The Cleantech Law – California Greenhouse Gas / Global Warming Law

Given the increase in the recent cleantech press on the California initiative on global warming, it makes sense to do a blog on some of the more interesting analyses and summaries of this law, which for lack a better term, I have started referring to as “the California cleantech law.”

A good summary of the provisions of the cleantech law and background can be found on the Nixon Peabody site here. Nixon Peabody is one of the leading law firms in the cleantech sector in California.

Nixon Peabody’s analysis of the key provisions from that article:

“Some of the key provisions of the Act are as follows:
1) Types of Emissions Covered.

AB-32 is aimed at limiting emissions of greenhouse gases which includes all of the following: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocrabons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexaflouride. [Note: these are the same six greenhouse gases that are targeted by Kyoto]

2) Early Action Reduction Measures.

CARB must publish and make available to the public a list of early action greenhouse gas emission reduction measures by June 30, 2007.
Such early action reduction measures must take effect by January 1, 2010.

3) Statewide Emissions Limit.
CARB must determine the 1990 statewide greenhouse gas emission level by January 1, 2008.
CARB must establish a statewide greenhouse gas emission limit for 2020 by January 1, 2008.

4) Mandatory Reporting.
By January 1, 2008, CARB must adopt regulations that accomplish the following:Require the monitoring and annual reporting of greenhouse gas emission sources beginning with the sources that contribute most to statewide emissions.
Account for greenhouse gas emission from all electricity consumed in the state.
Whenever possible, “incorporate the standards and protocols developed by the California Climate Action Registry.”[9]
Ensure rigorous and consistent accounting of emissions and provide reporting tools to ensure collection of emission data.
Maintain comprehensive records of emission data.

5) Scoping Plan.
CARB must adopt a scoping plan which outlines how it plans to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions by January 1, 2009 through reduction measures, market mechanisms and incentive programs. The environmental justice advisory committee will advise CARB in developing the scoping plan.

6) Emissions Cap Effective 2012.
CARB is directed to implement regulations designed to “achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” by January 1, 2011, which shall become effective January 1, 2012.

7) Market-Based and Alternative Compliance Mechanisms
CARB can consider using market-based compliance mechanisms such as cap and trade programs and emission credit for early action.”

Full text including sources are on their site.

CBS article on the California greenhouse emissions law here.

Article from the NRDC can be found here.

CNN article here on California’s suit against the world’s largest automakers for greenhouse emissions.

Billions and Trillions

First the good news from last week: Richard Branson pledged approximately $3 billion in future profits from his various businesses to develop carbon-neutral energy supply technologies.

CNN Article on Branson

It would be great if other members from the recently released Forbes 400 would play “me-too”, since the main sources of joy for many of these billionaires seem is from topping their peers.

But the good news from Branson was overshadowed by last week’s announcement of a new study suggesting that $3 billion for new energy technologies may be three or four orders of magnitude too little, too late.

According to the work of Robert Hirsch, a senior analyst at SAIC — a think-tank sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy — about $1 trillion should be invested to develop innovative energy technologies each year for the 20 years preceding the peak rate of oil production to avert a severe and prolonged global economic crisis when energy supplies “hit the wall”.

SF Chronicle Article on Hirsch

Based on the oil statistics and analyses I’ve seen, it’s hard to imagine that we’re not already within the 20 year horizon of peak oil production, meaning that (if Hirsch is correct) somewhat more than $1 trillion annually needs now to be diverted to developing new energy technologies. Since revenues from the global energy sector are approximately $5 trillion per year, R&D must therefore approach 20% of industry revenues. Alas, the energy sector has traditionally plowed back less than 1% of its revenues into new technologies.

Does anyone see a 20x increase in energy R&D coming?

HighTech, LoTech, NoTech GreenTech

The Sustainable Living Fair kicked off this past weekend on the grounds of New Belgium Brewery in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Sunny mountain skies gave way to a rainy cold front and dry gusts that did not cease until Sunday morning. Saturday’s weather did not deter attendees or the exhibitors of solar photovoltaics, biodiesel, wind turbines and towers, solar collectors, hydrogen Hummers, CFL and LED bulbs, green tags, organic foods, socially responsible investment services, high performance and green building, and of course, New Belgium’s sustainably-brewed beer. Sunday, the weather cleared up and even more people came, including Mayor John Hickenlooper who spoke of sustainability initiatives in oh-so-political Denver.

Ready to disperse the good word on sustainable practices were magazines (Living Green, Natural Home , Ecological Home Ideas , Home Power ), newspapers (Colorado Green Business , the soon-to-be-launched, Rocky Mountain Chronicle), and American Renewable Energy Day’s Chip Comins, a movie producer and event planner working with celebs to build awareness of our collective carbon crisis.

The solutions to the carbon crisis exhibited at the Fair ranged from no tech to low tech to high tech. And they are all valid cleantech.

Take Donna Merten whose production home development company Merten Homes urges: “Open the Door to Natural Innovation.” Merten distinguishes her development company with exquisite marketing materials and her equally impressive home designs. Merten Homes will be building twelve straw bale homes as part of a larger production development, Old Town North, in Ft. Collins. This is the first of its kind in Colorado. The homes’ unique features are the straw bale exterior walls with natural lime plasters; post-and-beam framing; polished concrete, bamboo, cork or natural wool carpeted floors; radiant floor heat; solar energy; ENERGY STAR ™-rated appliances; and energy-efficient windows. A geothermal or solar thermal heating system is currently under project review. The homes will have no HVAC mechanicals, that is no DX air conditioners and no forced air furnace. “What?! No Furnace?!” exclaims Merten’s collateral, “Who Slayed the Dragon?”

Merten’s green, blue and dark grey Mission style graphics and stationery lured me in, and the home designs and their unique (sustainable) features swayed me over. Though the reality of home performance building and real estate requires knowledge of HVAC mechanicals, aesthetically, I intensely dislike DX air conditioning and forced air furnaces – from the noise to the indoor air pollution to the (likely) uneven distribution of air to the unattractive ducts, to the questionable logic of conditioning air. I’m tired of listening to developers insist that “product won’t move” without DX air conditioning.

Space cooling with HVAC mechanicals contributes mightily to peak electricity energy loads and the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change. So who’s slaying this dragon? In this Rocky Mountain Front Range climate, Donna Merten, that’s who!

Merten Homes
“Based in Boulder, Colorado, Merten Homes is a Green Builder specializing in the architectural design and construction of ultra energy-efficient homes. Our breath-taking designs feature environmentally-friendly materials and finishes, exceptional indoor air quality, low maintenance, solar power, and unsurpassed comfort – all of which help to promote and contribute to a healthy, natural living space. We research every product not only for its non-toxic, sustainable, or renewable properties, but how each product will then act in concert with our whole-building concept, the environment, and – the most important component when building a home – you. With our choice of materials, our understanding of the latest building technologies, and our design and construction experience, we lessen the environmental impact of our homes will have during both construction and life-cycle of enjoyment and operation.”

Other goings on this week:
It’s Good & Plenty. Plenty (“It’s easy being green”) magazine’s Forward Tech section of the October/November 2006 issue did very good, but short, write-ups on wave technology and the silicon shortage both of which touch on investment opportunities. Alan Jochs writes: “Solar-smitten investors don’t have to wait on the sidelines for another two years as polysilicon manufacturers ramp up production. Here are four ways to position yourself today for solar success.”

$5 Billion Lost from Natural Gas Bets

Amaranth Advisors is a hedge fund that keeps making front page news. It is trying to explain to investors how it lost $5 billion in one week betting that natural gas prices would rise. Gas prices fell. $5 billion is gone. Amaranth Advisors is a hedge fund with a trader who forgot to hedge.

The bet could have gone the other way. One good hurricane to disrupt supplies would have spiked prices upward, as would an early cold weather snap to fire up millions of heaters. The bad bet is understandable. In the long term, natural gas prices are likely to return to prices at the start of this year, double what they are now.

Natural gas is likely to become the number one source of energy globally, surpassing current number one – oil. Natural gas is the fuel of choice for modern electric power plants, being cleaner than coal.

Natural gas helps achieve energy independence because it is not refined from oil. Over 90% of the natural gas used in the USA is from North America. Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline, ethanol and biodiesel. Natural gas is popular with cities and other fleets with low-emission programs. The next time you take a taxi at an airport, it may be running on natural gas. These vehicles get priority at airports.

Natural gas is about 90% methane; the molecule is CH4. The molecule is four hydrogen atoms and one carbon. Natural gas is primarily hydrogen. In fact, most early adapters of hydrogen vehicles are natural gas fleet owners. Most vehicles use compressed natural gas (CNG). Heavy trucks that need more fuel for long distance may use liquid natural gas (LNG). It is expensive to keep natural gas so cold that it stays in liquid form, so CNG is the most popular approach.

There are about five million natural gas vehicles in operation globally. There are about 150,000 natural gas vehicles in the USA. These vehicles consume 238 million gasoline gallon equivalents. That amount has doubled in only five years. CNG vehicles are popular in fleets that carry lots of people: buses, shuttles and taxis.

Natural gas prices have not been increasing at the speed of gasoline and diesel prices. The fuel price advantage is causing some to switch to CNG. Diesel vehicles are getting more expensive with tough 2007 emission standards. Some diesel makers state that EPA 2010 emissions are impossible. These statements are scaring some to switch to CNG. The federal government offers tax credits up to $40,000 for large natural gas vehicles, creating an added incentive.

Some governments are going beyond incentives and mandating the use of CNG. Seoul, Korea, plans to allow only buses that run on CNG, beginning in 2010. The measure is intended to reduce pollution. Currently, 2,798 of Seoul’s 7,766 registered city buses are CNG buses, and the rest are diesel-powered vehicles.

Since 1993, LAWA has been buying vehicles which reduce smog-forming emissions and which reduce greenhouse gases. LAWA now has 490 alternate-fuel vehicles at the four airports which it operates – LAX, Ontario International, Palmdale and Van Nuys. At LAWA, I met with Dave Waldner, Alternative Fuels Fleet Manager, who has been reducing emissions for over 13 years. He explained that early success started with compressed natural gas (CNG) in vehicles in 1993. Then liquid natural gas (LNG) was used in transit buses. LNG provided for longer-range than CNG. With oil prices increasing over 50% annually, CNG has proved to lower fuel cost. LAWA has secured very favorable long-term contracts, paying a little over $3.00 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. CNG is also available to the many independent fleet operators and individuals using airports. LAWA encourages independent operators to use clean vehicles that use CNG and hydrogen. Clean Energy operates public CNG stations at LAX and Ontario.

Taxi fleets were early adopters of CNG. They received the strong revenue incentive of getting first priority in passenger pick-ups. They also receive a tax credit of $6,000 per CNG vehicle. There were 156,000 taxis operating in the United States in 2004, less than 2% of these vehicles were natural gas vehicles. The growth opportunity is substantial.

It has not been easy for many other early adopters of CNG vehicles. Individual automobile owners painfully experienced different fueling stations using incompatible pressures and nozzles. Fleet managers spent millions building new facilities to meet fire and safety standards. Heavy CNG vehicles often lack the acceleration and range of their diesel counterparts. Storage makes the vehicles weigh more. In hot weather fills can be slow. Fleet managers have faced hundreds of angry riders, when their natural gas was not delivered as scheduled. Natural gas prices fluctuate dramatically, making long range budgeting difficult.

Several of these problems have been resolved. There are now nozzle and pressure standards. There are more CNG stations and they are easy to find on maps and the Internet. Storage tanks are lighter, reducing the extra vehicle weight and improving performance.

Natural gas is not a panacea. To deal with our climate crisis and free us from depending on oil, many see the answer in a portfolio of energy sources rather than one “silver bullet.” The portfolio would include cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen, EV, PHEV, and natural gas.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His firm OPTIMARK Inc. conducts fleet outreach, market intelligence, and cleantech market development. He can be reached at http://www.cah2report.com/. John is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Carbon Credit – The Next Big Thing in Cleantech?

Recent news in the carbon credit market has prompted me to do a quick blog on happenings in the carbon world. Following solar, ethanol, and wind, carbon is rapidly emerging as the leader of next expansion phase in cleantech. But so far it has been below the radar of most of the US cleantech investors, though capital has been flowing in from Europe at a torrid pace.

Keep in mind, the carbon market (which is an area my firm is actively working in, so watch this space for more details), already reached approximately $10 Billion globally in 2005. See attached file from IETA, the International Emissions Trading Association on the state of the carbon market in 2006.

Rob Day at Cleantech Investing posted today about the recent investment by First Reserve into Blue Source LLC, an aggregator of greenhouse gas emissions credits. The exciting thing about this news is that First Reserve is an old line energy private equity group, making a move into carbon and cleantech.

This follows on the recent California announcement on the new California law on carbon emissions reductions (Washington Post article here).

Also see the recent news from Australia (the US and Australia are the only two major countries who did not sign the Kyoto protocol) on the similar efforts to develop a state led cap and trade emissions trading scheme there.

At this rate, carbon credits and trading will surpass solar, the recent darling of the cleantech sector, in size in 2006, and wind shortly thereafter.

CEOs Getting on the Climate Bandwagon

Businessmen and -women don’t give a damn about the environment, right? Not so fast…

Vistage International is an organization comprised entirely of CEO’s, and they publish a quarterly Confidence Index of nearly 2000 CEO’s of small and mid-sized companies about the future state of business.

In August, they completed their most recent survey, and found that a strong majority (64%) of respondents were very or moderately concerned about global warming. Press release

Now if only the nation’s CEO, Boardroom and executive suite felt the same way…

Observations from Investing in Solar Conference

I attended the FRA Investing in Solar Conference earlier this week. While not one of the larger Cleantech conferences, it provided some interesting industry information. Some of the notable speakers and attendees included BP Solar, Kyocera Solar, Schott, Nth Power, Ngen, Daystar, Innovalight, Marathon Capital, and Bessemer Ventures, as well as numerous others. I came away from the conference with some observations on themes running through the general discussion of the speakers and attendees.
A few of them are detailed below:
Serious lament on lack of integration sophistication in the industry.

One common trend running through the conference was a discussion of the split between large companies which control module manufacture, and the system integrators/distributors at the customer end actually are doing installations, and which tend to be small and undercapitalized.(Note: Kyocera Solar is the only major producer who is completely vertically integrated).

Points & Sub-trends in this discussion:

  • Ongoing debate on when or whether we would see consolidation in the integrator space as a solution to the lack of sophistication and size in the integrator sector.
  • Serious concerns that real world data on solar installations at the system level was not readily available in large amounts (one venture backed company, Fat Spaniel, was presenting on the latest version of energy management/remote monitoring products which they are using to address this), and as a result, manufacturers focus on metrics like module level (not systems) efficiency, and price /Wp, NOT price/kwh – which is the metric of choice for electric power in every other industry.
  • Similarly a general feeling that upfront rebate programs push the industry to focus on price/Wp though there was interest in the California program to shift part of its subsidies to $/kwh in 2007.
  • In addition, there was a lot of discussion about the difficulty in maintaining margins in the integration business, which has become extremely cut throat, and has also suffered from lack of easily available module supply putting a dent in cashflows, as well as increases in copper and steel prices driving up costs.

We at Jane Capital have been saying for some time that the future for integrators is either vertical or horizontal integration, or product development. And that integrators who do not innovate or aggregate will rapidly see their margins squeezed.

Feeling that the US is rapidly losing its early leadership in solar

This was a general theme running through the discussion. A few interesting assessments made by various participants:

  • Only 1 of the top 10 PV companies are US firms.
  • Key to changing this is increasing the government support to the same levels as Germany & Japan. The recent federal government 30% tax credits (through 2007) California’s solar rebate initiative, and New Jersey’s solar rebate initiative are the main drivers in the US. As a result, the US is really just a two market solar industry – California and New Jersey.
  • We are at risk of China surpassing the US as well.
  • Thin film technologies are a wild card with the potential to change this dynamic, but are still quite far off from having enough market traction to make a difference.
  • Bottom line: if the US cleantech industry wants to be a player in the solar industry long term, it is going to have to pony up the cash.

Thin Film vs. Crystalline Debate

As usual, the thin film vs. crystalline silicon debate was ever present. A few common themes of this discussion:

  • Module cost makes up less than 1/3rd of typical system prices. So a target of reducing module prices from the current c. $3.5/Wp to less than $1/Wp (still a ways off in any case) therefore only has the potential to bring down system prices perhaps 20%-25%. Scale in manufacturing size can additionally help, but scale in installation size, and more end-product standardization are needed to reduce the overhead and installation cost, which make up a significant part of cost. Already average installed system costs for large scale typically run $1-$1.5/Wp less than the $8-$12/Wp of a residential system.
  • Current $/kwh are running from $0.50- $0.90/kwh today. Crystalline silicon technology does not have the potential to reduce installed costs really below the perhaps $1/Wp. Thin film does.
  • In addition, the industry has become extremely reluctant to continue to remain at the mercy of prices /supply in the silicon industry (as prices have more than trebled), and every major player continues to look for new ways to either reduce their silicon content, reduce silicon processing costs (a key area to watch), or move develop a thin film bet.
  • Most attendees/presenters felt the current silicon shortages would last less than 2-4 years. Interesting enough, as discussed above, the companies hurt most by this are the integrators, not the module producers, who are having trouble sourcing product, and have also been squeezed by higher copper and steel costs.
  • However, given the level of crystalline silicon capacity adds and technology advances, no one seemed to expect thin film to represent more then 10% of total production within the next 5 years.
  • One other critical area of interest to me was module longevity – roughly adding five years to module life by itself can reduce $/kwh by perhaps 10-20%. I find it very likely that we could see 40 year plus modules playing a key part in bringing down $/kwh. Crystalline silicon’s traditional longevity advantages here over thin film could become a key factor in the next few years keeping crystalline in the game a lot longer than thin film advocates might expect.

A few other tidbits:

To my disappointment there was no discussion of the Applied Material’s tandem cell technology (a story Cleantech Blog helped break into the news in the San Francisco Chronicle several weeks ago).

There was also less discussion of solar PV concentrators than I have seen at previous conferences. Though some discussion was percolating, this has become a VERY hot funding area for cleantech VCs for some reason, and I expected more talk about it. I still have trouble with the basic premise of solar PV concentrators, and don’t think those deals will see the kind of success as the module producers have had, but that’s another story.

“Tunable silicon nano powder”

There was an interesting presentation by Innovalight http://www.innovalight.com, on its silicon nanopowder based ink /printing process, touting a potential for <$0.40/Wp, and Backers have included Arch Ventures, Sevin Rosen, and APAX.

They use an ink made up of 2-10 nm silicon particles to “tune” the bandgap – ie, according to Innovalight, at that level of particle size, different particle size equates to a different part of the light spectrum. However, they did not quote numbers, and when pressed by numerous audience questions, came across as though they were still early in the lab on manufacturing techniques, and still far off on efficiencies, performance, and life. They stated a target of 2008 for initial pilot production.

Chevron Energy Solutions solar entry:

One of speakers, William Golove, announced that he was leaving Lawrence Berkeley Labs where he has been a long time solar applications performance expert, to join Chevron Energy Solutions to lead a renewable project development effort. I believe this will mark an expansion by Chevron in this area, so it was exciting to hear.

One Million Hydrogen Riders in California

California will have one million daily riders on hydrogen vehicles by 2021 if this Optimistic Scenario becomes a reality. Although this will be less than 3% of the state’s population, it will be a major milestone in achieving energy independency and a reduction in global warming. Most encouraging is that California has a long history of successful innovation that spreads throughout the world.
In the early years, most of the hydrogen riders will be on buses. New CARB Zero Emission Bus regulations could lead to 1,000 hydrogen buses in the state.
Daily ridership of hydrogen vehicles in California is currently over 2,000 per day. The biggest growth of ridership is the result of eight hydrogen buses now running six to 16 hours daily, carrying an average of 200 to 400 riders per bus per day. Jaimie Levin, Director of Marketing for AC Transit, reports rider enthusiasm and strong community support and predicts that the day will arrive when some hydrogen buses will carry over 1,000 riders daily. SunLine Transit Agency and Santa Clara VTA report enthusiastic rider acceptance of their hydrogen buses.
What about other technology and fuels? Ethanol and biodiesel will displace even more gasoline than hydrogen because they can be used in many vehicles currently on the road. Of all the alternative fuels, hydrogen is the only zero emission alternative.
Hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology will grow faster than hydrogen and create significant savings of gasoline. Hybrid technology compliments hydrogen, lowering the size of expensive fuel cells that are required. Currently almost all hydrogen vehicles are hybrid. AC Transit currently uses plug-in hybrid hydrogen buses that transport 800 people daily.
4 Page Report

Green Republicans: Not Necessarily an Oxymoron?

It may be easy to forget now, but it’s arguable that the environmental movement was actually started by Republicans about 100 years ago. The Republican Theodore Roosevelt was an ardent conservationist, and as President, led the way to forming the National Park Service to protect some of the world’s most beautiful natural assets.

Of course, not all of today’s Republicans act and talk like Teddy Roosevelt, at least on environmental issues. But, apparently there are some. I was intrigued to find out about an organization called REP (Republicans for Environmental Protection) America.

REP America web site

Whether or not you like or loathe the Republican party in its current incarnation, it’s encouraging to see that there is still a strain of environmentalism within some faction of the GOP. It would be good to see the mainstream Republican platform increasingly affected and influenced by green constituencies such as REP. That way, environmental causes will make progress no matter who wins an election, red or blue. And, that way, voters with environmental orientation will have more than one viable choice on the ballot, which is always a good thing.

New Superconductor May Find Crucial Role in Alternative Fuel Technology

Technische Universitat Dresden (TUD) has developed a level sensor for liquid hydrogen based on Magnesium Diboride (MgB2) superconducting wire.  The sensor is expected to be suitable for alternative fuel applications.  If so, superconductivity will provide the basis for perhaps the most reliable, inexpensive, safe, and accurate sensing technology required to use hydrogen as an automotive fuel.

TUD is collaborating with the research center Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, the gas industry, and with potential commercial manufacturers, but declined to name any specific companies, citing confidentiality agreements.  In collaboration with a German automotive manufacturer, a number of liquid hydrogen automotive dewar tanks (effectively high tech thermos bottles for keeping the hydrogen fuel cool) will be equipped with superconducting level meters supplied by TUD, with realistic laboratory tests beginning in the middle of this year. 

“This level sensor could potentially be used in all liquid hydrogen-fueled vehicles, as well as in hydrogen fuel infrastructure such as fuel stations, trailers, and liquefier plants,” stated Christoph Haberstroh, Assistant Professor at TUD.  “The patent for the sensor is pending, and the end goal is to reach a license agreement with commercial manufacturers.”

Advances in MgB2 Key to Sensor Development

Liquid hydrogen is difficult to measure, compared to other cryogenic fluids, due to its low density and the small difference in the dielectric constant between the liquid and vapor phases.  Capacitance-based level sensors are currently used in automotive applications, but these have a poor signal-to-noise ratio, with limited resolution and reliability, according to Haberstroh.  TUD’s new superconducting MgB2 level sensor is based on the design of the NbTi level sensors that are used with liquid helium.

Until the discovery of MgB2 in 2001, a superconducting material with a suitable transition temperature to be used with liquid hydrogen did not exist.  Neither low- nor high- Tc superconductors are appropriate for hydrogen’s boiling temperatures between 20-29K, which corresponds to a saturation pressure between 0.1 and 0.7MPa.  Haberstroh commented, “The recent availability of MgB2, which is superconducting below 39K, in a wire form, has made the hydrogen level sensor possible.”

More information on how the MgB2 sensor works, issues surrounding manufacturing and commercializing the devices, and project status, see the coming issue of Superconductor Week (Volume 20, Number 20).

Superconducting level detectors work by measuring the location of the vapor/liquid interface.  A superconducting filament, typically clamped inside a protective tube, is arranged vertically inside a dewar, and is connected to a current source and a voltage meter.  A heating element is mounted near the top of the superconducting wire.  When it is not heated, the whole filament (both in the vapor and in the liquid region) will be in a superconductive state, and no voltage drop will occur.  When the heater is energized, a resistive section is generated at the top of the filament, which causes ohmic losses and thus propagates downwards.  When the liquid interface is reached the propagation stops, due to better cooling inside the liquid.  The length of the resistive part, and thus the location of the interface, can be derived from the voltage measurement.

Norway Developing Hydrogen-Fuel Infrastructure

Norway provides insight into how hydrogen fuel infrastructures may take shape around the world.  The Norwegian national HyNor project is planning a series of hydrogen filling stations, with the initial goal of making it possible to drive a hydrogen fueled car between Stavanger and Oslo.  The first filling station will be opening this month near Stavanger, and the second is planned to open in Greenland in spring 2007.  HyNor is a collaboration between more than 30 industry, government, and academic partners in Norway working to promote hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

Coinciding with the opening of the Stavanger station, Mazda will show its RX-8 Hydrogen RE car, for the first time outside of Japan, at the ONS2006 energy exhibition being held in Stavanger.  Mazda began leasing the dual-fuel, hydrogen and petrol powered rotary-engine vehicle to companies in Japan earlier this year.      

Mark Bitterman, Executive Editor, Superconductor Week
http://www.superconductorweek.com

Burn Rubber, Not Gasoline

Wednesday, September 6

The makers of the Tesla Motors’ Roadster have built a vehicle, they tell the press, for people who like to drive. The Tesla is an all-electric car that zooms from 0 to 60 in about four seconds and gets the equivalent of 135mpg.

The American “car thing” speaks volumes about personality, as well as where-with-all. My mother adored the 12-cylinder E-type convertible Jaguar that she couldn’t afford; her father fancied a gull-wing Mercedes, and her mother lumbered a Rolls Royce to the supermarket (in a very small New England town, she made a splash and friends (not) to and fro). I was married – briefly – to a man who raced sports cars; sponsored by Mobil and Ford; he drove a Saturn, much to the disappointment of my friends looking for a wild ride. While I can appreciate the appeal of vroom-vroom and leather seats, I inherited neither the “car gene” nor the money to park stylin’ wheels in my driveway. I hear the Tesla goes for $80K or $100K, and people are plunking down deposits.

But it isn’t just the wealthy clamoring for this electric car. A homeowner in Colorado (who saved shekels to install a rooftop battery-backed photovoltaics system on her green-built home) is now saving up for an electric car. In customer surveys for Sun Electric Systems, she gushed over the Tesla Roadster.

The electric roadster prompted me to drive my Subaru wagon to Boulder last night to hear Joel Swisher of the Rocky Mountain Institute to speak about the “Smart Garage.” The “smart garage,” says Joel, integrates energy systems in a carbon-constrained world; it takes the on-board energy storage capacity of vehicles (aka, batteries) and uses it as distributed generation on the electric grid, reducing the need for coal-fired plants. Joel points out, we want not the kWh, but the services energy provides. As I see it, we want fast sports cars for the wealthy who can afford them now – and potential electric generators for the green market segment wishing and waiting for their chance to go vroom-vroom.

Other goings on this week:
Journalists must have been given the silent “OK” on global warming, as articles proliferate in the newspapers on energy efficiency and green building over the last few months. The word’s getting out. Taking direct action, however, are students. I bumped into Daniel McKinnon, a student at CU, in the halls of the University’s aerospace building where he, glued to a cell phone, was finalizing the kick-start of CU’s Campus Climate Challenge. Invited to participate in the September 7th event were Clean & Green (green tag marketers), Juice Bag from 3r Living (solar-powered backpacks), and the City of Boulder which has crafted a Climate Action Plan. Daniel spoke of home performance and energy audits, of selling carbon offsets on the exchange, of door-to-door outreach to students and outreach to landlords. He has lots and lots of student support and a wealth of marketing ideas. Keep up the good work, Daniel!

The Approaching Train

The Ad Council has recently released new public service announcements about global warming.
The PSAs are sponsored by Environmental Defense, and asks viewers to go to FightGlobalWarming.com.

In one, the narrator stands on a railroad track with a train approaching behind him, talking about climate change coming 20-30 years from now and saying the problem is beyond his lifetime. He steps off the track just before the train is to hit him, but standing behind the narrator is a little girl, who is implied to be inevitably steamrolled by the locomotive.

PSA on Global Warming

It’s quite brilliant: kudos to the creative team at Ogilvy & Mather. The 30-second spot reminds me a bit of the legendary ad that was said to have been instrumental in leading to LBJ’s election over Goldwater in 1964: the little girl playing with a flower, superimposed with a mushroom cloud. The inference was clear: vote for Goldwater, and your children face the prospect of nuclear war.

If this PSA on global warming is widely seen, can it have the same impact on the collective consciousness? Let’s find out. Let’s urge it to be shown on the Super Bowl, or on American Idol, or on Oprah: venues watched by millions, most of whom are in the dark about climate change.