Amateur radio steps up in Alabama before and after the storm

Never forget:Pleasant Grove, Alabama

First and most importantly… My thoughts and prayers are with the men, women, and children in the tornado devastated cities and towns in the south. I have spent a lot of time in the last two days in devastated areas with the majority of the time being spent in Pleasant Grove Alabama. The warmth and love of the people I have met in that neighborhood have changed me forever. The sadness of morning the loss of people’s loved ones as they find out they did not make it has left an indelible impression on my heart. And in all the chaos, sadness, tears and moments of joy as people find loved ones I came across a flag hanging on a street that was incredible hard hit. I came across this flag and lost it, started crying and praying. I was unable to take any more as it reminded me so much of being at ground zero and the helpless feeling of knowing that life is so fragile. May god bless, help these people and guide the relief efforts

Well before the storms rolled into the south, the amateur radio operators in the region had many radio communication networks established. Storm spotters were reporting the locations of the the various tornados which helped to coordinate with the National Weather Service and the EMA for the initial responses into the devastated regions. The radio networks continue to operate and supplies are making it further and further into the regions around Birmingham. Formal operations have taken over most of what the amateur radio operators were able to provide in the initial response to the storms but amateur radio operators continue to support many operations throughout the state.

Now 2 days after the disaster and with a moment to take a breath I can only compliment the many operators that I have heard and seen performing hours and hours of selfless and often thankless work.
To every Amateur Radio Operator that has contributed to the efforts:
Thank you from me and everyone that you have touched with your service

Chernobyl Plant Worker Shares Painful Memories

KYIV, Ukraine—Nikolai Vsisovich worked as a liquidator inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the No. 4 reactor exploded 25 years ago. He is the last surviving work of 18 men. With the Fukushima crisis still not resolved, Vsisovich shares what he sees as too high a price to pay for nuclear power.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred about 75 miles from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the accident was classified as level 7, the highest rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The International Atomic Energy Agency has rated some individual reactor accidents at Fukushima as level 5, but the Institute for Science and International Security, founded by a former IAEA inspector, says taking the plant as a whole, the level should be 6.

April 26, 1986, seemed like a normal Saturday. “Some men were drinking beer or sodas sitting near their home; children were playing in the yards. It was Saturday and a sunny day,” says Vsisovich.

The only surprising thing, he said, was that residents in the satellite town of Pripyat continued to behave as though nothing was happening after tanks and people wearing special uniforms entered the town to measure radioactivity levels.

The accident had occurred in the middle of the night, just before 1:30 a.m. During a systems test, there was a power surge, and everything went out of control, leading to a series of explosions at the No. 4 reactor. The explosions caused a fire, creating a highly radioactive plume of smoke. The amount of radioactivity released was roughly 400 times more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to the IAEA.

“Safety measures were ignored, the uranium fuel in the reactor overheated and melted through the protective barriers,” according to the IAEA.

Nikolai Vsisovich shows a picture of the protective face mask he wore during the working at the Chernobyl plant after the accident. (Vladimir Borodin/The epoch Times) Shortly after Pripyat was tested for radioactivity, and 36 hours after the accident, Soviet authorities began evacuating the town of nearly 50,000. Pripyat lay less than 2 miles from Chernobyl and had been established in 1970 to house workers when construction of the plant began.

In the ensuing weeks and months, some 200,0000 people were permanently relocated because of the accident.

Vsisovich and other members of plant staff were asked to stay behind because nobody knew the facility better than they did. “Even the leaders of the country came to ask us to stay, although we were supposed to be taken away from the plant because we already received the maximum exposure,” he says.

Plant staff worked together with soldiers who had the most dangerous job of clearing the exploded roof of the reactor.

“For that job soldiers were taken out of the army and paid 1,000 rubles as a bonus, and were allowed to leave military service for good. I don’t know, they might have already died a few years after the explosion,” said Vsisovich.

The 31-year-old Vsisovich went back and forth at a distance of about 500 feet from the exploded reactor, wearing a simple uniform and a facemask

In the first days of the cleanup, many staff members experienced a strange condition that kept them awake. “We had such euphoria that did not allow us to sleep—that excited us very much.”

However, he said then he learned that his body temperature had dropped to 35 degrees. “I felt like a boiled crayfish,” he recalled, adding that when he came home for a vacation after a month of work, he slept for about 20 days without getting out of bed.

Vsisovich, now 56, describes the litany of chronic ailments he suffers, about 20 in all. Most of his fellow workers suffered from heart problems and cancer—some suddenly died years after the disaster.

“I am the only one from my team of 18 people who is still alive,” he says.

Vsisovich thinks workers at the Fukushima plant will also likely suffer health problems. “There are no doubts,” he said.

The Chernobyl disaster and the crisis in Japan have changed his views on the safety of using nuclear power. He thinks the costs are too high and now stands for developing other sources of energy.

Vsisovich doesn’t agree with opening the Chernobyl power plant and the ghost town of Pripyat as a tourist destination. He believes the radiation levels are still too high and that the sarcophagus under the fourth reactor is weak, fragile, and full of highly radioactive dust.

Tours to Chernobyl started in February. The website says it is safe, if you follow the guide’s instructions, and do not “make contact with objects that easily adsorb radiation.” They also advise visitors to wear closed shoes and clothes that fully cover the body.

In the 1990s Vsisovich started helping the victims of Chernobyl by organizing philanthropic events and is working on creating an international fund in case of another Chernobyl, or indeed Fukushima.

Green energy bill signed into law

Mojave solar collector farm - green energyMarilyn Bechtel – When Governor Jerry Brown put his signature on Senate Bill 2X April 12, California became No. 1 in the nation in its commitment to renewable energy.

SB 2X, introduced by state Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, requires all electricity retailers in California, whether privately owned or municipal, to get at least 33 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, by 2020. Previous legislation called for privately owned utilities to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources, a goal, analysts say should be achieved by 2012.

The bill was backed by many environment, labor and health organizations, and clean energy businesses. Supporters include the California Apollo Alliance, the American Lung Association of California, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the California Pan Ethnic Health Network and the Sierra Club.

In a statement, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) energy analyst Laura Wisland called the bill “not just a victory for California’s economy and environment, but for the whole nation.” UCS estimates that with the 33 percent law in place, California will account for over a quarter of renewable energy generated by state standards in 2020. Wisland urged the federal government to follow California’s lead.

The labor-business-environment Apollo Alliance emphasized renewable energy’s job-creating potential. Noting that California already leads the nation in the number of clean energy jobs, business and patents, the Alliance said the new law “will spur billions of new dollars of investment in clean energy and infrastructure projects that help create jobs in a state where clean-tech is already the fastest growing sector of the economy.”

The measure also got high marks from The Utilities Reform Network, which advocates for and assists utility customers. Writing on TURN’s web site, staff attorney Matt Freedman said he was glad to see the bill signed into law after “years of obstruction” from Brown’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a similar bill in 2009 and threatened to veto one last year.

“While proclaiming himself the Green Governor to audiences around the world, Schwarzenegger systematically blocked meaningful environmental progress here at home,” he said. “California is going to be much greener without him standing in the way of progress.”

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Fukushima crisis rating raised, question becomes ‘how much radiation has been released?’

Fukushima and the protests against nuclear energyBy Peter Grier, Washington -Japan on Tuesday raised its assessment of the severity of the situation at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to 7 – the worst score possible on the accident rating scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

That does not mean the Fukushima crisis has suddenly become more dire. Japanese nuclear regulators said they moved the rating up from its previous position of 5 due to new assessments of the total amount of radiation released from the plant since it was pulverized by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

So far the Fukushima accident has resulted in a release of about one-tenth of the amount of radiation that escaped from Chernobyl, the worst civilian nuclear disaster to date. Japanese officials said there was a small chance that Fukushima could eventually exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if workers are not able to soon restore the site’s crippled cooling systems.

“This reconfirms that this is an extremely major disaster. We are very sorry to the public, people living near the nuclear complex, and the international community for causing such a serious accident,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Does the increase in the accident rating mean that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) now have a better idea of the extent of damage at the plant, and where radioactive releases have gone? After all, over the last month residents of the region have complained that they have received confusing and sometimes contradictory information. On Monday, for instance, Japan finally began urging the evacuation of residents of “hot spots” marked by high radiation levels outside the original 12-mile evacuation zone.

Well, officials surely are developing a more accurate picture of the effects of the nuclear accident by the day. But much remains unknown, from the condition of partially melted fuel in the damaged reactors, to why hot spots such as Iitate were affected by greater deposition of radioactive material. What Japan has now is more of an outline of the incident – an outline that will be filled in gradually as the months go by, workers gain greater access to damaged areas, and scientists collect more and more radiation measurements from the environment.

That is why it is premature to make any recommendations about improved safety procedures in the US and elsewhere, according to one former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“After Three Mile Island and after Chernobyl, it took several years of analyzing what happened before one could really reach a conclusion about what could have been done to prevent it, and we are a long way away from having that kind of knowledge about the Japanese systems,” said former NRC chief John Ahearne in an interview posted on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The preliminary nature of authorities’ knowledge about Fukushima can be seen in the fact that different Japanese nuclear regulatory agencies on Tuesday issued different estimates for the total amount of radiation the crippled plant has emitted so far.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated that 370 thousand terabecquerels of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 have been released from Fukushima since March 11. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nuclear Security Council put the total release of radioactive material at 630 thousand terabecquerels.

At a joint press conference Tuesday the two agencies agreed that the Fukushima accident was a 7 on the IAEA scale. But officials stressed that the increase in the rating was not a signal for the public to panic.

“Right now, the situation of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant has been stabilizing step by step. The amount of radiation leaks is on the decline,” said Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

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Iranian Students Design, Develop Solar-Powered Car

Iranian Solar Car designed and built by studentsTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian university students unveiled a car that runs entirely on solar energy.

The students from the vehicular research department at the University of Qazvin designed and developed the vehicle named ‘Havin’ which means ‘shining sun’.

Havin is five meters long and two meters wide and is capable of reaching speeds of over 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour.

The students unveiled the fiber glass vehicle at the Tehran Permanent International Fairground on Thursday.

The vehicle weighs 160 kilograms (352 lb.) and is fitted with six square meters of silicon solar cells.

The environmentally-friendly project comes in line with Iran’s greater policy to reduce energy consumption across all sectors.

Lessons of Chernobyl can apply to Fukushima

Chernobyl in modern timesRussian and the Ukrainian physicians have studied the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster in the past 25 years and they are ready to share their experience with Japan in the wake of the accident at its Fukushima nuclear power plant. Among the illnesses caused by exposure to radiation are radiation sickness, leukemia, thyroid cancer, schizophrenia, cataract and even early death.

The accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant after a devastating earthquake almost coincided with the 25th anniversary of the explosion of a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant. Originally, experts insisted that there will be no dangerous consequences and consequently, there is no need to worry because the Japanese reactor differs conceptually from that of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, which exploded on the 26th of April 1986. However, as the situation went out of control, radiation started leaking. This prompted the experts to compare the situation with that of Chernobyl, and according to the French daily L’Express, the TERCO Company is inviting those who were involved in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster to cope with the situation in Japan. What is the impact of radiation on the health of people is the question that worries all. There is no unambiguous answer, says the chairman of the Russian Scientific Commission on Radiation Protection, Victor Ivanov.

“One has to know three things to make reliable forecasts: the radiation dose, demographical data because the risk of women to a unit dose is greater than that of men, and ways for estimating the radiation risk. Russia has all the models,” says Victor Ivanov.

According to Russian and Ukrainian physicians who treated Chernobyl rescuers, those who received instantly about 300 millisieverts or 0.3 grey or more suffered from serious illnesses. For one, they suffered from leukemia, and there were cancer patients among them, says Victor Ivanov.

“In view of this, we advise Japanese officials to limit the dose down to 150 millisiverts. They are doing so. A few people have exceeded this figure at the Fukushima,” Victor Ivanov said.

Experts believe that unlike in Chernobyl, there is no problem of acute radiation sickness in Japan. The most dangerous one is the severe radiation sickness, which is characterized by radiation burns, non-healing skin injuries, vomiting, digestive problems and high temperature. There were about 150 such patients after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. They were treated at hospitals in Moscow and Kiev, and doctors could save many of them, says radiologist, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, Angelina Guskova.

“Many of these patients underwent successful recuperation. This is also confirmed by our colleagues in Kiev. The motivation of these people to work, and personal disposition are crucial in achieving a recovery. A group of Japanese has recently made a documentary film about a person who suffered from radiation sickness after receiving radiation about 4.5 grey. 70 percent of his body’s skin was damaged. He is now doing business actively after treatments. There is a sorrowful example too. This is linked to a man who was the last person to die. He was a young man and received 11 grey. We put our hearts and souls behind him. He died of cirrhosis after recovering from radiation sickness,” Angelina Guskova said.

However, radio-phobia poses a serious threat. There is a concept among specialists known as anticipatory stress. This concerns a person who is afraid in advance that he will be subjected to radiation. This feeling may cause illnesses. The most unpleasant thing is that the fear complex triggers real somatic disorders. Consequently, no one should sow panic, insist doctors who believe that it’s impossible to make any forecasts before the complete localization of the disaster or its elimination.

‘No Safe Levels’ of Radiation in Japan – Danger for Fukushima 50 grows

Fukushima 50 working on cooling problem(TOKYO-IPS/Al Jazeera) – In a nuclear crisis that is becoming increasingly serious, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Agency confirmed that radioactive iodine-131 in seawater samples taken near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex that was seriously damaged by the recent tsunami off the coast of Japan is 4,385 times the level permitted by law.

Airborne radiation near the plant has been measured at 4-times government limits.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the company that operates the crippled plant, has begun releasing more than 11,000 tons of radioactive water that was used to cool the fuel rods into the ocean while it attempts to find the source of radioactive leaks. The water being released is about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits.

Meanwhile, water that is vastly more radioactive continues to gush into the ocean through a large crack in a six-foot deep pit at the nuclear plant. Over the weekend, workers at the plant used sawdust, shredded newspaper and diaper chemicals in a desperate attempt to plug the area, which failed. Water leaking from the pit is about 10,000 times more radioactive than water normally found at a nuclear plant

Thus, radiation from a meltdown in the reactor core of reactor No. 2 is leaking out into the water and soil, with other reactors continuing to experience problems.

Yet scientists and activists question these government and nuclear industry “safe” limits of radiation exposure.

“The U.S. Department of Energy has testified that there is no level of radiation that is so low that it is without health risks,” Jacqueline Cabasso, the Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation, told Al Jazeera.

Her foundation monitors and analyses U.S. nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy, with a focus on the national nuclear weapons laboratories.

Cabasso explained that natural background radiation exists, “But more than 2,000 nuclear tests have enhanced this background radiation level, so we are already living in an artificially radiated environment due to all the nuclear tests.”

“Karl Morgan, who worked on the Manhattan project, later came out against the nuclear industry when he understood the danger of low levels of ionising radiation-and he said there is no safe dose of radiation exposure,” Cabasso continued, “That means all this talk about what a worker or the public can withstand on a yearly basis is bogus. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. These so-called safe levels are coming from within the nuclear establishment.”

Risk at low doses

Karl Morgan was an American physicist who was a founder of the field of radiation health physics. After a long career in the Manhattan Project and at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he became a critic of nuclear power and weapons. Morgan, who died in 1999, began to offer court testimony for people who said they had been harmed by the nuclear power industry.

“Nobody is talking about the fact that there is no safe dose of radiation,” Cabasso added, “One of the reasons Morgan said this is because doses are cumulative in the body.”

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a report in 2006 titled Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report, VII Phase 2. NAS BEIR VII was an expert panel who reviewed available peer reviewed literature and wrote, “the committee concludes that the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses.”

The concluding statement of the report reads, “The committee concludes that the current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”

This means that the sum of several very small exposures to radiation has the same effect as one large exposure, since the effects of radiation are cumulative.

For weeks engineers from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) have been working to restore power to the plant and have resorted to having seawater sprayed on radioactive fuel rods that have been at risk of meltdown.

Despite this, Japanese officials conceded to the public on Mar. 31 that the battle to save four crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been lost. On Mar. 29 a U.S. engineer who helped install the reactors at the plant said he believed the radioactive core in unit No. 2 may have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor.

Tepco’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, said they had “no choice” but to scrap the No’s 1-4 reactors, but held out hope that the remaining two could continue to operate, despite the fact that he admitted the nuclear disaster could last several months. It is the first time the company has admitted that at least part of the plant will have to be decommissioned.

But the government’s chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, repeated an earlier call for all six reactors at the 40-year-old plant to be decommissioned. “It is very clear looking at the social circumstances,” he said.

Even after a cold shutdown, scrapping the plant will likely take decades, and the site will become a no-man’s land.

Tonnes of nuclear waste sit at the site of the nuclear reactors, and enclosing the reactors by injecting lead and encasing them in concrete would make it safe to work and live a few kilometers away from the site, but is not a long-term solution for the disposal of spent fuel, which will decay and emit fission fragments over tens of thousands of years.

Near the plant, the radiation levels dangerously escalated to 400 milliseiverts/hour. Considering background radiation is on the order of 1 milliseivert per year, this means a yearly background dose every nine seconds, based on industry and governmental “allowable” radiation exposure limits.

That compares with a national “safety standard” in the U.S. of 250 millisieverts over a year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a single dose of 1,000 millisieverts is enough to cause internal hemorrhaging.

Meanwhile, more than 168 citizens organisations in Japan submitted a petition to their government on Mar. 28 calling for an expanded evacuation zone near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site. The groups are also calling for other urgent measures to protect the public health and safety.

Residents of evacuated areas near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have been warned that they may not be able to return to their homes for months as Japan’s nuclear crisis stretched into a third week.

The neighbourhoods near the plant will remain empty “for the long term,” Yukio Edano, the country’s chief cabinet secretary, said on Apr. 1.

Though he did not set a timetable, he said residents would not be able to return permanently “in a matter of days or weeks. It will be longer than that.”

The official evacuation zone remains only 20 kilometers, while the government has encouraged people within 30 kilometers to evacuate.

Yet levels of cesium-137 in the village of Iitate, for example, have been measured at more than twice the levels that prompted the Soviet Union to evacuate people near Chernobyl. Iitate is 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima.

Radioactive Iodine has already been found in the tap water in all of Tokyo’s 23 wards.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had already recommended an 80-kilometer evacuation zone for U.S. citizens in Japan.

Fukushima as Chernobyl

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

“There are still no-go areas there, and the workers town has long since been abandoned, and we are seeing radioactive refugees from there, like we are now seeing generated in Japan,” Dr Kathleen Sullivan, a disarmament educator and activist who has been engaged in the nuclear issue for over 20 years told Al Jazeera.

“Tepco is trying to cover their ass, and the Japanese government is being cagey about it, and I believe people don’t understand that radiation is a major problem and issue.”

Dr Sullivan cited Albert Einstein, who said, “The splitting of the atom changed everything, save man’s mode of thinking; thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

“So we don’t understand this mistake because of the timeless invisible nature of the problem that radiation is,” Sullivan, who has been an education consultant to the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, added.

Some experts have warned of a nightmare scenario where clouds of radioactive material could spread lethal toxins across the planet for months on end if the spent fuel rods catch fire due to lack of coolant.

The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna told New Scientist on Mar. 24: “Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

“Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl.”

The same group of scientists stated, “The Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site,” while, “the Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes.”

According to a report from the New York Academy of Sciences, due to the Chernobyl disaster, 985,000 people have died, mainly from cancer, between 1986-2004.

Monitors have detected tiny radioactive particles which have spread from the reactor site across the Pacific to North America, the Atlantic and even Europe.

Andrea Stahl, a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, told Reuters, “It’s only a matter of days before it disperses in the entire northern hemisphere.”

Tens of thousands of people living near the plant have been evacuated or ordered to stay indoors, while radioactive materials have leaked into the sea, soil and air.

Last week also marked the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in Middletown, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

250,000 years of radiation

Sullivan explained that when dealing with long-lived radioactive materials, in addition to carcinogens there are inter-generational effects that include the mutation of the genetic structure of life.

“This is permanent and irreversible,” she added.

Sullivan uses Fukushima reactor No. 3 as an example, because it is fueled with Mox fuel uranium and plutonium. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years, which means it is carcinogenic and mutagenic for up to 250,000 years, or 12,000 human generations.

A radioactive half-life means that in this case, in 24,000 years, half of the ionising radiation will have decayed, then in another 24,000 years half of that radiation will decay, etc.

“That’s not really understandable or explainable in a conventional sense of knowing,” Sullivan said, “We have to apply our moral imagination to 12,000 generations to even begin to understand what we are doing in this moment.”

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China Buries Obama’s Goal for Renewable Green Energy Use

Green energy- Solar power above vertical-axis wind turbine(Bloomberg-Ben Sills) – China is beating the U.S. in the race to supply clean-energy technologies to the world, helped by a government bank whose advisers include Henry Kissinger.

China Development Bank Corp., which listed the former U.S. secretary of state as an advisory board member in a 2010 bond prospectus, agreed last year to lend 232 billion yuan ($35.4 billion) to Chinese wind and solar power companies. The U.S. gave about $4 billion to their American competitors in grants and offered about $16 billion of loan guarantees. Adding in private investment, China also led.

CDB, which has almost twice the assets of the World Bank, is matching U.S. expertise with Chinese financing and manufacturing prowess to dominate a market both nations say is critical to their future. Chinese solar-panel makers such as LDK Solar Co. Ltd. were the biggest loan recipients and for the first time last year supplied more than half the global market, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which begins its annual conference today in New York.

“What China’s doing is really smart,” said Jon Anda, vice chairman of UBS AG’s securities unit in Stamford, Connecticut. “Without a clear policy path, we’ll get crushed.”

President Barack Obama said in January his country needs another “Sputnik moment” to wean itself of foreign oil. The U.S. had just slipped to third place behind China and Germany in a ranking of nations funding renewable power in 2010 as Republicans in Congress blocked the White House’s energy spending plans, according to a ranking by New Energy Finance.

U.S. Versus China

In addition to the $35.4 billion CDB pledged in corporate loans, state and private interests sank $54.4 billion into Chinese equity and project debt for clean-energy companies last year, up from $39.1 billion in 2009, according to the research company. In the U.S., which led the ranking in 2008, $34 billion was invested, trailing Germany’s $41.2 billion.

“The danger for the U.S. is that by the time it wakes up, in place of the levy it currently pays to oil despots, it will pay a levy to overseas clean-energy companies,” New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich said.

CDB sold 673 billion yuan of debt to investors in 2009, according to the bank’s annual report. The bank that year loaned 635 billion yuan. Clean-energy loans constituted about 28 percent of all lending, according to Vandana Gombar, a New Energy Finance analyst.

Kissinger, Keating

CBD cited Kissinger as part of its 15-member advisory board alongside former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and former American International Group Inc. Chairman Maurice ‘Hank’ Greenberg in its October prospectus to sell yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.

Jessica Leporin, Kissinger’s New York-based spokeswoman, didn’t respond to voice and e-mail messages seeking comment. A person in Greenberg’s office who said she was his assistant and wouldn’t give her name declined to comment. CDB officials didn’t respond to messages left by telephone and fax.

The bank’s chairman is Chen Yuan, a former vice-chairman of the central bank whose father was a politburo member under Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who died in 1997. The son “has always been very interested in bringing in ideas from outside,” said Erica Downs, a China specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “It has to do with this desire to be a world-class institution.”

China’s state-driven investment hasn’t always paid off. Chairman Chen faced criticism from the Chinese media and the public when London-based lender Barclays Plc fell as much as 93 percent following his 2.2 billion-euro investment in July 2007.

Still, CDB’s 35.3 billion-yuan profit in 2010 exceeded Morgan Stanley’s and its own 30.2 billion-yuan net in 2009.

‘Leapfrog the U.S.’

“They intend to leapfrog the U.S. in these technologies,” Will Coleman, a partner at Menlo Park, California-based Mohr Davidow Ventures, told the Senate Energy Committee on March 17. “If we don’t move forward urgently, I’m concerned that we will not only cede the current opportunity, but we’ll lose the knowledge and the experience necessary to compete.”

Obama is struggling to win support for his energy policy. The Republican-controlled House passed a budget proposal in February that will cut 2012 funds for the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs by 35 percent to $1.5 billion, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The president proposed almost twice that amount.

“We’ve run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades,” Obama said during a speech at Georgetown University in Washington last week when he set a goal to cut U.S. oil imports by a third.

Space Race

In his Jan. 25 State of the Union address, Obama said the U.S. must “reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race.”

Green energy- Solar power above vertical-axis wind turbineAfter the Soviet Union in 1957 launched the beach ball- sized Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, President Dwight Eisenhower set up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to energize the space program and take the lead from the Soviets. President John F. Kennedy set the goal of landing a man on the moon, and by 1965 NASA’s annual budget reached the equivalent of $37 billion in 2011 dollars.

China will invest about twice that in clean-energy projects each year for a decade in a 5 trillion-yuan program aimed at steering the economy away from fossil fuels, under a five-year plan announced last month. CDB loans are expanding the manufacturing base, driving down the cost of the renewable- energy equipment it exports.

CDB’s lending to the clean-energy industry rose 32 percent last year as it granted a five-year $9.1 billion credit line to LDK Solar, the world’s largest maker of solar wafers. The bank also loaned $7.6 billion to Suntech Power Holdings Co. and $5.5. billion to Yingli Green Energy Holding Co., according to New Energy Finance data.

The loans will allow China’s solar companies to sell more cheaply than global competitors by developing less-expensive panels and will protect them from hedge funds that are shorting their shares, said Antony Froggatt, a senior research fellow on the energy and environment at Chatham House, a London-based policy adviser.

“It gives them a competitive edge which we don’t have,” Andreas Wiltsdorf, head of sales for the German solar-panel maker Conergy AG, said in an interview in London. “Speak to the Chinese guys here, and they say, ‘We have such cheap loans from the state — Easy!’”

–With assistance from Alex Morales in London and Feifei Shen in Beijing. Editors: Todd White, Reed Landberg

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To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

California State Assembly Pushes Tough Green Energy Requirement

Solar panel farmCalifornia has consistently led the nation over the past decade in its adoption of green energy technologies. California ranked first in 2010 amongst all states in solar panel installations. This week, the state assembly approved a measure that mandates utilities to increase the percentage of electricity derived from clean, green energy sources.

The bill would force utilities to provide 33 percent of their power from renewable green energy by 2020 and now only awaits approval from the governor. Currently, laws require utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from green energy sources by 2020. Critics of the bill say the mandate is unreasonable considering all of California’s utilities failed to meet previous goals stipulating that 20 percent of their electricity come from renewable green energy by 2010.

Supporters of the bill, on the other hand, assert that Japan and the continuing radiation containment issues, the U.S. should be more focused on weaning itself off fossil fuels and other energy sources aside from wind power and solar power. Moreover, environmentalists claim the mandate would force the creation of around 10,000 new jobs in the time leading up to the 2020 date.

Solar power and wind power technologies have advanced greatly in the recent years and the requirement should be country wide and not isolated to California. Where solar power is less viable, usually wind power is a better solution and vise versa. In California, the adoption of both seems to have two hurdles, financial and societal. Both of which the Japanese nuclear disaster highlights. What will be the human cost in Fukushima for some nuclear power? The environmental cost of fukushima? In the worst solar disaster ever, someone might get squished by a solar array, or electrifried but they will not glow in the dark and set off geiger counters.