May 15, 2006 – Volume 10, Issue 5
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


The Naked Truth

EcoMotion’s goal is inspire and motivate, not to dwell on negatives. But let’s face it, the world’s ecological problems are the reason we exist. Because our energy resources are mismanaged and abused, because resource scarcity threatens our lives, because air and watersheds continue to be contaminated, because biodiversity is threatened, our global quality of life is very much at stake.

EcoMotion exists as a voice of logic and hope, spurring incremental, positive actions through the power of positive example.

The naked truth is that our Western “ecological footprint” has profound ramifications. We are drawing down the Earth’s precious capital resources at an alarming rate.

Our checkbook is out of balance.

Instead of living off interest, our country and global community is depleting resources at an exponential rate. Our irresponsible behaviors – and each of us must look in the mirror this time – have collectively caused problems of literally atmospheric proportions. Glaciers are melting, polar bears are drowning, the canaries in the coal mines are dying.

So EcoMotion and the EcoMotion Network News will lay out the naked truth from time to time, trying to present reality checks to jog our thoughts and provide directional perspectives.

Yes, we are undoubtedly making progress -- for instance, we report that California leads the nation in photovoltaics. But let’s get real, solar remains but a fraction of the action. Is it time for you to be a PV “pioneer”?

The Naked Truth: California Solar Homes

California Solar Homes The California Energy Commission reports that owners of 16,684 homes and businesses have installed rooftop solar units since 1981. Sounds pretty good, right?

But the naked truth is that California’s 130 MW solar rooftop generating capacity is merely a fraction of percentage point of California’s 50 GW summer peak demand, providing 0.26% of peak capacity requirements. And the number of installations on rooftops is just 0.14% of the 12.2 million homes and apartment buildings in California.

Furthermore, California home builders last year received permits to build 154,853 new single-family homes and 53,000 new apartments and condominiums. But statewide, they built only 1,500 to 1,600 new homes with solar systems already included. Solar is on the rise -- with lots of headroom!

More Truth: Greenhouse Gases Rising

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports a continuing increase in carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the air last year, though methane leveled off. The agency said and there was a decline in two chlorofluorocarbons, gases blamed for the ozone hole over the Antarctic.

NOAA reported that its annual greenhouse gas index "shows a continuing, steady rise in the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere."

The index was set at a base value of 1.0 in 1990. For 2005 it was 1.215. Most of the increase is attributed to carbon dioxide which the agency said accounts for 62 percent of radiative warming by greenhouse gases.

Carbon dioxide increased from an average of 376.8 parts per million in 2004 to 378.9 ppm in 2005. The pre-industrial CO2 level is estimated to have been about 278 ppm. The result has been a gradual increase of temperatures over recent decades, raising concerns that human activities will result in a damaging climate change.

Question of the Week: Should a 14-mile per gallon hybrid SUV driver get tax credits, access to carpool lanes, and even preferential parking, when the driver of a standard Honda that gets over 30 miles per gallon gets none of these?l
Spectrumotion, one of 146 TMAs

Just yesterday, a representative of Irvine’s local Transit Management Association (TMA) visited EcoMotion’s office to deliver a seminar on ridesharing opportunities. (In the photo, Lea Gould speaks to Ted Flanigan and to EcoMotion neighbor E2 Environmental's Rachel Campbell.) I didn’t even know what a TMA was or that we had one!

Spectrumotion is a non-profit TMA “dedicated to assisting Irvine Spectrum employees in finding the best possible way to commute to work.” It was established over 15 years ago through an assessment district that requires property managers within the Irvine Spectrum area to contribute to ease traffic congestion through ridesharing.

According to Spectrumotion, it’s all about helping workers find commuting alternatives -- anything that gets a single driver into an alternate mode, be it carpooling, vanpooling, taking the bus or train, telecommuting, biking, or walking to work.

The five- person TMA that serves the Irvine Spectrum area, and the commuting patterns of some 50,000 individuals, offers a number of tools:

• Spectrumotion develops personalized commuting strategies for Spectrum area employees. So far it has an 8,800-person database of commuters that enables similar patterns to be linked. Thirty-nine percent of these are involved in ridesharing of one form or another.
• Spectrumotion’s offices are at the local Metrolink station. It offers free two-week Metrolink rail passes to interested commuters to experience the rail line first hand. Free monthly bus passes provide a similar opportunity.
• Emergency ride services are provided up to four times a year for any registered ride-sharing commuter. Spectrumotion is just a phone call away and its staff will drive you, catch a cab for you, or even rent you a car, if you get stuck!

The notion of transportation management – both transportation supply organizations that advocate increased services and transportation demand management – came into prominence in 1991 when the federal government passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). By 1992, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported over 100 TMAs, mostly in California but also significant in Virginia and Florida.

By 2003, there were a reported 146 TMAs in the U.S. – with 29 states reporting at least one -- with missions ranging from mitigating congestion problems to enhancing land development opportunities, and improving the transportation infrastructure. California continues to lead the nation with 31 TMAs, followed by Massachusetts (15), Florida (14), and Arizona (12).

May 15 – 19: Bike to Work Week!

Megatons to Megawatts

Highly enriched uranium from the former Soviet Union's dismantled nuclear warheads is providing half of the fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors in the U.S. Established thanks to the 1993 United States–Russia nonproliferation agreement, the “Megatons to Megawatts” program has converted 287 tons of highly enriched Russian uranium into reactor fuel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. An additional 265 tons will be converted and sold on the U.S. market over the next seven years.

One expert noted that with nuclear contributing 20% of the nation’s electricity, one of ten light bulbs in American homes is powered by a fuel “that once sat atop a Soviet missile.”

Paying for Green

Green power sources – from small-scale hydro to wind and solar – are the rage. After years of fermenting, and given concerns about global warming and “peaking oil,” the time is right, and green power is ripe and primed in the market. The cost, however, remains higher than for conventional sources, and thus a number of financial mechanisms have been used to promote renewables.

Green Pricing: Green power programs like the ones reported in EcoMotion Network News V10#2 charge a premium for green power. As such, volunteers pay the marginal costs of green power. A remarkable event occurred earlier this year in this regard. When the City of Austin went out to buy green power for its volunteers, it was able to buy for less than the cost of conventional sources! In most cases, however, and without an economic accounting for externalities – such as the costs of pollution, global warming gas releases, etc. -- this is not the case.

Renewable Portfolios: Voluntary mechanisms involve about a half million Americans nationwide, while command and control regulation takes quantum leaps. Many states have adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that mandate that utilities supply a certain percentage of their load through green sources by a certain date. For instance, SB 1078 committed California investor-owned utilities to procure 20% renewable energy by 2017. This has more recently been accelerated to 2010 – requiring the addition of 9,000 MW of renewables. (Now the State is eying 33% by 2020!). With RPS mechanisms in place, all ratepayers – and over 30 million Californians – collectively pay for green power.

Renewable Energy Credits: A relatively new mechanism is rising fast: “Renewable Energy Credits” or RECs. In this scenario, any jurisdiction – a utility, city, corporation, or individual -- seeking to offset its greenhouse gas footprint related to power use, can buy RECs.

RECs are being used to meet corporate mandates, reach LEED specifications, and/or most recently, to offset automobile emissions. (Critics denounce this form of market mechanism for permitting a “pay to pollute” stance; its advocates claim its undeniable value as an offset as long as new resources are developed.)

Each REC equals one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable power. It is given to the developer or owner of the resource to help pay for the renewable energy installations. The buyer gets credit for avoided or offset CO2 emissions. For instance, an individual living in an apartment – and unable to buy a solar system -- might elect to buy RECs to promote the equivalent resource in another location.

Whole Foods Makes Waves

In January, Whole Foods Market made the largest ever corporate purchase of wind renewable energy credits (458,000 MWh) to offset 100% of electricity used by all of its facilities (stores, regional offices, distribution centers, etc. in the U.S. and Canada).

Now Whole Foods is taking it a step further, encouraging store-goers like you and me to buy RECs. When you’re lined up at the check-out, you can sign up with Renewable Choice Energy, Inc. on a family ($15/month) or individual ($5/month) basis. Moneys collected go toward development of new renewable resources. You’ll pay $0.02/kWh for these credits to offset your own “dirty use” with clean alternatives.

Ford’s Greener Miles!

Ford Motor Co. has announced plans to offer Ford vehicle owners the chance to offset the greenhouse gas impact of their driving through the support of green energy projects. Ford said that money received will go to the Ainsworth Wind Facility in Nebraska and the Haubenschild Dairy Farm, near Princeton, Minnesota.

Through the “TerraPass” program, drivers can calculate the amount of CO2 emissions they generate in one year of driving. Customers then have the opportunity to purchase an offset that supports the production of renewable clean energy from wind or dairy farm methane. Customers receive a vehicle decal as a visual symbol of their participation in the Greener Miles program. Ford has also pledged to offset the greenhouse gasses emitted in the manufacture of its hybrid electric vehicles.

Greener Miles program

Sterling Planet's White Tags

Sterling Planet, founded in 2000, claims to be the nation's leading retail provider of solar, wind and other clean, renewable energy. The company reports that its sales have created environmental benefits comparable to not driving 7 billion miles or taking a whopping 550,000 cars off U.S. roads.

Sterling Planet was the first company to offer Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to every U.S. home and business. It is now introducing Energy Efficiency Certificates (EECs), which it has trademarked as “White Tags (TM)” to the U.S. market. As it does with RECs – or what it calls Green Tags -- Sterling Planet will certify credits, which can be sold or banked, and bring together EEC buyers and sellers. Buyers include organizations in voluntary markets that are looking to meet greenhouse gas emission goals or electric utilities with mandated portfolio standards. Three states have adopted legislation requiring energy efficiency credits; Connecticut will be the first in 2007. Sellers include those who have taken concrete, effective measures to reduce their energy use and have contracted with Sterling Planet to measure, monetize and certify the White Tags that result.