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Funding the Future of the Green Economy


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The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism presents "Covering the Green Economy - A Western Perspective." …

The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism presents "Covering the Green Economy - A Western Perspective."

Russ Choma provides helpful tips regarding the funding and future of green initiatives at the Los Angeles Times.

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  • 1. Funding the future of the green economy
  • 2. Russ Choma
  • 3.
    Founded in Spring 2008 by Charles Lewis and Wendell Cochran
    Bartlett & Steele: “America What Went Wrong”
    Frontline: “Flying Cheap”
  • 4.
    Stimulus money going overseas
    Projects built before stimulus
    Lobbyists/financiers/Chinese manufacturers
  • 5. Green Energy: Where are we at?
    We’re not #1.
    Much more serious than ever before.
    All about the government – very, very dependent industry.
    Policy and incentives.
  • 6.
  • 7. Green Energy: Where are we at?
    Not as bleak as you might imagine.
    Surprisingly bi-partisan.
    Big Business.
    Lobbying – they aren’t defenseless anymore.
    On the federal level, the biggest news is:
    Continued stimulus money
    Renewable Energy Standard
    28 states, including California already have some form.
  • 8. Frame #1: Greenwashing
    “unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue”
    You have to parse the truth from the hype
    Just as true in the energy world, particularly anything involving politics, as in the grocery store.
  • 9. What is a green job?
    • The Department of Labor definition: “Green jobs must either be in industries that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or must be jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly.”
    • 10. Monica Potts, at American Prospect wrote a really fantastic piece about this a few months ago, and she points out the trouble of “green purpose” versus “green execution”:
    • 11. Metro driver?
    • 12. Diesel truck driver?
    • 13. Diesel truck driver hauling a wind turbine?
    • 14. Diesel truck driver hauling a wind turbine today, but turbine for coal plant tomorrow?
  • 15.
  • 16.
  • 17. Why?
    Hope Swallowed By Hype
    The inherent bias is that we all really want to believe in this…
    Sheer size/technical aspects
    Dealing with the federal bureaucracy can be intimidating or overwhelming.
    Inclination to accept official or authoritative sounding word.
    Editors don’t want to deal with it
    Inaccurate Data
  • 18. Green Energy Story In General
    Casual use of “green” – there are many who count nuclear as green energy because it has a low carbon footprint… is it?
    Near automatic acceptance of a narrative of a “green” economic revolution and the miracles it can bring.
    Not to say it isn’t possible, but we are very far behind and on a very slow pace.
    “To tell someone who has been making auto transmissions that they can make a gearbox for a wind turbine … is foolish. (The idea that) every automotive stamper can enter the industry – it just isn’t going to happen… it's not for everybody.” – John Colm, president GLWN
  • 19. Confusion = good for reporters
    On the one hand, it means you really need to consider every statement about “green” with a critical eye.
    On the other hand, there are some very good stories that need to be explored… Even if Judy Cleaves isn’t representative of a sustainable positive economic trend, it doesn’t mean it isn’t an intriguing story – it just needs to be investigated.
  • 20. Frame #2: Green Jobs & Polar Bears
    What is it we’re trying to accomplish?
    Environmental concerns?
    Economic concerns?
    Don’t always go well together
    Politically convenient, but it’s an alliance that is beginning to fray
  • 21. Jerry Brown
    “Clean Energy Jobs Plan”
    “As we face the devastation to our job market caused by the mortgage meltdown and the Wall Street debacle, we need to find a way to get California working again. Investing in clean energy and increasing efficiency are central elements of rebuilding our economy. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, build the businesses of the 21st century, increase energy independence, and protect public health.”
  • 22. Federal Incentives
    Stimulus dollars still flowing
    Section 1603 grants
    30 percent of the cost of building
    After-the-fact, but no strings attached, very quick direct-deposit of cash
    $5.9 billion ($171 million in the month of January)
    1,878 projects
    259 projects/$325.8 million in California alone
    All 1603 grants:
    California 1603 grants:
  • 23. ORNI 18 LLC
    Geothermal plant in Brawley, Calif. (Imperial Valley)
    $108 million grant in August 2010
    At least a $360 million project
    Largest geothermal project
    Built by a Bakersfield, Calif. Company for Ormat:
    50 megawatt capacity, operating far below
  • 24. Section 1603
    Fantastic resource for finding stories
    Bloom Box
    Big Box Stores:
    Many more trends:
  • 25. 48c Tax Credits (in brief)
    Actual tax credit, announced in January
    Competitive selection
    $2.3 billion, at least 38 states, 185 projects
    Matched by up to $5.4 billion
    Many got some coverage, but not always good.
  • 26. Other Stimulus To Follow
    DOE’s list of incentive programs:
    Spreadsheet of all:
    Clean coal?
    Energy Efficiency Block Grant Program
    At least a dozen Native American groups
  • 27. Local Incentives
    Many of these projects hinge on getting more help – beyond the stimulus.
    Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency:
    Pennsylvania model:
    State focused on supply chain.
    Feb. 19, 2010, state gave out $22.8 million in federal stimulus dollars to three wind farms … if they bought Gamesa turbines.
    What’s your state/city doing – is it competitive? Balance benefits to company with benefits to residents? Are there guarantees?
    Local incentives
    Attracting business
    Using government buying power
  • 28. Renewable Portfolio Standard
    20 percent by 2010, and (theoretically) 33 percent by 2020
    Mandates a market, huge driver
    Great source of information:
    Lots of documentation
    Status of RPP projects:
    In-state vs. out-of-state
  • 29. Green Small Businesses
    Local incentives attract local businesses
    Wind and geothermal are big, solar is small
    Small is growing
    76 percent of Section 1603 has gone to solar
    83 percent of the projects in California are less than $1 million (total project cost $3 million)
  • 30. Tip: Don’t Skip the Background Check
    Lots of money attracts people with checkered pasts and no experience.
    Atlantic City Press 1/2/2010: “Financial incentives bring renewable energy business- but not experience.”
    Secretary of State Websites, corporation look-ups
    Brief history of business, key executives, ownership, subsidiaries, linked companies, etc.
    Fresh Air Energy 1 LLC, EcoPlexus
    ProPublica: “How to run a background check on companies awarded stimulus contracts”
    Criminal/Tax issues
    Bans on contracting
    Workplace safety records
    Environmental record
    Lobbying records
  • 31. Other Resources
    Energy Information Administration:
    Profile of every power plant, fuel, production, energy used/energy produced, etc.
    FERC: Every transaction, made by every power plant:
    California PUC:
    Law firms
  • 32. Stimulus Resources
    ProPublica’s “Eye On The Stimulus”:
    Renewable funding:
    State and local programs:
    “Show Me The Money; The Law of the Stimulus”: One of many primers to help fill in the background on all the funding opportunities and who can go for them.
  • 33. Call Me
    @Investigative Reporting Workshop: 202.885.3633
    Twitter: russchoma