June 6, 2012:
“The Emissions Time Bomb broke free and took flight.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Member Feedback on the Bomb
This issue presents the Bomb’s good, bad, and ugly. Let’s begin with the good!
* That’s the bomb!
* I'll have to forward this to Noah Davis. His wife, Danika, is from Australia where they have very successfully used large black balloons to demonstrate personal CO2 contributions. (Colorado)
* Looks great...what house??
* OMG I LOVEEEEEE IT!!!!!
* This is amazing, Ted!
* Great to hear about the inflation.
* You are wonderfully imaginative and wholeheartedly devoted to doing good.
* Yahoo, Outstanding!!!!!
* Way to go Ted. That is spectacular. Have you posted this on YouTube? Does EcoMotion have its own YouTube channel?
* This is amazing, Ted!
* Nice job.
* Ted, are you sure you don't want to just keep that in your yard? It looks quite nice!
* Very cool...
* Where do we buy one?
* You realize of course at high elevations your balloon would need to be much bigger, since the ambient pressure is less. Is your balloon sized at sea level?
* I think you should put helium in it and lift up my aluminum Insight. / Fantastic! It does sound like the issue of CO2 is finally getting corporate attention. … Best to you and the gang! (New York)
* Saw your little video of the 1 Tonne CO2 bomb and I loved it. Do you have any specs to go with it so we can make our own?
* I am an energy assessor in Perth Western Australia and my job is to help schools save energy. This time bomb would be a great gimmick for each school -- particularly with the net zero idea.
* Wow! It keeps getting better and better! You are a NUT!!
* Good stuff. At least somebody is making hay with save a ton.
* I watched your solar time bomb balloon video. Great fun and educational for all. It takes a very abstract concept and makes it more tangible. (Vermont)
* Ted, it really does communicate well. Ingenious!
* Wow squared!! Great publicity. I’ll forward to East Woods School so the students there can get a chance to see their alum leading the charge. (New York)
* Your time bomb is the bomb. So imaginative and effective!
* That was great! Very cool and alarming. Congrats! (New York)
* Science Dude indeed!!! Ted, what great press coverage!! Way to go. (Singapore)
* That's great publicity for EcoMotion. Did the Glendale Police try to shut you down?
* Have a great, carbon friendly weekend.
* K’s Blog: Ted Flanigan, the founder of the energy consulting firm EcoMotion in Irvine, decided to help folks visualize a ton of carbon dioxide by creating a true-to-scale, 32-foot-tall balloon — called the Emissions Time Bomb — and launching a new campaign urging people to “Save a Ton.”
* Yup. Turns out a ton of carbon dioxide is pretty darned big. Multiply by 9 and that’s what each of us is putting in the air every year.
* EcoMotion's Emissions Time Bomb will be in Palm Springs on Saturday.
* I am looking forward to being part of the Bomb tomorrow and Friday. See you there.
* We have approval from the City of Palm Desert to have the CO2 balloon for the E & E meeting.
* Great stuff!!!!! I love it. I’ve been gone over a week on my Harley, saw some great country, and weather!! I need to start organizing my “One Ton Challenge” so I’m sure we’ll be talking real soon.
* Can you give me an email address of the company making the "CO2 time bomb"?
* Did you consider having it filled with CO2?
* Congratulations on a great visual. What a dramatic impact! Let me know if you are inflating anywhere near Anaheim or Pasadena.
* This is too cool!
* I’m back from vacation and would love to use the bomb. Do you know how much it weighs so we can check into shipping cost? Our county fair is from July 25th through August 12. What is the availability of “the bomb” for that time period?
* COOL! Are there any ‘little bombs’ available? Our Sonoma County Fair Manager is interested in the bomb for our experience sustainability exhibits. It is great to be in touch with your great work.
* Saw the photo of the inflatable in the Desert Sun today and posted it to our I ? Climate Scientist campaign on Facebook.
* My District wants to have EcoMotion back next school year for school assemblies.
* Love the Carbon Balloon!
* I gotta hand it to you!
Bloomberg's Sustainable City Challenge
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the 20th richest man in the world, a net worth of some $22 billion. His community service is unparalleled.
Bloomberg particularly likes working with mayors. They have immediate needs and the potential to get things done. And if they don’t, he notes that they’re out of office pretty quickly. Bloomberg Philanthropies funds the Mayor’s Project. It sends teams of experts into cities to focus on key issues such as crime prevention and small businesses development.
Now Mayor Bloomberg is focused on sustainability, and he’s put up $9 million dollars in reward money for 1,300 eligible American cities, those with a population of greater than 30,000. Mayors are encouraged to submit proposals for projects that they can do that will improve "city life by addressing a major social or economic issue, improving the customer service experience for citizens or businesses, increasing government efficiency, and/or enhancing accountability, transparency, and public engagement.” The winning city will take a $5 million prize; four others will reap a million each for their commitments to sustainability.
EcoMotion has just completed eight sustainability plans, each of which presents goals and mitigation measures ranked by cost, energy and dollar savings, and carbon offset. To cut emissions will require strategic investments, potentially bank-rolled by the Mayor of New York.
Japanese Feed in Tariffs
Japan is on the brink of major changes. Since the Fukushima disaster, many leading businesses are throwing their support to the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation. It was formed by Japan’s richest man, cell phone tycoon Masayoshi Son. He’s driving Japanese policy, a policy that calls for the rapid deployment of massive amounts of renewables to offset the country’s fleet of nuclear reactors.
Two momentous things happened on June 18th: Paul McCartney turned 70, and Japan announced FiT rates among the highest in the world.
So how high is high? Small-scale wind turbines (less than 20 kW) will get 73.5 cents (USD) for 20 years. Small-scale solar systems will be paid 53.4 cents per kWh for 20 years for surplus generation; larger solar systems will get 53.4 cents too. Set to take effect on July 1, these tariffs may make Japan – considered a $10 billion solar market -- the number two solar country in the world, eclipsing Italy.
And there’s more: Head of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, an anti-nuclear activist by the name of Tetsuya Iida is now running for governor of the Yamagachi Prefecture on an anti-nuclear platform.
California Cap and Trade
Editor’s Note: The following letter was written to TreePeople colleagues after a recent UCLA Cap and Trade conference.
Dear Fellow Board Members:
Greetings to you all. The purpose of this note is to provide a brief update on California’s Carbon Cap and Trade program and specifically the one-day conference at the UCLA School of Law that Bob Antonoplis, Peter Massey, and I attended on behalf of TreePeople. (Both have graciously edited this report.) The conference was titled: “California’s Billion Dollar Question: How to Spend Revenue from the State’s New Climate Cap and Trade Program.”
The Cap and Trade is a new, complex, and potentially powerful mechanism to clean the air. It is being administered by CARB (California Air Resources Board). And TreePeople just may be uniquely suited to be part of this “billion dollar” action. Let me emphasize “may be,” and encourage our Board not to get its hopes up too high. There are many players looking at this new revenue source. It’s being regarded as the biggest new source of revenue for the government since the Louisiana Land Purchase and its subsequent land sales.
We begin with a fact: The cap and trade is convoluted. Yes we need to drive down California GHG emissions from 507 million tonnes to 427 by 2020. The cap and trade is a huge accounting exercise and extraordinary transfer of wealth. The cap and trade program is but a small component of CARB’s overall greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy. The vast majority of the reductions will come from mandated reductions.
Most agree that a carbon tax at the point of use would have been much simpler to conceptualize and manage. (Mandates, while unpopular, have been pretty successful too.) California’s cap and trade system is a market mechanism (versus a tax) and is perfect for theoretical economists and lawyers, laced with self-interested advocates from Jerry Brown to workforce developers in Oakland. Utilities are getting the ultimate “hall pass,” free allowances, while others will have to a) either clean up their act, or b) buy allowances to pollute, what a friend of mine calls “indulgences.” Sempra was at the table. Two auctions are planned: the general auction and the utility auction.
And this is where I chime in, perhaps naively or grossly optimistically so, that ideally there will be no market, no auctions. Instead, polluters and the public will clean up their emissions, technology will thrive and outpace the degressive schedule of emissions from point sources from power plants to industries. Yes, I am optimistic, but I do caution TreePeople and others – whose ultimate objective is to sustain the Earth, from getting revved up about penalties that we do not really want paid in the first place. And naturally, the more California burdens its industries – versus making them world leaders --the more potential there is for “leakage” out of California.
The experts at the conference say no: There will be economic transfers. Most at the UCLA Law School gathering – truly learned scholars and stakeholders (including the great professor Jim Boyce from UMASS who helped establish the California system) – say that in year one the amount of money “generated” will be about a billion dollars. By 2020, when AB 32 expires and we all toast with champagne, there may be many multiples of that on the table after 2015 when about 85% of all emissions are subject to AB 32. Bob estimates that the allowance auction will generate over $60 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of money; that’s a lot of pollution too.
Let’s assume there will be some money to distribute. Where does it go? We heard all about legal precedence and Sinclair Paint and the “nexus.” Most generally speaking, the Sinclair decision requires that any revenue from a state mandated fee must be spent on projects that have a nexus to the fee itself. For example, a fee charged by the state on the sale of new automobile tires goes toward the management of waste tires at disposal sites. If the auctioning of allowance revenue is deemed a fee, then projects funded from this revenue must be directly related to greenhouse gas emission reductions. Redirecting the revenue to the general fund violates this. But some argue that if each citizen owns the air rights, putting the money back in the people’s hands is consistent with Sinclair. Many at the conference favor a “cap and dividend” program, much like Alaska’s heat allowance. In such a scenario, taxpayers would get a dividend on their tax returns, or a check from the treasury with which they can do what they want, or need (such as medical bills / my own editorial!).
Assuming the State does not grab all revenues, who’s next in line? This is where the scrum gets heated. Everyone pitches their own as a priority, from the Nature Conservancy on. Well organized, lobbied organizations are salivating, but cautiously so. The Environmental Defense Fund was on the program; as was Natural Resources Defense Council supporting programmatic support to address market barriers and the implementation of SB 375.The Ella Baker Center’s position is that people of color defeated Prop 23 (an attempt to overturn AB 32) and thus ought to be rewarded with public health and green collar employment programs with the allowance income. Others advocate more recycling and water conservation. LAUSD’s Sustainability Coordinator advocated special programs for schools. You get the drift and the competing interests already in line.
Many of these proposals had at best a tangential relation to greenhouse gas emission reductions. The safest way to invest the revenue is in (1) greenhouse gas emission reduction projects at facilities or operations that are outside the jurisdiction of AB 32, or (2) projects to generate offsets that will be allowed for use under the AB 32 cap and trade program. Bob thinks that TreePeople has a unique opportunity to generate AB 32 cap and trade offsets, since CARB recognizes forestry and urban forestry projects as viable offset projects.
An interesting luncheon discussion with Bob and Peter about TreePeople’s role. While we may have value as discussed above, it is small. A single tree – and this depends a lot – sequesters about 50 pounds of CO2 a year, or about a cumulative ton at age 40. It’s not much. (A 500 MW power plant might emit a million tons a year.) We’d have to be in the tree planting business on a large scale to generate significant sequestration values. Then there is the educational value, and its leverage on society and transformations.
This is where the discussion gets murkier, and the legal and economic bases stretched: The further one gets from direct emissions offsets, from the nexus, the more of a food fight there is for the money: Why not fund police cars, or teachers? One idea that may gain support is to fund high speed rail in California. It will have emissions benefits despite the fact that its costs and benefits may not be equally treated. You get a sense of the politics to come!
As a next step, Bob, Peter, and I, and TreePeople staff members and others, will convene a meeting in the next 45 days meet to further define TreePeople’s potential role in this arena, and what that would mean in terms of benefits and costs to the organization and its long term goals. We’ll keep the Board posted as to this meeting’s date and minutes/outcome. We do need to track this, strategically interject our voice, and work to a logical resolution of California’s challenge in making our pioneering cap and trade system succeed in driving down emissions to 1990 levels and beyond.
Solar Roadways -- for Irvine Solar Enthusiasts
On a warm Sunday not long ago, Reid McCartney, Michael Ware, Terry, and I hosted Scott and Julie Brusaw to lunch at Strawberry Farms, and then went on a quick tour of the Great Park. They were visiting the southland from their home in Idaho.
Scott is the inventor of Solar Roadways, and now holds several patents. His efficiency is up, and he’s working on glass manufacture and specifications for a U.S. DOE-supported demonstration parking lot in Idaho. We were struck by the engineering detail applied to this work, and the Brusaws’ passion for this new form of solar. We grilled Scott from every angle!
While I thought it was crazy at first, I’ve come to appreciate the big picture thinking! For solar, we think rooftops, ground-mounts, and solar ports. Scott thinks slot cars and energized roadways.
Turns out that in addition to a) generating electricity, b) providing roadway signage, striping etc. with embedded LEDs, and c) heating for snowmelt, that someday these roadways could be used for energizing electric vehicles using induction charging. Just like your electric toothbrush charged through a plastic base, EVs may someday be charged by roads. Scientists show that such charging could be done from up to 18 inches.
I agree with concerns that this technology and concept is pretty far out, and may not be particularly cost effective. But it is novel, and potentially a great fit for the upcoming Solar Decathlon in Irvine. It could be used for bike paths, parking lots, promenades, all with custom anti-slip surfaces.
Hats off to Scott and Julie for taking it this far. Their intent is to control global manufacture.
Just thought you’d like to hear about it!
The Flight of the Time Bomb
One of my staff is very funny. It’s in his genes. Actually, he’s a professional. He co-wrote Growing Pains and now entertains us. His call left me feeling sick and scared and helpless. Could this be real? June 6th I’ll never forget.
Was he kidding? The Emissions Time Bomb broke free and took flight? It bounced 100 feet in the air? Staff injured; power lines out? Police, fire, ambulances, and utility trucks on the scene. I learn that a rogue gust of wind takes the Bomb airborne for 625 feet, rendering over 600 pounds of staff ballast useless in controlling it. Across a busy four-lane road, over a house, toppling a light pole, and crashing in an alley after shorting out the power. We hit the evening news – ABC 7 -- and the OC Register.
That’s one perverse way to raise awareness.
It is real. Two staff taken to the emergency room with hand injuries: rope burns, dislocated finger. Another staffer visits the hospital later. Thank God no students or citizens were in its path. My hot shot roof climber held on as the bomb took flight, falling to the ground from 10 feet as the bomb rose 100 feet in the air before crashing down. I breathe a huge sigh of relief as I’m informed that he’s checked out of ER and goes home. I’m tempted to scrap the Bomb; this is too much. We cancel events.
The support rolls in. These are people that believe in its messaging: “Rebuild, repair, and get it back out in public.” It should have been in Rio instead of in a heap in my garage.
We have hired engineers to evaluate its aerodynamics, to re-engineer if need be, to provide 200% certainty that it will never take flight again. And we welcome your suggestions.