History of Alternative Energy and Fossil Fuels
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2000 BC - Chinese First to Use Coal as an Energy Source"According to the report of an early missionary to China, coal was already being burned there for heating and cooking, and had been so employed for up to 4000 years. Likewise, in early medieval Europe, the existence of coal was no secret, but the 'black stone' was regarded as an inferior fuel because it produced so much soot and smoke... Thus, until the 13th century, it was largely ignored in favor of wood.
As wood shortages began to appear, poor people began heating their homes by burning coal."
200 BC - Chinese Develop Natural Gas as an Energy Source"The first practical use of natural gas dates to 200 BCE and is attributed, like so many technical developments, to the Chinese. They used it to make salt from brine in gas-fired evaporators, boring shallow wells and conveying the gas to the evaporators via bamboo pipes."
James C. Williams, PhD "History of Energy," www.fi.edu, Apr. 25, 2006
1st Century - Chinese First to Refine Petroleum (Oil) for Use as an Energy Source"More than 2,000 years ago, our ancestors discovered oil seepages in many places in northwest China. A book titled Han Book Geography Annals written by a historian of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Ban Gu (32-92 AD), wrote of flammables in the Weishui River. Located at the east of the Yanan city, the river now is called the Jian.
There was also a detailed description about petroleum in the famous Sketch Book at Meng Xi written by the distinguished scientist Sheng Kuo (1031-1095). He reported that there was a lot of oil in the subsurface, 'and it is inexhaustible.'
Long ago, our ancestors already applied petroleum for lamps, as lubricants, in medicine and for military actions. Similarly, the technology of heating and evaporating brine from flowing brine wells for producing edible salt was also developed more than a thousand years ago (East Jin Dynasty, 347 AD) in China."
Lidian Chen "China's Petroleum Industry," www.worldenergysource.com (accessed July 21, 2009)
10th Century - Windmills Built in Persia to Grind Grain and Pump Water"For the tenth century, we have material proof that windmills were turning in the blustery Seistan region of Persia. These primitive, vertical carousel-type mills utilized the wind to grind corn, and to raise water from streams to irrigate gardens... [T]heir use soon spread to India, other parts of the Muslim world, and China, where farmers employed them to pump water, grind grain, and crush sugarcane."
The Slootgaardmolen windmill in Waarland, North Holland, Netherlands, built circa 1590
Source: Quistnix, "Nederlands: Waarland - Slootgaardmolen," wikipedia.org, Sep. 20, 2009
Lewis Mumford Technics and Civilization, 1934
1700s - Coal Begins to Displace Use of Other Energies"The great shift in population and industry that took place in the eighteenth century was due to the introduction of coal as a source of mechanical power, to the use of new means of making that power effective - the steam engine - and to new methods of smelting and working up iron. Out of this coal and iron complex, a new civilization developed...
By the end of the eighteenth century coal began to take the place of current sources of energy... Wood, wind, water, beeswax, tallow, sperm-oil - all these were displaced steadily by coal and derivatives of coal...
In the economy of the earth, the large-scale opening up of coal seams meant that industry was beginning to live for the first time on an accumulation of potential energy, derived from the ferns of the carboniferous period, instead of upon current income."
Lewis Mumford Technics and Civilization, 1934
A replica of the 1712 Newcomen steam engine.
Source: Tony Hisgett, "A Full Scale Working Replica of That 1712 Engine Built by Thomas Newcomen for Pumping Water from the Mines on the Estates of Lord Dudley," wikimedia.org, Apr. 18, 2009
1748 - First Commercial Coal Production in US Begins in Richmond, Virginia"In 1701, coal was found by Huguenot settlers on the James River in what is now Richmond, Virginia. By 1736, several 'coal mines' were shown on a map of the upper Potomac River near what is now the border of Maryland and West Virginia.
The first coal 'miners' in the American colonies were likely farmers who dug coal from beds exposed on the surface and sold it by the bushel. In 1748, the first commercial coal production began from mines around Richmond, Virginia. Coal was used to manufacture shot, shell, and other war material during the Revolutionary War.
By the late 1700s, coal was being mined on 'Coal Hill,' now Mount Washington in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dug from the steep hillsides, the coal was used by early settlers to heat their homes and sent across the Monongahela River in canoes to provide fuel for the military garrison at Fort Pitt."
National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) "History of U.S. Coal Use," www.netl.doe.gov (accessed May 14, 2009)
National Hydrogen Association (NHA) "The History of Hydrogen," www.hydrogenassociation.org (accessed June 4, 2009)
1821 - First Natural Gas Well in US Is Drilled"In 1821, the first well specifically intended to obtain natural gas was dug in Fredonia, New York, by William Hart. After noticing gas bubbles rising to the surface of a creek, Hart dug a 27 foot well to try and obtain a larger flow of gas to the surface. Hart is regarded by many as the 'father of natural gas' in America...
During most of the 19th century, natural gas was used almost exclusively as a source of light. Without a pipeline infrastructure, it was difficult to transport the gas very far, or into homes to be used for heating or cooking. Most of the natural gas produced in this era was manufactured from coal, as opposed to transported from a well. Near the end of the 19th century, with the rise of electricity, natural gas lights were converted to electric lights."
Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) "History," www.naturalgas.org (accessed June 16, 2009)
1830 - Coal Becomes Primary Locomotive (Train) Fuel in US, Displacing Wood"The first major boon for coal use occurred in 1830 when the Tom Thumb, the first commercially practical American-built locomotive, was manufactured. The Tom Thumb burned coal, and in rapid fashion, virtually every American locomotive that burned wood was converted to use coal. America's coal industry had begun taking shape."
National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) "History of U.S. Coal Use," www.netl.doe.gov (accessed May 14, 2009)
1830s - First Coal Powered Iron Forges Are Developed in New England"In the early 1830's... American iron was still being produced by charcoal. New England still relied on Europe for most of its iron supply, little metal was yet used in machinery, and steam was hardly employed at all as a source of power. This lag in the use of iron and steam appears to have held back high volume factory production in all industries except textiles. Then in the 1830's and 1840's, these patterns began to change quickly. A revolution in American iron making began in the 1830's with the use of coal in the making of wrought iron, and then in the 1840's in the production of cast iron with the adoption of the coal-using furnaces in eastern Pennsylvania. In the same decades, steam began for the first time to be used extensively in industrial production."
Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., PhD "Anthracite Coal and the Beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in the United States," The Business History Review, Summer 1972
1830s - Ethanol Blend Becomes Popular Lamp Fuel in US, Displacing Whale Oil"In the 30 or 40 years before petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania, the leading fuel was 'camphene' (sometimes simply called 'burning fluid'). It was a blend of high-proof ethyl alcohol with 20 to 50 percent turpentine to color the flame and a few drops of camphor oil to mask the turpentine smell. Alcohol for camphene was an important mainstay for distilleries, and many sold between one third and 80 percent of their product on the fuel market. The first U.S. patent for alcohol as a lamp fuel was awarded in 1834 to S. Casey, of Lebanon, Maine...
By the late 1830s, alcohol blends had replaced increasingly expensive whale oil in most parts of the country... By 1860, thousands of distilleries churned out at least 90 million gallons of alcohol per year for lighting."
1838 - First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developed to Generate Electricity
William Robert Grove
Wellcome Images, "Sir William Robert Grove. Lithograph by W. Bosley, 1849, aft," wikimedia.org (accessed Sep. 15, 2020)
In 1800, British scientists William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle had described the process of using electricity to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen. But combining the gases to produce electricity and water was, according to Grove, 'a step further that any hitherto recorded.' Grove realized that by combining several sets of these electrodes in a series circuit he might 'effect the decomposition of water by means of its composition.' He soon accomplished this feat with the device he named a 'gas battery'– the first fuel cell."
Smithsonian National Museum of American History "Fuel Cell Origins: 1840-1890," americanhistory.si.edu (accessed June 4, 2009)
1850s - Windmill Becomes Popular Water Pumping Tool of Western Homesteaders and Railroad Builders
Drawing of a Halladay Mill water pumping
station for the railroad, 1885.
(accessed May 21, 2009)
Although it was the Western environment that created the demand for a new windmill, a Connecticut mechanic, by the name of Daniel Halladay, provided the inventive genius. In 1857, Halladay, having perfected his windmill, formed the Halladay Wind Mill Company...
It was Western railroad builders who first used the Halladay windmill. Hand in hand with the first transcontinental railroad came the windmill, providing water to the thirsty Union Pacific steam locomotives...
In the years to follow... water-pumping windmills dotted the US landscape. There is no way accurately to estimate their numbers, but some authorities have offered a figure of more than six million."
1859 - First Commercial Oil Well Drilled by Edwin Drake in Pennsylvania; Kerosene Begins to Displace Other Lamp Fuels
Drake's Well in 1902
Source: Metilsteiner, "Illustration from the Book Sketches in Crude-Oil; Some Accidents and Incidents of the Petroleum Development in All Parts of the Globe, ... 3rd Edition. by McLaurin," wikimedia.org, Jan. 1, 1902
Kerosene, which Abraham Gesner, a Canadian chemist, discovered how to distill from petroleum in 1853, proved in many circumstances to be a better choice... In 1859, E.L. Drake... was searching for it [petroleum] at the suitably named Oil Creek in Titusville, Pennsylvania. He rejected the idea of digging for it, and chose to seek it out with a drill driven by a small steam engine. He hit it on August 29 at 71 feet, initiating America's and the world's first petroleum rush... Before that boom ended in 1879, Oil Creek spouted 56 million gallons of petroleum, kerosene lamps were spreading everywhere, and the American whale fishery was a business of minor importance."
A one-third replica of Mouchot's solar engine at the Museum of Arts and Crafts
Source: Gaboss24, "Français : Four Solaire D'époque, Modèle au 1/3 Conservé au Musée des Arts et Métiers," wikimedia.org, Mar. 6, 2020
John Perlin From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity, 1999
1862 - Abraham Lincoln Enacts an Ethanol Tax to Help Finance the Civil War, Severely Hampering the Ethanol Fuel Industry"In 1860, ethanol was one of the nation's best-selling chemicals, used as an illuminant and solvent. When the Civil War broke out, President Abraham Lincoln imposed a $2.08 per gallon Spirits Tax [in 1862] to finance the war effort. Ethanol was subject to the tax...
Industrial and fuel ethanol disappeared for 45 years.
In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt, seeking a competitor to Big Oil, convinced Congress to lift the Spirits Tax. The ethanol industry was back in business. By the end of World War I it was producing some 50 million gallons a year."
David Morris, PhD "West Wing's Ethanol Problem," www.alternet.org, Feb. 2, 2005
1870 - John D. Rockefeller Forms Standard Oil and Develops Petroleum as a Major Energy Source in the US
John D. Rockefeller, circa 1875
Source: "John D. Rockefeller ca. 1875," wikipedia.org (accessed Sep. 15, 2020)
Brian Black, PhD "Petroleum History, United States," www.eoearth.org (accessed May 18, 2009)
John Perlin "The History of Solar Energy," www.californiasolarcenter.org (accessed May 19, 2009)
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) "Edison's Miracle of Light: The Film & More - Program Description," www.pbs.org (accessed July 27, 2009)
Sep. 30, 1882 - First Commercial Scale Hydroelectric Plant Goes into Operation in Appleton, Wisconsin"It was on Saturday night, September 30, 1882, that one of the world's first hydro-electric central stations was placed in successful operation in Appleton, Wisconsin. As late as 1977, local enthusiasm identified the installation as the 'world's first hydro-electric central station.' This statement has since been corrected to read 'the first hydro-electric central station to serve a system of private and commercial customers in North America.' Whether first built or first in service, it was a significant engineering achievement for its time...
Three buildings were lighted initially- two paper mills and one residence. The people of Appleton reportedly went to view them in those early fall evenings and marveled, declaring them to be 'as bright as day.'...
Progress was rapid. A second dynamo was purchased in 1882 and placed into service on November 25th. Early in 1883 the Waverly House was wired, reportedly becoming the first hotel in the western part of the United States with electric light. Two larger generators were acquired in 1886 and placed in a new central plant to which the original dynamos were also moved.
The Vulcan Street Plant had an 'Elmer' waterwheel, so named because it was patented by Mr. Elmer of Berlin, Wisconsin. The output of the original dynamo was 12.5 KW and was capable of lighting 250 sixteen-candlepower lamps."
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) "Vulcan Street Power Plant," www.asme.org (accessed May 21, 2009)
The Brush Wind Turbine
Source: "Robert W. Righter (1996) Wind Energy in America: A History, University of Oklahoma Press, p. page44 Retrieved on 27 December 2008," wikipedia.org, Dec. 27, 2008
Scientific American "Mr. Brush's Windmill Dynamo," Dec. 20, 1890
1892 - World's First Geothermal District Heating System Built in Boise, Idaho"Folks in Boise, Idaho, feel the heat of the world's first district heating system as water is piped from hot springs to town buildings. Within a few years, the system is serving 200 homes and 40 downtown businesses. Today, there are four district heating systems in Boise that provide heat to over 5 million square feet of residential, business, and governmental space. Although no one imitated this system for some 70 years, there are now 17 district heating systems in the United States and dozens more around the world."
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) "A History of Geothermal Energy in the United States," www1.eere.energy.gov (accessed June 3, 2009)
Pacific Biodiesel "History of Biodiesel Fuel," www.biodiesel.com (accessed June 8, 2009)
1901 - Birth of the Modern Oil Industry: Lucas Gusher and the Discovery of Texas' Vast Spindletop Oil Field
Photograph of the Lucas Gusher at Spindeltop Oil Field, Texas, Jan. 10, 1901
Source: John Trost, " The Lucas Gusher at Spindletop Hill, South of Beaumont, Texas, United States," wikipedia.org, Jan. 10, 1901
'Black Gold' erupted from [Spindletop's Lucas Gusher]... to a height greater than 150 feet (nearly 50 meters) on January 10th, 1901. It was not brought under control for 9 days... A device now called a 'Christmas Tree' was invented on the spot to control the flow of oil. Christmas trees are now commonplace in the industry to prevent just such an occurrence. An estimated 850,000 barrels of oil was lost. By today's standards, that's a loss of about $17,000,000. Of course, given the huge amount of oil which glutted the market after this discovery, the price of oil dropped from $2 to $.03 per barrel."
Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) "Spindletop Texas," www.priweb.org (accessed May 27, 2009)
Albert Einstein in 1904
Source: Lucien Chavan, "Albert Einstein in 1904 (age 25)," wikipedia.org, 1904
"Concerning an Heuristic Point of View Toward the Emission and Transformation of Light" (165 KB) , Mar. 17, 1905
John Perlin From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity, 1999
New York Times "Free Alcohol Bill Signed," June 9, 1906"In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt, seeking a competitor to Big Oil, convinced Congress to lift the Spirits Tax. The ethanol industry was back in business. By the end of World War I it was producing some 50 million gallons a year."
David Morris, PhD "West Wing's Ethanol Problem," www.alternet.org, Feb. 2, 2005
1906-1908 - Studies on Alcohol Fuel (Ethanol) Find Advantages over Petroleum Fuels Such as Gasoline and Kerosene"Studies of alcohol as an internal combustion engine fuel began in the U.S. with the Edison Electric Testing Laboratory and Columbia University in 1906. Elihu Thomson reported that despite a smaller heat or B.T.U. [British Thermal Unit] value, 'a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation...' Other researchers confirmed the same phenomena around the same time. USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] tests in 1906 also demonstrated the efficiency of alcohol in engines and described how gasoline engines could be modified for higher power with pure alcohol fuel or for equivalent fuel consumption, depending on the need. The U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Navy performed 2000 tests on alcohol and gasoline engines in 1907 and 1908 in Norfolk, Va. and St. Louis, Mo. They found that much higher engine compression ratios could be achieved with alcohol than with gasoline. When the compression ratios were adjusted for each fuel, fuel economy was virtually equal despite the greater B.T.U. value of gasoline. 'In regard to general cleanliness, such as absence of smoke and disagreeable odors, alcohol has many advantages over gasoline or kerosene as a fuel,' the report said. 'The exhaust from an alcohol engine is never clouded with a black or grayish smoke.' USGS [United States Geological Service] continued the comparative tests and later noted that alcohol was 'a more ideal fuel than gasoline' with better efficiency despite the high cost."
1921 - World's First Geothermal Power Plant Is Built in California"The Geysers [72 miles north of San Francisco] were discovered in the early 1800's but were an untapped energy source for many years... [In 1921] John D. Grant drilled a geothermal well and ran a small direct-current generator which was used to provide electricity for lighting The Geysers resort. However, because the materials used at that time could not withstand the geothermal steam environment and because of the difficulties of drilling for geothermal steam, this resource could not compete at that time with other low-cost, easier-to-develop energy resources."
1924 - First Federal Law Established to Control Pollution from the Oil Industry"The federal government established a precedent for combating oil pollution when it passed the Oil Pollution Control Act in 1924. The contamination of water from tanker discharges and seepage problems on land were the primary problems. The former attracted the most attention largely because the polluting of waterways and coastal areas affected commercial fishermen and resort owners...
The Oil Pollution Act of 1924 had inadequate enforcement provisions and dealt only with dumping fuel at sea by oil-burning vessels.
Although the Oil Pollution Act disappointed [US President Herbert] Hoover and the conservationists, it was the first serious attempt to deal with the issue on a national scale. The problem did not receive serious attention again until the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969."
Martin V. Melosi, PhD "Energy and Environment in the United States: The Era of Fossil Fuels," Environmental Review, Fall 1987
1927 - First Commercial Wind Turbines Sold to Generate Electricity on Remote FarmsMarcellus and Joe Jacobs develop the first commercially available wind turbine for electricity generation.
The brothers knew that many remote farms were unable to electrify without using gasoline generators. Gasoline generators were too costly and inconvienient for many remote farms since gasoline had to be constantly transported in bulk over large distances. As a result, many farms remained unelectrified.
The Jacob brothers created a wind powered turbine based on the design of earlier water pump mills. The design succeeds when they replace the blades of the water pump mills with modern air plane propellers.
In 1927 the Jacobs Wind Electric Company is formed. Between 1927 and 1957 the company sells over 30,000 units.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s hundreds of thousands of wind-electric systems were in operation around the country with a similar design to the
1930s - Alcohol Fuel Production Promoted to Combat the Great Depression"By the 1930s, with the country caught in the depths of the Great Depression, new ideas were welcome. Corn prices had dropped from 45 cents per bushel to 10 cents, it was only natural that people in Midwestern business and science would begin thinking about new uses for farm products...
[T]he movement for alcohol fuels... came to be seen as part of a broader campaign for industrial uses for farm crops to help fight the Depression...
By 1937 motorists from Indiana to South Dakota were urged to use Agrol, an ethyl alcohol blend with gasoline. Two types were available -- Agrol 5, with five to seven percent alcohol, and Agrol 10, with twelve and a half to 17 and a half percent alcohol. 'Try a tankfull -- you'll be thankful,' the Agrol brochures said. The blend was sold to high initial enthusiasm at 2,000 service stations... However, Agrol plant managers complained of sabotage and bitter infighting by the oil industry...
By 1939, the Atchison Agrol plant closed its doors, not in bankruptcy, but without viable markets to continue."
1935 - Hoover Dam, the World's Largest Hydroelectric Power Plant, Is Built
The Hoover Dam in 2017
Source: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz), "English: Aerial view of Hoover Dam, Nevada-Arizona.," wikimedia.org, Sep. 22, 2017
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation "What Is the Biggest Dam in the World?," www.usbr.gov (accessed May 27, 2009)
1938 - Natural Gas Act: First Direct Federal Regulation of Natural Gas Industry"In 1938, the federal government became involved directly in the regulation of interstate natural gas with the passage of the Natural Gas Act (NGA). This act constitutes the first real involvement of the federal government in the rates charged by interstate gas transmission companies. Essentially, the NGA gave the Federal Power Commission (the FPC, which had been created in 1920 with the passage of the Federal Water Power Act) jurisdiction over regulation of interstate natural gas sales. The FPC was charged with regulating the rates that were charged for interstate natural gas delivery, as well as limited certification powers...
The rationale for the passage of the NGA was the concern over the heavy concentration of the natural gas industry, and the monopolistic tendencies of interstate pipelines to charge higher than competitive prices due to their market power."
Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) "The History of Regulation," www.naturalgas.org (accessed June 16, 2009)
Dec. 1942 - First Controlled Nuclear Chain Reaction"As the world went to war in the 1940s, [Physicist Enrico] Fermi and other physicists in Europe and America came to understand that a uranium atom split by a neutron would cause a self-perpetuating chain reaction of atom splitting that would release enormous energy. This process, called nuclear fission, suggested possible military applications, and Fermi and his colleagues at Columbia University joined with Albert Einstein to persuade the U.S. Government to study the idea. Meanwhile, at Columbia, Fermi sought to develop a controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. In 1942, when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the 'Manhattan Project,' Fermi's work was relocated to the University of Chicago, where in December of that year, he and his team achieved the first controlled nuclear chain reaction."
James C. Williams, PhD "History of Energy," www.fi.edu, Apr. 25, 2006
1946 - Atomic Energy Act of 1946: US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Created"The use of atomic bombs against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 ushered in a new historical epoch, breathlessly labeled in countless news reports, magazine articles, films, and radio broadcasts as the 'Atomic Age.' Within a short time after the end of World War II, politicians, journalists, scientists, and business leaders were suggesting that peaceful applications of nuclear power could be as dramatic in their benefits as nuclear weapons were awesome in their destructive power...
Developing nuclear energy for civilian purposes, as even the most enthusiastic proponents recognized, would take many years. The government's first priority was to maintain strict control over atomic technology and to exploit it further for military purposes. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, passed as tensions with the Soviet Union were developing into the cold war, acknowledged in passing the potential peaceful benefits of atomic power. But it emphasized the military aspects of nuclear energy and underscored the need for secrecy, raw materials, and production of new weapons. The 1946 law did not allow for private, commercial application of atomic energy; rather, it created a virtual government monopoly of the technology. To manage the nation's atomic energy programs, the act established the five-member Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)."
1950 - Petroleum Becomes Most Used Fuel in the USDue primarily to demand caused by the automobile, 1950 is the first year that petroleum becomes most consumed fuel in the US.
Energy Information Administration (EIA) "Petroleum Timeline," www.eia.doe.gov (accessed May 28, 2009)
1950s - Natural Gas Becomes a Major Fuel in US with Extensive Construction of Natural Gas PipelinesNatural gas was not a widespread home fuel before the 1950s. Home use of natural gas required a large pipeline network for delivery and the cost of such a system was considered prohibitive.
However, "improvements in metals, welding techniques and pipe making during the War [World War II] made pipeline construction more economically attractive. After World War II, the nation began building its pipeline network. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of miles of pipeline were constructed throughout the United States. Today, the U.S. pipeline network, laid end-to-end, would stretch to the moon and back twice."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "The History of Natural Gas," www.fossil.energy.gov (accessed May 13, 2009)
Dec. 20, 1951 - First Nuclear Power Reactor to Generate Electricity Built in Idaho
Photo of experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I) lighting four bulbs to demonstrate the first electricity generation from nuclear energy
Source: www.anl.gov (accessed May 27, 2009)
It was barely enough to power a simple string of four, 100-watt light bulbs, but the 16 scientists and engineers - all staff members of Argonne National Laboratory, which designed and built the reactor - recorded their historic achievement by chalking their names on the wall beside the generator.
The reactor was Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I), housed in a small building that today still sits alone on a wind-swept plain in southeastern Idaho. EBR-I spawned a huge international industry that now plays a major role in meeting the world's energy needs."
Argonne National Laboratory "Early Argonne Reactor Lit the Future of the Nuclear Power Industry," www.anl.gov (accessed May 27, 2009)
1953 - First Silicon Solar Cell Developed at Bell Laboratories"In 1953, Bell Laboratories (now AT&T labs) scientists Gerald Pearson, Daryl Chapin and Calvin Fuller developed the first silicon solar cell capable of generating a measurable electric current. The New York Times reported the discovery as 'the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of harnessing the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.'"
Southface "A Brief History of Solar Energy," www.southface.org (accessed May 18, 2009)
Aug. 30, 1954 - US Congress Passes Atomic Energy Act of 1954"In 1954, Congress passed new legislation that for the first time permitted the wide use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The 1954 Atomic Energy Act redefined the atomic energy program by ending the government monopoly on technical data and making the growth of a private commercial nuclear industry an urgent national goal. The measure directed the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] 'to encourage widespread participation in the development and utilization of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.' At the same time, it instructed the agency to prepare regulations that would protect public health and safety from radiation hazards. Thus, the 1954 act assigned the AEC three major roles: to continue its weapons program, to promote the private use of atomic energy for peaceful applications, and to protect public health and safety from the hazards of commercial nuclear power."
June 1956 - M. King Hubbard Develops the "Hubberts Peak Theory" for Measuring Oil Supply; Peak of US Oil Production Correctly PredictedThe Hubbert's peak theory states that for any given geographical area, oil production follows a bell shaped curve where oil production will rise to a peak, followed by a sharp decline. "In 1949, he [M. King Hubbert] used statistical and physical methods to calculate total world oil and natural gas supplies and documented their sharply increasing consumption. Then, in 1956, on the basis of his reserve estimates and his study of the lifetime production profile of typical oil reservoirs, he predicted that the peak of crude-oil production in the United States would occur between 1966 and 1972. At the time, most economists, oil companies, and government agencies (including the USGS) [United States Geological Service] dismissed the prediction. The actual peak of US oil production occurred in 1970." Hubbert's theory came to be known as the "Hubbert's Peak Theory" and continues to be one of the primary theories used to study the peaking of oil supplies.
Dec. 2, 1957 - First Commercial Nuclear Power Plant Begins Operation in Shippingport, Pennsylvania
A reactor pressure vessel during construction at the Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant in 1956
Source: United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, "Shippingport Atomic Power Station, on Ohio River, 25 Miles Northwest of Pittsburgh, Shippingport, Beaver County, PA 87. Reactor Vessel Clear of Railroad Car, October 10, 1956 HAER PA,4-SHIP,1-87," wikipedia.org, Oct. 10, 1956
Federation of American Scientists (FAS) "Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant," www.fas.org (accessed May 27, 2009)
John Perlin "The History of Solar Energy," www.californiasolarcenter.org (accessed May 19, 2009)
1960s - General Electric (GE) Develops Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Generate Electricity for Apollo and Gemini Space Missions"General Electric [GE] developed workable proton-exchange membrane cells [aka fuel cells] for use as power supplies in the Apollo and Gemini space missions. The cells were big and very expensive, but they performed faultlessly, delivering an unwavering supply of current as well as a very useful byproduct in space, drinkable fresh water.
Fuel-cell technology can be compared to that of a car battery, in that hydrogen and oxygen are combined to produce electricity. But while batteries store both their fuel and their oxidizer internally, meaning they have to be periodically recharged, the fuel cell can run continuously because its fuel and oxygen are external. Fuel cells themselves are stackable flat plates, each one producing about one volt. The size of the stack determines the power output."
Jeremy Rifkin "They Hydrogen Economy: After Oil, Clean Energy from a Fuel-Cell-Driven Global Hydrogen Web," E magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2003
1960 - First Commercial Scale Geothermal Electric Plants in the US Built in California
A geothermal power plant at The Geysers in 2012
Source: Stepheng3, "The Sonoma Calpine 3 Geothermal Power Plant at The Geysers Field in the Mayacamas Mountains of Somona County, Northern California.," wikimedia.org, Apr. 12, 2012
Geothermal Education Office "Geothermal Slide Show," www.geothermal.marin.org (accessed July 22, 2009)
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) "Brief History," www.opec.org (accessed May 19, 2009)
A map of the Jan. 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill
Source: Antandrus, "Extents of 1969 Santa Barbara, California Oil Spill," wikipedia.org, 11 August 2010
When Union Oil's well, A-21, blew on January 28, it leaked 235,000 gallons of crude, creating a slick of 800 miles. Although Washington responded with investigations and studies, that process offered little immediate relief to Santa Barbara. Commercial fishermen and owners of beach-front property brought lawsuits against Union Oil, and the state initiated lawsuits against the federal government. While Union Oil assumed liability for the blow-out, the financial settlements were well below the total damage. Congress tightened regulations on leases and made offshore operators liable for cleaning spills."
Martin V. Melosi, PhD "Energy and Environment in the United States: The Era of Fossil Fuels," Environmental Review, Fall 1987
1970 - Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 Passed to Allow the Leasing of Federal Land for Geothermal Energy Development"To encourage the development of geothermal energy [energy generated by the heat of the earth], the United States government passed the Geothermal Steam Act in 1970 allowing the leasing of land containing geothermal resources; however, Congress excluded any lands within the National Park System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands, and any other lands prohibited from leasing by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920."
Ida Kubiszewski, PhD "Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, United States," www.eoearth.org (accessed June 3, 2009)
1970s - Solar Cells Begin to Lower in Price and Become Cost Effective for Use on Land"While the use of solar cells in space flourished during the 1960s and early 1970s, down on Earth electricity from the sun seemed as distant as ever. Cost was never a factor for space cells. Manufacturers worried more about size, efficiency and durability: the cost of the launch, and the continuing operation of equipment once in space far outweighed the price of power in space applications. But on Earth, the primary criterion is price per kilowatt hour.
Solar-cell technology proved too expensive for terrestrial use until the early 1970s when Dr. Elliot Berman, with financial help from Exxon Corporation, designed a significantly less costly solar cell by using a poorer grade of silicon and packaging the cells with cheaper materials. Bringing the price down from $100 a watt to $20 per watt, solar cells could now compete in situations where people needed electricity distant from power lines. Off-shore oil rigs, for example, required warning lights and horns to prevent ships from running into them but had no power other than toxic, cumbersome, short-lived batteries. Compared to their installation, maintenance and replacement, solar modules proved a bargain. Many gas and oil fields on land but far away from power lines needed small amounts of electricity to combat corrosion in well heads and piping. Once again, electricity from the sun saved the day. Major purchases of solar modules by the gas and oil industry gave the fledgling terrestrial solar cell industry the needed capital to persevere."
John Perlin "A History of Photovoltaics," www.usc.edu (accessed May 28, 2009)
1970 - Oil Production Peaks in the Lower 48 StatesCrude oil production in the lower 48 States reaches its highest level in 1970, peaking at 9.4 million barrels per day, confirming the 1956 prediction of M. King Hubbert.
1973 - OPEC Oil Embargo Against the US Causes Gas Shortages and Rationing
A man at a service station reads about the gasoline rationing system in an afternoon newspaper; a sign in the background states that no gasoline is available. 1974
Source: David Falconer, National Archives and Records Administration, "Gas Rationing System (Odd-Even Plan) Is Announced in an Afternoon Newspaper Being Read at a Service Station with a Sign in the Background Stating No Gas Is Available," wikipedia.org, 1974
Implementation of the embargo, and the changing nature of oil contracts, set off an upward spiral in oil prices that had global implications. The price of oil per barrel doubled, then quadrupled, leading to increased costs for consumers world-wide and to the potential for budgetary collapse in less stable economies. Since the embargo coincided with a devaluation of the dollar, a global recession appeared imminent. U.S. allies in Europe and Japan had stockpiled oil supplies and thus had a short term cushion, but the longer term possibility of high oil prices and recession created a strong rift within the Atlantic alliance. European nations and Japan sought to disassociate themselves from the U.S. Middle East policy. The United States, which faced growing oil consumption and dwindling domestic reserves and was more reliant on imported oil than ever before, had to negotiate an end to the embargo from a weaker international position."
US Department of State "Second Arab Oil Embargo, 1973-1974," state.gov (accessed May 29, 2009)Due to gasoline shortages, Oregon and many other states impose gasoline rationing. "[O]fficials in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, B.C., Bade County, Fla., and other areas... adopted Oregon-type rationing schemes that will allow motorists with even-numbered license plates to buy gas on even-numbered dates, and those with odd-numbered plates to buy on odd-numbered dates. Some states have begun requiring a $3 minimum purchase."
TIME Magazine "Gas Fever: Happiness Is a Full Tank," Feb. 18, 1974
Nov. 16, 1973 - Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act of 1973 Passed to Increase Domestic Oil Supplies in Wake of Oil Embargo
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 2005
Source: Ryan McFarland, "Trans-Alaska-Pipeline," wikimedia.org, Sep. 28, 2005
In 1972, before the Act went to Congress, the Secretary of the Interior released an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) stressing the importance of minimizing the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The Arab oil embargo of 1973, which occurred immediately prior to the vote of Congress, reinforced this perception and positively swayed public opinion towards expansion of the domestic oil market."
Oct. 11, 1974 - Congress Creates the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Replace the Atomic Energy Commission"By 1974, the AEC's [Atomic Energy Commission] regulatory programs had come under such strong attack that Congress decided to abolish the agency. Supporters and critics of nuclear power agreed that the promotional and regulatory duties of the AEC should be assigned to different agencies. The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC]; it began operations on January 19, 1975.
The NRC (like the AEC before it) focused its attention on several broad issues that were essential to protecting public health and safety."
1975 - Federal Involvement in Wind Energy Development Advances Wind Energy Technology
A NASA Mod-0 turbine in Plum Brook, Ohio, in 1975
Source: Martin Brown, "NASA/DOE MOD-0 Experimental Wind Turbine at the Plum Brook Station of NASA Glenn Research Center (Then the NASA Lewis Research Center), near Sandusky," wikipedia.org, Sep. 29, 1975
Nebraska Wind and Solar "History of Wind Power," www.nebraskawindandsolar.com (accessed June 3, 2009)
1975 - Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards Set by the Energy Policy Conservation Act"The 'Energy Policy Conservation Act,' enacted into law by Congress in 1975, added Title V, 'Improving Automotive Efficiency,' to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and established CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. The near-term goal was to double new car fuel economy by model year 1985...
To meet the goal of doubling the 1974 passenger car fuel economy average by 1985 (to 27.5 mpg), Congress set fuel economy standards for some of the intervening years. Passenger car standards were established for MY [model year] 1978 (18 mpg); MY 1979 (19 mpg); MY 1980 (20 mpg); and for MY 1985 and thereafter (27.5 mpg). Congress left the level of 1981-84 standards to the Department to establish administratively. Subsequently, standards of 22, 24, 26, and 27 mpg were established. For the post-1985 period, Congress provided for the continued application of the 27.5 mpg standard for passenger cars, but gave the Department the authority to set higher or lower standards. From MY 1986 through 1989, the passenger car standards were lowered. Thereafter, in MY 1990, the passenger car standard was amended to 27.5 mpg, which it has remained at this level."
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) "CAFE Overview - Frequently Asked Questions," www.nhtsa.dot.gov (accessed July 22, 2009)
Dec. 22, 1975 - Formation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; President Ford Signs into Law the Energy Policy and Conservation Act"President Gerald R. Ford (tenure: 1974-1977) in December 1975 established the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) by signing into law the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA, Public Law 94-163) passed by the 94th US Congress. The purpose of the law was 'to reduce the impact of severe energy supply interruptions' such as a repetition of the economic dislocation cause by the 1973-1974 oil embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)...
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) was a revolutionary idea in 1974. The new Department of Energy assumed management of the operations of the SPR in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter's Administration. 'It was generally believed that the mere existence of a large, operational reserve of crude oil would deter future oil cutoffs and would discourage the use of oil as a weapon. In the event of an interruption, introduction into the market of oil from the SPR was expected to help calm markets, mitigate sharp price spikes, and reduce the economic dislocation that had accompanied the 1973 disruption."
Suburban Emergency Management Project (SEMP) "Strategic Petroleum Reserve: A Remarkable US Asset," www.semp.us (accessed May 29, 2009)
1977 - Formation of the Solar Energy Research InstituteIn 1977 the US Department of Energy launches the Solar Energy Research Institute [Golden, Colorado], the first federal facility dedicated to harnessing power from the sun. In 1991 it was designated as a national laboratory by the US Department of Energy and renamed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is considered the "nation's primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development (R&D)."
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) "Overview," www.nrel.gov (accessed June 3, 2009)
Aug. 3, 1977 - Federal Surface Mining Control Act Signed to Lessen Environmental Impacts of Surface Coal Mining
A mountaintop coal removal mine in Pike County, Kentucky
Source: Matt Wasson, "Mountaintop removal mine in Pike County, Kentucky Just off U.S. 23," wikipedia.org, Apr. 18, 2010
Before 1977, surface coal mining landowners had abandoned 1.1 million coal mine sites in the United States.
The SMCRA directed owners of coal mines to contribute bonds for land rehabilitation and environmental damages caused by mining activities... The SMCRA did not prohibit mountaintop coal mining, an activity that steadily increased after 1977.
Robyn Kenny, MA "Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, United States," www.eoearth.org, Nov. 15, 2007
"Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977" , Aug. 3, 1977
Aug. 4, 1977 - Department of Energy Organization Act Is Signed, Creating the US Department of Energy
President Carter signing the
Department of Energy Organization Act.
Source: Department of Energy, Office of Management, "August 4, 1977: President Carter signs the Department of Energy Organization Act," energy.gov (accessed Sep. 15, 2020)
The rapidly escalating global energy issues convinced the U.S. Government that a sharper focus should be applied to federal energy programs. On August 4, 1977, President Carter signed the Department of Energy Organization Act, consolidating more than 30 separate energy functions carried out by various government agencies, including ERDA [Energy Research and Development Administration]. On October 1, 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy activated."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "Fossil Energy: Our History," www.fossil.energy.gov (accessed May 7, 2009)
1978 - World's First Solar Powered Village; Tohono O'odham Reservation, Arizona"NASA's Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) dedicated a solar power system that it installed on the Papago [Tonono O'odham] Indian Reservation in Schuchuli, Ariz. It was the world's first solar-powered village. The system provided power for water pumping and residential electricity to 15 homes until 1983, when grid power reached the village. At that time, engineers hooked up the homes to the grid, and the solar system began pumping water from a community well."
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) "Exploration," www.nasa.gov (accessed July 21, 2009)
[Editors Note: Soldier’s Grove, Wisconsin also considers itself America’s first solar village. By 1982, 50% of the community’s heating was solar power generated.]
Nov. 4, 1978 - Solar Photovoltaic Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1978"I am signing today H.R. 12874, the Solar Photovoltaic Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1978, a bill that authorizes an aggressive program of research, development, and demonstration of solar photovoltaic energy technologies.
The bill's long-term goal is to make electricity from photovoltaic systems economically competitive with electricity from conventional sources...
It is still too early to concentrate on commercialization of photovoltaics. Photovoltaic systems hold great promise, but in the short run we must emphasize research and development, including fundamental work on the physical properties of these systems...
Therefore, I will not propose to the Congress that a broad Federal solar photovoltaic purchase program tied to the specific goals of this act be undertaken soon. Rather, consistent with congressional intent, we will focus on research and development that will accelerate cost reductions. We will also continue, where appropriate, small, carefully targeted photovoltaic purchases to meet technical objectives. This approach should lay a firm foundation for the advancement of solar power from photovoltaics in the future."
Jimmy Carter "Solar Photovoltaic Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1978 Statement on Signing H.R. 12874 into Law," www.presidency.ucsb.edu, Nov. 4, 1978
Mar. 28, 1979 - Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident in Pennsylvania Creates Widespread Public Opposition to Nuclear Power
A cleanup crew after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident
Source: John G. Kemeny, et al, "TMI Personnel Cleaning Up Radioactive Contamination in the Auxiliary Building — 1979," Report of The President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island: The Need for Change: The Legacy of TMI, wikipedia.org, Oct. 1979
Opposition to nuclear power soon became nearly as widespread as opposition to nuclear bombs."
Dec. 1980 - World's First Wind Farm Built in New Hampshire"In December 1980, U.S. Windpower installed the world's first wind farm, consisting of 20 wind turbines rated at 30 kilowatts each, on the shoulder of Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire. Like many firsts, it was a failure: The developer overestimated the wind resource, and the turbines frequently broke. U.S. Windpower, which later changed its name to Kenetech, subsequently developed wind farms in California, and after experiencing machine failure there too, improved its designs and became the world's largest turbine manufacturer and wind farm developer before succumbing to the weight of aggressive development efforts, serious technical problems with its newest turbines, and a weak U.S. market, ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 1996."
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) "Historic Wind Development in New England: The Age of PURPA Spawns the Wind Farm" www1.eere.energy.gov (accessed May 29, 2009)
1981 - Solar One: First Large Scale Solar-Thermal Power Plant Begins Operation in Daggett, California"Solar One began the first test of a large-scale thermal solar tower, power plant. Solar One was designed by the Department of Energy (DOE), Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the California Energy Commission. It was located in Daggett, California, which is about 10 miles east of Barstow.
Solar One's method of collecting power was based on concentrating the sun's energy to produce heat and run a generator. A total of 1818 mirrors, or heliostats, would track the sun across the sky and reflect the sun's light to the top of a large tower. A black-colored receiver, on top of the tower, transferred the heat to an oil heat-transfer fluid. The heated oil was then used to boil water, which turned turbines and generators. Solar One produced 10 MW [Mega Watts] of electricity. It was completed in 1981 and produced power from 1982 to 1986."
California Public Utilities Commission "A Short History of Solar Energy and Solar Energy in California," www.gosolarcalifornia.org (accessed June 3, 2009)
Wind turbines at the Altamont Pass wind farm in 2014
Source: Noah_Loverbear, "Altamont Pass Wind Farm," wikimedia.org, June 7, 2014
Melissa Lowitz, MA "Altamont Pass, California," www.eoearth.org, Mar. 25, 2008"Every year, an estimated 75 to 110 Golden Eagles are killed by the wind turbines in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). Some lose their wings, others are decapitated, and still others are cut in half. The lethal turbines, numbering roughly 6,000, are arrayed across 50,000 acres of rolling hills in northeastern Alameda and southeastern Contra Costa counties... [A]s many as 380 Burrowing Owls (also a state-designated species of special concern), 300 Red-tailed Hawks, and 333 American Kestrels are killed every year. In all, as many as 4,700 birds die annually as a result of the wind turbines."
Golden Gate Audubon Society "Avian Mortality at Altamont Pass," www.goldengateaudubon.org (accessed June 3, 2009)
1982 - First Complete Decontamination and Decommissioning of a Nuclear Reactor in the US"The Shippingport nuclear power plant [the nation's first commercial nuclear power plant] was retired in 1982. Congress assigned the decontamination and decommissioning of this commercial reactor to DOE [Department of Energy]. This was the first complete decontamination and decommissioning of a reactor in the United States. The reactor vessel was shipped to a low-level waste disposal facility at the Hanford Site in Richland, Washington. The reactor site was cleaned and released for unrestricted use in November 1987. Government officials proclaimed the seven-acre site is suitable for picnicking or for a children's playground."
Federation of American Scientists (FAS) "Shippingport Nuclear Power Plant," www.fas.org (accessed May 27, 2009)
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident," www.nrc.gov, Apr. 30, 2009
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council "Legacy of an Oil Spill: 20 Years after Exxon Valdez," www.evostc.state.ak.us, Mar. 24, 2009
Jan. 23, 1990 - Congress Passes Act to Stimulate Development of Hydrogen PowerThe US Congress passes the Spark M. Matsunaga Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Program Act of 1990 "to accelerate efforts to develop a domestic capability to economically produce hydrogen in quantities that will make a significant contribution toward reducing the Nation's dependence on conventional fuels."
The purposes of the Act were to develop "a comprehensive 5-year comprehensive program management plan that will identify and resolve critical technical issues necessary for the realization of a domestic capability to produce, distribute, and use hydrogen economically within the shortest time practicable; to direct the Secretary to develop a technology assessment and information transfer program among the Federal agencies and aerospace, transportation, energy, and other entities; and to develop renewable energy resources as a primary source of energy for the production of hydrogen."
1994 - US Begins Importing More Petroleum Than It ProducesFor the first time in its history, the United States imports more petroleum than it produces.
Apr. 1996 - Solar Two Plant Demonstrates Low Cost Method of Storing Solar Energy
Photograph of Solar Two. Note the two large silver salt tanks for storing energy.
Source: www.solareis.anl.gov (accessed June. 3, 2009)
Solar Two achieved its overall goal of demonstrating advanced molten-salt power tower technology developed over the past decade at a scale sufficient to allow follow-on commercialization of the technology. Plant operations successfully proved that solar energy could be collected efficiently over a broad range of operating conditions and that the low-cost energy storage system operated reliably and efficiently. This unique storage capability allowed solar energy to be collected when the sun was shining and high-value, dispatchable electric power to be generated at night or whenever demanded by the utility, even when the sun was not shining."
Sandia National Laboratories "Solar Two Demonstrates Clean Power for the Future," www.energylan.sandia.gov (accessed June 3, 2009)
Oct. 9, 1996 - Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 Is Passed to Further Expand Hydrogen Power Development"The Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 expanded the research, and development, and demonstration program under the Matsunaga Act. It authorized activities leading to production, storage, transformation, and use of hydrogen for industrial, residential, transportation, and utility applications...
The long-term vision for hydrogen energy is that sometime well into 21st century, hydrogen will join electricity as one of our Nation's primary energy carriers, and hydrogen will ultimately be produced from renewable sources. But fossil fuels will be a significant long-term transitional resource. In the next twenty years, increasing concerns about global climate changes and energy security concerns will help bring about penetration of hydrogen in several niche markets. The growth of fuel cell technology will allow the introduction of hydrogen in both transportation and electricity sectors."
1997 - EV1 Electric Car Is Made Available to the Public For Lease; Lease Program and EV1 Later Dismantled by GM
Photograph of the Ford EV1 Electric Car.
Source: RightBrainPhotography (Rick Rowen), "Frontal and Rear View of the GM EV1 Second Generation," wikipedia.org, Mar. 24, 2002
"A little over 1,000 EV1s were produced by G.M. before the company pulled the plug on the project in 2002 due to insufficient demand. Other major car makers also ceased production of their electric vehicles.
In the wake of a legal challenge from G.M. and DaimlerChrysler, California amended its regulations and abandoned its [zero-emission] goals. Shortly thereafter, automakers began reclaiming and dismantling their electrics as they came off lease."
NOW "Who Killed the Electric Car?," www.pbs.org (accessed July 27, 2009)
Feb. 2003 - President Bush Unveils the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to Promote Hydrogen Fuel Cell Development
President Bush at a demonstration hydrogen filling station in Washington, DC.
Source: The White House, " President Tours Hydrogen Fueling Station, Discusses Research," georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov, May 2005
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "Hydrogen Fuel Initiative," www.hydrogen.energy.gov (accessed June 4, 2009)In support of the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, President GW Bush stated:
"Hydrogen fuel cells represent one of the most encouraging, innovative technologies of our era... let us promote hydrogen fuel cells as a way to advance into the 21st century...
If we develop hydrogen power to its full potential, we can reduce our demand for oil by over 11 million barrels per day by the year 2040...
So I'm asking Congress to spend $1.2 billion on a new national commitment to take hydrogen fuel cell cars from the laboratory to the showroom...
Imagine a world in which our cars are driven by hydrogen and our homes are heated by electricity from a fusion power plant. It'll be a totally different world than what we're used to. The quality of life will be advanced. And people will say, gosh, I'm glad those folks went to Washington and were willing to think beyond the current."
George W. Bush, MBA "Hydrogen Fuel Initiative Can Make 'Fundamental Difference,'" www.georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov, Feb. 6, 2003
Feb. 27, 2003 - Plans Announced to Build FutureGen, the Worlds First Zero Emissions Coal Power Plant"On February 27, 2003, the President announced FutureGen as a cost-shared project between DOE [Department of Energy] and industry to create the world's first coal-fired, zero emissions electricity and hydrogen production power plant. The production of hydrogen was to support the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative to create a hydrogen economy for transportation. The original FutureGen plant was planned to operate at a commercial scale as a 275 megawatt IGCC [Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle] facility that would capture and store at least 1 million metric tons of CO2 per year."
Government Accountability Office (GAO) "Clean Coal: DOE's Decision to Restructure FutureGen Should Be Based on a Comprehensive Analysis of Costs, Benefits, and Risks," www.gao.gov, Feb. 2009
[Editor’s Note: On Jan. 30, 2008, US Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman announced a “restructured” approach to the FutureGen project that focused on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and excluded hydrogen production as part of the project.]
United States Department of Energy (DOE) “DOE Announces Restructured FutureGen Approach to Demonstrate CCS Technology at Multiple Clean Coal Plants,” www.energy.gov, Jan. 30, 2008
Nov. 9, 2005 - US House Prevents Drilling for Oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge"Both the U.S. House and Senate budget bills included a provision that would allow for oil drilling in a small fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate passed its budget bill last week, but leaders in the House dropped the ANWR provision late November 9 after a small group of moderate Republicans threatened to withhold support for the budget if ANWR were included...
One of the moderates, Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH), wrote a letter opposing ANWR drilling that was signed by at least 24 of his Republican colleagues and delivered to House Rules Committee Chairman David Drier... Rep. Bass' objection to drilling is largely philosophical: "Including the drilling provision in the Deficit Reduction Act would undermine the protection of all public spaces by valuing the worth of the potential resources contained within these lands over their conservation value... Rather then reversing decades of protection for this publicly held land, focusing greater attention on renewable energy sources, alternate fuels, and more efficient systems and appliances would yield more net energy savings."
National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) "Small Group of House Republicans Derails ANWR Drilling," www.nationalcenter.org, Nov. 10, 2005
Nov. 17, 2007 - IPCC Report Concludes Climate Change Is Happening and Is Mostly Human CausedThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report," the fourth and final volume of its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) on Global Climate Change.
"This Synthesis Report (SYR), adopted in Valencia, Spain, on 17 November 2007, completes the four-volume Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was released in various steps throughout the year under the title 'Climate Change 2007'...
[The report] confirms that climate change is occurring now, mostly as a result of human activities; it illustrates the impacts of global warming already under way and to be expected in future, and describes the potential for adaptation of society to reduce its vulnerability; finally it presents an analysis of costs, policies and technologies intended to limit the extent of future changes in the climate system.
The AR4...[report involved] more than 500 Lead Authors and 2000 Expert Reviewers, building on the work of a wide scientific community and submitted to the scrutiny of delegates from more than one hundred participating nations."
Michel Jarrud and Achim Steiner, MA Forward to "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," (109 KB) , Nov. 17, 2007
Feb. 2008 - First Commercial Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Goes Into Production in WyomingIn Feb. 2008 the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant goes into production. The plant is "the first small scale waste wood commercial facility operating in the US... The current production facility is utilizing soft woods, but successful test runs have occurred making use of waste materials such as cardboard and paper."
Southwest Farm Press "Cellulosic Ethanol a Reality: First American Plant in Production," Feb. 7, 2008
Oct. 7, 2008 - National Biofuel Action Plan Unveiled"Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ed Schafer and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today released the National Biofuels Action Plan (NBAP), an interagency plan detailing the collaborative efforts of Federal agencies to accelerate the development of a sustainable biofuels industry...
The NBAP was developed in response to President Bush's plans to change the way America fuels its transportation fleets... The President's 'Twenty In Ten' goal calls for cutting U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years by investing in renewable and alternative fuel sources, increasing vehicle efficiency and developing alternative fuel vehicles...
Interagency working groups have been chartered with near term deadlines to deliver such key results as: the development of science-based sustainability criteria and indicators, 10- year R&D forecasts for research to develop cost-effective methods of producing cellulosic biofuels from non-food based feedstock, to advance these next generation biofuels to commercialization, and recommendations on infrastructure issues.
DOE has dedicated more than $1 billion to research, development, and demonstration of cellulosic biofuels technology through 2009."
Coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee.
Source: Brian Stansberry, "View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Fly Ash Spill, appx. 1 mile from the Retention Pond. This View is from Just off Swan Pond Road. The Pile of Ash in the Photo is 20-25 Feet High, and Stretches for Two Miles or So along This Inlet (the Inlet Empties into the Emory River). Appx. Coordinates: N 35.92087 W 84.51701," wikimedia.org, Dec. 27, 2008
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) "Coal Ash Spill, Tennessee," www.earthobservatory.nasa.gov (accessed July 22, 2009)
President Barack Obama signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Source: Pete Souza, "United States President Barack Obama Signs into Law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as Vice President Joe Biden Looks On.," wikimedia.org, Feb. 17, 2009
"American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (1.1 MB) , Feb. 17, 2009In support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, President Barack Obama stated: "[W]e are taking big steps down the road to energy independence, laying the groundwork for new green energy economies that can create countless well-paying jobs. It's an investment that will double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years... [W]e will transform the way we use energy. Today, the electricity we use is carried along a grid of lines and wires that date back to Thomas Edison - a grid that can't support the demands of this economy. This means we're using 19th and 20th century technologies to battle 21st century problems like climate change and energy security... The investment we're making today will create a newer, smarter electric grid that will allow for broader use of alternative energy."
Barack Obama, JD "Remarks by the President and Vice President at Signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," www.whitehouse.gov, Feb. 17, 2009
Apr. 22, 2009 - First Framework for Wind Energy Development on the US Outer Continental Shelf Announced"President Barack Obama announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized a long-awaited framework for renewable energy production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The framework establishes a program to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way for orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities, such as the sitting and construction of off-shore wind farms, on the OCS...
In addition to establishing a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy development, the new program also establishes methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. Additionally the framework will enhance partnerships with Federal, state, and local agencies and tribal governments to assist in maximizing the economic and ecological benefits of OCS renewable energy development...
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) the authority to regulate renewable energy development on the OCS, but no action had been taken under that authority until today."
Minerals Management Service (MMS) "President Obama, Secretary Salazar Announce Framework for Renewable Energy Development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf," www.mms.gov, Apr. 22, 2009
May 5, 2009 - President Obama Issues Presidential Directive to USDA to Expand Access to Biofuels; $786.5 Million in Biofuels Funding Announced"President Obama issued a presidential directive today to Secretary Vilsack to aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels...
The Biofuels Interagency Working Group will develop the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market development program. The increased collaboration between federal agencies will accelerate the production of and access to sustainable homegrown energy options by coordinating policies that impact the supply, secure transport, and distribution of biofuels, as well as identifying new policy options to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels feedstock production.
The Biofuels Interagency Working Group [comprised of the USDA, EPA, and the DOE] will also work to develop policies to increase flexible fuel vehicle production and assist in retail marketing efforts while also taking into consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management practices, water efficiency and water quality, and lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions."
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) "President Obama Issues Presidential Directive to USDA to Expand Access to Biofuels," www.usda.gov, May 5, 2009"As part of the ongoing effort to increase the use of domestic renewable fuels, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today announced plans to provide $786.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects... The DOE biomass program will leverage DOE's national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to help improve biofuels reliability and overcome key technical challenges, with the goal of creating third-generation biofuels like green gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "Secretary Chu Announces Nearly $800 Million from Recovery Act to Accelerate Biofuels Research and Commercialization," www.energy.gov, May 5, 2009
May 27, 2009 - US Announces $467 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Solar Energy and Geothermal Energy Development"President Obama this week announced more than $467 million in available funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States...
The Recovery Act makes a $350 million new investment in... [geothermal] technology, dwarfing previous government commitments. Recovery Act funding will support projects in four crucial areas: geothermal demonstration projects; Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) research and development; innovative exploration techniques; and a National Geothermal Data System, Resource Assessment and Classification System...
[In addition] DOE will provide $117.6 million in Recovery Act funding to accelerate widespread commercialization of clean solar energy technologies across America. These activities will leverage partnerships that include DOE's national laboratories, universities, local government, and the private sector, to strengthen the U.S. solar industry and make it a leader in international markets."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "President Obama Announces over $467 Million in Recovery Act Funding for Geothermal and Solar Energy Projects," www.energy.gov, May 27, 2009
Oct. 27, 2009 - US Invests $3.4 Billion to Modernize Energy Grid"President Barack Obama today announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will spur the nation’s transition to a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system. The end result will promote energy-saving choices for consumers, increase efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
The $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "President Obama Announces $3.4 Billion Investment to Spur Transition to Smart Energy Grid," www.energy.gov, Oct. 27, 2009
NASA satellite image of oil spill off the coast of Louisiana on May 23, 2010.
Source: NASA, "NASA's Terra Satellites Sees Spill on May 24," nasa.gov, May 24, 2010
On Apr. 22 the drilling rig sank 5,000 feet to the ocean floor, causing a series of breaks in the oil pipeline. Initially it was estimated by BP that about 1,000 barrels of oil a day were leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken pipe.
On Apr. 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated the pipe was leaking closer to 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf.
By May 27, the US Department of Interior's Flow Rate Technical Group (a group set up to monitor the rate of oil leakage) stated that the well was actually leaking between 12,000-19,000 barrels a day.
Based upon these May 27 estimates, as much as 30 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Gulf, making the leak/spill the largest in US history - nearly three times the amount spilled during the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.
New York Times "Estimates Suggest Spill Is Biggest in US History," May, 27, 2010
Mar. 11, 2011 - Earthquake off Coast of Japan Damages Six Powerplants at Fukushima Dai-ichi; Nuclear Crisis Eventually Reaches Level 7, the Highest Level Possible
IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman examines Reactor Unit 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to assess tsunami damage and study nuclear safety lessons that could be learned from the accident.
Source: Greg Webb, "IAEA Team examining Unit 3," wikipedia.org, May 27, 2011
Mar. 12, 2011: "Engineers scramble to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Some of the reactors begin to grow hotter with their cooling systems disabled. A hydrogen explosion rocks Unit 1, causing a radiation leak. Workers furiously pump seawater into the reactor's core."
Mar. 14, 2011: "Crisis depeens at Fukushima Dai-ichi. The pressure and heat continue to build in Unit 3, resulting in a hydrogen explosion that destroys the outer containment building. Fuel rods at Unit 2 are fully exposed to air twice, worrying officials. Workers pump seawater into the cores of Units 1, 2 and 3."
Mar. 15, 2011: "Unit 2 becomes the new focal point as a hydrogen explosion occurs there and its suppression pool is damaged. Explosion and fires also plague Unit 4, and leak radiation into the atmosphere. The government evacuates residents from the 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius around the plant."
Mar. 16, 2011: "Another fire at Unit 4 hinders efforts to get the reactors and spent fuel pools under control. Steam and smoke rise from Unit 3, due to evaporation of water in the spent fuel pool. Radiation levels surge. The U.S. government advises its citizens within 50 miles of the plant to evacuate."
Mar. 30, 2011: "Japanese officials say seawater outside of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant contains more than 3,300 times the normal amount of radioactive iodine."
Apr. 11, 2011: "Japan's nuclear regulators raised the severity level of the crisis at a stricken nuclear plant Tuesday to rank it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing the amount of radiation released in the accident. The regulators said the rating was being raised from 5 to 7 - the highest level on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency."
National Public Radio (NPR) "Timeline: A Nuclear Crisis Unfolds in Japan," www.npr.org (accessed May 5, 2011)
Sep. 1, 2011 - Solar Power Company Solyndra Declares Bankruptcy after Receiving $528 Million in Federal Loan GuaranteesOn Sep. 1, 2011 Solar Power company Solyndra declared bankruptcy.
The company had received $1 billion in private capital and $528 million in federal loan guarantees as part of President Obama's stimulus plan under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
Prior to it's bankruptcy filing, Solyndra had reported sales growth of 40% from 2009 to 2010 and had been named as one of the worlds "50 Most Innovative Companies" by MIT's Technology Review.
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "Key Facts: Solyndra Solar," www.energy.gov (accessed Mar. 13, 2012)
Feb. 9, 2012 - US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Approves New Nuclear Power Plants for First Time Since 1978; Two New Reactors to Be Built in GeorgiaOn Feb. 9, 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the first new nuclear power reactors to be built in the United States since 1978.
According to the NRC press release: "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded its mandatory hearing on Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s (SNC) application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Vogtle site in Georgia. In a 4-1 vote, the Commission found the staff’s review adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings, clearing the way for the NRC’s Office of New Reactors to issue the COLs."
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "NRC Concludes Hearing on Vogtle New Reactors, First-Ever Combined Licenses to be Issued," www.nrc.gov, Feb. 9, 2012
Mar. 27, 2012 - EPA Announces First Clean Air Act Standard for Carbon Pollution from New Power PlantsOn Mar. 27, 2012 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. The rule applies to all new power plants that burn fossil fuel to create electricity including coal and natural gas fired power plants.
The new rule proposes that new fossil fuel power plants must meet an output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.
According to the EPA 95% of the new natural gas combined cycle power plants that have been built since 2005 already meet the standard.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "EPA FACT SHEET: Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants," www.epa.gov, Mar. 27, 2012According to the Los Angeles Times, "the newest natural-gas-fired power plants [as of 2012] emit about 800 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour, new coal plants, between 1,600 to about 1,900 pounds per megawatt hour."
Los Angeles Times "Obama Administration Sets Limits On Power Plant Emissions," www.latimes.com, Mar. 27, 2012
Apr. 17, 2012 - EPA Issues First Ever Clean Air Rules for Natural Gas Produced by FrackingOn Apr. 17, 2012 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first ever federal rules on air pollution from wells that utilize hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) to produce natural gas.
"The final rules include the first federal air standards for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured, along with requirements for several other sources of pollution in the oil and gas industry that currently are not regulated at the federal level...
A key component of the final rules is expected to yield a nearly 95 percent reduction in VOCs [volatile organic compounds] emitted from more than 11,000 new hydraulically fractured gas wells each year...
[T]he reductions would yield a significant environmental co-benefit by reducing methane emissions from new and modified wells. Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas – more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide when emitted directly to the atmosphere...
Today’s final rules also would protect against potential cancer risks from emissions of several air toxics, including benzene."
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "Overview of Final Amendments to Air Regulations for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry," www.epa.gov, Apr. 17, 2012
In 2012 the President set a goal to issue permits for 10 gigawatts of renewables on public lands by the end of the year. The Department of the Interior achieved this goal ahead of schedule and the President has directed it to permit an additional 10 gigawatts by 2020…
The Administration is also taking steps to encourage the development of hydroelectric power at existing dams…
Also, the Department of Defense – the single largest consumer of energy in the United States – is committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. In addition, federal agencies are setting a new goal of reaching 100 megawatts of installed renewable capacity across the federally subsidized housing stock by 2020…
In the coming weeks, the Department of Energy will issue a Federal Register Notice announcing a draft of a solicitation that would make up to $8 billion in (self-pay) loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy projects… that can cost-effectively meet financial and policy goals, including the avoidance, reduction, or sequestration of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases…
[T]he Administration is establishing a new goal: The federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – more than double the current goal of 7.5 percent."
"The President’s Climate Action Plan: Executive Office of the President" (311 KB) , www.whitehouse.gov, June 25, 2013 "Presidential Memorandum - Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards" (2 MB) , www.whitehouse.gov, June 25, 2013
Under the proposal, released Friday, any new plant that runs on coal would only be permitted to emit about half as much carbon dioxide as an average coal plant puts into the air today...
The EPA proposal aims to help The White House to cut greenhouse gas emissions by attacking the largest single source in the United States: Power plants pump out 40 percent of the nation's greenhouse gases.
The EPA's new proposal sets a limit for future power plants of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour for large electricity generators that are powered by natural gas. And it sets a slightly higher limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour for small natural gas generators and for coal-fired generators...
The revised proposal comes after loud complaints from industry about the first version of the proposed rule, which was released 18 months ago."
"Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units (1 MB) , www.epa.gov, Sep. 20, 2013
National Public Radio (NPR) "EPA Wants to Limit Greenhouse Gases from New Coal Power Plants," npr.org, Sep. 20, 2013
[Editor’s note: The original Mar. 27, 2012 proposed rule to limit greenhouse gases from power plants was withdrawn by the EPA and replaced with this current Sep. 20, 2013 proposal. There will be a 60 day comment period on this proposal. After that, the EPA has one year to finalize the rule.]
Satellite view of Ivanpah solar power generation plant, Mojave Desert, CA
Source: Axelspace Corporation, "Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the California Mojave Desert, U.S., as Viewed from Hodoyoshi-1 Satellite," wikipedia.org, Oct. 9, 2015
Ivanpah significantly expands the use of CSP technologies within the United States. Its innovative power-tower technology utilizes a field of mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and focus sunlight onto boilers that sit atop 459-foot tall towers. When the sunlight hits the boiler, it heats the water inside to create superheated steam used to spin an electricity-generating turbine."
United States Department of Energy (DOE) "Celebrating the Completion of the World's Largest Concentrating Solar Power Plant," energy.gov, Feb. 13, 2014
[Editor’s Note: In April 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released a report on bird deaths (10.2 MB) at the new Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant, and two other plants. They found that Ivanpah “may act as a ‘mega-trap,’ attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar flux injury.” While researching the report, staff observed birds entering the area of concentrated light (the solar flux) and igniting. During the study period, July 2012 to Dec. 2013, the remains of 141 birds were studied. At that time, Ivanpah was not yet fully operational, and was running at 33% capacity.]
May 9, 2014 - President Obama Announces Solar Power Commitments and Executive Actions"Today, President Obama announced more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency. The commitments represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes."
"FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces Commitments and Executive Actions to Advance Solar Deployment and Energy Efficiency" (7 MB) , whitehouse.gov, May 9, 2014"President Barack Obama announced steps on Friday to increase the use of solar panels, boost energy efficiency in federal buildings and train more people to work in the renewable energy field...
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Apple Inc, Yahoo Inc, Google Inc and Ikea were among the companies that have made such commitments...
Obama said an additional $2 billion would be devoted to energy efficiency upgrades to federal government buildings over the next three years.
Several financial institutions, including Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, were announcing new plans for "large scale investment and innovative programs" to develop solar and renewable energy installations...
Obama's executive actions would [also] support efforts at community colleges so that 50,000 workers would join the solar industry by 2020..."
Reuters “With Corporate Help, Obama Announces Actions on Renewable Energy,” reuters.com, May 9, 2014
Washington Post "Everything You Need to Know about the EPA's Proposed Rule on Coal Plants," washingtonpost.com, June 1, 2014According to the EPA, by 2030 the rules will: "Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year; Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit; Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system."
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants,” epa.gov, June 2, 2014
[Editor’s Note: On Sep. 20, 2013, the EPA proposed separate carbon pollution standards for all future power plants.]
With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.
In addition to the Rockefellers, the World Council of Churches, which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries – also pulled its investments from fossil fuels on Monday...
About 30 cities have also chosen to divest, including Santa Monica and Seattle."
The Guardian "Heirs to Rockefeller Oil Fortune Divest from Fossil Fuels over Climate Change,” guardian.com, Sep. 22, 2014According to a Bloomberg report: "Fossil fuels are an enormous asset class. The current value of the 1,469 listed oil and gas firms is $4.65trn; 275 coal firms are worth $233bn. ExxonMobil, the largest oil and gas firm, has a market cap of $425bn."
Bloomberg "Fossil Fuel Divestment: A $5 Trillion Challenge," about.bnef.com, Aug. 26, 2014
The administration's plan will force the utility industry to shift toward cleaner-burning energy sources for decades to come as the EPA sets the first-ever limits on greenhouse gases from power plants, requiring a 32% cut in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels...
The final version of the climate policy gives states more time to comply with the regulations, but that has done little to assuage critics who assert that the emissions limits will cost jobs and not actually solve climate change...
The regulations also seek to prevent the electricity industry from becoming more dependent on natural gas. Coal, which accounts for just under 40% of total U.S. electricity, emits the most carbon dioxide compared with other fuels...
[T]he final regulation plan will help encourage nuclear power generation, which doesn't emit any carbon and accounts for about 20% of the U.S.'s electricity."
Wall Street Journal Colleen McCain Nelson and Amy Harder, "EPA Emissions Rule to Mandate Limits Beyond Proposed Targets," wsj.com, Aug. 2, 2015
Bloomberg Andrew M. Harris and Jennifer A Dlouhy, "Trump Administration Seeks Halt to Clean Power Plan Review," bloomberg.com, Mar. 28, 20
[Editor’s note: On Oct. 10, 2017, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to begin the process of formally repealing the Clean Power Plan.]
The Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 1 in Oct. 2013. Two reactors on the site were abandoned mid-construction in 2017.
Source: DJSlawSlaw, "Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 1," wikipedia.org, October 31, 2013
New York Times Brad Plumer, "US Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned," nytimes.com, July 31, 2017
National Public Radio (NPR) “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Battle Ends, But Drilling Not a Given,” npr.org, Dec. 21, 2017
[Editor’s Note: President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law on Dec. 22, 2017.]
New York Times Ivan Penn, "California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes," nytimes.com, May 9, 2018
CleanTechnica "New Mexico Governor Approves 100% Renewable Legislation," cleantechnica.com, Mar. 24, 2019
National Public Radio (NPR) Brett Sholtis, "Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant Shuts Down," npr.org, Sep. 20, 2019
Los Angeles Times Anna M. Phillips, "Trump Weakens Fuel Economy Standards, Rolling back Key U.S. Effort against Climate Change," latimes.com, Mar. 31, 2020
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), "Global oil and gas markets are facing an unprecedented situation: demand is collapsing because of the impact of the coronavirus while supply, already overabundant, is significantly increasing." The IEA expects Apr. 2020 oil demand to be at lows not seen since 1995.
Meanwhile, even though reliable electricity has become all the more important as people are confined at home, whether working, online shopping, or bingeing TV shows, overall electricity use has dropped around 15% as factories and other businesses close for stay-at-home orders.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, stated, "Governments can use the current situation to step up their climate ambitions and launch sustainable stimulus packages focused on clean energy technologies. The coronavirus crisis is already doing significant damage around the world. Rather than compounding the tragedy by allowing it to hinder clean energy transitions, we need to seize the opportunity to help accelerate them."
Fatih Birol, "The Coronavirus Crisis Reminds Us That Electricity Is More Indispensable Than Ever," iea.org, Mar. 22, 2020
International Energy Agency, "COVID-19," iea.org (accessed Apr. 15, 2020)
International Energy Agency, "Oil Market Report - April 2020," iea.org, Apr. 2020
Citi announced a new policy in which the bank will not fund new or expanded thermal coal mines, new or expanded coal-fired plants, "oil and gas exploration, development, and production in the Arctic Circle," or projects that will have a negative impact on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Morgan Stanley announced a similar new policy, while Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo already had similar policies in place.
In a letter to banks in Feb. 2020, Democratic senators wrote, "The scale of your banks’ assets individually, let alone together, give you the ability to drive change in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in shifting towards a U.S. financial sector that effectively analyzes and plans for climate risks."
President Trump stated, "I don't like that. I like the idea of looking into that... They're [the banks] are afraid of the radical left. You shouldn't be afraid of the radical left. You cannot be discriminating against these great energy companies."
Citi, "Environmental and Social Policy Framework," citigroup.com, Apr. 2020
Rachel Frazin, "Democratic Senators Ask Banks to Prohibit Funding Arctic Drilling," thehill.com, Feb. 3, 2020
Rachel Frazin, "Trump Criticizes Banks Withholding Funds from Certain Fossil Fuel Projects," thehill.com, Apr. 24, 2020
Morgan Stanley, "Environmental and Social Policy Statement," morganstanley.com, Apr. 2020
Brad Plumer and Jill Cowan, "California Plans to Ban Sales of New Gas-Powered Cars in 15 Years," nytimes.com, Sep. 23, 2020
DiNapoli's press release noted that the fund has already set minimum goals for coal thermonuclear companies and had divested from 22 coal companies. Next the fund will set goals and evaluate oil sand companies, followed by shale oil and gas, integrated oil and gas, and other aspects of the oil and gas business such as transportation and storage.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third largest public pension fund in the country and represents one million state and local government employees, retirees, and their beneficiaries
Office of the New York State Comptroller, "New York State Pension Fund Sets 2040 Net Zero Carbon Emissions Target," osc.state.ny.us, Dec. 9, 2020
Julia Horowitz, "Global Oil Prices Have Fully Recovered from the Pandemic," cnn.com, Feb. 8, 2021
Liz Stark, "White House announces Offshore Wind Energy Initiative Creating Jobs and Addressing Climate Crisis," cnn.com, Mar. 29, 2021
Four years ago, when Governor Cuomo announced the plant would close, the plant supplied about 25% of New York City's power. The state is shifting to other renewable energies, as promised by Cuomo, but fossil fuel energy will have to make up the difference in the meantime.
Patrick McGeehan, "Indian Point Is Shutting Down. That Means More Fossil Fuel.," nytimes.com, Apr. 12, 2021
Biden stated, "That's where we're headed as a nation, and that's what we can do if we take action to build an economy that's not only more prosperous but healthier, fairer and cleaner for the entire planet... These steps will set America's economy to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050."
The percentage is a major increase over President Obama's 2015 pledge to cut greenhouse gases by 26% to 28% by 2025.
Kate Sullivan and Kevin Liptak, "Biden Announces US Will Aim to Cut Carbon Emissions by as Much as 52% by 2030 at Virtual Climate Summit," cnn.com, Apr. 22, 2021
Billions of dollars in savings and a reduction of 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are expected as the turbines power 400,000 Massachusetts homes per year.
Fishermen are worried the turbines will disrupt sea life and their livelihoods.
Miriam Wasser, "Biden Administration Approves 1st Major Offshore Wind Energy Project," npr.org, May 11, 2021
The IEA's report "sets out more than 400 milestones to guide the global journey to net zero by 2050. These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.
Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, stated, “Our Roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of net-zero emissions by 2050 – narrow but still achievable – is not lost. The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced."
International Energy Agency, "Pathway to Critical and Formidable Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 Is Narrow but Brings Huge Benefits, According to IEA Special Report," iea.org, May, 18, 2021
Domestically, China is the biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, largest producer of coal, and biggest financier of coal-powered plants.
Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone, "China Pledges to Stop Building Coal-Burning Power Plants Abroad," nytimes.com, Sep. 21, 2021
The automakers include Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. Countries include Azerbaijan, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom. Regional governments include Buenos Aires, California (and several cities therein), Lagos, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
Brad Plumer and Hiroko Tabuchi, "6 Automakers and 30 Countries Say They’ll Phase out Gasoline Car Sales," nytimes.com, Nov. 10, 2021
Rolls-Royce has a history in nuclear power, having designed the reactors on board Britain's submarines starting in the 1950s.
Stanley Reed, "Rolls-Royce Plans to Build Small Nuclear Power Plants in Britain," nytimes.com, Nov. 9, 2021
Over 70% of New York City's carbon emissions are connected to buildings. One estimate suggests the new natural gas hookup ban could save 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2040.
Molly Taft, "New York City Passes Landmark Bill to Ban New Gas Hookups," gizmodo.com, Dec. 15, 2021
Lisa Friedman, "Biden Orders Federal Vehicles and Buildings to Use Renewable Energy by 2050," nytimes.com, Dec. 13, 2021
The judge stated the Biden administration had not fully taken into account climate change when selling the leases. The Interior Department will now have to complete environmental reviews to determine the levels of greenhouse gases that would occur from the development and production of the leases, and then the Biden (or a future) administration will have to decide whether to sell the leases again.
The Biden administration placed a moratorium on all new leases shortly after the president took office in 2021. However, the moratorium was struck down when challenged by 13 Republican governors. The federal judge in that case ruled that the sales already scheduled for Gulf of Mexico leases must go forward (which are the leases now invalidated).
Lisa Friedman, "Court Revokes Oil and Gas Leases, Citing Climate Change," nytimes.com, Jan. 27, 2022
Nathan Rott, "A Federal Judge Canceled Major Oil and Gas Leases over Climate Change," npr.org, Jan. 28, 2022
Published in Applied Physics Letters, the study stated, "Our approach can provide nighttime standby lighting and power in off-grid and mini-grid applications, where [solar] cell installations are gaining popularity."
Rina Torchinsky, "Solar Panels That Can Generate Electricity at Night Have Been Developed at Stanford," npr.org, Apr. 7, 2022
American Lung Association, "Zeroing in on Healthy Air A National Assessment of Health and Climate Benefits of Zero-Emission Transportation and Electricity," lung.org, Apr. 2022
Lauren Leffer, "Biden Admin Announces $3.5 Billion in Carbon Dioxide Removal Funding," gizmodo.com, May 20, 2022
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