Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans

By John Addison. The four-door sedan continues to be a popular vehicle for fleets and for individuals. These sedans often deliver the right amount of space for 4 or 5 passengers and enough cargo space for a taxi. The following 10 four-door sedans have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile of any vehicles available for volume commercial sale in 2009. In many cases, they also have the best fuel economy. Most are already selling in quantity. In a few cases, we are betting that the manufacturer will sell 1,000 to fleets by the end of 2009. Buying these clean cars often gives fleets tax breaks and special funding opportunities.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a priority with fleet managers and millions of conscientious consumers. These Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Doors are listed from lowest to highest in carbon footprint.

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Insight
  3. Honda Civic Hybrid
  4. Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid
  5. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
  7. Honda Civic CNG
  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  9. Toyota Yaris
  10. Chevrolet Aveo

Fleets are also early adopters of vehicles with even less emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid conversions, and diesel hybrid concept cars. Because these are not offered for commercial volume sale, they are not part of this Top 10 Four-Door Sedan list. Electric and alt-fuel vehicles are also covered in detail at Clean Fleet Report.

The Toyota Prius continues to lead the four-door sedan field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize is lowest on the list with 4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle; combined fuel economy is 46 mpg. Yes, 4 tons of CO2e is a lot; by comparison the 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago rates at 18.3 tons and only gets 10 mpg. Sorry fleet managers, you’ll need to take that Lamborghini out of the budget. Watch for new announcements from Toyota at the Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows, including a solar roof option to power accessories and thereby boost mileage. Prius

The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System is expected to be priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. Honda is setting expectations that mileage will be similar to the Honda Civic Hybrid. Honda Insight

The Honda Civic Hybrid compact rates at 4.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 42 mpg. Civic Hybrid

The Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid was presented to me as a concept car at the LA Auto Show. Should gas prices start climbing as summer approaches, then Clean Fleet Report is betting that Toyota will make this available to fleets. A similar move happened 10 years ago in 1999 when Toyota marketed a CNG Camry to fleet customers in California. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.6 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle, based on achieving 32 mpg combined. Camry CNG Hybrid

The Ford Fusion Hybrid will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car on sale in the US by next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.8 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. Green Car Congress

Cleanfleet Report with discussion of other Low Carbon Vehicles

If you are planning to buy any four-door sedans, this list may be a good starting point. The focus is on low CO2e emissions and likely commercial availability. Some will need larger sedans, while others will need affordable small cars, including small station wagons and two-doors which are not part of the list. Executives and sales managers that once required luxury sedans may now insist on one of the green alternatives in the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published March 25, 2009.

Smart Grid Primer

by Richard T. Stuebi

If you want to quickly gain a good overview of the smart grid, check out “The Smart Grid: An Introduction”. A slick 48-page wire-ring bound primer developed for the U.S. Department of Energy, one can find several juicy data tidbits, such as:

1. The U.S. power grid consists of 9200 electric generating units connected by 300,000 miles of transmission lines — of which only 668 miles were added since 2000.

2. Between 1988-98, U.S. electricity demand increased by nearly 30%, while transmission capacity grew by only 15%. (What about since then?)

3. In the U.S., there were 41% more outages affecting more than 50,000 customers in the second half of the 1990’s than in the first half of the 1990’s. (Again, what about since then?)

4. The average age of a substation transformer on the U.S. power grid is 42 years — two years more than their expected life span.

5. 10% of all generation assets, and 25% of distribution infrastructure, are required for less than 5% of the hours of the year.

All of this, plus a great picture of Dr. Zachary Smith (the inimitable Jonathan Harris) and the robot from “Lost in Space”. What more could you want?

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.

UPS Delivers with New Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

By John Addison. Millions of last minute shoppers used UPS to get their gifts delivered on time. The snow storms did not stop UPS. On December 22, I skipped the hour line at the post office, which was open on Sunday, instead shipping via UPS. I got my gifts to my brother by December 24.

Delivery giant UPS helps people drive less. UPS delivers over 16 million packages per day to over 200 countries. 70 percent of its volume is commercial; 30 percent residential. UPS operates nearly 100,000 ground vehicles, 600 airplanes, 3,000 facilities, and employs over 400,000 people.

UPS first put a hybrid-electric delivery van into operation in 1998. Although UPS has experienced over a 40% improvement in fuel economy with 50 hybrid-electric delivery vehicles, a new type of hybrid may be even better.

UPS will deploy two new hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHV) in Minneapolis during the first quarter of 2009. The additional five HHV’s will be deployed later in 2009 and early 2010. The Navistar delivery truck uses an Eaton hydraulic hybrid drive system with the diesel engine in series. The vehicle uses hydraulic pumps and hydraulic storage tanks to capture and store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in a hybrid electric vehicle. The engine periodically recharges pressure in the hydraulic propulsion system. Fuel economy is increased in three ways: vehicle braking energy is recovered; the engine is operated more efficiently, and the engine can be shut off when stopped or decelerating. Eaton Hybrid Systems

Delivery fleets are excellent early adopters of clean vehicles. UPS, FedEx, the United States Postal Service, and others are finding that hybrid technology is excellent at capturing braking energy from the frequent stops made by delivery vehicles. Plug-in hybrid Sprinter vans are achieving over 100 miles per gallon. These major carriers all have pilot programs using electric delivery vans and trucks can be parked.

UPS emitted 7.47 million metric tons of CO2 in 2007; other GHG emissions not reported (jets are responsible for emission of other GHG in addition to CO2). Over 87 percent of CO2 gas emissions were from its transportation use, rather than stationary power. Jet fuel represents 46% of U.S. Package Operations energy use; diesel 37%. Airplanes demand tremendous amounts of petroleum processed fuel and are probably responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions for the delivery giant.

When we read about energy independence and reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions, passenger vehicles get most of the press. In fact, it is fleets that lead in testing and improving vehicle technology. UPS has been a leader since the 1930s.

More…Clean Fleet Report with more about UPS hydrids and GHG reduction tactics.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published March 25, 2009.

Carbon Trading, The Game

At our company Christmas party this year we played Carbon Trading, The Game. Bascially, I devised a simple cap and trade game in a power sector, and then we played out four rounds to see what happened. The results were an interesting summary of how small rules can have big impacts in the outcome. And perhaps a good Christmas lesson to everyone involved in carbon market design. The good news, the market in our game came in well under its caps even in the early round.

Basic rules were as follows:

Players start with a certain amount of cash, and then each round bid for different types of power plants, fuel, and carbon credits each round (there were shortages of each), then run their plants (assuming they were able to acquire power plants, adequate fuel, and adequate carbon credits to operate). In our simple cap and trade model, the cap was based initially off of a coal plant’s emission factor, and declined on a per plant basis each year. Power was priced at a flat $100/MWH (makes the math simple). The winner was the one with the most cash after converting carbon to cash at the market clearing price in the last round.

The idea was that the declining cap and fuel shortage would lead to players bidding high for low emissions hydro and wind farms to get under their cap, and lead to reductions.

A few interesting outcomes. Wind and hydro plants did command premium prices, but not all the way to pricing carbon in (probably since no one was sure what then final carbon price would be – proving uncertainty wins again). And since we did not let power prices float, nor require a must run component, fuel prices went on a wild swing but eventually fell as at least two players opted for a strategy to essentially mothball plants and instead just bank the carbon credits, and buy a few more. As a result, carbon prices also stayed low in the early rounds, since fewer operating plants were hitting their caps – however, the players who has stockpiled carbon then bid up the price of the final credit of the final round to $70 instead of the $10-$20 in previous rounds (it only stopped there because they ran out of money).

The final result, that high price of carbon in round 4 meant the winning strategy ended up being buy cheap coal plants throughout the game, run them only when fuel and carbon were very cheap, and make your money off the carbon.

I am planning on revising the rules for better play, then releasing an actual carbon trading game in the near future.

Besides operating CleantechBlog.com, Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, CEO of Carbonflow, Inc., and Chariman of Cleantech.org.

Baby Nukes

by Richard T. Stuebi

Although not popular to many in the environmental community, one low/zero-carbon energy supply alternative that has to be at least put on the table for serious consideration is nuclear energy.

Yes, yes, we know the litany of concerns about nuclear energy: runaway fission leading to explosive catastrophes like the one that occurred in 1986 at Chernobyl, long-lived and extremely toxic waste products, and the use of fuels that make for scary weapons-grade materials for terrorists to exploit.

The U.S. nuclear industry hasn’t completed a new nuclear power generating unit in many years — though it’s generally not for the reasons listed above. Rather, the main damper on the U.S. nuclear industry has been high cost: to achieve economies of scale, the optimal nuclear unit size has long been thought to be greater than 1000 megawatts, which given the capital intensity of nuclear technologies (a November 2007 article in Nuclear Engineering suggests construction costs of at least $4000/kilowatt), implies minimum investments of several billion dollars. Given the massive market and regulatory uncertainties facing electric utilities, few have been willing to step up to the nuclear plate and lay down such a huge bet.

In recent weeks, I’ve seen not one but two articles — “Neighborhood Nukes” in Forbes and “Mini Nuclear Plants to Power 20,000 Homes” in The Guardian — covering the investigation of small-scale nuclear power generating units. Both articles prominently feature the New Mexico company Hyperion Power Generation, which claims to be developing a hot-tub sized unit of 25 megawatts capacity.

Spun out from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Hyperion design is intended to overcome many of the obstacles associated to date with nuclear energy.

As The Guardian article summarizes, “the miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.”

From Forbes: “Hyperion’s design uses uranium hydride instead of traditional uranium with control rods. The reactor gets rid of heat using thermal conductivity, which eliminates the big water-cooling systems and their containment bulwarks.”

Stunningly, Hyperion promises an installed cost of $1000/kw, and claims a sales backlog of $2.5 billion, with 100 firm orders.

So, maybe there’s a renaissance of nuclear energy in the offing. Steve Martin may have had it right, after all: “Let’s get small.”

But, before you get too excited, remember that the nuclear industry has been down this path before: in 1954, Lewis Strauss, then-Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, hinted that nuclear energy would in the not-too-distant-future make electricity “too cheap to meter.” We’re still waiting.

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. In 2009, he will also become a Managing Director at Early Stage Partners.

Car Sharing Competition: Hertz and Enterprise Chase Zipcar

By John Addison. New car sharing programs allow two or more people to need only one car. Each shared vehicle results in 6 to 23 cars not being owned. Once someone joins a car share program, they cut their vehicle miles traveled up to 80 percent. Introduced first in Europe, car sharing is now growing in the United States with over 200 car share programs operating in over 600 cities.

Zipcar is the leader in car sharing with over 260,000 members. Car sharing is popular with individuals who live car free in a city, with couples who share one car, with university students and staff, and with corporate fleet and travel managers.

Zipcar makes car sharing easy. After a simple enrollment a member is issued a Zipcard. Members reserve a car online or on the phone. At the appropriate hour, they go to their designated car, parked in one of many lots in the city. A Zipcard is used to enter the vehicle and drive until returned to the reserved parking space. A variety of vehicles are available in their program from hybrids to SUVs.

Hertz, as the largest international rental car company, has entered the car sharing market by launching the Connect by Hertz car sharing club, with neighborhood parking in London, New York City and Paris. Hertz plans to expand into additional cities, as well as universities, in 2009. As Hertz expands, it can leverage its established presence in 8,100 locations in 144 countries worldwide

Membership in Connect by Hertz includes insurance, fuel, roadside assistance, maintenance and cleaning. Connect by Hertz members enjoy a paperless program where they can reserve, drive and return vehicles all on their own, via the internet or phone. “Connect by Hertz supports Hertz’s diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs,” commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and CEO of The Hertz Corporation. “In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz’s established infrastructure, we’re the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program.”

The showcase car of the Connect by Hertz fleet in the United States is the Toyota Prius. The fuel emissions of the London and Paris cars are significantly less than the voluntary target of a maximum 140 g/km CO2 output set by the EU.

To unlock and engage the Hertz vehicle, members simply swipe their membership card, the Connect card, over the car’s radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader. In car, a hands-free audio kit connects members to a Member Care Center representative should they have questions, need assistance or need to extend their rental. The in-car technology also enables Connect by Hertz to ‘communicate’ with the vehicle enabling representatives to unlock, engage and locate vehicles. The technologically savvy cars are also equipped with iPod connectivity and, in the US, NeverLost® in-car navigation systems and EZ Pass transponders.

Complete Article includes Enterprise and Corporate Programs

Car sharing is destined to grow and attract growing competition.

Copyright © John Addison. Excerpts of this article will appear in his upcoming book – Save Gas, Save the Planet. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

Ich Bin Ein Freiburger

by Richard T. Stuebi

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of joining a delegation led by Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson to visit Baden-Wurttemberg, the southwestern-most state in Germany. The aim of the trip was to begin building stronger commercial bridges between the Cleveland area and Baden-Wurttemberg – two heavy industrial economies of similar size. I was there to represent our region’s interests and activities in advanced energy, in an aim to identify and explore potential collaborations in the academic, civic and private sectors.

As part of our tour, we spent a day in Freiburg, a delightful university city nestled in the corner where Switzerland and France abut Germany. And, in their lovely city hall, we had the privilege of meeting with Freiburg’s dynamic Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon and the city’s environmental minister, Dr. Dieter Worner.

Though I had previously heard of Freiburg, the two Dieters opened my eyes to what Freiburg had been able to accomplish – and, alas, what also remained to be accomplished – in the realm of sustainability, with their Freiburg Green City plan.

Freiburg frequently hosts public sector leaders from around the world to learn how to put a city on a low-carbon trajectory, as it is widely recognized to be the foremost green city in Germany, which in turn is widely recognized to be the country farthest down the sustainability path in Europe, which in turn is widely recognized to be far ahead of other continents in dealing substantively with the climate change threat.

We were humbled by what we learned. Way back in 1996, before climate change was much of a concern in the U.S., Freiburg officials decreed that it would aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% by the year 2010. To achieve this, Freiburg pursued two priorities.

First, it established very ambitious building energy efficiency standards – 20% below already-stringent German national levels. Yes, building professionals (architects, engineers, contractors) initially objected to this stance as being too hard or too costly. However, over time, the building community learned how to meet these tough standards at a minimal 1% cost premium over conventional buildings not meeting the standard. Now, the Freiburg-based businesses have a substantial competitive advantage in the German building marketplace. This goes to show that good policy can drive private sector innovation and subsequently economic health of a key sector of the economy.

Second, Freiburg seized upon its natural advantage – it is the sunniest place in all of Germany – to become the leading player in the soon-to-be-booming German solar market. With a major investment to establish the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy, affiliated with the University of Freiburg, the city became Ground Zero for R&D on new solar technologies. This, in turn, spawned many businesses – either spun-out from Fraunhofer or founded by people who worked or studied in Freiburg – that were able to catch the wave as the solar market in Germany took off.

The net result: Freiburg now lays claim to an environmental business cluster of 1500 companies, employing 15,000, generating over 500 million euros of annual revenues. For a city of roughly 200,000 population, this is green economic development writ large.

We were also surprised by what we learned: namely, that Freiburg was really struggling to achieve significant emission reductions. Despite strong mechanisms to drive reduced emissions in the economy, Freiburg had only been able to achieve a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions since 1996. Freiburg readily admits that it won’t be able to attain the 25% reduction target it had set for itself by 2010.

So, Freiburg is finding out it’s not so easy to be as green as it wanted to be, as we all need to be.

That being said, I did take heart in noting that Freiburg wasn’t giving up in the face of adversity, as it is ratcheting its goal for 2030 to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.

I also noted that a key reason for Freiburg failing to achieve its emission reductions was economic/population growth. Although aggregate CO2 emissions had only fallen by 7%, on a per capita basis, CO2 emissions had declined by about 30%. In other words, Freiburg’s population had grown substantially – one of the few places in Germany to experience population growth.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Freiburg’s environmental posture and ambitions are key attractors for this growth. The best and the brightest of Germany seem to be flocking to Freiburg to be part of the vanguard in moving to a low-carbon economy.

Lastly, I am inspired by Freiburg’s civic motto. By my transcription (and excuse my lack of knowledge of German), Freiburg’s credo is “Gut leben stadt viel haben”, which translates approximately to “A good life is more important than lots of possessions.”

A lovely city, Freiburg is living proof that one can live a good life and be at the forefront of sustainability.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President at NextWave Energy, Inc. In 2009, he will also become a Managing Director of Early Stage Partners.

A Better Strategy for Detroit: Electric Drive not Flexfuel

In 2006, Detroit held high hopes of being profitable by selling millions of flexfuel vehicles. The vehicles are named flexfuel because they can be fueled with either E85 ethanol or with gasoline. It cost little extra to make these flexfuel vehicles. The flexfuel modifications were not made to all engines. They were made in bigger engines for SUVs, trucks, and big cars with better profit margins, but subpar fuel economy. Millions of flexfuel vehicles were sold.

Thousands of E85 stations appeared, primarily in corn growing states. A federal law was passed requiring production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel to be produced by 2022. Executive orders gave preference to buying flexfuel vehicles for the fleet of 4 million federal, state, and local vehicles. As food prices soared, one billion people struggled to afford food. The law was modified to requiring 16 billion of the 36 billion gallons to be from cellulosic sources. Biofuel 2.0

Recently at the Los Angeles Auto Show, I saw flexfuel vehicles extensively displayed in GM and Ford booths. They are also pilling-up in at auto dealers throughout the nation. These flexfuel vehicles fail to delivery the fuel economy that people are now demanding.

Although Detroit automakers sell flexfuel vehicles with good mileage in Brazil, in the United States, the best EPA mileage rating for a vehicle using E85 is 19 miles per gallon.

As we approach 2009, transportation is beginning a major shift away from the internal combustion engine to electric drive systems. Just as downloadable music disrupted CD sales, just as mainframe computing gave way to distributed computing, transportation is shifting to a new electric-drive paradigm.

At the Auto Show crowds were excited by new electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. Crowds surrounded BMW’s Mini E, the freeway-speed battery electric version of the Mini Cooper with a 150 mile range. Nissan was showing off its Cube and talking about making 100 mile range battery electric vehicles in volume, with fleet quantities in 2010. Mitsubishi’s iMiEV was shown as is being put into trail at the electric utility SCE.

Big automakers were also displaying fuel cell vehicles that extend the range and speed the fueling time for electric vehicles. Chevrolet, Daimler, Honda, and Toyota are each putting over 100 of their hydrogen vehicles into daily fleet and personal use. Toyota also has big plans for plug-in hybrids. Look for new announcements in Chicago this coming February.

GM continued to generate excitement with its Chevy Volt, a beautiful sporty sedan with a range of 40 miles in electric mode and hundreds of added miles using a small gasoline engine to extend range.

Chrysler was demonstrating four different electric vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show. The popular low-cost battery electric Chrysler GEM has now passed 38,000 in use in the United States, with sales continuing to do well. Although it is limited to 25 mph and a 40 mile max range, the bigger new Chyrsler ENVI electric vehicles get from 0 to 60 in as little as 5 seconds with EVs and plug-in hybrids that include Jeeps, mini-vans, and sports cars. Chrysler Details

The full transition to electric transportation may take 40 years, but it is unstoppable. The fuel of choice is shifting from foreign oil to our own renewable energy resources. Over 40,000 people now drive electric vehicles in the United States. Most are the 25 mph types, not the $100,000 Teslas, but in 2010 several affordable freeway speed choices will be offered by Nissan, Chrysler, GM, Toyota, and dozens of exciting smaller companies.

Although millions of electric vehicles will displace cars with gasoline engines, the internal combustion engine will be with us for decades in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and heavy-duty trucks. Using new biofuel blends in these engines will help us achieve energy security. Biofuels from cellulosic sources will help moderate damaging greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels are not a panacea; rather, they are an important transitional solution for the next decades.

Currently, 142 billion gallons of gasoline are consumed annually in the United States. In ten years, consumption could moderate to 120 billion gallons annually, even with population growth, due to these factors: CAFÉ fuel efficiency standards, replacement of some gasoline engines with more efficient turbo diesel, growth of electric vehicles, growing use of commute programs, growing use of trains and transit, and reduced vehicle miles traveled.

Fuel refiners and engine manufacturers could agree on standards so that 20 percent of gasoline could be from ethanol and other approved next generation biofuel. This 20 percent would be 24 billion gallons annually of fuel from biomass, not from petroleum. Flexfuel vehicles that deliver under 30 mpg are not needed. A new E85 infrastructure is not needed.

The United States can regain its world leadership in transportation by investing in future solutions, not the failed strategies of the past. Millions of jobs can be created in public transportation, high-speed rail, electric cars, hybrid electric heavy vehicles, renewable energy, and next generation biofuels that can be blended with existing gasoline and diesel.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. His new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, goes on sale March 25.

Another Way to Skin the Carbon Cat

by Richard T. Stuebi

The challenges associated with climate change are so daunting — so much emission reductions to achieve, so much money to invest in energy efficiency and low/zero-carbon energy technologies and infrastructure, and so little time to do it — that we’re going to have to be awfully creative.

In the past, I’ve blogged about geoengineering the planet, putting stuff up in the atmosphere to block incoming solar radiation, thereby reducing the energetic input to the planet from the sun. This week, I take note of an article entitled “Eating Carbon” in the November 15 issue of The Economist.

It appears that the Earth is endowed with massive reserves of a particular type of rock called peridotite, which seems to be able to react quickly with carbon dioxide to produce carbonates. One thought is to grind up the peridotite and expose it to exhaust streams, but a new approach profiled in a paper (see abstract) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter of Columbia University involves injecting carbon dioxide in mass quantities (e.g., from powerplants) into the peridotite strata, leaving inert byproducts in-situ underground.

The big challenge appears to be depth: the peridotite is 20 km down. But, the upside appears to be substantial, with seemingly much more carbon dioxide sequestration capacity than the caverns and reservoirs mainly being considered in the carbon capture/sequestration (CCS) community — and with no potential for leakage.

Apparently, peridotite is not the only rock that “eats” carbon, as researchers are now investigating volcanic basalt as well. With luck, perhaps geologists can find a good rock type that is both quickly reactive, highly plentiful and dispersed on the planet, and relatively cheap/easy to access.

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.

EarthLED releases a new consumer LED light bulb

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: the EarthLED ZetaLux 7 Watt LED

What is it?
The EarthLED ZetaLux is a 7 watt LED light bulb. With a standard medium base, the bulb is a replacement for any incandescent light bulb. EarthLED estimates that it will cost as little as $2.00 to run the bulb for 8 hours every day for a year.

Why is it better?
The ZetaLux uses 1/10th the amount of energy and produces roughly the same amount of light as a 50-60 watt light bulb. It has a direct light path (which in some ways takes a little getting used to) but according to EarthLED, that means the bulb has a 95% luminary efficiency (the bulb does not direct any light toward the light fixture).

I’ve been using the ZetaLux for a week now, and it provides quite a bit of bright light in a table lamp. It’s completely quiet (which was a complaint some folks had with the EarthLED EvoLux) and although the “warm white” bulb produces light that is not as warm as an incandescent, the quality of the light is quite nice.

Where can you find it?
You can order the ZetaLux directly from EarthLED for $49.99 in either warm or cool white.

Press:

Boca Raton, FL, November 18, 2008 — Advanced Lumonics, LLC, an early leader in the direct replacement LED light bulb market through its consumer oriented EarthLED brand announces its latest product, the EarthLED ZetaLux.Following on the success of the EvoLux launch earlier this year, the EarthLED ZetaLux LED light bulb offers a price/performance ratio unmatched in the industry. The ZetaLux only consumes 7 watts yet offers performance comparable to a 50-60 watt light bulb. With a price of under $50 USD, the ZetaLux offers an unprecedented payback time of just over 2 years when operated 8 hours per day.

ZetaLux is built upon the latest LED Engine from CREE allowing for amazing efficiency, high output and a new benchmark in Color Rendering Index (CRI) performance. CRI is a a good way to determine the quality of light and its faithfulness to render colors correctly, EvoLux features a a CRI of 75 for cool white and 80 for Warm White making them exceptional for LED Light Bulbs.

The ZetaLux has been designed to the most exacting standards of any LED light bulb currently on the market. From its oversized aluminum heat sink to its flame retardant plastic, to its shatter proof lens, the ZetaLux is built to perform safely and efficiently for over 50,000 hours. The ZetaLux’s rugged design also allows it to perform under the harshest conditions including frigid -50 degree frost all the way up to scorching 180 degree heat with 95% humidity.

Advanced Lumonics is also announcing enhanced versions of their successful EvoLux line. All EvoLux bulbs now feature lumen outputs exceeding 1000 Lumens along with a higher CRI and even greater efficiency. These enhancements further cement the position of EvoLux as the most advanced direct replacement LED light bulb on the market today.

The ZetaLux along with the new enhanced EvoLux will be among the first direct replacement LED light bulbs to achieve UL certification later this year along with compliance with new DOE EnergyStar standards for LED lighting in 2009.

Both ZetaLux and enhanced EvoLux are available today from The EarthLED Store and Advanced Lumonics distribution partners.

The new ZetaLux and enhanced EvoLux join a fresh new lineup of EarthLED LED Lighting products for 2009 including:

TriSpectra 3 – The World’s Most Powerful LED Based MR-16 Solution
DirectLED-HL – The First Direct LED Replacement for G4 Halogen Lamps
DirectLED-PL – The First Direct LED Replacement for PL Fluorescent Lamps
DesignoLux – LEDs Designed Specifically for Decorative Lighting
GrowLED – A Comprehensive Range of Affordable LED Grow Lights

For additional information on ZetaLux, EvoLux or other EarthLED LED Light Bulbs please visit www.EarthLED.com or call 1-877-855-1625.

About Advanced Lumonics, LLC

Boca Raton based Advanced Lumonics, LLC is an early leader in the direct replacement and professional Solid State Lighting (SSL) market. Through their popular EarthLED brand, Advanced Lumonics has rapidly increased awareness of LED lighting as a true alternative to CFL and Incandescents in the consumer marketplace and has become a leader in this space.

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, organic personal care, and other green products.

Ethanol in the Tank

by Richard T. Stuebi

The news seems everywhere these days that ethanol is dead as a doornail:

October 21, Financial Times: “Investors Suffer As U.S. Ethanol Boom Dries Up”
November 5, Bloomberg: “VeraSun Doomed; Goldman Stops Ethanol Stock Coverage”

It’s easy to pin the tough times for ethanol on the left-right combination of precipitous declines in oil/gasoline prices and the global credit crunch. True, ethanol plants are capital-intensive, and a reduction in product price is never a good thing for any producer.

But I believe the issue is less about fuel prices and capital markets than about corn.

Many have long been skeptical about corn-based ethanol purely from an economic perspective. Of course, as has been amply documented, corn ethanol has been the beneficiary of some pretty substantial subsidies, without which much less ethanol would have made it to market. But earlier this year, even when oil was nearing $150/barrel and gasoline was over $4.00/gallon, a number of U.S. ethanol producers were having financial difficulties.

Why? Because corn prices were rising even faster than fuel prices. Remember: these refineries make money as a function of the spread between feedstock and product price, not of the product price itself. If the feedstock price is rising faster than the product price, then even if the product price is at historical highs, producers can be squeezed.

Until ethanol demand surged in recent years (propelled by increasing government mandates), the linkages between corn and fuel prices were weak. However, as a recent article by columnist Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail in Toronto points out, “food is no longer just food”. In Saunders’ terms, “there has been a “bushels-to-barrels-to-Btus convergence”. After all, both oil and bread have calorific content, and technologies now are allowing one to be swapped for the other, depending upon which is more economic in a particular market.

This then leads to the other “black mark” against (corn-based) ethanol: the so-called “food vs. fuel” debate. To many observers, it is unethical to be using products fundamental to human food consumption as a substitute for petroleum-based fuels, as this added demand for foodstuffs bids up prices and makes eating more expensive — especially problematic for the world’s poor (see 2007 article on this topic by C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer in Foreign Affairs). This has led Jean Zigler of the United Nations to recently declare that biofuels are a “crime against humanity”.

A strongly argued counterpoint is offered by Robert Zubrin and Gal Luft. With pretty significant substantiation, they claim that increases in the price of corn have not been driven by any push to produce ethanol. Instead, they find that all of the increase in corn prices has been due to the combined factors of increased natural gas prices (thereby raising the price of fertilizer), increased transportation and processing costs (due to higher gasoline/diesel prices), and increased demand for corn in massive rapidly-growing developing economies (e.g., China). In short, according to Zubrin and Luft, ethanol is not to blame for woes facing corn consumer.

That may or may not be so. But, it seems unarguable that corn is to blame for the woes facing ethanol.

President-elect Obama may be a “supporter” of ethanol, but unless and until cellulosic ethanol technologies become viable, ethanol will have a hard time becoming — and staying — a major player in the transportation fuel game.

This is especially the case when factoring in the massive investment required to convert the U.S. infrastructure of distribution, retailing and vehicle tanks from gasoline to ethanol-capable. And, this is even more so the case considering that biofuels innovators are actively working on technologies that enable biogasoline — gasoline from bio-feedstocks.

With all these strikes against ethanol, it’s no wonder all the obituaries are being written.

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.