Your Body Is A Temple, Nurture It

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Nurture My Body Organic Body Lotion

What is it?
You might think a lotion is a lotion. Your skin thinks otherwise. The organic body lotion from Nurture My Body really does nurture your body.

Why is it better?
Last month, a few personal care manufacturers were sued over the fact that some of their “organic” products weren’t really organic. You don’t have to worry about that with Nurture My Body (NMB) products. The lotion has all natural ingredients from purified water to organic avocado oil to seaweed extract.

It’s also 100% biodegradable, cruelty-free, and doesn’t contain any synthetic fragrance oils, preservatives, petroleum products, FD&C colorants and dyes, parabens, phthalates, or other toxic chemicals. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database from EWG, which rates personal care products for toxicity on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being the least hazardous, 10 being the most), rates the lotion at 0. In fact, all of the NMB products are rated 0 or 1.

Their packaging is also made from recyclable materials; they don’t send out any paper catalogs; they purchase their electricity from Puget Sound Energy Green Power to get 100% wind power; NMB is a member of the Organic Consumers Association and they’re signers of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

And it’s just a good lotion! It absorbs nicely, moisturizes well, and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy or sticky at all. Oh, and the bottles come with quotations stuck to them! Mine is a nice one from William Wordsworth.

Where can you find it?
You can order lotion directly from the Nurture My Body online store (fragrance free, ginger, and herbal go for $27.50; citrus and floral go for $29.40).

Or (yes, another bit of shameless self-promotion) you can get it for free (along with 13 other pieces to the prize) by sharing your two cents about green products in Huddler’s Green Goodies Contest!

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Biofuel Rises 6.6%, other indices mixed (week ending 5/23)

Author: Mark Henwood

Broad market indices (Emerging Markets, EAFA, S&P500) all fell significantly this week. Camino’s PurePlay™ indices were mixed but with Biofuels up sharply. Commodities (DJP) advance 1.6%, up 19.6% for the year.

Biofuel was the story of the week with our 15 member index increasing 6.6%. Four constituents rose more than 20% with Pacific Ethanol (PEIX) increasing 30.6%. Pacific rose dramatically after its 5 AM Monday call where it reported an operating profit. Later in the week the stock dropped after the company reported it announced a preferred stock offering.
Part of the operating profit was USD 2.2 million in derivative gains which I feel should be treated cautiously. After all, a year earlier the company had a derivatives loss. Also, with current assets of USD 121 million and current liabilities of USD 168 million, operating earnings don’t look like they will be sufficient to close the gap so I’m not surprised by the financing. The market reaction seems to indicate a question whether this will be the last round.

Of all the sustainable energy strategies, Biofuel is one of the few, and the largest by far, to offer an alternative to petroleum fuels for transportation. So there seems to be some logic that rising oil prices might lift the stocks of Biofuel producers. As I mentioned I would last week, I ran a quick correlation of Biofuel to a readily investable crude oil proxy (Ipath’s OIL ETN) and found over the last year Biofuel and OIL were correlated a relatively low .17. This is even lower than Solar’s correlation to oil which came in at .26 over the last year. With oil and natural gas being used to produce relatively small amounts of electricity in key solar markets, the only logic I can see for the oil/Solar correlation is high oil prices sustain governmental and consumer support for “alternatives” even thought the alternatives are only loosely related to oil.

One good week hasn’t erased Biofuel’s losses this year and the index is still down 27.5% since Jan 1.

LED & Lighting is a new strategy being tracked at Camino. It consists of 9 companies that pass our screens and are producers of energy efficient lighting using LED, flourescent, or other technologies. I expect to discuss lumens next week.

Mark is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks. He also is an investor in sustainable energy stocks.

Ohio: Open for Advanced Energy Business

by Richard T. Stuebi

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this blog….

On May 1, Governor Ted Strickland signed into a law an energy bill SB 221, which includes an advanced energy portfolio standard (AEPS) that finally puts Ohio in the advanced energy game.

By 2025, 25% of electricity sold in Ohio must come from “advanced” energy sources, including renewable energy, fuel cells, clean coal powerplants, next-generation nuclear technologies, and energy efficiency. Of this 25%, half (or 12.5%) must come from renewables (primarily wind, solar and biomass), and 0.5% must come from solar energy. Additionally, half of the 25% is directed to come from generation sources located within the state of Ohio. And, by 2025, 22% energy reductions must be achieved by energy efficiency programs.

Critically, unlike previous drafts of the legislation, the energy bill as passed includes a gradual ramp-up of AEPS requirements, beginning as soon as the end of 2009. This means that the advanced energy industry in Ohio can begin to emerge right away, as utilities are required to meet AEPS requirements almost immediately. Also of importance, utilities are subject to penalties for AEPS non-compliance, known as “alternative compliance payments”, whose proceeds will be used to install advanced energy assets that otherwise should have been developed.

The only significant “out” for utilities is the existence of a so-called 3% price cap provision, in which utilities can ask the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to allow less/later compliance with the AEPS requirements if they can prove that full compliance would increase the costs of wholesale power supply acquisition by more than 3%. Obviously, this will be an area of contention, requiring vigorous and diligent intervention at the PUCO to ensure that the analyses and assumptions used by utilities cannot spuriously claim a significant cost increase associated with advanced energy so as to evade compliance with AEPS requirements. It will be incumbent on those of us promoting an advanced energy industry in Ohio to keep these evaluations honest. Obviously, advanced energy advocates would have preferred no price cap provision, or a provision that was worded more favorably. That said, if the 3% price test is applied fairly, the advanced energy industry is confident that it can work with the language that was ultimately adopted.

Significant pre-existing limitations on “net metering” – the ability for customers to install their own power generation source and sell excess generation back to the grid – were alleviated. This should greatly improve the economics of deploying solar energy, fuel cells, and other forms of so-called “distributed generation” technologies in Ohio.

My colleagues from the legal firm Bricker & Eckler have prepared summaries that provide an excellent overview with more detail on SB 221.

In short, the law represents a major step forward for advanced energy policy in Ohio, and will create a substantial market for advanced energy technologies in our state, thereby helping us build this important industry here. The law does not contain everything we would have wanted, and not all of the wording is exactly as we would have liked, for the interests of advanced energy, I’d score this bill at least a 7 and maybe an 8 on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (excellent).

With this law passed, Ohio will now be solidly on the advanced energy map. Advanced energy companies of the world, take heed: Ohio is now open for business. Ohio will be one of the largest regional markets in the U.S. for renewables, which will surely attract the attention of the renewable energy manufacturers and installers to set up operations here, employ people here, and pay taxes here.

The list of people to thank for their contributions towards the passage of this critical legislation for the economic revitalization of Ohio is too long for a short note, but must include the following:

Governor Ted Strickland for firmly inserting the AEPS concept into the energy debates last summer.
The Governor’s Energy Advisor Mark Shanahan and his staff (especially Michael Jung) for insisting that the AEPS could not be jettisoned from the deliberations about overall electricity markets and regulation.
House Speaker Jon Husted for strengthening most of the AEPS provisions that found their way into the final bill.
House Public Utilities Committee Chairman John Hagan and House Alternative Energy Committee Chairman Jim McGregor for holding many hearings on advanced energy topics to ensure that the final bill would be drafted soundly.
Senate President Bill Harris for leading his Senate colleagues to concur unanimously with the bill passed by the House.
Erin Bowser and Amy Gomberg of Environment Ohio for their diligent work in educating lawmakers on the importance of a strong AEPS policy in Ohio.
Terrence O’Donnell of Bricker & Eckler and the members of Ohio Advanced Energy (especially Norm Johnston of McMaster Energy) for expressing the voice of Ohio businesses who see advanced energy as a huge growth opportunity – if Columbus legislators would only create a favorable market environment.
Hans Detweiler of the American Wind Energy Association and Colin Murchie of SunEdison for compellingly portraying the views of the national wind and solar industries and their interests in Ohio – if good policy were to be instituted.
Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council and Janine Migden-Ostrander and staff of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel for their tireless advocacy to promote strong energy efficiency standards in the final bill.
Gene Krebs of Greater Ohio for, well, being Gene Krebs: advising anyone who cared to listen on how to navigate the byzantine processes of the Ohio Statehouse, with good humor to boot.
Juanita Haydel and Kamala Jayaraman of ICF Incorporated for producing an excellent analysis of the potential impact of AEPS policy on electricity prices in Ohio.
Ronn Richard, J.T. Mullen, and Bob Eckardt and the grantmaking staff (especially John Mitterholzer) of The Cleveland Foundation for providing me enough latitude to assist in these various efforts in Columbus, and for providing some financial support to some of them too.
Due Amici in Columbus for providing an excellent location for an end-of-day debrief over cocktails – and for serving the cocktails too. (Alas, not gratis.)

Now that the bill is law, the first half of the game is over, and we’re ahead at halftime. The second half of the game will be played at the PUCO, where the intentions of the lawmakers must be codified into fair and workable rules and procedures that cause the advanced energy industry in Ohio to actually come into being. So while this law is essential, in many ways, it is just the beginning. Expect many months, and perhaps years, of activity before the details are fully sorted out in the PUCO.

As I wrote in an editorial in last week’s Crain’s Cleveland Business, the advanced energy community will need to maintain a high level of activity at the PUCO to protect the interests of building this new industry to revitalize Ohio. We’ll be there.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Rock Out With Your Dock Out

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Vers 2X wooden iPod dock

What is it?
The Vers 2X is a compact, all-in-one iPod dock. It plays and charges any iPod (or iPhone; it also comes with a universal MP3 dock in case you’re breaking the mold with a Zen or a Zune or something else). It has 2 3” 15-watt speakers, dual port design for deeper bass, and a sweet little silver remote control.

Why is it better?
If you’re going to be playing music, you want it to sound good. Well, the Vers 2X sure does sound good. It amazes me every time I turn mine on how such a little box can produce such solid sound.

But on to the “green factor:” Vers uses wood which displaces 80% of what otherwise would have been plastic. They’ve also done their homework so the wood they use is sustainably harvested. Each unit is also put together with screws (not adhesives or snaps), so each dock can be broken down for easy recycling. There’s no formaldehyde or toxic glue in the wood bonding. And in other chemical news, Vers is RoHS compliant.

The packaging is also made from 100% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. The class D amplifier used in Vers 2X is 80% more energy efficient than other amplifiers. That means it uses about half the energy to produce the same amount of sound.

Where can you find it?
You can get your 2X for a (suggested retail) price of $149.99 directly through the Vers website or through any of their retailers (Target.com, Feel More Human, and many others). Also, back when I got mine, they only had it in Natural Cherry, but now you can choose from Bamboo, Natural Walnut, or Dark Walnut.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Carbon Offsets Work – Will the Mainstream Media Ever Get It?

The carbon markets are an area of keen interest for me personally and professionally, so it is always frustrating that the mainstream media largely refuses to learn the details.

In general, layman and media who don’t understand the details of the carbon markets attack carbon offsets in two areas, first, questioning whether the credits are for a project that would have occurred anyway (a concept known in carbon as “additionality”), and second questioning whether there are checks and balances to ensure the environmental standards are adhered to and the abatement actually happens (in carbon known as the validation and verification processes). The frustrating part for anyone in the industry is that the entire of the carbon credit process set up under Kyoto is all about ensuring the answers to those two questions. Leading certification firms and carbon project developers have been dealing with the details behind those questions for years.

The biggest weakness of the carbon offset process to date has been that the high level of oversight and protection, while working, has led to higher costs and fewer projects getting done, rather than too many. Bottom line, the carbon markets ARE working, and are pouring billions of dollars into fighting global warming, just like the NOx and SOx trading markets helped reduce air pollution faster and cheaper than anyone expected. Now it’s time to figure out how to make them REALLY scale.

I caught up with a friend of mine, Marc Stuart, to give us a little teach in about the real story in carbon offsets, what matters, what does not, what works, and what still needs to be tweaked. Marc should know, he’s one of the founders of EcoSecurities plc (AIM:ECO.L), one of the first, and still the leader in generating and monetizing carbon credits. Marc, thanks for joining us, we appreciate the time and the teach in.

1. Even for those who don’t know much about carbon offsets, many people have heard about the concept of additionality, and almost everyone intuitively understands it at some level. But it is devilishly complicated in practice. I’ve always described it to people as “beyond business as usual”. Can you explain additionality and give us some insight into the details?

Additionality is the core concept of the project-based emissions market. In a nutshell, it means that a developer cannot receive credits for a project that represents “business as usual” (BAU) practices. A classic and often cited example is that industrial forest companies should not be able to get credits simply for replanting the trees that they harvest from their plantations each year, since that is already part of their business model. A utility changing out a 30 year old, fully depreciated turbine would not be able to claim the efficiency benefits, though a utility that swapped out something only five years old might be able to under certain circumstances.

Additionality is easy to definitively prove in cases where there is zero normal economic reason to make an investment, such as reducing HFC-23 from the refrigeration plants or N2O from fertilizer plants. Such projects easily pass a “financial additionality” test, since it’s clear that as a cost without a benefit, they wouldn’t have been economically feasible under a BAU scenario. It gets far more complex though, with assets that contribute to both normal economic outputs and the development of carbon credits, in particular in renewables and energy efficiency. Sometimes these projects are profitable without carbon finance, but there may be other barriers preventing their execution that make them additional.

The UN has developed a very structured and rigorous process that projects must undergo to prove additionality. It is essentially a regulatory process with multiple levels of oversight, in which a body called the Executive Board to the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (The CDM is the international system for creating carbon offsets called CERs) ultimately makes a binary decision about whether a project is eligible to participate or not. Anchored in the middle of that oversight is an audit process run by independent, licensed auditors, the largest of which is actually a multi-national nonprofit called Det Norske Veritas (DNV). However, many projects don’t even make it to that decision point before they are dropped in the process.

2. One of the benefits of carbon offsets often touted by those who support them is the idea that they provide compliance flexibility and liquidity in the early years of a compliance cap and trade system. What are your thoughts on how that works?

The simple reality is that many assets that emit carbon have a long lifetimes and that legitimate investment decisions have been taken in the past that rightfully did not take into account the negative impact of carbon emissions. For an easy example, think about somebody who is a couple of years into a six-year auto loan on a gas guzzler—can policy just force that person to immediately switch to a hybrid, especially since the used car market for his guzzler has now completely disappeared? Even if society says yes, how long would it take for the auto industry to ramp up its production of hybrids? Now look at infrastructure—for example, most power plants and heavy industry facilities have lifetimes of thirty years plus. Even if we were economically and politically able to affect a radical changeover, simply put, the physical capacity for building out new technology is limited, even in a highly accelerated scenario. So, like it or not, GHG emissions from the industrial world are going to take quite a while to stabilize and reduce.

The point of offsets is that, in fairly carbon efficient places like California or Japan, availability of low cost reductions within a cap-and-trade system is quite limited, meaning there is an incentive to look beyond the cap for other, credible, quantifiable, emissions reductions. Reductions in GHGs that are uncapped (either by sector, activity, or geography), such as are found in the CDM, are thus a logical way to achieve real GHG reductions and accelerate dissemination of low carbon technologies. In effect, the past helps subsidize changeover to the future as buyers of emission rights subsidize other, cheaper, GHG mitigation activities. As caps get more restrictive over time, capital changeover occurs. Offsets allow this to occur in an orderly and cost-effective manner.

3. There have been a number of studies questioning whether offsets are just “hot air” and whether carbon offset projects actually achieve real emission reductions. What is your response to these accusations?

As noted in the first question, the CDM in particular is a market that is completely regulated by an international body of experts supported by extensive bureaucracy to ensure that real emission reductions and sustainable development are occurring. The first and foremost requirement of that body is to rule on whether each individual project is additional. Each project is reviewed by qualified Operational Entity, the Executive Board Registration and Issuance Team, the UNFCCC CDM Secretariat and the CDM Executive Board itself. Plus, there are multiple occasions for external observers to make specific comments, which are given significant weight. So, while there is always the chance something could get through, there are a lot of checks and balances in the system to prevent that.

That said, determining an individual emission baseline for a project – the metric against which emission reductions are measured – is a challenging process. The system adjusts to those challenges by trying to be as conservative as possible. In other words, I would argue that in most CDM projects, there are fewer emission reductions being credited than are actually occurring. It is impossible for a hypothetical baseline to be absolutely exact, but it is eminently possible to be conservative. Is it inconceivable that the opposite occasionally occurs and that more emission reductions are credited to a project than are real? We’ve never seen it in the more than 117 projects we’ve registered with the CDM, but I suppose it’s possible.

4. What about the voluntary carbon market in the US, where there have been accusations that many projects would have happened anyway? How is this voluntary market different from what EcoSecurities does under the Clean Development Mechanism?

The voluntary market has had more of a “wild west” reputation compared to the compliance market. In some ways, that is deserved, but in some ways it is unfair. For a number of years, the voluntary market was the only outlet for project developers in places like the United States and in sectors like avoided deforestation that were not recognized by the CDM. However, because there were virtually no barriers to entry and no functional regulation other than what providers would voluntarily undertake, it was difficult for consumers and companies to differentiate between legitimate providers and charlatans. For EcoSecurities, while the voluntary market has been a very small part of our overall efforts, we always qualified projects according to vetted additionality standards such as the CDM and the California Climate Action Registry, and always used independent accredited auditors. With the emergence of stand-alone systems like the Voluntary Carbon Standard (Editors note: Marc Stuart sits on the board of the VCS), and the growing demand for offsets from the corporate sector, I believe the “wild west” frontier is drawing to a close. [Editors note: Other voluntary carbon standards we watch closely include Green-e Climate, put out by the people who certify most of the renewable energy credits (RECs) in the US]

It is also important to note that while the voluntary market has recorded very explosive growth, it is still a very small fraction of the regulatory market, comprising a few tens of millions of dollars of transactions, versus the potential tens of billions of dollars of value embedded in the highly regulated and supervised CDM. The fact that many observers still equate the occasional problems in the fringes of the voluntary market (which are increasingly history) with the real benefits being created in the Kyoto compliance market is a misperception we’d like to correct.

5. What about these projects we’ve heard about in China, where the sale of carbon credits generated from HFC-23 capture is far more valuable than production of the refrigerant gas that leads to its creation in the first place? How is this being addressed in the CDM and how can future systems ensure that there are not perverse incentives created like this?

HFC-23 projects are the epitome of what is often referred to as “low hanging fruit.” In this case, most of the fruit might have actually been sitting on the ground. While there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the market drove the mitigation of HFC-23 globally, the extreme disparity between the costs of reducing those gases and the market value those reductions commanded invariably led to questions whether there were more socially efficient ways to have reduced those emissions. In all likelihood, there were. But to catalyze an overall market like this, it is probably important to get some easy wins at the outset to create broader investment interest and this certainly accomplished that. Moreover, Kyoto created a mechanism for engaging these kinds of activities. It would have sent a much worse signal to the market to have changed the rules in the middle of the game. The CDM has subsequently adjusted the rules to make sure that no one can put new factories in place simply for the purposes of mitigating their emissions. I don’t see too many other situations like HFCs in the future, simply because there are no other gases where the disparity of mitigation costs and market value is so severe.

5. Given that the majority of CDM projects currently under development are located in China and India, how can we ensure that these countries eventually take on the binding targets we will need to reach the scientifically determined reductions in GHGs? Doesn’t the CDM simple create an incentive for these countries to avoid binding targets as long as possible?

It is clearly in the world’s interest to get as much of the global economy into a low carbon trajectory as quickly as possible. However, it is politically unrealistic to expect these countries—whose emissions per capita are between one fifth and one tenth the per capita of the United States—to make an equivalent commitment at this juncture, particularly considering that they are in the midst of an aggressive development trajectory. The CDM provides a way for ongoing engagement with these countries, developing the basic architecture of a lower carbon economy. And there is no doubt that China’s emissions in 2012, 2015 or 2020 will be measurably lower than they otherwise would have been, simply because of the current accomplishments of the CDM. Over time, the use of project based mechanisms will contribute to accelerating the development and dissemination of low carbon technologies, which will make those negotiations for binding caps from all major economies far more tenable.

6. It is widely believed that to address the climate crisis on the scale necessary to avert dangerous global warming, significant infrastructural and paradigm shifts must occur at an unprecedented scale. Some people are concerned that offsets provide a disincentive for making these shifts, since companies can just offset their emissions instead of making the changes themselves. Is this something you saw under the EU ETS at all, and if so, how can it be addressed in a US system?

Virtually all of the macroeconomic analysis that has been done of Phase I of the ETS shows that there were real emission reductions undertaken within the system, despite the fact that many companies were also actively seeking CDM CERs. Clearly the fact that both Kyoto and the EU ETS system place quantifiable limits on the use of CDM and Joint Implementation (JI) credits guarantees that emission reductions will also be made in-country as well, so pure “outsourcing” of emissions compliance is not possible. This also appears to be the model being pursued in most US legislation.

7. Many have complained that the CDM system is too administratively complex, unpredictable, and that the transaction costs of the system are so significant that they could almost negate any possible benefits. What lessons can be learned about structuring an offset system in a simpler, but still environmentally rigorous way? What steps is the CDM EB taking to address these issues?

The CDM treads a very fine line between ensuring environmental integrity of the offsets that it certifies and the need to have some kind of efficient process within an enormous global regulatory enterprise. To date, one has to think that they have gotten it about right, as business has complained about inefficiency and environmentalists have complained about environmental integrity. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the project by project approval approach is creating logistical challenges as the system graduates from managing dozens, to hundreds, to now, quite literally, thousands of projects in all corners of the world. Ironically, it is the success of the CDM in terms of its very broad uptake by carbon entrepreneurs that is causing problems for the current model.

We believe the benefits of the CDM can be maintained by moving many project types into a more standardized approach, whereby emission reduction coefficients are determined “top-down” by a regulatory body, as opposed to being undertaken individually for every project by project proponents. For example, there are dozens of highly similar wind energy projects in China that all have microscopically different emission baselines. A conservative top down baseline set by the regulator (in this case, the CDM Executive Board) would enable projects to get qualified by the system in an efficient manner with far less bureaucratic overhang. This is how California’s Climate Action Reserve deals with project based reductions and we think that it could work well for many sectors.

8. Is there any difference between a renewable energy certificate (REC) and a carbon offset? Does EcoSecurities support the concept of selling RECs to offset carbon emissions?

While renewable energy clearly helps lower the carbon intensity of the electrical grid, there are a great number of other incentives for development of renewables in the US, including significant Production Tax Credits, and in most states, RECs or Green Tags. For EcoSecurities, this makes it extremely problematic to claim that these assets are additional, despite their obvious benefits to the global environment and decarbonization of the economy. Acknowledging this, EcoSecurities—along with many other companies—has steered clear of developing REC projects for VERs in the voluntary market. There are other firms that have chosen other approaches, which again highlights the need for standardized approaches like the VCS. That said, we are very active in helping create carbon value for RE projects throughout the developing world via the CDM, where incentives such as RECs are almost universally non-existent.

9. There has been a lot of concern about “carbon market millionaires” profiting from selling offsets, and that the only “greening” going on is in the lining of peoples’ pockets. As a carbon market millionaire yourself, what do you think about this concern?

Capital markets exist to reward innovation and punish underperformance. EcoSecurities has existed for more than 11 years and the founders – of which I am one – have devoted more than 15 years to building up various aspects of the carbon market. For many of those years, as we watched friends and colleagues flourish in other markets like internet and biotech, our decision to stay in this seemed fairly quixotic. But we understood enough of the science of climate change to recognize that a fundamental policy response had to be forthcoming, or we would be heading to a global catastrophe. Now those policies have come into focus and the overriding recognition is that society will need to mobilize trillions of dollars of capital to decarbonize the global economy. As part of the proverbial “bleeding edge” for many years, we were ironically well positioned to take advantage when early movers in the capital markets recognized the capabilities and brand that we had built up over a decade. As for whether that is the only greening – well, I can tell you that given the very conservative and difficult aspects of qualifying projects for the CDM, I am 100% certain that our activities contribute solidly to that decarbonization trajectory and that real emission reductions have occurred all over the world because of our efforts.

10) What lessons have you learned personally about the market as a cofounder of the leading CDM project developer in the world? You must have some interesting lessons learned for the US as you are probably unique amongst your competitors in having been based here in the US for over 10 years.

Thanks for the compliment but actually, I’m not that unique. I started in the market in the early 1990’s when the US was the epicenter of a future carbon trading regime, and Europe and Japan looked at it with suspicion and distaste. Quite a number of us from that era did not give up, but instead spent a fair bit of time since then getting our US passports stamped regularly to search the world for projects. It’s nice to see that we may finally be getting back to where we thought we would be a decade ago—with the US as a driving force for innovation in decarbonizing the world’s economy (coincidentally in a recent report produced by the UNFCCC, the US along with Germany, the UK and France provided over 70% of the clean technology currently being utilized in CDM projects). The US is in a perfect position to learn from the both the successes and mistakes within the first Kyoto iteration and I am looking forward to being part of that next stage as well.

11) What do you say to popular press who don’t seem to believe that Kyoto works?

Honestly, you haven’t seen what I have seen. I’ve traveled all over the world and seen the results of Kyoto, where “carbon entrepreneurs” – ranging from divisions within multinationals to garage inventors on their own—are seeking ways to cost effectively reduce GHG emissions. That simply would not have happened without the market signal that Kyoto created. The fact that the CDM has registered more than 1000 projects and has a backlog of several times that – despite the incredible bureaucratic requirements – shows an uptake several magnitudes beyond what anybody predicted when Kyoto was negotiated. When the managing director of a West African oil refinery is proudly detailing to you the steps he’ll be ordering his engineers to take to help save some 250,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, that’s when you realize that you’ve tapped into something significant. And having had the same basic conversation in Mumbai, Jakarta, Sao Paulo and Beijing, you realize that people really want to do something, but that you need a little push from a market. That said, we are still in the first tentative moments of what is probably a century long issue and there are doubtless many improvements that can and will be made. But we have undoubtedly proven that the basic premise works.

Thanks Marc. A pleasure to chat as always. Keep up the good fight.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of Cleantech.org, and a blogger for CNET’s Greentech blog. He is also the founder of Carbonflow, a provider of software solutions for the carbon markets.

The War for Talent

by Richard T. Stuebi

In the late-1990’s, the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. released a widely-read study called “The War for Talent”, which profiled how leading corporations were aggressively competing to attract and retain the best and the brightest in order to win in business. (McKinsey’s favorite example of this at the time was Enron. Oops!)

Last month, the research firm New Energy Finance and the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII) released their own take on the war for talent in the cleantech space by surveying 75 senior executives worldwide. The key findings included:

  • 96% of respondents said recruitment was a very serious or moderately serious challenge.
  • 56% of respondents said that the key challenge to delivering growth was finding executives — a significantly higher response rate than other challenges such as capital or policy.
  • 46% of respondents said that CEO was one of the most difficult positions to fill, approximately the same rate as those who found the CTO role difficult to fill.
  • 53% of respondents said the biggest barrier to recruitment was shortage of candidates with the right skills — far more than uncertainties about the future of the sector (32%), lack of employer name recognition (10%) or compensation (8%).
  • 48% of respondents said most recruits came from the traditional energy sector, vs. 32% from the clean energy sector and 31% from “other young, high-tech industries”.

In other words, cleantech is now a serious industry, quickly maturing well beyond “mom-and-pops”, “tree-huggers” and “two-weird-guys-in-a-garage”. Cleantech is facing many of the same management challenges that big corporations face, and is increasingly poaching from the big guys.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Solar Rises 10.8%, Renewable Elec and Biofuels increase also (week ending 5/16)

Author: Mark Henwood

Broad market indices (Emerging Markets, EAFA, S&P500) all rose significantly this week. Camino’s PurePlay™ indices, with the exception of Fuel Cells, were up. Commodities (DJP) retreated slightly.

Solar was the story of the week with our 34 member index increasing 10.8%. Six constituents rose more than 20% with the top three, SolarFun Power (SOLF), Renesola (SOL), and China Sunergy (CSUN) increasing more than 40%. Renesola reported strong Q1 results on the 14th. SolarFun and China Sunergy are scheduled to report earnings next week.

Even after its 53.85 % price increase last week, SolarFun’s current year PE is 32.2 (corrected) and its 09 PE is 19.5 (corrected). With continued high growth rates expected, and unless there is a negative surprise next week, I wouldn’t be surprise to see this stock rise further. Renesola’s current year PE is now 22.3 but with expected growth in the 50% range it may support a higher price also. China Sunergy’s 44.9% increase is harder to understand. The company isn’t profitable this year and has a 09 PE of 32. Offsetting this are consensus expectations of revenue growth of over 50% this year and next.

After last weeks big gain at Energy Conversion (ENER) the stock rose an additional 19.2%. Other then hope for an ITC extension in the US I didn’t see any events specifically related to the company that would drive this change. The stock is in both of the solar ETFs so money flowing into them may have lifted the stock last week. At a current period PE of about 80 I can’t justify owning it.

Biofuels bounced up 4.9% last week. Some of the gain was no doubt driven by oil prices but some was driven by the 27.3 % increase in Brasil Ecodiesel (ECOD3.SA). The company reported a significant block transaction of stock during the week. Next week we’ll look at the correlation of this strategy with oil prices.

Fuel Cells continued to suffer with Medis (MDTL) leading the decline. The company reported an increased YoY quarterly loss. This strategy is now down 33% of the year and is still searching for the winning product mix.

LED & Lighting is a new strategy being tracked at Camino. It consists of 9 companies that pass our screens and are producers of energy efficient lighting using LED, flourescent, or other technologies. We expect this sector to grow as technical improvements and rising retail electric prices make advanced lighting more compelling to customers.

In total our five indices, which track just PurePlay™ sustainable energy companies, have aggregate market capitalization of USD 227 billion.

Mark is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks. He also is an investor in sustainable energy stocks.

Here Comes The Sun

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Solio Classic Universal Hybrid Charger

What is it?
Since summer is right around the corner, you may be spending more time outdoors. But what happens if you get caught with a low cell phone or iPod charge? Oh no! Have no fear. That’s where the Solio hybrid solar charger comes in. This charger can accept power from either the sun or the wall. The energy is stored in its internal rechargeable battery.

Why is it better?
As you well know, standard chargers plug into the wall and suck up electricity. And most grids are tied to some coal burning plants. But the Solio, with it’s 3 petal solar panel design, harnesses the energy of the sun to charger all of your smaller electronic gadgets, including cell phones and PDAs, iPods (or other MP3 players), game players, GPS devices, and even digital cameras. A fully charged Solio Classic will charge the average cell phone more than twice or let your rock out with your iPod for 20 hours. But iPhone users be warned – I hear they only charge iPhones about 50%.

Of course, if you’re looking for a rapid speed charge, the Solio probably won’t do it for you. It takes about 8 to 10 hours to charge fully in the sun. But if you’re headed for a relaxed day at the beach or going for a weekend camping trip and you just can’t shake that mobile connection, the Solio is a great portable device and it only weighs 5.6 ounces. And it comes in silver, black, pink, and white, which is fun!

Where can you find it?
You can order a Solio Classic directly through the Solio website. It retails for $99.95 (you can also look into their other models including the Solio Magnesium Edition or the H1000 hybrid charger).

Or! You can be a grand prize winner in Huddler.com’s Green Goodies Contest and win a Solio as well as $250 worth of other green goodness.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Is Corn Ethanol Lowering Gas Prices at the Pump?

Despite providing the largest portion of alternative fuel in the US, corn ethanol gets a lot of flack in the circles Cleantech Blog runs in. The usual culprits go something like this: Corn ethanol is heavily subsidized (yes it is). Corn ethanol does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions (sort of, it really, really depends on your assumptions). Corn ethanol contributes to the fertilizer driven “deadzone” in the Gulf of Mexico (maybe, another complicated topic). Corn ethanol drives up the price of food (a topic for another day).

But the main argument for supporting corn ethanol production has always been about energy independence and fuel switching. Enabling a new source of supply into our gasoline supply chain should in theory, put some some downward pressure on gasoline prices at the pump, and keep those energy dollars at home rather than send them overseas.

So the real question is, does it?

A very interesting paper was published at Iowa State last month says yes, US ethanol production (almost all from corn) has reduced gasoline prices at the pump $0.29-$0.40 per gallon, depending on the region. Further, that the reduction came largely at the expense of profits the refining industry would otherwise have made (indicating perhaps that our ethanol production helped US consumers at the pump, but did not impact world oil prices).

In their paper entitled The Impact of Ethanol Production on US and Regional Gasoline Prices and on the Profitability of the US Oil Refinery Industry, authors Xiaodong Xu and Dermot Hayes analyzed the impact on price at the pump and refining profits of adding ethanol to the US gasoline fleets by separating the impact of ethanol from the major variables like gasoline imports, refining capacity, refining utilization rates, hurricanes, market concentration in refining, stocks, and seasonality, that generally affect gasoline price.

I find their $0.29 to $0.40 per gallon results a surprisingly large number, indicating that ethanol production, while providing on average well less than 5% of our gasoline supplies over their study period, could have affected prices at the pump downward to the tune of greater than 2 to 3 times that percentage level. That result is a huge win for ethanol proponents, as it suggests that adding ethanol to the US fleet has significantly benefited consumers (as one would expect), and also suggests that the ethanol subsidy program (at about $0.40 per gallon for 5% of the US gasoline production works out to around a 1 to 2 cent effective tax on gasoline at current levels) may well have paid for itself up to 20x over or more. The studies authors are careful not extrapolate too much from the results, but they are certainly interesting enough to warrant significant further research, and argue a strong case for further corn ethanol support.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of Cleantech.org, and a blogger for CNET’s Greentech blog.

Biofuel Innovators with Alternatives to Oil

By John Addison (5/14/08). Oil soars to $125 per barrel and economies around the world sputter or fall into recession. Enough is enough. Many biofuels can be blended with gasoline and diesel refined from oil, then pumped into our existing vehicles. Even making our fuels with ten percent biofuel and ninety percent refined oil is enough to drop demand for oil and send the price south.

At the moment, this approach has major drawbacks. Food prices are soaring as more ethanol is made from corn, and biodiesel from soy and palm oil. Rain forests are being slashed and burned to increase production of soy and palm oil. Next generation biofuels, however, promise to minimize these downsides while ending our dependency on oil.

“Once viewed as an environmentally-friendly, silver bullet alternative to fossil fuels, biofuels have recently become “public enemy number one” in regard to rising food prices. But what role does the growing biofuels market really play in the current food crisis?” Asks James Greenwood, President and CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization, who goes on to answer the question.

“There are a number of factors contributing to rising food costs. Poor harvests over the past year in Australia, Canada, South America and Eastern Europe. Protectionist tariff policies affecting the rice-producing nations of South Asia. A weak dollar is driving up the demand for U.S. exports of grains, a dynamic exacerbated by hedge fund and pension fund managers who are pouring unprecedented levels of investment in grain commodities. Growing incomes and meat-eating preferences of an emerging middle class in countries like India and China are increasing global demand for animal feed and the fuel required for production and transport. But the most significant factors driving up food prices are ever-rising energy and transportation costs.

“In coming years, biotechnology will allow us to create biofuels from non-food crops, crops that yield more per acre, require less fertilizer and are more tolerant of drought and other adverse conditions. These scientific breakthroughs will only enhance the world’s ability to feed and fuel itself in a responsible and sustainable way. As biofuels production transitions to these second and third generation biofuels, biotechnology will play an essential role in providing the world with cleaner fuel and more affordable food.”

The U.S. Agriculture Department projects that the combination of a shrinking corn crop and the swelling appetite for corn ethanol will keep the price of the nation’s largest crop in record territory into 2009. USDA economists expect U.S. farmers to produce 12.1 billion bushels of corn, down 7.3% from the record 13.1 billion bushels they harvested in 2007, as farmers grow more soy.

In the U.S., ethanol is currently in far greater demand than biodiesel. By law, 36 billion gallons of ethanol must be in use by 2020 in the USA. This ethanol will primarily be blended with gasoline. E10, a blend of ten percent ethanol and ninety percent petroleum refined gasoline will be common. By contrast, in the U.S. most diesel fuel is consumed by heavy vehicles with expensive engines that must run for years. Warranties can be voided and maintenance cost increase unless the diesel fuel meets exacting standards.

Biofuel innovators were discussed and presented at the Platts Advanced Biofuels Conference, which I attended. With improved biofuels we will achieve increased energy security while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This article examines short-term and longer-term biofuel solutions.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, Khosla Ventures is funding innovative solutions for clean transportation and other major global problems. Brilliant innovators such as Vinod Khosla and Samir Kaul are involved in a number of companies creating cleaner fuels with cellulosic ethanol, biomass gasification, and synthetic biology.
Platt conference keynote speaker Vinod Khosla predicts that within five years fuel from food will no longer be competitive with cellulosic ethanol. He also predicts, “In five years, oil will be uncompetitive with biofuel, even at $50 per barrel, though oil will take longer to decline in price.”

Khosla Ventures identifies several sources of cellulosic ethanol. “There are four principal sources of biomass and biofuels we consider (1) energy crops on agricultural land and timberlands using crop rotation schemes that improve traditional row crop agriculture AND recover previously degraded lands (2) winter cover crops grown on current annual crop lands using the land during the winter season (or summer, in the case of winter wheat) when it is generally dormant (while improving land ecology) (3) excess non-merchantable forest material that is currently unused (about 226 million tons according to the US Department of Energy), and (4) organic municipal waste, industrial waste and municipal sewage.” Khosla Papers and Presentations

Sugarcane is the currently the most efficient feedstock for larger scale ethanol production. While corn ethanol delivers little more energy output than the total energy necessary to grow, process, and transport it; sugarcane ethanol delivers eight times the energy output as lifecycle energy input. Also, sugarcane typically produces twice as much fuel per acre as corn.

Brazil produces almost as much sugarcane ethanol as the United States produces corn ethanol, but at a fraction of the energy cost. Sugarcane is also grown in the southern U.S., from Florida to Louisiana to California.

Brazil is free from needing foreign oil. Flex-fuel vehicles there get much better mileage than in the U.S. If you drive into any of Brazil’s 31,000 fueling stations looking for gasoline, you will find that the gasoline has a blend of at least 20% ethanol, as required by law. 29,000 of the fueling stations also offer 100% ethanol. Ethanol in the U.S. is normally delivered on trucks, increasing its cost and lifecycle emissions. Brazil’s largest sugar and ethanol group, Cosan SA announced the creation of a company to construct and operate an ethanol pipeline.

Most sugarcane is grown in the southern state of Sao Paulo. Economics do not favor its growth in rain forests, although those who favor blocking its import make that claim. It is cattle, soy, palm oil, logging, and climate change that most threaten the rain forests. Some environmentalists are concerned that a significant percentage of Brazil’s sugarcane is grown in the cerrado, which is one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. The cerrado is rich with birds, butterflies, and thousands of unique plant species. Others argue that without sugarcane ethanol, more oil will come from strip mining Canadian tar sands and from a new “gold rush” for oil in the melting artic.

“In addition, the residue of sugarcane ethanol, bagasse, can be used for further energy production. While this may likely be used for generating carbon-neutral electricity, it could also be used in cellulosic biofuel production, potentially generating an additional 400-700 gallons per acre.” (CA LCFS Technical Analysis p 87-88)

Sugarcane growers are planning the development of varieties that can produce a larger quantity of biomass per hectare per year. These varieties are being called “energy cane” and may produce 1,200 to 3,000 gallons of ethanol per acre, contrasting with 300 to potentially 500 gallons of ethanol from an acre of corn.
Although sugarcane ethanol is currently the low-cost winner, long-term economics are likely to favor cellulosic sources.

In his keynote speech, Vinod Khosla sited promising sources such as paper waste, wood waste, forest waste, miscanthus, sorghum, hybrid poplar trees, winter cover crops, and perennial crops have deep roots and sequester carbon. Cellulosic ethanol could potentially yield 2,500 gallons per acre.

Large-scale reliance on ethanol fuel will require new conversion technologies and new feedstock. Much attention has been focused on enzymes that convert plant cellulose into ethanol. Because cellulose derived ethanol is made from the non-food portions of plants, it greatly expands the potential fuel supply without cutting our precious food supplies.

Pilot plants are now convert wood waste into ethanol. Over the next few years, much larger plants are likely to come online and start becoming a meaningful part of the energy mix. In Japan, Osaka Project, Verenium utilizes demolition wood waste as a feedstock in producing up to 1.3 million liters of cellulosic ethanol annually. A second phase, planned for completion in 2008, will increase production to 4 million liters per year. Verenium Ethanol Projects

Norampac is the largest manufacturer of containerboard in Canada. Next generation ethanol producer TRI is not only producing fuel, its processes allow the plant to produce 20% more paper. Prior to installing the TRI spent-liquor gasification system the mill had no chemical and energy recovery process. With the TRI system, the plant is a zero effluent operation, and more profitable.

The spent-liquor gasifier is designed to processes 115 Metric tons per day of black liquor solids. The chemicals are recovered and sent to the mill for pulping; the energy is recovered as steam which offsets the production of steam using purchased natural gas. All thermal energy in the plant is now renewable.
Producing cellulosic ethanol over the next few years is unlikely to be cost competitive with oil refining, unless other benefits accrue such as Norampac’s improved plant efficiency, savings in energy, heat, steam, reduction of plant waste, and/or production of multiple products from the plant. In the longer term, 100 million gallon per year cellulosic plants may be profitable without byproduct benefits.

Another Khosla Ventures portfolio company is Range Fuels which sees fuel potential from timber harvesting residues, corn stover (stalks that remain after the corn has been harvested), sawdust, paper pulp, hog manure, and municipal garbage that can be converted into cellulosic ethanol. In the labs, Range Fuels has successfully converted almost 30 types of biomass into ethanol. While competitors are focused on developing new enzymes to convert cellulose to sugar, Range Fuels’ technology eliminates enzymes which have been an expensive component of cellulosic ethanol production. Range Fuels’ thermo-chemical conversion process uses a two step process to convert the biomass to synthesis gas, and then converts the gas to ethanol.

The U.S. Department of Energy is negotiating with Range Fuels research funding of up to $76 million.
Range Fuels was awarded a construction permit from the state of Georgia to build the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. Ground breaking will take place this summer for a 100-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant that will use wood waste from Georgia’s forests as its feedstock. Phase 1 of the plant is scheduled to complete construction in 2009 with a production capacity of 20 million gallons a year.

Abengoa Bioenergy, also announced the finalization of a $38-million collaboration agreement signed with the DOE for the design and development of the Hugoton, Kansas cellulosic ethanol plant which will process over 11 million gallons of ethanol per year with renewable energy as a byproduct. The biomass plant will be situated next to a conventional grain-to-ethanol plant with combined capacity of 100 million gallons, using scale to make cellulosic ethanol more cost-competitive. Abengoa Bioenergy will invest more than $500 million in the next five years in their production of biomass into ethanol in the U.S., Brazil, and Europe.
Poet, the nation’s largest ethanol maker with 22 plants now turning out 1.2 billion gallons a year, plans to open a 25-million-gallon cellulosic facility in 2009 alongside its expanded grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Corn cobs from local fields will supply it. Ethanol 2.0

Ethanol is not the only bio-game in town. Many European cars and most U.S. heavy vehicles use diesel not gasoline. New generations of biodiesel, biobutanol, and synthetic fuels are being developed that could be blended with diesel or replace it. Some of these fuels could also be blended with gasoline and jet fuel. BP and DuPont have teamed to produce biobutanol which has a higher energy density than ethanol, can be delivered in existing pipelines, and can be blended with a wider range of fuels.

Amyris will use synthetic biology to develop microorganisms that produce biofuels. LS9 Inc. is in the early stage of using synthetic biology to engineer bacteria that can make hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Algae have the potential to be an efficient producer of oil for biodiesel with byproducts of including hydrogen and carbohydrates which could be converted into ethanol. Biodiesel from algae can be done today. The challenge is to make production large scale and cost effective. Ideal forms of algae need to be developed. Oil must be “brewed” with the right solution, light, mixing and stirring. Cost-effective photobioreactors must be developed.

“If we were to replace all of the diesel that we use in the United States” with an algae derivative, says Solix CEO Douglas Henston, “we could do it on an area of land that’s about one-half of 1 percent of the current farm land that we use now.”

Mike Janes, Sandia National Labs, is even more optimistic, “Recent studies using a species of algae show that only 0.3 percent of the land area of the U.S. could be utilized to produce enough biodiesel to replace all transportation fuel the country currently utilizes….In addition, barren desert land, which receives high solar radiation, could effectively grow the algae, and the algae could utilize farm waste….With an oil-per-acre production rate 250 times the amount of soybeans, algae offers the highest yield feedstock for biodiesel.”

At the Platts Advanced Biofuels Conference, most algae experts, from scientists to CEOs of algael fuel companies, see challenging years ahead before cost-effective commercial scale production of biofuel from algae will be possible. As one expert quipped, “The greatest progress to scale is being done by Photoshop.”
A number of companies are actively exploring the potential for fuel from algae. “Algae have great potential as a sustainable feedstock for production of diesel-type fuels with a very small CO2 footprint,” said Graeme Sweeney, Shell Executive Vice President Future Fuels and CO2. Shell is investing in using algae to produce fuel.

These innovators will only make a difference if they receive funding and distribution. Some of the energy giants are helping. Shell is recognized as the largest biofuel distributor among the “oil majors.” Shell has invested heavily in Choren biomass-to-liquids (BTL) in Europe. Shell has invested in Iogen, a maker of cellulosic ethanol catalysts and technology.

Biofuels have the potential to provide solutions for energy security and transportation with a much smaller carbon footprint. Other solutions include reduction in solo driving due to urban density and corporate programs, public transit, more fuel efficient vehicles, and the shift to electric vehicles that require no fossil fuel or biofuel. The new biofuels have the potential to encourage sustainable reforesting and soil enrichment. Biofuel 2.0 provides a path to fuel from wood and waste, not food and haste.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. He owns a modest number of shares of Abengoa.

Blogroll Review: VW, Food, and $100 Billion

by Frank Ling

The People’s Car

With the price of gas exceeding $4 per gallon in the US, there is surging interest in vehicles with higher mileage. It may not be until we see $5 or $6 per gallon that we see mainstream transition to hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles.

Several efforts at high mileage have already made the news. Here is another one. This one coming from our friends in Germany.

Volkswagen plans to introduce a 230 mpg car by 2010. It is described as a cross between a VW Bug and a bobsled.

Hank Green at EcoGeek writes:

The car’s technology comes from it’s unique shape and it’s ultra-light body. The frame is actually made of magnesium, an extremely light metal, and the outer skin is reinforced with carbon fiber. The one cylinder engine is made of aluminum and sits on top of the rear axle. The car is only a bit more than three feet high and weighs less than 700 lbs.

Volkswagen says the design has been around since 2002 but because of it’s design and perceptions over its safety, they have not marketed it. With such a low weight, it is thought that the car would lose out in a crash with a heavier vehicle.

Finish Your Dinner

In the UK, a new report says that by reducing food wastage, the country could prevent 18 million ton equivalents of CO2 emissions each year or nearly the amount emitted by one in the five cars.

David Erhlich at the Cleantech Group says:

According to the study, $2 billion worth of wasted food is still “in date.” The group said it costs local authorities $2 billion to collect and dispose of all of the wasted food.

But there are answers, and WRAP said of the 6.7 million tonnes of food per year that’s wasted, 4.1 million tonnes is avoidable.

UN: Renewable Investment Hits $100 Billion

In what is a financial milestone, the UN reports that global investment in renewable energy has exceeded $100 billion for the first time last year.

From Greentech Media:

“The finance community has been investing at levels that imply disruptive change is now inevitable in the energy sector,” says Eric Usher, Head of the Energy Finance Unit at the UN. Usher said the UN’s “report puts full stop to the idea of renewable energy being a fringe interest of environmentalists. It is now a mainstream commercial interest to investors and bankers alike.”

Frank Ling is a postdoctoral fellow at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley. He is also a producer of the Berkeley Groks Science Show.

"A Special Report on the Future of Energy" by Mother Jones

by Richard T. Stuebi

I’ve never been a fan of the periodical Mother Jones – it’s always seemed a bit too “alternative” for me. That said, I was recently given a copy of the May/June 2008 issue – a special report on the future of energy – and was surprised by the quality and balance of the articles.

I particularly found “The Seven Myths of Energy Independence” by Paul Roberts (author of The End of Oil) to be a compelling read. To him, the seven myths are:

1. Energy Independence Is Good
2. Ethanol Will Set Us Free
3. Conservation Is a “Personal Virtue”
4. We Can Go It Alone
5. Some Geek in Silicon Valley Will Fix the Problem
6. Cut Demand and the Rest Will Follow
7. Once Bush Is Gone, Change Will Come

I think many advocates are well-advised to really reflect on #7. Bush is unquestionably the bête-noire of all things environmental, but he’s only a part of the problem – and arguably not even the biggest part. Congress and the entrenched interests completely stymie good energy/environmental policy. A new President will help, but won’t be a simple cure-all, for what ails us in the energy and environmental arenas.

Which brings me to another article in the issue: “Congress’ Top 10 Fossil Fools” by Chris Mooney, profiling the “foes and thwarters of renewable energy”. In his list, they are:

1. Senator Pete Dominici (R-NM)
2. The Southern Company (NYSE: SO)
3. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
4. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX)
5. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) and “Coal-State Dems”
6. Representative John Dingell (D-MI)
7. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
8. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
9. Senator John Thune (R-SD)
10. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Probably no surprise that there are more R’s than D’s on the list, but I was really surprised at the omission of Senator James Imhofe (R-OK), and by the inclusion of McCain. Apparently, the League of Conservation Voters gave the impending Republican Presidential nominee a rating of 0 (that’s right, zero) last year “because McCain missed every single environmentally relevant vote”, including ones in which he could have been the tie-breaker to overcome a filibuster on the 2007 clean-energy bill. Alas, what could have been…

Other good articles in the issue include:

“The Greenback Effect” by Bill McKibben on why markets aren’t necessarily antithetical to the environment, but can be the driving force for environmental solutions.
“Breaking the Gridlock” by Jennifer Kahn on how the smart-grid could be the major enabler for energy efficiency.
“The Nuclear Option” by Judith Lewis – a reasonably fair and balanced view of the pros and cons of nuclear energy, without the expected hyperbole.
“Tar Wars” by Josh Harkinson, which paints a not-at-all pretty picture of what’s happening to the landscape in Northern Alberta as the tar sands are mined to make oil.
“Put a Tyrant in Your Tank” by Joshua Kurlantzick, profiling the bad guys leading many of the major oil producing nations – who are financed every time you fill up at the pump.

Lots of interesting nuggets to be found in the sidebar boxes too. For instance, did you know that 30% of the electricity supply at the infamous Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is provided by wind turbines?

Well worth spending $5.95 at the newsstand, pick up the May/June 2008 Mother Jones.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Solar and Renewable Electricity Gain (Week Ending 5/9)

Author: Mark Henwood

Broad market indices (Emerging Markets, EAFA, S&P500) all fell this week. Camino’s PurePlay™ indices were mixed, commodities (ticker DJP) rose strongly.

The PurePlay™ Solar index, comprised of 34 companies, reversed last week’s 2.0% loss with a 0.9% gain. The index members were mixed with 13 stocks increasing and 21 stocks declining. In contrast to last week, two stocks (ENER and CSIQ) increased by over 20%. Energy Conversion Devices’ eye popping 45.2% gain for the week was largely responsible for lifting the index. The company stock rose sharply in very heavy trading after its 7 AM press release on the 8th, and then more after their earnings call concluded later in the morning. The company reported great results for its Q3 with solar product sales up 193% from the previous year. In contrast to prior periods the company showed a profit. More on ENER below.

The Renewable Electricity index increased 0.7% with 11 stocks climbing and 12 retreating. No stock increased or declined by over 20% and nothing caught our attention to report here other then to note that the index’s relatively low volatility continues.

Biofuels followed last week’s loss with an additional 3.4% loss. There were 5 advancing stocks to 10 stocks falling. Biofuels are now down 35.2% for the year, the worst showing of our four strategies.

Aventine (AVR) reversed last week’s gain with a 23.0% decline contributing significantly to the index’s decline. I previously noted Aventine’s large USD 26 million mark-down for its student loan ARS position and noted the company is engaged in other complex financial transactions to hedge operational risk. The company’s value decreased this week by USD 52 million, not because of operational risks, but due to an analyst’s concern about liquidity on the 5th and Moody’s concerns and negative outlook on the 8th. Is there more financial risk to come?

Fuel Cells posted another loss of 1.1% this week with 3 stocks advancing and 4 stocks declining. No stock increased or declined by over 20%.

Energy Conversion: After its big price move, annualizing the company’s Q3 earnings results in a current period PE ratio of 68.

The question is can the company continue the growth necessary to support this price? To grow at the PE ratio, the company will need to expand its Q3 2008 production of 21.6 MW to a Q3 2010 production 61 MW. With its announced plans to increase annual production capacity to 300MW by the end of FY2010 it looks like it may be possible to keep pace. But there isn’t much room for error. Any problems that impact this rapid growth with likely be rewarded with sharp price movements. In our view the stock may be fully priced after this week’s huge gains.

Mark is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks. He also is an investor in sustainable energy stocks.

Give Me Your (Recycled) Heart

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: pretty much anything from Fire & Light, but specifically the glass heart.

What is it?
This post is really in the spirit of Mother’s Day (if you’ve forgotten, it’s not too late – it’s this Sunday, May 11th). So if you’re looking for something beautiful and green to show your mom/grandmother/aunt/wife that you love her and you love the planet, Fire & Light makes beautiful stuff. The glass heart is a piece from their giftware collection (for the more practical moms, you can call it a paper weight or you could opt for something from their dinnerware collection).

Why is it better?
Fire & Light makes their hand-poured colored glassware in conjunction with a partnership with the Arcata Community Recycling Center (and just for those of you who have never heard of Arcata, it’s one of the greenest spots in the country). They take recycled glass, turn it into a raw material by crushing it, and re-make it into something absolutely beautiful. As their tag line says, they “have recycling down to an art.”

Where can you find it?
You can have something shipped directly from Fire & Light or you can check out their retailer locator. The large heart retails for approximately $32.

And if glassware isn’t your mom’s thing, here’s a wiki about other green Mother’s Day gifts that might have something more fitting.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

The Status of Carbon Sequestration

by Richard T. Stuebi

At a recent symposium on climate change solutions at Oberlin College, I heard a presentation by David Ball, who leads the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus.

His presentation was a fascinating collage of facts and observations about the status and prospects for in-situ sequestration of carbon emissions from coal powerplants and other large point sources. To wit:

CO2 must be sequestered deep underground to avoid cross-contamination with water aquifers, and also to find the low-density “spongy” strata underneath the impermeable “caprock” strata. This tends to be on the order of several thousand feet below the surface. In order to keep the CO2 underground at these depths, given the high hydrostatic pressures that pertain so far below the surface, the CO2 must be compressed to approximately 100 atmospheres before injection. No wonder the energy/capacity penalty associated with carbon capture/sequestration is so significant!

The average coal powerplant emits about 24,000 tons per day of CO2. Meanwhile, the largest pilot project attempted to date in the U.S. for carbon sequestration has only dealt with a volume of 10,000 tons per day. In the North Sea off of Norway, the carbon sequestration effort led by StatoilHydro (NYSE: STO) at Sleipner has been sequestering about 2800 tonnes per day since 1996. In other words, carbon sequestration has not yet been performed in anywhere near the volumes associated with powerplant emissions.

Notwithstanding the significant volumes of CO2 emitted in the upper Midwest from our fleet of coal generation and large industrial facilities, there is enough regional underground sequestration capacity to hold “hundreds of years’” worth of CO2 emissions. This was news to me: I had heard concerns that the carrying capacity of the deep underground reservoirs suitable for sequestration would be small relative to our current emissions.

As with many of the cleantech challenges, carbon sequestration is not a question of if something can be technically done. Rather, it’s a question if it can be done at an out-of-pocket cost that will be acceptable to politicians and their constituents.

Recent conversations I’ve had with a Norwegian company named Sargas, which is developing a 95% carbon capture technology applicable to pressurized fluidized bed boiler combined cycle power generation facilities, indicates all-in costs (including capital recovery and returns) of under 10 cents/kwh, perhaps to as low as 7-8 cents/kwh. This isn’t too bad, but I suspect that the costs will have to proven at lower levels (or energy prices are otherwise going to have to rise much further) before many in the U.S. are assured that the potential economic impact of climate legislation won’t be severe.

And, of course, sequestration doesn’t address any of the concerns associated with mining the coal to begin with. For some ardent environmentalists, that makes coal unacceptable, even with cost-effective carbon sequestration. That said, practically speaking for voters and officials alike, it’s hard to overlook such an inexpensive and domestically abundant fuel.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

Only Renewables Gain Again (Week Ending 5/2)

Author: Mark Henwood

Broad market indices (Emerging Markets, EAFA, S&P500) all rose this week. Camino’s PurePlay™ indices were mixed.

The Solar index, comprised of 34 companies, followed last week’s 0.2% loss with a 2.0% decline. 15 stocks increased and 19 stocks declined. In contrast to most weeks, no stock increased or declined by over 20% and nothing caught our attention to report here. The solar ETFs both declined, 3.5% in one case and 2.2% in the other. With a 74% overlap I suspect this much difference is more random than a sustained trend


The Renewable Electricity index managed a 0.4% increase with 8 stocks climbing and 15 retreating. Most notable on the increasing side was Energy Developments (ENE.AX) advancing 11.8%, continuing to recover from the 30% sell-off on April 14th. I discussed this sell-off in the Week Ending 4/18 summary and noted that some traders, myself included, saw the 30% move as a significant over-correction.


Biofuels followed last week’s loss with a 0.4% loss. There were 5 advancing stocks to 10 stocks falling. On the plus side Aventine (AVR) posted an impressive 22.0% increase for the week as a result of its first quarter results. In my view some of the key factors cited by Aventine for its improved operating performance included (1) wider spreads (fuel revenue – corn cost), (2) decreased conversion costs, and (3) benefits of the wet milling process on by-product production.


On the negative side the company reported a significant USD 21.6 million mark-down for its student loan ARS position. Considering that the company engages in significant long and short derivative transactions to hedge its physical and contract positions, I trust management is focusing sufficient attention on crucial risk management controls. I hope there are no similarities between investing in ARS student loan notes and commodity derivatives.

In contrast, Pacific Ethanol (PEIX) had a rough week in the market declining 11.7% despite an appearance by the CEO on Fast Money on the 25th and the start-up of the 60 million gallon per year Burley, Idaho plant. In defense of corn based ethanol Mr. Koehler noted that ethanol is the only significant alternative to petroleum based transportation fuels. More on this below.

Fuel Cells posted a smaller 0.7% decline this week with 4 stocks advancing and 3 stocks declining. YTD the index is down 31.3% for the year. This technology continues to struggle with product, fuel source, and profitability issues. Another view of the fuel cell industry discusses the sector in more detail.

Ethanol’s significance: How significant are the ethanol companies? Let’s take a look at Aventine. In their 1st quarter release the company reported producing 47.7 million gallons of ethanol. That’s roughly equivalent to 12,000 barrels of oil per day. In 2006 that would have ranked Aventine as the 50th largest oil producer in the US (EIA 2006 Annual Report). Granted, while that’s only 2% of the production of the largest US crude oil producer, it’s still pretty significant.

Mark is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks. All index computations and constituent changes cited above are available at Camino. He also is an investor in sustainable energy stocks. Mark has a position in ENE.AX

Cleantech Blog "Power 10" Ranking Vol. I

I spend most of my day meeting and talking to companies in the cleantech sector. And those of you who know me know I have opinions on who is doing it right, and who is doing it wrong. So I thought it was about time to initiate the Cleantech Blog Power 10 Ranking of cleantech companies doing it right. Eligibility for inclusion in the ranking requires meeting a 6 point test. Suggestions for inclusions in future volumes are welcome. The 6 point test:

1. The company is energy or environmental technology related
2. I like their products
3. The market needs them
4. The company is smart about building their business
5. I’d like to own the company if I could (for the right price, of course!)
6. It is not already one of mine (my apologies to my friends Zenergy Power)

I have included cleantech companies big and small. Volume I surprisingly ended up with a lot more solar companies than I would have guessed, and no biofuels. Perhaps I really am a closet solar fanatic.

  1. Sharp Electronics – In solar, still the biggest, and still growing. Enough said.
  2. Det Norske Veritas – DNV is a massive 150 year old risk management firm. Their auditors underpin roughly half of the carbon markets. In carbon, audit and verification is everything. I could not leave them off.
  3. IBM (NYSE:IBM) – What IBM is doing in smart grid is very exciting. They are part of a large proportion of the smart grid implementations that are in process, and a huge proponent of open standards. Smart grid is to electricity what fiber is to telecom. It underpins everything.
  4. Applied Materials (NYSE:AMAT) – The future of photovoltaics lies in scaling thin film manufacturing process. Who better to do this than the dean of semiconductor capital equipment. I broke the story of Applied’s entry to solar in the blogosphere in 2006, and if anything underestimated how hard they were pushing. The whisper mill has been whirring that the installations of their plants are not on track. Not only do I have faith they will get there, I think it is critical to the industry that they do.
  5. Fuel Tech (NASDAQ:FTEK) – I wrote about them in 2007. The CEO John Norris is a long time friend and an excellent operator. Cleaning up coal is a huge business that needs to be done, and they do it well.
  6. Fat Spaniel – Distributed power, solar included, is a ticking time bomb without independent monitoring. Fat Spaniel does it the best.
  7. Smart Fuel Cells (XETRA:F3C.DE) – I wrote about them recently. I helped create a fuel cell business in 2002. This is the first fuel cell company in 5 years that has intrigued me. They actually ship product with solid gross margins. That is a start.
  8. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) – Lowest cost producer in the photovoltaic business. Guaranteed to make the list until dethroned.
  9. Global Solar – I have been following this company for a long time. CIGS is very hard and has broken (or is currently breaking) hundreds of millions or billions of dollars worth of wannabes. This management team, led by Mike Gering, respects how hard it is. And since they have actually been running a pilot plant shipping product for 3 years, so we need to take note when they say they have cracked the manufacturing scale nut.
  10. Schott – Long a major player in crystalline silicon photovoltaics, amorphous silicon photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal, where they are one of the top manufacturers of solar thermal receivers. That balance is unique, and exciting.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of Cleantech.org, and a blogger for CNET’s Greentech blog.

Liquid (Green) Goodness for the 21 and Over

by Cristina Foung


My favorite green product of the week: VeeV Açaí Spirit

What is it?
VeeV is a liqueur (yep, in the US you have to be 21+ to drink it) made from açaí berries
– these berries come from the Amazon and are known as a superfood full of nutrients and antioxidents (far higher than levels found in pomegranates or blueberries, although those are delicious too).

Why is it better?
First of all, if you’re going to drink, you might as well drink right. VeeV is made from 100% all natural ingredients (besides açaí, it’s got prickly pear and acerola cherry in there). It’s quite tasty straight up or mixed with other liquid organic treats (I’m a fan of adding a little lime juice and a few mint leaves, myself).

But more importantly, from berry to bottle, VeeV is green. The company ensures sustainable harvesting of the berries through the Sustainable Açaí Project (founded by the Sambazon, the makers of a delicious açaí smoothie). VeeV donates $1 from every bottle to the organization which goes to the farming communities, organic certification, and ensuring “wild harvesting” to preserve the surrounding rainforest biodiversity.

VeeV also offsets their carbon footprint with Climate Clean. VeeV’s distillery (which also distills Square One vodka) is the only one in the United States to be powered in part with renewable wind energy, not to mention VeeV’s distillation process uses 200% less energy than a traditional pot still. The company is also a member of a variety of social responsibility organizations, including Business for Social Responsibility and Co-op America, and they utilize a variety of recycled materials such as glass for their bottles and post-consumer waste for their shipping boxes.

Where can you find it?
Check out the VeeV website to find a retailer in Los Angeles, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Napa Valley. If you’re outside of California, you can order it online for $34.99 from Mel and Rose or for $68 from 1-877 Spirits.

And if beer or wine (or juice) is more your thing, check out “Organic, Local, Solar Powered Booze” over at the Green Home Huddle.


Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

The Secrets of Curitiba

By John Addison (4/30/08). Talking with the former Mayor of Curitiba and architect, Jamie Lerner, is like talking with Santiago Calatrava about designing buildings or having an imagined conversation with Frederick Olmsted about designing parks. Jamie Lerner designs cities. More accurately, he helps all create a strategic vision of cities for people, not cities for cars.

I talked with Jamie Lerner at the EcoCity World Summit after he delivered his keynote speech to political leaders and urban planners from over seventy countries.

As one of Brazil’s most popular mayors, Lerner was elected three times. He helped transform Curitiba from collection of shanty towns to a beautiful and sustainable city of about two million. At a time when many Latin Americans were disenchanted with their politicians, Jamie Lerner had a 92% approval rating. Following his success as mayor, he served as governor of the state of Parana for 8 years.

In the late sixties, Curitiba had a contest for the best urban design for their city’s future. In 1968, the city incorporated many of the ideas of young architect Lerner into the Curitiba Master Plan. In 1971, he was appointed mayor of Curitiba.

Facing a budget crisis, he had to search for big ideas that could be implemented with little money. He greened the city by involving citizens in planting 1.5 million trees. He solved the city’s flood problems by diverting water into lakes in newly created parks. He lifted some children from poverty by paying teenagers to keep the parks clean.

Educating and involving children are at the heart of solving most problems, from poverty to transportation, observes Governor Lerner.

Any leader will tell you that change is likely to be met with strong resistance. Thinking like an architect, Jamie Lerner wanted to beautify the city with pedestrian boulevards that were car-free. Shop owners were up in arms, fearing that the change would destroy them. Then Mayor Lerner convinced some to take part in a thirty day trial. Shoppers loved it. Before the trial ended, the merchants asked that the pedestrian zone be expanded to include more streets.

Like most cities, Mayor Lerner saw a city with clogged roads that divided where people lived from where they worked. Jamie’s wisdom sparkles with humor, “A car is like a mother-in-law, you must get along but not have her run your life.” He envisioned solidarity. Ecocity Videos

Lerner got the city moving. Curitiba could not afford the light-rail systems of Europe and the U.S. which often cost more than $20 million per mile. Curitiba invented rapid transit using buses.

Bus rapid transit is successful for many reasons. Payment is simple, fixed price regardless of distance traveled. For those without prepaid passes, payment is made when entering bus shelters not while boarding the bus. Curitiba’s shelters are inviting transparent tubes with LED lighting that allow all to wait in safety. Express buses travel on dedicated lanes on major streets. The buses are double articulated to carry up to 300 people per bus, and up to 50,000 per day. Buses arrive frequently. Inviting pedestrian walkways and bikeways bring people to the stations.

Since implementing bus rapid transit, Curitiba’s population of people has tripled, yet its population of cars has declined thirty percent. Governor Lerner explained that there were only 25,000 daily passenger rides on Curitiba buses in 1974. By 2008, there are more than 2.4 million passenger rides daily. In Curitiba, bus rapid transit is far more popular than cars. 85% of the systems use the rapid transit.

Jamie Lerner, the inspiring architect and governor, has been invited around the world to help with new urban design and transportation solutions.

Transit is getting more popular in the United States, with gasoline now at record prices in all fifty states. Increasingly the United States is adopting the secrets of Curitiba. In Los Angeles, when Richard Hunt, Executive Vice President of LAMTA, showed me the Orange Line, the lessons of Curitiba were everywhere. Stations were safe and inviting. Electronic signs displayed minutes until the arrival of the next bus. Fares were paid before boarding the bus, so that there would be no cue delays as people paid drivers. Articulated buses use dedicated bus pathways. During peak hours, buses arrive every three to seven minutes.

The Orange Line has been so popular that ridership not expected until 2020 was achieved in seven months. Soon LAMTA’s bus rapid transit system will cover 35 southern California cities and cover 420 miles.

Bus rapid transit invites millions in U.S. cities such as Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Boston, Orlando, Miami, Oakland and Kansas City. As America falls into a recession while oil and gasoline prices soar, rapid transit and smart growth urban development provide solutions.

Jamie Lerner has an answer, “cidade não é problema; cidade é solucão.” The city is not a problem; the city is a solution. Cities like Curitiba are model solutions from driving less and enjoying life more.

Copyright (c) 2008 John Addison. Permission to reproduce this article is granted when this copyright notice is preserved. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.