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Updated: 2017-04-10T13:42:42.078-07:00

 



HOV Lanes

2008-03-31T19:09:11.365-07:00

Last week, I traveled to Irvine California for a job interview. During my trip, I was extremely upset about the HOV lanes.... they were empty. I was upset for two reasons. One, there were very very few cars using the HOV lanes and second, the remaining 4 to 5 lanes were traveling at a snails pace. Traffic was bumper to bumper and would have moved must faster if the HOV lanes were being used by more cars.

While I'd love to see people traveling 2-3 in each vehicle... or even more. It wasn't happening that day. I asked a friend about this and he said its always like that. UGH. Very upsetting and frustrating.

We need more people using the HOV lanes. I 100% agree with that. However, if people are not using them... we need to use them for everyone else.... since they are using much more fuel just sitting there in traffic while the HOV lanes are empty. Opening up the HOV lanes to others, when not being used by HOV commuters, would save a significant amount of energy.

The State of California has given a small number of hybrid cars and trucks the ability to use the HOV lanes, they need to expand that and allow all hybrids and electric cars to use it. In addition, it would be great if they also allowed other energy efficient vehicles access. They could even charge for its use and then use that money to expand access to energy efficient cars and trucks.

While this was California, I'm confident that this situation is happening across American, where HOV lanes exist. I applaud the concept, however, if its not working as intended, it needs to change. The objective is laudable, the program just needs to be modified to better promote energy conservation and reduced our reliance on fossil fuels.



Cell Phone Companies going Green

2008-03-12T13:22:25.355-07:00

I read the following article with great interest. I worked in the wireless telecommunications industry for over 12 years... for companies both big and small. Businesses are big energy users. While the article talks about cell towers... using 4 to 8 times the amount of electric as a single family home, and there are over 200,000 towers, this is really only the 'tip' of the iceberg as it relates to the wireless phone companies. Cell phone companies operate thousands of retail stores, switching centers, customer service centers and business offices. They have technical teams visiting the cell towers on a regular basis. All these activities consume a great deal of energy. On top of that .... they all have millions of customers who have to charge their cell phone on a regular basis.... for many everyday.I am glad to see that they are working towards alternative sources of energy. They need to continue to do so.... and the company that makes the transition the fastest will certainly benefit significantly. I am confident that consumers would be happy to do business with a truly green telecommunications provider...... I know many people who would love to buy a solar cell phone charger.... priced at less than $50 ..... come on cell phone companies..... lets put one out there in the marketplace.FOXNews.com Greener Cell Power Presents Challenges Saturday, March 08, 2008 By DAVID TWIDDY, AP Business Writer KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When wireless industry technicians speak of "green" cell towers these days, they're not just talking about making them look more like trees. They're talking about towers powered by wind turbines or solar panels, antennas that get backup energy from hydrogen fuel cells and geothermal cooling for computer equipment. Cell phone companies are experimenting with these and other strategies to reduce their increasingly ubiquitous industry's environmental impact. To be sure, the "greening" of wireless communication is still in its infancy. The vast majority of the nation's more than 200,000 cell towers and antennas run off the same electric grid everybody else does. And even companies experimenting with alternative energy plan to limit its use to backup power. The average cell tower requires four to eight times as much power as a typical household, and cell companies say power from conventional supplies is still cheap compared to alternative sources. They say they would use green power mainly in remote areas where towers don't face the same aesthetic and zoning limits as in neighborhoods and cities. Wireless companies aren't seeing big demand from subscribers for sustainable technology, said Jackie McCarthy, director of governmental affairs for PCIA _ The Wireless Infrastructure Association. "I think we're hearing a lot more about dependability in terms of the wireless network," McCarthy said. "I don't think the whole 'green' wireless site development (issue) has really gotten to our infrastructure providers yet." But carriers say it's important they consider environmentally friendly technology, especially if it can save them money. Sprint Nextel Corp. began seriously investigating alternative energy in 2004 and has since deployed hydrogen fuel cells at several of its roughly 65,000 sites. "It solves a lot of issues for us regarding the traditional use of diesel generators," said Bob Azzi, Sprint Nextel Corp.'s senior vice president of field engineering and operations. The company has also installed a wind turbine at its headquarters, is experimenting with geothermal cooling as a replacement for conventionally-powered air conditioning in warmer climates and is testing mini turbines in California that are fueled with natural gas and used for backup power. "It has the advantage of being quieter," he said of the mini turbines. "They're more reliable and we think they're more efficient than traditional diesel power generators." Miles Schreiner, director of national operations planning for T-Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Deutsche[...]



Jobs

2008-03-10T11:42:09.224-07:00

Last week it was reported that over 63,000 net jobs were lost. The auto industry continues to scale back production, the retail sector is cutting jobs and re engineering its business as a way of improving its profitability.

Alternative energy and green technologies are areas in which the US can rebuild our employment base to create good jobs that pay good wages. These technologies are wanted and needed around the world to reduce global warming and to escape the rapidly increasing price of oil.

The US government, both Federal and State levels, needs to do everything possible to support the development of these industries. Just as the industrial revolution moved us from being an farming based society, we need another 'revolution' of sorts to move us towards self sustaining technologies.



Home Fuel Cells

2008-03-10T11:21:29.535-07:00

New technologies and applications are popping up everywhere to transition the US and world from dependence on fossil fuels... and foreign oil to self reliance and clean technologies.While the cost of this technology might be prohibitive, for now, it is a great starting point where the bugs can be worked out and the application proven. I continue to be amazed at the things people are working on in this area. I know we can find alternative solutions for all our energy needs. Fuel cells make power for homes in Japan By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer Mon Mar 3, 3:38 PM ET HIRATSUKA, Japan - Masanori Naruse jogs every day, collects miniature cars and feeds birds in his backyard, but he's proudest of the way his home and 2,200 others in Japan get electricity and heat water — with power generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. The technology — which draws energy from the chemical reaction when hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water — is more commonly seen in futuristic cars with tanks of hydrogen instead of gasoline, whose combustion is a key culprit in pollution and global warming. Developers say fuel cells for homes produce one-third less of the pollution that causes global warming than conventional electricity generation does. "I was a bit worried in the beginning whether it was going to inconvenience my family or I wouldn't be able to take a bath," said the 45-year-old Japanese businessman, who lives with his wife, Tomoko, and two children, 12 and 9. But, as head of a construction company, he was naturally interested in new technology for homes. Tomoko Naruse, 40, initially worried the thing would explode, given all she had heard about the dangers of hydrogen. "Actually, you forget it's even there," her husband said. Their plain gray fuel cell is about the size of a suitcase and sits just outside their door next to a tank that turns out to be a water heater. In the process of producing electricity, the fuel cell gives off enough warmth to heat water for the home. The oxygen that the fuel cell uses comes from the air. The hydrogen is extracted from natural gas by a device called a reformer in the same box as the fuel cell. But a byproduct of that process is poisonous carbon monoxide. So another machine in the gray box adds oxygen to the carbon monoxide to create carbon dioxide, which — though it contributes to global warming — is not poisonous. The entire process produces less greenhouse gas per watt than traditional generation. And no energy is wasted transporting the electricity where it's actually going to be used. Nearly every home in Japanese cities is supplied with natural gas for cooking or heating, which could make it relatively easy to spread fuel cell technology there. The potential for widespread use of fuel cells in bigger or more sparsely settled countries is less certain. Many American homes don't have gas service, for example. "There are not any real show-stoppers for this technology being used in the U.S.," said electrical engineering professor Roger Dougal at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, S.C. Dougal said fuel cells are no more hazardous than any stove or water heater. Their major drawback is cost. "Ultimately, I expect that some fraction of homes will use this technology, but it will be a very long time before a sizable fraction does," he said in an e-mail. Naruse is paying $9,500 for a 10-year lease on a test fuel cell for his home southwest of Tokyo from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Matsushita, which sells Panasonic brand products, plans to offer fuel cells commercially in 2009. Other Japanese companies working on fuel cells for homes include Toyota Motor Corp., which is developing fuel-cell vehicles, and electronics maker Toshiba Corp. Automaker Honda Motor Co. is working with Plug Power Inc., a fuel cell company in the U.S., to test a home fuel cell generator that also provides hydrogen as fuel for fuel cell vehicles. Honda h[...]



Diesel Hybrid 69 MPG

2008-03-08T15:28:32.238-08:00

Exciting News. 69 mpg for a diesel hybrid car. The article attempts to make a point that consumers would be unwilling to pay the extra $$ for a diesel hybrid vehicle. With gasoline prices continuing to increase... soon to be $4 plus per gallon. I'm not so sure that would be the case.If you could double or even triple your fuel economy.... perhaps it will make sense to some consumers.... depending on their driving behavior. There are also some of us out there that would pay a premium in order to help the environment and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.To learn how diesel hybrid vehicles work, go to http://altenergystation.com/Hybrid-Electric_Vehicles.html , while this is a description of a gasoline hybrid, the concept is very similar. CNNMoney.com 3/7/08Better mileage than a Prius? Not so fastVW's new diesel-powered hybrid gets great mileage - better than Toyota's top-selling hybrid. Its price-tag is another story. NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It was bound to happen - the Toyota Prius could soon lose its crown as the most fuel-efficient car on the market. But you might want to hold off before you cancel your order. The VW Golf TDI Hybrid gets 69 miles per gallon in the European fuel economy test cycle, according to Volkswagen. Toyota claims 54 mpg for the Prius in the same test. Volkswagen unveiled a Golf hatchback in Europe this week that gets even better mileage than the Prius. It's a concept vehicle for now, but the diesel-powered hybrid indicates something that's in the "near term future" for European customers, a VW spokesman said. Customers in the U.S. would have to wait a little longer, but a car like this could eventually be sold here, said Keith Price, a spokesman for Volkswagen of America. Check under the hood It's easy to understand why the Golf gets 26% better mileage than a Prius, which burns gasoline. The Golf TDI hybrid has a diesel engine, which is more efficient. A non-hybrid 2006 Volkswagen Jetta diesel sedan gets 33 mpg in combined city and highway driving, according to current EPA estimates. A 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid, a similarly-sized car, gets just one mile per gallon more. And the Jetta diesel gets much better highway fuel economy - 38 mpg - than the Camry Hybrid's 34 mpg. You may wonder why no one thought of the diesel/hybrid combination before. "From a consumer standpoint, it comes down to 'What kind of compromise do I need to live with to enjoy all this wonderfulness?'" said VW's Price. And the biggest challenge, he conceded, is cost. And then check your wallet Diesel engines burn fuel using high pressure and heat instead of a spark. The engines have to be more rugged to withstand the strain, so they're more expensive to build. Chrysler has a small test-fleet of plug-in diesel hybrid Dodge Sprinter vans in commercial use today, but the technology is too pricey to put into passenger vehicles, said Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. "There has to be a customer value there," he said. "It has to pay for itself." For the U.S. passenger car market, there's an additional cost hurdle: It's harder for diesel engines to meet strict clean-air requirements here. They produce lots of noxious fumes and particles that require expensive exhaust treatment systems. But with new ultra-clean diesel fuel now readily available at American gas stations and new exhaust-cleaning technology in cars, various automakers hope to introduce a new generation of clean-diesel cars here over the next couple of years. But like hybrids, these new diesels will be more expensive than similar gas-powered cars. The mark-up may not be quite as much, though. Volkswagen estimates that the 2009 Jetta diesel will cost about $2,000 more than the gas-powered version. Official pricing hasn't been announced yet, though. (The 2006 model year was the last time VW sold diesel cars in the U.S.) Manufacturers almost always add unrelated equipment to hybrids, so it's difficult to[...]



Ethanol Leadership

2008-03-05T14:22:56.743-08:00

I am extremely happy and excited about the continued leadership the President has been providing in the promotion and development of Ethanol. We need infrastructure, additional supplies, new technologies, cheap conversion equipment and more.Many people, as the article below indicates, argue about the impact on food, efficiency, costs, the environment, etc. While I agree there are issues with ethanol... real and anticipated. We as a country need to move in the direction of alternative fuels and energy.Ethanol is one piece of the solution to help transition our country from oil dependency to fuel/energy independence. There are other pieces... such as solar, wind, biodiesel and more.We need more leadership from Congress, the President and leaders from around the US. CNNMoney.com 3/5/08 Bush: Use ethanol to get off oil Bush calls for energy independence, stands by ethanol although environmental benefits of the corn-based fuel are questioned while it is blamed for surging food prices. By Steve Hargreaves CNNMoney.com staff writer March 5 2008: 4:03 PM EST WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- President Bush said the United States should "get off oil" Wednesday as crude prices hit record highs and renewed his support for ethanol use despite concerns the corn-based fuel is driving up food prices and isn't more environmentally friendly than gasoline. "We gotta get off oil, American has got to change its habits," Bush told a crowd at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, a meeting of global energy officials and an adjoining trade show that's the largest all-renewables show ever held in the United States. "It should be obvious to all, demand has outstripped supply, which makes prices go up." As the conference got into its second day, crude oil on the New York mercantile exchange jumped nearly $4 on falling oil inventories, trading over $104 a barrel and setting a new all-time record. Part of Bush's plan to wean the country off oil includes big investments in ethanol. The energy bill passed by Congress and signed by Bush in December calls for refiners to replace 36 billion gallons of gasoline with ethanol by 2020, up from about 7 billion gallons today. About half of that will come from ethanol made with corn. "That's good if you're a corn farmer, and it's good if you're concerned with national security," Bush said. Bush acknowledged some of the problems with ethanol, particularly its role in pushing up the price of corn. The price of corn has doubled since 2006 which has pushed up the price of chicken, beef and poultry - livestock fed with corn. Also, crops like wheat and soybeans are becoming more expensive as farmers devote more acreage to grow corn as they rush to satisfy the demand for ethanol. "I'm beginning to hear complaints from cattleman about the price of corn," he said. "We're going to do something about it." Bush said his administration has spent over $1 billion to make cellulosic ethanol - which can be made from non-food plants like grasses or wood chips - cost competitive. He also highlighted the use of biodiesel, which is diesel fuel made from agricultural and food waste. "I'm confident the United States can meet those goals, for the sake of national security and the environment," he said. Ethanol's impact on the environment is also up for debate. The U.S. government has previously said ethanol is about 20 to 30% cleaner than gasoline, even factoring in that it is less efficient than gasoline. But recent studies have called that into question, suggesting ethanol is no better than conventional fuel. In the renewable field overall, Bush said his administration has spent $12 billion on research and development since he's been in office, all part of an effort to wean the nation off big oil and increase investment in solar and wind power. Bush said wind capacity has increased 300% since he's been in office, and solar has g[...]



Solar Chargers

2008-12-09T01:17:30.208-08:00

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We all have numerous consumer products that operate off battery power. They include laptop computers, cell phones, electric razors, bluetooth ear pieces, GPS devices, power tools and so much more. There are also remote control toys, golf carts, scooters and so much more.

I have a friend who has looked into the possibility of finding a solar battery charging system to charge his electric scooter so that he could be 100% alternative... off grid. However, there doesn't seem to be a ready to use, off the shelf, system available to directly charge his scooter battery. He will have to use solar to charge a battery then use that battery to charge the scooter battery.

This seems like too many steps and an unnecessary added expense.

To help spread the use and acceptance of solar and alternative sources of energy... we need to have small systems which will help consumers to take small steps. While it will only save a small amount of energy... every bit will help to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and help improve the environment.



Solar Electric Cars

2008-03-03T07:25:46.067-08:00

I live in California, where there are many sunny days every year. During the summer, when the sun is out, many drivers seek out the shade. But what if cars had solar panels... sitting in the sun, while your at work... or shopping... means your cars batteries were getting charged. Or on those hour long drives, your battery was getting charged as you sit on the highway in traffic. This would also be possible in many parts of the US and world.

We are not too far from being at a point where this might be possible. Today we have reliable hybrid technology, gasoline-electric... all we need to do is add the solar to the equation. Solar panels to the top of the car... connected to the battery... providing a constant charge. For a time until battery technology improves, we would keep the gasoline component for reliability.

I haven't read much about any car makers exploring the use of solar. I hope they are... solar is clean and unlimited.



Mercedes Hybrids

2008-03-03T07:12:02.546-08:00

Exciting news. High performance and luxury appeal... in the same vehicle. A great number of drivers do not want to give up performance for the purpose of saving energy.... now they won't have to. The fact they are also using modified ... existing technologies is also significant as it will help to speed the new hybrid to market.

Next, I'd like to see Daimler next make its Smart Cars hybrids... or even plug-in electric. Many people use these vehicles for short local trips which make them ideal for being electric.

Usatoday.com 3/2/08

Daimler plans new battery for hybrid

DETROIT (AP) — Daimler AG is planning to roll out a hybrid version of its Mercedes-Benz flagship S-Class luxury sedan that uses a kind of battery already widely used in consumer electronics.

Daimler said that it has adapted lithium-ion technology to meet demanding automotive requirements. Daimler said Friday the new battery will be used in the S 400 BlueHYBRID beginning next year.

"What we have here is a groundbreaking key technology that is going to be a decisive factor for the future success of the automotive industry," Daimler Board of Management member Thomas Weber said in a statement.

Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler's announcement indicates an increase in confidence about lithium-ion technology. Other automakers are working on lithium-ion batteries.

Toyota Motor Corp. said in December it was preparing to start mass producing lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in laptops and other gadgets, are smaller yet more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in gas-electric hybrids like the Japanese automaker's Prius.

General Motors Corp. is developing the Chevrolet Volt, an electric sedan to be recharged by plugging it into a household outlet. Plans call for it to be powered by an electric motor fed by lithium-ion batteries.

GM spokesman Brian Corbett said Saturday the Detroit-based automaker plans to make a major announcement Tuesday about hybrid technology at a press conference during the Geneva Motor Show.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




Solar Energy from Suns Heat

2008-03-01T15:20:56.251-08:00

The following is very exciting news. The establishment of a solar energy facility, in Arizona, that will power 70,000 homes. The technology is interesting because it uses the suns heat... rather than the suns light to generate electricity.While this technology will work in limited places, it does highlight once again the diversity of technologies and sources of power available. The US, and world, needs to continue to support and develop numerous technologies to find the ones that have the least impact on the environment and the lowest costs. CNN.com 2/22/08 Arizona to become 'Persian Gulf' of solar energy PHOENIX, Arizona (AP) -- A Spanish company is planning to take 3 square miles of desert southwest of Phoenix and turn them into one of the largest solar power plants in the world. Abengoa Solar will build a plant like this one they built in Spain in Arizona to supply 70,000 homes with power. Abengoa Solar, which has plants in Spain, northern Africa and other parts of the U.S., could begin construction as early as next year on the 280-megawatt plant in Gila Bend -- a small, dusty town 50 miles southeast of Phoenix. The company said Thursday it could be producing solar energy by 2011. Abengoa would build, own and operate the $1 billion plant, named the Solana Generating Station. Solana will be enough to supply up to 70,000 homes at full capacity. APS filed for approval of the plant with Arizona's public utilities regulator Thursday. The plant also hinges on an extension of the federal solar investment tax credit, which APS and Abengoa said they're confident will happen. If approved, the plant will triple the amount of renewable energy APS produces. Now, about 1½ percent of the utility's energy comes from renewable sources. Arizona regulators are requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, with annual increases of roughly 1 percent. The Solana plant will bring APS to around 5 percent in 2011, said Don Robinson, the utility's senior vice president of planning and administration. Unlike most solar energy, Solana will use the sun's heat, not its light, to produce power. Gila Bend can get as hot as 120 degrees in the summer. Abengoa CEO Santiago Seage said the plant will use thousands of giant mirrors to harness the sun's heat. That will heat up liquids, which will spin turbines -- just like coal or other power plants but without the pollution. He said using heat will allow the plant to produce power even after the sun has gone down. "We receive the heat from the sun, and we use a fluid that becomes very hot. And we can keep it hot for a long time and release that heat for a long time," he said. "It's like coffee. You can make it hot, keep it hot for a few hours and drink it anytime you want." Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said she envisioned the state as a solar powerhouse. "There is no reason that Arizona should not be the Persian Gulf of solar energy," she said. Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.[...]



Saving Energy

2008-02-29T15:14:49.017-08:00

Below you will find 5 great ideas for saving energy at home. We can all do so much more to reduce our energy consumption and be more efficient in our usage. In doing so, we will save money and help the environment.I had a conversation today with someone at Starbucks regarding fuel usage in our cars, I mentioned that I've started to plan out my trips so that i'd use less gasoline. He was stunned and said, 'you do that'. I said, of course I do... I still do everything that I need to... I just try to better plan my trips so that I minimize the amount of gasoline I use. Being conscious of our individual usage and smart about what we do everyday can make a big difference towards reducing our energy consumption. USA Today 2/14/08 Five simple ways to save energy at home By Joan Brunskill, Associated Press Writer It's easier than you think to paint your house "green." Simple changes can save resources and energy — and perhaps slow global warming. A growing demand for energy efficiency topped findings from the American Institute of Architects' home-design trend survey for the second quarter of 2007. The group's chief economist, Kermit Baker, said the panel of 500 architecture firms found high demand for insulation panels, tankless water heaters, geothermal heating and cooling, and green flooring products such as bamboo and cork. Warren, Vt.-based architect John Connell, a member of the institute's housing committee, said the No. 1 question he gets from confused homeowners is where to start. "None of the more sexy energy-saving installations — small windmills on the roof, photovoltaic panels, solar-water collectors — make any sense until you've done your insulation, weather stripping and other fundamentals," he said. For the do-it-yourself homeowner, this is Connell's five-point plan for easy, immediate action: LIGHTING Changing to fluorescent bulbs makes sense despite recent concerns about how to dispose of the small amount of mercury they contain. "If you put in compact fluorescent lighting today you won't have to change those bulbs for a couple of years at least — and systems are quickly evolving to deal with disposal as more and more people do this," Connell said. The Environmental Protection Agency is working with bulb makers and retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Check with your local sanitation department to see if you can recycle bulbs containing mercury. If not, the EPA suggests sealing the bulb in two plastic bags and putting it in outside trash for normal collection. WINDOWS First, with a compass, identify which windows face south and which north. Use insulating shades on those windows to keep heat in or out and slow the loss of energy, Connell said. You can open and close windows and shades to help heat or cool the house, depending on season and geographical location. "In the south, thermal shades work best on the outside, for a cooling effect in hot climates," he said. They'd have to be made of materials that stand up to UV rays. "In the north, shades work best on the inside, for keeping heat in." APPLIANCES Taking good care of appliances has a big payoff. "Everything in my life, including the car, could save energy, if I just maintain it properly," Connell said. Clean your refrigerator's ventilation grill. Have your boiler, furnace, air conditioning units and clothes dryer serviced thoroughly — especially if there are funny noises emanating from any of them. RECYCLE HEAT Recycle your heated clothes-dryer exhaust through an appropriate filter into your house. "It's so simple. Go to the local hardware store and ask for a bypass filter — it's just an 8-inch cube. You just need a screwdriver and the instructions are right on the package," he said. "The bypass helps humidify and heat the[...]



Ethanol Bust

2008-02-28T14:51:51.585-08:00

The following article is troubling in two ways. One it neglects the current development of cellulosic ethanol and second it doesn't speak to the economic impact of gasoline getting close to $4 per gallon. Both of these things will make ethanol more economical. Investors, economist, consumers, politicians and others need to understand that corn based ethanol is a necessary component of meeting the energy/fuel needs of the US. It's an emerging technology and industry. Over the next several years we are going to see an enormous amount of change and development.... uncertainty. This uncertainty is what investors don't like. Eventually corn based ethanol will be transition to cellulosic ethanol... fuel made with switch grass or other biomass material... the development of ethanol plants and the necessary infrastructure is critical and the development needs to continue. Investors need to keep in the 'game' today... rather than get shut out later. Its truly only a matter of time before this industry takes off. 2/28/08 CNN.com/Fortune The ethanol bust The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike. By Jon Birger, senior writer NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Cargill announces it's scrapping plans for a $200 million ethanol plant near Topeka, Kan. A judge approves the bankruptcy sale of an unfinished ethanol plant in Canton, Ill.. And that was just Tuesday. Indeed, plans for as many as 50 new ethanol plants have been shelved in recent months, as Wall Street pulls back from the sector, says Paul Ho, a Credit Suisse investment banker specializing in alternative energy. Financing for new ethanol plants, Ho says, "has been shut down." How can the ethanol industry be slumping only two months after Congress passed an energy bill most experts consider a biofuels boon? The answer is runaway corn prices. Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it's become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel. Just look at Verasun (VSE). In the third quarter of 2007, Verasun's gross profit margin shrank from 37% to 12%, as its corn costs rose from $2.05 a bushel to $3.32 a bushel. And, remember, corn prices today are 60% higher than they were back then (whereas wholesale ethanol prices are up only 30%.) The margin crunch now afflicting ethanol producers is something I predicted when I first wrote about the "Dot-Corn" boom in Fortune last March (see "The Great Corn Gold Rush" ). Here's an excerpt: [In the summer of 2006] when corn was $2 a bushel and oil was $70 a barrel, ethanol plants were minting money. They averaged $1.06 in profit for every gallon of ethanol sold, according to Credit Suisse. Today, with oil at $60 and corn at $4, ethanol producers typically net an average of only 3 cents... If corn spikes to $5 -- a real possibility, says A.G. Edwards commodities analyst Dan Vaught -- or oil declines to $50, ethanol's once-fantastic margins would turn negative. That possibility is creating tensions between ethanol producers and corn growers, two groups whose lobbyists are normally attached at the hip. Looming over all this is a huge catch-22: $4 corn is a result of the 31 new ethanol plants built since 2005, but investors won't keep bankrolling new plants if $4 corn keeps eating up their profits The shakeout was inevitable. That said, the ethanol business isn't going away, at least so long as the federal government continues to mandate the use of biofuels -- 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, up from 7 billion last year-and impose hefty tariffs on imported ethanol. There is an oversupply of ethanol right now, but the yearly increase in the biofuels manda[...]



New Technology for developing countries... and perhaps the US.

2008-02-27T10:05:02.746-08:00

This is a great new technology, and at a relatively low cost. Hopefully it will spread very quickly in developing countries to help meet its needs for energy, much better for the environment than large fossil fuel plants. It will also be cheaper than building transmission lines and support infrastructure.This also holds significant opportunity for the US. Many places in the US still use septic systems which could be modified, to capture the methane gas for later use... or immediate use. It would probably be done at a relatively low cost... and make the home energy independent.Just as we use heating oil, natural gas, petro, coal, etc. We need to explore a wide assortment of technologies... to meet our current and future energy needs. This is just one that should be explored and developed.CNN.Com/Fortune Magazine 2/27/08 Waste not, want not Plastics maker Sintex seeks to solve India's energy and sanitation problems in one stroke - with an at-home biogas digester. By Jeremy Kahn (Fortune Magazine) -- Sintex Industries, a plastics and textiles manufacturer in Gujarat, India, is betting it can find profit in human waste. Its new biogas digester turns human excrement, cow dung, or kitchen garbage into fuel that can be used for cooking or generating electricity, simultaneously addressing two of India's major needs: energy and sanitation. Sintex's digester uses bacteria to break down waste into sludge, much like a septic tank. In the process, the bacteria emit gases, mostly methane. But instead of being vented into the air, they are piped into a storage canister. A one-cubic-meter digester, primed with cow dung to provide bacteria, can convert the waste generated by a four-person family into enough gas to cook all its meals and provide sludge for fertilizer. A model this size costs about $425 but will pay for itself in energy savings in less than two years. That's still a high price for most Indians, even though the government recently agreed to subsidize about a third of the cost for these family-sized units. "We want to create a new industry for portable sanitation in India that's not available now," says S.B. Dangayach, Sintex's managing director. Government officials plan to end open defecation by 2012 (hundreds of millions of Indians use railroad tracks or other outdoor locales instead of toilets) and say biogas plants are part of the solution. A.R. Shukla, a scientific advisor in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, says India could support 12 million such plants, but only 3.9 million - mostly pricier models big enough to accommodate entire villages - have been installed to date. And last year the government fell far short of its target for new installations. The future can be glimpsed on a dusty, rutted road in a poor South Delhi neighborhood. Here 1,000 people use an immaculately clean public toilet constructed by a nonprofit foundation, the Sulabh Sanitation Movement. The biogas digester attached to toilets provides cooking gas for a 600-student school and vocational-training program the foundation runs. In the past, nongovernmental organizations like Sulabh were the only ones offering biogas digesters. But Sintex is hoping cities, real estate developers, building managers, and hospitals will jump at a ready-made way to harness the same energy. Biogas digesters are just a small fraction of Sintex's business. The company has installed only about 100 of them. But it plans to increase investment and production tenfold in the coming year. That growth potential has helped Sintex stock more than double this past year. Human waste may be a stinky business, but to investors it smells like money. A Sintex digester can turn manure into fuel for coo[...]



Wind Energy Transmission

2008-02-27T09:03:36.965-08:00

Whether it is transmission lines or ethanol stations it seems the distribution system for alternative energy and fuels needs to pick up the pace of development. Alternatively, the existing distribution system needs to embrace the new sources of energy.What would it hurt for a station to dedicate one pump to ethanol fuel... they do it today with diesel. It would expand their customer base. Electric utility companies should also look at rerouting their power as to free up capacity for renewable sources of electricity. Yes it would take effort ... but its the right thing to do.Government also needs to put up money to speed the development of distribution systems. The recently passed economic stimulus program should have included spending on infrastructure projects... which would have created jobs... and spending... just as they are attempting to do on the consumer side.It takes time for new systems to be developed... and for change to be truly engendered. Its a slow process... however, everything we can do to speed the process should be done ... today.USA Today 2/26/08 Wind energy confronts shortage of transmission lines By Paul Davidson, USA TODAY As wind farms sprout across the country, they're kicking up a new quandary: how to zap the electricity to homes and businesses that need it. The USA's wind-power boom, especially in rural parts of Texas, the Midwest and California, is poised to outstrip the capacity of high-voltage lines to send the electricity hundreds of miles to population centers such as Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. The transmission-line shortage is threatening to slow wind energy's breakneck growth and could prevent some states from meeting renewable energy mandates. Wind power depends on a robust transmission grid. Wind farms are in remote reaches where gusts are strongest, while the greatest power demand is in cities. Until now, wind developers have piggybacked on existing wires, says analyst Stow Walker of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. But after wind energy soared 45% last year, spare transmission capacity is depleted. Wind power generates more than 1% of U.S. electricity. Stringing new wires is easier said than done. Wind developers won't go ahead with projects until transmission lines are in place, and utilities are loath to build the lines until they're sure the developers won't back out. Also, the first wind developer in an area is often asked to shoulder much of the $1.5 million-per-mile cost of a high-voltage line. In Texas, which has about 25% of U.S. wind power, more eye-popping growth in 2008 is expected to push generation past transmission capacity by 65% by year's end, says Bill Bojorquez, vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a power-grid manager. Wind farms will have to compete to be among the lowest bidders to get on the grid, leaving others off. "Clearly we don't want to build wind farms and have them not run," says Horizon Wind Energy executive Denise Hill. In southwest Minnesota, dozens of wind projects have been proposed to serve the Twin Cities. Even if just 30% of them, with 7,500 megawatts of capacity, are developed, that would far outpace the 2,000 megawatts of transmission capacity planned. Similar bottlenecks are stalling wind farms in the Midwest, Southwest and California. Compounding the standoff: Some states don't want residents paying for lines that will largely benefit neighboring states. As a result, utilities in several Midwestern states may not meet mandates for clean energy to make up about 20% of their energy mix by 2020, says Clair Moeller, an executive for the Midwest grid operator. Xcel Energy, a Midwest utility, says it can't [...]



Ethanol Stations

2008-02-27T08:28:26.701-08:00

We need more ethanol stations nationwide. Please read the article below. It is absolutely incredible that there is only 3 ethanol stations in California. Absolutely amazing. We need more distribution.... yesterday.It only costs approximately $300 to convert your car to accept ethanol. The price of a nice dinner out with your family. Many energy conscious people would glad start using ethanol if they could.... if it were readily available.At one point Walmart was considering selling ethanol at its stores nationwide. I hope they are continuing to pursue this... especially since they also have garages and could convert existing gasoline engines for its customers. .... target, costco, sears and others should also consider this as a way of serving their customers.We need more distribution... so whether its traditional gas stations ... or less traditional locations, we need it yesterday.USA Today 2/27/08 Ethanol stations remain few and far between By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY LOS ANGELES — The ethanol industry has a problem, but you wouldn't have known it Tuesday from the line of big, thirsty vehicles snaking down the street from a single service station. Most states still have few places that sell the industry's highly touted E85 fuel (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) even though there are an estimated 6.8 million cars and trucks on the road capable of burning the mixture. Here in the motoring mecca of Los Angeles, there's exactly one E85 station to serve consumers. It is one of just three open to the public in all of California. Thanks to a promotion subsidized by General Motors (GM), drivers lined up their SUVs, pickups and minivans for a blessed two hours of E85 priced at 85.9 cents a gallon — a far cry from the $2.999 a gallon that Conserv Fuel in the tony Brentwood section of the city usually charges. "I've been waiting to get a station out here," said Keira Lowery, 28, of Los Angeles as she filled up her Dodge Caravan minivan. Some waited more than half an hour. Promotions like this one have been staged around the country to raise awareness of E85, plugged as a home-grown, environmentally sound fuel. But even officials of GM, which makes the most flex-fuel vehicles that can burn E85, say they are frustrated by the slow rollout of pumps around the country. "We're trying to bring attention to the fact we need more stations," said Clay Okabayashi, a GM executive who was on hand at the event. The Corn Belt has most of the E85 pumps. Of the 1,490 U.S. stations with E85, 89 are in Iowa, 169 in Illinois and 342 in Minnesota, according to the tally kept by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. But there are just four stations in Utah and one each in Montana, Massachusetts and Delaware. The slow growth of the E85 stations contrasts with this season's huge corn plantings and the continued opening of ethanol plants, many near the corn. While more pumps are located near ethanol plants, red tape is also a problem. In California, the coalition blames California air-quality officials for holding up installation of E85 pumps in a dispute about permits for their vapor recovery systems. "The problem is distribution and overcoming some laws and regulatory hurdles," says Phil Lampert, the coalition's executive director. Vapor-recovery issues have been ironed out with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Local air-pollution districts will soon be cleared to allow more E85 stations, says Dimitri Stanich of the California Air Resources Board. That could make customers happy. Jesse Lopez, 37, a freight manager in Los Angeles, says he'll consider fill[...]



Political Cartoon - - - Irony and Middle East Oil

2008-02-25T22:19:37.902-08:00

Kudos to Texas. "Texas has reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines."

This is absolutely amazing. While we still have a way to go, this is helping the US move in the right direction. Every bit helps as we move toward renewable and alternative sources of energy.





New York Times 2/23/08

Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind

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Brian Harkin for The New York Times

Jim Albert, front, and Jerry Tuttle, General Electric wind technicians, perch atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex. The turbines stand as high as 20-story buildings.

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