- Shocker: Conservative Fox News Guest Tears Up Conservative Lies About Chevy Volt
- India Throws More Support behind Clean Energy
- Romney Wanted Government “To Invest in New Technology” — in 2007
- Prius Rebound Effect Wrong
- Looking for a Bamboo Keyboard? Of Course You Are, & iZen’s Got One
- Ferrari Hybrid in the Works (Confirmed)
- Electric Sportscar Ice Racing (VIDEO)
- Plastic Bag Recycling Gets a New Spin from Science
- More Evidence of a Distributed Solar Sweet Spot
- MIT’s Crazy 3-D Solar “Tower of Power”
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 06:29 AM PDT
Wow, another extreme conservative is getting Bob Lutz, GM, and the Chevy Volt’s back… this time on Fox News! Thank goodness someone can get the chance to at least debunk ONE of the network’s many, many, many,… many lies. Here’s more from Joe Romm of Climate Progress (note: if you watch the video, it’s still chock full of numerous other lies and myths… what else can you expect?):
It's one of the most remarkable interviews ever seen on Fox News. Yesterday, a conservative guest debunked all the destructive myths their pundits having been perpetuating, decrying their "fetish for demonizing the Volt."
Conservatives, led by Fox News, have been pushing a variety of lies about the Chevy Volt. They've falsely asserted that it is unsafe and a creation of the Obama administration, using absurd terms to discourage sales like, "exploding Obamamobiles."
This relentless partisan campaign against American products and American jobs has been so successful that GM CEO Dan Akerson suggested it contributed to lower than expected demand, "We did not design the Volt to become a political punching bag and that's what it's become."
Yesterday, in an astonishing burst of candor, Fox & Friends has set the record straight with its story, "Can the Chevy Volt help win the War on Terror?"
Their conservative guest, Lee Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Media, a self-described "drill, baby, drill guy," debunks every single right-wing myth about the Volt, noting:
Fox debunking itself — now that is must-see TV, something I'm not certain you're ever going to see again.
The Fox host, Steve Doocy, actually says, "I'm glad you brought up the myth that so many people think that Barack Obama came into office a shoved this down GM's throat." Yes, Fox is shocked, shocked that people believe a lie that they themselves have been repeating endlessly.
And who could have imagined Fox would run a chart about "how much energy we could save" with the Volt. Alternative fuel vehicles are good for national security? It's like Fox has temporarily been taken over by … its own pundits before 2009 (see Fox News Argued Getting Off Of OPEC Oil With Alternative Fuels Was 'A National Security Issue'. Then Obama Won).
Spieckerman called the Volt "an anti-terrorist weapon" after pointing out:
Spieckerman also calls the Volt, "the iPhone of the American automobile industry," explaining that it will come down in price like computers and flat screen TVs have.
I can't wait for the segment on how conservatives should support a price on carbon pollution because it would save energy, cut the deficit, and boost national security.
Photo Credit: Dave Pinter
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 06:18 AM PDT
India’s looking to further boost its economy with clean energy subsidies and tax breaks, its latest budget indicates. Later this year, the nation is expected to launch its 12th five-year plan. Under this plan, solar equipment and other clean energy technologies would find themselves exempt from taxes as the nation works to increase infrastructure spending.
“In order to fully realise our potential in the realm of solar energy, solar thermal projects need encouragement,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a recent budget speech. “I propose to fully exempt plant and equipment etc for the initial setting up of such projects from special countervailing duties.”
Companies producing lithium-ion batteries, LED lights, and other such technologies will be in a similar situation.
“In contrast, import duties on SUVs were raised to 75 per cent from 60 per cent, while the excise duty on large cars made in the country was also increased to 27 per cent from 22 per cent,” Business Green reports.
As reported previously here on CleanTechnica, India plans to be getting 20,000 GW of electricity from clean energy by 2020, and solar power is likely to be a big part of that.
Meanwhile, however, funding for pollution control and some other green programs dipped. Hopefully, the clean energy focus will more than cover any shortcomings in those arena… of course, a combination of strong policies in both would be ideal.
“The big car duties may encourage consumers to go for more fuel-efficient cars, but much more aggressive subsidies are needed to cultivate innovation, technology advancement and global competition, so that India can surge ahead to claim global clean revolution leadership,” Aditi Dass, director of programs in India at The Climate Group, said.
Image: Solar panels in India by fredericknoronha
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 06:04 AM PDT
If the Mitt Romney of today debated himself from a few years ago, he would likely call himself a government-loving socialist.
In 2007, as he prepared his national presidential campaign, Romney explicitly supported 50-mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standards, electric cars, government programs for new automotive technologies, and renewable energy to reduce the global warming "burden" of greenhouse gases:
Today, after a few good shakes of his Etch A Sketch, Romney now calls fuel standards "disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers." He must have forgotten that 90% of auto manufacturers operating in the U.S. — including Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo — all support aggressive fuel economy standards that will bring the nation's auto fleet to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
A Romney speech released last week illustrates how dramatically the candidate's stances on energy issues have changed in one election cycle. The audio, purportedly captured at a 2007 town hall event and released by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, offers a completely different picture of Romney's energy policies.
(The opening question is a bit garbled, but Romney's answer is much more clear.)
Here's a transcript of his comments:
Romney is now on the opposite side of virtually every single energy issue he supported in 2007. Now, for instance, he routinely mocks an American-made electric car, the Chevy Volt.
That's the beauty of running on an Etch A Sketch platform. It allows Romney's campaign to "shake it up and start all over again" when needed.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:58 AM PDT
There is a new term circulating to suggest that by choosing fuel-efficient and low-energy consumption technologies we actually end up increasing our energy use and CO2 emissions. The "Prius Fallacy" is now the catchphrase for the uselessness of energy efficiency that David Owen of The New Yorker has pitched in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and amplified as the central theme in his recent book Conundrum. Owen has disseminated his claims on the opinion pages of theNew York Times, and the catchphrase has over 4,000 hits on Google within two months after its invention.
We have detailed the empirical flaws in Rebound repeatedly (see the links above) but have not directly tackled the metaphor itself.
The Prius Fallacy rests on two key assumptions: (1) that Prius drivers drive more because they are paying less in gas, and/or (2) that Prius drivers use money saved on fuel to purchase or participate in energy- & carbon-intensive goods and activities.
To address the first assumption we turned to the work of Professor Ken Gillingham of Yale University. Prof. Gillingham meticulously compiled a micro-dataset on personal automobiles for his doctoral research at Stanford. This dataset contains information on personal vehicle registration from automotive data supplier R.L. Polk and actual odometer readings reported by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, who conduct emissions tests. At our request he matched Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to compare the distribution of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for a sample of 4,208 Prius owners and around 4.6 million other automobile drivers in California.
The result obliterates the Prius Fallacy's first assumption. As shown in the comparative histogram in Exhibit-2, there is no difference in VMT by Prius owners and the rest of California's drivers. On average Prius owners drove 13,130 VMT/year compared to 13,064 VMT/year for non-Prius owners—a difference of a mere 0.5%. The similarity of the VMT profiles of Prius and non-Prius is confirmed statistically and visually in the overlapping kernel density plot shown in Exhibit-3 (see endnote on data and diagnostic regression). This finding is in line with the simple economic logic produced by Prof. Matthew Kahn of UCLA at the Christian Science Monitor.
When consumers switch from conventional cars to a fuel-efficient hybrid like a Prius which gives 45 miles to a gallon, there is a genuine reduction in the consumption of gasoline – up to 430 gallons per year for an owner who switches from an SUV—an 18-mile-a-gallon vehicle (based on average 13,000 VMT/year).
To understand the significance of 430 gallons (~10 barrels) consider that the US imported roughly 600,000 barrels of gasoline every day in March 2012 (EIA). If around 60,000 people replaced their cars with hybrids, we would eliminate a full day of gasoline import in the course of a single year. If 25 million people replaced their SUVs/trucks and other low mileage passenger cars with hybrids (from America's ~200 million registered vehicles), we could eliminate gasoline imports entirely (given the import average for 2012 so far). As long as Prius drivers don't become the world's largest coal-consumers, it's hard to see any catastrophic rebound here.
But what if Prius drivers do guzzle coal? This leads us to Owen's second assumption: that money saved on fuel is spent on carbon-intensive purchases. The fact is, we don't know how Prius drivers spend the $1500 they save on fuel each year (assuming $3.50/gallon gas prices). Some may hide it in mattresses (zero rebound), some may install solar panels (a case of negative rebound), some may use it for the down payment on a Land Rover (positive rebound). In the worst possible scenario, you can imagine a Prius owner spending all her $1500 to buy anthracite coal to grill burgers in her backyard. We haven't found a study contrasting the purchasing habits of hybrid drivers and conventional car drivers; as such, we can only rely on the aggregate macroeconomic figures.
As Owen and others have pointed out, about 6-8 percent of the US GDP is spent on energy in a given year. This 6-8% share of the GDP accounts for the total energy we consume—including items like the direct gasoline we buy, the electricity we consume at home, and the indirect or embodied energy used in the production of our cars, dishwashers, etc. The 6-8% share accounts for our aggregate spending behavior—the dollars we directly and indirectly spend on energy consumption.
We expect that an average Prius owner will spend the extra money the same way they spend the rest of their money. In the worst case scenario, then, where 8 percent of a Prius driver's $1500 fuel savings is spent on energy $120 ($1500*8%) is re-injected into the energy economy. But only 8.3% of the energy expenditure in the US economy is associated with coal—the fossil fuel of most concern (see data and statistical endnotes). Therefore $10 (8.3% of $120) or just 0.7% of the total fuel efficiency savings will rebound to generate CO2 emissions from coal.
Natural gas and petroleum account for 75.5% of energy expenditure in the US. This implies that around $91 ($120*75.5%) or 6% could rebound in the form of energy use from natural gas and petroleum. The total worst case scenario for indirect rebound associated with fossil fuel use adds up to 6.7% (0.7% + 6%).
Some rebound proponents have argued that dollar spent on energy has a two- or three-fold multiplier effect. It is hard to see how that is possible—if up to 8% of our GDP accounts for energy use, it already includes the energy component of the rest of the 92% of the GDP. Both direct and indirect energy use within the economy are included in the 8% share. Adding a two- or three-fold multiplier on top of that would lead to phantom accounting.
There is little in the way of a solid theory or verifiable empirical estimate that proves the existence of multiplier effect in this particular context. And even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the proponents of rebound and assume the existence of multiplier effect, the share of the $1500 savings will on average account for rebound worth $201 (13%) and $301 (20%) for two- and three-fold multipliers respectively.
So, at her worst, an average Prius driver is re-injecting $101-$301 of her $1500 savings into energy use from fossil fuel. And that's near the worst-case scenario. If Prius drivers don't drive more than conventional drivers, and if Prius drivers must (lacking evidence to the contrary) be considered among average American consumers, where's the real fallacy?
We've written about other failed anecdotes in Owen's Rebound reporting in the past, including the fallacy that efficient refrigerators have rebound effects – more people buy side-by-side fridges as cooling food gets cheaper. As shown in our earlier research note, rising sales of energy efficient refrigerators coincided with a 3.3% total energy consumption reduction between 2001 and 2005, even as 5.2% more households invested in more than two refrigerators.
Owen's preference for narrative over fact is concerning, not just because he is informing Americans on key components of climate policy without researching the realities, but because as an established and respected staff writer at The New Yorker he is so well positioned to disseminate this simple and false storyline.
Data and Statistical Notes
A: Description of the vehicle-level dataset
B: Calculation of the ballpark estimate of energy expenditure by fossil fuel source (2009)
**Source: Annual Energy Review (AER) 2010, US Energy Information Agency (EIA)
**We are thankful to Jon Koomey for helping us crunch the estimates on energy expenditure.
C: Estimate of gallons saved when SUV driver switches to a Prius.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:46 AM PDT
“Until now, environmentally friendly electronics has been an oxymoron. We envision a future with less plastic filling up our landfills, and iZen keyboards are a catlyst for this change. iZen Bamboo is the first eco-friendly bluetooth keyboard on the market. Its low profile, portable design is great for anyone on-the-go, and the simple and natural look will add more Zen to your life. Hand-made out of 92% bamboo, this keyboard is renewable, recyclable, and won't pile up in landfills. It works wirelessly with iPads, iPhones, Macs, Androids, tablet PCs, smart phones, and many other Bluetooth-enabled devices. And let’s face it, it’s gorgeous! We self funded the first round of production which just hit the internet and local stores. After only a couple weeks, we are already almost out of inventory and we need your help to fund our next round of production!”
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:36 AM PDT
Here’s more from Chris over on Gas2:
Is this a sign of the end-times? Ferrari, perrenial maker of fast and exotic sports cars, has finally caved to international pressure as governments the world over crack down on carbon emissions. The noble Italian carmaker has confirmed reports that it will be building a mass-produced (at least for Ferrari) hybrid vehicle utilizing the same KERS flywheel technology it uses in Formula 1.
KERS, or Kinetic Energy Recovery System, has become popular in various motorsports as a way to provide a significant power boost for passing. The systems are heavy and expensive, but not meeting carbon standards will cost Ferrari even more money as governments will levy heavy fines against any automaker whose cars are not up to snuff. Ferrari has been a leader in curbing its emissions…but only because they gave off so many emissions in the first black.
Up until now, Ferrari has been pretty anti-hybrid for production cars, though they have shown off some hybrid concept cars in recent years. But the reality of the world is catching up, and the reality is that hybrid cars don't have to be boring. Porsche is doing a fine job of marketing hybrid sports cars, including one they plan on charging almost $800,000 for. Porsche hybrid sales are skyrocketing, and while Ferrari is doing fine, hybrid and electric cars are gaining traction among the wealthy and elite. Ferrari no doubt wants a slice of that green car sales pie.
No details have emerged on what shape the hybrid Ferrari will take, but it will add another awesome dimension to Ferrari's lineup if you ask me. And I'm willing to bet it will carry a hefty price premium. Ferrari doesn't do anything half-assed, and I have no reason to believe that a hybrid prancing pony will anything but awesome.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:22 AM PDT
ERA's sporty electric RaceAbout coupe has apparently proven itself in many arenas. However, as you may know, one of the steepest challenges for EVs is cold weather. To prove that it could handle the cold, the ERA RaceAbout was recently driven by Janne Laitinen to a top speed of over 155 mph… on ice! “Which would have been a Guinness World Record … if only such a record existed,” Jo Borras of Gas2 notes.
Here’s a video and a bunch of photos via Nokian Tires.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:44 AM PDT
It looks like plastic bag knitters the world over are going to have to make room for a new recycler in town. Scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have figured out how to recycle plastic bags by extracting the polyethylene to make carbon fibers, which can be fabricated into new strong, lightweight components for – well, for practically anything that can be made out of plastic.
Spinning carbon fiber from a plastic bag, with science
The ORNL process is a far cry from simply cutting plastic bags into strips. Using a high-tech spinning process combined with another step called sulfonation, the researchers produced polyethylene-based fibers with surfaces that can be customized “down to the submicron scale.” So, in addition to being used in products like lightweight car parts, the fibers can be used in advanced devices used for filtration and electrochemical energy harvesting, among others. The interior structure of the fiber can also be manipulated, depending on how the processing is conducted.
So, what is sulfonation?
Sulfonation is a reaction in which a bundle of fibers is dipped into a chemical bath, bonding the plastic molecules together. The result is a single black fiber that cannot melt into a puddle, as ordinary plastic does.
And carpet recycling, too
Aside from having the kind of extraordinary weight-to-strength ratio demanded of new materials in a more energy efficient economy, the new carbon fibers are also made from an inexpensive, seemingly endless feedstock. But if the world ever bans plastic bags (ha!), not to worry. Recycled carpeting – of which there are untold millions of tons in the U.S. alone – also contains plastics that can get a second life, quite possibly in those new electric vehicles we’ll all be driving some day.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:32 AM PDT
Distributed solar finds a cost sweet spot.
In their analysis, the Clean Coalition focused on two elements: the cost to produce electricity from solar facilities of various sizes and the cost to deliver that power (via the distribution or transmission system). As it turns out, fees to access the transmission system and transmission losses can offset any economies of scale from central station power generation.
The chart below illustrates the “sweet spot” balance between economies of scale and costs for transmission.
For context, in their latest examination of the levelized cost of energy generation, investment bank Lazard shows these prices are competitive with new coal power plants and substantially cheaper than new gas peaking power plants.
Of course, there’s more to the value of distributed renewable energy than just cost to generate and transmission access, whether it’s the economic multiplier from potential local ownership or the political value of community-based generation. But it’s good to know that even in this narrow view, distributed generation can compete with large-scale power generation.
Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:49 PM PDT
Take some ordinary two-dimensional solar panels, stick them together to form a crazy looking three-dimensional solar tower that resembles an abstract sculpture of an accordion, and voila! If you are part of the intrepid team of researchers from MIT who dreamed up that arrangement, you have just boosted the overall efficiency of the solar panels by up to 20 times, and in the process you have caused thousands of solar power researchers around the globe to smack their heads and wonder why they never thought of that.
3-D solar plays the angles
Actually, at least one company has already begun to exploring the 3-D approach, in a way. Last year CleanTechnica reported on the California firm Solar3D (what else?), which has a prototype under development for a 3-D solar cell. Last week the company announced that its simulations indicate the new cell “can produce 200% of the power output of conventional solar cells.”
That’s great, but it’s a different approach than the road MIT is taking. From the outside, Solar3D’s solar panels look like – well, like regular solar panels, only a bit thicker; the 3-D effect is on the inside. The company also hopes to integrate its technology into solar roof tiles, which would be a bit impractical with MIT’s configuration.
MIT’s 3-D solar tower
The MIT team, headed by Associate Professor of Power Engineering Jeffrey Grossman, has come up with a truly 3-D arrangement of solar panels that consists of blocks or towers. The research first came to CleanTechnica’s attention last November with the announcement that the team’s 3-D tower could generate almost as much solar power on a cloudy day as when the sun is shining. Now the team has published a study in the journal Energy and Environmental Science that details its results, based on tests of three different configurations.
Minuses and pluses of 3-D solar power
The researchers note that the tower itself would require more panels to cover the same footprint as an ordinary 2-D configuration, which would make it more expensive. On the positive side, the 3-D arrangement enables the solar tower to capture sunlight at optimal angles throughout much of the day without the need for a mechanical sun-tracking system. That saves money on installation costs, maintenance and whatever energy is needed to run the system.
According to MIT writer David Chandler, the ability of a 3-D module to function with a relatively uniform power output regardless of the weather or the seasons is also of value in terms of integrating distributed solar energy into the grid.
Cheap solar power, the 3-D way
Assuming that the price of solar cells continues to drop while the expense of a sun tracking system and other components remain relatively stable, the use of extra panels for a 3-D configuration will become more cost effective.
Shipping and installation have a significant effect on the total cost of solar power, and the team also took that into consideration. The concept is for a unit that can be
transported in a flat, compact form that easily expands like the bellows of an accordion once it arrives on site.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
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