The 2011 SmartPower interns walked a few blocks downtown to the Tesla showroom for a tour of the new high class, high energy-saving Tesla Roadster. Join them on their tour of the fancy, fast and fun electric vehicle.
By Mark Ellis
I recently got an up-close view of the Tesla Roadster. For those of you who are not aware of what that is, it’s a battery charged, two-seater roadster capable of running up to 250 miles on one single charge. And this is by no means is lacking in engine power because the lightweight roadster produces 245 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 in a convincing 3.7 seconds.
It’s safe to say that following the Tesla, the automotive industry has seen the light in terms of electric powered luxury and sports vehicles, and there is no better example than the soon to be released Fisker Karma. Now who’s Fisker you may ask?
[Fisker is] a California company headed by Henrik Fisker who’s resume for designing cars includes BMW, Ford, and Aston Martin.
Sounding a bit more familiar? What he has done with the Karma, a four-door luxury sports car is quite remarkable. He designed it with a completely normal combustible engine with a 20kWh lithium ion battery beneath floor but the catch is, the engine ever actually drives the wheels directly. Instead:
[It’s] perpetually connected to a generator which powers the car’s two electric motors in the rear wheels.
As a result the petrol, or sport mode as they call it, delivers a greater volume of power to the rear wheels therefore increasing the performance of the Karma significantly. The only drawback to this car, besides the hefty asking price, $100,000, is the fact that when only using the battery the Karma has a range of 50 miles. Not exactly your practical every day car but the technologies implemented here are something we will surely see more of in the future.
American Wind Power sponsored the POLITICO event series “Energy & The Presidency,” bringing together policymakers and energy specialists to discuss the role of clean energy and climate change in the 2012 presidential election. See what panelists and followers had to say at Wednesday’s event.
By Mark Ellis
On July 20, American Airlines announced that it plans to partake in the largest order of airplanes in history: 460 planes from both Boeing and Airbus, with an option for another 465 planes. The reason behind this monumental upgrading of the American Airlines fleet is the focus on bringing energy efficiency into the airline industry.
Projected figures for these aircrafts expect “the first fleet to be 35% more fuel efficient, with the second batch boosting fuel efficiency another 15 to 20%.”
Since jet fuel is responsible for 98% of American Airlines’ direct carbon footprint, it is imperative that measures are taken in order to reduce that figure. And if you thought gas prices have risen for cars, since last year the price of jet fuel has risen 52% since last year. The financial gain by opting for more fuel efficient jets opens up capital for American Airlines as well as other airline companies if they follow suit.
The cost of this new fleet, you ask? A grand total of $38 billion. This is an investment bringing American Airlines closer to
its goal of improving its greenhouse gas intensity (metric tons of carbon measured against passengers and cargo transported) by 30% between 2005 and 2025.
I hope American Airlines will be able to set the standard for fuel efficiency for the entire airline industry. It’s illogical to continue using inefficient and outdated airplanes when the alternative is not only environmentally friendly, but also fiscally profitable.
By Sarah Kiner
The 2011 Energy and Mine Ministers’ Conference was held on July 16-19 to discuss a Canadian national energy plan. At this conference, there were presentations from both industry and environmentalists. However, with sponsors from some of Alberta’s tar sands oil companies, like CAPP and Nexen, a lot of critics of the oil industry were concerned.
“This is clearly a corrupting influence. It smells bad and certainly sends the wrong message to Canadians,” said John Bennett, Executive Director, Sierra Club Canada.
Indeed, it was reported that the sponsorship by the oil industry was used to help pay for tours of the oil sands, helicopter rides, and other events during the conference. The cost for the actual conference itself was paid by the province.
The oil companies also insist that it was hard to deny the primary regulators when they asked them to sponsor their event. Licia Corbella, from the Calgary Harold, believes that the oil companies should of said “no.”
"While these sponsorships may have saved Alberta taxpayers $180,000, it has cost this province and, I would argue, the federal government as well, much in terms of reputation."
Over the past decade, the Canadian federal government has claimed their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet according to John Bennett of the Sierra Club, who feels that the ministers are interested in exporting as much dirty energy as they can from the tar sands,
“We can either take the path that leads to a clean, renewable energy future and new economy, or we can be willfully blind, pretend climate change isn’t happening, and go along with big oil’s vision of a Tar Sands-driven, pipeline-filled, carbon-intense and polluted North America.”
After all of the controversy over the sponsorship of the 2011 Energy and Mine Ministers’ Conference, the country’s energy ministers decides that processes should be streamlined, making it easier for a $5.5 billion bitumen pipeline to be built. So in the end, did big industry win during this conference? Tell us what you think.
By Mark Ellis
The International Maritime Organization announced recently that it looks to put forth a plan to reduce green house emissions released from the world’s shipping fleet.
Some of the figures that came about from this plan include a “goal of lowering these emissions by as much as 30% by 2030.” The more important trend to pick up on here is the fact that “ships built between 2015 and 2019 will have to improve their efficiency by 10%, while ships built between 2020 and 2024 will have to improve by 20%.”
This is a promising set of data heading in the right direction in the hunt to reduce green house emissions that are incredibly damaging to our environment. Also, it shows that the international community is willing to make the necessary fixes in order to protect our atmosphere. The benefits of this proposed plan speak for themselves. If today’s new standards “were applied to all ships, not just new builds, we would save 20 million tons of CO2.” This is not even to mention the amount of money that is saved by reverting to more energy efficient components.
Regardless of your intention, whether fiscally oriented or environmentally consciousness, the plan to reduce green house emissions across the board in the shipping industry is a critical and necessary step forward.
By Sarah Kiner
The state of Kentucky is known for its horse racing and beautiful natural landscape, but sadly 574,000 acres of its land have been surface-mined and more than 293 mountains have been destroyed or severely impacted by mountain top removal (MTR) coal mining.
With all of this leftover barren land, Dan Hoffman, a writer for Greentechsolar, asked the golden question: “Why not cover top-mined mountains with solar panels?”
The state of Kentucky consumed 89,351,000,000 kWh of electricity in 2005, according to the Department of Energy. If we put PV solar panels on only a fifth of the 897 square miles of land that is flattened by MTR coal mining, then we will supply all of the energy needs for the state of Kentucky!
Also, if the U.S. were to cover all of Kentucky’s barren land, then the solar panels would supply enough energy to power 10% of the United States’ needs.
The Appalachian Voices also discovered that a total of 1,813 square miles of land have been surfaced mined for coal in the central and southern Appalachian Region.
The U.S. consumed a total of 3.873 trillion kWh of electricity in 2008. To produce that much electricity, we would need to place solar panels on 8,225 square miles of land. 22% of the energy that we would need to generate could come from the Appalachian region’s land that has been flattened by MTR coal mining.
I know what many of you are thinking, so how can we make this seamless sounding plan a reality? Would this be hard to achieve?
It has been estimated that it would cost about $138 billion to install the PV solar panels that would account for 100% of Kentucky’s energy needs. The cost of energy produced by these solar panels would be roughly 6.2 cents per kWh, turning out to be a cheaper rate to what Kentucky pays now, which is 7.9 cents per kWh!
Also, these abandoned coalmines in Kentucky could be used for renewable energy storage, as it is now in Germany. If we were to implement this renewable storage system, the price per kWh would be a little bit above what Kentucky pays now, but will soon be just as much as they will eventually pay with LG&E requesting a rate increase of 19% over the next five years.
Solar panels supplying the majority of the energy in Kentucky and possibly the United States is something not too far fetched:
The fossil fuel industry in the U.S. received $72 billion in subsidies from 2002 to 2008. Imagine using that money to fund a GW solar project in Kentucky!
By Chandler Clay
Carmakers simply aren’t getting it.
Rather than trying to innovate and improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is fighting new efficiency standards with ads that will attempt to counter the strong case for cleaner cars:
Families would be hit with higher car prices. Small businesses dependent on vans, SUVs or pickups would face limited vehicle choice. And, even the government is predicting a drop in auto sales from what amounts to an electric vehicle mandate.
Research groups say that the new fuel economy standards will create more than 500,000 jobs and save consumers $150 billion in gas prices. The real kicker? Three quarters of Americans already support the new standard.
Clearly, this isn’t a battle between consumers and producers or efficiency versus affordability. This is a battle between old school and new. And new is kicking old’s butt.
The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that found a 6-percent increase in fuel efficiency through 2025 could cut oil imports by 1/3. The sustainability consultancy Ceres found that this 6-percent improvement could also create up to 700,000 jobs and save consumers over $150 billion by 2030. These are some powerful numbers. It’s no wonder the oil-heavy auto industry is pouty.
The case that clean energy is too expensive is quickly losing effect. Across industries the efficient alternatives are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with their older, dirtier counterparts. Imagine if the powers of old and new school were combined what carmakers could be capable of.
There’s a reason the saying goes, If you can’t beat them, join them.
By Sarah Kiner
On July 21, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee met to discuss oil development of U.S. coastal waters. There was plenty of conversation about amendments that would make oil drilling safer for the environment and the industry, but one amendment in particular brought the most controversy in this committee meeting.
The Senate and scientific community has recently brought up the idea of conducting seismic surveys to see exactly how much oil resources are out there on America’s coasts. Senator Udall (D-CO) decided to amend this ambition because he does not believe that it is worth spending $854 million of the government’s money to find that there is possibly $10 billion dollars worth of untapped oil.
Senator Landrieu (D- LA), who is strongly opposed to the Udall Amendment, was stern in her position. She believes that it is worth the cost:
"We do not know if resources are there, but we can find out. America deserves to know!"
Senator Landrieu continued on to state that once we find out where the oil resources are, it can be up to the states to decided if we should drill or leave the resources alone, but it is only fair for each state to know what resources they have. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) supported Landrieu’s opposition by agreeing that America cannot explore if they do not own inventory rights.
After this opposition, Senator Paul (R-KY) brought up the fact that the oil industry has enough resources to pay for their own seismic surveys because the government does not have the funds to do so.
Landrieu responded back with the point that oil companies can only drill on the lands that they lease: “85% of the land off the East Coast and Gulf Coast is not leased.”
This makes it difficult for the oil industry, because in order to conduct seismic surveys, they will have to lease the land, costing them millions or even billions of dollars. If there happens to be no oil on a company’s newly leased land, then it is a huge risk that that the oil producer will face.
Senator Udall ended up withdrawing the amendment before the committee could vote because he did not feel confident that he had the support needed.
Although Udall’s amendment was turned down, Senator Cantwell (D-WA) chose to bring up another concern about seismic surveying at the hearing. Off the coast of the Netherlands, seismic surveying was conducted. As a result, a lot of the fish resources off the coast depleted and the commercial fisheries ended up suffering.
Many of the senators are concerned about what would happen to the U.S. commercial fishing industry if these seismic surveys for oil are not conducted properly. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to work on this issue more in the future.
It would be nice to know exactly how much oil reserves are left in America, but the risk of seismic surveying and the idea of more drilling occurring off our coasts is a disconcerting reality.
By Sarah Kiner
Africa’s Renewable Energy Meeting was held on July 8 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to discuss Africa’s growing economy, which currently relies on carbon-emitting energy. Most of Africa’s energy comes from charcoal and wood burning that can “exponentially” enhance the damaging effects of climate change, unless Africa starts to invest in wind, solar and hydropower.
The main way that the committee feels renewable energy will catch on in Africa is if a regulatory framework is made to convince institutional investors that is safe to put their money into these renewable energy technologies. This push for funding is fueled by the idea that if we reduce our dependence on oil and coal, we can combat climate change and keep temperatures from rising more than 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial-era levels.
Before this meeting, Africa has been out of the picture of implementing renewable energy sources on their continent because it has a lot of poor nations that only use 5 percent of the world’s energy. As Africa’s economy picks up, it is predicted that a half of a billion residents who currently live without electricity in Africa will start to demand electricity.
Renewables in Africa will be cheaper than traditional sources, and Africa has an abundance of land for wind and solar farms. Rajendar Pachauri, who chairs the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes that Africa’s clean energy potential is enormous:
Given the fact we have over 500 million people without access to electricity, that is a huge niche market that could be tapped in an economically viable way. If you would provide this section of society with electricity from the grid, it would turn out to be far more expensive.
In the past year, renewable energy investment had increased by 104 percent in the middle East and Africa. It is predicted that renewables could actually make up 60 percent of the energy used in Africa by the year 2035.
There are still many challenges that remain with the hope of Africa moving towards renewable energy. Currently, Africa only spends $10 billion a year on the power sector, which is only 1/5 of the money required to cover renewable energy costs. Also, workers will need to be trained to fufill green jobs to get the projects up and running.
(Source: The Huffington Post)