Saturday, May 12, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Clean Energy Champion Beats Fossil Fuel Supporter in Democratic Primary

Posted: 12 May 2012 09:34 AM PDT

Nice to see a clean energy supporter defeating a fossil fuel supporter in Congressional primary in Pennsylvania:



Clean energy advocate takes out fossil fueler in Democratic primary (via Red Green & Blue)

By Melissa Harrison NRDC Action Fund We may start sounding like a broken record, but we just can't help ourselves! As we've said here before, there is power in running on clean energy. Just yesterday in the 17th Congressional District primary in Pennsylvania, clean energy champ Matt Cartwright…


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Brammo’s Wicked New Empulse & Empulse R Electric Motorcycles Unveiled

Posted: 12 May 2012 09:30 AM PDT

 
empulse r

Brammo, an electric motorcycle leader, unveiled its new Empulse and Empulse R this week in Los Angeles. Susanna Schick was at the unveiling and has more:



Brammo Empulse Launch Outshines The Stars in Hollywood (via Gas 2.0)

Last night Brammo held a proper Hollywood launch party for the Empulse and Empulse R. Sure, we saw an Empulse at Laguna Seca in 2010, but a lot has changed since then. The problem with developing products on the cutting edge of technology is that it can be hard to decide when to stop waiting for it…


Top photo: Bramma Empulse R via PRNewsFoto/Brammo, Inc

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LA — EV Car Capital of US?

Posted: 12 May 2012 09:15 AM PDT

 
That’s what Susanna Schick (Pinky Racer) postulates over on sister site Gas2. Here’s more from her experiences at EVS26:



Los Angeles, Now the ELECTRIC Car Capital of America | EVS26 (via Gas 2.0)

The Electric Vehicle Symposium, EVS26, is a conference where electric vehicle makers can meet and exchange knowledge. There are four days of presentations from a variety of panels of experts. Engineers present their latest research and results of current projects, which is fascinating for those of…


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Romney Thinks Obama’s Energy Policies Are Outdated, Supports Fossil Fuels over 21st-Century Clean Energy

Posted: 12 May 2012 09:09 AM PDT

 
Sorry, this is a clear WTF? Romney saying that Obama’s energy policies are outdated sounds like something out of the Onion… but I guess that’s been the theme of the 2012 election prelude from GOP leadership. Anyway, here’s more on that recent comment reposted from Planetsave:



Mitt Romney Says Obama’s Energy Policies Are Outdated — WTF? (via Planetsave)

  The thing about the Republican party today, Republican leaders at least, is that they say anything they want, even if it's completely divorced from reality, to try to win over voters. Heck, they even make claims completely divorced from their own policies and votes. The latest (I think.., though…


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Tremendous Bike Ridership in NYC & San Francisco

Posted: 12 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

 
A couple of recent stories on great bike ridership rates on Market Street in San Francisco (75% on Bike to Work Day!) and U.S. Route 9W in New York (47%) are just more signs of a growing bicycle boom. Below are reposts from Planetsave on those above figures:



Bike Boom in NY: Just over 47% of Traffic on U.S. Route 9W (via Planetsave)

  The wide, big routes that Europeans and other countries enjoy when biking are not yet in the US. However, Americans are turning out in amazing numbers in spite of the lack of good routes. "The NJ DOT study shows that during the peak usage time — Saturday afternoon — bicycles make up just…




75% of Traffic on Market Street in San Francisco Bikes on National Bike to Work Day (via Planetsave)

  This is a pretty astounding stat from this year's National Bike to Work Day — 75% of traffic on San Francisco's Market Street was bikes that day, according to a traffic count from San Francisco's organizers. Here's a graphic from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition: The League of American…


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NYC Gets a Huge Bike-Sharing Network, Largest in North America Thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan (Citibank & MasterCard Funding It)

Posted: 12 May 2012 08:17 AM PDT

 

As someone in love with 3rd-generation bike-sharing systems before the large majority of Americans knew anything about them, I’ve been eagerly anticipating and covering NYC’s huge bike-sharing plans for years. This could transform NYC. Bike sharing did so in Paris, and NYC’s program is to be a similar size. Additionally, biking in NYC has been booming under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan (Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation), see there’s a flame to be fueled with this new program.

A Quinnipiac University poll last October found that 72% of New Yorkers support the program, Transportation Alternatives notes.

Now, if you haven’t heard, the big news of the past week is that Citibank is the primary sponsor of the “Citi Bike” system (the system is not supposed to receive any tax dollars) — Citi Bike website here.

Citibank has signed a $41-million, 5-year contract. Additionally, Mastercard is putting in $6.5 million to operate the payment systems for the bikes.

"We're getting an entirely new 24/7 transportation network ," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "We are getting an entirely new transportation network without spending any taxpayer money. Who thought that that could be done?"

The system will have 10,000 bikes at 600 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

However, while it was initially stated that the system would start at those numbers, it was made clear in the opening announcement that the system wouldn’t actually reach that scale until 2013. The Upper West and East Sides, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights will get bikes and stations next Spring, while the first bikes and 420 stations (about two-thirds of them) will be ready in July around Manhattan and part of Brooklyn.

This is actually not that unusual — implementation of a large bike-sharing program is often done in phases — and this one is huge.

But Andrea Bernstein of Transportation Nation seems to think this is not how it was originally envisioned and may have uncovered the reason for the slow roll-out, as well as some other interesting stories.

Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, Alta Bikeshare CEO Alison Cohen, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.

Bernstein discusses what seemed to be a difficult road to finding funders and postulates that that led to the phased deployment of the system.

"I got a call sometime last week, that's when I first heard of  a delay," said Council member Gail Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side.

When it was announced that Alta Bicycle Share would be operating the system, Sadik-Khan said: "Alta will be getting a sponsor." But this would make it the only large-scale bike-sharing program in North America to be 100% privately funded, so there was no clear example set to show it would be a wise investment. Reportedly, Puma, Adidas, and American Express were all approached and passed on the opportunity, and “officials were beginning to sweat” by February of this year.

“If New York didn't find a sponsor, the city could be on the hook to Alta — but worse, many officials thought, the bike share program could be imperiled.”

But Bloomberg asserts that he never worried about it, noting that he didn’t need to "because Janette went after it. And anyone who knows Janette knows if she sets her mind to it, it's going to get done."

And it did. After the city got the Economic Development Corporation involved and had some discussions with important business movers and shakers, Citibank was in. It actually signed the contract just two weeks ago.

“Without the contract, there wasn't the upfront capital to get the bikes produced. And that, multiple sources confirm, was the major reason for the delay in getting the bikes to some neighborhoods.”

Sounds convincing. Nonetheless, the important point is that the goal was accomplished — the network will be implemented.

Notably, Citibank’s top executive is Ed Skyler, Bloomberg's former Deputy Mayor for Operations and Sadik-Khan's former boss. Apparently, he had trust in Sadik-Khan and Alta, but Bernstein writes that “everyone, from the Mayor on down, credits Sadik-Khan” with getting the program implemented.

I’ll have to take their word for it.

Janette Sadik-Khan with a Citi Bike.

“Citi bike” is clearly a nice little name, since it relates the the bank sponsoring the system and the fact that it is an innovative new transportation option taking cities around the world by storm. Will it help bring a more positive image to a megabank that didn’t come out of the Occupy actions last year with the prettiest public image?

(Note: like in my current city of Wrocław, Poland, the Citi Bike kiosks will be solar-powered.)

Images: top image by Ben Fried via Streetsblog; second image via citi bikes; third image by Noah Kazis via Streetsblog; fourth image by Andrea Bernstein via Transportation Nation

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Why I Like This Solar Marketing Campaign

Posted: 12 May 2012 06:47 AM PDT

 
Clean energy has become a huge part of the political campaign this year. And certainly not in a good way. The last election cycle, all the candidates went out of their way to express their support for renewables. This year, 81% of attack ads have been about energy — many of them directly attacking technologies like solar.

With the renewable energy industry suddenly finding itself in a brutal political battle, it's easy for many of us to get wrapped up in push back in this post-Solyndra world.

That's why I like the ad campaign below so much. Produced by the solar services company SunRun, the ads completely avoid the exhausting political debate and put solar in a humorous frame that people can relate to — similar to a beer or car commercial. By treating solar like any other consumer product, these ads help normalize the industry.

Ultimately, this is the type of marketing campaign that — if scaled properly  — has the potential to drown out the vicious, false attacks from political organizations like Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads.

Too bad companies like SunRun don't have tens of millions of dollars to throw around for national advertising.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has reposted with permission.

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Totally Awesome Energy Law Is on the Books, Needs Funding, Legislative Assassination Attempt in the Works

Posted: 11 May 2012 07:02 PM PDT

 
I’m not sure where David Roberts of Grist ran across this one, but this is pretty big — both the law on the books and the efforts to remove it before it does anything. David has so beautifully and intelligently covered the story that I’m just going to go ahead and repost it in full here — enjoy!

by David Roberts (originally published on Grist)

Wouldn't it be cool if we passed a rule mandating that all new federal buildings had to be carbon-neutral by 2030? The feds buy and build a lot of real estate. An effort to wring fossil-fuel energy out of those buildings — by increasing their efficiency and supplying them with renewables — would seriously bolster domestic markets for efficiency and distributed energy. Beyond that, it would serve as a proving ground and an example for the communities where those buildings are located. It would be galvanizing.

"But," you're protesting, "we would never do something so radical. Germany might. Denmark, maybe. Not us."

Hark! I say to you. Hark to this sh*t: We do have such a rule! It was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush! It's on the books, the law of the land. Specifically, it is Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It says that new federal buildings, or major renovations ($2.5 million or more) of federal buildings, must reduce their consumption of fossil-fuel energy (relative to a similar building in 2003) 55 percent by 2010, 80 percent by 2020, and 100 percent by 2030. (It hasn't been funded yet, so that 2010 target is, er, no longer operational.)

It's an audacious goal, basically Architecture 2030′s "2030 Challenge" put into law.

2030 federal building challenge

 

"Holy crap," you're saying, "if we have a law that awesome, surely come powerful constituency must be trying to screw it up!"

Right you are. On April 12, representatives from the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition (FPCC) met at the White House with administration officials from DOE, CEQ, and OMB. At that meeting they offered this issue brief [PDF], which called on Congress to "substantially modify or eliminate EISA section 433." You can bet that issue brief hit all the relevant congressional offices as well.

Less than a month later, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) of the House Appropriations Committee offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would "prohibit funding" to implement Section 433.

What is motivating this stealth attack on one of the few genuinely ambitious energy laws in the U.S.?

For the AGA, it's pretty simple: no fossil fuel means no natural gas. They don't even make any bones about it. This is what it says in the brief:

The mandate runs counter to the Presidential position on natural gas as part of an "all of the above" energy strategy: President Obama has recently stressed the need for development of "every available source" of American energy in the most recent state of the union address. This mandate would halt the pursuit of increased use of natural gas to support the national priorities of helping to improve our economy, reduce environmental impacts and secure our nation's energy future.

First off, the mandate would "halt the pursuit of increased use of natural gas"? Seriously? The feds own about 1 percent of the nation's building stock. I'm pretty sure the booming natural gas industry will survive.

Second, this makes it pretty obvious that the natural gas industry does not see itself as a "bridge" to a clean energy future, as so many others do (or claim to). The AGA doesn't think we should stop burning fossil fuels, even if that's an option! Shockingly, it is in favor of the federal government using a lot of natural gas. Bridge, schmidge.

But why is the FPCC against this? As Martin Pederson says:

FPCC members include: Ameresco, Chevron, Constellation Energy Services, FPL Energy Services, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Lockheed Martin, Noresco, Pepco Energy Services, Schneider-Electric, Siemens Government Services, Inc., and Trane/Ingersoll Rand. There's no surprise in seeing the likes of Chevron here (they are, after all, in the business of selling fossil fuels), but there are a couple of surprises. Schneider-Electric has actually signed onto the 2030 Challenge. Johnson Controls has a Zero Energy Buildings Whitepaper featured on their website. Many of the other companies are prominent in the field of energy efficiency.

What gives?

Good question.

The rest of the issue brief mostly consists of whining that the targets can't be met. It cites a few big power-plant projects and one 11-story building renovation it claims the rule will prevent, but as Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030 notes, there's a way to get a waiver under Section 433 if the "requirement would be technically impracticable."

The allegedly imperiled projects are a red herring anyway. The vast majority of federal buildings are one- or two-story housing structures. The vast majority (95.7 percent) of the non-residential buildings it owns are three stories and under. As Mazria says, "there are numerous low-cost solutions for dramatically reducing energy consumption in single story and low-rise buildings: daylighting and ventilation strategies, natural heating and cooling systems, and high-performance products, fixtures, and equipment, to name just a few."

And energy use in these buildings doesn't have to be eliminated — the buildings do not have to be "net zero energy" like, say, passivhaus standards would have it. They just have to be carbon-neutral. They can provide their own energy with on-site renewables (or combined heat and power, as long as it uses biomass instead of natural gas). And if they can't do that, they can buy clean energy from utilities. (Fifty percent of electricity consumers now have that option; presumably the number will be far greater by 2030.) Presumably over the coming 18 years, these options will expand and evolve.

There's no denying that Section 433 represents a stretch goal. Striving to reach that goal would involve lots of groping about and most likely some failures. But much would be discovered and achieved. Much momentum would be built. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing. We need more stretch goals on the books if we're ever going to get on the path to serious climate solutions.

The few good laws we do have deserve better than to be quietly assassinated through backroom lobbying and obscure amendments.

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Solar-Powered Phones Help Kenyans

Posted: 11 May 2012 06:50 PM PDT

 
giraffe

A solar-powered mobile phone created by telecommunications company Safaricom and Kenya's Mobitelea Ventures is providing a solution to some Kenyans not having access to electricity. The phone is only about $18 and has its own solar charger, so it never needs to be plugged into the main sources of electricity.

Only about five percent of people living in rural areas there have access to electricity. In urban areas, the number is much higher at 51%, but that means nearly half do not have electricity. Kenya’s solar potential is high, with most areas receiving six hours of direct sunlight per day. However, solar technology is too expensive for most Kenyans, and there isn’t enough knowledge of how such systems work within the population.

Getting connected to the main electrical grid system can cost $600. Poor people living in rural and urban areas can’t afford this service fee, so they do without electricity, which means a mobile phone recharged by the sun fits their needs perfectly.

“It is a brilliant innovation. It meets environmental goals and also deals with problems linked to increasing power outages in the country,” said Michael Odera, director of the climate change office in Kenya's Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources. The solar phone is also made of recycled electronics, so it is environmentally friendly.

Without access to electricity, some rural residents must walk to a town to charge their mobile phones. There are over 17.5 million mobile phone users in Kenya, but just 1.3 million are connected to the national electrical grid. Having a phone is a necessity for business, job hunting, personal safety, and staying socially connected.

In the Digital Age, not having electricity means people are cut off from Web access, and therefore are unable to connect to the greatest information network in human history.

Source: CS Monitor
Image Credit: Mkimemia,Wiki Commons

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#1 Thing Blocking a National Energy Plan is Koch Industries, According to T. Boone Pickens

Posted: 11 May 2012 03:50 PM PDT

I’m still catching up from my ~3- to 4-day vacation last week (first in a long time), but I’m obsessive about “not missing anything” and so I’m still going through the thousands of articles that were waiting for me in Google Reader. Some of them I can’t help but republish or call attention to, such as this gem from Joe Romm of Climate Progress — as the title implies, it’s about a statement made by T. Boone Pickens that Koch Industries is the number one reason we don’t have a national energy plan, and important related matters (including the price of natural gas), but read on:

by Joe Romm (originally published on Climate Progress)

Billionaire energy investor T. Boone Pickens has a bone to pick with the country's leading pollutocrats.

Pickens said in an interview Wednesday with Yahoo's Daily Ticker that Koch Industries, the company owned by Charles and David Koch, is the major stumbling block to a coherent U.S. energy policy:

"The biggest deterrent to an energy plan in America is Koch Industries," the BP Capital founder tells Yahoo's Aaron Task. "They do not want an energy plan for America because they have the cheapest natural gas price they've ever had, and they're in the fertilizer business and they're in the chemical business. So their margins are huge. And they do not want you to have an energy plan, because if you had a plan, then natural gas prices would come up."

Watch it:

Back in October, a German state minister explained that the country could decarbonize with renewables because "We Don't Have the … Koch Brothers." He was referring to the Kochs' lobbying for dirty fuels and against clean energy, and its spending on climate science disinformation, which exceeds that of ExxonMobil. As Business Insider explains:

The second-largest private company in the United States, Koch Industries has spent at least $5 million in lobbying in each of the past four years, and given at least $1,000,000 in seven of the last eight election cycles, according to data from OpenSecrets.

In 2008, the company spent nearly $18 million on lobbying for oil and gas interests alone, according to Open Secrets. They've already spent $2.3 million on oil and gas lobbying in 2012.

Pickens was referring to the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity front group, which has been bashing Pickens' beloved NAT GAS Act (HR 1380) to promote natural-gas vehicles (NGVs). Since the AFP campaign began, 14 House Republicans have withdrawn support for the legislation. Of course, we now know that NGVs are bad for the climate (see "Natural Gas Is A Bridge To Nowhere Absent A Carbon Price AND Strong Standards To Reduce Methane Leakage"). As EDF chief Fred Krupp put it, "I'm here to tell you today that every truck we switch to natural gas damages the atmosphere."

Still, who can argue with Pickens' central point? The men from Koch — and the groups, politicians, and  disinformation they fund — are now the Sith Lords of climate and clean energy inaction in the country.

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Today, ALEC Hosts Legislators & Big Oil — Topic? Undermining Clean Energy

Posted: 11 May 2012 01:24 PM PDT

 
This is a story I’ve yet to chime in about — one reason for that is that it’s so darn depressing. How do these people live with themselves?

Luckily, Susan had a great post on it yesterday, and here’s a great post from Rebecca Leber of Climate Progress to follow up on that:

alec renewable energyToday, behind closed doors in Charlotte, North Carolina, legislators from 15 states will meet with the oil and gas industry to discuss so-called "model legislation" as part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The result could be laws that handicap renewable energy targets — while creating loopholes for fossil fuels, written directly by the oil and gas industry itself.

ALEC has faced backlash recently for its role in crafting Florida's Stand Your Ground laws. Now the organization is taking the same secretive approach to kill renewable energy developmentacross the country.

Oil and gas corporations have a very strong role in politics through groups like Americans For Prosperity, American Petroleum Institute, and, of course, ALEC. Four of the largest oil and gas corporations and two of the most profitable U.S. corporations overall, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP, sit on ALEC's task forces. And so today, according to documents posted by Common Cause, representatives from these and other energy groups will discuss potential legislation that would undermine clean energy standards and limit regulations of polluting industries.

The agenda items illustrate ALEC's objectives. An economist from the oil lobby American Petroleum Institute leads a discussion on oil and gas prices, and a few of the panels include, "The Dirty Truth Behind Reusable Bags" and "Resolution Supporting a Reasonable Compliance Timeline and Economywide Impact Study of EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Rule." Peabody Energy — one of the largest coal companies in the world — will give the presentation on "Regulation Through Litigation Of Greenhouse Gases Is Unsound Public Policy."

ALEC already benefits from special exemption from some state laws: For example, South Carolina, Indiana, and Colorado have specifically exempted ALEC from lobbying status.

The oil industry's astroturfing does not end with ALEC. Heartland Institute, part of the consortium of ultra-conservative think tanks leading a broad attack on clean energy, will also speak at ALEC's meeting. Americans For Prosperity, funded by money from the Koch brothers, is also involved in Big Oil's PR campaign against clean energy.

We have already seen oil dominating election ad spending this year, with well over $24 millionspent by groups like Americans for Prosperity and American Energy Alliance since January. More than 80 percent of election year attack ads have focused on energy — all of themthoroughly debunked.

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