June 25, 2012

Alaska's law to achieve 2025 green energy goal

Alaska passed a law that will make it easier to achieve its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2025, by making low interest loans available to projects.

The Alaska Sustainable Strategy for Energy Transmission and Supply bill (SB 25), signed this week by Gov. Sean Parnell, creates a $125 million state-administered fund to finance energy projects.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority will administer the fund, and will be able to either directly give loans or participate in loans made through banks or credit unions.
The law requires legislative approval for loan guarantees over $20 million and also mandates participation of other investors besides the government to bring in outside capital to the state.

Effective September 10, the bill includes a provision specifically for renewable energy development that keeps interest rates low.

In April, Alaska reauthorized a complementary law for 10 years, the Renewable Energy Fund, which gives $50 million in grants a year for renewable energy development.

With the two laws in place, developers can apply for a grant to access the viability of a project and then get a loan to build it.

Shell Moves Forward To Drill in Arctic

On the other side of the equation, Shell won the right to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas last month in an appeals court ruling against environmental and indigenous groups.

Environmental groups delivered over a million signatures to the White House imploring President Obama to halt Shell permits to drill there.

In a startling break from decades of US policy to stay clear of the fragile Arctic, President Obama personally helped Shell get authorization to drill off the coast of Alaska, says the NY Times, by creating an interagency group to clear Shell's path. It's part of his 5-year offshore oil and gas plan announced last year.

Shell is a textbook example of greenwash. For over 20 years, it's been touting its leadership on sustainability, yet it is turning its back on renewable energy and strip mining forests in Canada for its multi-billion dollar investment in tar sands, in addition to being the first big oil company to actively pursue a policy of significant oil exploration in the offshore Arctic.

Last year, Shell finally accepted responsibility for two oil spills in Nigeria back in 2008 (after a lawsuit), which were larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. Until then, Shell claimed less than 40,000 gallons had been spilled ... off by a factor of 275.

"An examination of Shell's operations around the world makes it clear the company operates with a brazen disregard for the safety of its workers, the needs of local communities, and the long-term impact of drilling on the environment. Instead of taking responsibility for its actions, Shell simply pays fines and settles lawsuits. It seems that Shell considers lawsuits and clean-up costs just part of doing business, consequences to be paid while avoiding substantive changes to its operations that might interfere with the company's efforts to maximize its already immense profits," says the Alaska Wilderness League's report on the company.

Concerns about Shell's spill response plan have been raised by the Government Accountability office (can the equipment withstand such extreme conditions?) and insurance giant Lloyd's of London, which warned of the "unique and hard-to-manage risk," and the need to "think carefully about the consequences of action" before exploring for oil in the region. WestLB bank refused to fund the project because of excessive risks.

The US Interior Department's offshore drilling safety chief says he will personally review the "capping stack", and if given final approval, will deploy the most rigorous safety and oversight program ever deployed.

Meanwhile, new safety recommendations have yet to be approved by Congress.

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