Fixing China's Flawed New Mileage Standard

The New York Times reported that China laudably plans to increase its average automobile gas mileage by 18% - up to 42 mpg by 2015. This is great news - but without some (simple) fixes, the standard is likely to be ineffective and impractical to enforce. Here’s why.Read More...

Hale Zero: The Zero Energy Home

Hale is the Hawai`ian word for home. This is a net zero energy home. Is this possible without being slightly unlivable, expensive, chic only to the eco-freak, and exotic?

If we draw on the time-tested principles that made homes livable before electricity, coupled with iconic and efficient architectural design, and a few modern technologies, a low or zero energy home can be achieved. Read on for how these principles can make a livable, economical, zero-energy home today?


Obama Gives Detroit Its Best Day In Decades

This is a story of supply and demand. On the demand side of the equation, President Obama has put in place landmark new vehicle mileage standard for cars and light trucks. By 2016, cars must achieve 39 miles per gallon in city + highway driving. Light trucks must average 30 mpg. How aggressive is this standard? Less than a handful of cars and no trucks can meet it today. Yet everyone from Detroit to retired military brass and Republican leadership support it.

Why? Read on to see why President Obama has given Detroit’s its best chance in decades.


PCs, TVs & phones mean 200 more powerplants

International Energy Agency tells us today that the ever-growing electrical thirst from our proliferating PCs, cell-phones, TVs and iPods is wiping out efficiency gains in lighting, heating and elsewhere.

How bad is the problem? The IEA suggests the worldwide growth in digi-gadgets will consume more power than all of the U.S. and Japan by 2030 unless we put our “stuff” on a diet. That’s the equivalent of 200 giant new power plants.

We can easily stop our PCs and devices from contributing today (and cut our utility bills too.) Click to read how...Read More...

Venture Capital Finally Gets Smart??

The New York Times reports that cleantech. venture capital (VC) is shifting its investing $ from alternative energy (Alt-E) to efficiency. Finally! And (I speak as a VC...)

Beside efficiency’s
often greater environmental benefit than Alt-E, efficiency investments have three significant benefits for investors:

1. Lower technical risk. Efficiency startups, such as smart electric meters, or more efficient lighting, use technology that already exists - it just needs to be designed and deployed in an economical business model. That means less chance the startup will fail.

2. Lower financing risk. Alternative energy startups often require huge amounts of investment to develop their technology and the build plants to build it. In a VC world that is investing less than half as much as it did in 2008, “capital efficiency” to get to breakeven reduces risk of failure, and helps ensure investors get a return even if the company doesn’t achieve a billion $ IPO.

3. No
“valley of death.” Once the Alt-E company has developed its product and built its manufacturing plant (whew!), it still hasn’t succeeded because it now becomes dependent upon hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars of “project finance” to build projects (e.g. wind farms, solar powerplants) using its technology. Project finance is debt (e.g. bonds) issued to the power customer (e.g. a utility, or a county, state or country) to build the project (wind farm, solar farm) which gets paid of from the power generated (usually at a fixed guaranteed price) over 10 to 20 years. Unfortunately, with banks not lending even to typically credit-worthy entities, project finance has dried up.

We know one alternative energy CEO who has over a billion dollars of orders, but is within 90 days of “flame out” because of the lack of project finance. Ouch.

We’re glad VCs have seen the light (pun intended) and are turning to more efficient investing!

LED lights heading home (part 2)

As reported by the New York Times, LED lights such as those from CREE are making great strides in cost and efficiency and are heading for a home near you. LEDs won’t replace the humble CFL immediately, but just about everyone acknowledges their 50,000 hour life, ability to work with dimmers (while keeping a constant color) and efficiency make the LED the ultimate killer-app. for lighting.

Step by step...

If You Read Just One Book This Year...

This book should be required reading for everyone in the developed world. That’s a strong statement and I’ll preface it with the fact that I often find that three-times Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman’s New York Times writings sensationalist.

Hot, Flat & Crowded, (winner of Washington Post, Chicago Tribune & Business Week Book of the Year) is different. It’s visionary, well researched and page-turningly well written. It offers a new path away from the growing consequences of our increasingly hot (climate change), flat (rapidly expanding global middle class), and crowded planet.

To begin with, the book demonstrates there is simply not enough energy to fuel a 10x growth of the world’s consumptive middle class driven by China & India if this middle class consumes as much resources (energy, water, land) as we do today. If you buy this thesis (and it’s hard not to, based on the evidence we saw in the summer of 2008 with skyrocketing commodity prices, record pollution and temperatures) the question Friedman begs is: now what?

Here is the visionary part: Friedman creates a wholistic (and fact-based) perspective of how an resource-efficient, economic, clean and sustainable low/no carbon economy can be built with existing and maturing technologies. And it offers a path to return the United States to the forefront of its historical leadership: exporting new technologies - something we have lost in the past 15 years.

If this all sounds horrendously dull, it’s not. The inspired vision is matched by inspired writing.
Get it here. To save some paper and energy, read it on your Kindle 2 or get it from your library.


Betting The Farm On The Right Curve

Imagine you are the President of the United States. You face big choices over which energy supply sources (e.g. oil, wind, nuclear, coal, solar) to support for our future, and which to reduce.

I’m going to show you the prices of three energy sources (e.g. oil or wind or coal in say, dollars per barrel) over time. (For you geeks, these are all in 2008 $ and the source is the U.S. Dept. of Energy)

US taxpayers have subsidized one of these energy sources for nearly a century with tens of billions of $ of tax breaks and other easements every year. As a result, we now depend upon this source of energy above all others.

You as President, must decide which energy sources you support and which you think the United States should wean itself away from.

From the mystery charts below, pick the two energy sources you think would be best for the American people and click Read More to find out what they are...


3.