Now retired from multi-decade career in Federal government, most recently at U.S. Department of Energy..

Now retired from multi-decade career in Federal government, most recently at U.S. Department of Energy..

About to be Published: A Comprehensive Handbook on Solar Energy

‘Sun Towards High Noon: Solar Power Transforming Our Energy Future’ will be published in paperback by Pan Stanford Publishing on March 22nd. It will be listed at $34.95 but a 30% discount is available along with free shipping when ordered online at (Promo Code STA01). The latest volume in the Pan Stanford Series on Renewable Energy, it was edited by Dr. Peter F. Varadi, a solar energy pioneer and author of an earlier volume in the series ‘Sun Above the Horizon: Meteoric Rise of the Solar Industry’ (see below). Peter is also a contributing author in this new volume, along with Wolfgang Palz, Michael Eckhart, Paula Mints, Bill Rever, John Wolgromuth, Frank Wouters, and Allan Hoffman.

The broad scope and comprehensiveness of the book can be seen in its detailed Table of Contents reproduced below:

1. Meteoric Rise of PV Continues 1
1.1 Sun above the Horizon 2
1.2 Sun towards High Noon 6
2. New PV Markets Sustaining Mass Production 9
2.1 Utilization of the Terrestrial Solar Electricity 10
2.2 Solar Roofs for Residential Homes 13
2.3 Grids, Mini-Grids, and Community Solar 24
2.4 Commercial PV Systems 32
2.5 Utility-Scale Solar 43
2.5.1 Current Status 47 Concentrating solar power systems 47 Concentrating photovoltaic systems 50 Flat-plate photovoltaic systems:
fixed and tracking 51
2.5.2 Future Prospects 54
2.6 Important Large Market: Solar Energy and
Clean Water 56
2.6.1 Desalination and Disinfection: Introduction 56
2.6.2 Desalination 56
2.6.3 Disinfection 62
2.6.4 Conclusion 63
2.7 Quality and Reliability of PV Systems 64
2.7.1 Module Qualification Testing 65
2.7.2 Module Safety Certification 67
2.7.3 Module Warranties 68
2.7.4 Failure Rates in PV Systems 70
2.7.5 Module Durability Data 71
2.7.6 ISO 9000 72
2.7.7 IECQ and IECEE 72
2.7.8 To Further Improve Long-Term Performance 73
2.7.9 International PV Quality Assurance Task Force 75
2.8 Storage of Electrical Energy 83
2.8.1 Introduction 83
2.8.2 Why Is Electrical Energy Storage Important? 83
2.8.3 What Are the Various Forms of Electric Storage? 85
2.8.4 Applications of Energy Storage and Their Value 92
2.8.5 Capital Costs of Energy Storage 93
2.8.6 Concluding Remarks 94
2.9 Solar Energy and Jobs 95
2.9.1 Introduction 95
2.9.2 What Are the Facts? 95
2.9.3 Concluding Remarks 100
3. Financing 101
3.1 Financing of PV 102
3.2 Subsidies and Solar Energy 104
3.2.1 Introduction 104
3.2.2 What Forms Do Energy Subsidies Take? 104
3.2.3 What Is the History of US Energy Subsidies? 105
3.2.4 What Has All This Meant for Solar PV? 108
3.2.5 Concluding Remarks 110
3.3 Wall Street and Financing 111
3.3.1 Policy Drivers for Solar Energy Financing 111 The importance of policy to financing 113
3.3.2 Federal Policies 114 Federal RD&D 114 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act 117 Investment tax credits 118 Commercialization and deployment 120 Government purchasing 122
3.3.3 State and Local Policies 123 Renewable Portfolio Standards and RECs 123 Solar Set-Asides and SRECS 123 Net energy metering 124 Leading state examples 124
3.3.4 International Policy for Solar Energy Financing125 Policies of individual governments 126 International agencies 129 Multi-lateral development banks 131 Impact of NGOs on government policy 132
3.4 Solar Market Segmentation and Financing Methods 136
3.4.1 Utility-Scale Solar Project Financing 136
3.4.2 Commercial & Institutional Rooftop Financing 136
3.4.3 Community Solar 137
3.4.4 Residential Rooftop Financing 137 PPA model 138 Inverted lease 138 Loan-to-ownership 139
3.5 Solar Project Financing 140
3.5.1 Traditional Power Generation Financing 140
3.5.2 PURPA and the Development of Non-Recourse
Financing 140
3.5.3 Conditions Required for Project Financing 142
3.5.4 Overall Capital Structure: Equity, Tax
Equity, and Debt 143
3.5.5 Tax Equity Using the Investment Tax Credit 144
3.5.6 Bank Loans 145
3.5.7 Institutional Capital 146
3.5.8 Project Bonds 147
3.6 Capital Market Investment in Solar Securities 148
3.6.1 Equity Market Investment in Solar Companies 148
3.6.2 Yieldcos and Other Portfolio Companies and
Funds 150
3.6.3 Green Bonds 153
3.6.4 Securitization 155
3.7 Summary 157
3.8 Glossary 158
4. Present and Future PV Markets 161
4.1 The Global View of PV 162
4.2 The Present and Future of Neglected PV Markets:
Africa and the Middle East 164
4.2.1 Introduction 164
4.2.2 Africa 166
4.2.3 Middle East and North Africa 183
4.3 The Present and Future Market in the Americas 192
4.3.1 The United States of America 194
4.3.2 Canada 204
4.3.3 Countries in Latin America 205
4.4 The Present and Future Market in Europe 208
4.5 The Present and Future Markets in Asia 220
4.6 The Present and Future Markets in Australia
and in Oceania 231
4.7 Global Community Unites to Advance Renewable
Energy: IRENA 236
4.7.1 Start of IRENA 238
4.7.2 Hermann Scheer
4.7.3 IRENA’s Roots and Early Days 241
4.7.4 Institutional Setup 246
4.7.5 Hub, Voice, Resource 247
4.7.6 IRENA’s work 248
4.7.7 The Way Forward 252
4.7.8 Glossary 254
5. The Impact of Solar Electricity 255
5.1 The Impact of Solar Electricity 256
5.2 In the Twilight of Big Oil, in Retrospect, PV Was
a Missed Boat 259
5.3 PV and the Brave New World of the Electric Utilities 267
6. Outlook to the Future 281
About the Contributors 291
Index 295

The value of this new book is captured in the two back cover comments:

“This comprehensive and timely book provides the reader with a very thorough technical, regulatory, and financial overview of the global solar (PV) industry. Featuring internationally eminent contributors from the who’s who of solar industry experts, this book offers insights, analysis, and background on all the key issues facing this rapidly growing industry. It will be an invaluable reference and resource for scholars, investors, and policymakers dealing with the emerging solar power phenomenon.” (Branko Terzic, Atlantic Council, Former Commissioner/U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)

“The long-term welfare of people on our planet depends on an energy system heavily dependent on solar energy. This solar energy handbook presents a well-documented, comprehensive, and insightful view of solar energy’s past, present, and future. Its preeminent contributing authors include solar energy pioneers, visionaries, and practitioners who bring a wealth of experience and insights into solar energy markets, financing, policy, and technology.” (Karl R. Rabago, Executive Director/Pace Energy and Climate Center, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University)

Addressing the Coal Issue – Useful Thoughts

The article by Dr. Maria Zuber that is reproduced below, and appeared recently in the Washington Post, is a thoughtful, intelligent, and realistic approach to addressing coal issues in the United State. It recognizes the realities of our evolving energy system as renewable energy begins to displace energy from fossil fuels, but also recognizes that some people will be adversely impacted as this transition unfolds. As a compassionate nation we must take these impacts into account as we move forward to a clean energy future. Dr. Zuber’s careful thoughts on this issue are well worth reading.


How to declare war on coal’s emissions without declaring war on coal communities

By Maria T. Zuber February 24, 2017
Maria T. Zuber is the vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Chair of the National Science Board.

I grew up in a place named for coal: Carbon County, Pa., where energy-rich anthracite coal was discovered in the late 1700s. By the early 1900s, eastern Pennsylvania employed more than 180,000 miners. By the 1970s — when I left Carbon County for college — just 2,000 of those jobs remained.

For decades, my family’s path traced the arc of the industry. Both my grandfathers mined anthracite. My father’s father died of black lung before I was born. My mother’s father lived long enough to get a pink slip, teach himself to repair TVs and radios and finally get a job on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He often slept in a recliner because he couldn’t breathe in bed. He had black lung, too.

We faced economic challenges, but thanks to my father’s career as a state trooper, we had more security than most. Still, our neighbors’ struggles left a deep impression on me. When I hear coal-mining communities talk bitterly about a “war on coal,” I understand why they feel under attack. I know the deep anxiety born from years of watching their towns empty out and opportunity evaporate.

I was one of the people who left, in my case to pursue my passion for science. I was lucky: I became the first woman to head a science department at MIT, as well as the first woman to lead a NASA planetary mission.

As a daughter of coal country, I know the suffering of people whose fates are tied to the price of a ton of coal. But as a scientist, I know that we cannot repeal the laws of physics: When coal burns, it emits more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel. And if we keep emitting this gas into the atmosphere, Earth will continue to heat up, imposing devastating risks on current and future generations. There is no escaping these facts, just as there is no escaping gravity if you step off a ledge.

The move to clean energy is imperative. In the long run, that transition will create more jobs than it destroys. But that is no comfort to families whose livelihoods and communities have collapsed along with the demand for coal. We owe something to the people who do the kind of dangerous and difficult work my grandfathers did so that we can power our modern economy.

Fortunately, there are ways we can declare war on coal’s carbon emissions without declaring war on coal communities.

First, we should aggressively pursue carbon capture and storage technology, which catches carbon dioxide from coal power plants before it is released into the atmosphere and stores it underground. To be practical, advances in capture efficiency must be coupled with dramatic decreases in deployment costs and an understanding of the environmental impacts of storage. These are not intractable problems; scientific and technological innovations could change the game.

Next, we should look beyond combustion and steel production to find new ways to make coal useful. In 2015, 91 percent of coal use was for electrical power. But researchers are exploring whether coal can be used more widely as a material for the production of carbon fiber, batteries and electronics — indeed, even solar panels.

These avenues hold promise, but even if carbon capture becomes practicable and we expand other uses for coal, the industry will never come roaring back. Globally, coal’s market share is dropping, driven by a range of factors, including cheap natural gas and the rapidly declining costs of wind and solar energy.

That’s why we must also commit to helping the workers and communities that are hurt when coal mines and coal plants reduce their operations or shut down. Policymakers, researchers and advocates have proposed a range of solutions at the federal and state levels to promote economic development; help coal workers transition to jobs in other industries, including renewable energy; and maintain benefits for retired coal workers.

Helping coal country is an issue with bipartisan support. Still, to succeed, strategies such as these may require a champion who, like President Trump, has widespread support in coal country and can address skepticism from coal communities.

Eventually, the practice of burning coal and other fossil fuels for energy — especially without the use of carbon capture and storage technologies — will end. It has to. The question is whether we have the wisdom to end it in an orderly way that addresses the pain of coal communities — and quickly enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Our choices will determine the future not just for coal country, but for all of us.

Recalling a Bit of Solar Energy History

The article attached below was published on February 11th in the New York Times. It deals with the dedication of a solar energy project on land owned by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (1977-2001) and is included here because it triggers a whole series of memories for the author of this blog. The following introductory comments also provide some historical context for understanding President Carter’s important role in recognizing the potential of solar energy in the 1970’s.

President Carter took office on January 20, 1977 and then wisely appointed Jim Schlesinger to be Secretary of the newly formed Department of Energy (DOE). A bit more than a year later, on May 6, 1978, the President traveled to Golden, CO to dedicate the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), newly created to expedite federal R&D efforts on renewable energy. During his dedication speech the President announced a new multi-agency federal study of renewable energy’s potential and assigned DOE as the lead agency. The specific guidance for the study, prepared by the President’s Domestic Policy staff, called for: “A thorough review of the current Federal solar programs to determine whether they, taken as a whole, represent an optimal program for bringing solar technologies into widespread commercial use on an accelerated timetable;
A sound analysis of the contribution which solar energy can make to U.S. and international energy demand, both in the short and longer term;
Recommendations for an overall solar strategy to pull together Federal, State and private efforts to accelerate the use of solar technologies.”

This blog’s author, who had joined DOE as a political appointee the previous month, was assigned by his boss, Al Alm, head of DOE’s Policy Office, to head up the day-to-day activities of the study. At its peak 175 senior officials from 30 federal departments and agencies participated in the study, which also included extensive public input. A final report was delivered to the Carter White House on December 6, 1978. It concluded that “..if one assumes the higher future oil price scenario and this Maximum Practical effort, solar (a shorthand for renewable energies) could provide about 20 percent of the nation͛’s energy by the year 2000.”

It was officially published as a U.S. Government report in February 1979 and formed the basis of President Carter’s June 20, 1979 Solar Energy Message to the Congress. In that message Carter outlined “..the major elements of a national solar strategy” and his words showed that he understood the importance of committing “ a society based largely on renewable sources of energy”. He deserves great credit for this foresight, which unfortunately was not shared by his successor in the White House. The report was also the basis of his speech dedicating a number of solar water heating panels placed on the White House roof.

On a personal level it was particularly satisfying to see President Carter still supporting the deployment of solar energy systems and receiving long-delayed credit for his role in moving public thinking about solar and other renewable energy technologies forward. He took an important first step that is now becoming a global fast march toward a clean energy future.


Jimmy Carter Makes a Stand for Solar, Decades After the Cardigan Sweater

Former President Jimmy Carter, 92, unveiled a solar energy project to help power his hometown. While President Trump has depicted himself as a champion of coal, Mr. Carter’s project aims to be a model for energy self-sufficiency and job growth.
PLAINS, Ga. — The solar panels — 3,852 of them — shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. The panels moved almost imperceptibly with the sun. And they could power more than half of this small town, from which Mr. Carter rose from obscurity to the presidency.

Nearly 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for a project that is both cutting edge and homespun. It is, Mr. Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor.

But Mr. Carter’s project, years in the making, has come into operation at a dizzying moment for renewable energy advocates. Although solar power consumption has more than doubled in the United States since 2013, President Trump has expressed skepticism about the costs of such energy sources, and he has pledged to revive the nation’s languishing coal industry. Yet in some of the rural areas where Mr. Trump enjoys substantial support, renewable energy projects have emerged as important economic forces.

“I hope that we’ll see a realization on the part of the new administration that one of the best ways to provide new jobs — good-paying and productive and innovative jobs — is through the search for renewable sources of energy,” Mr. Carter, 92, said in an interview at his former high school. “I haven’t seen that happen yet, but I’m still hoping for that.”

Although Mr. Carter, now decades removed from the night in February 1977 when he donned a cardigan sweater and spoke of the country’s “energy problem,” remains a keen student of energy policy, the solar project is also an extension of his legacy here.

Mr. Carter has long shaped Plains, where he is known as “Mr. Jimmy,” and the Sunday school teacher’s grin — in snapshots, in paintings and in caricature on Christmas ornaments and a 13-foot peanut statue — is hard to miss. The presidential seal graces welcome signs, which are illuminated, fittingly, by solar electricity, and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site has attracted more than 1.6 million visitors since 1988.

The project on Mr. Carter’s land, which feeds into Georgia Power’s grid and earns the former first family less than $7,000 annually, did not need to be large to serve much of Plains, population 683 or so. It began when a solar firm, SolAmerica, approached Mr. Carter’s grandson Jason Carter about the possibility of installing panels here.

The former president, who was 11 when his boyhood home got running water after his father installed a windmill, did not need convincing and became deeply involved with the project, writing notes in the margins of the lease agreement and visiting the site regularly.
Mr. Carter, Jason Carter recalled this week, regularly sent pictures of the construction on the farmland, which he often passed during walks here with his wife, Rosalynn.
“When I told people we were getting solar panels, they said, ‘In Plains?’” said Jan Williams, who runs the Plains Historic Inn and helps to organize Mr. Carter’s regular Sunday school classes, which remain a draw for tourists. “They say, ‘Well, that’s because of Jimmy Carter.’ It is because of Jimmy Carter. Plains is all because of Jimmy Carter.”
The Plains project, limited in size, according to Mr. Carter and SolAmerica, because of what existing infrastructure could handle, is far from the first solar effort in Georgia. But it is among the highest-profile projects in a state where, after years of reluctance, regulators have demanded that the predominant utility company place a greater emphasis on solar power.
In this state, and in other parts of the country where many residents are unconvinced of climate change, renewable energy supporters have often tailored their pitches to focus on economic benefits. A plurality of Georgia’s electric generation jobs are in solar, according to the Department of Energy.
“The old politicized arguments about renewable energy being for coastal liberals just don’t play anymore in parts of the country where they’re experiencing firsthand the economic benefits of renewable energy development and job creation,” said Jodie Van Horn, the director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which pushes American cities to commit to entirely renewable energy offerings.
Renewable energy supporters do not have to ignore climate change arguments entirely, though. In 2014 in Sumter County, which includes Plains, 62 percent of residents believed global warming was happening, according to an estimate from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. That is slightly higher than some counties in metropolitan Atlanta.
But Mr. Trump’s ascension has placed new pressure on renewable energy boosters. Although Mr. Trump has pledged to promote a policy that would “make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources,” he has proudly depicted himself as a champion of coal.
Stan Wise, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which has no Democratic members, said he expected solar to endure, in part because it had “found its niche.”
“It may not grow as quickly in this country without benefit of federal government assistance, but I think if you leave these entities alone, whether it’s coal or gas or solar, they’ll find their way if they’re right in your state,” said Mr. Wise, who noted that Georgia Power had, after a bidding process, accepted Mr. Carter’s proposal to participate in a solar program it runs.
But Mr. Trump’s views have alarmed Mr. Carter.
“I’m afraid — and hope that I’m wrong — that Trump might do the same thing that Ronald Reagan did and say we can be sufficient ourselves without renewable energy,” Mr. Carter said. “But I hope he doesn’t do that.”
This week, though, Mr. Carter’s energy ambitions were decidedly more local when, dressed in jeans with a small mud stain near his left ankle, he alighted from a gray Ford pickup truck to see the solar panels again. But the memories of Mr. Carter and his wife were not far from the presidency.
“It’s very special to me because I was so disappointed when the (hot water) panels came off of the White House, and now to see them (PV panels)in Plains is just terrific,” Mrs. Carter said softly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Early Thoughts on the Trump Administration

The article attached below was recently published on the e-journal web site It is an updated version of a piece I wrote several weeks ago during the U.S. presidential transition period. That earlier piece was posted on the web site of The Fairfax County Times (aka Fairfax Times), which is a local newspaper in Northern Virginia. It was also posted on the web site of the e-journal ECOreport. Karel Beckman, Editor of, requested the update to also include my thoughts on the initial days of the Trump Administration.


Editor’s note by Karel Beckman: The first actions of the new Trump administration raise grave concerns, both with regard to their energy policies and their policies in general, writes Allan R. Hoffman, author of the blog Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist and formerly with the U.S. Department of Energy. We need to be vigilant to safeguard our democratic system.

Trump administration needs to be watched closely
January 31, 2017
Allan Hoffman

Nine days after Inauguration is much too soon to draw any firm conclusions about our new President and his Administration. Nevertheless, as a breathing, non-brain-dead sentient being, I do have some thoughts.
Like many others in the U.S. and in other countries I am wrestling with my reactions to President Trump’s initial actions and how to respond. I was also touched by Karel Beckman’s thoughtful statement in his latest newsletter: “I know this newsletter is supposed to be about energy. I apologise for this digression. There are more important things in the world than energy. Since I have this platform I wanted to speak out before another darkness descends on us.”
This is exactly the dilemma I am facing with my own blog, Thoughts of a Lapsed Physicist. I generally try to keep it focused on energy and environmental issues where I may have some credibility, but occasionally stray when I believe it would be dishonest not to do so. This is one of those occasions.
I voted for Hillary Clinton to become our next President because I thought she was a better choice than Donald Trump in temperament, experience, and policy. I also thought it was time for the U.S. to have a female president. I did this despite two serious misgivings about Clinton, her handling of the health insurance issue in the early days of her husband’s first term as President, and her failure to respond adequately to the seriousness of her decision to use a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.As a former government official I understand how frustrating dealing with the security systems in government can be, but poor judgements were made by Clinton and her staff, all of whom should have known better. Nevertheless, I was strongly offended by many of Trump’s statements during the Republican primary race and the general election, and saw no way to vote for a man I considered an uninformed and arrogant demagogue.
Mixed signals
Well, enough of my fellow citizens felt differently and Donald Trump is our new President. As a strong believer in Churchill’s 1947 statement on democracy (“Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”), I reluctantly accepted the results of our democratic process.
As I first did in 1968 when Richard Nixon was elected President and I had a fleeting hope that he would govern differently than his record would suggest, I asked myself if that was possible with Trump. However I quickly reminded myself that the Nixon we saw from the late 1940s to 1968 was the Nixon we got, and I concluded that Trump as President would most likely be the bullying, uncouth, self-focused narcissist we had seen over the past 20-30 years. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal and Trump’s apparent lack of core beliefs and mercurial nature suggest a President with unusual flexibility to go in many different directions. We shall see.
Throughout the transition period there were many uncertainties about what to expect from a Trump White House. A few mixed signals emerged from his proposed Cabinet and White House appointments, but in reality we were and are left with many questions. Early indications are not encouraging, as many of his pronouncements and Executive orders, and confirmation testimony by several of his Cabinet nominees, have raised serious concerns about his Administration’s commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the values that our country stands for. Some of this uncertainty and even ‘chaos’ may be attributed to learning on the job by people without prior or extensive experience in government, but serious questions have already been raised about what the next four years will bring. The large number of protests at this early point of the Trump era and the large number of people supporting these protests is a clear indication of serious public concern.
It is disturbing that the White House website now has an entry entitled ‘An American First Energy Plan’ which ignores the issues of global climate change and makes no reference to solar or wind energy or any of the other renewable energy technologies
However, we do already know a few things: the next few years, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, will be a real test of the Republican Party, where party loyalty in a number of cases will come into conflict with national values and interests. Checks and balances among the three branches of the U.S. government, a pillar of our form of democracy, will be tested as never before in my lifetime. Not only was the recent election a test of the American people but the next few years will be a test of our democratic institutions as well.
As a person who devoted the bulk of his professional career (I retired in 2012) to the development and deployment of clean energy technologies (energy efficiency, renewable energy), I am quite concerned about what a Trump Administration will do to U.S. efforts to move as rapidly as possible from an energy system highly dependent on fossil fuels to one increasingly dependent on clean energy. While a President is not a dictator and cannot just do anything he wants to do in our system of checks and balances, he can change emphases, impact budgets, and slow things down.
This is of special concern when he is surrounding himself with climate change deniers or skeptics and, in principle, can count on the support of a Republican House and Senate. His initial appointments raise serious questions about the path he will pursue, especially in light of his oft-repeated statement that global climate change is a ‘hoax’ perpetrated by the Chinese. This is an ignorant and false statement. A President and his appointees who go by such views can do damage in a variety of ways to our national clean energy programs.
It is disturbing that the White House website now has an entry entitled ‘An American First Energy Plan’ which ignores the issues of global climate change and makes no reference to solar or wind energy or any of the other renewable energy technologies. This is a serious misreading of a serious global issue and the inevitable direction global energy systems are taking. Thankfully, other countries, individual states within our Union, and some Republican members of Congress are not likely to follow or support such a damaging path.
I and many others have read or lived through too much of the history of Europe in the 1930s. People said suppression of democracy couldn’t happen in Germany and Italy, and it did
What was of particular concern during the presidential Transition period was the Trump Transition Team’s request to the Department of Energy (DOE), thankfully withdrawn, to provide the names of DOE employees and contractors who worked on climate change issues. For those of us old enough to remember the 1950s this request brought back memories of the McCarthy era when a U.S. Senator abused his position as a Committee Chairman to carry out witch hunts for possible communist sympathizers. It took a while, but responsible government and private sector officials finally opposed such un-American tactics and censured the Senator. The Transition Team’s request for names raises the same concerns about intimidation, and was properly rebuffed by the Department. Nevertheless, the fact that such a request initially made it through the filters of the Transition Team suggested a tendency to suppress opposing views, a precursor to autocratic rule.
This concern is also raised by President Trump’s attitude toward the press. A free press is critical to a functioning democracy, which is always vulnerable to the rise of demagogues. Another critical test for our country will be whether the press is up to its task of probing government intensively and fairly and bringing the results of that probing to the American public. Recent history suggests that the press has not always done its job as well as it should and that the new Administration will resist such probing. In fact, this resistance is already playing out in statements by the President and senior representatives of his Administration, specifically his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, his Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and his Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway. These early actions represent a war on the press, a dangerous development in a democratic system.
I recognize that some people might see a degree of paranoia in my comments above, but there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about what might happen in the next four, and possibly eight, years. I and many others have read or lived through too much of the history of Europe in the 1930s. People said suppression of democracy couldn’t happen in Germany and Italy, and it did. Speaking up is required. Not speaking up is failing in our obligation and capacity as citizens.

The Economic Implications of Addressing Climate Change

The article attached below appeared today (January 24, 2017) in the Washington Post. It is an important article and was written by Todd Stern, who served as a senior negotiator on climate change issues during the Obama Administration. I bring it to your attention because it addresses the economic implications for the U.S. of addressing or not addressing climate change issues in a meaningful way. It recognizes that the global energy system is evolving from its heavy dependence on fossil fuels to a system increasingly dependent on renewable energy technologies. The market for these technologies is already large and growing rapidly, and the U.S. has an opportunity via its innovation and manufacturing skills to be a major player in that market. This has significant implications for U.S. economic growth and job creation. If the Trump Administration slows down our efforts to move away from a fossil fuel powered economy and toward a clean energy economy focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy, our country will pay an unfortunate price economically, environmentally, and in terms of our global leadership position. One can only hope that the new U.S. Administration will be open to acknowledging this stark reality.


Trump can make the deal of the century on climate
By Todd Stern January 24, 2017
Todd Stern, a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, was U.S. special envoy for climate change from 2009 to 2016.

As President Trump takes the reins of power, anxiety and uncertainty are the order of the day for those concerned about the threat of climate change. Trump has ranged from disbelieving (climate change is a Chinese “hoax”) to dismissive (we should “cancel” the 2015 Paris agreement) to open (“I’m looking at it very closely. . . . I have an open mind to it”) on the issue.
The truth is that the climate challenge Trump faces is large and the stakes are high, but he has been dealt a very good hand if he is willing to play it.
The challenge is that achieving the climate goals endorsed by all the countries in Paris — especially holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels — will take a concerted commitment centered on rapidly transitioning from a high- to a very-low-carbon global energy system. A global economy that currently runs more than 80 percent on fossil fuels will have to cut that habit dramatically by 2050 and eliminate or capture all carbon emissions by the 2060s or 2070s.
Nor can the Paris goals be shrugged off as an excess of zeal that we can comfortably revise upward. With average temperature having risen by only 0.9 degrees Celsius so far, we already see rapidly accumulating evidence of rising sea levels, stressed water supplies and “100-year” events such as extreme droughts, floods and storms. As these and other effects worsen, we will face risks to health, safety, economic well-being and national security that we have never tolerated in any other context. If you doubt this, just consult the published views of the Pentagon, the intelligence community and any number of major corporations, not to mention the leading lights of the U.S. and global scientific establishment.
The good news, though, is that while meeting the challenge of transitioning to clean energy is formidable, it is also doable as a matter of innovation, policy and financing. We know what we need to do, and we can do it — if the political will is there.
Which brings us back to Trump and those good cards he has been dealt. First, he has the Paris agreement itself. Climate change is a global problem, so it can’t be solved without a global regime to drive joint action, and the landmark Paris accord finally delivered that regime, after 20 years of trying. It is built to work both for the United States and for others. It has a bottom-up structure based on countries devising their own climate plans and targets; it applies to all, including China and India; it renews itself every five years a.s countries update and augment the ambition of their efforts; and it includes binding commitments for full transparency, so all countries can have confidence that others are acting.
Second, we have entered a period of explosive growth in clean energy, led by the genius of U.S. innovation both in technology and in business models, and by the massive markets being created worldwide for pollution-free energy. The costs of wind and solar generation have been plummeting and are already near the cost of fossil fuel, and sometimes cheaper. More than 60 percent of new electricity capacity in the United States in the past two years has come from these sources.
And innovation is blossoming all over the clean-tech landscape, from storage technology to open the door for expanding use of renewables, to electric vehicles, to a smarter grid that will enable more work to be done with less energy.
Plus, there are jobs — for example, more solar jobs now in the United States than in the oil, gas and coal extraction industries combined. And clean energy is hugely popular with both Democratic and Republican voters.
We still, crucially, need strong policy support and research and development, but the change is gathering speed.
Globally, the economic potential of the clean-energy transition is staggering, amounting to trillions of dollars. No one has more to gain than the United States by jumping into this new “great race” with both feet, given our unparalleled culture and infrastructure of innovation. It’s the deal of the century, and a presidential dealmaker should pursue it with gusto.
None of this would prevent generous treatment for those, such as coal miners, who helped build the industrial backbone of our nation. Or, indeed, for full-on R&D and other support for technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
Is it plausible that Trump could recognize the climate challenge and embrace this opportunity? The key lies in that “open mind” of his. If it is open, then he will listen to knowledgeable advisers — from the military, big business, Wall Street, the scientific community — and he’ll come quickly to understand the risk of climate change and the reward of taking it on.
With an open mind, Trump can make history. He has a Nixon-to-China capacity to bring Congress, the American public and the rest of the world with him on climate. He should seize it.