Friday, December 7, 2007

Tell Congress You Want An Energy Independent Future!!

This is the moment of truth. The time for action is right now.

Are you interested in raising national fuel economy standards to 35 mpg? Assuring that 15% of all energy in this country is from renewable sources? Bolstering national security and forcing your government to help us clean up our act?

Well then read on!

Thanks to solar energy supporters like you, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Energy Independence Act of 2007 yesterday by a vote of 235 to 181.

This is one of the most important pieces of energy legislation ever - extending solar tax incentives, increasing fuel efficiency standards, and creating a 15% federal renewable energy portfolio standard by 2020. Now it heads to the Senate for a vote expected later today or tomorrow.

Time is short. Your help is urgently needed to get this bill passed in the Senate.

1) Contact your U.S. Senators today and urge them to pass the Energy Bill to help promote energy independence. Also, ask them to rally their colleagues to support this vital piece of legislation -- especially these key colleagues below.

Simply click the Senator's name to find the phone number. Other numbers are at

If you don't know your nine digit zip, just enter the five digit zip followed by four zeroes and the info will come up. Then:

1) Forward this email to friends and family, especially to those who live in the states listed above, to encourage them to also contact their Senator today.

2) If you're a blogger, please also spread the word online.

Together, we can extend powerful solar incentives, improve fuel efficiency, and ensure 15% of U.S. electricity comes from renewable sources of energy like solar and wind by 2020.

Remember, the Senate vote is expected to take place today or tomorrow so please take action right now. Your phone call, your support could make all the difference.

We thank you for your continued support.

With sincere thanks,

Brad Collins
Executive Director,
American Solar Energy Society
Boulder, Colorado


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Renewable LA's First Solar Open House This Saturday

The First Annual Solar Open House & Green Holiday Gift Fest

Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
American Hi Definition/Sweetwater Digital
7635 Airport Business Park Way (at Saticoy)
Van Nuys, Ca 91406
Lots of free parking in lots across the street

Cool Stuff To Do There:

Roof-top tours of one of the San Fernando Valley's largest solar panel installations--a super-sized array large enough to power 30 single-family homes.

"Consumption-lite" holiday shopping: Donate to one of some 18 nonprofit organizations in a loved-one's name. The groups include Sierra Club, TreePeople, Global Green, Rainforest Action Network, American Lung Assn. of CA, Oceana, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Plug In America, Much Love Animal Rescue, Parrots First, Planned Parenthood.

Ride & drives of fully electric or hybrid electric vehicles--Toyota RAV4 EVs, ZENNs, a Plug-In Hybrid Conversion, an electric motorscooter, a Ford Ranger EV, an eBox by AC Propulsion and a motorized electric skateboard. We'll have a VW Jetta running on 100 percent biodiesel and the last-minute addition of a suped-up Insight.

Important speakers, including Assemblymember Lloyd Levine and former Assemblymember Fran Pavley--running head to head in next year's senate race. SPEAKER SCHEDULE ATTACHED.

Continuous screenings of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and a talk by its director, Chris Paine, and main figure, former GM employee Chelsea Sexton.

Live Sustainably,



The Story Of Stuff

"I own one share of the corporate Earth, and I'm uneasy about the management." - E. B. White

My friend Paul sent me this link and I wanted to share it with you all. The Story of Stuff is a 20 minute animated video that explains in very simple terms the relationship between our unsustainable lifestyles and the world in which we live. It's a really good demonstration of how we are part of the system that is harming the planet.

For instance, did you know that the average lifespan of a product purchased in the US is less than 6 months? Or that in the last 30 years we have consumed 1/3 of the planets resources? Just by these two facts alone, you can see it's an unsustainable model and in order for our children to have a future, we need to change our paths now.

So sit down with your honey, grab a cup of fair trade shade grown french pressed coffee, and check it out. It's a bit heavy, but that's because it's honest. It's an education, but one that's needed and in my opinion, a longtime coming. For those of you who lean to the right of the political spectrum, I'll ask you to take the few political moments with a grain of salt (if need be) and recognize the importance of the overall piece.

Oh and if the flash is running slow, you can download it to your computer here. And when you're done, don't forget to check out the list of 10 things to do right now.

Live Sustainably



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How much does 1 can of Coke cost (environmentally speaking that is)?

"Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money can not be eaten." - Cree Prophecy

Take a look at this excerpt from the book Lean Thinking on how much goes into the making of an aluminum can. It's a great example of how removed we are from everything. I apologize to those who have trouble drinking soda after reading this, but whether you read it or not, we all have the responsibility to understand our place in the cycle.

Live Sustainably



Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Awesome Well To Wheels Calculator

"Considering the many productive uses of petroleum, burning it for fuel is like burning a Picasso for heat" - Anonymous

One of the best things from yesterdays show was at the Daimler/Chrysler exhibit and thankfully it is available on the web as well. It's a really awesome graphically simple well to wheels study, a graph that shows the energy used and CO2 created by a certain vehicle from creating the fuel to using it to power the vehicle. The great thing about this is you can mix and match and compare so if you want to see the difference between a regular car and a hybrid for instance, you can compare them to each other.

After you access the main page here, look down on the right side and you'll see a little blue wave thingy under the heading "Interactive". It's a little slow but click on it, let it load and off you go. Choose your energy source, energy process, fuel, and type of engine, and you're good to go.  I'd suggest starting with sun, photovoltaic, electricity, and electric engine for starters. You'll notice on the graphs that they show that to the right there are some white lines. These represent what a similar gas model car would create so you always have a point of reference. It's way cool if you ask me. Enjoy.

Live Sustainably!



Monday, December 3, 2007

Toyota's Plug-In Prius: Not There Yet.

"My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel." - Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai, before his death in 1990, on the coming Middle East oil crisis

I had the opportunity to attend EVS 23 today and see what the world of EVs (and now hybrids, diesels, and fuel cell vehicles as well) has to offer now and in the coming years. I was fairly excited as for some reason Toyota thinks I am VIP enough to have called and offered me a test drive in one of the two prototype plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) that they are presently testing (my wife called and assured them that I am not). So without further ado, my thoughts on the show, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sorry to say that you will have to scroll down to The Bad to see the Prius review.

The Good

This is what Toyota SHOULD be doing. This car comes from Danbury Ct where they have made an entirely new NiMH battery system from the ground up and replaced the Prius standard battery with it. It basically drives like a Prius does except for the fact that if you drive up to 34 mph and don't jam on the gas you'll be in all electric mode the whole time. Basically this means you can do all your around town driving on most given days and never engage the gas engine at all. At night, you plug it into 110 and it'll charge up full in under 8 hours. The downside is that right now they have no plans to sell them to individuals, but if they did, on a mass scale, the cost would be about $7000 per vehicle (the upgrade that is, not the vehicle itself). Take that Toyota!

Phoenix Motorcars SUT - SUT stands for Sport Utility Truck, PMs electric vehicle that they have been working on for some time. It seats four and has a payload area in the back, is all electric with a top speed of 95 mph and drives like an electric car should - fast and quiet. Range is about 120 miles or so and charge times are 5-8 hours. In addition, these cars are not privately available. That said, I have been watching these guys for a few years and I think they will be front runners in the coming EV market. They are planning to offer a full SUV version and two others (one most likely a sedan) in or around 2009 and will have an option to double the range by adding more batteries. They have also developed a charger that will charge the batts in 10 minutes. It cost $100K so you and I aren't getting one any time soon, but it means that service stations would be able to buy these making fast charges on the road achievable. As for the cars, Phoenix is tightlipped on price, but the word on the street is low 30's.

OEMTEK's Prius Add On BREEZ (Battery Range Extender EZ) - OK, they need to work on the name. Nonetheless, this was kind of cool. It's an add on battery pack that a certified Prius mechanic can install in a day. This allows you the capability of running on full electric for about 45 miles, more than the average person commutes per day. It'll stay all electric until the battery gets too low or until you hit about 60 mph, but more than enough for around town driving. It plugs into a standard 110v outlet, can charge overnight, and costs $12,500 installed. I asked them if this voided the Toyota warranty and they said that Toyota has not said that it would or that it wouldn't. They pointed out that they have had warranty work done on the cars since the add on but I think I'd need a bit more info than that before I plunk my cash down.

Envisionsolar's Solar Lifeport - This was one of the cooler things at the show even though it's really just a garage. It's a prefab, module oriented, solar car cover that is built to universal code and can pretty much be put anywhere. It has a 4.8 KW solar system which is enough for an average sized house and electric car. The whole thing costs a little under $50K which is a bit steep, but as a concept it's great. One stop shopping and you add on equity to your home and take yourself off the grid (although you can grid tie as well) at the same time. I actually mentioned to them that these would be amazing for orgs like the Red Cross. They could be shipped in, set up in hours, and voila, instant medical center with power. Very cool.

Other cool stuff was the Vectrix all electric motorcycle (zipppeeeee), the Chevy Volt, which was on display only so I didn't spend much time checking it out, and Miles Automotive who claim to be coming out with a $30,000 all electric sedan called the XS500 in 2009 but have been saying that for over a year now. I also had a really cool conversation with the VP of Con Edison about the grid (I know I'm a geek) that I'll save for another time.

The Bad

Toyota Plug In Hybrid (PHEV) Prius - Sad to say but I was fairly disappointed with the PHEV Prius. Toyota afterall started this whole Hybrid ball rolling and committed to it early so you'd expect that the next incarnation, which should be plug in, would be a hum dinger. Not to be. The PHEV Prius is just like the regular one except that it has an EV button near your left knee. Push that in and you can go a whopping 7 miles on pure electric before the gas kicks back in. 7 Miles? You've got to be kidding me. That's the best they could come up with? Sorry Toyota, when the guy from Danbury, Ct 80 feet away has made a better mod on your car than you can, there's a problem somewhere.

Daimler Chrysler's Fuel Cell Prototype - I kind of drove this because I sort of figured I had to so I could say that I had driven a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle. I basically think the whole hydrogen thing is a bunch of hype (more on this down the road I promise). These are basically electric cars that are powered by Hydrogen. The guy from Daimler kept on saying "and it's completely emission free" and when I would point out that the vehicle may be but the fuel source (energy used to compress the hydrogen to begin with) probably wasn't, he got very defensive and told me that they were not in the fuel business. The car itself was fine, but they've got to work on their logic a bit if you ask me.

There were some other honorable mentions specifically the many NEV's (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) that were on show. I guess there are markets for these things but it seems that the average person, unless they live in a retirement community, is not going to feel safe in these things. Mind you, we all need to rethink our transportation priorities, but in all honesty, I can't say I'd feel comfortable putting my daughter in a car that has no reinforced steel, no air bags, and few other safety features when the guy up the block is driving his hummer and texting on his cell phone(more on this another time).

....And The Shockingly Ugly
This really had more to do with aspects of the show than with the vehicles and exhibits. For starters, the show is called "EVS 23-Sustainability: the Future of Transportation" and when I checked in, they handed me a computer bag filled with notepads, dvds, stickers, and brochures. I asked whether anyone else had pointed out the irony that they were handing out a bag made of oil (plastic fabric) at a sustainability conference and they told me that I was the first, but to their credit, agreed with me.

As I checked in they also told me that GM was sponsoring a journalist lunch which was being set up and showed me where I could find it. What I found was about 50 tables like this
each with 10 full place settings, bread, water dessert, etc. Now I didn't eat anything, and I was outside during lunch, but I don't even think there were 500 journalists there, and the amount of food that was being cleared that hadn't been touched at the end of the afternoon was staggering. Sustainability?

Finally, at the ride and drive, Daimler Chrysler had been nice enough to set up boxes upon boxes of plastic water bottles with their names on them for people to drink. The whole purpose of the show is to show an alternative future and here people are drinking water out of single use plastic (oil based) bottles and throwing them away. Of course the show did have a lot of good stuff, and little steps can go a long way, but would you serve meat at a vegan conference? I think not.

Live Sustainably