All posts about Cape Wind Developments

Money, Trash, and some Problems

April 10th, 2013 by Michael Miller

Originally from the Wall Street Journal:

Rethinking Energy Subsidies

by David Wessell

Problem one: Governments from the U.S. to Egypt to Japan are running big, unsustainable budget deficits.

A new study says that reducing energy subsidies would help governments around the world cut budget deficits and go a long way toward heading off climate change. David Wessel takes a look.

Problem two: Global governments are finding it tough to agree on an efficient, fair way to head off climate change.

Fact one: Those governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year subsidizing energy.

Fact two: Curtailing those subsidies would help solve problems one and two.

So why do so many governments still subsidize energy so much? Because their populations are hooked on subsidies and don’t grasp their downsides, energy producers and other vested interests defend them, and because they are seen, incorrectly, as primarily helping the poor.

image

The International Monetary Fund, in a comprehensive critique of the subsidies released Wednesday, wants to change that. Energy subsidies, it says, aggravate budget deficits, crowd out public spending on health and education, discourage private investment in energy, encourage excessive energy consumption, artificially promote capital-intensive industries, accelerate the depletion of natural resources and exacerbate climate change.

Other than that, there is nothing wrong with them.

The most obvious way that governments subsidize energy is by charging households and businesses less than it costs to produce and distribute gasoline, cooking fuel and electricity. Taxpayers, now or later, pick up the tab. The IMF says these subsidies added up to $481 billion in 2011. Globally, this amounts to 2% of government revenues, but about 22% of revenues in the Middle East and North Africa.

Some authoritarian governments (think Mubarak’s Egypt when he was in power) buy off the population by making fuel and bread cheap. Some oil-rich governments (gasoline costs around 45 cents a gallon in Saudi Arabia) keep fuel prices low to keep the population from demanding a share of oil profits. That may seem harmless, but it isn’t. In too many poor countries, governments spend more subsidizing energy than they do on education or health. Globally, holding down energy prices increases consumption of fossil fuels.

Eliminating those direct subsidies, the IMF estimates, would reduce energy consumption enough to bring the world one-fourth of the way toward the goals set at the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

That’s only part of the story. Many countries exempt energy from their value-added (or sales) taxes. And in most, the price of energy set by the government or the market fails to reflect the side effects of its use—traffic, pollution and climate change. This underpricing of energy amounts to about $1.41 trillion a year, the IMF estimates, mostly in big countries that consume lots of energy.

“The question is whether a country should choose to let someone buy something for $1 when the total cost—both of producing it and the costs imposed on society—are $1.25,” says David Lipton, the IMF’s No 2. He thinks not.

This isn’t a new quest for Mr. Lipton. As an Obama aide, he was a behind-the-scenes player at the Group of 20 summit of major economies in Pittsburgh in 2009 at which leaders vowed “to phase out…over the medium term inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies” because they “encourage wasteful consumption, reduce our energy security, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change.”

Four years later, not a whole lot has changed. One reason is that keeping energy prices down is defended as primarily helping the poor. But the IMF says the richest fifth of households in low- and middle-income countries, garner six times the energy subsidies as the poorest fifth.

image

The Journal Gazette / Associated Press

Developers of these turbines in Ohio say harnessing wind energy depends in part on government incentives.

“When subsidies are given by maintaining low prices, the amount of the subsidy you get depends on how much energy you use,” says Mr. Lipton. “If you are poor and you don’t have a car and you don’t have an air conditioner, you don’t use much energy and you don’t get much subsidy. If you have three cars and five air conditioners, you get a lot.”

The domestic politics of curtailing energy subsidies are treacherous. The public doesn’t understand them and doesn’t trust government promises to protect the poor and middle class when it seeks to curtail them. Companies that enjoy subsidies don’t surrender them quietly.

Nigerians took to the streets in January 2012 when the government let gasoline prices rise, forcing the government to scale back the subsidy cuts.

The IMF says, hopefully, the politics are navigable. It has assembled two-dozen case studies—some successful, some not—to show the way. In Iran, usually not held up as a model of anything good, higher fuel prices were offset by cash transfers to consumers’ bank accounts paid in advance. In Mauritania, a 2008 reform failed and contributed to a coup. A more gradual effort in 2011, with more care taken to strengthen the social safety net, was successful.

Mr. Lipton’s advice: “Better to do it right than to do it right away.”

But do it.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Cape Wind Supporters Make Renewed P.R. Push

March 18th, 2013 by Michael Miller

Just in from the Cape Cod Time’s Matt Camara:

Cape Wind Map

Cape Wind’s proposed location

Offshore wind energy supporters blitzed the U.S. Department of Energy last week with comments aimed at pushing the agency into giving the $2.6 billion Cape Wind project a loan guarantee.

“Cape Wind carries tremendous importance for unleashing, at long last, one of America’s greatest reservoirs of inexhaustible clean energy,” wrote some two dozen environmental, public health and labor groups in a letter to the DOE. “Such action will help lay the strongest possible foundation for offshore renewable energy development in the United States.”

The wind farm is fully permitted and awaiting a decision on whether the DOE will provide the loan guarantee — meaning the department would take responsibility for the project’s debt in the event of a bankruptcy — but a spokesman declined to say how much Cape Wind hopes the government would put up.

“There would be many other commercial financing partners involved with Cape Wind,” spokesman Mark Rodgers said Friday night, adding that the guarantee would be “a great help.”

Cape Wind’s application for a roughly $2 billion DOE loan was put on hold in 2011. It has now been pared to about $350 million, a source with knowledge of the request told the Cape Cod Times last week.

The push from Cape Wind’s supporters came after a pair of congressmen wrote to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, expressing concern over the controversy surrounding the project and demanding all records associated with Cape Wind.

U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, R-Ga., and James Lankford, R-Okla., who sit on technology and energy policy subcommittees, sent two letters to Chu asking for the records and all pending applications for two DOE loan guarantee programs before a decision is made.

The agency will consider any new information before deciding whether to approve a loan for Cape Wind, David Frantz, the energy agency’s acting executive director of the loan programs office, wrote in an initial response to Broun and Lankford. The department has made no decision on whether to issue a conditional commitment or loan guarantee for Cape Wind, he wrote.

Rodgers said Broun and Lankford’s letters were likely political plays aimed at the Obama administration, not at Cape Wind, and that the Georgia congressman recently supported an $8 billion guarantee for a nuclear project in his home state.

The public comment period for the guarantee closed March 11, the day Cape Wind supporters sent the DOE their comments.

Cape Wind opponents, however, said that even with the loan guarantee there is no certainty the project will move forward. The project remains mired in five lawsuits and has yet to find private investors, said Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

Material from The Associated Press and staff writer Patrick Cassidy was used in this report.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Dispatch from the front lines of America’s Energy Wars

February 16th, 2012 by Daniel Coffin

[Press Release]

DEVELOPER CLAIMS MAJOR VICTORY IN BATTLE OVER AMERICA’S FIRST OFFSHORE WINDFARM!

But the War isn’t Over, Vow Opponents

Under pressure from Governor Deval Patrick, energy utility NSTAR agreed yesterday to buy a hefty slice of Cape Wind’s power, a crucial development if CEO Jim Gordon is to secure financing for his 130 turbine facility off the coast of Cape Cod.  Reports suggest thar Gov. Patrick made state approval of a merger between NSTAR and Northeast Utilities conditional on NSTAR’s promise to purchase 27.5% of Cape Wind’s electricity, which has opponents crying foul and planning further legal action.  The war over Cape Wind has raged for ten plus years, and there’s no sign of peace on the horizon. In the midst of all the action, Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle, the epic documentary embedded with all sides of this madcap civil war, begins its nationwide tour.

Starting at the Boulder International Film Festival on February 19th, we advance to the D.C. Environmental Film Festival on March 15th, and then decamp for The Cleveland International Film Festival on March 29th, with more fests to come.  Catch us on the circuit or at our theatrical premieres in New York, Boston and D.C. early this summer.

Keep it right here for more late-breaking news from the front lines of America’s wackiest wind war, and the fascinating, surreal, tragic-comic movie that explains it all:

Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle

Yours,
The Producers

Watch the Trailer
www.facebook.com/capespin
www.twitter.com/capewind

UPCOMING EVENTS:
Boulder Film Festival
February 19, 12:30pm
Tickets

DC Environmental Film Festival
March 15, 6:30pm
Tickets at Door

Cleveland International Film Festival
March 29-31
Times to be Announced


Posted in Cape Spin News, Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Trying to Keep up with Cape Wind?

October 20th, 2011 by Daniel Coffin

One of the “stars” of our film, Sean Corcoran of NPR, has been diligently following the Cape Wind story for all of us, and I encourage you to check out his WCAI blog dedicated to Cape Wind happenings.  His most recent post rehashes some of the details of the slowly unwinding financing drama that has been hitting bylines for the last three months.

The new news is that Cape Wind Communications Director, Mark Rodgers, says that they don’t plan to break ground/water until at least next year, which makes sense considering they’ve only got two months left in 2011 and only half the power sold.  While this part of Cape Wind’s ten year drama doesn’t get much attention in Cape Spin, it’s an important story with big implications for the fledgling industry.

Did I mention that we’re going to IDFA in Amsterdam!? (we’re very excited).

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

So you thought the fight was over? Not so fast…

July 11th, 2010 by Caitlin Rotman

A few months ago, with Ken Salazar’s blessings over Cape Wind, the permits for the project were finally granted. The bell finally rang on the exceedingly long permitting process, but that merely marked the beginning of a new round. Undeterred, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, along with other opposition groups, immediately geared up to swamp the Cape Wind project with a series of lawsuits from every angle possible. Just after Ken Salazar’s announcement, Audra Parker, President and CEO of the Alliance explained in an April 29 USA Today Op-ed : “Lawsuits will be filed by the Native Americans whose burial grounds will be desecrated; by residents, fishermen and business leaders who make up the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound; and by communities concerned about their economic future.” Proponents of the project are pleading with the opposition to drop it. Nevertheless, The Boston Globe reported that the first of these suits have been filed, and concerns the negative impact that the farm could have on the migration of birds and whales. And, as a follow up to our last post, the Martha’s Vineyard/ Duke’s County Fisherman’s Association and Jonathan Mayhew (father of Matthew Mayhew, whose boat Producer Dan Coffin filmed aboard), also filed a suit this week, reports the Martha’s Vineyard Times. In order to stop the project now, a legal injunction would have to be ordered.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Feds Keep Stiff Upper Lip, Approve Cape Wind

April 28th, 2010 by Daniel Coffin

Nine years, 8000+ pages of study, some $70 million dollars spent, two wars, and a remarkably profitable Al Gore documentary later, the Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Cape Wind project today. On the heels of possibly the largest and costliest oil spill disaster in American history, those who’ve been working for Cape Wind’s approval found double-vindication. For them issue is clear: there’s two ways to produce energy offshore, one that causes visual pollution with minimal environmental impacts and one with the potential to devastate our oceans, air and ionosphere.

According to opponents of Cape Wind, however, the decision was politically driven. The feds have been paying plenty of lip service to the various opponents for years (fishermen, business owners, two local tribes, town representatives, bird enthusiasts and beyond), holding hearings and stakeholder meetings, promising they would weigh all of the impacts and assuring everyone’s interest would be considered. But when the final environmental impact statement was released in January 2009, they stood united in disgust, aghast that the findings of the Interior Department seemed to simply ignore their claims.

Over the last year, the Interior Department has been hard at work convincing the press and the public that they did indeed consider everything, they performed a rigorous scientific impact study, and they stand by their decision. The culmination of this recent posturing, which you can read and watch here, was when Sec. Ken Salazar made a much-ballyhooed trip to Cape Cod to meet with the two local Wampanoag tribes of Mashpee and Aquinah and also to tour the project site, binoculars and all. Of course, there will be mitigation in the form of payments to affected parties and minor alterations to the project itself, but looking at Record of Decision released today, it’s hard not to define clear winners and losers.

The past several weeks getting to this point have been harrying for the production team. Anytime Salazar spoke about Cape Wind’s pending decision we would walk away more confused than before. He went out of his way to meet with all the stakeholders and even participated in sacred tribal rituals. Then, he spoke of the profound spiritual importance of Nantucket Sound, while in the same sentence explaining the importance of offshore wind for national security. In retrospect, when the Interior Secretary invokes national security, we should’ve known his decision, but leading up to today, we had no idea. His press secretary was tight-lipped, and with each “leak” we found – first expecting an Earth Day announcement (which meant approval), then thinking it would be a late Friday press release (meaning disapproval) – we found ourselves more anxious and less certain, arguing amongst ourselves in a black box.

Well it’s all over now…just kidding! Cape Wind has plenty of hurdles left, and we hear from Audra Parker of the Alliance that there’s at least ten groups, including towns and the tribes, which are preparing to file federal lawsuits seeking an injunction to prevent construction, which the state, feds and Cape Wind all say could begin by the end of the year. We’ve heard arguments on both sides that are equally dismissive or assured of the legal challenge, so all we can do is keep the cameras rolling, which we’re doing.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Cape Wind: The Record of Decision

April 28th, 2010 by Daniel Coffin

We’ve been shooting and editing non-stop for the last couple of months, all the while anxiously awaiting any signal from the Interior Department about the fate of Cape Wind. Trying to pull meaning from the cryptic, carefully crafted messages of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been a futile task, leading people on both sides to the brink of lunacy. Citing unresolved issues with the historical impact process, no final approval from the FAA, pending litigation over the EFSB “super permit”, it seemed entirely plausible that Salazar’s self-imposed deadline would slip by, like most other Cape Wind deadlines.

Well, the final moment is upon us. Recommended reading is Beth Daley at the Boston Globe. Off for a busy day of shooting!

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field, Top Story

Catching up on Recent Developments

February 26th, 2010 by Daniel Coffin

We haven’t posted much recently (we’ve been totally submerged in editing!), but here’s a little video that provides a pretty comprehensive update on the project. It’s coming from the proponent side, but does cover the whole story:

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Markey Lets Cape Wind Out of the Bottle

November 10th, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

As you may have noticed, since Obama’s visit to Martha’s Vineyard at the end of the summer, Cape Wind has been hitting the national press a couple times a week. Even as the heat of the historic Congressional battle over healthcare is cranking up, Cape Wind is making it onto the New York Times editorial page and eliciting pointed British rhetoric in the Economist. Most of the recent attention is focused on the appeal from the local Wampanoag tribes to make Nantucket Sound a historic sanctuary, which would effectively stop the project and likely create a host of other commercial restrictions for the water body. The tribes have largely been sidelined in the permitting process and certainly deserve fair consideration, but I doubt that alone is the cause of all the recent press for Cape Wind.

I think what we’re seeing is a rapid ratcheting up of the emerging environmental/energy lobby, which has long pointed to Cape Wind as a bellwether for the offshore wind industry in America. In our own experiences at conferences held by offshore wind industry groups we’ve heard Cape Wind described as everything from a red herring to the holy grail, but this is a new meme – the national press corps hanging Cape Wind around the neck of climate change legislation. It’s been about a month now, and things are starting to get shook up.

The last we heard about the climate change bill was back in June when the House passed the Markey-Waxman bill by seven votes under duress from Speaker Pelosi to get the bill out of the House before the even more contentious healthcare debate was on their plates. The bill certainly has its flaws, the most glaring of which is the carbon trading portion, which is already being blamed for the next great financial bubble, but the real work is to be done at the end of this year in the Senate.

A couple of weeks ago President Obama stopped by MIT to start hitting the talking points, and many took his choice of location – MIT is a frequent battlefield for Cape Wind – as an indication he was finally going to tip his hand on the issue. No such luck, but it did raise the spectre of Cape Wind (intentional or not), as it’s the only issue all of us locals could talk about in the context of renewable energy, aside from the wicked smaht researchers at MIT doing crazy things with algae and batteries.

Following the President’s visit, with Cape Wind lurking in the subtext, and perhaps unfettered by the ghost of Ted Kennedy, Rep. Markey surprised us all yesterday when it was revealed he wrote a letter to Secretary Salazar pushing for approval of Cape Wind over the complaints of the Wampanoags. How is it surprising that Markey, author of the House climate change bill, supports Cape Wind, you ask? Markey has been a fun character in the Cape Wind saga for years now, and has been cited as the most stubborn waffler on the issue. He was the target of petitions, protests and radio ads, but he never waivered in his non-position, despite his key role in shaping this great country’s energy future. To put it another way, there may have been some champagne uncorked over at Clean Power Now and the IBEW.

We’ll have to wait see what happens next, but don’t hold your breath – this could still take awhile to unravel.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Top Story

Whew, Where to Start

September 15th, 2009 by Daniel Coffin

Cape Wind has been all over the news in the last several weeks, and here I’ll do my best to briefly summarize them in order, starting with Obama’s Vineyard vacation, three weeks ago.

Obama arrived on Martha’s Vineyard Sunday via Marine One, and we only know this because of reports out of the White House. Not surprisingly, Obama made no mention of Cape Wind in between golf rounds, but there was plenty abuzz. Both the Alliance and Clean Power Now made it into a front page story in the LA Times which portrayed the delays for Cape Wind as bureaucratic lolly-gagging at the federal level. As opponents to the project would counter, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered. Anyhow, the piece is a great brush up on the Cape Wind state of affairs.

I mention the LA Times story first because it was written prior to the untimely passing of Massachusetts senior Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy’s legacy of fighting for Massachusetts, civil rights, women and the poor might never be matched, and his passing punctuates the painful vacuum of civility in our current discourse over healthcare. With regards to Cape Wind, his absence from the debate means as much as his opposition has over the last seven years. As the most outspoken political opponent of the project and as the whip which brought many of the state’s legislators in line with him, Kennedy’s departure opens the door for new voices in the political arena to take a leadership role in the battle, whether for or against Cape Wind. Based on comments by Kennedy’s nephew, Robert Kennedy, Jr., (starts around the 16 minute mark) last week, it looks like he’s poised to take that mantle on the opposition side.

The media is certainly playing the story up. I recommend checking out this hard-hitting, if not brassy, editorial in the Boston Globe on the day of Kennedy’s burial and a thorough Cape Cod Times story here.

Later the same week, Greenpeace showed up on the scene. I was filming some BRoll of the beautiful common at the shoreline of Oak Bluffs when I noticed some people handing out fliers to passers-by. Turned out, Greenpeace made a mock Martha’s Vineyard Times set in 2029 with one side praising Obama for approving Cape Wind and another side showing people putting up levees on the shoreline to combat rising seas. Later that day they went over to the marina and released the contraption in the photo below. As usual, there were a lot of raised eyebrows and plenty of explaining to people, all of which made for great film.

Greenpeace's Float in Oak Bluff's Marina

Greenpeace's Float in Oak Bluff's Marina - Courtesy of the Greenpeace website.

Later that day I stopped by the press pool which had taken over the auditorium of the Oak Bluffs School to see what was happening. Much to my chagrin, it was just a whole bunch of people plucking at laptops and milling around. Apparently when the President is on vacation, there’s not much for the press corps to do but wait.

They’ve certainly been busy since then, and I’ll follow up with another post in a few.

Posted in Cape Wind Developments, Notes from the Field

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