Wednesday, January 24, 2007



Thursday, January 18, 2007

Real progress


Many events have combined to create the new direction — forsythia blooming in lawmakers’ gardens in January, polar bears lacking the ice they need to hunt and Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” along with pragmatic executives seeking an idea of future costs and, especially, the arrival of a Democratic-controlled Congress. There was evidence of the changed mood all over Washington this week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

House music

The House's newest version - the Clean Energy Act of 2007 :

To reduce our Nation’s dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Interesting developments

First from the Guardian in England:

George Bush is preparing to make a historic shift in his position on global warming when he makes his State of the Union speech later this month, say senior Downing Street officials
This is followed up on by a Daily Kos poster:
The word behind the scenes is that Bush will announce restrictions on greenhouse gases, including a system of cap and trade that's similar to that employed in Europe. There will also be a big focus on alternative fuels, with a government commitment to supporting expanding the use of renewable sources
Finally, something to watch in the House of Representatives, introduced Friday with 199 cosponsors:
H.R.6 will shift roughly $13 billion in oil industry subsidies toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Unlike another unnamed global power, India's and China's leadership appear not to have their heads in the sand:

A REPORT by six government departments in China yesterday warned that climate change would harm the country's economy and environment in the coming decades, with potentially devastating cuts in agricultural output.

The warning, from the State Meteorological Bureau, Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Technology, among others, could be a sign that China - which has experienced dramatic rises in carbon emissions because of a booming economy largely powered by coal-fired power stations - is about to take significant steps to address the issue.

India, another rapidly industrialising third world country, also warned yesterday that it and other developing countries, could not afford to copy the West's "wasteful lifestyle".

Experimental 'wind to hydrogen'

From NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory):

Xcel Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory today unveiled a unique facility that uses electricity from wind turbines to produce and store pure hydrogen, offering what may become an important new template for future energy production.

Recent Pew Survey on Gen Next

Really interesting stuff out of Pew regarding "Generation Next" - the 18-25 generation. Highly recommended, as reaching this generation (from a political, social and entertainment point of view) could be highly different than other generations.

First, note the difference between this generation's outlook on "friends" and entertainers vs. politicians and spiritual

It's ironic, when you consider that this generation actually has a much greater appreciation for government than one's past:

One of my favorite stats - look at the difference in turnout in 2004. That's a 25% jump from 2000. Also, note the similarity between 1972 and 2004 - apparently the Vietnam and Iraq wars are becoming more and more the same animal. (I consider 1992 an outlier, as it involved both Ross Perot, an interesting indie candidate, and Clinton, the first candidate to use MTV as a platform).

They also seem to hold what at first appear conflicting views on business and government regulation, but in fact aren't...rather that both are important in a healthy and functioning society and economy.

I actually disagree with Pew's interpretation that they consume news equally as with other generations. I view it as there are more passionate, motivated younger individuals and less people who aren't all that bothered to pay attention.

Couple other things I found fascinating - check out how they connect with environmental issues, and how unconcerned they are with race-based issues:

Finally, my favorite stat. Look at how much the younger generation (18-25) has changed from 1991 to present, while the age range 26+ has basically stayed the same. In 10-15 years, this could be seismic.

Starting to get scared

First Arnold, now this? Isn't this supposed to be one of the "signs" along with rivers running red with blood, etc?

...Until yesterday, it appeared that no news release on annual climate trends out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Bush White House had said unequivocally that a buildup of greenhouse gases was helping warm the climate.“

A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases,” the release said, emphasizing that the relative contributions of El Niño and the human influence were not known.
Not sure about this one though....
James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the release reflected longstanding views within the administration.

“It’s helpful for them to describe what is a question in many people’s minds — what is the human factor, what is the El Niño factor,” Mr. Connaughton said of the NOAA release. “From our perspective, what was in the press release was a direct reflection of what the president and folks in his administration have been saying for some time.”

Emissions Cuts Order from America's Favorite Liberal

America's favorite foreign governor, Ahnold, with his latest endeavor - ordering cuts in California emissions.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that he would ask regulators to require the state’s petroleum refiners and gasoline sellers to cut by 10 percent the emissions of heat-trapping gases associated with the production and use of their products.

The order for cuts, which the governor wants completed by 2020, follows California’s trademark pattern of hitching its environmental aspirations to its market muscle. It also represents one of the first examples of a state or a national government regulating the fuel in its passenger vehicles as part of a strategy to reduce both emissions that contribute to climate change and dependence on foreign oil.

The executive order asks state air regulators to take up the governor’s challenge. The California Air Resources Board will be responsible for drawing the blueprints to carry out the order, with the help of advisers from the University of California, Berkeley.
There's actually a lot here for the alternative fuels sector.
The 10 percent cut in emissions would be accomplished, experts said, largely through the use of alternative fuels, like ethanol and other gasoline blends, which would be provided by the refineries and other producers.

Environmentalists expected the order to turbocharge the market demand for corn-based ethanol and biodiesel fuels, and for natural gas, and to jump-start the introduction of experimental fuels like cellulosic ethanol, which is made from plant waste or nonfood crops like switch grass or wood chips.

The contemporary environmental movement links clear air goals to potential profits, and Mr. Schwarzenegger’s order, with input and support from lobbyists from Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Hewlett Foundation, mirrors that approach. The companies or industries that stand to benefit financially from his plan include producers of corn-based ethanol, biodiesel and other, more experimental forms of renewable fuels.
One especially interesting aspect involves the understanding of "cradle-to-the-grave" concepts, so typically absent from non-sustainable manufacturing processes:
The unusual in its focus on the so-called cradle-to-grave emissions associated with each fuel. In the case of ethanol, this can mean carbon emissions generated in the production of fertilizer, in the planting and harvesting of corn, in distilling the fuel and, finally, in transporting it to the distributor and burning it in a car. Thus, two otherwise identical gallons of ethanol could have different greenhouse-gas ratings, if one were refined using carbon-intensive coal-fired electricity, while the other was refined using relatively carbon-light electricity from natural gas.

Monday, January 08, 2007

GM's Electric Car - Version 2.0

As I wait for this flick from Netflix, news comes of General Motor's latest attempt at being a responsible automaker (and by "responsible", I mean trying to match consumer demand with products that can be profitable and brand-enhancing).

General Motors Chairman G. Richard Wagoner Jr. on Sunday unveiled an innovative prototype, the Chevrolet Volt -- a plug-in vehicle that derives its power primarily from electricity rather than gasoline -- as the world's automakers take on global warming and U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Wagoner's announcement underscores the depth of GM's previous miscalculation on alternative vehicles and the degree to which the U.S. automotive landscape is changing. In 1990, GM introduced the concept of an all-electric car, the EV1. The vehicle made it to U.S. consumers but didn't survive through the decade.

GM hasn't given a date when consumers can buy the Volt because the advanced lithium-ion batteries needed to power the vehicle -- similar to technology used in cellphones -- are still years from widespread use in automobiles.
Are they even trying at this stage? To me, it sounds as though that whole "strategy" thing is pretty absent from the process. The scent of desperation hangs heavy in the air. Just sayin'... as these batteries might have a wee bit of importance to the ultimate success of this venture. But oh, don't worry, the CEO's on it.
Though the battery technology is still early in development, GM officials say they are pushing ahead. "We are taking a calculated gamble on this," said Robert A. Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global product development. "We are making the bet that the batteries will be available."
Ladies and gentlemen. We're not America's largest potentially bankrupt company for nuthin.

Japanese Energy Efficiency

Really like this story on Japan's extremely energy conscious ways.

Japan is the most energy-efficient developed country on earth, according to most specialists, who say it is much better prepared than the United States to prosper in an era of higher global energy prices. And if there is any lesson that Japan can offer to Americans, they say, it is that there is no one fix-all solution to living with oil above $50 a barrel.

Rather, as Mr. Kimura shows, it is a combination of many things, from the most advanced technologies to the simplest frugality in everyday life — and an obsession with saving energy that keeps his family huddled in a single heated room during winter.
The notion that it takes both the individual and a collective social consciousness working together is very valuable. The article also mentions the Japanese government's tax on gasoline which pushes it to $5.40 a gallon, and where the subsequent tax revenues have gone.

Higher energy prices have also created strong domestic demand in Japan for more conventional and new energy-saving products of all sorts. That has spurred the invention and development of things like low-energy washing machines and televisions and high-mileage cars and hybrid vehicles, experts say. Japanese factories also learned how to cut energy use and become among the most efficient in the world.

Companies like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are now reaping the benefits in booming overseas sales of their highly efficient electric turbines, steel blast furnaces and other industrial machinery, particularly in the United States. The environment ministry forecasts that exports will help turn energy conservation into a $7.9 billion industry in Japan by 2020, about 10 times its size in 2000.
Is it any wonder that Toyota and Honda have taken the lead in developing hybrid technology?