Green Time

Friday, November 18, 2011

Warren Buffett Backs Estate Taxes

This business article puts a different twist on Warren Buffet's calls for the 'Rich' to be made to pay more taxes.  Mr. Buffett appears to be a most generous businessman but the article implies a certain level of spin is involved in his stellar reputation.

The Real Reason Warren Buffett Backs Estate Taxes:

Here’s the true reason why Buffett likes a tax code that is hard on billionaires like him, as explained by journalist Tim Carney in his book “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business And Big Government Steal Your Money”:

Warren Buffett’s business is buying businesses. Bill Gates makes software and Paul Newman makes movies and salad dressing, but Warren Buffett makes money. He runs Berkshire Hathaway as CEO and principle owner. Berkshire Hathaway used to make textiles, but now they simply own other companies. Some familiar Berkshire Hathaway properties are GEICO, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, and the Buffalo News.

While Buffett is clearly an unusually brilliant investor, what he has done with his company has been straightforward in some ways. He buys companies that are worth more than the selling price. He buys things that will go up in value.

One great way to buy something that is going up in value is to buy a company that is already very profitable, but whose owner(s) have to sell. One common way that happens is when the owner dies and the heirs cannot afford to pay the estate tax on the properties they stand to inherit. They are therefore forced to sell them to pay the taxes. Carney cites the case of the Buffalo News, a highly profitable family-owned newspaper that Buffett bought after the family matriarch died without doing proper estate planning. Dairy Queen was acquired in a similar manner.

When the estate tax forces an owner to sell his business, it provides an opportunity for a bargain, but that opportunity is not available to everyone ... When the estate tax puts a business on the market, it is a market that is only open to big business.

Beyond making it easier for Buffett to find bargains, the estate tax drives customers to his primary business interest, insurance, including life insurance. The estate tax has created an entire industry called “estate planning.” Anyone with a business or large assets sooner or later needs to engage in estate planning, which involves hiring tax specialists, attorneys, and accountants ... Two central elements of estate planning are life insurance and annuities.

Bear that in mind the next time a liberal writer extols Buffett’s selflessness.

'via Blog this'

Monday, November 14, 2011

Siemens Boosts Its Stake in Tidal Power

Siemens Boosts Its Stake in Tidal Power

The engineering giant likes the predictability of marine power—which can be "calculated for centuries in advance."

By Peter Fairley

Marine energy has long looked to be a niche area, capable of meeting just a few percent of global power demand. But this seemingly limited energy source is drawing some big players, the latest being Siemens. The German engineering giant boosted its stake this month in Bristol, U.K.-based tidal energy developer Marine Current Turbines from under 10 percent to 45 percent. The attraction, according to Michael Axmann, chief financial officer for Siemens's solar and hydro division, is the predictability of marine power.

Solar and wind farm operators struggle to predict tomorrow's output, and bad forecasts can wreak havoc with power transmission planning and market prices. In contrast, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun that controls tidal cycles provides a sure means of anticipating the output from tidal generating stations. "Power output of the systems could be calculated for centuries in advance," says Axmann.

The result could be higher revenues. Axmann notes that tidal power is "not subject to volatility. This increases the value of the energy produced, and hence makes the business case more reliable for the investor and operator."

Axmann declined to say how much value would be added by that predictability. But he anticipates that, by 2020, marine turbines will deliver power at a cost that's competitive with today's offshore wind farms—in spite of the challenges involved in engineering for underwater operations.

Marine Current Turbines CEO Andrew Tyler says a combination of cost reductions and government incentives will ensure the profitability of his firm's tidal power parks. He expects a return on investment for the company's first two offshore power parks: a proposed four-turbine array off Scotland's Isle of Skye and a five-turbine array off the northwest coast of Wales.

Cost reductions will come in part from scaling up its dual-rotor units to two megawatts from the 1.2 megawatts generated by its demonstration turbine, which has been producing power in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough since 2008. Future cost reductions, Tyler says, will come primarily from efficiency in equipment assembly and logistics, drawing on Siemens's expertise in these areas.

The company also anticipates incentives in the form of U.K. and Scottish installation grants. The tidal power parks will also provide the company with renewable generation credits, which utilities need to acquire to comply with the U.K.'s renewable power standard. Last month, the U.K. announced plans to boost the credits for wave and tidal energy plants from two to five for every megawatt-hour of electricity generated. In comparison, offshore wind farms will earn two credits, and power stations burning biomass will earn one.

Tyler estimates that his first power parks will produce 15,000 to 20,000 megawatt-hours per year, meaning the tidal turbine arrays could earn £3.75 million ($6 million) in incentive payments annually.

Tyler says Siemens's backing will be crucial to raising the £100 million in private investment needed to finance the projects: "It completely changes their perception about our credibility," he says.

Paris-based Alstom Group, which competes against Siemens in power equipment and high-speed trains, also expects to make a splash in tidal power next year. Alstom is building a one-megawatt demonstration turbine using technology licensed from Canada'sClean Current Power Systems. At a meeting in Bali last month, Phillippe Gilson, Alstom's ocean energy manager, affirmed that Alstom plans to install the 20-meter-tall, fully submersible turbine in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy in 2012.

Copyright Technology Review 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

California Reaches Solar Power Milestone | NBC Bay Area

California Reaches Solar Power Milestone | NBC Bay Area: "
The golden state has installed enough solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses to produce one gigawatt of power, KQED's Climate Watch reports.
One gigawatt is equal to one thousand megawatts, or enough to power 600,000 homes. Only five other countries in the world can claim that, including Germany, which has reached 17 gigawatts.
“Getting to one gigawatt is a fantastic marker of the momentum towards California's clean energy future,” Sungevity President Danny Kennedy said in a report by Environment California. “Riding the exponential curve of growth, which is akin to the mass adoption of cell phones or satellite TVs, will create many more good jobs and great opportunity for the Golden State.”
One gigawatt is impressive, but California isn't stopping there. It's aiming for three gigawatts of rooftop solar by 2016 -- which was mandated by California's Million Solar Roofs Initiative five years ago."

'via Blog this'

Solar Energy is becoming competitive

The shrinking cost of solar energy: By the numbers - The Week:


As harnessing the sun's energy becomes cheaper and more efficient, some analysts believe solar will overtake fossil fuels in a matter of decades

Photo: Michael DeYoung/Blend Images/Corbis
It takes the sun only 14.5 seconds to provide as
much energy to Earth as all of human civilization uses in a day.

The shrinking cost of solar energy: By the numbers:

According to Moore's Law, the price of computing power is slashed in half every two years — which helps explain why personal computers become outdated so quickly. But now, as Paul Krugman at The New York Times notes, the solar energy industry is experiencing a similar trend. The price of producing solar power cr continues to fall — thanks to technological improvements and heavy subsidies in countries like China — and this onetime punchline of an energy sector continues to expand. Will solar power eventually overtake oil as Earth's primary energy source? Perhaps. In the meantime, a look at the shrinking cost of solar energy, by the numbers:

65 Percentage growth experienced by the solar energy industry in each of the past five years

7 Percentage decline in the annual price of solar energy, adjusted for inflation

17 Percentage drop in the price of installing solar panels in the U.S. in 2010, says the, says the Washington Post. "Solar companies are figuring out how to set up systems cheaply."

17 Gigawatts of solar power that were created or used in the United States in 2010. That's roughly equivalent to the output of 17 nuclear power plants.

700 Watts of power that the sun shines on every square meter of Earth

89 quadrillion Watts of power shining on the Earth at any given moment. One quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeros.

15 trillion Watts of power used by "all of human civilization" each day. It may be a big number, but it's just "one six-thousandth" of the 89 quadrillion watts shining on Earth at any given moment, says Scientific American.

14.5 Seconds it takes for the sun to provide as much energy to Earth as humanity consumes in a day

88 Minutes it takes for the sun to provide as much energy to Earth as humanity consumes in a year

2018 The year that analysts expect solar power to become affordable enough to compete directly with fossil fuels

2060 The year that analysts expect solar power may satisfy more than half of the world's energy needs

$491 billion Amount that U.S. drivers are expected to spend on gasoline this year

Sources: Forbes, Los Angeles Times, NY Times, Scientific American,Washington Post

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Krugman: It's time for solar power

Solar Power has been my pick for the future of alternative, sustainable energy for a while now - years not weeks.  China has weighed in on solar by with aggressive trade practices to kill competition, distorting pricing and otherwise upsetting the course of the industry built up around solar power. Its not a walk in the park to see how to invest in this area.  Lots of money has been lost already by investors and companies bankrupted....

Solar Power
Updated Monday, November 7, 2011

For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore's Law - in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months - has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.

Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.

The success story you haven't heard about is Solar Energy

But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That's right, solar power.

If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.

These days, mention solar power and you'll probably hear cries of "Solyndra!" Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste - although claims of a major scandal are nonsense - and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

But Solyndra's failure was actually caused by technological success: The price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn't keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, "there's now frequent talk of a 'Moore's law' in solar energy," with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues - and if anything it seems to be accelerating - we're just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it's likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.

But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?

A large part of our political class, including essentially the entire GOP, is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers' money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we're willing to let it in.


Krugman is a columnist for The New York Times.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mankind's Report Card

20 ways the world has changed since 1st Earth Summit - Politics - CBC News

Sustainability in all Things We Undertake.

The United Nations says humans are more concerned about damage done to the environment than we were 20 years ago — but we're still destroying it faster than we can fix it.

That's part of a snapshot prepared by the United Nations Environment Program in a report called Keeping Track that looks at a wide range of changes that have occurred since the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

The report is designed to be used by legislators at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio next May.

And far from being a thick report that will just gather dust, Keeping Track is actually a bit of a page-turner, filled with surprising and often encouraging news about our stewardship of the Earth.

The report uses a minimum of text and relies on colourful graphics, charts and satellite pictures to show the major environmental and social changes that have occurred on Earth since the early 1990s, from growing cities in China to the rapidly spreading footprint of Alberta's oil sands.

Changes in the world over the last 20 years.

1. The number of megacities has doubled.

2. The world is eating 26 per cent more meat.

3. Global temperatures continue to rise, with the last 10 years the warmest on record.

4. World industry is 23 per cent more energy efficient.

5. Plastic consumption has skyrocketed — with annual production reaching a record 265 million tonnes worldwide in 2010.

6. The 1990 Montreal Protocol to limit ozone-destroying chemicals is the world's most successful international agreement, producing a 93 per cent drop in the damaging emissions since 1992.

7. Cement production is the fastest-growing source of C02 emissions.

8. The Mesopotamian Marshlands, the largest in the Middle East, are recovering from deliberate draining by Iraq in the 1990s.

9. Saudi Arabia has transformed from an importer of food to an exporter due to irrigation.

10. Environmentally protected areas have increased worldwide by 42 per cent.

11. Fish stock depletion is now one of the most pressing environmental issues.

12. Renewable energy has skyrocketed, with solar energy leading the way — up 30,000 per cent since 1992.

13. Biofuel production — up 300,000 per cent — is converting more land from farming to production of fuel.

14. Organic farming is up 240 per cent since 1999.

15. The Amazon rainforest has been largely destroyed due to drought and farming.

16. Tourism and travel is the world's largest business sector — and ecotourism is the fastest-growing type of tourism, up 20-34 per cent per year.

17. Passenger trips by airplanes have doubled in the past two decades.

18. Clean drinking water access increased to 87 per cent, but widespread sanitation is still slow.

19. 30 per cent more private companies are adopting environmental standards every year.

20. Women's influence is rising with more 60 per cent more seats in national parliaments.



Pop. in millions, 2010

1. Tokyo, Japan

2. Delhi, India

3. Sao Paulo, Brazil

4. Mumbai, India

5. Mexico City, Mexico

6. New York - Newark, USA

7. Shanghai, China

8. Kolkata, India

9. Dhaka, Bangladesh

10. Karachi, Pakistan