Politics, Economics, the Environment, and the Arts


Manchin’s Choice on Build Back Better: Mine Workers or Mine Owners – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — For years, burly men in camouflage hunting jackets have been a constant presence in the Capitol Hill office of Senator Joe Manchin III, their United Mine Workers logos giving away their mission: to lobby not only for the interests of coal, but also on more personal matters such as pensions, health care and funding to address black lung disease.

So when the miners’ union and the West Virginia A.F.L.-C.I.O. came out last month with statements pleading for passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act — just hours after Mr. Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, said he was a “no” — the Capitol took notice.”

A Widening Web of Undersea Cables Connects Britain to Green Energy – The New York Times

“BLYTH, England — Britain’s economic and political ties to Europe may be fraying, but a growing web of undersea electrical cables binds the nation’s vital power system and its clean energy aspirations to the continent.

The longest and most powerful of these cables was recently laid across the North Sea, from a hydroelectric plant in Norway’s rugged mountains to Blyth, an industrial port in northeast England. Completed last year, it stretches 450 miles, roughly the distance from New York to Toronto. The twin cables, each about five inches in diameter, can carry enough power for nearly 1.5 million homes.

The idea is to use the cable to balance the two nations’ power systems and take advantage of differences between them. In the broadest terms, Britain wants to tap into Norway’s often abundant hydropower, while the Norwegians will be able to benefit from surges of electricity from British wind farms that might otherwise be wasted.”

Can a Tiny Territory in the South Pacific Power Tesla’s Ambitions? – The New York Times

“GORO, New Caledonia — From the reef-fringed coast of New Caledonia, the Coral Sea stretches into the South Pacific. Slender native pines, listing like whimsical Christmas trees, punctuate the shoreline. The landscape, one of the most biodiverse on the planet, is astonishingly beautiful until the crest of a hill where a different vista unfolds: a gouged red earth pierced by belching smokestacks and giant trucks rumbling across the lunar-like terrain.

This is Goro, the largest nickel mine on a tiny French territory suspended between Australia and Fiji that may hold up to a quarter of the world’s nickel reserves. It also poses a critical test for Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle maker, which wants to take control of its supply chain and ensure that the minerals used for its car batteries are mined in an environmentally and socially responsible fashion.

Tesla’s strategy, the largest effort by a Western electric vehicle maker to directly source minerals, could serve as a model for a green industry confronting an uncomfortable paradox. While consumers are attracted to electric vehicles for their clean reputation, the process of harvesting essential ingredients like nickel is dirty, destructive and often politically fraught.

Because of its nickel industry, New Caledonia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita. And mining, which began soon after New Caledonia was colonized in 1853, is intimately linked to the exploitation of its Indigenous Kanak people. The legacy of more than a century of stolen land and crushed traditions has left Goro’s nickel output at the mercy of frequent labor strikes and political protests.”

Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That’s Vital to Electric Cars – The New York Times

“SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia — The mission was quixotic for a small Texas energy start-up: Beat out Chinese and Russian industrial giants in unlocking mineral riches that could one day power tens of millions of electric vehicles.

A team traveled from Austin to Bolivia in late August to meet with local and national leaders at a government lithium complex and convince them that the company, EnergyX, had a technology that would fulfill Bolivia’s potential to be a global green-energy power. On arriving, they found that the conference they had planned to attend was canceled and that security guards blocked the location.

Still, the real attraction was in plain sight: a giant chalky sea of brine high in the Andes called the Salar de Uyuni, which is rich in lithium, among several minerals with growing value worldwide because they are needed in batteries used in electric cars and on the power grid.

Surrounded by rusty equipment, empty production ponds and pumps uncoupled from pipes, it seemed a forlorn spot. But to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s chief executive, it had nothing but promise.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
A light handed approach may be best, given how sensitive the Bolivians are about foreign encroachment. They will be looking for trustworthy, generous, and state of the art. It appears this Texan entrepreneur has a shot.

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

Energy Miser

Mark Durrenberger’s Blog — writing about homes and energy.

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

December 1, 2015

Solar Installation in New EnglandYou’re the proud owner of a new 7,800-watt solar energy system. But every time you check your online monitoring, your system is operating below the full 7,800 watts of capacity.

Then you notice the rating plate on your inverter in the basement says 7,600 watts. What the heck?

I can explain the perfectly legitimate reasons for the discrepancy, but first, I have to go off on a tangent and discuss solar panel testing.


Standard Test Conditions (STC)

A solar panel is first tested right in the factory. As the panel comes off the production line, a worker (or robot) places the panel on a “flash table” and hooks up the positive and negative leads to a measuring device. The panel is then “flashed” with fake sunlight.  The connected electronics record a number of performance values including the panel’s voltage (volts), current (amps) and power (watts).

STCThese testing conditions are called “Standard Test Conditions” or STC. But what’s standard about them? Well, the light source is calibrated to a defined set of wavelengths and so that precisely 1,000 watts per square meter fall on the front glass of the solar panel. Temperature is the other key test condition – everything is at 77°F (25°C). The solar cells, glass, aluminum frame, and back-sheet are all at 77°F.

If you haven’t noticed already, these test conditions are nothing like the real world. So why does the manufacturer even bother?

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of natural variation – upwards of 5-6% – in the power output from solar cells and panels, even from panels made in the same production run. The manufacturer uses STC testing to sort panels by power and ensure that similar panels are sold and used together.

For example, let’s say that after a flash test, a panel measures out at 257 watts. The manufacturer will “bin” that panel in the “255 to 259.9 watt” bin. A 263.4 watt panel will end up in the “260 to 264.9 watt” bin and so on. The manufacturer will then sell the 255-259.9 watt panels as 255-watt panels, and the 260 to 264.9-watt panels as 260-watt panels. (By the way, even though the panels come off the same production line and cost exactly the same to manufacture, manufacturers charge more for the higher wattage panels.)

Unfortunately, this testing gives only a rough indication of how solar panels will perform in the real world. That’s where the next test comes in.


PVUSA Test Conditions (PTC)

In the mid-1990s, under the direction of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a set of test conditions were developed to measure solar panel performance under “real world” conditions. The conditions were called “Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications Test Conditions” or PVUSA Test Conditions; more commonly “PTC.”

Source: STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

Europe Looks to Nuclear Power to Meet Climate Goals – The New York Times

“PARIS — European countries desperate for a long-term and reliable source of energy to help reach ambitious climate goals are turning to an answer that caused earlier generations to shudder: nuclear power.

Poland wants a fleet of smaller nuclear power stations to help end its reliance on coal. Britain is betting on Rolls-Royce to produce cheap modular reactors to complement wind and solar energy. And in France, President Emmanuel Macron plans to build on the nation’s huge nuclear program.

As world leaders pledge to avert a climate catastrophe, the nuclear industry sees an opportunity for a revival. Sidelined for years after the disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl, advocates are wrangling to win recognition of nuclear energy, alongside solar and wind, as an acceptable source of clean power.

More than half a dozen European countries recently announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors. Some are smaller and cheaper than older designs, occupying the space of two football fields and costing a fraction of the price of standard nuclear plants. The Biden administration is also backing such technology as a tool of “mass decarbonization” for the United States.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Liz Alderman and Stanley Reed for this fascinating report. I also enjoyed the top 20 or 30 comments, which were impressively pro-nuclear, and well informed. I hope you write a lot more on this important subject. One article could pick up on some of the comments, and chase down some sources.
What I am most keen to read about, is what are the technical changes in the new nuclear designs. Is the Bill Gates team nuclear plant superior or inferior to the one now being promoted by Rolls Royce? et cetera. Gates describes his new plant broadly in a Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, part three. I recently read that there might be as many as 20 new designs of this next generation of relatively safe nuclear plants.
I would like to know what their similarities and differences are, and where to go to get more details, if I am able to follow along on the technical discussion. And again, Thanks for this great work. David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution – The New York Times

Dionne SearceyMichael Forsythe and 

“KISANFU, Democratic Republic of Congo — Just up a red dirt road, across an expanse of tall, dew-soaked weeds, bulldozers are hollowing out a yawning new canyon that is central to the world’s urgent race against global warming.

For more than a decade, the vast expanse of untouched land was controlled by an American company. Now a Chinese mining conglomerate has bought it, and is racing to retrieve its buried treasure: millions of tons of cobalt.

At 73, Kyahile Mangi has lived here long enough to predict the path ahead. Once the blasting starts, the walls of mud-brick homes will crack. Chemicals will seep into the river where women do laundry and dishes while worrying about hippo attacks. Soon a manager from the mine will announce that everyone needs to be relocated.

“We know our ground is rich,” said Mr. Mangi, a village chief who also knows residents will share little of the mine’s wealth.”

Old Power Gear Is Slowing Use of Clean Energy and Electric Cars – The New York Times

“Seven months after workers finished installing solar panels atop the Garcia family home near Stanford University, the system is little more than a roof ornament. The problem: The local utility’s equipment is so overloaded that there is no place for the electricity produced by the panels to go.

“We wasted 30,000-something dollars on a system we can’t use,” Theresa Garcia said. “It’s just been really frustrating.”

President Biden is pushing lawmakers and regulators to wean the United States from fossil fuels and counter the effects of climate change. But his ambitious goals could be upended by aging transformers and dated electrical lines that have made it hard for homeowners, local governments and businesses to use solar panels, batteries, electric cars, heat pumps and other devices that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Ivan Penn, wonderful and useful article, thank you. The article did leave me with a dozen questions, for you and your team to consider working on. How is Connecticut doing in this upgrade shortfall? How is United Illuminating now AvantGrid doing in New Haven County CT? I read dozens of the comments, and hope you do too. They were full of helpful insights. I expect you will pick up on the idea that this couple in CA was responsible, with their solar company, for making sure they had the right kind of new transformer, before ordering the solar installation. In UI/Avantgrid territory, in Hamden CT, you have to do that. One commenter said we should turn all these utilities into co-ops, which could get loans to do all the upgrades. That one, comment, like many others, deserves more research and reporting if you like this new and complex area.
I have 54 solar panels on my roof, but I am not a dyi, do it yourselfer, I know how to fix a broken flashlight. I believe the climate crisis, is an existential crisis, connected directly to the sixth extinction, which might mean the end of human life in the next few centuries, if we don’t stop the advent of cascading and unstoppable events which might be beginning already. So, one of my questions is, how to get where we need to go? Should Biden declare an emergency, and possibly martial law? Or we just need a stiff carbon tax, that increases annually?
David blogs at and

As Western Oil Giants Cut Production, State-Owned Companies Step Up – The New York Times

By Clifford KraussOct. 14, 2021, 9:52 a.m. ETHOUSTON — After years of pumping more oil and gas, Western energy giants like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron are slowing down production as they switch to renewable energy or cut costs after being bruised by the pandemic.But that doesn’t mean that the world will have less oil. That’s because state-owned oil companies in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America are taking advantage of the cutbacks by investor-owned oil companies by cranking up their production.This massive shift could reverse a decade-long trend of rising domestic oil and gas production that turned the United States into a net exporter of oil, gasoline, natural gas and other petroleum products, and make America more dependent on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, authoritarian leaders and politically unstable countries.

Thomas L. Friedman | A Scary Energy Winter Is Coming. Don’t Blame the Greens. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Every so often the tectonic geopolitical plates that hold up the world economy suddenly shift in ways that can rattle and destabilize everything on the surface. That’s happening right now in the energy sphere.

Several forces are coming together that could make Vladimir Putin the king of Europe, enable Iran to thumb its nose at America and build an atomic bomb, and disrupt European power markets enough that the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Glasgow could suffer blackouts owing to too little clean energy.

Yes, this is a big one.

Natural gas and coal prices in Europe and Asia just hit their highest levels on record, oil prices in America hit a seven-year high and U.S. gasoline prices are up $1 a gallon from last year. If this winter is as bad as some experts predict — with some in the poor and middle classes unable to heat their homes — I fear we’ll see a populist backlash to the whole climate/green movement. You can already smell that coming in Britain. . . .

. . . .  Sadly, in an overreaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident, Germany decided in 2011 to phase out all of its nuclear power by 2022 — nuclear power stations that in the year 2000 generated 29.5 percent of Germany’s power generation mix. All of that has to be replaced by wind, solar, hydro and natural gas, and there is just not enough now.

As Bill Gates points out in his smart book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” the only way to reach our climate targets is to shift production of all the big heavy industries, like steel, cement and automobiles, as well as how we heat our homes and power our cars, to electricity generated from clean energy. Safe and affordable nuclear power has to be part of our mix because, Gates argues, “it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Thomas Friedman, for this entire essay. I read Bill Gate’s book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” and I recommend to to all Americans who can read. For the others, there is already an audio book. Gates has a team of scientists that have reinvented a new nuclear power plant that cannot explode or melt down, and runs on old nuclear waste. What is holding them up, is that no one will let them build the first one. I nominate Connecticut to step up and be first. Gate’s book doesn’t go into his nuclear plant work. My reference for that is a documentary on Netflix called, Inside Bill’s Brain, part three.
David lives in Connecticut, and blogs at
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