Covering the Green Economy - Follow the Green Money


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Russ Choma presents "Covering the Green Economy - Follow the Green Money," a Webinar geared toward business journalists.

The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism provides free tools and training for business journalists throughout the year. For more information, please visit

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Covering the Green Economy - Follow the Green Money

  1. 1. Following the Green Money Covering the Green Economy:
  2. 2. Russ Choma <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>202.885.3633 </li></ul><ul><li>@russchoma </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Stimulus money going overseas </li></ul><ul><li>Projects built before stimulus </li></ul><ul><li>Lobbyists/financiers/Chinese manufacturers </li></ul>
  4. 5. Green Energy: Where are we at? <ul><li>We’re not #1. </li></ul><ul><li>Much more serious than ever before. </li></ul><ul><li>All about the government – very, very dependent industry. </li></ul><ul><li>Policy and incentives. </li></ul>
  5. 7. Green Energy: Where are we at? <ul><li>Not as bleak as you might imagine. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Surprisingly bi-partisan. (Getting less so by the day) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Big Business. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lobbying – they aren’t defenseless anymore. </li></ul><ul><li>On the federal level, the biggest news is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Continued stimulus money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Renewable Energy Standard </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>28 states, including California already have some form. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 8. Frame #1: Greenwashing <ul><li>“ unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue” </li></ul><ul><li>You have to parse the truth from the hype </li></ul><ul><li>Just as true in the energy world, particularly anything involving politics, as in the grocery store. </li></ul>
  7. 9. What is a green job? <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>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.” </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Monica Potts: </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Metro driver? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diesel truck driver? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diesel truck driver hauling a wind turbine? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diesel truck driver hauling a wind turbine today, but turbine for coal plant tomorrow? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 13. Why? <ul><li>Hope Swallowed By Hype </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The inherent bias: we all really want to believe in this… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sheer size/technical aspects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal bureaucracy can be intimidating or overwhelming. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inclination to accept official word. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Inaccurate Data </li></ul>
  9. 14. Green Energy Story In General <ul><li>Casual use of “green” – there are many who count nuclear as green energy because it has a low carbon footprint… is it? </li></ul><ul><li>Near automatic acceptance of a narrative of a “green” economic revolution and the miracles it can bring. </li></ul><ul><li>Over-promising </li></ul>
  10. 15. Confusion = good for reporters <ul><ul><li>On the one hand, it means you really need to consider every statement about “green” with a critical eye. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 16. <ul><li>What is it we’re trying to accomplish? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Environmental concerns? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic concerns? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t always go well together </li></ul><ul><li>Politically convenient, but it’s an alliance that is beginning to fray </li></ul>Vs.
  12. 17. Federal Incentives <ul><li>Stimulus dollars still flowing </li></ul><ul><li>Section 1603 grants </li></ul><ul><ul><li>30 percent of the cost of building </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>After-the-fact, but no strings attached, very quick direct-deposit of cash </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>$6.8 billion ($530 million in the month of March) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2,417 projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  13. 18. Section 1603 <ul><li>Fantastic resource for finding stories </li></ul><ul><li>Bloom Box </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fast Company: “But Adobe is taking a risk with its massive Bloom Energy Server installation. Each server sells for up to $800,000, which means the company may have invested nearly $10 million on the technology.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And the Bloom Boxes aren't all that reliable--Bloom had to replace cells in eBay's installation after just 7 months. In general, Bloom estimates that fuel cell stacks will have to be switched out twice during the box's 10 year lifespan.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Trends </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Big Box Stores: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many more trends: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 19. 48c Tax Credits (in brief) <ul><li>Actual tax credit, announced in January </li></ul><ul><li>Competitive selection </li></ul><ul><li>$2.3 billion, at least 38 states, 185 projects </li></ul><ul><li>Matched by up to $5.4 billion </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Many got some coverage, but not always good. </li></ul><ul><li>Ripe for followups </li></ul>State Amount California $235,500,989 Michigan $225,801,351 Tennessee $200,390,169 Ohio $124,981,680 Connecticut $120,911,520 Oregon $87,243,801 Colorado $75,239,310 Texas $68,504,131 South Carolina $53,653,500 Kentucky $53,364,900
  15. 20. Sources of Raw Data <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All federal loans, grants and other direct payments </li></ul></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All Recovery data (mostly) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Raw data: Download center: </li></ul></ul>
  16. 21. Green Job Training Programs <ul><li>$2.9 billion (in stimulus alone) </li></ul><ul><li>Data on jobs is mixed (only 3,200 jobs reported, but is not accurate) </li></ul><ul><li>Data is incredible (all the background info on programs, what they plan to do with it, success rate) </li></ul><ul><li>Spreadsheet: </li></ul><ul><li>From data </li></ul>
  17. 22. Other Stimulus To Follow <ul><li>DOE’s list of incentive programs: </li></ul><ul><li>Spreadsheet of all: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clean coal? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Energy Efficiency Block Grant Program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>At least a dozen Native American groups </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Department of Energy loan guarantee program: </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  18. 24. Local Incentives <ul><li>Many of these projects hinge on getting more help – beyond the stimulus. </li></ul><ul><li>Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency: </li></ul><ul><li>Pennsylvania model: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State focused on supply chain. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feb. 19, 2010, state gave out $22.8 million in federal stimulus dollars to three wind farms … if they bought Gamesa turbines. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What’s your state/city doing – is it competitive? Balance benefits to company with benefits to residents? Are there guarantees? </li></ul><ul><li>Local incentives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attracting business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using government buying power </li></ul></ul>
  19. 25. Green Small Businesses <ul><li>Local incentives attract local businesses </li></ul><ul><li>Wind and geothermal are big, solar is small </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Small is growing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>86 percent of Section 1603 recipients are solar </li></ul></ul>
  20. 26. Tale of Talgo <ul><li>Spanish high-speed rail manufacturer </li></ul><ul><li>2009: Announced plan to set up manufacturing facility in Wisconsin in anticipation of high-speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison. (with $3m from Milwaukee) </li></ul><ul><li>March 3, 2010: Oregon Department of Transportation wins $17 million grant from stimulus to purchase two sets of rail cars – in cooperation with Talgo and state of Wisconsin, to be built at new Wisconsin facility. </li></ul><ul><li>November 2010: Scott Walker elected, at least partially on pledge to kill the high-speed rail. </li></ul><ul><li>December 2010: Talgo announces it will not continue with its Milwaukee plant. </li></ul>
  21. 27. Tip: Don’t Skip the Background Check <ul><li>Lots of money attracts people with checkered pasts and no experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Atlantic City Press 1/2/2010: “Financial incentives bring renewable energy business- but not experience.” </li></ul><ul><li>Secretary of State Websites, corporation look-ups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Brief history of business, key executives, ownership, subsidiaries, linked companies, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fresh Air Energy 1 LLC,  EcoPlexus </li></ul><ul><li>ProPublica: “How to run a background check on companies awarded stimulus contracts” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http :// </li></ul></ul>
  22. 28. Stimulus Resources <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>ProPublica’s “Eye On The Stimulus”: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Renewable funding: </li></ul><ul><li>State and local programs: </li></ul><ul><li>“ 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. </li></ul>
  23. 29. Other Resources <ul><ul><ul><li>Energy Information Administration: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Profile of every power plant, fuel, production, energy used/energy produced, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>FERC: Every transaction, made by every power plant: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>California PUC: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Law firms </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 30. Call Me <ul><li>Investigative Reporting Workshop: 202.885.3633 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @russchoma </li></ul><ul><li>Website: </li></ul>