Renault Installs 60MW Solar Energy for its Manufacturing

Renault has received orders for 100,000 of its Renault Fluence Z.E. electric car from Better Place for massive deployment in Israel, Denmark, and other countries. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the clear leader in freeway speed electric car sales with Nissan delivering the LEAF, and both using common electric drive system and lithium battery components.

These electric cars are zero emission from battery to wheels, but each car does contribute to tons of CO2 emission over its lifetime from manufacturing through thousands of electric charges to recycling of batteries and parts. Due to the 80 percent efficiency of electric drives compared to 15 percent efficiency of gasoline engine drives, electric vehicles produce 70 to 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline cars. Charging with renewable energy makes the reduction greater than a typical grid energy mix of 50 percent coal generation.

Renault wants to extend its leadership in carbon emissions reduction by installing the world’s biggest automotive industry solar roof project.  With a stunning 60 MW of solar energy, Renault will cut CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons a year. In partnership with Gestamp Solar, which took over the project started by Eiffage, Renault is launching the biggest solar panel project in the global automotive industry.

When the 450,000 m2 of solar panels are operational, they will cover an area equivalent to 63 football fields.  The project is part of Renault 2016 – Drive The Change, Renault’s strategic plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% by 2013 and by a further 10% between 2013 and 2016.

Renault has implemented several actions to reduce consumption at its plants (e.g. the zero carbon plant in Tangiers). With the solar roof project, Renault is showing its concern to conserve resources by diversifying the energy mix used to generate electricity, and particularly by using renewable energy sources. Solar panels will also cover the roofs of the delivery and shipping centers at the Douai, Maubeuge, Flins, Batilly and Sandouville sites, and the staff parking lots at Maubeuge and Cléon.

The start date for installation is mid-June 2011 and completion is scheduled for February 2012.

The Renault Fluence Z.E. lithium batteries can be switched at Better Place charging stations in minutes to give drivers unlimited range where switch Better Place Switch Station Renault Leads in Electric Cars and Solar Power for its Manufacturingstation networks are installed. They batteries can also be charged at traditional charge points. At switch stations, stored batteries could be charged with renewable energy off-peak and battery power could be provided to the grid during peak hours, thereby reducing the need for dirty coal power and inefficient natural gas peaker plants.

Dollars and Sense For Energy

One of the most important yet overlooked points about the penetration of clean energy into the marketplace is that there’s pretty much only one thing that matters:  cost.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  people buy all sorts of things — clothes, cars, electronic gadgets — based on non-economic factors, but energy is purchased based on its price. 

Think of it this way:  How much attention do you pay to the price of a gallon of gasoline?  Of beer?

Generally speaking, energy is a commodity, hard to differentiate, making price the main purchasing factor.  So, when some people object to clean energy technologies, the primary basis for their complaint is typically that it costs too much relative to other (typically incumbent, typically dirtier) energy sources. 

“Making the Case for Clean Energy” by Gabriel Miller, Camilla Sharples and Paul Ho of Hudson Clean Energy Partners does a nice job of comparing the costs of alternative sources of energy supply.  In particular, there’s an excellent graphic in the article depicting the reduction in cost of new energy technologies over the past 100 years as they are introduced and gain traction in the marketplace — thereby giving lots of evidence in support of the claim that new energy technologies will get more cost-competitive over time.

While we can’t rest assured, and must work to make those economic gains happen, those of us in the cleantech space have nothing to apologize for:  if history is any guide, new clean energy technologies will get cheaper over time, and can in many (most?) cases become cost-competitive with fossil fuels — especially as they get scarcer and dearer.

Wind, Water and Sun can Power Our 240 Million Cars and Everything Else

Mark Jacobson Lecture Our Promising Future of Electric Cars Powered by Renewable Energy

Our Promising Future of Renewable Energy

The cleanest solutions to global warming, air pollution and energy security are wind, water, and solar power (WWS).  As Dr. Mark Jacobson walks me through the numbers of his, Dr. Mark Delucchi, and their teams’ multi-year study, the renewable energy solution stands out as the clear winner. Dr. Jacobson is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and an advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wind power has been doubling in capacity about every three years. It’s now over 200 GW; in 3 years it will be over 400 GW. 36 U.S. states generate enough wind power to replace one or more coal or nuclear power plants.  U.S. wind grew 39 percent in recession year 2009. In a growing number of global locations from Hawaii to Denmark, wind is the least expensive way to generate power. Their WWS study includes both on-shore wind power, which is plentiful from Texas through the Dakotas and offshore with enormous potential along our Pacific and Atlantic coasts and our Great Lakes.

Solar includes the photovoltaics that cover homes and the faster growing PV that covers commercial roofs. It also includes the grid-scale PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) that generates the equivalent power of a natural gas or coal plant. The water in WWS includes hydropower, our most widely used source of renewable energy, and geothermal power, which uses steam to drive turbines.  Water also includes emerging, wave and tidal power generation.

WWS can meet all of our needs for electricity. WWS can also meet all of our need for heat and for transportation.

At the same time that we see high growth of WWS, especially wind and solar power, we are also experiencing transformational growth of electrified transportation. Mark Jacobson points out that electric propulsion is four times as efficient as internal combustion. Health concerns, energy security, and economics make combustion a loser. Every year we see more battery electric vehicles (BEV), electric rail, and even hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (HFCV) such as the 20 buses that transported 100,000 visitors during the last Winter Olympics.

From a technology standpoint WWS can meet all of our needs in 20 to 40 years.  How far and how fast we move to reduce greenhouse gas and health-damaging emissions depends more on politics, sunk-costs and inertia than on what is feasible.  Faced with the growing threats of global warming such as heat waves, water scarcity, failed food production, continued growth of WWS is essential.

Electric Cars End Our Dependency on Oil and WWS Ends Our Dependency on Coal

By 2015, several forecasts put one million to 1.5 million electric cars on the U.S. road. Having recently purchased a Nissan Leaf, I believe the forecast. My electricity bill is a fraction of what I paid at the gas station to put on the same miles. With current incentives, my electric car cost $22,000. Prices are likely to decline for electric cars while gasoline prices are forecasted to increase.

Mark Jacobson has driven his Tesla Roadster 16,000 miles. He charges his Tesla with the same solar photovoltaics that power his entire house. By going Mark Jacobson Driving Tesla Our Promising Future of Electric Cars Powered by Renewable Energyto energy efficient electric appliances and solar water heating, their utility bill is at the minimum needed for a couple of gas burners on the stove for a few favorite meals. Mark and his wife don’t just talk about the transition to WWS – they live it.

With the 240-mile range of his Tesla Roadster, range has rarely been an issue. Yes, on a trip to Sacramento, he had to plug his Level 1 charger into the outlet in his motel room, extending the cord out the window to his electric car. On one trip to Modesto, he had to convince his hotel manager to turn-off their decorative water fountain so that he could use the fountain’s electric outlet to trickle charge overnight. The vast majority of the time, he is riding on sunlight.

Public charging infrastructure is expanding, renewable energy growth continues, and lithium battery prices fall as gasoline and diesel increase in cost. Our cars are getting cleaner and more electric.

Jacobson and Delucchi looked at the lifecycle impacts of different types of cars and various fuels. Alternatives were ranked according to their impacts on global warming, pollution that impacts our health, water supply, land use, security issues such as terrorism and other impacts. The study evaluated nuclear, coal and natural gas with sequestration, advanced biofuels, and included hybrid and plug-in hybrids vehicles. Our best scoring alternatives, in the following order, are electric vehicles using renewable energy:

  1. Wind – BEVs
  2. Wind – HFCVs
  3. CSP – BEVs
  4. Geothermal – BEVs
  5. Tidal – BEVs
  6. PV – BEVs
  7. Wave – BEVs
  8. Hydro – BEVs

Pure battery-electric cars were the big winner in their study with most of their power coming from wind and solar charging. Hydrogen from wind electrolysis scores best for vehicles requiring extended range such as buses, ships using hybrid hydrogen fuel cell propulsion, and aircraft using liquefied hydrogen combustion. Mark Jacobson’s articles for Scientific American, Energy Policy, testimony to Congress and the EPA, and more can be accessed at his Stanford website.

The study used existing technology that can scale to broad commercial deployment. At first glance, growing to 11.5 TW of WWS globally looks impossible, a closer look shows that many of the study’s assumptions are conservative because only today’s technology is considered. The shift to electric vehicles powered with renewable energy will be easier if vehicles are built with much lighter materials, or if we succeed with breakthrough battery chemistry such as lithium air. The electric car/renewables scenario timetable also improves as U.S. drivers continue their trend of driving fewer miles thanks to record urban density, transit, flexwork, and aging boomers.

In Energy Policy Jacobson and Delucchi write, “”Although we focus mainly on energy supply, we acknowledge and indeed emphasize the importance of demand-side energy conservation measures to reduce the requirements and impacts of energy supply. Demand-side energy conservation measures include improving the energy-out/energy-in efficiency of end uses (e.g., with more efficient vehicles, more efficient lighting, better insulation in homes, and the use of heat exchange and filtration systems), directing demand to low-energy use modes (e.g., using public transit or telecommuting instead of driving)….”

Vehicle to Grid and other Storage

A 100% WWS United States must deal with the variability of wind and solar. This is an important reason that wind, water, and solar power are all needed to meet our 24/7 demands. Large-scale deployment of wind and solar will require a Supergrid network of high-voltage lines that can move electricity from mid-American wind farms and desert solar plants to cities and industry. With a national Supergrid, WWS is largely achievable without storage and even without using pricing and demand response (DR) to make energy demand more level. He walked me through a California study that he co-lead in 2005 showing that WWS would meet 99% of California needs, even during peak hours on a burning summer day. With our growing use of DR, intelligent energy management, and storage, large scale WWS can be deployed more quickly.

Byron Shaw of GM quipped, “Cars are like cats, they sleep 22 hours per day.” Most cars are parked when the grid faces peak demands. Why not let people make money charging at night at a discount and sell electricity back to the grid at peak at premium pricing? The model works well for individuals and businesses with solar power.

Jacobson and Delucchi write, “The use of EV batteries to store electrical energy, known as ‘‘vehicle-to-grid,’’ or V2G, is especially promising, albeit not necessarily easy to implement…. In order for V2G systems to provide operating reserves to compensate for hourly variations in wind power (again when wind power supplies 50% of US electricity demand), 38% of the US LDV fleet would have to be battery-powered and be on V2G contract.”

Yet 38 percent will not need to sign V2G contracts because V2G is just one of many ways to store wind and solar power until needed. Utilities currently use nighttime wind energy to pump water uphill. The next day at peak hours the water flows downhill driving generators. Grid-scale batteries, compressed air storage, and storage towers coupled with concentrating solar plants are all in early stage use.

Easier than It Looks

Meeting 100 percent of our energy and transportation needs with wind, water, and solar power seems as daunting as putting a man on the moon. Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi state in Energy Policy, “With sensible broad-based policies and social changes, it may be possible to convert 25% of the current energy system to WWS in 10–15 years and 85% in 20–30 years, and 100% by 2050. Absent that clear direction, the conversion will take longer. “

Their WWS scenario can meet our electricity, heat, and transportation needs. The technology is here, but it will take considerable political will to overcome the subsidies, market barriers, and change required to meet all needs with WWS.

In several ways, the transition will be easier in the United States. We already have more vehicles than people with drivers license, in contrast to the explosion of middle class drivers in Asia now buying their first car.

In the United States we have achieved strong growth of wind and solar. Now we are successfully deploying smart grids and electric cars. WWS does not require technology breakthroughs, yet dramatic innovation is likely in the next two decades in battery technology, solar efficiency, and urban mobility that requires fewer car miles.

Jacobson and Delucchi only assume reasonable progress in energy efficiency. New lighting technology, such as LED, can cut 80 percent of lighting’s 27 percent of total electricity demand. Making electricity cheap during vehicle charging hours and more expensive during peak hours will make a huge difference. In the United States, 80 percent WWS is achievable in the next two or three decades. 100 percent is like putting a man on the moon – it looked impossible until we did it.

Who Sells Fuel Cells By The Three Score?

First, let me say that I like fuel cells a lot.  I spent a considerable amount of time following the space in the early 2000’s.  Many colleagues I know and respect are involved in the fuel cell arena.  It’s an electricity generation technology that is uncommonly elegant and promising.

But “promising” is one of the most maddening words to those of us with commercial urgency.  “Promising” is nice, but “successful” is much better.  And, success in the marketplace is dictated by overall cost-effectiveness to a customer:  reliability, performance, maintenance, usability, flexibility, and — most importantly — price.

For certain niches, fuel cells offer distinctive advantages that lead to economic superiority over alternatives.  The problem for the fuel cell industry has been that, to date, these niches generally have been very small, with correspondingly low volumes.  Thus, most fuel cell companies do not generate sizable revenues, and since the cost of fuel cell development programs is typically very high, most fuel cell companies remain unprofitable.

This phenomenon is profiled well in “Year-End Reflections on the Fuel Cell Industry in 2010”, written a few months ago by Eric Wesoff on Greentech Media.  On the whole, it’s not a pretty picture.  As a result, the fuel cell sector — the subject of significant buzz in the early 2000’s in the wake of lucrative IPOs — is now somewhat on the ropes in a defensive posture. 

At last month’s Ohio Fuel Cell Symposium convened annually by the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition, Ruth Cox of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association noted that Federal funding of fuel cell R&D programs is under attack.  In the wake of this, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) — South Carolina being another state with considerable fuel cell activity — sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging the Department of Energy to maintain support for fuel cell development efforts.

At the recent Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, Reidar Langmo of the cleantech venture capital firm Novus Energy Partners explicitly identified fuel cell technologies as off-limits for investment consideration.  After funding a number of companies a decade ago, only to see their valuations wither away due to recurrent shortfalls in technical progress and commercial sales, most venture capitalists are strongly averse to fuel cells these days.

In a recent private conversation, an executive at one of the major automotive manufacturers admitted that they had pretty much ceased its work on fuel cells, focusing now instead on vehicle electrification.  With some exceptions, such as United Technologies (NYSE: UTX) or Rolls-Royce (LSE: RR), I think most big corporations have significantly reduced or entirely shut down their fuel cell initiatives.

The challenge for fuel cell technologies is achieving economies of scale, which goes hand-in-hand with mass production, which goes hand-in-hand with large markets enabling standardization and consequent low-cost supply chains and manufacturing processes.  Unfortunately, the various niches that fuel cells have begun to penetrate don’t offer that kind of scale-up potential, which means that fuel cells are by-and-large still in the “valley-of-death” phase of technology innovation, as originally coined by Geoffrey Moore in his seminal Crossing the Chasm.

Bloom Energy has made a lot of press by selling 200 of its fuel cell systems to various customers, but for fuel cell economics to make a serious move down the cost curve eanbling the technology to really fulfill on its promise in the real-world, order volumes will need to be at least one and preferably two orders of magnitude greater.

This doesn’t mean all hope is lost for fuel cells in ever becoming the revolutionary disruptive technology for the electric power sector that has long been touted.  It could simply mean that the stories of success-in-the-wings are off the radar screens of most observers. 

For instance, Technology Management Inc. (TMI) has quietly been working with Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) to commercialize a solid oxide fuel cell system for small-scale distributed generation using a wide-variety of fuels with a standard product package applicable for large global markets.  TMI is often overlooked among the universe of fuel cell companies, in large part because it’s been operating primarily in stealth mode.  A lot of steps remain on the path to profitability, but if TMI can navigate them successfully, it is the kind of venture that can not only hit it big, but play a key role in redeeming the place of fuel cells in the hearts of investors.

Only time will tell.  Alas, for many companies in the fuel cell arena, time is a luxury that is expensive.  The clock is ticking and the dollars are dwindling.  There are three sources of cash for any company — grants, investments (equity or debt), or revenues — and with the spigots tightening for the first two, the third source becomes all the more important.

Shell uses Hydrogen Pipeline for Fuel Cell Cars from Toyota, Honda and Mercedes

Shell Daimler CaFCP Shell uses Hydrogen Pipeline for Fuel Cell Cars from Toyota, Honda and Mercedes

Shell Opens Third Hydrogen Station in Southern California

Shell announced the opening of a new demonstration hydrogen station in Torrance, California, the first in the US to have hydrogen delivered to the site directly from an existing underground pipeline. Excess hydrogen is typically available on the hydrogen pipelines used by oil refiners. Hydrogen is used to provide cleaner gasoline and diesel. Although hydrogen is most often reformed from natural gas, it is also available from the electrolysis of water wastewater treatment byproduct, and chemical plant byproduct.

Southern California has been the center for test deployment of hydrogen fuel cell cars. The West Coast has been the area of greatest use of hydrogen fuel cell buses, including the 20 hydrogen buses in Whistler, Canada that transported about 100,000 visitors during the last Winter Olympics.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars provide a way to give an electric car a range of up to 400 miles with hydrogen PEM fuel cells that supply added electricity to an electric drive system. GM successfully piloted 100 Equinox fuel cell vehicles during its Project Driveway. Toyota is planning to test 100 new fuel cell SUVs as it prepares for 2015 commercialization. Toyota FCHV Test Drive. 200 of the new Mercedes-Benz B-Call F-CELL are being put into use. Several automakers are targeting 2015 for the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles.

50,000 Commercial Hydrogen Cars by 2017 from Toyota, Honda, GM, Mercedes

Between 2008 and 2010, the fuel cell industry experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27%  according to the new Fuel Cells Annual Report 2011 from Pike Research. The California Fuel Cell Partnership forecasts over 50,000 hydrogen vehicles on California roads by 2017.

“Shell is pleased to be an active participant in the development of hydrogen-fuelled transportation, one of a small number of options to reduce road transport emissions in the longer-term,” said Julian Evison, General Manager of Operations for Shell Alternative Energies.  “Demonstration hydrogen filling stations allow us to evaluate a range of different technologies and learn valuable lessons about costs, consumer behavior, how to safely store hydrogen at different pressures and how to dispense it efficiently to different vehicles.’’

Initially, Shell expects 10 to 12 drivers to fill their tanks each day at the Torrance station’s two pumps, which provide hydrogen at both 350 bar (5,000 psi) and 700 bar (10,000 psi) pressure. Current fueling capacity is 48 kg. of hydrogen per day, equivalent to dispensing 48 gallons of gasoline. To exceed 200 mile range, most new fuel cell cars require 10,000 psi. Honda is the sole achiever of long-range at 5,000 psi with the Honda FCX Clarity. Only a handful of California stations support the high pressure fueling.

The close proximity of the hydrogen pipeline to TMS campus led Toyota to think beyond vehicles to consider additional ways to use hydrogen. In 2010, Toyota partnered with Ballard Power Systems to install a one-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell generator to offset peak electricity demand on campus. The fuel cell generator will be fed directly from the hydrogen pipeline through an existing tap on the TMS property. Pipeline hydrogen used on campus will be offset with the purchase of landfill generated renewable bio-gas.

The stand-alone station in Torrance offers only hydrogen and will be open 24 hours a day. Local fuel cell vehicle drivers will be trained to use the dispensers using personal access codes. The station is located on land provided by Toyota at the perimeter of its US headquarters.

Shell Delivers Hydrogen 24×7

“Vehicle demonstration  programs  and  demonstration  stations  like  the Torrance  station  are  a  critical  next  step in preparing the market for advanced  technology  vehicles,”  said Chris Hostetter, Toyota GVP of Product and Strategic Planning. This is the third demonstration station Shell has developed in the region. Shell opened the first integrated gasoline/hydrogen station in California in 2008 (in West L.A.) and a smaller sister station in Culver City in 2009. Shell is planning on building a hydrogen refueling site at one of its gas stations in Newport Beach later this year.

The station has been anticipated for years due to the potential of pipelined hydrogen to be less expensive than gasoline. It is now open after years of delay thanks to support from Toyota and Shell, who were not initial project partners. The much touted California Hydrogen Highway was never funded.

In addition to Shell Hydrogen and Toyota, project partners for the Torrance hydrogen demo station include Air Products, the US Department of Energy and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Cleantech Investing: A View From 21

Ordinarily, I let my fellow blogging colleague Neal Dikeman of Jane Capital take the lead in covering cleantech IPOs and publicly-traded stocks. 

However, I recently received the May 2011 newsletter from 21Ventures, and found the commentary by David Anthony on cleantech public equities an interesting complement to Neal’s most current take — sufficiently so to expound upon it herein.

According to David, “by the end of Q1 2011, we will have seen the bottom of cleantech investing and valuations”, with three key subpoints:

1.  “Oil seems stuck above $100/barrel.”

2.  “Nuclear energy may be too ‘radioactive’ as a source for baseload grid power.”

3.  “Renewables will fill the void left by dwindling nuclear capacity.”

It’s a nice newsletter, well worth reading, though I think David’s analysis is a bit too sanguine.  Oil prices will remain volatile, and each time they go down somewhat, the rank-and-file will think (again) that our energy crisis has passed, thus reducing the pressure for change or action in moving towards cleantech.  David overlooks the growing sense of many that natural gas from shale will represent the answer to most if not all of our future energy supply challenges for years to come, thereby mitigating the need for renewables and/or energy efficiency.  And, David neglects to discuss the future role of coal, which I believe will hang on for a long time to come, and whose benefactors will rain on the parade of cleantech as much as possible whenever possible to elevate coal’s relative position in the energy scene. 

All of these factors will mean that cleantech investing will still experience more than its fair share of bumps along the road.  It will be a tough and choppy market to navigate, and I don’t think the public markets lend themselves well to companies unless and until they have very sizable and stable earnings — which most purely cleantech firms (including publicly-traded ones) do NOT have.  Thus, cleantech is an industry that, for awhile, will mainly be capitalized through private equity and venture capital markets, with liquidity events through sales to major corporate acquirers that have sufficient scale to float well on public markets, rather than IPOs for the most part.

But, I do share David’s closing summation:  “We have always believed that dwindling low-cost fossil fuel reserves, climate change, growing middle classes in emerging markets, and urbanization will converge to create some of the best investment opportunities in our lifetime.”  I think Neal would share this conclusion too.


Food, food wars, and ag-tech are a growing area of interest in cleantech.  So I’m on a bunch of ag and food related mailing lists. But when I first read the one email I got yesterday – texted post below – I thought I was reading a really bad version of The Onion.



What the hell are people doing on someone’s farm with their cameras that convinces an ag company to spend lobbying dollars getting an ag-gag bill passed?

Has no one heard of trespassing?  I have to say, if random people started stopping and wandering across my land without asking snapping pictures, I’d be mildly annoyed.  And if they then were taking pictures so they could use them to cause me some sort of economic losses.  Damn I’d be calling the police and using those pictures as evidence of the trespassing.

1) Doesn’t trespassing already cover most of this?

2) How bad have you been ticking people off that they want laws passed for photographs?

3) Why are you emailing me this crap from the SLOW FOOD USA list? I barely tolerate your normal emails.

4) Are you really emailing me asking me to go trespass?

5) Do you not think small farmers and ranchers would be as ticked about you trespassing just as much as large ones?


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Dear Supporter,

Last week 22,000 people told legislators that taking photos of farms should not be a crime. Since then, one of these “ag-gag” bills failed in Florida. But Iowa votes today, and Minnesota isn’t far behind.

Now is a critical time to voice our opposition to the legislators in those states.

Sign our petition and stand up for transparency and the right to take pictures of farms. »

You can read more about it below.

Imagine if taking photos of farms were illegal — and the photographer was subject to fines and possibly jail time. If Big Ag got its way, that’s exactly what would happen. Right now they’re pushing legislators in Minnesota, Florida, and Iowa to criminalize taking photos or videos of their facilities.[1]

I guess industrial agriculture has something to hide. Maybe it’s the way factory farms mistreat workers, animals, and the environment.

The clock is ticking — Iowa’s legislation could pass an important hurdle as soon as next week. If we can raise a big enough stink, we can stop this state-based legislation from spreading nationwide.

Sign our petition and stand up for transparency and the right to take pictures of farms. »

But that’s not all. We don’t just want to stop Big Ag’s attempt to restrict consumers’ right to know — we also want to use this as an opportunity to lift up the good, clean and fair farmers who like consumers to come and see exactly how their food is produced.

So join the farmarazzi! In the next few days we’ll be calling on you for help. Plan a visit to a nearby farm (or just step outside, farmers) because we’ll be holding a contest for the best farm photos, and sending a flipbook of the winning photos to the legislators in question. Can’t wait to get started? Share your favorite farm photos by uploading and posting them on our Facebook wall here:

Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA

Young Cleantech IPOs = Venture Paradise Found?

It struck me the other day that I may have been looking at the recent spate of cleantech IPOs backwards.  Perhaps instead of lamenting the dearth of profitable healthy companies going public on major exchanges  in our sector, what we should be considering is whether early and still risky IPOs mean cleantech venture capitalists are finally finding a capital path and exit model that works, akin to the IT and biotech venture models that delivered such terrific returns up until the internet crash.  And the question then is, can these IPOs continue, and perform and validate the broad strategy that our tech venture capital sector has been following in cleantech?

Our American institutional venture capital sector largely missed the cleantech AIM boom in Europe.  Missed the Carbon trading boom in Europe and Asia.  Missed the Chinese solar manufacturing boom.  And missed the corn ethanol boom in the US, the wind project developer boom in the US and Europe, and the sugar cane ethanol boom in Brazil.  Oh, and missed the shale gas boom in the US.  Each of which were tens to hundred billion + dollar booms. All the money in those sectors was made largely by investors and players outside the traditional venture arena – though some exceptions in each prove the rule.

Instead the American venture capital and tech sector eschewed what proved to be a huge number of highly profitable investment areas in cleantech as “not venturable bets”, and has poured c. $15 -$20 billion + into thin film /advanced solar, cellulosic biofuels, solar finance, smart grid, automotive/energy storage technology.  One cynical argument is that in a hubristic attempt to avoid the “low tech”, policy driven and capital intensive sectors in cleantech, our venture sector overreached into technology risk, and then once they found the policy risk and capital intensity waiting for them on the other side busily moving the bar, they started clamoring for M&A, IPOs, and government funding and policies to bail them out. In any case, the cleantech deals are hurting for a lot more cash and likely need early IPOs to make the sector viable long term, but the first generation of cleantech VCs have learned lots of lessons.

BUT, are we now on the cusp of a model capable of anchoring returns for these last few years of the 2nd and 3rd waves of cleantech venture capital investment anyway –  a model perhaps described as 1) raise larger funds, 2) take more concentration early in technology risk curves, 3) stack on capital fast 4) take heavy leverage with government dollars, 5) IPO early leaving money on the table in terms of tech boom style multiples, but leaving a lot of technology and scale up risk for the public markets.  Time will tell.

Critical to this model would be 1) the aftermarket performance of the the first wave of these IPOs, and 2) willingness of policy makers to continue to fund.  So a quick look at the Big 4 of US venture backed cleantech IPOs to date hopefully tells us something.  Excluding for this analysis earlier US cleantech powerhouse deals SunPower and First Solar, which came up a different financing paths and well before the policy and FIT booms that drove most of the first generation of solar profits.

A123 – Went IPO on the back of having neat batteries for EVs.  Still losing money.

Amyris –  Not sure what it went IPO on.  Still losing money.

Codexis – Went IPO on the back of a strong R&D partnership and contract with Shell.  Still losing money.

Tesla – Went IPO without the product it needs to breakeven built on the back of DOE money and car sex appeal. Still losing money.






Aftermarket performance, key to the actual returns of the LPs who usually aren’t out at the IPO and even more critical to willingness of the public markets to underwrite more deals, hasn’t been awful.  Three of the four doubled from the IPO price before peaking and giving back one to three quarters of value from their peak.  Two of them are still above listing, mean 90 day post IPO performance is a positive 27%, only one struggled to see a strong pop, and the mean performance to date since IPO price is+9%.

Of course, the largest, most mature, and earliest bellwhether, A123, has been on a long slow slide.  Meaning overall dollar weighted average performance would be a -6%.  And 90 day performance is only 3% with performance to date a -8% if calculated on the 1st day close not the IPO price, meaning it may be more underwriters managing issuance price than true aftermarket performance.  If benchmarked against the S&P 500, foreign cleantech IPOs and other non cleantech US IPOs it might not look so good.  But time will tell.

Will these first Big 4 hold out for solid returns, or slide like A123?  What portion of their businesses will get built and eventually become profitable?  Will they be able to raise more capital?  Will the next crop of rumored and planned cleantech venture backed IPO candidates from BrightSource to KiOR to Silver Spring to Opower to Bloom Energy make it through?  How much cash will they need before they do/what kinds of aggregate cash on cash returns multiples will we see, and will they too hold up when the public markets are asked to support billions of capital into dozens of these deals needed to anchor the cleantech venture sector?

Cleantech Parasites

It dawned on me today, that after buying green ecommerce store 8 months ago, we put up links to the site on, and included special coupons for all our Cleantech Blog readers and members in the monthly emailings.  Here I thought people who were making a living off cleantech might *gasp* care about walking the walk and might appreciate it.

I think saw a total of 3 coupon downloads out of that, and two were spam.  Worse, I’ve gotten more than that many personal comments asking why I’d clutter up the cleantech site with blog columns about green products.  On Saturdays no less, when the weekend traffic falls off 75%.  For the record we pulled those columns a few months ago

Fine save your money or buy somewhere else, but that rate is so abysmally low, it made me wonder if the entire of my audience is completely hypocritic.  And yes, it’s the web.  And yes, I DO pay attention.   I can see what pages y’all click on, and where you comment, I moderate every single one. And several times a week I read every Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIN comment, and systematically delete and block anyone I find that spams, no appeals.  When I ignore you, it’s because you’re being annoying, I mean err, “that comment does not meet our unpublished comment policy or is not conducive to the health of the and community”.

So I’m pretty sure this group likes to read and talk and b*%&h about cleantech and a greener better world.  But do you actually care?


Do you actually think about cleantech, green products, and energy or water use when you’re not at work?

How many of you actually have a solar system?

How many of your light bulbs are now CFLs or LEDs?

How many have done an energy audit?

What green/ecofriendly versions of a product have you actually bought?

Do you know what makes that product green?

Do you actually recycle/compost?  Do you do the minimum required, or make an extra effort? At your home?  At your office?  Do you even know?

Do you have a clue what your energy bill is?  How many kW hours you use per square foot?  How that compares to the average? – For the record, when I asked a number of people that question at the last Cleantech Forum, I got a bunch of very polite laughs.


Or, and please excuse the language, are you just a cleantech parasite sucking off the teat of the government subsidies in cleantech?  Warren Buffett literally eats the food from the restaurants he owns, right?  Do you even bother to turn your lights off? 😉  What’s the phrase?  Oh yeah, “the choice is yours”.

Why you need to pay attention to bio natural gas

At the bustling intersection of renewable energy mandates, carbon emissions regulation, economic growth and legacy infrastructure lies untapped potential for producers of bio natural gas (BNG).

It’s new. It’s important. It’s certainly not to be confused with plain biogas. And particularly if you work or have invested in solar, wind or energy storage, you need to know about it.

BNG is known by other names—like bioSNG, renewable natural gas and biomethane—but as a biologically-created compound chemically similar to commercial fossil-based natural gas, it’s poised to make an impact on the natural gas marketplace and as a new entrant in the world of next generation advanced biofuels.

By BNG we mean a refined biomethane, typically obtained today from sources like landfills and dairy waste in a raw form via anaerobic digestion, and, in very limited quantities today, upgraded to a quality similar to its analogous fossil natural gas. In the near future, a small cadre of emerging vendors promise large quantities of pipeline-injectable BNG using thermal gasification from agricultural and food processing waste, forestry by-products, source-separated organic municipal solid waste and biosolids from wastewater treatment facilities.

By our definition, BNG must be of a high enough quality to be:

  • Combusted in any system that would use fossil fuel natural gas, including utility-scale power plants
  • Injectable into natural gas pipelines for transportation, and
  • Compressible in LNG/CNG forms for transportation fuels

BNG is not synonymous with raw synthetic gas, or syngas. Syngas is combustible and often used as a fuel source or as a process intermediary, albeit with a lower energy concentration than natural gas or BNG, but syngas does not meet the three bulleted criteria above.

As a drop-in replacement for natural gas, the biggest impact for BNG could be on its green energy brethren—traditional intermittent renewables like wind and solar. As the installed base of intermittent renewables increases, BNG could find itself playing an intermittency smoothing role, with “green” dispatchable resources like NGCC/IGCC turbines powered by BNG forestalling the need for other renewable storage. If solar and wind are peaky today, they could be made baseload, and still 100% renewable, by combusting BNG in utilities’ existing natural gas plants.

For that matter, with wide-scale BNG, would utilities even need solar and wind? An analysis by Kachan & Co. in conjunction with three North American gas utilities suggests BNG could emerge as the lowest cost renewable power in the future, once available at scale. Utilities might be able to avoid putting steel in the ground for capital-intensive solar or wind farms if they could simply source fungible, renewable gas from their exact same pipeline today and meet or exceed clean energy standards—even if the gas costs a premium over today’s fossil-based natural gas. That’s disruptive.

Technology Capacity Factor Input fuel costs ($/MWh) O&M costs ($/MWh) Cost of Capital ($/MWh) Unlevelized cost
of production ($/MWh)
NGCC (BNG) 85% $65.27 $2.83 $10.13 $78.23
NGCC (Fossil NG) 85% $44.23 $2.83 $10.13 $57.20
Coal Plant 85% $15.79 $8.91 $28.33 $53.03
NGCC w/CCS 85% $51.43 $5.13 $21.43 $77.99
Coal w/CCS 85% $23.36 $15.39 $52.95 $91.70
Biomass to Power 90% $33.56 $15.85 $58.54 $97.45
Biomass Co-firing 85% $28.64 $19.10 $66.50 $103.74
Wind 35% $ – $13.25 $87.90 $101.15
Solar Trough 22% $ – $24.35 $267.75 $292.10
Solar PV 25% $ – $12.10 $194.60 $210.70
Table 8 from The Bio Natural Gas Opportunity by Kachan & Co. Electricity generation cost comparison by fuel/genset type. Source: Vendors, US DoE, EPRI, California Energy Commission, Kachan analysis. See Appendix 2 of the report for detailed assumptions behind this table.


We had a chance to look at leading BNG companies for a report on the topic. Some of these companies are still running under the radar and don’t yet have web sites. If BNG produced by vendors profiled in this report and elsewhere can reach scalability and indeed leverage the global natural gas infrastructure, BNG could become one of the most valuable renewable fuels for electric power generation and other applications.

While carbon emissions policies remain in flux given the world economic situation as of this writing, BNG could also represent potentially massive carbon savings for end-users of natural gas, providing a significant commercial opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and potential strategic partners, including natural gas suppliers and utilities.

Additionally, an opportunity exists for BNG to serve as a drop-in biofuel that can leverage new and existing natural gas and power generation infrastructure, while using renewable biomass feedstocks with little destructive exploration that satisfies existing renewable energy mandates and carbon emissions rules.

Other findings of our research include:

  • Policy support expected – Existing renewable energy mandates in the US and elsewhere already recognize biogas as an acceptable fuel source. A new Clean Energy Standard from Washington (a new US national RPS) could create an energy portfolio mix cementing natural gas as a bridge fuel. These could create a template for other countries and an incentive infrastructure for BNG.
  • Taking pressure off transmission – While coal-fired power plants will need to be modernized in most developed countries, electricity transmission lines are more problematic. Building new electrical transmission lines is litigious, costly and slow. Producing power from BNG transmitted through the existing natural gas grid would lessen the pressure to build new power transmission to satisfy renewable energy mandates.
  • Benefitting from natural gas’ growth… Both developed and developing nations are adding new gas-fired generation capacity quickly, and seeing growth in natural gas vehicles in response to rising oil and gasoline prices, and, as a result, will be turning towards natural gas more frequently.
  • … that’s not expected to slow anytime soon – Increasing exploitation of non-conventional shale gas fields onshore means that more capacity and more gas transmission infrastructure will come online in more diverse locales.
  • Inside the fossil fuel timeline – Emerging BNG technologies such as biomass gasification could still be a decade away in scale, but a new offshore gas field discovered today also takes 10-13 years to bring online, suggesting BNG has a market window.
  • New partners arise – In addition to traditional fossil fuel providers, BNG technology should incentivize a whole new cohort of “raw fuel” producers, especially in the forestry sector—hard hit by the economic downturn that dried up demand for its main products of lumber and paper, it could find new vigor as a producer of biomass fuel.

With BNG technologies still in their early stages and energy prices ramping up from increasing demand and political turmoil, there are many twists and turns ahead for this segment of the green energy market, but its positioning could be dead-center of the energy world’s sweet spot: a fungible, storable and renewable fuel that moves and burns like natural gas.

Kachan & Co.’s new report, The Bio Natural Gas Opportunity, equips the reader to better understand the potential market impact of BNG, identifies benefits and market barriers, and makes recommendations for removing these barriers and seizing opportunities in this emerging technology.

Originally published here. Reproduced by permission.


Tesla’s Progress with a 300-Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla S Sedan Tesla’s Progress with Model S and 300 Mile Electric Car Range

Tesla recent quarterly financial results show progress on several fronts. Over 1,650 customers are now driving the Tesla Roadster, the impressive electric car with a 240-mile range per charge. Customers have driven these 100-percent electric cars more than 11 million miles. Tesla will soon have over 2,000 customers who have paid over $100,000 for their Roadster.

The Model S Sedan is on track for completion and customer deliveries mid-2012. A much bigger market is expected for this premium sedan that starts at $57,400 and has an optional battery pack with that gives the car a 300-mile range. When Tesla begins delivery of the Model S, over 100,000 electric car customers will be driving their Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and other electric sedan competitors. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 7 passenger capacity, switchable battery, and options to triple the electric range of competitors. A new generation of lithium batteries is at the heart of the vehicles range of 160 miles with optional packs that provide 230 and 300 miles of range per electric charge. 4,600 customers have already placed reservations for the Model S with a starting price of $57,400.

CEO Elon Musk stated, “Our Model S alpha build proceeded as scheduled during the quarter. In fact, our engineering and manufacturing teams have now completed the construction of all of our Model S alpha vehicles, having finished the final alpha in April. These vehicles are successfully undergoing the planned cold weather brakes testing, ride and handling evaluation, safety validation, electrical integration, and noise, vibration and harshness evaluation,” continued Musk. “As has been our plan, we will continue testing this quarter with a particular focus on durability and systems integration as we prepare for our beta build later this year. Overall, we remain on track for first customer deliveries of the Model S in mid-2012.”

Tesla Progress with Toyota RAV4 EV and Daimler Electric Cars

Tesla is also making significant progress as a battery and electric drive system provider. Tesla delivered a record number of production battery packs and chargers for both Daimler’s Smart fortwo and A-Class vehicles for the fourth quarter in a row. Daimler increased its total orders for the Smart fortwo electric drive components from 1,800 to 2,100 sets. All of these will be delivered in 2011. Daimler owns 5 percent of Tesla.

Tesla successfully completed the initial milestones for the development of the powertrain system for the Toyota RAV4 EV and remains on schedule for the completion of the development portion of the program. The powertrain system includes a battery, power electronics components, motor, gearbox and associated proprietary software. Toyota owns 2 percent of Tesla stock. Toyota RAV4 EV Test Drive

Meeting product deadlines will depend on staying on-track in opening its new factory in Fremont, California – The Tesla Factory. Intensive site preparations are underway at each of the stamping, plastics, and paint shops as the facility is being prepared for the upcoming Model S beta build. Equipment testing in carefully controlled manual modes of operation has begun in both stamping and plastics shops, with robots and other automation equipment scheduled for installation later this year. Installation of the hydraulic press line remains on schedule for manual operation in the second quarter.

Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced its preliminary unaudited financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2011. Revenues for the first quarter of 2011 were $49.0 million, a 35% increase from the $36.3 million reported in the prior quarter. Gross margin improved to 37%, up from 31% for the prior quarter. Net loss for the quarter was $48.9 million as compared to $51.4 million in the prior quarter on a GAAP basis.

Like its Roadster, Tesla has been growing the company at zero to 60 in four seconds. Revenues are strong, but profitability is not in sight as the company invests for high growth and big plans for the Model S and Model X.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Last week, I was made aware of an extraordinary essay published by GMO called “Time to Wake Up:  Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever” written recently by Jeremy Grantham, the legendary investment strategist.

I don’t use the word “extraordinary” lightly.  The essay is immense in its historical sweep, extensive in its analysis, eye-opening in its implications.

To Grantham, the long era of economic growth we have enjoyed commonly known as the Industrial Age is doomed by a declining supply of resources — especially, unreplenishable fossil fuels, but other metals as well — inevitably limited by a finite planet, in the face of intense competition and the unsustainability of never-ending exponential growth.  The human race will have to move on, somehow, into a different era.

When I sent this essay to some colleagues, suggesting that they would find the paper thought-provoking, one responded very critically, noting that Malthus in the late 18th Century and many others since (see, for instance, 1972’s The Limits of Growth) have been wrong in predicting the imminent collapse of human progress.  I replied that Grantham in fact invokes Malthus, goes into some detail on why his forecast was incorrect at that time, and makes a quite compelling case of why this time could (emphasis, could) be different.  My colleague then went off on a rant, to the effect of “We optimists assume we’ll find answers to our challenges and we usually do, while you pessimists see major problems ahead and want all of us to incur extreme costs and inconveniences to conform to your apocalyptic views and address your fears — which are usually wrong.”

Well, I don’t see it so pessimistically.  Grantham is saying we may well have daunting challenges in front of us — but I personally like challenges.  Grantham is also saying that these are simply the fundamentals of supply and demand, and investors can make wiser bets taking these factors into account — and I personally am allocating my capital and my time with the aim of making gains under some variation of the kind of future environment that Grantham describes. 

These are huge opportunities for those of us in the cleantech community.  Whatever the outcome, I’m not going to be miserable along the way.

One of the rubicons to be crossed in a lifetime is to accept finitude without falling into gloom.  As Grantham notes, we Americans are pretty poor in coming to grips with tough issues.  But, there’s just no way around it.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, purely based on physical laws, the universe is in a perpetual and irreversible state of decay.  As John Maynard Keynes famously said, “In the long-run, we’re all dead.”  With a little more verve, I prefer to roll with R.E.M.“It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

Volt IIHS Front Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings

The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf earn the highest safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the first-ever U.S. crash test evaluations of plug-in electric cars. The milestone demonstrates that automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The Volt and Leaf earn the top rating of good for front, side, rear, and rollover crash protection. With standard electronic stability control, they qualify as winners of Top Safety Pick, the Institute’s award for state-of-the-art crash protection. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

The addition of the 2 electric cars brings to 80 the number of award winners so far for 2011, including 7 hybrid models. That lifts General Motors’ current model tally to 12 and Nissan’s to 3.

“What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s chief administrative officer.

The dual-power Volt and all-electric Leaf not only surpass benchmarks for protecting occupants in crashes but also exceed current fuel efficiency andLEAF IIHS Side Test Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF Electric Cars Earn Highest Safety Ratings emissions standards. Both models are brand new for 2011. The Volt is a plug-in battery/gasoline hybrid that can run in electric-only mode with a range of about 35 miles on a single charge. A gasoline engine kicks in to power the electric motor when the battery is spent. The Leaf runs on battery power alone and has an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated average range of about 73 miles on a single charge

“The way an electric or hybrid model earns top crash test ratings is the same way any other car does,” Nolan says. “Its structure must manage crash damage so the occupant compartment stays intact and the safety belts and airbags keep people from hitting hard surfaces in and out of the vehicle.”

The Volt and Leaf are the first mainstream electric cars the Institute has tested. Last year engineers put 2 low-speed electric vehicles through side barrier tests for research purposes. Results for the GEM e2 and Wheego Whip were starkly different from results for the Volt and Leaf. Crash test dummies in the GEM and Wheego recorded data suggesting severe or fatal injuries to real drivers. The GEM and Whip belong to a class of golf cart-like vehicles that aren’t required to meet the same federal safety standards as passenger vehicles. Although growing in popularity, these tiny electrics aren’t designed to mix with regular traffic.

“Eco-minded drivers keen on switching to electric would do well to buy a Leaf or Volt for highway driving instead of a low-speed vehicle if they’re at all concerned about being protected in a crash,” Nolan said about the electric cars.

Small but safe: The Volt and Leaf are classified as small cars, with their overall length, width, and passenger capacity in line with their peers. But their hefty battery packs put their curb weights closer to midsize and larger cars. The Leaf weighs about 3,370 pounds and the Volt about 3,760 pounds. This compares to about 3,200 pounds for Nissan’s Altima, a midsize car, and about 3,580 pounds for Chevrolet’s Impala, a large family car. Larger, heavier vehicles generally do a better job of protecting people in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones because both size and weight influence crashworthiness.

For years the debate over fuel economy has been about making cars smaller and lighter, changes that could put people at greater risk of dying or being injured in crashes. The Institute long has maintained that advanced technology is key to improving fuel efficiency without downgrading safety.

“The Leaf and Volt’s extra mass gives them a safety advantage over other small cars,” Nolan says. “These electric models are a win-win for fuel economy and safety.”

About the award: The IIHS awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models with good ratings for front and side protection and acceptable for rear protection. The bar was raised the next year by requiring a good rear rating and electronic stability control as standard or optional equipment. Last year, the Institute added a requirement that all qualifiers earn a good rating in a roof strength test to assess rollover crash protection. The ratings now cover the 4 most common kinds of injury crashes.

Electric Car Reports

What If…?

…someone invents an economically-competitive energy storage technology that could be deployed at any electricity substation at megawatt-hour scale?

…the power grid were brought up to 21st Century standards to match the true power quality needs of our increasingly digital society?

…high-speed rail was not the exclusive province of Europe and Asia?

…customers had real choice about electricity supplies, via ubiquitously cost-effective on-site generation options?

…cities and industries pursued viable cogeneration options with real vigor, and companies like Echogen revolutionize the capture of waste heat?

…the use of fracking was reliably paired with other technologies and solid oversight to assure that local water quality is not harmed when shale gas is produced?

…recovering coal and tar sands was undertaken only via mining approaches that don’t leave huge gouges in the earth’s crust?

…all companies involved in the mining and burning of coal would honestly acknowledge and deal responsibly with the environmental challenges associated with coal?

carbon sequestration technologies are more than just a pipe dream and can be widely applied with confidence that no leakage will occur?

…environmentally-responsible technologies were commercialized to produce oil from shale in the Piceance Basin, making the U.S. self-sufficient for years to come?

Joule is really onto something and can produce liquid fuels for transportation directly from the sun?

…fuel cells expand beyond niche markets via continuing improvements in technology and economics to penetrate mass-market applications?

nuclear fusion could ever become viable as a technology for generating electricity?

…new technologies for the production and use of energy in a more environmentally-sustainable matter were responsible for a major share of new jobs and economic growth in the U.S.?

…we stopped sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas every year to fight both sides of the war on terrorism?

…we stopped subsidizing mature and profitable forms of energy?

…we determined that climate change was simply too big of a risk to keep ignoring and decided to tackle the issue out of concern for the future?

…Americans were willing to pay at least a little bit more for energy to help defray the costs of pursuing much — and achieving at least some — of the above?

…we later found out that we didn’t spend that much more money and also found ourselves living on a healthier planet and in a more fiscally-solvent country with a viable industrial future?

…certain fossil fuel and other corporate interests would cease misinforming the public on many economic and environmental issues related to energy consumption?

…Democrats and Republicans could come together and do what’s best for the country rather than what’s best to strengthen or preserve their party’s political power?

…more Americans cared about the above than who wins American Idol, Survivor or Dancing With the Stars?