The Department of Energy announced its joint venture with the Department of Agriculture in a press release on April 15, 2011. The two departments will work together to support and develop advances in biobased, bioenergy, or biofuel products. This $30 million project is funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BDRI). BDRI will also help create economical and environmental sources of biomass to increase the overall availability of renewable fuels and biomass products. When compared to conventional fossil fuels, these biomass advances have at a minimum of 50% less green house gas emissions.

Those who wish to apply to receive funding from the BDRI must have a well thought-out plan in one of the three particular areas:

  1. Feedstock Development – the improvement of biomass feedstocks
  2. Biofuels and Biobased Products Development – increase the use of cellulose biomass in the production of biofuels or biobased products.
  3. Biofuels Development Analysis – improve sustainability, environmental quality, and rural economic development of renewable biomass technologies.

The collaboration of the three areas is a great problem solver approach to energy security in the United States.

In particular, the DOE’s Biomass Program will work with the research agencies, as well as industry partners to create a balanced case for the technologies. The role for the USDA is to focus on how this issue is impacting people’s daily lives, as well as how this will impact future generations.  The collaboration between the two departments is one of the many projects of Obama’s goal of reducing the United States’ oil important by one third by the year 2025.

The New York Times covered this issue objectively in their green blog. Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of the New York Times article, begins her post with an introduction of the uses of biomass and how countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have undertaken biomass projects as a means to promote clean energy. In comparison to those two countries, the United States has been a slow course of adopting a means to use biomass as an efficient energy source. However, Rosethanl views that this pace may be changing since the joint venture between the Agriculture and Energy Department’s collaboration of funding and developing new advances in bioenergy.  Also, within the article Rosenthal quoted Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, who made it clear that the biomass is not a product of agricultural leftovers but plants that are grown specifically for fuel purposes.

Yahoo! News published an article by Rachel Krech, who took a very much-balanced approach in delivering the message of both the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture. Krech explained the project’s goals and methods clearly, and even went beyond that, and wrote about how other federal institutions play a role in this project. She also included the President’s role within the project and reveals that since taking office, Obama has been committed to the idea of clean energy projects, in order to reduce dependency on foreign oil and move toward a green clean energy economy. However, Obama’s commitment to such technologies may take longer than predicted. As Krech reveals that the budget proposal from the Republican controlled House of Representatives would cut funding for alternative energy projects.  Even though the Republicans of the House plan to cut funding in that area, these representatives proposed to expand on projects for natural gas to reduce dependency on foreign oil.

News Room America condensed the project between the two departments in an article of no more than 50 words. Within this brief attempt of informing the public, News Room Ameica simply stated that the costs was $30 million over the course of four years to develop biofuel technologies.

United Press International (UPI), posted an article on their official website about the Department of Agriculture and Energy’s effort to develop biofuels, in order to help improve the United States’ energy security. Within the post, UPI quoted Secretary Chu on his thoughts about the project. Chu believes that this new venture will improve the nation’s energy security substantially as well as give the United States the competitive edge within the global market for clean energy technologies.

With the exception of the Yahoo! News article, the traditional media outlets did not do a good job of analyzing the project and its impact. And the blogosphere is no exception to this deficiency.

For the most part, the blogs of interest groups and non-profits such as Advanced Biofuels USA and Ethanol Producer Magazine, as well as the Western Farm Press, simply posted the exact words of the DOE’s press release and did nothing more, no analyzing, no investigating, nothing. I was quite shocked about the lack of opinionated blogs about the issue, considering that there has been much controversy between the use of farmland for energy, instead of for food. However, a blog called FavStocks, who claims to be full of bull…and no $hit, published a post from one of its users, Green Car Congress, who talked about past DOE successes with biofuels. Green Car Congress mentioned that the DOE’s Biomass Program has made significant progress in developing cellulosic ethanol, and has made it cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol. Green Car Congress also examines each of the three particular areas of development individually. The writer came to the result that in order to have success with this project, all three areas should integrate with one another, as well as consider the full life-cycle of the technology.

The situation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant has been getting a lot of attention for the past couple of weeks, with many fearing a nuclear explosion. Since this situation began, the Department of Energy has been working around the clock to provide assistance to the nation of Japan as it works to bring the nuclear plant to a more stable state.

One way that the DOE has tried to assist Japan is with the use of robots. John Schueler posted on the Department’s Energy Blog,  that robots are used to help with environmental cleanup . On Saturday, April 9, 2011, TALON, a robot from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, was sent to Japan and was used as an example to show how the creation of robotic machines could assist Japan’s pressing problems. TALON is equipped with integrated sensors, which are capable of providing a visual and radiological survey of the environment as well as mapping out areas that are dangerous to humans due to high levels of radiation.

The U.S. Department of Energy, also informed the public about the TALON robot, through their Facebook page,  with recieivng 25 likes and one comment that stated that the robot is a good solution that would decrease harmful exposure to more people working surrounding the plant.

The youtube video below shows a brief demonstration of the TALON robot.

On this particular issue, the DOE has used new social media mediums to spread their message, instead of the conventional press release.

Irene Klotz, a MSNBC and Discovery News contributor, mentions that prior to landing in Japan, TALON had done field work testing in military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Ground Zero in New York City. Nonetheless, Fukushima nuclear power plant is TALON’s first highly radioactive environment. The DOE hopes that the robot will be able to take radiation readings and mark them with a GPS device. It was revealed that this equipment was worth $1 million, and was generously donated by its original inventors, QinetiQ.

QinetiQ, the original makers of TALON robots, had also distributed a press release regarding the DOE’s aid in Japan. QinetiQ’s reporting was very much more meticulous and scientific, and went into specifics about TALON robots qualities. The company also mentioned that it will most likely bring in additional robotic assistance to Japan, called Dragon Runner robots. Dragon Runner robots are much more lightweight when compared to TALON robots, but are designed for small spaces such as rubble piles and tunnels. In all, the company is very much honored that they had the opportunity to help Japan recover for its devastation.

Matthew Daly, of the Associated Press, called Talon a radiation harden robot that … The information that Daly had provided was very much similar to what the DOE had released on its blog. However, Daly does say that 40 Department of Energy employees, who will be operating more than 17,000 pounds of equipment at the nuclear plant, would accompany TALON. Considering all the attention that nuclear energy is getting, it is the norm for Americans to worry. Daly cites an official from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who happens to work closely with the DOE, about how the U.S. government is regulatory the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S.  Well, President Obama  had ordered a 90-day review, which includes inspections and licensing reviews of each reactor. Since the review has began, all reactors have been operating safely.

The New York Times briefly mentioned TALON’s presence in Japan, yet went into great detail  of what occurred and what was discussed every half an hour in a Senate Briefing on Nuclear Safety

Defense Daily International, reported that QinetiQ as well as iRobot were sending some of their robots to Japan. iRobot has sent four robots thus far, to train Japanese authorities on how to use the robots to their advantage. Once the training is completed, the robots can be used throughout the areas of the plant. Defense Daily International had described the TALON robot in a more impressive manner, compared to the iRobots. The article describes all the fancy equipped properties that TALON has including chemical, radiological, nuclear, and explosive detection kits, night vision, temperature and air quality indicators, and sound and sensing capabilities up to 3,250 feet away.

Most of the bloggers were questioning whether or not a robot was capable of repairing the reactors in Japan. Eric Guizzo of IEEE Spectrum,  recognizes that this will be a difficult task to accomplish. Guizzo quotes professor of robotics at the Tohoku Univeristy, Satoshi tadokor, and makes the great point that there may be some obstacles within the Fukushima plant in which a human could remove but robots cannot.  Communication becomes another challenge when controlling the robots. Wireles transmissions to the robots from the human operators is tricky considering all the walls, metal,  rubble, and collapsed structures within the plant. However, does have a little optimism for the TALON robots.  He insists that robots are already doing the most important role within the whole situation, which is monitoring the radiation levels.

The public is divided on whether or not the robots will help solve the problem. Nonetheless, Secretary Chu stands behind the U.S assistance of Japan with the use of robotics.

On March, 30, 2011, I had posted a blog called “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator,” which described the Department of Energy’s challenge to spark innovation of clean energy technologies by providing incentives for the start-up companies. Earlier today, I was able to attend presentations at the ISAT Department of JMU as part of the Department’s Senior Symposium. Not all presentations pertained to clean energy projects, but a good chunk of them were. Although none of these graduating seniors had developed their own clean energy companies, I found it so interesting about how much innovation we have right here at JMU.

One particular presentation that I thought was relative to my research of the Department of Energy was one that focused on hydrogen as an alternative transportation fuel and in stationary applications. The project was presented by five JMU Students: Anrew Spurr, Daniel Attard, Ellis Gore, Daniel Knox, and Taylor Moellers.

The presentation began with some background information about the current energy situation in the United States. Currently, the United States is the top oil consumer in the world. Although the U.S. only holds 5% of the world population, we use 22% of the world’s oil.  At the rate that we are consuming, domestic oil will be completely depleted in approximately 11 years. To fix this dependency, the group proposed to use hydrogen as an alternative fuel. They had said that hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. That being said, it can be produced into a variety of domestic energy sources such as wind, solar, or hydropower technologies. The group does warn the audience of hydrogen’s drawbacks; it is a combustible gas that requires more careful and technical handling and dispersion. Further endorsing the idea, the group had built a scooter that solely ran on hydrogen energy, which has zero-emissions of any pollutants.

In order to gain further support with the idea of hydrogen fuel cells, the group engaged in many public education and outreach events. One of them being the USA Science and Engineering in Washington D.C., which attracted over half a million people. Another event , which happened to be held at JMU, was a Hydrogen 101 Seminar hosted by the group and ISAT Professor Christopher Bachmann, which was open to the public, in order to help educate the state and local decision makers about hydrogen.

The 5 graduating seniors were provided a $15,000 grant from Virginia Clean Cities, which happens to be sponsored by the Department of Energy.

Overall, I found it inspiring that a group of JMU students had the ambition to create such a project. It just goes to show that conventional wisdom is wrong: you don’t need to be a scientist to innovate clean technologies. Not only at JMU, but across the globe, many students are creating solutions to adapting to energy efficient means.

**NOTE To Professor Holman: This post is NOT part of the required 10 posts. **

On April 1, 2011, Secretary Chu announced within a press release that he plans to attend the Second Clean Energy Ministerial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on the 6th and 7th of April. The first Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) was launched by Chu, himself, in Washington DC just last year. Essentially, the ministerial is a forum for ministers of major economies who collaborate with one another in order to make a change for clean energy technologies. The 23 participating members of the CEM account for 80% of the world’s energy use, which contributes to a large percent of carbon dioxide and other green house gas emissions.

The  Department of Energy’s blog made things more interactive for those interested in CEM, by allowing those people to submit questions or comments via Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail. David Sandalow, blogger for DOE, wrote that he would be the one who would personally answer the most popular questions. Sandalow also happened to attend CEM and seemed quite optimistic about what the countries had talked about.

There was much more international/foreign journalistic coverage, rather than American coverage. For the most part, the CEM seemed to be under the radar for most of the traditional American media outlets, with only Bloomberg reporting on the event.

WAM, a news agency in Abu Dhabi, gave a detailed account about what happened in the two days. WAM revealed that the 23 governments agreed upon 11 international clean energy initiatives. These initiatives plan to accelerate the process for a clean energy future by eliminating the use of over 500 power plants within the next 20 years.  WAM lists and describes several other initiatives including the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment, the International Smart Grid Action Initiative, as well as Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Initiative. All these initiatives intend to support the growing international market for clean energy, address regulatory policy about carbon emissions, and improving the energy facilities within the world’s poorest countries.

Another foreign news organization, Eurasia Review, had reported on the event in Abu Dhabi. The article reveals that although there have been great strides for cleaner technologies; the success has been overshadowed by the high demands for fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum. It is evident that more aggressive polices are required in order to move away from the high dependency on fossil fuels. But how? Ambassador Richard Jones, Deputy Executive Directory of the International Energy Agency, reported to the ministers and said that the dependency on fossil fuels is posing a risks to economic activity as well as environmental sustainability, which makes it least likely to hit targets that the ministers planned on.

Reuters briefly covered the CEM, and simply stated what the DOE had already released on its official website.

Bloomberg was the only American outlet that had words to say about CEM. However, Bloomberg had released its article a day prior to the CEM meetings in order to make some recommendations of what should be discussed. Alex Morales and Ayesha Daya, contributors to Bloomberg, gives background information about certain forms of energy and describes their respective drawbacks. For instance, coal contributes to the most amount of carbon emissions, yet it still remains one of the largest sources of energy around the world.  Morales and Daya also address the concerns about nuclear energy.  Considering what has happened at Fukushima, Japan, it is obvious that nuclear energy is not for every country, yet it should not be taken out of the mix of energy sources. The writers revealed that in order to cut the carbon dioxide emissions in half, global nuclear power needs to rise from 375 to 512 gig watts.

Green bloggers, such as Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace International, was fortunate enough to actually watch the discussion at Abu Dhabi.  Kosonen’s entry was more of an inside scope of what was actually going on.  Kosonen writes that these governments are among the most powerful in the world, and if they really want an energy revolution right now, then it would happen. However, from what she heard during CEM, it seems that the governments are not ready. Kosonen poked fun at some of the discussion topics such as clean coal, which seems to be quite the oxymoron within a clean energy forum. It is obvious that Kosonen believes that what the ministers said was unimpressive, and hopes for an actual CLEAN discussion.

I have noticed that if news events travel beyond the domestic boundaries, then it is less likely that that event would be covered by the media.

President Obama is encouraging companies to use vehicles that run on renewable energy. In exchange, the Department of Energy will provide the technical and purchasing assistance to limit the upfront costs. On April 1, 2011 President Obama announced revealed his plans for a National Clean Fleets Partnership during his speech in Landover, Maryland  (which happens to be quite similar to the weekly address we had seen in Tuesday’s class.)  . The essential goal of this partnership is to reduce dependence on oil by making the cars and trucks  that American’s use to be more energy efficient. There are five Charter members, who are leading  this public-private partnership: AT & T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon.  As a group, these corporations own and operate more than quarter million vehicles. This is where the Department of Energy comes into play. The DOE is funding the research and development of fuel-efficient cars and trucks that are to  be added to the fleets, some of which are manufactured by American car companies, Ford and General Motors. Both Obama and Chu believe that this partnership will cut the carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants in the air, and both are urging other corporations to join the clean fleet effort.

A fact sheet released by the DOE gives an in-depth explanation of the Partnership’s mission and how to succeed in doing so.  The Partnership builds upon a program already established by the DOE called the Clean Cities Program. If a company were to become a partner , then that company would receive some partnership benefits at national and local levels, which includes information exchange among partners and technical assistance with the use of alternative fuels, as well as public recognition granted by the DOE.

Various traditional media news organizations have reported the story: including CNN, Reuters, and the New York Times.

Jeff Mason of Reuters barely scratched the surface of the mission of the partnership. He wrote a brief explanation about the charter members and their commitment.

CNN quoted the President’s speech quite often within the article. Yet CNN did mention that the DOE is helping the charter members replace conventional gasoline with alternative fuels such as bio-diesel, ethanol, natural gas, and electric. Also, CNN Wire Staff reveals that these five corporations are within the United States’ ten larges national fleets.

The New York Times gave an extensive report of the National Clean Fleet Partnership. Jackie Calmes of the New York Times writes that the White House does not have the authority to replace private projects as job creators, yet the federal government is able to spark innovation among these corporations. Calmes also made what exactly the DOE is doing more understandable. She explains that as the DOE provides the research and purchasing assistance that helps smaller companies to piggy back on the larger companies purchases, meaning that both the small and large companies would share the same cost savings on the fuel efficient vehicles running on renewable energy. And for this reason, the program is open to companies of all sizes.

The blogosphere also had things to say.

John Addison, of Clean Tech Blog, reflects on the nation’s current state and reveals how important this partnership is. Addison reveals that the United States is the most dependent nation on oil. This dependency along with the conflict with the Mideast, the damage of the BP gulf spill, and the current economic state demonstrates the United States lack of energy security. Addison provides an informative commentary about the both FedEx and UPS alternative energy fleets. Currently, FedEx has 348 alternative energy vehicles that have driven close to 8 million miles and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 3,000 metric tons.  FedEx’s alternative energy vehicle project has already been nationally recognized by both

This is perhaps the most spotlight and attention the Department of Energy has gotten since I have been monitoring them. It seems that the DOE has gained this attention due to the support and participation of one man, President Obama.

Just this week, on Tuesday, March 29, 2011, within a press release, Secretary Chu announced a challenge that will give start-up companies a chance to license their technologies developed by the National Laboratories.  The America’s Next Top  Energy Innovator Challenge will begin on the 2nd of May, and will offer license patents from over 15,000 patents and patent applications. This gives the opportunity for start-up companies to license up to three patents of their specific technology at a rate of $1,000. Secretary Chu reveals that this flat rate is a major savings for new companies, for upfront fees can go as high as $50,000. If the Department of Energy finds one of the up and coming companies’ patents to be well executed in both its business plan and commercialization, then that company will have the honor of being showcased at the 3rd Annual Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit in 2012. As of today, approximately 10 percent of federal patents are licensed to be commercialized. Secretary Chu hopes to double this percentage by December 15 of this year.

Considering that this challenge is part of President Obama’s Startup America Initiative,  launched in January 2011, which is intended to help and assist new businesses succeed, the White House did take its time to post on its blog. The blog was very much similar to that which was stated within the Department of Energy press release. It also noted some examples of the technologies available for licensing.  One example was a device that converts solar energy into chemical energy and even to thermal energy. Another example that the White House blogged about was a high performance semiconductor that has many applications, which include high speed transistors, solid-state lighting, and high efficiency solar cells. At the very end of the post, it wished all the prospective applicants good luck.

Traditional media outlets, such as the Washington Post , theBoston Herald , and Bloomberg BusinessWeek all reported on the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge, all citing the official press release by the DOE. These traditional media outlets did objective reporting, and took no opinionated stance on the challenged. However, Osha Gray Davidson, contributor to Forbes,  took his own take of the DOE’s new challenge and posted it on the Forbes blog.  He calls the start-up companies as aspiring geeks and calls Secretary Chu the top geek.  He does  get informative within the post by stating that this challenge does slash  both the costs and the paperwork requirements for the start-up companies to obtain a license . This new challenge will essentially make it easier for entrepreneurs to get started.

The reaction from the blogosphere seemed to take more interest in the name of the challenge rather than its goals. John Shimkus, contributor to Energy Digital, compares the DOE’s new challenge to famous reality TV shows, and notes how it piggybacks its name from the popular shoes like American Idol and America’s Next Top Model. Shimkus continues to poke fun at the DOE’s new challenge by stating that winners will not be receiving million dollar contracts or be spotlighted on television to be seen by large audiences. Nonetheless, many of the bloggers did applaud the DOE for simplifying the licensing process and making the whole start-up process easier for new companies, who generally lack the money and resources to negotiate individual licensing agreements.

Any interested entrepreneurs can browse through the available technologies and learn more about the process on the Department of Energy’s Innovation Portal.

A press release dated Febuary 7, 2011 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secreaty of Interior Ken Salazar announced a joint venture between the two departments that would support offshore wind energy projects called the National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States. These projects are estimated to cost over half a million and plan to develop them in the Mid-Atlantic, where the wind source is abundant, over the next five years. Half of the budget will be put towards wind turbine system developments, $18 million is devoted to remove market barriers that limit the deployment of offshore wind, such as environmental risk reduction, manufacturing development, and interconnection strategies, and $7 million  ill be for next-generation designs for wind turbines, which is required for cost-effective offshore wind power. Secretary Salazar revealed four Wind Energy Areas, which are located offshore the Mid-Atlantic coast. The areas include New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. This announcement reveals a strong federal commitment to sustainable wind energy

Not stated in the press release, but what I discovered within the complete strategy posted on the Department of Energy’s official website, was that that there is a shortage of data on the environmental effects of turbines or the installation and maintenance of them.  This shortage of data could drive up the costs of financing, almost doubling the initial budget.

Several media outlets, as well as blogs, have highlighted the fundamental methods of the Offshore Wind Strategy.

The Green Blog on the New York Times cited the press release of new venture between the two departments and noted so problems with this new project. One of them being that the price of offshore wind is more expensive compared to coal or gas burning power plants. Matthew Wald, author of this article, also noted that that these projects may have difficulty getting electricity sale contracts approved by utility regulators of the state, and used Cape Wind, a Massachusetts project as an example. However, this new project seems to be stimulating local excitement for the  local areas in which are planed to install wind turbines, are all hoping to build a new local industry.

TheHuffington Post also had its take on the new offshore wind initiative. Within the article it revealed opinions from across the aisle and from interest groups. Environmental interest groups such as the ocean Conservancy and the Sierra Club applauded this new development of wind power, however some of the Republicans insisted that this doesn’t fully address the country’s energy problems.  Republican Congressman, Doc Hastings of Washington, called the new project unwise for it solely focuses on development of offshore wind energy in the Atlantic and fails to recognize the need for natural gas and oil production. Also, some concerned beach go-ers believe that the wind turbines will take away from the aesthetic of the area.  But ruining the beauty of the area is not the only concern, members of American Bird Conservancy that development of wind turbines will contribute to migratory bird mortality, who are very likely to hit the rotating turbines.

The Hill, which is the Congressional Newspaper, published an article about the joint strategy of the two departments. Essentially, the Hill covered the main points of the DOE’s press release, and quoted strategies from both departments. Ben German, the author of the article, notes that this project is part of Obama’s efforts to increase the budget for federal renewable energy initiatives.

Steven Polluck, blogger of Mother Nature Network, educates readers on the short history of wind turbines in the United States to make a point.  Wind energy industry began thirty years ago, and has been growing since. However, Polluck explains how even though wind energy is a growing means of renewable energy, the industry is facing problems, economic problems to be exact. The costs of the wind energy projects are the biggest facts affecting the viability of the project. Since there are other renewable energy projects, such as solar panels or bio-energy that are less costly, it makes wind energy less competitive with these green projects.

The coordinated project seemed to be well recevied by the media, both traditional and new. In the end, this Wind Strategy is steering Obama’s plan of generating 80% of the Nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Since I have been monitoring the activity of the Department of Energy, I have noticed that DOE has been handing out a handful of loans to alternative energy projects. For instance, on February 17, 2011, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced to offer a loan for an Oregon solar manufacturing project called SoloPower, Inc.  This conditional commitment of $197 million loan intends to help build and install equipment to operate solar panels in a facility in Oregon. Secretary Chu as well as SoloPower believes that the manufacturing project will create approximately over 700 jobs.

One week later, on the 24th of February, Secretary Chu finalized a $96.8 million loan guarantee  to sponsor  U.S. Geothermal, Inc. to build a geothermal power project in Oregon called the Neal Hot Springs Geothermal Energy Plant. Similarly to the solar manufacturing project, this company estimates that the project will create new jobs. On March 3, 2011, Secretary Chu made another loan commitment, this time to offer a conditional commitment to a wind project in Maine, called Record Hill. All of these conditional commitments are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Program

It is apparent that the U.S. Department of Energy has committed to loaning money to numerous projects, but why? On March 5, 2010, the DOE released a fact sheet that stated that they would financially support innovative clean energy projects. Within the past 12 months, the Loan Programs Office has offered 18 loans or loan guarantees totally $26 billion in project costs.

The $26 billion that was being loaned to clean energy projects was not unnoticed by traditional and new media. The DOE has been drawing negative attention for its loan guarantee program for not keeping electronic records as organized as it should be. Matthew Wald, writer for the New York Times, reveals that the Department of Energy’s loan program is facing a lot of scrutiny internally from its own Department’s Inspector General for poor record keeping.  An audit of 18 conditional loan commitments found that for three of the loans no information has been placed in the Department’s central archives.  Wald’s article also exposes that the DOE has been criticized for its slowness of giving loans to the projects it has committed to.

While looking at the buzz circulating about the Department of Energy’s Loan Program,  I noticed that websites from to environmental blogs and even the New York Times had reposted an article by  Katie Fehrenbacher, blogger of  Within this article, Fehrenbacher exposes the problems of the Department of Energy similarly to that of Wald, however she digs a bit deeper. She insists that the overall problem of having poor records of the loans is that the Department of Energy is putting itself in risk for loaning millions of dollars to companies that have not proven themselves in the free marketplace yet. For example,  Fehrenbacher mentions a solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, that was offered $535 million loan guarantee.  However, in November of 2010, the company announced it had to shut down the one of their two factories, as well as cut its workforce in half.  This goes to show that giving loans to start-up clean energy project is costing taxpayers lots of money. If the DOE is unable to keep records and manage and organize itself, then it will not only lose its credibility as well feasibility of the projects being funded.

An interesting form of political participation that I had discovered was a site that had posted an e-mail for Secretary Chu from a group of  citizens, most of them being directors of an environmental interest group or non-profit organizations on a site called The e-mail expressed their concern about the unlawfulness of the loan program for their current lack of transparency and for its violation of the Freedom of Information Act. These citizens insisted that the DOE post all of its information on its official website, including the evaluation process, objective criteria, and applicants of the Loan Program.  They believed that when the DOE fails to display this information publicly, the DOE is destroying public interest and thus public trust in the government.

In this day and age, no one wants money to go to waste. It is obvious that the DOE must do a better job with organizing their records in order to remove themselves from the negative attention and concern from public officials and citizens of the nation.



Despite the massive cuts within the Federal Budget, the DOE Loan Program life has been spared. According to Brian Wingfield of Bloomberg, the DOE seems to be at an OK with the budget process. Wingfield interviews several representatives on the Hill, and it was made  clear that there was a bipartisan agreement in support of the DOE Loan Program.

The crucial point to take away is that despite the disorganization of the DOE Loan Program it still escapes the cut within the budget process.

On February 4,2011, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, announced the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative,  which is a $27 million project that plans to reduce the total costs of solar energy systems by 75 percent at or about the year 2020. The foundation of this initiative rests upon four essential principles: designing, creating, and installing solar energy systems, create solar technologies that convert sunlight into usable energy, invent electronics that is most favorable for installation, and improve the efficiency of solar manufacturing.

In order to make this a success, the Department of Energy will work along side researchers, universities, industry, and the government. Through this collaborative effort, Secretary Chu believes that they will be able to create efficient technologies and move these products from the prototype stage to full-scale manufacturing.  The price of the solar panels can be brought down to $1 a watt, solar energy systems can be broadly installed on rooftops.  Also, this initiative aspires to strengthen the U.S. competitiveness in the global green market.  Secretary Chu analogized this initiative to President Kennedy’s Moon Shot program that was intended to expand space technology, and be the first country to land a man on the moon.On theDepartment of Energy’s official website, it  has a link that directs you to a more descriptive process and goal of the whole initiative.

The Deparment of Energy’s message seemed have to have been under the radar of the major media outlets such as the Washington Post and USA Today. However,The New York Times green blog posted about the SunShot initiative. It gave a general understanding of what Secreatry Chu plans, and also mentioned that the SunShot initiative extends to the goal solar thermal technology, which  is different from photovolatics. posted an article about President Obama’s overall plan on energy, which did discuss the SunShot initiative. Ucilla Wang, writer of the article, discussed how the Department of Energy plans to cut solar electricity costs through this new initiative. Other than that, it gave a very general understanding of the SunShot initiative, taking only paragraph of the entire article.

Osha Gray Davidson was able to interview several big names of the solar energy industry and took his collection of interviews and made it into an article posted on One of the individuals he interviewed was Rhone Rhesh, CEO of the world’s largest solar trade organization, the Solar Energy Industries Association, , and in fact liked what Secretary Chu has planned. The fact that Secretary Chu plans to cut down not only the cost of photovoltaic cells, but other components of the solar panels, is something Rhesh believes is the right approach to being more competitive. Within this article, it became apparent that the SunShot initiative was more than about energy efficiency, but also about competition.  Davidson that made it clear that the United States is within competition with China within solar research and manufacturing. The individuals who Davidson interviewed were very optimistic and did not doubt that the United States would lead in the solar power race.

On the other hand, the blogosphere buzzed about the SunShot initiative, most of the blogs being green clean energy blogs. These blogs were very much opinionated and combative about the surrounding issues of the new initiative. The Green Economy Post included similar information released by CNNmoney, and Forbes, however it did call for the government to take a more active role in the process. Chris De Morsella, writer of The Green Economy Post, proposed that the government should help find ways to rationalize and streamline the manufacturing process for solar energy, which in the end would drive down costs of the overall project.

Blogger Eli Kintisch questions if this Initiative will ever see the light of day. The Science Magazine blogger points out that the SunShot initiative may be facing hurdles in its near future. The Republican controlled House have made it clear that they want to cut renewable energy programs.

In the face of emerging global environmental challenges, it is evident that countries need to reach across borders to combat this worldwide problem. China and the United States  largely contribute to the global carbon emissions, accounting for more than 40%. This common environmental problem between the two countries can motivate a common goal to fund and create green technologies that help reduce emissions. Currently, both nations are in a partnership, called the US-China Clean Energy Cooperation, which is a ten-year plan of cooperation concerning energy efficiency.

On the week of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States (January 17th until the 22nd), the Department of Energy had released a statement on its blog about the $150 million research center that is being funded equally by China and the United States over five years. The Department of Energy gave grants to three universities, West Virginia University, University of Michigan, and University of California-Berkeley, to lead the United States team in research. These three universities will be working along side universities in China to develop plans and technologies about the coming years. Some researches efforts included converting sunlight to usable fuel, and creating electrical vehicle batteries that will last 500 miles on a single charge.

Secretary Chu had also took his message through The Huffington Post to say that the collaboration between China and United States will promote a growing economy by creating jobs for both countries.  He made it clear in his post that the United States is competing for leadership in green energy technology, yet will make better progress by working together with China.

A day before the meeting between President Obama and President Jintao, The Washington Post had posted an unedited transcript on January 16, 2011 of answered questions by Chinese President Jintao about the relationship between the United States and China. When it came to questions about the research center collaboration of green technologies, President Jintao believed that China and the United States would make good progress in energy conservation and reduce pollution.

It seems that President Jintao is committed to peaceful green development, yet some news outlets believe China may be more assertive than we think. reported that China had substantially invested in green technologies, and America feels as if it lagging behind. While Obama plans to spend $80 billion on green projects, the Chinese government plans to invest $217 billion. It is evident that China had made it a national commitment to lead the world in green technologies. Peter Behr of ClimateWire and contributor to the Energy and Environment section of The New York Times shared similar views on this relationship between the two countries. Behr’s article pointed out that the relationship between the United States and China is a unique one and is not always as amicable as Secretary Chu makes it seem. While the relationship is collaborative, it is also contentious because the United States argues that China is pushing all other competors out of the market by illegally subsidizing wind power manufacturers.

Brian Walsh, an environmental writer for TIME Magazine , quotes several other media outlets and reveals that Americans should not fear the competiveness of China when it comes to green technologies. However, if the United States were to drive costs to those that are equivalent to China’s, which are low, then a lot of manufacturing will be done oversees, which in turn means that those millions of new jobs promised by Secretary Chu are unlikely. Matthew L. Wald, a green blogger for The New York Times, mentioned in his article that the head of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the House, Representative Fred Upton of Michigan,  had written a complaint to Secretary Chu and contended that the $40 billion the Department of Energy was receiving from the stimulus bill was not going to create much jobs.

The new social media outlets seemed to have poked fun on the paradox of the China and US relationship.

One youtube user posted a rap battle between Obama and Jintao. (Video seen below). The message speaks for itself, Obama and Jintao have the responsibility of controlling energy security and should not be over-concerned about who is winning the energy technology competition.

With the pros and cons between the Clean Energy Cooperation, it remains unclear what direction the United States and China relationship is going.