Fall Brings School, Pretty Leaves, And A New Prius

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid Car

What is it?
For a lot of folks, “hybrid” is synonymous with “Prius.” Well, 2009 will see some changes to the car more people say they’d buy again.

This version is 3-4 inches longer and 1 inch wider than previous generations. It’s also heavier, faster, and more powerful (it’s moving from a 1.5 liter engine to a 1.8 liter). Not to mention, the top of the car will have a few solar panels on it to provide some power for the air conditioning unit.

Why is it better?
Fuel economy is expected to exceed 50 mpg (remember that the 2007 Prius was rated at 60 MPG but the EPA did recently change their fuel economy testing methods), which is not too shabby (although yes, being bigger and faster does detract from the efficiency gains the car would have had otherwise…but maybe it will appeal to a broader crowd). While the solar panels are primarily symbolic, it’s still nice to see Toyota supporting solar technology.

And while this generation isn’t a plug-in, hopefully the Prius line will have some new additions to the family (rumors are floating around that there may be a sub-compact version, a wagon, and a convertible spin-off on the way).

The only thing is…I’m not so keen on the styling changes they’ve made (thanks to Next Autos for the photo at the top – check out their gallery for more images of a Prius in tests).

Where can you find it?
Well, it’s not available quite yet. But keep tabs at your local Toyota dealership. The base model will be starting at $22,000 and the touring version at $24, 270.

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.

Press Release:
Toyota And Scion Announce Prices On Select 2009 Models July 25, 2008 – Torrance, CA – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced new manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for 13 select 2009 Toyota and Scion vehicles. The overall average MSRP for the 13 models increases by $181, or 0.81 percent. Toyota The 2009 Avalon full-size sedan adds to its value with additional standard equipment that includes driver and front passenger active headrests, Brake Assist, traction control, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and a satellite radio ready color-keyed SDARS antenna and prewire. The base MSRP for Avalon will range from $27,845 for the XL grade to $35,185 for the premium Limited grade. Overall, Avalon prices will increase $520, or 1.7 percent. The 2009 FJ Cruiser Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) adds driver and front passenger active headrests, roll-sensing curtain airbags, a VSC cut-off switch, front map light, and a driver-side vanity mirror as standard equipment. The FJ also adds three new colors – – non-metallic Black, Silver, and Iceberg White with all-white monochromatic finish. The base MSRP for the FJ Cruiser will range from $23,320 for the 4×2 V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission to $24,910 for the 4×4 V6 automatic. Overall, the price of the 2009 FJ Cruiser increases by $275, or 1.1 percent. For 2009, the Land Cruiser full-size SUV adds factory privacy glass on the rear side and quarter windows as standard equipment. The base MSRP for the Land Cruiser will be $64,755, representing an increase of $655, or 1.0 percent. The base MSRP for the 2009 4Runner SUV will range from $28,640 for the 4×2 SR5 V6 to $39,360 for the 4×4 Limited V8. On average the MSRP for the 2009 4Runner increases by $225, or 0.7 percent. The base MSRP for the 2009 Highlander mid-size SUV will range from $27,600 for the Base front-wheel-drive model with a V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission to $34,520 for the Limited four-wheel-drive V6 with a five-speed automatic. The overall average MSRP for Highlander will increase by $47, or 0.2 percent. The base MSRP for the gas-electric Highlander Hybrid will range from $34,700 for the two-row, four-wheel-drive with intelligence base model to $41,020 for the three-row, four-wheel-drive with intelligence Limited. The overall average MSRP for the Highlander Hybrid increases by $518, or 1.4 percent. The base MSRP for the 2009 Sienna van will range from $24,540 for the seven-passenger front-wheel-drive CE grade to $37,865 for the all-wheel-drive XLE Limited. The average base MSRP for Sienna will increase $100, or 0.4 percent. The base MSRP gas-electric Prius Hybrid will range from $22,000 for the Standard grade to $24,270 for the Touring grade. The overall average price for Prius will increase $500, or 2.2 percent. The 2009 Corolla sedan will receive a price adjustment increase of $100, or 0.6 percent. The base MSRP will range from $15,350 for the Base grade with a five-speed manual transmission to $20,050 for the XRS grade with a five-speed automatic transmission. A price adjustment for the 2009 Matrix will increase its MSRP by $100, or 0.5 percent. The base MSRP will range from $16,290 for the 4×2 Standard grade with a five-speed manual transmission to $21,950 for the 4×2 XRS with a five-speed automatic. The 2009 Camry sedan will receive an MSRP adjustment reflecting an increase of $225, or 1.0 percent. The base MSRP will range from $19,145 for the Camry four-cylinder with a five-speed manual transmission to $28,695 for the XLE V6 with a six-speed automatic. The gas-electric Camry Hybrid will receive a price adjustment increase of $500, or 1.9 percent. The new MSRP will be $26,150.

Green Supply Chain Management, It’s Good For the Environment, It’s Good For the Bottom Line

by Marguerite Manteau-Rao

While the majority of global executives consider carbon reduction an important aspect of purchasing and supply chain management, only a minority follow through:

That’s too bad, according to the McKinsey study. Not only are these companies not helping fight climate change as much as they could, they are also missing out on some cost lowering opportunities. The facts:
  • For consumer goods marketers, high-tech, and other manufacturers, between 40-60% of their carbon footprint is in their supply chain.
  • For retailers, the number is even higher, 80%.
  • Many of the opportunities to reduce emissions carry no net life-cycle costs, with the upfront investment more than paying for itself through lower energy or material usage.
  • Others may require tradeoffs between emissions and profitability, in areas such as logistics and product design.
  • Forward-looking companies are using such discussions as opportunities for supplier development.
  • This opens up the possibility of still lower costs and improved operational performance, in addition to helping suppliers remove carbon from their supply chains.

Wal-Mart comes to mind, as a great example of a company that understands the multiple benefits of a greener supply chain. The question of, why are not more companies following Wal-Mart‘s lead, warrants further examination. Is it lack of knowledge? Having to attend to other, more pressing issues? Inertia? What do you think?

Marguerite Manteau-Rao is a green blogger and marketing consultant on sustainability and social media issues. Her blog, La Marguerite, focuses on behavioral solutions to climate change. 

Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for investing in

Last week I put out the idea that we were approaching a tipping point in water re-use. There were a few other headlines this week which support that. For one thing California’s second largest reservoir is now ‘at its lowest level in 30 years’. Last Monday the California Department of Water Resources Director, Lester Snow, stated that next year “could be the worst drought in California history”. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have proposed a $9.3 billion plan to the Legislature to fund a number of measures aimed at improving California’s water system.
So that’s California, – which bear in mind would be the 7th largest economy in the world if it was a country and has been the number one food producer in the United States for more than 50 years. Now let’s take a look at what’s happening in the capital of the world’s second largest economy. In Beijing, in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Siemens Water Technologies has started up a wastewater reuse system at the city’s Beixiaohe wastewater treatment plant. The goal is to process 90% of the wastewater with 50% of the treated wastewater being recycled and reused.

2008 may be remembered as the year in which China hosted the Olympic Games but is also an auspicious year for another reason. 2008 is the first year in which the population of the planet will be more urban than rural. (Apparently this change occurred May 23rd 2008!). That’s an important turning point and if we are to increasingly live in cities, this of course means that we need to have means of sustainably meeting demands on water use in these cities.

Al Gores’ challenge to the US to move towards 100% non fossil fuel energy by the end of the decade, may be a long shot, but at least in theory it is achievable. There are alternatives to fossil fuels. The same can’t be said of water. There is an elasticity in water use, – up to a point, but there comes a point where you can not reduce water use any further without seriously impacting our ability to live. Mark Twain put it well when he said ‘Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting over’. Whether or not we end up fighting over it, history has shown that times of crisis leads to accelerated technological innovation.

This technological innovation is likely to take place in small start-up companies. Commenting on this in his article Inventing Water’s Future, William Pentland, noted that in purchasing Zenon Membranes for $700M, GE is effectively outsourcing their innovation in clean technology to small start-ups.

Some venture capital firms, like Toronto’s XPV Capital have placed big bets on this and are choosing to invest in innovative water start ups on the assumption that they will be future targets for ‘Big Water’ industry giants like GE Veolia, Siemens etc as scarcity, climate change and energy prices increase the value of water. In fact overall the amount of money invested in water and wastewater technologies in the U.S. rose 436% between 2006 and 2007, according to the Cleantech Group,

A good general yard stick to track the water business is the ISE Water Index (HHO). This index tracks a bundle of 36 companies engaged in water distribution, water filtration, flow technology and other water solutions. The ISE Water Index has enjoyed an impressive rally this year, has tacked on nearly 5% since the start of 2008, which compares favorably with the S&P 500 Index’s (SPX) loss of 7.7% during the same time frame. In fact, the index has climbed steadily higher since it was created in January 2006, gaining more than 36% along the way. As was outlined in Jocelyn Drakes ‘Cross Currents In Water World’ article.

Finally to close, one technology I came across this week which I thought was really ingenious and also just a lovely idea is called Play Pumps. It’s basically a children’s merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. So the system utilizes the energy of children playing, to purify water. Genius. You can check out a video of it in use in Africa on You Tube.

Paul O’Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul is the author of numerous papers environmental technologies and lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College. He is chair of a technical committee on decentralized wastewater management in British Columbia, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Separating Reality from Myth in Mass-Market PV

by Richard T. Stuebi

Rarely have I encountered a subject so widely misunderstood as the retail application of solar photovoltaics (PV).

So many people are terribly excited about PV, and are dying to install it on their house or building as a way to cut their ever-rising energy bills (not to mention the eco-friendly statement a PV system makes). I guess people tend to think that solar energy should be very inexpensive, just because we don’t pay anything to be hit by the sun’s rays every day.

It’s true that, once installed, PV systems cost virtually nothing to operate or maintain. And, it’s true that, once installed, PV systems will reduce energy bills. But it’s the cost of acquiring and installing the PV system that people somehow don’t compute.

In fact, the costs of the equipment to convert solar radiation to electricity are quite high. On top of this, the conversion process is not particularly efficient (less than 20% of the sun’s energy comes out as electricity), and the amount of energy in a given footprint of sunlight is not that great. As a result of all these factors, on a per-kilowatt-hour basis, without any form of subsidy, PV is just about the most expensive way presently available to generate electricity.

Exhibit 1 in a recent paper entitled “The Economics of Solar Power” by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company neatly frames the interrelationship between installed cost of PV ($/watt), annual solar energy yield (in other words, how sunny it is at your location), and the implied cost of electricity from the PV system.

For a place like Cleveland — where we get about 1000 kWh per peak kW of PV installed, and where we are likely to face grid electricity prices of less than $0.20/kWh for the foreseeable future (due to our region’s reliance on already-installed coal and nuclear power) — PV economics only become compelling when the installed cost of a PV system (net of any subsidies) is on the order of $2.50/watt. Absent subsidies (and they are not plentiful here or in most other areas of the country), current PV economics of about $8-10/watt installed are simply not attractive, with investment paybacks of typically more than 20 years.

True, in places like Hawaii (with high grid prices and great solar exposure), PV is pretty attractive. But, for the teeming masses here in the Midwest and Northeast U.S., we need about a 60-80% reduction in installed cost for PV systems to become widely cost-effective (without subsidies) relative to the grid.

Clearly, the PV industry will benefit as grid electricity prices rise with increasing fuel prices and the eventual addition of carbon constraints. Moreover, PV innovators are driving hard for major cost reductions in PV modules, where 75% reductions (from $4/watt to $1/watt) can be foreseen in the next decade or so.

But, the balance of plant — the inverters, the mounting, the wiring harnesses — and the various labor costs — system engineering, distribution, installation — also require similar cost reductions, and are not receiving the same degree of attention. While economies of volume will help, the path to reducing the non-module costs of a PV system is less obvious, and is more a “leap of faith” at present.

Putting aside economics, if not marketed properly, PV systems can set up customers for disappointment in other ways, too. Relative to the size of most buildings, a rooftop PV system will only a small portion of the building’s electricity requirement. Furthermore, unless the system also includes an automatic transfer switch, it will not produce power for the building when the utility grid is down. And, unless the system includes a transfer switch and a battery bank, it won’t be of any help to power your house at night. Many people — even highly educated ones — are unpleasantly surprised when confronted with these facts.

In the long-run, solar energy is likely to be the major player in the energy market. It is, after all, the fundamental source of all the energy on the planet. The improvement of PV over the past few decades is impressive, its future potential is limitless. I just don’t like to see PV misportrayed, today.

With the run-up in energy prices, people are increasingly energy conscious (about time!) — and, worryingly to me, marketers are emerging to exploit widespread customer ignorance about PV.

Just recently, I saw on TV a “K-Tel” caliber advertisement sponsored by a firm called Power-Save Energy. I have to admit, I like their tag-line: “We make renewable doable”. But, I am troubled that their marketing pitches play to some of the fallacies that the mass-market seems to hold about PV. I don’t think this approach best serves the long-term interests of those who endorse a true long-term movement to solar energy.

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.

Sustainable energy indices mixed, broad markets and commodities retreat (week ending 7/25)

Author: Mark Henwood

Emerging Markets, EAFA, and S&P500 all fell this week. Commodities (DJP) fell another 4.4% on top of the previous week’s 7.8% decline.

Renewable Electricity suffered a modest loss for the week. One of the components, EarthFirst (EF.TO), continued its steep decline losing another 20.9% on the week. Since the company appointed its new CEO on June 12 the stock has dropped 46% on thin volume. In the intervening period the company reported an approximate 10% increase in cost for its Dokie project, a reduction in the project’s estimated energy of 2.3%, and delivery of 24 MW of wind turbines to the project site. Investors are betting the company lands its project financing and secures additional contracts in other solicitations. As I previously noted, project issues have magnified effect on company valuations in this strategy.
Solar gave up 5.4% this week and is now down 34.4% for the year. But not all the companies are suffering the same decline. In particular, First Solar (FSLR) is only down 1.8% for the year and has now become 25% of the market cap of Camino’s index. Does their technology warrant this dominant position in the strategy? Examining one of their recent project’s sheds some light on the question.

On July 10, 2008 the California Public Utilities Commission approved a 7.5 MW contract between First Solar’s FSE Blythe project and Southern California Edision. Unfortunately much of the economic information was not disclosed but some key data can be gleaned from the record. First, the company is projecting a significant 27% capacity factor for the project, significantly higher than typical estimates for PV projects. But equally important is the company is pursing the development receiving a price at or below the “market reference price” which is based on a highly efficient modern thermal plant. After accounting for some messy seasonal and time-of-use factors the project will receive approximately USD 0.14/kWh plus a 10% tax credit. If FirstSolar can make money at this project then they are very near the holy grail of grid parity. Maybe their dominate valuation makes sense and the company is becoming an execution risk on how fast can they grow.
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 and has positions in Renewable Electricity, including EF.TO.

"Is that a banana in your pocket…?" Yes – my new journal!

My favorite green product of the week:
Organic Tree Free Banana Paper Journal

What is it?

Using agro-industrial waste (tree scraps, left over fruits like bananas, lemons, and mangoes) and post-consumer paper fiber, the ingenious folks at Costa Rica Natural Paper create beautiful journals and other paper goods.

Why is it better?

Anytime you’re taking products that would otherwise be completely discarded and making use of them, I’m all for it. The process harkens back to ancient cultures when absolutely no part of a slaughtered animal could be wasted. Similarly, the agro-industrial waste of the massive fruit industry in Costa Rica is being put to good use here. Also, Costa Rica Natural/EcoPaper.com promotes social responsibility on top of conservation – they’re currently donating 3% of their proceeds to an orphanage in Costa Rica called Hospicia de Hueranos. Doing good while doing well.

Where can you find it?

I get mine through the website – EcoPaper.com and have seen them on other websites, but not yet in stores to my knowledge. Keep an eye out!

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.

A Boon(e) for Wind

by Richard T. Stuebi

It’s been about a year since T. Boone Pickens announced that his investment firm BP Capital Management (note that BP stands for “Boone Pickens”, and thus the company bears no relation to the oil behemoth BP) planned to invest about $6 billion to install the world’s largest windfarm of nominally 4,000 megawatts in western Texas.

When a man like T. Boone Pickens — a billionaire, an oilman, an ardent capitalist — makes such a play, the corporate and finance worlds take notice: clearly, wind isn’t just for tree-huggers anymore.

Sure, Pickens is into wind so that he can make a lot of money, but now he’s taking even bigger stances. In early July, Pickens announced the so-called “Pickens Plan” — a massive lobbying campaign targeted towards DC with the key theme of reducing America’s dependence on oil. And, he wants YOU! to join his campaign.

Pickens — remember, he’s a self-described oilman — says that he thinks that oil production has peaked, and that “this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” For Pickens, the answer is: renewable energy. “If we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.”

It must be pointed out that, at least until vehicles fundamentally fueled somehow by electricity are widely in use, adding more wind energy to the U.S. supply base is going to displace almost no oil consumption. That said, with a move towards plug-in cars (hybrids or pure electrics), or hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from wind and other renewables can (someday) achieve what Pickens dreams of.

In any event, it’s hard to fault anyone who wants to elevate the importance of the energy debate in national politics. If he wants to spend some of his money not on wind turbines but on other forms of hot air, more power to him.

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. (Note that Mr. Stuebi has no professional relationship whatsoever with BP — either the oil company or Mr. Pickens’ firm.)

Sustainable energy indices mixed, broad markets gain while commodities retreat (week ending 7/18)

Author: Mark Henwood

Emerging Markets, EAFA, and S&P500 all rose this week partially on reduced pressure on commodities (DJP) which fell 7.8% for the week.

Biofuels shares responded mid-week to news that Verasun (VSE) was keeping 330 MGY per year of new capacity idle. As I wrote in my post for the week ending June 13th with tight margins it comes as no surprise that producers are reducing production plans . With ethanol consuming somewhere around 30% of corn supplies the cost of corn should respond to a reduction in ethanol production. Reduced ethanol supplies should be supportive of stronger ethanol prices. At some point an equilibrium will be reached.

Later in the week UBS upgraded the ethanol sector to a buy on “improving margins”. VSE’s price (and others) responded strongly gaining 21% on Friday and ending the week up a huge 49% at USD 6.12/share. With this big change I thought the margin on producing ethanol would have materially improved. True, corn has been dropping significantly since the start of July with the December contract closing Friday on the CBOT at USD 6.28/bushel. But ethanol has been falling also in July, with the December contract closing Friday at USD 2.36/gallon leaving the “corn crush” margin at the same slim USD 0.2/gallon it was in the middle of June when Verasun’s stock price was below USD 5.0/share. I’m not sure I understand the improving margin argument.
The LED-Lighting strategy continued to disappoint falling an additional 9.9% for the week with a cumulative decline of 35% since we started tracking the sector at the end of March. Orion Energy Systems Inc. (OESX) lost 38.7% of its value for the week after it reduced its guidance for 2009 to a 25-28% growth rate, down from its previous 50% expectation. With its long term potential, I’m looking for signs this strategy may be fairly priced after this year’s big correction.
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 and has positions in Renewable Electricity.

A tipping point in water re-use?

There were two interesting recent headlines which support the view that we are approaching a tipping point in relation to water scarcity and water resources.
Firstly, Orange County, California was awarded the Stockholm Industry Award for its pioneering work to inject treated wastewater into deep wells to re-charge ground water aquifers. This water can then be extracted at a later date for water supply. What you are seeing here is the start of a convergence in advanced wastewater treatment and water supply. They say that water has no memory, but the public certainly does, and they don’t like the thought that what comes out of their tap, might in the not too distant past have disappeared down their toilet. Aquifer injection provides that one degree of separation.
However water is the ultimate re-cyclable commodity and re-cycle it we must if we are to avoid some of the alarming predictions reported at the Goldman Sachs ‘Top Five Risks Conference’ Goldman Sachs reported that a catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves. The report said water was the “petroleum for the next century”, offering huge rewards for investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom.
So how exactly do you go about playing this boom? Goldman Sachs suggest eyeing companies that produce or service filtration equipment, ultraviolet disinfection, desalination technology using membranes, automated water meters and specialist niches in water reuse.
Water re-cycling is going to be huge, particularly in the sunshine belt between California and Florida. Groundwater, in the context of our lifespans at least, is a non-renewable resource. If you drain it down, it can take hundreds of years to re-charge. Nicholas (Lord) Stern, author of the UK Government’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change, warned that underground aquifers could run dry at the same time as melting glaciers play havoc with fresh supplies of usable water.

There are a myriad of companies out there that can take salt out of water, but if someone can comes up with a) the midas touch to turn the briny waste produced into a product, or b) a lower energy method of doing it they will be on to a winner.

Paul O’ Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Thirty Billion Fewer Miles

By John Addison (7/18/08). Faced with record gas prices, American fuel use is at a five-year low. Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles since November than during the same period a year earlier.

Americans joined their employers’ flexwork and commute programs. Families and friends linked trips together and rarely drove solo. Everyday heroes kept their gas guzzler parked most of the time and put miles on their other car which gets forty miles per gallon.

Although public transportation is effective in a compact city, it is a challenge in suburban sprawl such as Southern California, home to nearly 24 million people stretched from Los Angeles to Orange County to San Diego to San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

When I grew up in Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles that is famous for its Rose Parade, my father had one choice to reach his L.A. job; he crawled the stop-and-go freeways to work and came home exhausted from the stressful traffic. While attending recent conferences in Los Angeles, I was able to take a more pleasant journey from Pasadena. Each morning, I walked two blocks, waited an average of five minutes, and then boarded the Metro Rail Gold Line, a modern light-rail that took me to Union Station in the heart of L.A. From there, I took L.A.’s modern and efficient subway to the conference hotel, a half-block walk. All for $1.50 (and system-wide day passes are just $5.00).

Later in the week, I added one transfer to the Blue Line, and then walked two blocks to the L.A. Convention Center. Although a car trip would have been somewhat faster at 5 a.m., I got door to door faster than cars in rush hour gridlock. L.A.’s light-rail and subway form the backbone for effective intermodal travel.

The L.A. Union Station is also the connecting point to train service from all over the U.S., servicing Amtrak and efficient local trains such as Metrolink. L.A. Union Station also offers express bus service to L.A. Airport. In the past, I have used Metrolink to travel from Irvine and from Claremont. Metrolink is seeing a 15% increase in ridership this year.

In a few years, L.A. Union Station may also be the hub for the type of high-speed rail now enjoyed in Europe and Japan. Southern California travel time will be cut in half. Travel from L.A. to San Francisco will be two hours and forty minutes. High-Speed Rail Report

1.7 million times per day, people travel on Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro). Although light-rail is at the heart of the system, 90% of the rides are on buses, not light-rail. Much of the bus riding is similar to light-rail, using pleasant stations, pre-paid tickets for fast boarding, electronic signs that announce when the next bus will arrive, buses that seat 84 to 100 people, and some dedicated busways. Metro is using bus rapid transit that once only succeeded in South America. The Secrets of Curitiba

Although Southern California is highly dependent on foreign oil, Metro is not. Its fleet of over 2,550 buses represent the largest alt-fuel public transit fleet in the nation. Over 2,500 buses run on CNG. The natural gas is pipeline delivered to 10 Metro locations.

Last year, when I met with Metro’s General Manager Richard Hunt, and he discussed ways that more people would be served with clean transportation. He shared how Metro will move more riders at 4-minute intervals at the busiest stations. Like other major operators, Metro is under a California ARB mandate to start making 15% of its replacement fleet zero emission buses (ZEB). Metro has evaluated all of these potentially zero-emission alternatives:

• Battery electric
• Underground-electrified trolley
• Hydrogen fuel cell
• Hydrogen-blended with CNG

Currently, the most promising path to meet the ZEB requirement will be battery-electric buses. Under consideration are lithium-ion batteries operating with an electric drive train. The configuration could be similar to the six 40-foot New Flyer ISE gasoline hybrids currently on order. Metro is working with CalStart, a non-profit leader in clean transportation, and a consortium of Southern California transit operators.

Diesel and CNG buses normally need a range of at least 300 miles to cover routes for 16-plus hours daily; battery electric buses would be better suited for six to 8 hours of daily use during peak service periods (morning and evening rush hours). Ranges of 100 to 150 miles daily would be appropriate for peak battery electric use. Theoretically, with a bigger investment in batteries, advanced drive system maker ISE could actually build electric buses that meet a full 300 mile range by putting a remarkable 600kW of lithium batteries on the roof of each bus.

Critics of electric vehicles claim that oil is merely being replaced with dirty coal power plants. This is not true. There is excess grid-electricity at night. Metro already uses several MW of solar roofing with plans to expand. Coal is less than 30% of California’s electric grid mix, with megawatts of wind and concentrated solar power being added to the grid. Vehicles with electric motors and regenerative braking have reported fuel economy figures that are 300% more efficient than diesel and CNG internal combustion engine alternatives.

Yes, even in the sprawling 1,400 square mile region that Metro must service, transit is growing in use while total emissions are declining. Riders are freed from their oil dependent cars, save money riding transit, and can now enjoy the ride and breathe the air. A dollar spent on public transportation is going farther than spending ten bucks on more oil.

Copyright © 2008 John Addison. Some of this content may appear in John’s upcoming book, Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Is Al Gore Nuts?

In his speech in Constitution Hall this week, former Vice President and renewable energy investor Al Gore extolled a stretch goal challenging America to achieve 100% renewable power within 10 years. The quote: “Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.” And my favorite part: “When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.”

That statement is about like challenging your 2 year old to finish college by the time she is 12. Not exactly practical, more than a little crazy, and likely to be either ignored, or if you push it, to cause lots of therapy sessions by the time she is 8. I will, however, credit him with getting almost every renewable energy platitude I’ve ever heard into one succinct speech.

He does raise lots of good points about the need for a new energy policy not built around shipping dollars to the MidEast for oil (a definite must), for long term support for renewables (it is critical for us to get off our fits and starts mish mash idea of renewable energy policy), and for moving faster and larger to fight climate change (a topic near and dear to my heart, and one that is only partially helped by making broad statements about how fast the sky is falling, I mean, the glaciers are melting). In fact, there is no better way to give anti renewable energy and climate change naysayers fuel and ammunition than to make statements like these. Any path we go down, I’d still rather challenge that two year old to do something they can achieve, not try and make it through college by age 12 – especially if I’m asking her to pay for it. Slow and steady wins the race.

The core of Al Gore’s argument in his speech on the practicality of a 10 year all renewable energy goal boils down to this quote from his speech on fuels:

“What if we could use fuels that are not expensive, don’t cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home?

We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses.

And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.”

And this one on costs and technology:

“To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I’ve seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.
To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.”

These quotations, while partially true and very seductive, are highly misleading in this context. The effective conversion rates of that energy to usable electric power or liquid fuel is still horrendously low, and requires lots and lots of capital expenditures, and thousands of miles of new transmission lines to implement. And that’s not taking into account the state of technology – as an industry we really are the two year old in my analogy.

So given those conversion rates and the current high capital expenditures per unit of energy, the cost is still 5-20x (depending on what you count) the cost of conventional electric power generation (yes I know, unless you add in the carbon price and environmental externalities, but that’s still extra cost any way you slice it . . . unless you’d like to subsidize mine). Frankly no serious analyst is suggesting that within 10 years, given the state of technology and the best case forecast capacity, that solar can make up more than a small single digit fraction of even electricity needs or that wind can make up more than a meaningful minority share (let alone after doubling the global power demand by replacing liquid fuels in cars with electricity, which Al Gore also suggests), especially given lead times on power plants and transmission lines.

Most likely even if the technologies were already cost comparative, which they are not – if you need evidence, just look at our wind and solar industries in their current tizzy because their biggest subsidy programs are up for renewal this year – most analysts wouldn’t project a fabled grid parity on cost for renewables for at least the next decade, and certainly not at scale. So Mr. Gore’s statements on cost and technology are in part true, but imply a maturity level in these industries that just doesn’t exist yet. Given manufacturing scale up issues on the technology, transmission infrastructure requirements at least as large as the new generation requirements, and long lead times on building projects of this size (industry executives point to seven year time frames just to build a single transmission line), probably reaching even significant low double digit percentages of carbon free power within ten years is a stretch (excluding large hydro and nuclear which we already have but are hesitating to expand) across the whole nation. Notwithstanding that California has managed to come close to its target 20% number over the last decade, that’s one state leaning on the resources of many states, using the best available sites, federal subsidies paid for from all of our pockets, and that took a decade. When it comes to carbon capture and storage for coal fired generation, a concept with lots of legs – if it works – 10 years just isn’t enough time to achieve scale. The first big pilots are scheduled over the next several years, and there are too many unknowns to bet the farm on, without the lead time and capital cost issue. Though still definitely worth trying.

And as far as paying for it, there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle today calculating our Federal government long term liabilities at $450,000 per American already mainly for Medicare and Social Security. Actually trying to replace our entire fossil fuel infrastructure within 10 years would push that to how much? Somebody please do the math before we launch a government funded mission to the moon, or legislate that our citizens pay for it instead. On costs, Mr. Gore made the statement in his speech “Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases.” I agree, but Mr. Gore, your 10 year, hell for leather, man to moon race for 100% renewable energy would guarantee just that.

So while extolling stretch goals for a two year old is probably a good idea, let’s keep it within the realm of possibility, and not just make grandiose statements for media effect. Now if Al Gore’s silly challenge on renewable energy was simply a trojan horse to get people talking about how to move forward on fighting climate change and addressing our long standing energy policy issues, I’m all for that and am happy to help. After all, the words Al Gore and climate change make for very searchble blog articles! But personally when I make outlandish statements, I do like to bring an modicum of practicality to the discussion.

I will leave you with one final note, and please remember, I am actually a proponent of the ideals in Al Gore’s speech, I just prefer to get there in one piece. One theory on the effect of the history of the man on the moon driven space race that Mr. Gore challenges us to copy basically says that we pushed for a single high profile goal so fast and furious that we effectively skipped ahead and outran our infrastructure and capabilities to get a nonscalable shot at the moon in the target time frame. The theory goes on to suggest that’s why after reaching the moon so fast we haven’t progressed at the same rate in space since, and had we taken it slower, we would have gotten there a few years behind, but might be on Mars by know. Akin in a military campaign to outrunning your supply chain, and then getting your army surrounded and destroyed – or perhaps invading a country half way around the world, winning the war in weeks and forgetting to prepare for the peace. And just to show that I can deliver as many platitudes in one article as Mr. Gore, that’s why you never get involved in a land war in Asia.

Energy and environment are the two pillars of everything in our lives. Mr. Gore and I want the same thing, but he thinks we can’t afford not to swing for the fences – I think we can’t afford to mess it up.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding CEO of Carbonflow, 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’s The Village Upcycle! Everyone Gets A…

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: the drink pouch tote from TerraCycle

What is it?
You might think a tote bag is a tote bag. Not so! This tote is made out of 100% used drink pouches (think CapriSun and Kool-Aid) – and word on the street is most drink pouches are made from “polyester-reverse side printed to aluminum then laminated to polyethylene (a plastic polymer). Unfortunately, this packaging is not recyclable.”

Why is it better?
Let me start by explaining the title of this post. Sure, sure, you know the saying about the village bicycle. But what about upcycling? “To upcycle” is basically to take a waste product and turn it into something useful. Non-recyclable drink pouches are a perfect example. Once your little kiddo drinks the juice…what do you do with the package? Well, mostly those go to the landfill.

But Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, is an inventive upcycler. Back in the day (meaning in 2001), Tom founded the company with a dream of creating products out of waste. So the “duh” of why it’s better is that all of TerraCycle’s products divert waste from landfills. Not only that, but these materials all have new life breathed into them.

Beyond that, TerraCycle donates $0.02 to a local charity for every pouch collected. And the program really seems to get folks pumped about doing something positive for the environment.

TerraCycle just got a great partnership with Kraft which will really help them expand their collection sites and divert more waste. For more on that, check out the press release below the fold.

There are lots of other really cool products from TerraCycle and I could wax poetical for quite some time about the brilliance that is Tom and his company. But I’ll spare you. Instead, I will tell you that over at Huddler, we’ve started running crowd sourced interviews. That means you get to post your questions, vote on them, and then have cool folks like Tom (or CEO of a renewable energy certificate company or the founder of Carrotmob) answer. So what are you waiting for? Get your questions in the mix (we’re only collecting them for a few more days)!

Where can you find it?
You can order the tote bag online from Target.com for $9.99. Well…you could anyway. They seem to be out of stock at the moment. Sad for those of us who don’t have them…but a great sign for TerraCycle!

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.

Press Release:

NORTHFIELD, IL, June 3, 2008: Kraft Foods, the number one food and beverage company in North America, today announced a new partnership with TerraCycle, an upstart upcycling company that takes packages and materials that are challenging to recycle and turns them into affordable, high quality goods. The partnership will greatly expand the number of collection sites TerraCycle has available across the country and will help prevent a significant amount of packaging waste from going into landfills.

Kraft will become the first major multi-category corporation to fund the collection of used packaging associated with its products. Several Kraft brands, including Balance bars and South Beach Living bars, Capri Sun beverages, and Chips Ahoy! and Oreo cookies, are now the lead sponsors of TerraCycle Brigades. These nationwide recycling programs make a donation for every piece of packaging a location collects.

“Sustainability is about looking out for future generations. Kraft is proud to partner with TerraCycle, an innovative company who has made it their mission to reduce the impact on landfills and to educate consumers on the importance of recycling,” says Jeff Chahley, Senior Director, Sustainability, Kraft Foods. “TerraCycle’s model of rewarding ’brigade hosts’ is a novel way of collecting packaging waste that would otherwise have been sent to landfills. It’s so cool to see trash turned into merchandise that’s unlike anything else on the market.”

Kraft Foods/TerracycleTM Partnership:

There are currently three TerraCycle programs for which Kraft is now the largest sponsor. To encourage more recycling, each program is free to individuals and organizations looking to participate and all shipping costs are paid. Once the used packaging items are collected, TerraCycle upcycles each material into an eco-friendly product because it’s made from waste! Sign up today at: www.terracycle.net/brigades.

The Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade collects used bar wrappers and donates two cents for each wrapper collected. TerraCycle has found a unique way to braid these wrappers into colorful, durable purses and backpacks. The wrappers also can be fused, making the wrappers very dynamic for upcycling.

The Cookie Wrapper Brigade collects used Nabisco cookie wrappers and donates two cents for each wrapper collected. TerraCycle will use proprietary technology to fuse the wrappers together into sheets of waterproof fabric, which then can be made into umbrellas, shower curtains, backpacks, placemats and much more. It is expected that 4,000 brigades will be established in the first year.

The Drink Pouch Brigade collects used drink pouches and donates to participating school or community group two cents for every pouch collected. The used pouches are then sewn into tote bags, handbags and other durable items that will be available as early as April 1st at several major retailers. Over 800 brigades have already been set up!

Each of these Brigade programs is diverting packaging waste from landfills and helping to raise consumer awareness about recycling. By encouraging people to rethink ’what is waste,’ TerraCycle is making it simple for consumers to have a positive impact on the environment. And with a monetary reward as incentive to recycle, the programs help schools, community groups, and non-profits across the country earn funds to support local activities.

Volt-Face for GM

by Richard T. Stuebi

Fascinating article in this month’s Atlantic profiling the herculean efforts apparently being undertaken by General Motors (NYSE: GM) to launch its plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Chevy Volt, by the incredibly ambitious deadline of 2010.

I took away the following thoughts from the article:

1. GM seems to actually recognize that they really didn’t give it the full college try with their previous electric vehicle work, the EV1 program, whose demise was profiled so blisteringly in the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?.

2. While GM is using the Volt program as a way to reinvent and redefine itself as a nimble company responsive to customer preferences, it must be noted that GM tried this with the new Saturn line twenty years ago too — and look where GM is now.

3. Bob Lutz — the GM Vice Chairman who is on record for stating his opinion that global warming is a “total crock of s**t” — is the key person within the kingdom who seized on the need for the Volt, being amazed at the gall of tiny start-up Tesla Motors daring to build an electric vehicle.

4. GM is being pretty gutsy by deciding to house the Volt within its core brand — Chevrolet — rather than insulate it in its own brand in case the project/car failed.

5. The Volt program appears to be pretty much “open source”, allowing the public in to see its progress. My guess is that this is to better manage the public’s expectations along the way, minimizing the potential for any bad surprises.

6. The project was launched without a business plan or any marketing/cost projections — no doubt from the huge public frenzy spawned by the concept car’s unveiling just 18 months ago in January 2007 — and still seems to run under a “damn-the-torpedos” philosophy, almost akin to NASA’s Apollo program of the 1960’s.

Within a couple of years, we’ll see what ultimately emerges from the Volt program, but no-one can doubt its audacity — which is a word I thought I’d never use in connection with GM.

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.

Sink Positively and Save Water

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Environmental Designworks Sink Positive Toilet Tank Lid

What is it?
The manufacturer calls it a “multi-purpose accessory sink.” But basically it’s this fabulous direct greywater system. It’s a toilet tank lid that’s also a sink. It allows you to take the clean water that usually goes to fill your toilet tank, wash your hands with it first, and then use that to flush the toilet the next time around. You connect the sink to the water supply line in your toilet tank and then each time you flush, the water first comes out the faucet and then drains into the toilet tank.

Why is it better?
Greywater recycling in general allows for great amounts of water to be used for multiple purposes. In this world of increasing freshwater scarcity, that kind of conservation is a good thing (thank you, Captain Obvious).

The average single family home uses about 11 gallons of water from faucets daily. Let’s say just a quarter of that goes to hand washing post-bathroom use. With a Sink Positive, you would be cutting out that faucet use. It allows access to the clean tap water which normally goes straight into your toilet bowl. In all, that might save you 1,000 gallons of water a year.

But there are other benefits too. Each time you flush, that water is going to be there, allowing you to wash your hands. There’s no “accidental forgetting.” So you stay cleaner and less germy. Also, the water automatically stops running after the toilet tank runs its normal filling course. That means you don’t have to touch any faucet handles afterwards (even better for germaphobes).

And they save space! Take my apartment for example…we have a split bath. In the toilet room, there’s no sink (it’s in with the shower). But if my roommate is showering, oh no! Where do I wash my hands? Sink Positive is here to save the day. (Note: I don’t actually have one yet but I do plan on getting one as a housewarming gift for my brother as his place is set up the same way. Shhh…don’t tell. It’s a surprise.)

Where can you find it?
You can order the Sink Positive (either in Standard or Deluxe) directly from the Sink Positive website. The Standard model costs $89 and the Deluxe costs $109 (plus $10.95 S&H).

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 Dating Rules for CIGS in Solar

I’ve been saying for a while, that with enough money, someone is bound to crack the CIGS nut in thin film, and deliver the cleantech sector another First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) like renaissance for the always around the corner technology.

That’s not because it’s easy, or even because it’s a good idea to try, but when well over a billion dollars in investment pours into a given technology, something is bound to come out the other side – eventually. A seductively high efficiency potential technology with very low potential materials costs, CIGS has been just over the horizon for a decade or more, but has enjoyed a huge influx of capital and increase in the number of programs chasing in over the last 5 years. Similar to other solar thin film technologies, device complexity, effective yield, throughput, and process control issues are always the bugaboo.

Given its seductivenes, its somewhat capricious nature, and the siren filled history of the technology, perhaps we should think of CIGS like a woman, and all men need a few dating rules of the road to keep in mind before we jump in. Here are mine (for CIGS, not women):

Number one, like most thin film technologies, $100 mm in investment is the ante up to play the game. Just because you spend it doesn’t mean you get real product out, and with CIGS, you tend not to know whether anything is workable until oh, say $50 to $100 mm is already spent.

Number two, what you think you know, you don’t. Until the pilot plant has been operating for a few years, companies generally really underestimate what they don’t know.

Number three, remember those experiments and great idea you sold your investors on, the hard part is not there, the hard (read risky) part is ALL in the “it’s just engineering” end of the scale up process you told the investors was “fairly straightforward”. This isn’t IT, it’s deposition with a very commoditized end product.

Number four, whatever the projection as far as timing, add 3 years, maybe 5. I’m not kidding here, I said years.

Number five, when the words “fast”, “roll to roll”, “reel to reel” or anything else equating to speed in the process are in the pitch deck, translate that to read excruciatingly slow in the development timeline, and lots of “issues” popping up in those nasty yield and process control areas.

Number six, when investing, be very careful about that “yield” number and the “capacity” numbers they made up based on it. All thin film development companies keep “little black books” with the data and charts on every process run they’ve ever made. Read every single one of those charts, and ask lots of stupid questions about why only 4% of the total square footage produced is above 6% efficiency in run XYZ. Think in terms of “effective total average yield”. That’s where the problems are hiding.

CIGS watchers have a number of darlings to follow. There’s Miasole, which now under new management is rumored to have substantially tightened down its development discipline to take it’s shot, Nanosolar, another Silicon Valley venture darling that has been described by many observers along the lines of, “never met hype they didn’t like”, but with a seductively low cost printable process if they can get it to work, Solyndra, the “stealth” company with the big sign on I-880, Heliovolt, the Texas-based hot CIGS deal of last year, which burst on to the fundraising scene on the back of it’s still extremely early stage “FASST” technology. And those are just the largest of the US based venture backed deals, without including Honda, IBM, DayStar, Ascent Solar, Solopower, and literally dozens upon dozens of others around the world with significant backing (though all at a very, very early stage). Wikipedia has a decent cut at a list, though by no stretch of the imagination comprehensive.

My best estimate is that most of the venture investors in each of those deals personally looked in depth at the manufacturing process of single digit numbers of competing approaches before investing. And only read the little black book on two of them. That strategy was tried, with ahem, “mixed” results, in fuel cells a few years back. We’ll see how well it works in thin film solar.

And of course, as with most things in solar, the major players should probably be watched more carefully than the startups. I’ve always liked larger companies to crack thin film issues, in no small part because the term “stage gate” tends to mean something to them.

But my personal favorite for front runner currently is Arizona based Global Solar, a solar company I have been following for years. Their announcement a few months ago of 10% efficiency in production runs, was pretty much lost in the crush of press around solar, for reasons unfathomable to me.

While admittedly not yet proven in a full production environment (they are working on the scale up to 30 MW plants) they do have the massive advantage of having run virtually the only operating CIGS pilot plant in the world – and I believe has shipped more volume of CIGS product than anyone if not everyone else. True to form, that technology, which originally came out of the Tuscon Electric backed ITN Energy Systems labs in Colorado which later did Ascent Solar, has had an estimated $150-$200 mm plus invested in it over the last decade, before Solon AG bought the company for a reported $16 mm. Though to be fair, current management under CEO Mike Gering was brought on well into that process. So while I’ll keep my fingers crossed that some one will crack the CIGS nut, and continue to be flabbergasted at the $1 Bil plus valuations estimated to have been acheived by some of the startups named here for very large science projects, when it comes to the one to watch, Global Solar is my personal pick.

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

Green Jobs or Industrial Calamity? Dueling Economic Models in Carbon Politics

by Richard T. Stuebi

In early June, the U.S. Senate considered the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191), which proposed the establishment of a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions, analogous to the cap-and-trade program in place in the U.S. for acid rain pollutants since the mid-1990’s.

Predictably, the bill was defeated, before even going to a formal vote. In a press release, Senator Lieberman bravely painted the defeat with a positive spin: “We have convinced a majority of the Senate to support mandatory, comprehensive, market-based legislation to curb global warming and enhance U.S. energy security.” No-one expected the bill to make it out alive from the Senate, and even if it somehow had, the House would never have passed a similar bill, and surely President Bush would never have signed any such bill into law.

As might be expected, the Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner bill largely came down to economic considerations. Those who favored the bill foretold of the massive “green economy” that would be spurred by its passage: the creation of wealth and jobs that would occur by pursuing technology innovations and growing businesses in renewable energy and energy efficiency necessary to combat climate change. On the flip side, those who voted against the bill saw the threat – increases in energy prices, loss of industrial competitiveness, declining economic activity – much more acutely than the opportunity.

In my view, both sides of this debate are guilty of hyberbole and exaggeration. Let’s take each in turn.

Regarding the green economy, perhaps no phrase is more in vogue these days than “green-collar jobs” — a concept most compellingly articulated by Van Jones, the Founder and President of Green For All. A dynamic speaker, Mr. Jones was among the first to recognize that the adoption of green energy (renewables and energy efficiency) leads to local economic activity consisting of jobs that look very much like what used to be called “blue-collar” jobs – which offers the opportunity to rescue a segment of the U.S. population that has been increasingly disenfranchised in the past few decades.

I think this line of argument is conceptually solid. Certainly, energy efficiency retrofits and solar panel installations cannot be sent offshore: they must be done locally. And, in many instances, the best opportunities are available in downtrodden urban areas that badly need building rehabilitation, economic revitalization and new job possibilities.

My primary beef with the green economy crowd is not with Van Jones, but to his often overly-ardent disciples that assign way too much credibility to estimates – in my view, guesses – of how many green jobs exist or will be created. Every politician and reporter wants to know the number of new jobs that will result from a move to an advanced energy economy. My pat answer to that question is “It’s likely to be a very big number, but no-one can possibly quantify it with any degree of rigor.” Yet, these “job studies” invariably produce numbers that are told and retold until they become accepted as fact — when actually, they are pretty darn dubious.

This is most pointedly illustrated by the 2007 study commissioned by the American Solar Energy Society, developed by Roger Bezdek of Management Information Services, which claims a current “direct” green energy job count in the U.S. of 3.7 million. The incredulity of the study’s results becomes clear when reviewing a case study for the state of Ohio, in which about 500,000 jobs are credited to 2006 energy efficiency activities in Ohio. Note that Ohio’s current employment level is about 5.3-5.4 million. Does anyone who knows anything about Ohio really think that nearly 10% of today’s Ohio workforce is employed in energy efficiency products and services? I sure don’t.

The other side of the climate change policy debates, those clinging to the status quo and skeptical of the advanced energy economy, is also guilty of overstatement to defend their position.

Earlier this year, the American Council on Capital Formation (ACCF) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) commissioned a study by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of the economic implications of Lieberman-Warner. The ACCF/NAM/SAIC study projected strong adverse impacts on manufacturing and industry, especially for many key states.

However, as well summarized in reports by both the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the ACCF/NAM/SAIC study is just one of several studies on this issue, with results that are far more economically scary than others performed by unbiased organizations such as U.S. EPA, U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Agency, and MIT. The ACCF/NAM/SAIC results are outliers – yet, they are used again and again by those interests who wanted to see Lieberman-Warner killed.

In short, both sides of the carbon debate – green jobs vs. economic destruction – use economic models inappropriately to justify their stances. This tendency reflects badly on both sides. But, of course, it is the side with the deeper pockets – the established industrial sector – that wins. And, good policy loses.

As an economist, I wish that people would use economic models for insights, not numbers – a point very well summarized in an excellent white paper by Janet Peace and John Weyant issued by the Pew Center. If political leaders were to strip away the overly bold rhetoric and review the facts and analyses with the proper context and perspective, I think we would make a necessary first large stride towards forging an agreement on good carbon policy. In the meantime, the world is hostage to dueling models wielded by careless advocates making overly bold statements.

Because insight is desperately needed to cut through the fog of biased chatter, to provide some closing perspective on the tradeoffs between the costs and benefits of climate change policy, I’ll leave the last word to remarks made last year by an eminent economist, the former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, who gives a succinct personal view on the thorny economic questions associated with climate change:

“First of all, I don’t think [taking action on climate change] is going to have that much of an impact on the economy overall. Second of all, if you don’t do it, you can be sure that the economy will go down the drain in the next 30 years. What may happen to the dollar, and what may happen to growth in China or whatever, pale into insignificance compared with the question of what happens to this planet over the next 30 or 40 years if no action is taken.”

What more need be said?

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

Carbon Risk Managment

I recently wrote an article for Utilipoint on “Carbon Risk Management” software applications on an enterprise level. Little did I realize how much activity was out there. I have been inundated with requests to see those applications. Tomorrow, I am visiting Ron Dembo who founded Algorthymics and now the zerofootprint.net. He called me to tell that he has that enterprise level carbon application, and I will see for myself tomorrow. The point is that carbon world is full of data sets. These data must be aggregated, scrubbed and verified if if it going to fully accepted on the enterprise level. That means data for reducing a company’s carbon footprint but also for trading.

The emergence of global carbon markets will not only uncover value and liabilities for corporations, but will also require active carbon asset management on an enterprise level. Ron Dembo, founder of Algorithmics, has recently raised this issue, and he is correct that the time to think of carbon on an enterprise level is now. This is particularly true when you consider the cross commodity dimension of carbon with not only energy assets, but also with both agricultural and metals exposures. These are all volatile markets. We expect the same volatility in carbon trading and finance.

To broaden this issue further, one can start looking at the basic business exposures of carbon globally. There are going to be price inefficiencies—even within one multinational company falling under multiple carbon regimes in different regulatory jurisdictions. I have been asked many times if there will be one price for carbon and the answer is: absolutely not. In effect, there are going to be regional and international differences, even within multinational companies. The prices on the futures screens are for standardized contract which may capture 20 to 25 percent of the carbon market. But, much more trading will be bilateral and over-the-counter (OTC).

The first step in carbon asset management is measuring the carbon exposure. This is business unit by business unit analysis, and is affected by fuel mix, mobile vs. stationery sources, cross commodity exposures, weather exposure and basic global economic forces, to name a few of the risk exposures. The bottom line is that the decarbonization of the global economy, which is really the goal of all greenhouse gas legislation, is to create protocols that are ubiquitous and will be implemented to change business behavior. The process is only beginning. The actuality is that the global carbon footprint continues to increase each year primarily from the burning of fossil fuels (It has been up 3.1 percent per year globally since 2000 due to increased global usage of fossil fuels).

Regarding trading, we now have 2 viable carbon exchanges in the US. The well known Chicago Climate Exchange and the new comer, the Green Exchange. Check out wwwgreenfutures.com. the Green Exchange is supported by environmental brokers such as Evolution Markets, TFS Energy and ICAP, the New York and European investment banks, hedge funds, and energy companies that will provide liquidity on the trading platform. The true value of an Internet-based exchange today is not only daily trading in futures contracts but more importantly the ability to clear bilateral contracts where most carbon trading occurs. With all the ruckus in DC on energy trading, it is important that trades post on exchanges. Watch the Green Exchange. It only launched on March 17th and is starting to gain traction. This will be the subject of a longer post.

Peter Fusaro, Chairman, Global Change Associates

Go Toward The (LED) Light

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: the EarthLED EvoLux S LED light bulb

What is it?
A while back, I wrote about the EarthLED CL-3, but that was before I knew about the EvoLux S. Let me tell you…this is quite a bulb. Here are the basics: it’s a 13-watt LED light bulb that puts out 900 lumens. It uses an advanced CREE 13 watt light engine and has a standard base, so it can fit pretty much anywhere a standard incandescent (or CFL) can.

Why is it better?
Well, for the amount of light it puts out, it uses far less electricity than incandescent or CFL bulbs use (EarthLED says that the EvoLux S is comparable to a 100-watt incandescent). So clearly in terms of energy efficiency, it wins hands down.

Based on a formula to calculate the lifetime cost of a light bulb, a 100-watt incandescent light bulb which puts out 950 lumens and runs for 1,500 hours will cost you about $11.04 per megalumen-hour. Although the upfront cost of LED light bulbs is much higher, turns out for the EarthLED EvoLux S, you’ll spend only $3.22 per megalumen-hour (assuming $0.10/kWh). EarthLED reports that it only costs $5.70 to run an EvoLux S for a year.

And finally, it’s just a good light bulb. I’ve had mine for about a week – the light is not as diffuse as an incandescent or CFL but it’s amazingly bright. Doing the touch test, an incandescent got hot within 5 minutes of having the lamp on. The CFL warmed within about 7 minutes. The LED? Even after having it on for an hour, I could put my hand on it and it was cool.

The only drawbacks of note that I’ve experienced (and that others have confirmed) are a) light diffusion (I think the bulb would be a little better suited in an overhead downlight rather than in a bedside table lamp); and b) you can hear the fan. It’s pretty quiet. But if you’re reading by it, you can hear it hum. Overall, it’s a great option for a bright LED light bulb that’s available now.

Where can you find it?
You can get your very own EvoLux S in warm or cool white for a bargain price of $79.99 (ouch, I know, but think of the lifetime savings) from the EarthLED online store.

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.

Cap-and-Trade Gold in the Golden State

By John Addison (7/2/08). Obama and McCain have both stated that climate change requires decisive action. Both support cap-and-trade, putting a limit (cap) on greenhouse gases and enabling the market to work by allowing the trading of permits.

How would this work in the United States? We will all learn from California’s progress with its enacted law – AB32 Climate Solutions Act. The implementation is detailed in the 93-page Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan.

By requiring in law a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, California has set the stage for its transition to a clean energy future.

Since the law was enacted in 2006, the lead implementing agency, the California Air Resources Board (ARB), has been getting an earful from everyone from concerned citizens to industry lobbyists. It moves forward publishing data from the California Climate Action Registry, facilitating 12 major action teams, conducting public workgroups, and drafting plans which get more feedback in public meetings. The ARB Board will next meet to review the proposed Scoping Plan on Novembers 20 and 21.

Climate change is already impacting everything in California from draughts that cause agricultural loses to water shortages that impact industry. But instead of seeing the glass as half empty, the California Plan states, “This challenge also presents a magnificent opportunity to transform California’s economy into one that runs on clean and sustainable technologies, so that all Californians are able to enjoy their rights to clean air, clean water, and a healthy and safe environment.” Cleantech will be a major winner.

The plan is ambitious because California’s population in 2020 is forecasted to be double the 1990 level. The Climate Solutions Act will require that per capita CO2e emissions be reduced from today’s 14 tons per year to 10 tons per day by 2020. The total state cap for 2020 is 427 MMTCO2e. Keys to success will include:

  • Green buildings with improved construction, insullation, energy efficient lighting, HVAC, equipment, and appliances.
  • Electric utilities that use at least 33 percent renewable energy.
  • Development of a California cap-and-trade program that links with other western states and Canadians provinces to create a regional market system.
  • Implementation of existing State laws and policies, including California’s clean vehicle standards, goods movement measures, and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

The Plan shows that California has learned from the Kyoto implementation. California’s scope is much broader, covering 85 percent of the State’s greenhouse gas emissions from six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). AB32 calls for incremental improvements all the way to 2050.

The transportation sector – largely the cars and trucks – is the largest contributor with 38 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity generation is 23 percent. Industry 20 percent. Commercial and residential buildings are 9 percent.

Look for economic growth in a number of areas. New buildings will increasingly be LEED certified, often at the Silver level. Building efficiency retrofits will be an active area employing contracts large and small.

Distributed power generation will grow. Combined heat and power will be actively deployed. Process efficiency will continue.

Renewable energy will experience strong growth including wind, solar, geothermal, and bioenergy. Ocean power pilot projects will continue. Controversial new power from nuclear and petroleum coke gasification with CSS will be considered. In-state coal power generation is history in California. Using out-of-state coal power will continue to decline as GHG emissions are priced into the equation.

Wind continues to grow in California and the nation. A fascinating read is the Department of Energy (DOE) report, entitled 20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030, which identifies the real feasibility of the United States reaching meeting 20 percent of its energy requirements from wind by 2030. A path to over 300 GW of wind power by 2030 is detailed.

California and much of the nation is blessed with an abundance of sunlight. The Utility Solar Assessment (USA) Study, produced by Clean Edge and Co-op America, provides a comprehensive roadmap for utilities, solar companies, and regulators to reach 10% solar in the U.S. by 2025 with both PV and CSP.

C02 costs are not likely to significantly increase the cost of fuel, but rocketing oil costs have changed the game. Use of corporate flexible work programs, commuting, and use of public transportation are now at record levels in the state and will grow in popularity.

California High-Speed Rail (HSR) is likely to be on the California ballot this November, with a price tag that will be a fraction of the cost of expanding highways and adding an airport. HSR would link major transit systems throughout the state, and save billions in fuel costs and emissions.

AB32 is also likely to reach its goals because cars will increasingly outsell SUVs and trucks in California. By 2020, electric cars and plug-in hybrids may experience and explosion of popularity. New low-carbon fuels are likely to be widely used.

California is working closely with six other states and three Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) to design a regional greenhouse gas emission reduction program that includes a cap-and-trade approach. ARB will develop a cap-and-trade program for California that will link with the programs in the other partner states and provinces to create this western regional market. California’s participation in WCI creates an opportunity to provide substantially greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from throughout the region than could be achieved by California alone. AB32 may give the United States a head-start in its own cap-and-trade program.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.