Monthly Archives: September 2013

Larry Furman – Renewable Energy Advocate – For General Assembly


Investment for the 21st Century – To Rebuild the Economy – To Withstand the Storms

Seaside Heights after Sandy, Photo by Master Sgt. Mark C.Olsen, US Air Force

Seaside Heights after Sandy, Photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, US Air Force

The best way to rebuild our our cities, towns, and farms, to assure resilience in the face of storms like Sandy, to strengthen our national security infrastructure, and to build a strong economic foundation for future generations is to embrace efficiency, innovation, and renewable energy.

And with Energy the least expensive unit of energy, is the unit of energy you don’t need to buy, the “Nega-Watt.”  The next least expensive unit of energy is the one that doesn’t need fuel, and doesn’t create waste, the “Nega-Fuel-Watt.”

Berkshire Hathaway’s Mid-American Energy is investing in 500 mega-watt solar farms in the southwest. These are the size of small nuclear power plants. This isn’t because Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are asking people at Greenpeace “In what should we invest?” This is because at $3.2 Billion to $4.0 Billion per gigawatt new solar is a fraction of the cost of the $8.0 to $12.0 Billion per gigawatt needed to invest in new nuclear.  And what’s good for Berkshire Hathaway is good for New Jersey.  As of Dec. 31, 2012, we had 900 MW of solar. We should be building another 3,000 MW of solar and 5,000 MW of offshore wind. This will create jobs, give us a stronger, more resilient electric grid, and provide energy with much less pollution.

I want to do three things in Trenton:

  1. Push the state to be more energy efficient, because that will save the taxpayers money,
  2. Facilitate mechanisms by which local businesses and citizens can save money on energy,
  3. Plan for 8,000 MW of wind and solar by 2040.

I need your help to get there.



On Climate & Capitalism

Jersey Shore Damage from Hurricane Sandy. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

Seaside Heights, NJ Boardwalk  following Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, US Air Force

As we wait for the next IPCC report, we know Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now around 400 parts per million, up about 40% from about 265 ppm at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.  Scientists say 350 PPM is the threshold of climate change. We are 15% above the threshold.

If you get pulled over for driving under the influence, and you blow 15% over the threshold, you’re in serious trouble. You may believe you are not too drunk to drive safely, but the scientific evidence contradicts your belief. So it is with climate change.  With atmospheric carbon dioxide at 400 PPM, we are in serious trouble. Some people deny the science, just as people under the influence may deny the evidence.

We now know that all that carbon dioxide in the air and oceans is acidifying the oceans, has increased ocean volume 8 inches in the 20th Century and is warming the atmosphere and the oceans. Warming something, when you talk to a physicist, means it has more energy. If the ocean and the atmosphere have more energy we can expect bigger more powerful storms.  We saw Sandy in 2012, Irene in 2011 and Katrina in 2005.  Were they caused or exacerbated by all this carbon dioxide? I don’t know. I’m not a climate scientist. I’ve a BS in Biology from 1981 and an MBA in Sustainability from 2011.  But 95% of the climate scientists research says, “Probably.”

Where do we go from here? The answer, my friend, as Dylan wrote 50 years ago, “is blowing in the wind.”


In December, 2012, when the power came back on after Sandy, I read that Mid-American Energy was buying big utility scale solar energy systems.  Mid-American is owned by Berkshire Hathaway – the company managed by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Buffett and Munger are not famous environmentalists.  I don’t know if, like me, they support Greenpeace or even it’s conservative uncle, the Sierra Club. But they are buying 500 Megawatt solar plants – solar farms the size of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant.  They cost $1.6 Billion to $2 Billion for a 500 MW plant. New nuclear would cost about $7 or $8 Billion for a 500 MW plant, and that doesn’t count the costs borne by the taxpayers, of securing the plant or managing the waste.

So in December, 2012, I took $16 million of imaginary money and put it in $1 million chunks, into 16 real energy companies into two portfolios: A Sustainable Energy portfolio and a Fossil Fuel portfolio.  First Solar, Sunpower, Cree, and 5 other sustainable energy companies and Exxon, BP, Haliburton, Transocean, and 4 other fossil fuel or fossil fuel service companies.

The results, as of the close of trading on the stock market August 21, 2013, are that the fossil portfolio is up 3.78%. The Dow Industrials and the S&P 500, reference indices, are up about 14.66% and 16.36%, respectively: The Fossil Portfolio dramatically underperformed the indices. The sustainable energy portfolio, on the other hand was up 96.55%. Almost double. This, my friends, is Climate Capitalism*. I’ve published my results here, on  Popular Logistics, an online reference on energy, economics, and system thinking.

  • The Sustainable Energy portfolio, is up 96.55%
  • The Reference Fossil Fuel portfolio is up 3.78%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 14.66%
  • The S&P 500 is up 16.36%.

We should put solar energy systems on every public school. Because over the long term solar is now cheaper than new coal or new nuclear, and we, as taxpayers, pay the operating costs and electric bills of public schools.  If we put solar energy systems on every public school, and wire those systems so they disconnect from the grid during power failures, then during the next “100 Year Storm” – and it’s been 9 months since the last one so there’s one due any day now – then we will have emergency shelters with power, clean power, power that doesn’t rely on gasoline or diesel; power that doesn’t push more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or radioisotopes into the biosphere; power that is largely impervious to hurricanes, tsunamis, accidents and acts of terror.

* Climate Capitalism, by L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen, book on Amazon, discussion, Natural Capital Solutions.