Tuesday, January 15, 2008

News and notes - wind, carbon policy, marketing, investment and more hybrids

Alternative Wind Power Experiments - SkySails and Airborne Wind Turbines: The Oil Drum takes an in-depth look at two new wind technologies: attaching kite sales to ships and airborne wind turbines. Each technology looks to solve different challenges – the kite sale would reduce fuel consumption for shipping, while airborne wind turbine proponents believe they could limit the intermittency challenge and gain from the increased wind speed in the upper atmosphere.

Carbon Caps: Devil in the Details: The WSJ’s energy blog points to an interesting EIA study concerning the Bingaman-Specter climate bill. Both the post and the study draw some disappointing but realistic conclusions. To me, it seems that in trying to find a middle ground between mitigating economic impact and meeting environmental needs, the B-S climate bill achieves neither. It offers little actual climate impact, centers most of the onus on the electricity sector, and assumes much of the future emissions reductions will come from technologies that have yet to be fully developed or commercialized.

Given the assumed inevitability of climate change legislation (although likely not in 2008), this type of analysis is important in reminding that the compromise and negotiation process can sometimes produce mediocrity that pleases no one.

Clorox Aims to Show that 'Green Works'. The always-interesting Joel Makower has an insightful post concerning Clorox’ new green initiative, which is being co-branded with the Sierra Club. The press release can be found here. These types of deals can play havoc on the internal operations and politics of the non-profit. It took three years of internal deliberation before Oxfam agreed to work with Starbucks (to unfortunately mixed results).

Makower apparently spent some time in 2006 working with the Clorox/Green Works team, and has the inside scoop. I find fascinating that the roots of this project are only 3 years old. As Wal-Mart and GE have demonstrated, given a significant amount of material and human resources and high-profile executive support, most any company can become a member of the “green business” community. Rather than a strategic push, it seems Clorox essentially stumbled onto this effort, and only recently realized that it in fact possesses a number of valuable, if under-leveraged, attributes, resources and initiatives that could be utilized in a green campaign.

Is Environmentalism Compatible with Capitalism? I say yes. Richard Stuebi agrees, and writes a very interesting post explaining why.

GE Energy Financial Services Raises its 2010 Renewable Energy Investing Target to $6 Billion: This increases GE’s previously announced renewable target by 50%. The press release has some good detail on GE’s current wind portfolio.

Green Guide to the Detroit Auto Show: Earth2Tech does its usual fabulous job outlining a number of developments at 2008 Auto Show. As the post points out, most of the key green developments involve plug-in vehicles - could this be the big trend of 2008? (see #3)

The New CAFE Standards: MIT Tech Review raises the point that fuel standards aren’t necessarily likely to encourage innovation, in part because the technology is already there to reach the 35 mpg standard. Instead, they believe that tax credits, R&D grants and loan guarantees will spur more development.

Adding New Fuel Standards, Solar Incentives: Greentech Media covers a number of important foreign renewable energy policy developments, in China, the EU, Brazil, India and Japan.

Japan’s goals (30% of all households with PV installation by 2030) may seem aggressive, but their past success over the past 15 years in incentivizing and mandating solar installation in the commercial and residential sectors shows otherwise. Having studied the Japanese model specifically, it represents, in my opinion, one of the best demonstrations of strategic, sustainable and intelligent renewable energy policy design that has accomplished real results.

12 Tips for Green Living: I’m developing an unhealthy interest in the variety of lists that purport to help others live a cleaner, greener lifestyle. You might notice this is the third such list I’ve posted in the past week. This one shares a similar kitchen sink approach, and it might be useful to provide some basis of comparison – for example, how much money and energy would be saved in switching to CFLs compared to washing clothes in cold water and line drying. But it’s a nice list nonetheless.


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