, 2010 by  

If the US was smart, we would be funding a massive switch to renewable energy now, while we still can. By 2012 we could be out of luck. China is sitting on the only currently mined sources of many of the rare earth minerals needed to build electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines. Reasonably enough, having developed the resources, China wants to keep them for its own needs, that is has planned for.

But we are not smart. Even before the Supreme Court ruling this week, we already allowed fossil interests to dictate our energy policy by allowing the purchase of both policy makers and the formerly public airwaves to impede smart energy policy. In no other democracy is such corruption allowed.

The result is that we will be out of the ability to protect ourselves from peak oil from 2012 to at least 2020 (the earliest that new rare earth mines outside China might begin to come online). If we don’t pass effective climate legislation this year, we will miss that crucial transition window.

Now that other nations are beginning to move into renewable energy development, the world will need 200,000 tons of rare earth elements by 2014. In just a decade world needs went from 40,000 tons to 120,000 tons, but there is not enough to go around. Faced with shortages, China plans to stop exporting completely by 2012.

As a result, just at the same time that we will be beginning to see the effects of peak oil, making oil increasingly expensive, we will suffer a crucial gap in the materials needed to build renewable energy. The shortages will be worst in Dysprosium and Neodymium to make electric vehicle motors and in Erbuium to manufacture vanadium steel needed for wind turbines.

One nation will be able to bypass peak oil and transition to the new renewable energy economy, because it thought ahead, and that is China. That is survival of the fittest, I guess.

There’s some ways around the Senate stalemate, though. One very effective way to transition fast to clean power in a way that can bypass our Senate block on cap and trade, is to make PACE funding for renewable energy available to homeowners nationwide in the budget. Budget funding can be passed with a majority of of just 51 votes like in other democracies.

Related stories:

Joe Biden: Solar Power America With PACE Funding

Rooftop Solar = 4% of Sonoma County’s Power!

Image: Sun Light & Power

Source: The Independent

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • Enjoyed the posts..

  • Enjoyed the posts..

  • juangault

    Conservation is still the easiest way to deal with the looming energy shortages of the near future. But as soon as the world starts serious conserving, the price falls and alternatives struggle to stay alive. The Fed has been on a spending spree, and it’s unfair to our future people to burden them with a disproportional amount of debt. (Some is fine, being born into a world with internet and satellite TV ain’t so bad) So one solution is to check aggregate speed and vehicle weight of suburban traffic and tax accordingly. We need to pay down some of the folly of the bankrupter from Tejas. The only real way to avert planetary problems is to slow the growth of population down. But every businessman I know wants MORE customers. Priests might summon some wrath if BC went with WIC benefits.

  • juangault

    Conservation is still the easiest way to deal with the looming energy shortages of the near future. But as soon as the world starts serious conserving, the price falls and alternatives struggle to stay alive. The Fed has been on a spending spree, and it’s unfair to our future people to burden them with a disproportional amount of debt. (Some is fine, being born into a world with internet and satellite TV ain’t so bad) So one solution is to check aggregate speed and vehicle weight of suburban traffic and tax accordingly. We need to pay down some of the folly of the bankrupter from Tejas. The only real way to avert planetary problems is to slow the growth of population down. But every businessman I know wants MORE customers. Priests might summon some wrath if BC went with WIC benefits.

  • Bill Woods

    A motor or wind turbine made in China from Chinese minerals will have the same effect on the environment as one made in the US from Chinese minerals. Anyway, “rare earth” minerals aren’t all that rare.

  • Bill Woods

    A motor or wind turbine made in China from Chinese minerals will have the same effect on the environment as one made in the US from Chinese minerals. Anyway, “rare earth” minerals aren’t all that rare.

  • Todd

    LYNAS, a REE company in Australia should be producing in 2011

  • Todd

    LYNAS, a REE company in Australia should be producing in 2011

  • @peterike

    “The US has all the natural gas we need for decades”

    This is not true, for example the much trumpeted Shale Gas Reserves would last the world for 517 days at current consumption rates.

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_enr_shalegas_s1_a.htm

    Before going about huge finds and enough reserves to last decades, just remember one important fact, a billion barrels of oil is enough to last 12 days at current world consumption.

    [ SK: Good points. It is only smart to switch to renewables at least a decade BEFORE the non renewables run out! Not so easy to build wind turbines in a Bronze Age economy.]

  • @peterike

    “The US has all the natural gas we need for decades”

    This is not true, for example the much trumpeted Shale Gas Reserves would last the world for 517 days at current consumption rates.

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_enr_shalegas_s1_a.htm

    Before going about huge finds and enough reserves to last decades, just remember one important fact, a billion barrels of oil is enough to last 12 days at current world consumption.

    [ SK: Good points. It is only smart to switch to renewables at least a decade BEFORE the non renewables run out! Not so easy to build wind turbines in a Bronze Age economy.]

  • Eletruk

    Well, the world is going to end in 2012 anyways, so why plan for the future?

  • Eletruk

    Well, the world is going to end in 2012 anyways, so why plan for the future?

  • Chris Faranetta

    I don’t think this is a well written post. As we have seen again in the past two years, a high price energy is the most powerful driver for efficency and innovation in clean energy technology. The scarcity of oil will drive technologies to get it from sources deeper in the earth and eventually bringing the price back down. There are fuel cells that don’t require platinum for catalysts and I thought wind turbines were made out of steel and composites. The price, reliability and the experienced effects of climate change will drive innovation in clean energy technology not the politicians.

    That being said it will be sad when our next president his brought to us by News Corp and Exxon Mobile.

  • Chris Faranetta

    I don’t think this is a well written post. As we have seen again in the past two years, a high price energy is the most powerful driver for efficency and innovation in clean energy technology. The scarcity of oil will drive technologies to get it from sources deeper in the earth and eventually bringing the price back down. There are fuel cells that don’t require platinum for catalysts and I thought wind turbines were made out of steel and composites. The price, reliability and the experienced effects of climate change will drive innovation in clean energy technology not the politicians.

    That being said it will be sad when our next president his brought to us by News Corp and Exxon Mobile.

  • People often forget that non-renewable natural resources are required to make clean energy products, from solar panel to cars to wind turbines. Those countries that control access to these materials will be in a position to influence manufacturing and price.

  • People often forget that non-renewable natural resources are required to make clean energy products, from solar panel to cars to wind turbines. Those countries that control access to these materials will be in a position to influence manufacturing and price.

  • Brad

    I cannot wait for the PACE program to go nationwide. It is the one program that makes sense in EVERY way.

  • Brad

    I cannot wait for the PACE program to go nationwide. It is the one program that makes sense in EVERY way.

  • Mike

    A few questions to ponder:

    What type of energy are they using to “create” this “renewable” energy?

    Why is mining okay for this but not for oil?(especially with China’s record on pollution)

    Electric cars are nice but it takes electricity to charge them and if it’s dark and there’s no wind, where does the energy come from?

    As always, these pie in the sky ideas never seem very thought out. Oh wait, we can mine more nickel for batteries further decimating the planet.

    Do an honest assessment of what it takes to produce and transport these “green energies” and you’ll find that it takes more energy to produce them then you get out of them.

    Also, no mention of just how many millions of tons of mother Earth will have to be raped for the 200,000 tons of rare Earth materials? Why not? I think we both know why.

  • Mike

    A few questions to ponder:

    What type of energy are they using to “create” this “renewable” energy?

    Why is mining okay for this but not for oil?(especially with China’s record on pollution)

    Electric cars are nice but it takes electricity to charge them and if it’s dark and there’s no wind, where does the energy come from?

    As always, these pie in the sky ideas never seem very thought out. Oh wait, we can mine more nickel for batteries further decimating the planet.

    Do an honest assessment of what it takes to produce and transport these “green energies” and you’ll find that it takes more energy to produce them then you get out of them.

    Also, no mention of just how many millions of tons of mother Earth will have to be raped for the 200,000 tons of rare Earth materials? Why not? I think we both know why.

  • kruton

    Seriously? China is the only place in the world the materials come from? Thanks for the lies!

  • kruton

    Seriously? China is the only place in the world the materials come from? Thanks for the lies!

  • peterike

    Peak oil is a myth. The US has all the natural gas we need for decades, if green luddites would let it be taken out of the ground. And why do you assume that current “clean power” technologies are the only ones that will be available in future?

    Solar panels and wind turbines are a joke and will never generate any significant amount of electrical power. If you want to solve that problem, it’s called “nuclear.” It works, it’s safe, it’s clean. Oh but let’s see, just who has been blocking that for the past 30 years?

    “In no other democracy is such corruption allowed.”

    That’s just beyond absurd.

    [SK: Democrats tend to vote against nuclear the way that Republicans vote as a bloc against renewable power, but it is different for this reason:

    Democrats have never prevented any up or down majority vote on nuclear power, by not letting the majority vote. When they were in the minority they did not use the cloture vote to prevent energy legislation being voted on as Republicans have done. (It takes 60 votes to agree to vote)

    So, if the Senate has voted against nuclear power, it is an honest 51 majority that represents their constituents’ views. The votes against renewable power by the Republicans voting against Renewable power only needs 41 votes out of the 100 against cloture to cripple the majority ability to vote up or down.

    The vast difference in dollars of fossil money going to Republicans and Democrats explains this voting bloc. That IS corruption. It is allowed here.]

  • peterike

    Peak oil is a myth. The US has all the natural gas we need for decades, if green luddites would let it be taken out of the ground. And why do you assume that current “clean power” technologies are the only ones that will be available in future?

    Solar panels and wind turbines are a joke and will never generate any significant amount of electrical power. If you want to solve that problem, it’s called “nuclear.” It works, it’s safe, it’s clean. Oh but let’s see, just who has been blocking that for the past 30 years?

    “In no other democracy is such corruption allowed.”

    That’s just beyond absurd.

    [SK: Democrats tend to vote against nuclear the way that Republicans vote as a bloc against renewable power, but it is different for this reason:

    Democrats have never prevented any up or down majority vote on nuclear power, by not letting the majority vote. When they were in the minority they did not use the cloture vote to prevent energy legislation being voted on as Republicans have done. (It takes 60 votes to agree to vote)

    So, if the Senate has voted against nuclear power, it is an honest 51 majority that represents their constituents’ views. The votes against renewable power by the Republicans voting against Renewable power only needs 41 votes out of the 100 against cloture to cripple the majority ability to vote up or down.

    The vast difference in dollars of fossil money going to Republicans and Democrats explains this voting bloc. That IS corruption. It is allowed here.]

  • REE Investor

    There will be production outside of china by at least 3 sources before 2020. Most likely 2012 to 2013. 2 in Australia and 1 US company.

  • REE Investor

    There will be production outside of china by at least 3 sources before 2020. Most likely 2012 to 2013. 2 in Australia and 1 US company.

  • Zach

    good post, Susan! perhaps with a tint of sadness in there, but hard to miss that from time to time when you see what the US is passing up

  • Zach

    good post, Susan! perhaps with a tint of sadness in there, but hard to miss that from time to time when you see what the US is passing up

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