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Seal It Up

by Heather Rae
for cleantechblog.com

The basement in my 1880 house is a combination of ledge and dirt floor. In the 24′ by 34′ footprint, where once there was a brick cistern, there is now a heating oil tank. The copper plumbing undulated, making repairs expensive. I’ve had the copper replaced with a clean, organized PEX system with individual hot and cold shut offs for each facility. Previous owners had installed a horizontal furnace with a maze of leaky ducts; these metal tubes commanded most of the remaining subterranean real estate. I ripped out the furnace and the ducts and patched the holes in the floor from the supplies and returns (but there remains lots of carpentry repair on the first floor pine and maple floors).
Cleaned up, the basement was ready for air sealant and vapor barrier. (Air infiltration and moisture contribute to heat loss.) Whatever cash was left in the “renovation pot” (not much) would go to this measure before the Monitor and fuel pump still sitting in their boxes would be installed. Closed cell foam is more expensive than alternatives like fiberglass batts, but batts can’t begin to perform like foam: not in blocking air infiltration, not in creating a clean result. Charlie Huntington of I&S Insulation says that foam is growing ever more popular in his business.
This week, Charlie’s crew laid down a clean mat of 60mil EPDM (rubber). I tend to get joyful fulfillment from neatness…and the prospect of a warmer house; this was no exception. Not only will the closed cell foam block air infiltration, but it will provide an R value of 6-7 per inch. We were going with three inches. With a shop vac, I sucked debris and cobwebs from the tops of the rock foundation and the above-ground brick. The installers suited up in full body protective gear (no, this isn’t a low-VOC material). They waited for the liquid to reach the right temperature and began to spray a clean, flat coat of foam on the brick down to the rock foundation and up into the rim joists. They foamed along the perimeter of the EPDM, sealing off the ground from the rest of the house. They foamed around all projections like the chimneys and supports. The new basement is an incredible transformation from where it began eight months ago. A picture of a very similar install is on the I&S Insulation website.

Other Goings on This Week
The vote is in this morning: the proposed IGCC coal plant in Wiscasset, Maine has been defeated. As it should be. The “Say No to Coal” campaign was swift and loud. (Google, lobstermen protest wiscasset coal). Nothing added up on this project: not the shipping of coal, not the finances of the developer, not the claims to emissions reductions or access to water or sequestration of carbon. Its one upside: reduced taxes for Wiscasset residents for a plant located on the town’s periphery, at the site of a the defunct Maine Yankee nuclear plant, nearer Westport Island…and not Wiscasset which claims the title, “Maine’s Prettiest Village.”

Heather Rae, contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she began renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

GM Takes Lead with 110 Hydrogen Equinoxes

(by John Addison) GM revealed more details about Project Driveway. GM will place 110 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the hands of five different types of drivers for three months to 30 months of daily driving.

Most drivers that GM will select will live in California within ten miles of one of the 25 hydrogen stations that stretch 800 miles from Chula Vista, near Mexico, to Arcata, near Oregon. Other drivers will be near stations in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Equinox Fuel Cell will typically deliver a range of 160 miles between hydrogen fueling, but only by using higher pressure 700 bar. To accelerate the presence of higher pressure stations with public access, GM is spending millions to establish nine temporary 700 bar stations from Burbank to San Diego.

The Equinox Fuel Cell uses 35 kW of NiMH batteries in a mild-hybrid configuration. In its next generation fuel cell vehicle, GM could achieve a range exceeding 300 miles by reducing vehicle weight, having a more battery-dominate full-hybrid design such as E-Flex, using its fifth generation fuel cell, and by switching to lithium batteries.

A number of existing California hydrogen stations use zero-emission hydrogen production by using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, such as solar. Next year, pipelined byproduct hydrogen will be available at a Torrance station for less than the cost of gasoline.

In California, the number of hydrogen vehicles from all makers on the road is likely to double from over 150 today to over 300 in 2008, with GM leading the way.

Complete Article with Links

GM Takes Lead with 110 Hydrogen Equinoxes

(by John Addison) GM revealed more details about Project Driveway. GM will place 110 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles in the hands of five different types of drivers for three months to 30 months of daily driving.

Most drivers that GM will select will live in California within ten miles of one of the 25 hydrogen stations that stretch 800 miles from Chula Vista, near Mexico, to Arcata, near Oregon. Other drivers will be near stations in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Equinox Fuel Cell will typically deliver a range of 160 miles between hydrogen fueling, but only by using higher pressure 700 bar. To accelerate the presence of higher pressure stations with public access, GM is spending millions to establish nine temporary 700 bar stations from Burbank to San Diego.

The Equinox Fuel Cell uses 35 kW of NiMH batteries in a mild-hybrid configuration. In its next generation fuel cell vehicle, GM could achieve a range exceeding 300 miles by reducing vehicle weight, having a more battery-dominate full-hybrid design such as E-Flex, using its fifth generation fuel cell, and by switching to lithium batteries.

A number of existing California hydrogen stations use zero-emission hydrogen production by using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, such as solar. Next year, pipelined byproduct hydrogen will be available at a Torrance station for less than the cost of gasoline.

In California, the number of hydrogen vehicles from all makers on the road is likely to double from over 150 today to over 300 in 2008, with GM leading the way.

Complete Article with Links

Blogroll Review: Recycling, Peacock, and Helix

by Frank Ling

Big Blue Recycles

Just when we think that there is a shortage in crystalline silicon for solar panels, Big Blue is coming to the rescue. IBM has developed a method to recycle silicon wafers from the computer chip industry.

Jim Fraser at The Energy Blog writes that:

“The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels.”

The Greening of NBC

It looks like the peacock is going green. Does this mean NBC is going to lose its rainbow colored logo?

Not exactly. This week, programs on the network will feature green themes in everything from sports to news to soaps (green weddings are going mainstream!). And is this just publicity campaign or the beginning of an ongoing process?

Joel Makower thinks consumers actually want this stuff. He quotes Zalanick who heads NBC’s Green Council in Two Steps Forward:

“We heard loud and clear that there was a very high expectation that consumers have about companies. Over two-thirds believe that businesses have some responsibility for the social good. That’s a lot. “

Does the Incredible Hulk count as green? 🙂

Home Wind

Most of us think that wind can only come away from enormous turbines installed in some windy remote area but installing them at home has become easier.

Small 10 to 100 W systems for residences have been around but they have not been practical reasons including height requirements, reliability and noise. But a home-based system developed by HelixWind aims to change that.

Hank Green at Eco Geek writes that:

“First, the turbine spins no matter what direction the wind comes from (including vertically) so it can be mounted lower, and generates more energy in turbulent (urban) environments. The turbine can be mounted lower, so installation costs will be lower, and regulations less significant.”

This really blows! 🙂

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.

Bright Green

by Heather Rae
for cleantechblog.com

The last sips of the French merlot finished dry, and the just uncorked Italian sangiovese began too chocolatey, so I looked — left and right in the empty kitchen — and blended the two together in a wine glass. I have been taught that this is not done; oenephiles may shudder. And, it was delicious.

Speaking at a podium before a gathering of enviros about faith and spirituality and religion presented a similarly ingrained reservation; it’s just not done. The blending of climate change science and the inspiration to do something about it that comes from the heart, from the soul and scripture, I feared, could lead to dismissal from the environmentally-, scientifically-leaning audience: she’s an ignoramus, a dreamer.

Beside me on this panel to talk of the climate change movement (and to answer the question, is there a movement?) were Jared Duval a youth Energy Action Coalition leader and David Foley, an architect of high performance homes. Jared and David went before me and gave energetic, inspiring and educational presentations; I yearned to give in to my dread of public speaking and slink off stage…but journeyed on. We each touched upon values while addressing climate change, broken political systems, the building trades, a new order for organizational cooperation, clean technologies, the future and history.

Like wine, faith perspectives are varied and numerous. At a talk I gave to a senior’s group at a UCC Congregationalist church in Colorado (it could have been called, “An Inconvenient Truth Lite,”) the most vocal response came from a handful of self-described human secularists who shrugged and responded, in short: whatever. The collective shrug took me by surprise, coming from a gathering of “the faithful.” It’s a little less surprising from the likes of “bright green environmentalism.”

On the website “What is Enlightenment,” integral ecologist Michael Zimmerman speaks about “bright green, a transformative approach to environmentalism that offers a fuller and more hopeful way to respond to the global ecological challenges we face.”
Says Zimmerman, “I acknowledge a forward-thinking visionary attitude: Look, we have to remake the world. We have twenty, thirty years to do the job, and we have to do it in a way that is going to appeal to the glamour in people; and moral condemnation and blaming, it’s not effective. So, in a way, you have to find a way to harness people’s energy, to harness people’s hopes for the future, for themselves, for their families, their countries and the planet and to provide them with the tools, concepts and insights necessary to really bring about any credible transformation of how we make a living on the planet, basically. That allows the planet to prosper in terms of its ecosystems as well as human beings who are dependent on it. So all that’s terrific. So if that’s bright green, then I’m on board.”

There’s a human secularist shrug within the “bright green” movement, however. Zimmerman speaks of the loss of connection with tradition and spiritual awakening, an element affiliated with the “bright green” movement.” He goes on to say, “Once you have reached a modernist kind of development, there’s a kind of secular humanist where humanity is its own kind of trip.”

When Zimmerman says, “we ought to also be working with spiritual development along with technologies — in ways that are developed morally, aesthetically,” then I, too, am on board. It can be a delicious blend.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine and serves on the board of Maine Interfaith Power & Light. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

A VC Going Carbon Neutral?

I have mentioned my friend Justin Label, one of the partners at Bessemer Ventures, before. Among other things he writes the Venture Again Blog. Bessemer is a highly respected old line Silicon Valley venture capital firm. They have been an active investor in cleantech for a while, and are backers of Miasole as well as SV Solar. I found myself on a plane recently with one his colleagues, Ted Lin. But more than their investments, Ted was describing to me a new carbon friendly initiative that Bessemer itself is undertaking internally.

Their logic is simple, if they are investing in cleantech because they believe in being part of the global warming solution, not only making money, then they should practice what they preach. While still early days, they are targeting both their power and travel usage, and expect they will likely implement an internal reduction plan as well as purchasing offsets.

I asked Ted where this came from, and he said this initiative has come down from the top of the firm. It makes sense, and it is good to see the activity happening. My hat is off to them.

Ted also pointed out that Bessemer is also going to be buying offsets for their smaller portfolio companies (those under 50 people). “The goal is that when these companies grow into bigger companies and leave the nest, they will continue the tradition. We want them (our portfolio companies) to lead the next generation environmentally responsible enterprises.”

One of the things he did ask, did I know any good offset providers, because as with any venture capitalist, they are looking for the “best of breed”. So if you are interested in helping Bessemer email Ted at Ted@bvp.com.

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

Blogroll Review: Beer, Homes, and Geo

by Frank Ling

This Kirin’s For You!

Even beer manufacturers are now getting on board the bio-ethanol train. In Japan, the Ministry of Agriculture has selected Mitsubishi Corporation and Kirin Brewery Co. to build a bioethanol production plant for a “fuel-grade bioethanol production project” in the Tokachi District of Hokkaido.

In the latest article featured in Japan for Sustainability:

“A bioethanol plant with an annual production capacity of 15,000 kiloliters and using sugar beets and wheat as raw materials will be built on the premises of Hokuren’s sugar refinery in Shimizu Town, Kamikawa County, Hokkaido.”

Green Home Boom

Just when you thought the real estate market might be slowing down, the market for green homes is about to grow.

Jeff Stevens at EcoGeek writes that:

“According to the recently released Green Homeowner SmartMarket™ Report produced by McGraw-Hill Construction, the market for ‘true green homes’ is expected to rise from $2 billion to $20 billion over the next five years.”

And I thought all you needed was green paint to make your home green! 🙂

Piping Hot Geo

Geothermal power has been around a long time. Although geographically limited to regions that are accessible, utilities have recently gained interest in develop geothermal for baseload power.

Tom Konrad at AltEnergy Stocks writes:

“In fact, geothermal plants often have capacity factors 86-95%, well above traditional base load generation such as coal. So geothermal power is a premium electricity because of its reliability. Until a recent fire (not caused by the geothermal facility) the plant installed last year at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska, was running at 99.4% availability.”

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.

Electric cars and hybrids: Silicon Valley vs Detroit

As consumers, we generally like choices. In the world of cleaner cars, those choices have been few and far between, but slowly that is changing.

I had a chance recently to test drive two of the cars whose creators are bent on changing the way we view transportation, a converted all electric Scion eBox by Silicon Valley startup AC Propulsion, and a Saturn Vue Greenline hybrid. Both were highly enjoyable. The first, with a $70,000 price tag and a $10,000 deposit, is clearly an EV targeted at Conspicuous Sustainability consumers. I guess then, that the Saturn Vue Greenline with a $24,000 price tag, is perhaps the hybrid for the rest of us.

One of my friends, who was considering buying an eBox invited me to take it for a spin up and down some of the San Francisco hills with him while he was test driving. I have to admit, coming down California Street into downtown, one of the City’s steeper hills, is an entertaining way to get used to the feel of regenerative braking on a true EV. I highly recommend it. For most of the drive I never touched the brakes. To stop you simply take your foot off the accelerator. And for those who have not driven an EV before the acceleration itself is phenomenal. Touch, and Go. Of course, with a $55,000 price tag for the EV conversion (you provide the Scion), limited range, and few electric charging stations, a purchase would be a hard call for me to make. The payback on fuel savings, many times the useful life of the car.

In contrast, General Motors (NYSE:GM) had given me a 2007 Saturn Vue to drive around for a week, to get the feel of it. If anything, GM is not known as an innovator of clean technologies. They are still tarred with the who killed the electric car brush by many environmentalists. That has only made it harder for GM to get out the message on things like its massive R&D effort in fuel cell cars, its push into flex fuel and ethanol with the Live Green Go Yellow campaign, and now hybrids. Having been to a number of their press luncheons on some of the new technologies they have been developing, I had some idea what to expect, but had not written about it before. The Vue is what is known as a mild hybrid, and its lack of bleeding edge, ultra green technology compared to a Prius had a few of my greener friends turning their noses up at it. But this didn’t really phase me after I drove it. As a car and SUV, I found it quite impressive. It handled wonderfully, was extremely quiet, and quite comfortable. You can feel the regenerative braking, but only as a slight tug, so besides the lack of noise, it is like driving any other SUV. Saturn bills it as getting the best highway gas mileage of any SUV, and the cheapest hybrid SUV on the market (not to mention a little quicker than the conventional Vue). Like all hybrids today, the payback is real, but not so great. At the average miles driven per year for most Americans we are talking 9 to 11 years or so compared to the standard Vue, according to my conversation with the Saturn people. If you happen to a real heavy commuter 25,000 to 30,000 miles per year type of thing, the payback may be down towards 5 or 6 years. In short, despite the c. 20 percent fuel savings, a consumer is looking at 120,000 to 150,000 plus miles before reaching a payback, depending on your assumptions, for this or almost any hybrid. The real payback, as always, comes from just buying a smaller car, hybrid or not.

What I love is that the Vue Greenline is really just the first in the Saturn line of hybrids and cleaner fueled cars. GM is basically planning on making virtually the entire Saturn line as green as can be. It is rolling out something like 8 new hybrids or hybrid versions of existing Saturn makes as we speak over the next couple of years. And at a $24,000 price tag, I could actually see buying one of these.

So whether you have the pocket books to look for full EV conversion or just a mild hybrid to make a small difference like the rest of us, the choice is there.

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

The Wright Way to the Electric Car

As with most things, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about electric vehicles. Last Friday Ian Wright and I spent a couple of hours around my conference table discussing our philosophies on electric cars. Ian knows something about this topic, as he was formerly an executive at EV startup Tesla Motors, and is now the founder and CEO of Wrightspeed, a Silicon Valley based startup whose first car is going to be a high performance electric supercar, price tag just shy of $200K. And as it’s electric, Ian expects it should outstart, outrun, outturn, and generally outperform anything in its class.

While it has been a hot topic recently in the cleantech sector, I am known among my friends as being a real skeptic when it comes to EVs, but behind Ian’s business plan he got my attention with two ideas that are worth repeating: payback and plug-ins.

First, Ian doesn’t care about gas mileage per se – he cares about performance, power, and most importantly, payback. Focus on the vehicles actually burning the most gas, irrespective of fuel efficiency. That is, instead of making tiny, compact, fuel efficient target cars more efficient with EV and hybrid technology – focus on the gas guzzlers. Ian’s point is well taken. A small, fuel efficient car that gets 35 mpg and drives a typical 12,500 miles per year only uses about 350 gallons per year. A large pickup truck that gets 12 miles to the gallon uses over 1,000 gallons for the same mileage – nearly 3x as much. And if that truck is a work truck driven 25,000 miles per year, it would use over 2,000 gallons of fuel per year, nearly 6x the little car. That truck owner may spend upwards of $50K in fuel over its life, where the commuter car owner may spend a small fraction of that.

When I asked him for comments on my example Ian added: “The special case of congested city driving might be worth mentioning, since everyone thinks a lot of fuel is wasted there. But if you drive a Prius 10 hours/week in congested city traffic, it’s only about 150 gallons/year! Not much point in trying to improve on the Prius for that use. (The arithmetic: congested traffic is defined as 12mph average; 10 hours/week would be 120 miles/ week, or 6240 miles/year. The Prius shines in this application, getting maybe 40mpg, so 156 gallons/year.)”

Putting expensive hybrid and EV technology in the small car not only has a worse financial payback – compounding the perennial problem of EVs being too costly, but the same 20% efficiency improvement does very little to reduce overall fuel consumption for society compared to the same efficiency gains in a big truck that drives a heck of lot of miles.

So Ian asks, if we want to both find a way to save car owners money, AND save the world – wouldn’t we focus on applying technology to where the problem is the worst and the returns are the best?

When Ian looked at the automotive landscape and asked the question, where is the most fuel being burned, and how do we reduce that with technology? The answer? Performance cars and big work trucks. Not surprisingly, these are his target markets.

And why are high performance vehicles like sports cars and Ford F350s so fuel inefficient anyway? Take this as an example answer. If you need a big truck to have lots of power for short periods of time (for instance, in towing), then the truck engine and systems have to be sized to deliver the maximum power. But anytime you’re not using all that power (ie, most of the time), the truck is usually running well below its optimum – and burning lots of fuel for no extra gain. It’s the same rationale for a sports car designed to run optimally at 90 mph, which performs worse at the average driver’s speed of 50- 60 mph.

Ian’s more detailed explanation to me put it very elegantly: “Roughly speaking gasoline engines are most efficient at wide open throttle and the rpm that gives max torque. If you try to operate a supercar at wide open throttle, it will be doing 200mph, and of course you’ll be losing most of the energy to aero drag. The ENGINE will be operating efficiently… but if you operate the car down where aero drag is reasonable – 50mph – then the engine will be operating at a few percent of rated power, and very inefficient. Why is it inefficient? The simple answer is that since the throttle is almost closed, there is almost a vacuum in the intake manifold, and the EFFECTIVE compression ratio is very low. You are trying to compress a vacuum. Engine efficiency is very dependent on compression ratio.

80 years ago, there were cars that could transport a family of 4 at 50mpg. The Austin 7 comes to mind. Engine technology has improved dramatically since the 30s, yet the best modern cars don’t do any better than the Austin 7. Why is that? One big reason is that the Austin 7 had, well, 7 horsepower (actually about 10hp – the “7” was “RAC hp”). So it was working hard most of the time. The family car that my wife drives makes 250 hp, and that’s just an average family car these days.S o if you displace the Prius with an EV, you can get maybe a 2x efficiency gain. But if you displace a high performance vehicle that operates most of the time at low power settings, you can get a 10x efficiency gain. That’s the main reason that 18 wheelers aren’t a good target. They have powerful engines, but their power/weight ratio is very low (when fully loaded) and the engines work pretty hard. So in fuel per lb mile, they are pretty good already.”

To deal with this issue, Ian isn’t all about the all electric. He’s pushing plug-in electric hybrids. Electric motors powered off of batteries charged from the wall or with an onboard diesel generator. The generator also acts as a booster for those times when extra power is required. Hybrids are really good at solving these power vs. efficiency problems, since you can essentially design a system that can optimize for either performance or efficiency much easier than a straight gas or electric engine could.

Ian’s vision also addresses one of the long running achilles’ heels of electric cars – the lack of fueling infrastructure. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, it’s generally bad business to try and bet on an expensive infrastructure rollout. And if it means slower and lower uptake of fuel efficient vehicles, then calling for infrastructure change that’s not going to happen is bad for the environment, too.

That’s why I’ve been such a big fan of plug-in hybrids. We can have our cake and eat it too. It’s all about payback and plug-ins. And it’s good to see electric car gurus finally getting this message.

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

Utilities Ramping Up Energy Efficiency

by Richard T. Stuebi

In the early 1990’s, before deregulation, the big issue for electric utilities was demand-side management (DSM), often pursued in the context of least-cost integrated resource planning efforts, to help customers reduce energy consumption in ways that were financially beneficial to the utility as well as the customer.

Alas, with the move to competitive markets, energy efficiency largely got lost in the shuffle. Utility expenditures on DSM plummeted.

It appears that utility activism on energy efficiency has returned. Earlier this month, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the trade association for the electric utility industry, announced that it was creating a new institute for electricity efficiency. Last year, several utilities (and other energy industry leaders) launched a National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) is increasingly vocal about its view of energy efficiency as the “fifth fuel” — after coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. PG&E (NYSE: PCG) runs its Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco to educate building professionals on energy efficiency technologies.

Renewables might be sexier, and in the long-run extremely important, but there’s little that offers greater impact to address our energy and environmental challenges in the near-term than energy efficiency. Thankfully, we now seem to be getting the utility industry back on-message.

Want to learn more? A good one-stop shop on energy efficiency is the aptly named American Council on an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

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 the real world, solar often gets barely a passing grade

I’m a big fan of solar power. But as with anything, I like to know exactly what I’m getting. One of the big unspoken issues in the solar sector is the difference between the rated or estimated potential output of a solar system–and the actual production of kilowatt-hours. A range of factors from the margin of error in the modules, to temperature, dust and losses from wiring, conversion to AC power and any batteries all can contribute to as much as 30 percent lower actual power production–even in the first year.

Compounding this problem in my mind is that in California only about a third to half of our solar installations are actually independently monitored, according to one of my friends at Fat Spaniel, one of the leading monitors of solar systems.

The California Energy Commission did some good thumbnail analysis of solar in the real world several years ago.

Here’s the punch line from their analysis:

“So the ‘100-watt module’ output, reduced by production tolerance, heat, dust, wiring, AC conversion and other losses will translate into about 68 watts of AC power delivered to the house panel during the middle of a clear day (100 watts x 0.95 x 0.89 x 0.93 x 0.95 x 0.90 = 68 watts).” From A Guide to Photovoltaic System Design and Installation (PDF) by the California Energy Commission. If you are interested in solar, you need to read their report.

But this 68 watts is only part of the story. If you have battery storage on the system they say it could reduce the power another 6-10 percent. They then stated that poor installation layout problems–including shading can take an additional toll. Another big issue is the angle of the roof and the direction it faces (in California, where your roof faces can affect the power output up to another 15 percent for many roofs). And interesting enough, for all the talk about making windows out of solar in what is typically described as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), a vertical installation can reduce the power output up to about half all by itself!

Their bottom line: if the system is perfectly installed under perfect conditions the best case scenario for San Francisco would be 1,724 kwh, or electricity per year for each kilowatt installed and for Los Angeles would be about 1,758. But that’s before all the “real-world” adjustments. When you make all those real-world adjustments–take another 25-30 percent or more off the top, even for a well designed system. This fits with our best San Francisco benchmark, our major 675 kW rooftop solar facility in the San Francisco at Moscone Center, which produces around 1,200 kilowatt-hours per year per rated kilowatt installed.

So when it comes to solar, let’s make the right choice for solar power, but make it with our eyes open to the real world.

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

Reflections on Energy Policy

by Richard T. Stuebi

At the beginning of my career in the mid-1980’s, I participated in numerous economic analyses pertaining to the “acid rain” debates that were then raging in DC. This work ultimately culminated in the implementation of Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which included a cap-and-trade program on sulfur dioxide emissions. This program was among the first environmental policies to employ a market-based (rather than command-and-control) approach, and its widely-appreciated success has set the stage for the cap-and-trade programs now being considered for greenhouse gas emissions.

It was rewarding to know that I was part of an effort that had real impact in creating effective policy, but it was also incredibly draining and tiring — an emotional roller-coaster of optimism, disappointment and frustration. Correspondingly, I stepped out of the policy fray entirely, focusing the next 15 years of my career squarely on the private sector in an effort to achieve positive impact (and perhaps make a little money too) in the energy industry through the forces of thoughtful capitalism. I had had enough of the political arena.

Alas, flash forward to the mid-2000’s, and now I’m working again in energy policy, this time at the state (Ohio) level. The challenge today is to secure the adoption of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in Ohio, and it looks like the pro-RPS forces are making decent progress.

In late August, Governor Strickland released a comprehensive energy plan that includes an RPS, along with his proposed approach for cleaning up the messes created by Ohio’s flawed “deregulation” initiative back in 1999. Opponents of an RPS — primarily manufacturing/industrial concerns and (of course) electric utilities — have argued that RPS policy is “social crap”, which can be put off to another day so that everyone can focus on the electricity restructuring issues. The Strickland Administration forcefully insists that the two issues cannot be separated and must be dealt with holistically. This is fortunate, and wise, because bundling the two issues creates better negotiating leverage with the utilities and ensures more prompt attention to RPS.

Several RPS bills are in the pipeline. One was introduced last week by Representative Skindell (HB 313), another is in the works by Representative McGregor, and other bills will be released soon in both the Senate and the House to reflect the Governor’s proposal. Over the summer, I have spent considerable time with lawmakers and thought-leaders in Columbus to educate them on the RPS issue, and its importance in attracting/building an advanced energy industry in Ohio to create jobs and revitalize our struggling economy.

Anti-RPS parties argue that an RPS will raise electricity prices, that Ohio doesn’t have enough renewables to supply an RPS, and that renewables will make the grid more unreliable. A recently released study commissioned by The Cleveland Foundation found that an RPS in Ohio like the one next-door in Pennsylvania would have minimal impact on electricity prices — virtually no impact if Federal carbon legislation is implemented sometime in the next several years anyway. The other two concerns about an RPS are also refutable.

But, many opponents of an RPS are hard-headed, and some fall back on the weakest of threads: ideology. To them, it is abhorrent to contemplate the addition of mandates to the energy supply mix.

A conversation I had last week with an Ohio Representative was illuminating. This person, who I’ll leave anonymous, felt that renewables would come into the market once that their economics were competitive with conventional energy, which would be coming without government intervention sometime in the next 10 years anyway, so why force it?

To this legislator, the “free market” was paramount — never mind that we don’t have a free market for energy today — and he was only secure in the cozy bed of his pre-set beliefs. The legislator didn’t seem to understand (actually, didn’t want to listen) that many of the basic precepts for perfect competition weren’t in place: all participants in the market don’t have perfect information, and there are players in the market that do have market power. Either the Representative was satisifed with unregulated monopolistic behavior, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t just the private sector that needed to be competitive but the public sector as well.

You see, 25 (or 26 or 27, I can’t keep track) other states already have an RPS. The renewable industry is amassing in these states, largely bypassing Ohio. And, indeed, it’s not just competition between the states, but between countries. Ontario across Lake Erie has compelling renewable energy policy, and of course European countries far lead the list. Ohio is behind in capturing the renewable energy industry opportunity. If Ohio doesn’t want to capture that opportunity, we’re doing a good job.

I’ve come to conclude that, more than energy policy or environmental policy, RPS is industrial policy — and the U.S. just doesn’t do industrial policy very well. We’ve never needed to. We’re America: we have the most natural resources, the most talent, the biggest/free-est markets. Our country has always been ascendant. Well, I’m not so sure anymore.

In the 1950’s, the U.S. dominated the world scene in every respect. But in the past few decades, communism fell, Europe has rebounded from WWII, and the Asian economies have become tigers. While American entrepreneurs focused on high-tech opportunities, the U.S. let the industrial manufacturing sector largely slip away elsewhere. The rank-and-file has become an economy of Wal-Mart greeters: low wage employees selling low price products to customers who can’t afford high price products because of their low wage jobs.

I also see a significant difference between the mid-2000’s and the mid-1980’s in regards to policy: the rise of ideology and demonisation of the “other side”. It used to be that the pros and cons, the costs and benefits, of alternative policies were evaluated by both Democrats and Republicans with at least a modicum of objectivity. Now, dogma rules the day. Issues are labelled as “D” or “R”, not to be entertained (much less endorsed) by the other side.

As citizens, we must hold our politicians accountable to work together, to not be so closed-minded, to advance the true public interests (not to special interests of just a few wealthy constituencies). The urgency of the energy issues demands no less.

Lastly, I stand chagrined at the difference between Ohio and a state like California. Last year in California, the billionaire titans of the high-tech 21st Century economy went to their Governor (Schwartzenegger) to argue that the passage of climate legislation (what became AB32) was essential for their state to capture a significant share of the economic opportunity afforded by the cleantech sector, the biggest industry to arise in the next 50 years. This year in Ohio, the big corporates of the low-tech mid-20th Century — steel companies, industrial manufacturers, et al — are going to their Governor (Strickland) to argue that the passage of a measly RPS will kill our economy.

I am reminded by a quote about Ohio attributed to Mark Twain: “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always twenty years behind the times.” It’s not just Cincinnati — Columbus may be there too.

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

Is Microsoft Vista Global Warming Friendly?

Is Microsoft Vista global warming friendly? Could Vista be the best selling cleantech product in the world? I was thinking about this question the other day, and started emailing the Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) press relations folks looking for an answer.

The Microsoft answer – yes it is. They have a recent release entitled “Windows Vista Power Management Features Can Help UK Companies Reduce Their Carbon Footprint” on some independent research they had done by PC Pro Labs in the UK.

Here’s their quote:

“Windows Vista is Microsoft’s most energy efficient operating system to date with its power management system, functionality, reliability and default settings focused on helping to reduce overall PC energy consumption. The key areas where the Sleep mode in Windows Vista has been improved compared to the equivalent Standby mode in Windows XP include:

• Enter Sleep mode after being inactive for 60 minutes
• In Windows Vista, it is much easier for users to change the power management settings themselves
• The Sleep mode is more reliable than Windows XP’s Standby mode, both in terms of entering the mode and safely resuming back into Windows
• Windows Vista is much quicker at resuming from Sleep, now taking two to three seconds compared to five seconds for Windows XP”

They also published a whitepaper entitled “Windows Vista Energy Conservation“. Reading through it all, Vista does seem to be an energy efficiency masterpiece.

But I wonder – the description of these tests seemed to quite fairly compare the XP and Vista operating systems running through a series of different scenarios – but it’s not a survey of real world conditions.

So I’m probably convinced that if you run the same computer post-Vista the exact same way you ran it on XP, that you’d use less power. Vista itself may actually BE the best selling cleantech product in the world. But in the real world, we don’t work that way. Each year we add a whole lot of new features and programs that suck down power, and buy more powerful PCs to run them on with every upgrade. And part of the promise of Vista is to enable even more such goodies – possibly offsetting the energy savings.

So are Windows users who have upgraded to Vista running the same programs in the same way, and the same (or more energy efficient PCs) and therefore using less power? Or are they actually using more or different features, or on a more powerful energy hog PC, and despite Microsoft’s energy efficiency efforts, using more power on a daily basis anyway after the upgrade? That might not be something Microsoft could control – but I’m sure curious as to the answer from a carbon standpoint.

As a matter of full disclosure, I run XP at the office, Vista at home, own a small amount of Microsoft stock (and am a very big fan) and have a very bad habit of leaving my computer and monitor on – but I’m working on that.

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

Green Energy TV

by Richard T. Stuebi

Jim Cossler runs the Youngstown Business Incubator, in Youngstown Ohio. Actually, “runs” really isn’t the right word. His business card lists him as “Chief Evangelist”, and that’s actually closer to the mark. You’ll see that the title fits, based on an email that Jim sent me the other day, which I’ve excerpted below.

“I need to create the perfect virtual storm for GreenEnergyTV over the next week or so. GreenEnergyTV will eventually be the “everything” of the green movement. The site is Beta at the moment, and far from fully built, but its ultimate functionality is going to be enormous for those of us interested in a “greener” world. And if things roll out as planned, the site is going to make Youngstown the center of the green movement worldwide. Heady stuff, I know. But, I’m serious. I need your personal help in driving eyeballs to the site. It’s already getting over 70,000 unique visitors from around the globe each month while still in Beta and far from finished. It’s critical, however, to make that number explode. Tell every one you know about it. Tell them to tell their friends about. Post links to it. Bookmark it. Spread this thing around the world and do the planet a favor at the same time.”

OK, Jim, I’ve done my part.

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.

Blogroll Review: Building Green & Windy Texas

by Frank Ling

Efficient Buildings

Energy efficiency is touted by many experts as the least cost approach for lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from building use. A survey released by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development shows that builders often overstate the of costs of implementing these energy saving measures.

Joel Makower at Two Steps Forward writes that:

“…key players in real estate and construction overstate the extra costs of green buildings by some 300 percent, ‘creating a major barrier to more energy efficiency in the building sector.'”

Although there are many stakeholders involved in any building, the survey also concludes that

“…financiers and developers are the biggest barriers to more sustainable approaches in the building value chain.”

Texas blows over California

While California has the reputation of being the greenest, bluest state in the country, it is the red state of Texas that gets more energy from wind than from any other state.

Robert Rapier writes in R-squared:

“Last year, for the first time ever, an industry association reported that Texas surpassed California as the country’s No. 1 generator of wind energy. Not only did the Lone Star State blow past the Golden State again in this year’s report, but Texas regulators in July voted to designate eight zones for production of about 20,000 megawatts of wind energy. “

Furthermore, Texas’ lead is expected to increase.

I wonder if Chuck Norris has anything to do with this? 🙂

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.

10,000 Miles per Gallon

By John Addison (8/28/07). The Loire Valley in France brings images of magnificent castles, breathtaking landscape, superb wine, and driving 10,705 miles per gallon (3,789 km/l). A team of students at the La Joliverie in Loire won the 2003 Shell Eco-Marathon race with this remarkable fuel economy. Yes, you read that right – over 10,000 mpg and the fuel was gasoline. It was not an electric vehicle. It was not even a hybrid. The vehicle was shaped for minimal wind resistance.

The vehicle was also built with new materials that are lighter, stronger, and available in some new models now in car showrooms. When you buy your next vehicle, you can get 40 miles per gallon (mpg), not 14 mpg, by selecting a vehicle that is lighter and more aerodynamic. Some people want you to think that you need to wait years before you can get a car with great mileage. This is not true. You can get over 40 miles per gallon today. You do not need to wait for future technologies.

By going on an energy diet we can have healthy cities, be energy independent, and stop global warming. This can be done with modest annual improvements. We could cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by improving mileage 4% annually for 22 years.

We have one global trend towards fuel and energy efficiency and a more powerful force towards increased consumption. Our future depends on fuel and energy efficiency being the winner. Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have looked at the numbers in detail. They calculate that moving our typical car with its internal combustion engine wastes over 90% of the energy content in the gasoline used. 90% is wasted moving the vehicle and driver. What if we look at the energy efficiency of just moving the driver? 99% waste! Only one percent of the energy in the gasoline is actually used to move the person.

Americans spend an extra $3 billion on fuel because vehicles are heavier than they were in 1960. The world’s drivers consume an extra 39 million gallons each year for each pound of added vehicle weight.

Cars need to go on a diet. SUVs need a crash diet. A light weight auto requires a lighter engine and powertrain, which in turn requires less fuel weight. To achieve more miles per gallon carry less weight. If you use a big SUV like the GM Envoy XL, your official EPA mileage is 15/19. Your mileage may vary (as in worse). If you use a much lighter GM Chevrolet Cobalt M-5, your EPA mileage is an improved 25/34. Vehicles can be better designed. Minor reductions in weight and drag, can improve mileage 14 to 53% and only raise prices by $168 to $217. Winning the Oil Endgame

In Europe, the Renault Clio uses recycled plastic for 10 percent of the total vehicle weight. Recycling helps the environment. Use of plastic reduces weight and improves fuel economy. The VW Lupo 3L TDI achieves 78 miles per gallon. The VW is small, lightweight, and uses an efficient diesel engine.

A new study determines that the amount of aluminum used in new European cars has risen from 50 kg in 1990 to 132 kg in 2005 and is predicted to grow by another 25 kg by 2010. The two million tons of aluminum components were put in European cars saved one billion liters of fuel annually and 40 million tons of CO2 emissions over the lifespan of the vehicles.

No more heavy metal. Your car is probably made with steel. Aluminum makes vehicles lighter. Market leader Toyota bought 5.9% of Izuzu so that Toyota could make better use of aluminum. In 2012, a joint venture between Toyota and Izuzu will start producing a new light-weight aluminum engine. Green Car Congress

Carbon fiber makes vehicles even lighter. Carbon fiber requires half the weight and gives better protection. My bicycle is carbon fiber, making it easier to get up hills. My golf clubs using carbon fiber; unfortunately, nothing can help my golf game.

The Toyota Prius is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Corvette. Last week I met with Prius drivers that are getting 60 mpg in real driving conditions. In addition to being aerodynamic, the Prius uses low rolling resistance tires. You can even improve mileage with your current vehicle by keeping the tires fully inflated, thereby lowering rolling resistance and increasing mileage.

Does your family or household own more than one vehicle? If so, use most often the vehicle that consumes the least gas. It is a no-brainer. That is your main car. My wife and I share the high mileage hybrid. It puts on the most miles. The other sedan, which still gets good mileage, is used only on days when we both have destinations in opposite directions. For the most part, it is a back-up car that stays parked in the garage.

When you buy a new car select one that gets at least 40 miles per gallon (or get an electric vehicle). Most likely the high mileage car will be aerodynamic, lighter, safer, and use low rolling resistance tires.

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet and publishes the Clean Fleet Report. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish or excerpt with attribution.

LIPA-Suction: A Shift in the Future of U.S. Offshore Wind

by Richard T. Stuebi

This past week, it was reported (for instance, see article in Newsday) that the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), or at least its Chairman Kevin Law, was in favor of pulling the plug on the 140 megawatt wind project being developed just south of Jones Beach by FPL Energy, a subsidiary of FPL Group (NYSE: FPL). This development came in the wake of a report by Pace Global Energy Services commissioned by LIPA on the potential economics of the proposed offshore project.

Meanwhile, here in Cleveland, the Great Lakes Regional Energy Development Task Force continues in the opposite direction, committed to exploring the potential for offshore wind in Lake Erie. As reported in an article in The Plain-Dealer, the Task Force announced that it will begin negotiating a contract with a project team, led by the wind developer juwi international, to conduct a feasibility study for an offshore wind research center to include a small (5-20 megawatt) demonstration project.

Why is Long Island going one way and Cleveland going the other? On Long Island, the offshore wind project was solely about economics, as the region needed more low-cost kilowatt-hours. When it appeared that the costs of the offshore wind project were going to be higher than expected, LIPA got cold feet.

In contrast, Cleveland knows that a small offshore wind project will NOT be an economic way to generate electricity. There aren’t enough economies of scale in offshore wind to make it economic today in most places in the U.S., and especially in the Midwest, no matter how much the project is expanded. Because there’s no point in making a huge offshore project, Cleveland is aiming for a project just big enough to matter in addressing the real needs of the future of offshore windfarms.

Cleveland wants to tackle offshore wind so that it can identify — and then overcome — the technological challenges and institutional barriers that make offshore wind so expensive today. By overcoming the factors that make offshore wind currently uneconomic, Cleveland seeks to become a leading center of offshore wind R&D. In subsequent years, when offshore wind does become economic (as offshore wind technology improves, the best onshore wind sites are exploited, and conventional energy costs further increase), this can lead Cleveland to becoming a major hub of offshore wind manufacturing and services for the Great Lakes and possibly beyond.

In short, Cleveland aims to build an offshore wind support/deployment industry in the decades to come, just like the offshore oil/gas industries that have bloomed in Houston and New Orleans when they led the way in tackling the challenges of offshore E&P in the Gulf of Mexico a few decades ago. The offshore wind effort in Cleveland is thus an economic development initiative, not an economic power generation project.

With Long Island’s retrenchment, and the continuing travails in Cape Cod related to the Cape Wind project, Cleveland can step in to fill the leadership vacuum in offshore wind. It takes guts to be a contrarian, but that’s where the biggest rewards lie. It’s not going to be easy, but in Cleveland, most people recognize that easy answers aren’t adequate to bring the region back to economic health.

Given their favorable situations, Long Island and Cape Cod can probably afford to be cautious, prudent, skeptical. Given the economic challenges here, leaders in Cleveland know that boldness is required. So, pending the results of the team’s feasibility study, ahoy to offshore wind.

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.

Honeymooning in Costa Rica – The Home of Carbon Neutrality

I’m taking this week off for my honeymoon in Costa Rica. I think it’s quite an appropriate place to take a honeymoon if you work in the effort to fight global warming – as I’ve stated before, we are working on a venture to use software to cut the cost and increase the transparency of carbon offsets.

Among its initiatives to drive its ecotourism and lead the world – Costa Rica is working to become the first carbon neutral nation.

I had a chance to listen recently to a presentation by Bob Epstein, the founder of E2, which is connected with the National Resources Defense Council – on Costa Rica’s efforts. By the way, if you are an executive seriously interested in the enviroment – joining E2 should be a priority.

The NRDC and E2 have also done some work laying out how that path to carbon neutrality would look. Their core arguments and primary recommendations are fascinating when you think of applying the concept of carbon neutrality on a national scale beyond a small case study like Costa Rica.

Beyond the continued reforestation which makes up a significant reduction in Costa Rica’s greenhouse gas footprint, The NRDC proposal emphasized four areas of needed progress:

  • “Increasing energy efficiency
  • Raising fuel economy and promoting plug-in hybrids
  • Encouraging productions of biofuels and biomass for electricity
  • Improving public transport”

The press release and full report is available here.

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

Media Buy-outs Going Green

Green and clean media is going through a flurry of activity right now. And while still small as media companies go – just wait.

A few of the notable deals:

  • Just announced yesterday: The Cleantech Group, who popularized the term cleantech as an investment class, acquired Inside Greentech, an emerging media outlet for the green sector, for an undisclosed amount. Both of these businesses are run by friends of mine – and make for a great hook up. We did a blog in July on “Cleantech vs Greentech” that proved to be a bit prescient, it now seems. The inside scoop on this deal from a chat I had with my friend Dallas Kachan, the publisher and founder of Inside Greentech “Inside Greentech is already the most widely-read trade publication covering daily business and technology developments in cleantech. As Cleantech.com, we will become the highest profile, go-to media platform for cleantech-related developments.”
  • Leading green blog portal Treehugger was acquired by Discovery Channel just a few weeks ago. The deal metrics were rumored to be a $10 mm purchase price for a 1.4 mm hit/month site. This deal got a tremendous amount of press – and helps anchor the feeling that mainstream media deals and cleantech title launches are not far away.
  • Lightspeed Ventures and Northpoint Private Equity recently backed the launch of Greentech Media, including the acquisition of the cleantech focused Venture Power Newsletter – popular in the venture capital sector.
  • And while I can’t say who, there are a couple of other big names in the sector with deals in the works.

Before Dallas Kachan and I finished our chat, I asked him what we should expect from all of this – his short answer was that as the cleantech sector continues to explode the big media names are going to take notice.

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

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.