October 25, 2006 – Volume 10, Issue 14
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


More Supply-Side Thinking
If you don’t have the word “cellulosic” in your vocabulary yet, you probably will soon. It’s the latest alternative energy craze and the focus of much research and conversation. According to ENN reader Michael Totten of Conservation International, “cellulosic stole the show” at the Clinton Climate Initiative and was a major driver in Sir Richard Branson’s $3 billion pledge to climate change mitigation (see ENN V10#13). So just what’s up with that?

Ethanol is a major and potentially valuable form of renewable energy that can replace oil for transportation fuels. Thus far, it has been solely derived from corn and it provides 2-3% of the nation’s thirst for gasoline.

New research is focused on producing ethanol from a wide variety of organic materials as described in this week’s article on “green gold and hybrid trees.” If the research is successful, we may be able to gradually wean off our addiction to imported oil.

But wait a minute, more supply-side thinking! Nixon promoted “energy independence” nuclear-style in the 60s; Alaskan oil, TAPS, and now ANWR provided more hope for energy security; and “clean coal,” nuclear fusion, and now pebble-bed reactors all speak to the same mentality. Instead of figuring out how to minimize our need for vast quantities of fuels – whether renewable or not – our energy leaders want to take us down the same supply-side path. Haven’t we learned to look in the mirror at our usage? Can’t we have a better quality of life – cleaner air, enhanced national security, a better and more sustainable economy -- using less fuel and more ingenuity?

The Naked Truth: Garage Refrigerators

A Southern California Edison official reflected on ENNV10#10’s article on increased California home energy use, Flanigan’s Eco-Logic: Slip, Sliding Away. In that article, Flanigan suggests that demographics and an opulent lifestyle is causing California’s pre- eminence with efficiency to “slip, slide, away.” “To exacerbate the problem of energy usage per home even further, major appliance manufacturers are introducing new appliances – notably garage refrigerators -- that counteract energy efficiency program efforts to reduce the number of refrigerators used in homes. I suppose if someone has to have a second unit this [the new Gladiator Energy Star garage refrigerator] is the one we'd prefer, but I’m not sure the manufacturers should encourage it.”

Second refrigerators are usually aging and inefficient units tucked away in hot and dusty garages where they drone on, often loaded with only a case of soda. Their energy consumption can be as high as 200 kWh/month (compare to 50 kWh for a new kitchen refrigerator), costing the consumer as much as $30 a month.

For many years, utilities such as Southern California Edison have been “rounding up” and “retiring” second refrigerators, using effective outreach and $35-50 incentives and pick-up services with complete recycling. The goal has been to get these inefficient appliances out of unconditioned spaces and out of service.

But the naked truth is that consumers - and we are they -- continue to crave more and more convenience, and the market is responding. The new Gladiator Chillerator garage refrigerator is “styling” at 19 cubic feet, mounted on heavy-duty, solid rubber castors, and its “high performance cooling system operates well in high heat environments” according to its manufacturer. Ironically, this “phantom load” – hidden among the garden tools in the garage -- is Energy Star.

“Thanks for your great messages! They are always inspiring!”
Rio de la Vista, EcoMotion Network Member

EcoMotion Hosts Chinese Efficiency Official

This past week EcoMotion had the honor of hosting Director Chen Jianghua in Los Angeles for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Chen heads up the Chinese national energy efficiency center, and with China’s electricity consumption growing by 20% per year, and an ambitious national goal of cutting energy use by 20% in five years, his job is nothing short of massive and critical.

Photo from the left: Gene Rodrigues, Director of Energy Efficiency for Southern California Edison; Chen Jianghua, Deputy Director, China State Grid Corporation DSM Instruction Center; Ted Flanigan, President of EcoMotion.

Director Chen’s delegation traveled to Washington DC, New York and California to learn about financial models to institutionalize energy efficiency. During his whirl-wind LA tour, Ted Flanigan briefed Director Chen on California’s utility structure, its remarkable efficiency accomplishments, and the use of system benefits charges in America. Flanigan then introduced him to officials at Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas, and the City of Santa Monica.

Briefings at Edison’s CTAC center and the SCG Energy Resource Center opened Chen’s eyes to the depths of California utilities’ commitment to efficiency. In Santa Monica, Director Chen was welcomed by the City Manager prior to an inspiring green building tour and briefing about the City’s “sustainability report card.” Clearly, Chen Jianghua’s Southern California visit broadened his understanding of the results of decades of energy efficiency leadership. Now Director Chen will take California’s sophistication and apply its lessons to China.

Special thanks to Gene Rodrigues, Mark Gaines, and Lamont Ewell. Thanks also to Lynda Ziegler, Bill Bryan, Tory Weber, Jennifer Shen, Grant Hielsand, Daphne Ng, Dave Reed, Henry Lau, John Nall, David Stevens, Gordon Anderson, Greg Reitz, Dean Kubani, Ralph Cavanagh, Barbara Finamore, and EcoMotion’s interpreter extraordinaire Terry Chan.

Electric Vehicle News

Are EV’s experiencing a comeback? Did the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?” have a positive shock value, raising awareness about the logic of EVs? Will companies outside the automotive oligopoly bring back the EV? Can the power density/cost barrier for batteries finally be overcome? Is the most revolutionary battery advance in a century – since the lead acid battery was developed -- on the horizon? News from private electric car companies is encouraging indeed.

EEStor from Cedar Park, Texas is working on an energy storage device that involves no chemicals nor hazardous materials, but that acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as touted, it will be able to recharge in five minutes and provide enough electricity to drive 500 miles! According to Business 2.0 magazine, “EEStor is tight-lipped about its device and how it packs such a punch.” Its patent – issued in April – describes a device made of a ceramic powder with aluminum oxide and glass.

And that punch? Rather than seeking to compete with mopeds and minis, the EEStor system is intended to provide enough power to compete with Ferraris and 300 horsepower SUVs.

Also in Texas, an auto dealership called “Shock Value” plans to bring ZAP electric vehicles to the Lone Star State. Shock Value is seeking licenses to roll out the all-electric XEBRA micro-car model (shown in photo) produced by ZAP, claiming that EVs can be fueled for 2-3 cents per mile versus 10 cents and more for internal combustion engines.

ZAP is a publicly traded company from Santa Rosa, California that has delivered over 90,000 vehicles in more than 75 countries since 1994. ZAP’s new zebra- striped XEBRA is also configured as a pickup -- the XEBRA PK -- which can also be used as a standard truck, flat bed, delivery, or even dump truck. For more information visit www.zapworld.com.

Household Energy Tip: Plugging the Leaks
- Cindy Lee, Intern, EcoMotion

Winter’s approaching and it’s time to plug the leaks to keep the cold out and the heat in.

Finding and sealing air leaks can improve comfort and save money! You may not have realized it, but a 1/16th inch crack around a window can let in as much cold air as leaving the window open three inches! The easiest way to find air leaks is to hold a tissue between two fingers over the area. You’ll see it move; the breeze will cause the tissue to wave.

Caulking seals holes in walls and around windows. Rope caulking feels like clay – unroll it and press it into place. Liquid caulk (in a tube) is applied with a caulking gun – you can get both for around $10 at the hardware store. For bigger gaps, particularly in plaster walls, use backer rods made of foam, and then cover with caulk.

Foam weatherstripping, with sticky tape backing, goes on the door jam. Buy it by the foot. Depending on how much you need, you might spend as little as $4

Grab your flashlight to find other leaks at home, particularly around pipes that lead to the outside from under the sink. Consider expanding foam insulation. Spray in a little, let it puff up and dry, then clean up. A little goes a long way.

EcoMotion is pleased to introduce the author of this article -- Cindy Lee. Our latest intern, Cindy was born and raised in Burma and is a student at the University of California Irvine majoring in Environmental Analysis & Design.

Change a Light, and Change the World

October is nearly over, the end of the annual Energy Awareness Month. This year the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency tried something new, a campaign aimed at getting each and every one of us to "Change a Light, to Change the World". It encourages U.S. residents to replace a conventional bulb or fixture in their home or workplace with an Energy Star-rated lamp. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman took the "Change a Light" pledge and challenged DOE's 120,000 employees to join him. Consider the following:

• If every U.S. household changed a single light bulb to an Energy Star compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), it would save enough power to light more than 2.5 million homes.

•If every U.S. household replaced one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star CFL, that would be the equivalent of removing the exhaust emissions of 1 million cars from the nation's roads.

The Federal Energy Management Agency (FEMP) built on Energy Awareness Month with the slogan, "Energy Independence Depends on US—Choose Wisely, Use Wisely." To support the theme, FEMP created a downloadable mosaic poster comprised of thousands of photos of energy champions, one of which is of EcoMotion’s President, Ted Flanigan

Green Gold and Hybrid Trees

Scientists are hard at work to commercialize “green gold,” a fuel so potentially attractive that it could unseat hydrogen as a predominant fuel for the future.

Green gold is a biofuel known as “cellulosic ethanol,” a form of ethanol that is both more concentrated than corn and soy- based “conventional ethanol,” does not incur the trade-off with food production, and that emits far fewer greenhouse gases.

A feature of cellulosic ethanol is that it can be derived from a variety of green products, from straw to sugarcane bagasse, from plant wastes such as sawdust and pulp and paper wastes, to energy crops specifically grown for ethanol production. With cellulosic ethanol exhibiting a net energy content three times higher than corn ethanol, groups such as NRDC and the Union of Concerned Scientists have taken note. Some say that this green biofuel may ultimately replace the import of expensive “black gold.”

The research is taking many forms. Purdue University researchers, for example, are experimenting with a hybrid tree (photo) that can reach 90 feet in six years and be grown as a row crop on fallow farmland. A hybrid poplar tree is the basis for research supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of replacing 30% of the fossil fuel used annually for transportation with biofuels by 2030.

In 2005 ethanol accounted for only 4 billion gallons of the 140 billion gallons of U.S. transportation fuel used - less than 3%. About 13% of the nation's corn crop was used for that production.

Using hybrid poplar and its Populus relatives as the basis for biofuels has a number of advantages for the environment, farmers and the economy. It is a low- maintenance crop that does not require pesticides and that can grow in many places year-round. The genus includes about 30 species that grow across a wide climatic range from the subtropics in Florida to sub-alpine areas in Alaska, northern Canada and Europe. This is compared with corn that can be grown only in a few areas of the world and only during a relatively short growing season.

Approximately 10 tons of poplar could be grown per acre annually, representing 700 gallons of ethanol. Corn currently produces about 4.5 tons per acre per year with a yield of about 400 gallons of ethanol. Changing the lignin composition in the hybrid trees could further increase the annual yield to 1,000 gallons of ethanol per acre. If these trees were planted on 110 million acres of unused farmland, the researchers believe that this could replace 80 percent of the transportation fossil fuel consumed in the United States each year.