News Nuggets: BP to Solar: Keep the Logo. We’re Done Here.

Warren Buffet Brings Gas to Trains

What to do with all this cheap natural gas? Why not use it to run trains? BNSF Railway Co., one of the United States’ largest consumers of diesel fuel, will test using natural gas to power its locomotives, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If successful, the experiment could be as significant as the railroad’s transformation from steam engines to diesel during the twentieth century, BNSF CEO Matt Rose told the Journal, who said that “this could be a transformational event for our railroad.”

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought BNSF in 2009, paying $26 billion in cash and stock, resulting in a valuation for the company at $44 billion.

Sequester Claims its First Green Victims

The dreaded sequester has found its first victims in the renewable energy sector. First, the Treasury Department announced that its 1603 grants program to renewable energy developers has been cut by 8.7 percent, Bloomberg reported.

The program involves giving cash grants equal to as much as 30 percent of the development costs for renewable energy projects. The cuts apply to all awards approved after March 1 and will run through the end of the fiscal year.

Second, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has scrapped a program that tracks green jobs in the U.S. The Obama administration saw the reporting as essential to proving the value of green industries to the U.S. economy, as well as proving that the administration is meeting the goal that candidate Obama set during the 2008 presidential campaign to create 5 million green jobs over the next decade.

“This means the U.S. will be flying blind on the growth of a very, very important sector in the U.S. economy,” Bracken Hendricks, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Bloomberg. “It’s a huge loss.”

Republicans say the report will not be missed. They had targeted the program, calling it a waste of money since no clear definitions were made of what exactly constitutes a “green job.”

“This was never a real report, but rather propaganda designed to advance a misleading political narrative,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told Bloomberg.

Backdoor Green Jobs Tracker

If the federal government will no longer be tracking green jobs, others certainly will. The Ecotech Institute, a Colorado-based college focused on renewable energy, finds that U.S. employers posted more than 100,000 job listings in January, according to a press release.

The best states for recent graduates looking to get started in a green tech career are Washington, Oregon and Wisconsin, according to the institute’s Clean Jobs Index.  Washington scored the highest, offering the best combination of jobs available, portfolio of renewable energy companies, and state financial incentives. California also performed well, with proportionally fewer jobs on offer but a strong program of financial incentives.

The worst state to find a green job? That would be West Virginia, which has very few jobs available and severely limited state support.

World Bank to Investors: Dig!

The World Bank is urging governments and investors to spend $500 million on geothermal projects around the globe, focused on building clean, reliable, locally-produced power in developing countries, according to a press release from the bank.

The initiative was launched, fittingly enough, in Reykjavík, Iceland, which already produces over a quarter of its electricity from geothermal plants. The opportunity for new geothermal development could be nearly as significant in at least 40 countries, which have “have enough geothermal potential to meet a significant proportion of their electricity demand,” according to the bank.

Some countries, including Kenya and Indonesia, already have major geothermal projects started. But that progress is slowed by the huge risk inherent in such projects, which can cost $15 million to $25 million just to prove the viability of a site. But “once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless,” Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank Group, said in a press release. The bank invested $336 million in geothermal projects around the world in 2013, up from $73 million in 2007.

BP to Solar: Keep the Logo. We’re Done Here.

BP, the oil giant that changed its logo in 2000 to resemble a sun as part of its “beyond petroleum” marketing campaign, is officially out of the solar business. Speaking at the CERAWeek Energy conference this week in Houston Bob Dudley, the company’s CEO made it official.

“We have thrown in the towel on solar,” he said, according to NPR. “Not that solar energy isn’t a viable energy source, but we worked at it for 35 years, and we really never made money.”

The company failed to keep up with the changing solar marketplace, Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz, a solar energy research firm, told NPR. When BP entered the sector ten years ago, the focus was on research. Now that those technologies are reasonably mature, the race is on to bring more efficient manufacturing and lower prices to the final product.

Prices of solar panels fell by almost 60 percent in the last two years, said Rhone Esch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.




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