Cars that burn up the roads

Two articles appeared next to each other on the front page of the WSJ on August 18: ‘US Car Plants Shift to Top Gear,’ and ‘Decade of Drought Threatens West.’

We need to connect the dots.

The manufacture of 60 million new passenger vehicles in 2012 worldwide, 99% of them burning gasoline or diesel, guarantees us more extreme weather disasters.

With rising carbon emissions making the atmosphere warmer, increasing storm surges, floods, droughts and wildfires will destroy infrastructure, water resources, homes, and jobs.

The federal government gives tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels that can be used to charge them, and also requires automakers to increase energy efficiency.  This is great, but we should do more.  A carbon fee should be imposed to make purchasers of fossil fuels to pay more of the actual costs of using those products.  Taxpayers now pick up the tab for spill clean-up, disaster aid, flood insurance, crop insurance and military protection of oil shipments.

A tax on oil, coal and natural gas at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, increasing each year, up to $100 per ton, with revenue returned to households would help level the playing field and allow more profitable production of clean energy alternatives.   With a tariff on goods from other countries not imposing a carbon fee, we could also encourage worldwide adoption of clean energy.

Power in Ocean Breezes

North America’s first offshore wind turbine has just been launched, a prototype for gathering data. The full size floating  turbines will be nearly as tall as the Washington Memorial, and will be tethered 20 miles offshore where winds are stronger. Within 50 miles of the US shoreline there is enough wind energy to power the entire US several times over.

Developed at the University of Maine, the turbines will be made of composite material that won’t rust. They will be connected to an underwater power cable that will take power to thousands of homes.

The turbine, called Volturnus, will be competing for  funding with Norwegian energy company Statoil that has already tested floating wind turbines in the North Sea.  A turbine industry in Maine would create thousands of jobs and bring millions in private investment.

Wind, Water, and Sunlight Power a Plan for a Better Economy

‘We can’t afford a green energy economy” is a myth, obvious to people who are paying attention to the hyper expensive effects of a planet-scorching fossil fuel economy.

However, now a group of scientists, headed by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford have crunched the numbers and laid out a serious plan for a transition to an affordable energy infrastructure in New York State that uses primarily wind, water and sun. It does not require that we ‘live in trees and eat bugs’. To the contrary, it reduces our energy costs, creates millions of jobs, improves public health and costs less than the side effects of continuing to burn fossil fuels.

The report is Examining the Feasibility of Converting NY State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water, and Sunlight  2013  Mark Z Jacobson, Robert W Howarth, Mark A Delucchi et al.

This plan calls for electricity to be generated by solar, wind, geothermal and some hydro and wave technology.  It calls for batteries and hydrogen fuel cells in cars, trucks, buses, locomotives and ships. For heating and cooling buildings, it uses ground source heat pumps and heat exchangers.

The investment in new energy infrastructure would increasingly develop low-carbon technologies and by 2020, all new investment would be in these systems, The savings would help us phase out old fuel dependent systems by 2050.

Since renewable electricity is several times more efficient than fossil fuel combustion, losing very little energy to waste heat, the plan reduces electric usage.  

It would stabilize energy prices bringing electric rates down   from $.18/kWh to $.13/kWh, create millions of new jobs, reduce air pollution and improve public health.

The transition would help us deal with what Jacobson describes as “the epic environmental and ecological costs we all pay for our current energy supply,”  a “Fiscal Energy Cliff.” See Interviews and story on the report in Huff post.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-clark/mark-z-jacobson-renewable-energy_b_2859518.html

http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/NewYorkWWSEnPolicy.pdf

Electric Car with Gyroscope

Lit Motors’ C-1. Range – 200 miles on one charge. Will go 100 mph. Priced $24,000 initially, half that with mass marketing.  Gyroscope included. Launches 2014.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/10/lit-motors-will-shake-up-the-electric-vehicle-market-with-its-two-wheeled-untippable-c-1/

 

Washington State Clean Energy Leader Governor Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee spoke at the Washington Clean Technology Alliance conference on Clean Energy. Jan 28, 2013:
To hear his remarks go to http://americansecurityproject.org/blog/2013/gov-inslee-speech-at-clean-energy-conference-in-seattle/
The following is a condensed, approximate transcript of what he said.
“This is the season. Clean energy technologies are becoming mature. Last Saturday I went to the launch of world’s largest long liner fishing ship; it is 20% more efficient than other ships like it. It is made by welders, machinists, and carpenters, and it is in the water today. Everywhere I look in Washington State, there is work in green technology. Dave Curry in Spokane has a new way to store energy in batteries. In Marysville they are making new tougher solar panels. We have a maturation of these innovations. This is a time to speak up about the successes.
A superstorm targeted the media center of the world. It demands attention. There have been terrible fires in the Cascades, and oyster growers have had to move part of their operations to Hawaii. The public is ready, poised and ready.
My election is a mandate, and now we have a partner in Washington DC.
The military is committed to move ahead. They are developing net zero training bases. A jet flew over sound barrier on biofuel; they call it the green hornet.
We do not have any other choice. The Chinese are not waiting for us. Germans and Portuguese are not waiting for us. This is an opportunity, not an entitlement. Time demands that we move.
We have a period of opportunity. We are going to push the envelope, here in Washington. We did that in commercial aircrafts and we led the world. We did it in software and we led the world. Now is the time to lead the way in clean energy.
Policy is important in pushing the envelope. Here is what we are going to do in the State of WA.
First, incentivize small but meaningful ways to generate capital with tradable R& D tax credits which can be traded to help people start their own business even before get revenue. A couple of other states, including New Jersey, have tried this and it has succeeded.
Businesses need to get started; waiting for permits is not good. Time is money, we need to streamline the permit system.
We have 600 students waiting to get into engineering school. We need their skills. So we will build an educational system that prepares people to work in high tech so when need computational scientists, we can get them. We need to build an outstanding educational system, and invest more in public research institutions.
Products need to move, so we need to increase freight mobility and at the same time reduce carbon pollution throughout the system in all modalities. We will expand incentives for renewable energy, and build a transportation system designed to reduce carbon intensity across Washington State.
I want everyone here to help me. It is time.”

Washington State Clean Energy Industry

Where can you find the most new jobs in technology? According to Forbes, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area took first place last year in growth in technology jobs, including software, internet publishing, science, engineering and math.  The growth is not just in large corporations, but also in new, innovative start-ups. Appropriately Washington, with its natural beauty, is a leader in advancements in green technology.  

McKinstry is a leader in consulting and construction for energy efficient buildings, both public and private projects, employing over 1600 people. Silicon Energy in Marysville makes solar panels with a durable glass-on-glass design. From Liberty Lake come storage batteries and control systems by Demand Energy Networks. Larger institutions participate also; Boeing’s new 787 uses 20% less fuel, and it is working to develop aviation fuel from algae.

Research helps prime the pump. At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, researchers are working on batteries for vehicles and for grid-scale storage, bio-based fuel alternatives and a range of energy saving technologies.

 

 

Green Energy Made in America

A columnist  disagrees with President Obama’s decision to add duties to imported Chinese solar panels, claiming that it is “to create an empire of subsidized domestic “green” companies, dub them a “strategic” industry, and ladle out taxpayer dollars and regulatory favors in return for campaign donations.” ‘The Dumbest Trade War…’ by H  Jenkins Oct 12, 2012 WSJ

Response:

The safety of the American people is the primary responsibility of the US government. The 2010 US Quadrennial Military Review says that US dependence on oil is a serious vulnerability, and not just foreign oil, but all oil.  Because the U.S. has only 3% of the world’s reserves of oil and since the U.S. military is the world’s largest single buyer of oil, our foreign policy is subject to pressure from the regimes that sell us $350 billion worth of oil every year.  The big reserves of oil are in Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and more; with every ten cent hike in the price of fuel, those countries get richer. To depend on oil from American territory is not a solution because what we are getting now is increasingly expensive to extract, from under the Arctic Ocean, squeezed out of sand or forced from cracks in rock.

Clean energy is indeed a strategic industry.

Making electricity from solar and wind is now no more expensive in many places  than making it by burning coal or natural gas, and it is getting cheaper.  The cost of installing solar energy, according to Bloomberg’s first quarter Clean Energy Market Briefing was $7 per watt in 2007, $3 in 2010 and is now less than $1 per watt.  Subsidies have helped these industries scale up, but once they are mass-producing the prices drop, and profits increase. In Spain, even after subsidies for clean energy were dropped, the industries continued to operate with 5 to 15% profit.

Using green electricity to replace oil will be increasingly attractive as the price of electric batteries drops. A McKinsey study released in July estimates that mass production and new technology are lowering the cost of batteries and could make the cost of buying and operating an electric vehicles the same as a vehicle running on gasoline within 6 years.  China is promoting swappable batteries, particularly with fleet vehicles as a way to deal with slow charging time, although 20 minute charging is now common.

Almost every car company is now producing electric or hybrid models. They will provide real competition with oil. Most Americans have stopped believing the corporate hype that oil, coal and natural gas are our only options.  Solar, wind and other green technology attracted $260 billion of investors’ funds worldwide in 2011.

Solar panel manufacturers in China used large government loans, by one estimate $18 billion, to buy up domestic and foreign panel manufacturers, drop prices to gain market dominance and plan to set prices higher according to a report in the New York Times.

The  U.S. Commerce Department has responded by imposing 24 to 35% tariffs on solar panels from China.

A better option would be to increase tax credits for purchases of American made solar panels, and help local industries scale up to mass produce, export, and profit from increasing international demand for energy.