Credit card processing is not only highly concentrated – MasterCard, Visa, and American Express control 93 percent of the market – but competition among the card processors tends to raise, not lower, the fees they charge merchants, according to a new report from the U.S. General Accounting Office. Continue reading
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This story of a the proposed 2300 MW Tyrone nuclear power park (two power plants) for Minnesota is informative. Starting with the original proposal in the 1970s, Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) was stopped by sharply falling demand in the late 1970s, and they shifted to an alternative proposal to build a 750 MW coal plant. Again energy consumption fell short of projections and Xcel will now be using a combination of Manitoba Hydro power and new wind projects to get 375 MW of new generation. The success in transforming the original dual nukes into a much smaller package of renewable energy was the result of local citizen opposition and state policy on conservation and renewable energy. The author, Dean Abrahamson, notes:
As with almost all major reforms, the movement to more sustainable power has been the result of actions taken by individuals and by states — Washington continues to reluctantly follow, not to lead. [emphasis mine]
As it grows, wind power can increasingly displace expensive fossil fuel generators. In Texas (and also in Germany), wind is already helping to drive down electricity prices.
This is commonly known as the “merit order” effect, as sources with greater social merit (wind and solar power) are taken first by the grid, displacing dirtier and more expensive energy sources. The following two illustrations, from Feed-in Tariffs in America, illustrate the effect.
The report [Synapse Energy Economics Inc.: Costs and Benefits of Electric Utility Energy Efficiency in Massachusetts] is worth reading in full, but this paragraph is absolutely vital:
Synapse recently undertook an extensive review of numerous utility and third party EE programs from across the United States in order to explore the empirical relationship between the cost of saved energy (CSE) per kWh saved and program scale in terms of first year energy savings as a percentage of annual energy sales. In the analysis, we found that the CSE tends to decrease as energy savings increase relative to annual energy sales. This finding is contrary to the idea of an energy efficiency supply curve that is often constructed to estimate economic potential of energy efficiency measures. These supply curves generally indicate that the CSE increases as energy savings increase, much like a generation supply curve would. In English: Energy efficiency gets cheaper the more you spend on it. [emphasis original]
As the Federal Communications Commission continues to formulate a National Broadband Plan, ILSR has responded to a recent request for comments about the relationship between broadband and government.
We highlight the importance of publicly owned broadband networks by noting success stories and offering details on networks from Chattanooga, Burlington, Monticello, and Powell, Wyoming. We also discuss lessons from publicly owned middle-mile networks and networks that connect core anchor institutions, like libraries and schools. Continue reading
How many times do the people have to be proven right before their political leaders listen to them? The recent cancellation of Big Stone II by its investors brings that question to mind. Back in 2006, seven Minnesota utilities asked the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission for permission to build a large coal fired power… Continue reading
Despite being outspent 12-to-1, a grassroots group campaigning against a plan to build a massive big-box complex in Mendocino County, California, won a decisive victory when voters rejected the project by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Continue reading
By creating decentralized, community-based renewable energy projects, tapping into the existing grid, and applying new smart grid technology, communities can maximize the economic returns of renewable energy production. Continue reading
Recently on Fox News, Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, was likened to Karl Marx with a ponytail. I do not know how Annie is wearing her hair these days, but she reminds me far more of the young Frederick Engels than of Karl Marx.
Let me explain.
Annie’s widely circulated animated video makes the connections between overproduction and ecological damage as well as between sustainability and job creation. In all of this, she is following in the footsteps of Frederick Engels, not Marx. Continue reading
There’s good news and bad news in President Obama’s announcement Wednesday of 100 grants totaling $3.4 billion to build a smarter electric grid. The good news is the grants. The bad news is that President Obama continues to conflate the need for a smart grid with the need for a new national high voltage grid. Continue reading