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.


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!

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.


Kindle 2 & DX: Our Earthday Award Winner

As many of us know, Amazon.com introduced its Kindle 2 (and coming soon, the larger Kindle DX) recently to a great press fanfare. The Kindle 2 is, in our opinion, the first real contender for a replacement for the hundreds of millions of tons per year of of trees, paper, glue (and energy) we deforest, manufacture and ship around the planet in the form of books, magazines & newspapers.

Why might Kindle actually do that?


Hawaii Superferry: It's Not About The Environment

I have never written about my professional endeavors on my blog until now. However the time has come to shed some light on how legitimate environmentally friendly efforts can be hijacked by a few self-interested individuals claiming “the environment” in their name.

Hawaii Superferry is a company I founded in 2001 shortly after 9/11 grounded Hawaiis airlines for four long days. This halted Hawaii like no other place on earth because it is the world’s only island archipelago solely dependent on flying. My two cofounders and I did this to bring an affordable, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative for interisland travel to Hawai`i. Hawaii Superferry successfully carried around 250,000 passengers during the time it operated, only to be derailed by a lawsuit from powerful special interests like the Sierra Club after 11 months of operation.

How did this happen?


HCR-188c The Holy Grail Of Refrigerants?

Refrigerants - the liquid / gaseous material inside air conditioner and refrigerator compressors - are not the most glamorous of materials - but they are massive contributors to global warming.

What if a refrigerant...

  • Reduced refrigerator and A/C energy consumption by over 30%
  • Cost just 1/3rd of conventional refrigerants
  • Has 96% less global warming impact than conventional refrigerants
  • Has zero ozone depleting impact

What if this breakthrough was not developed by a giant chemical company, but over the past 15 years by a passionate former mechanic in Hawai’i?
Mr. Maruya of Kane’ohe Hawai’i could be one of this century’s energy heroes.

The EPA has just approved Mr. Richard Maruya’s remarkably simple
HCR-188c refrigerant. Haier the Chinese white goods giant has provided research assitance, while Greenpeace has given him recognition.

While we would love to see the world beat a path to Mr. Maruya’s door, his challenge may be just beginning...

Netflix Signals The End Of The DVD...

, one of UseHalf’s original energy savers has delivered the ultimate home movie solution: Any movie, any time, delivered instantly over the internet to “Network BluRay” high-definition DVD players for $8.99 a month. Over 800 (and counting) of the 12,000 available movies & TV shows are in stunning High Definition.

This combination may be the iPod + iTunes of movies: the beginning of the end of the distribution of high quality video entertainment on plastic discs. Crucially, and unlike the rival Roku player, these BluRay players simply replace your old DVD player, and play your DVDs and BluRay discs. But once you try Netflix online, you might never buy another plastic DVD again.

Here’s why: Unlike music which is typically “consumed” repeatedly, most video entertainment is watched just once, occasionally twice. Only are kid-vid and favorites played repeatedly. This explains why people own lots of music but have cable service and video subscriptions like Netflix and Blockbuster by the millions. So Netflix’s HD video-on-demand is the right product with the right model.

Currently there are only two Network Blu-Ray DVD players that can perform this incredible stunt. The
LG-BD300 or the Samsung BD-P2500. Both are top-rated, high-feature BluRay players and cost between $300 to $350. We love our LG unit (the HD pictures are stunning) and we’re sure the player list will grow.

UPDATE: LG has just introduced High-Definition TVs with Netflix HD built in. For many, this means they may never need to upgrade their old DVD player.

So what do you have to give up to get the ultimate Video On Demand?

At Last: EU Ends The CFL Tariff...

The headline news was the EU ban on incandescent bulb sales beginning in 2010... The more important but unreported news was the EU quietly letting its usurous 66% import tariff on Chinese-made CFLs lapse...Read More...

Australia green lights...

Australia is taking a refreshingly practical step towards actual emissions reduction by
planning to ban sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2010. That’s a g’day, mate! They are walking the walk instead of talking the talk.Read More...

A roof that reduces air conditioning costs by 40% ?

Ceramic Roof Paint A roof coating that can save up to 40% in air conditioning costs, or reduce interior temperatures by over 20 degrees?? The key is ceramic technology that creates both the super-white color that reflects most sunlight (just like the polar icecap does) AND insulates despite the thin coating...Read More...

Rosetta Stone for addressing climate change...

McKinsey the venerable consulting firm yesterday published a response to the UN's Climate Change update. It is a remarkable work that distills the potential contribution - and cost of all available carbon reduction technologies into a single "supply curve."
Supply Curve

EcoMagination? GE reinvents itself for efficiency & conservation

GE EcoMagination GE's EcoMagination program is exploding. Starting with just a few products, GE has now made what it calls EcoMagination its core mission across its entire product spectrum. A few examples...

Energy Industries reduces business energy bills 30% at zero cost

Energy IndustriesTalk about visionary... Darren Kimura presciently founded Energy Industries in Hilo, Hawaii in 1994. When oil was twenty-something a barrel... Read More...