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Shale gas drives oil / gas spread to a new record

On January 13, 1994 the ratio(*) of the price of oil to the price of natural gas was 1.14.   Today it hit a record high over this period of 5.26.   Gas traded at $3.28 today, just 21% of the $15.38 / mmBtu it traded for on December 13, 2005.   Shale gas is providing gas in volume at moderate cost driving this record high price disparity.

IMO, the impact of moderately priced gas hasn’t been factored into energy policy to any great extent.   Nor has the balance of the energy market had time to react.  And the media hasn’t realized this is happening.

But there should be many winners – combined cycle generation, CNG vehicles, chemical processing that uses gas, and gas consumers.  Why isn’t there a stamped into new fleet conversions to CNG….it’s way cheaper than gasoline?

The will also be disruption, – coal, climate change strategies, and renewable generation will be impacted.   Why sequester carbon when you can replace a coal plant with a super efficient, super clean, combined cycle plant and emit 50% less CO2?

My prediction for 2012 – electric generation clean tech feels some competitive heat.

(*) The energy price ratio is the price of crude on a $/mmBtu basis divided by the price of natural gas on a $/mmBtu.  The crude prices used are the front month NYMEX contract for WTI crude at Cushing Oklahoma.  The $ per barrel price is converted to $/mmBtu using 5.8 mmBtu / bbl.   The gas price used is the front month NYMEX contract for natural gas at Henry Hub Louisiana.

Originally posted here

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.

Meet the New Coal, Same as the Old Coal

by Richard T. Stuebi
 
One passage from the article stands out: “The expansion, the industry’s largest in two decades, represents an acknowledgement that highly touted ‘clean coal’ technology is still a long ways from becoming reality and underscores a renewed confidence among utilities that proposals to regulate carbon emissions will fail.”
Which, as we all know, they have.   And, the consensus is that carbon-limiting regulations will not be forthcoming in the U.S. for some time to come.
I posted a link to this article on my Facebook page, noting that investment decisions in new coal plants are typically a 50-year commitment, thereby further locking the U.S. into a carbon-intensive future for a long time to come.
This generated a few reactions from some friends. One, who works at a major U.S. utility, doubted some of the facts in the article. But, I don’t think he disputed the key messages.
Another, who works at another major utility, said it was far easier to be a critic as a spectator than as a company who is responsible for keeping the lights on. Fair enough.
I understand and respect many of the strategic and operating pressures facing electric utilities.  Many of these companies are just doing the best that they can while playing by the existing rules of the game — broken though they may be.
What I do find appalling is the lack of national will to change the rules of the game in such a way that it provides a clear framework for energy companies to invest in something other than mid-20th Century coal-burning technologies. 
It seems especially absurd to invest in new coal powerplants based on conventional technologies when so many existing coal powerplants of a pretty-darn-similar technological base are at risk of being retired in the coming years:  a study released last week by the Brattle Group indicates that U.S. utilities might shut down 50,000 megawatts of aging coal powerplants rather than invest in equipment upgrades to meet tightening EPA regulations.
And, I do criticize those companies who participate in the undermining of national will to take serious action to reduce carbon emissions, at the peril of our planet and of future generations. No doubt, some of those companies are those that are building coal powerplants without carbon capture and sequestration capability as we speak.
I remain optimistic that, someday, the U.S. will get serious in addressing carbon emissions. When that day comes, I won’t cry for those companies that acted to help entrench the status quo and in parallel made bets today that they will regret then.

Zimride into the sunset

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Zimride’s Carpool Community

What is it?
Zimride is a carpooling community. It lets you find and share rides, figure out whose route is on your way, and intelligently pick who you get in a car with (whether or not you know them before hand). You can even use Zimride either directly through Facebook.

Why is it better?
According to the 2005 American Community Survey, almost nine out of 10 workers prefer to get to work by car. Unfortunately, most people are in those cars alone, 77% in fact. And we all know that driving alone isn’t stellar when it comes to gas prices or carbon dioxide emissions. That’s why carpooling is a great option. But what if you don’t know anyone going your way?

Zimride basically makes carpooling easy, efficient and safe. If you’re looking for a ride, all you have to do is type in where you’re coming from and where you’re going (and when). You can see who has an extra seat in their car or perhaps figure out a regular ride-share with someone. If you’re posting a ride, you specify what your driving style is, if your car is smoke-free or not, even how loudly you listen to music.

The beauty of using Facebook to find a ride (or give a ride) is that there is already some pre-existing trust. Before you get in a car with someone, you can see their picture or if you have any friends in common (and if you don’t like what you see, you’re certainly not committed to an awkward car conversation). Unlike existing ride share boards like Craigslist, your new carpooling friend doesn’t have to be an unknown entity beforehand.

And even if you don’t want to open up your car to a stranger, you can use Zimride to coordinate with folks you already know offline. That way, you don’t have to trade endless strings of emails.

In either case, Zimride makes carpooling so easy that you really have no excuse not to.

Where can you find it?
You can check out all the Zimriding going on at Zimride’s stand-alone site or through their Facebook application. Best of all, it’s entirely free.

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.

Wanted: Carbon Productivity Revolution

by Richard T. Stuebi

The think-tank arm of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the McKinsey
Global Institute (MGI), has been releasing some pretty darn interesting analyses to frame the overall energy and environmental situation the world faces.

The breakthrough was MGI’s February 2007 work to develop a “cost-curve” for GHG reductions, showing the quantities and relative costs associated with various emission reduction technologies and approaches that could be pursued. Since its release, the cost curve framework has been an incredibly valuable and widely-used analytic and communication tool for policy-makers worldwide, and it has been used to good effect by MGI’s researchers.

In February of this year, MGI issued a report on energy productivity, which showed the compelling financial returns offered to society by massive investments in energy efficiency. This summer, MGI issued a subsequent report on carbon productivity, which presents a simple but stunning challenge to the human race:

Over the next 40 years, we need a new industrial revolution equivalent in magnitude to the 120-year Industrial Revolution, to enable a ten-fold increase in economic output per unit of carbon emissions. If such a “carbon productivity revolution” is not achieved, we will not be able to get the planet onto a climate stabilization path, or the world’s population will face significant global economic declines, or both.

Think about the changes wrought upon society between 1850 and 1970: railroads, steel, oil, telegraph, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, computers, Internet. Now, think about changes of comparable magnitude, occurring from today’s technological and infrastructure base, occuring during the next 40 years.

Do you think the human race can do it? According to McKinsey, we had better do it, or else.

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.

Jump In My (Green) Bed

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Keetsa eco-friendly mattresses

What is it?
Keetsa mattresses are made with 100% recycled steel coils, scrap memory foam bits, and a variety of sustainable materials like bamboo fabrics and unbleached natural cotton.
Keetsa offers six different types of mattresses.

Why is it better?
Most people sleep on mattresses.
Most people spend one-third of their lives in bed. But most people don’t know that conventional mattresses are covered in flame-retardants, petroleum-based pesticides, and other harsh chemicals. Well, not Keetsa mattresses. Not to mention, all those recycled materials I listed before? A lot of them can be recycled if you jump up and down a few too many times and need a new one.

One of my favorite things about the Keetsa mattress is that they can be compressed and rolled into box – that means that while 140 conventional mattresses can fit on one truck, 540 Keetsa mattresses can fit in the same space. The carbon footprint is much smaller from factory door to your bedroom door. (And the mattress boxes have wheels so you can take it home yourself.)

Last but not least, they’re comfortable. I got to take two different mattresses for “test drives” at the San Francisco Green Festival. And I personally own the Keetsa Plus and I think it’s incredibly comfortable (and my friends agree).

Where can you find it?

The Keetsa showrooms are located in San Francisco and Fairfield, CA.
You can buy mattresses there, a variety of mattress showrooms, or order them online at the company website. Queen sized mattresses range in price from $549.99 to $1649.99.


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

Blogroll Review: Flash, Reforestation, ED

by Frank Ling

Memory Revolution

Here’s another example of nanotechnology contributing to energy efficiency. Through improved ability to manufacture memory, flash is starting to replace traditional hard drive applications.

Hank Green at EcoGeek writes:

“There’s a lot of reasons to herald the dawn of flash-based hard drives. They’re faster, smaller, silent and, of course, tremendously more energy efficient. The difference between a traditional hard drive and a flash drive is roughly the difference between an incandescent light and a compact fluorescent light.”

Still, isn’t the brain the most energy efficient means of storing information or is it DNA?

Forest Better than Biofuels?

Just as biofuels are becoming accepted, more evidence is coming in that their overall effects on emissions and the environment is negative. One recent study shows that reforestation is much more effective at offsetting CO2 than biofuel production.

Jeremy Elton Jacquot writes in Treehuggger:

“Renton Righelato of the World Land Trust and Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds estimhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifated that the initial cutting down of forests to plant more food crops, like corn and sugarcane, would release as much as 100 – 200 tons of carbon per hectare. “

Endocrine Disruption

Back when I was a chemist, I used to play around with exotic compounds like phthalates, which are used in plastics and cosmetics. Though touted as safe in commercial products, they are also recognized as being absorbed into humans, causing endocrine disruptions.

In this week’s Gristmill, Theo Colborn writes:

“Endocrine disruption should be right at the top of the list of most critical technological disasters facing the world today, up with climate change. With little notice, vast volumes and combinations of synthetic chemicals have settled in every environment in the world, including the womb environment.”

No more sniffing chemicals for me! :)

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

Building a green future – Light-weight high strength concrete

by Nick Bruse

When one begins to look at the built environment – examining its lifecycle, the resources and materials used in its construction and stakeholders from suppliers to developers to regulators to occupiers – a very complicated and fragmented picture arises.

This presents challenges for the property industry when trying to reduce emissions throughout the lifetime of the building. Design is important in understanding how the building will be used for its internal space, but also its load externally on the surrounding environment. Materials must be chosen to reduce embodied emissions. Construction must be achieved in a sustainable and energy efficient manor.

When i hear about technologies in the construction industry which provide benefits across a range of aspects of the industry, my interest certainly piques. One such technology is a revolutionary new light weight high stength concrete technology being produced by the Australian company HySSIL Pty Ltd in collaboration with CSIRO. I blogged briefly about this technology last year, but the more I hear about the company the more I think they have real potential.

In a recent interview I spoke with Gary Bertuch, the Managing Director of HySSIL Pty Ltd, In the interview we learn from Gary about the massive market applications of the product and of new concrete technologies they are helping the CSIRO to commercialise.

Hyssil’s technology allows the production of concrete panels that have and unique combination of lower weight, higher strength, lower embodied energy and lower construction costs due to their lightweight nature. At the same time they have excellent thermal properties than existing concrete products which minimises heat loss / absorption. Fabricated into panels, these have a strength allows them to be used in building up to 20 storeys high. The low load on foundations and hence reduced foundation requirements, means that buildings constructed of them are perfect for markets like Asia and the Middle east where alluvial or sandy soils in coastal regions normally require bedrock braced foundations.

With over 30% of emissions worldwide associated with the built environment, this technology is surely going to be a significant player in the coming years to help reduce both embodied and operating emissions from buildings and reduce the energy requirements in construction and heating.

You can listen to the full interview with Gary first posted on The Cleantech Show here


Nick Bruse runs Strike Consulting, a cleantech venture consultancy; hosts the cleantech show, a weekly podcast of interviews with leaders involved in clean technology research, entrepreneurship, commentary and investment; and advises Clean Technology Australasia Pty Ltd and the leading advocate of Cleantech in Australia.