In his last days of office, Bush and his administration proposed a lighting efficiency policy which would help save energy and money. The Obama administration must now look over the proposal and issue the finals standards by the end of June. The proposal outlines the covering of florescent tube lamps and cone-shaped reflector lamps which are abundant in offices and homes. This would be the largest energy saving project in history of the U.S.
If followed through, by the year 2042, the savings would be drastic: 9.6 quadrillion BTUs of energy, $39.7 billion spent on energy, and 509 million metric tons of CO2. While these figures look promising, the proposal would cause more money and energy lost than saved.
High savings would lead to net additional savings of 6.2 quadrillion BTUs in energy, $25.6 billion spent on energy, and 290 million metric tons of CO2. That is a drastic amount of energy and not to mention, consumers' money.
The administration is allowed to add a new rule which will help broaden the outcomes of the proposal. The lighting standard is just one of the twenty five energy related proposals the Obama administration must complete in the next four (or eight) years.
The Obama administration must now look over the proposal and issue the finals standards by the end of June. The administration is allowed to add a new rule which will help broaden the outcomes of the proposal. The lighting standard is just one of the twenty five energy related proposals the Obama administration must complete in the next four (or possibly eight) years.
Despite being given a faulty proposal, Obama has high hopes to reduce the energy use in this country. He is devoted to lowering the electricity use by 15% by the year 2020.
Algae bioenergy is based on a powerful idea that is still just off the radar of mainstream conversations on the future of energy. We can 'grow energy' by tapping 'carbon eating' algae that create usable forms of hydrocarbons for fuel or biomaterials.
The idea seems strange and futuristic, but it actually describes our past. We already tap the power of bioenergy everyday. Coal is ancient plant life, and oil is (likely) ancient microbes that lived in shallow oceans. Both plants and microbes fuse hydrogen and carbon bonds using the power of sunlight. But algae is a more efficient in that conversion and results in a higher hydrogen to carbon ratio. That means a cleaner burning fuel!
Everytime you turn on the light (via coal power plant) or drive a car you are capturing the energy released from carbon-hydrogen bonds form by ancient biology. Now energy visionaries are looking at how we can tap the same processes today to 'grow energy' without relying on food crops like corn or soy.
This week The Takeaway has been running Power Trip a series of programs on the future of energy. Earlier this week, Host John Hockenberry visited algae biofuels company Bionavitas in Seattle, WA.
Thin film solar is a low cost alternative to traditional glass based solar panels. 'Thin film' photovoltaic cells can be inkjet printed onto plastic sheets via a 'roll to roll' machine. These long plastic sheets can then be integrated into building materials like commercial and residential rooftops.
Startups are now scaling up production volumes, but the first phase of commercial growth for thin film depends on strategic partnerships with rooftop materials and construction companies.
ECD Ovonics transforming 'Rust Belt' to a 'Green Belt' Thin-film solar is a new energy technology platform that can be produced at low cost in many regions around the world. American energy visionaries imagine transforming the industrial Midwest 'Rust Belt' into a manufacturing hub for new cleantech materials.
Now Michigan-based ECD Ovonics has signed a contract with Carlisle Construction Materials to provide its Uni-Solar thin film for use in commercial roofing systems. The agreement is good news for Michigan economic developers. ECD is the world's leading producer of thin film solar, and has had previous partnerships with Italian steel and metal materials company Marcegaglia which expects to introduce the low cost, durable thin film solar metal roofing products to the market in 2010.
There is an echo chamber of cynicism around the topic of corn ethanol. Unless you are a corn farmer or part of the ethanol lobby, evergyone agrees that this is not a sustainable path.
So the world is moving forward. The conversation is now focused on next generation bioenergy solutions that avoid the problems of 'crop' based biofuels.
The US government has placed a ceiling on future growth for corn derived fuels, and now the Obama administration has announced up to $25 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.
The money will fund projects related to: Feedstocks development; Biofuels and biobased products development; and Biofuels development analysis.
What is happening? 'Biology' is coming of age as a driver of industrial and energy applications.
Why 'Bioenergy'has more to do with Bio-Industrialism than Farming
Most new technology platforms must walk up the stages of the 'Hype Cycle', and confront our tendency to overestimate short-term change, but underestimate the long term potential.
Fuel cells are this decade's poster child for failing to meet expectations of the Hype Cycle. But there are positive signs of progress.
PC World is reporting that Toshiba plans to release its first commercial version of a Direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) battery recharger by the end of the first business quarter.
Micro Fuel cells help you unplug Micro power applications are widely considered to be the first market application for fuel cells. Dozens of startups and incumbent energy companies are developing micro methanol fuel cells as portable power solutions that help us 'unplug everything'.
Rather than carry around a charger+cord, you could carry a small fuel cell to recharge. Of course the idea of a fuel cell battery recharger is still a strange concept to consumers, and could remain an early adopter niche product.
The inevitable step for micro fuel cells is to replace batteries entirely. To arrive at this future, hardware makers must integrate MFCs into products, and consumers must be able to buy small fuel cartridges (e.g. liquid methanol, solid hydrogen) on every retail shelf. Until that day, the 'recharger' concept is the industry's best option.
Batteries & Fuel cells are like Peanut Butter and Jelly, not Oil and Water
We might be closer to reframing the public conversation about the future of the auto industry.
The real problem for the auto industry is its manufacturing footprint, not its carbon footprint.
Of course we must build more efficient vehicles.
But the industry's problems have nothing to with small cars vs big cars, or fuel efficiency.
The real problem is the manufacturing intensity of building mechanical engines, and their inability to produce multiple chassis on one factory floor. The other problem is that they build new cars then have them sit on dealership lots until someone buys it.
Yes, we must reduce the eco-impact of vehicles, but to get there we must recognize that the real revolution is changing how we build cars, not how we fuel them. Need more evidence?
Fiat exchanges Access for Equity Fiat is negotiating a 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for access to its small vehicle manufacturing capacity and revival of its European brands in the US.
But we should not be confused. The future is not 'small cars', but leaner manufacturing.
Does Chrysler need small vehicles to meet current market demand? Probably.
But the real takeaway is Chrysler's inabilty to build different types of vehicles (small or large) without major retooling investments.
So the company exchanges access to manufacturing for equity.
The future is modular manufacturing
The future is a factory floor that can build multiple chassis using modular electric motors and energy storage devices (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors).
We should be paying closer attention to California-based QuantumSphere and its approach to the future of energy.
QuantumSphere understands the disruptive potential in performance of materials when you design catalysts at the nanoscale.
The company is designing systems that change how we look at energy storage (e.g. batteries/fuel cells) and energy intensive processes like desalination.
Next Step - Water Desalination QuantumSphere has made headlines for its nano-structured catalysts used in lithium ion batteries, and also for its low cost hydrogen electrolysis process.
Now QuantumSphere has announced a filed patent for a more energy efficient method of desalination that uses organic solutions to separate water from salt water or polluted water. The 'forward osmosis' process is less energy intensive than current commercial methods.
The Nano car, created by Tata Motors, has not yet gone on sale but an affordable micro-hybrid version is already gearing up to hit the market. In this micro-hybrid, the engine would automatically stop running once it has gone idle. This feature would cut fuel and gas emissions by 10 to 15 percent.
The Nano which was first introduced in January 2008, was said to be on the market by late 2008, but is now expected to roll into the market early this year. The Nano will cost an affordable $2,500, which may increase due to the added micro hybrid-system.
The introduction of Tata's Nano was meant to create the first reasonably priced, environmentally friendly car, in order to help the densely populated and polluted urban areas India. Having the hybrid being affordable will also make it more accesible to not just the rich class, but the middle class as well.
Meanwhile, China is producing hybrid cars of its own. Chinese automakers, BYD, will display their hybrid car at the Detroit auto show this month. At the auto show, BYD will be given a main floor, rather than a hallway which it had last year. BYD will displaying its plug-in hybrid.
China is certainly making waves to make its car companies known. However it will be five years before Chinese automakers are able to compete in the U.S. markets.
India and China's venture into hybrid cars is a preemptive step of the automakers to reduce pollution and make a name for itself in the North American auto industry. As these country's launch their respective cars in their homeland and the U.S, it will certainly cause a sensation for the rest of the world.
2009 might turn out to be a great year to be a startup involved in 'smart' energy solutions that tap the power of software, sensors, microcontrollers and storage systems.
Energy bloggers are all talking about 2009 as the 'Year of the Smart Grid', and energy analysts expect to see major public-private investments over the next two years in efficiency and energy management.
We have written about visions of a 'smart' planet being promoted by companies like IBM, Honeywell and Johnson Controls. But now we have the first major '09 investment in start up Sentilla, which has raised $7.5 million to deliver solutions for commercial and industrial facilities.
It might be premature to call Sentilla a 'smart energy' startup since its vision is much broader than electricity. It's future growth is based on a vision of an 'embedded object' world often described as 'Pervasive' or 'Ubiquitious' computing. In this future every object has built in awareness, intelligence and networked capabilities (e.g. Zigbee). Sentilla's offerings span energy managment, safety and security, and logistics/asset managment. But in 2009, selling themselves as a 'smart energy' company might be the best route!
Is Asia's expanding middle class closer to reaching a tipping point where modern notions of 'environmentalism' become a key component to improving quality of life factors? Maybe!
The Korean government is pushing forward on a massive 'Green' New Deal style investment package could create more than 900,000 jobs.
The $38 billion investment plan includes: waste to energy power plants, support for 'Green Homes', transportation infrastructure for rail and bicycles, cleaning up polluted river systems, and investments in energy storage technologies used for electric vehicles.
Real story = Values Shift up Maslow's Hierarchy The long view implications of this story go far beyond any actual investments that may or may not turn Korea's attention towards 'cleantech' industries. These projects might already have been planned long before the recent global economic slowdown. And $38 billion is not a lot of money for a 'New Deal'.
The real story is the media spin on 'green' and underlying values statement that shows widespread support within Korea for cleantech and eco-friendly ventures. The ripple effect of modern notions of environmentalism (able to address impacts of large scale industrialism, not traditional forms of agricultural living) could begin to challenge the notion of 'growth at any cost' that dominates economic policies around the world in all nations, but especially in emerging economies.
Values are very important when it comes to 'cleantech' policies, and there is no evidence that 'environmentalism' as it is viewed in American and European life is a current global phenomenon. There are still several billion people in the world who see 'quality of life' factors as related to jobs, education, home ownership and upward mobility, not planetary health.
What is driving this value's shift? Economic Growth, not Traditionalism
Many people will say that pursuing aspace-based solar powerenergy campaign is too ambitious, that there are more immediate solutions to get us through our economic/energy crisis until a time when spaced-aged, science fiction-inspired future tech can be safely explored further. They might say that we already have a head start with nuclear, oil and coal, as well as other greener alternatives like wind, water and Earthbound solar. They would be dead wrong.The truth is...