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Kicking our Oil Addiction

Russia Eyes 10 Percent all Motor Vehicles to Convert to CNG within Two Years as FuelMaker Advances in Russia--but the U.S. market is downplayed

March 3rd 2008

Honda GX refueling with Phill
Honda GX refueling at home

The Russian government has plans in place to transform 10% of all motor vehicles in the country into natural gas vehicles by the year 2010, according to FuelMaker which manufactures natural gas Vehicle Refueling Appliances (VRAs). Fuelmaker refueling appliances have now been certified for use in Russia and are commercially available through its Russian dealer, Micrometan Ltd. As such, the company is poised for a pivotal role in Russia's green revolution.

The company's long-sought "Certificate of Conformity" was recently issued by the Russian Federal Government, allowing the sale of FuelMaker VRAs throughout the country. This certification recognizes that FuelMaker products conform to the federally mandated safe operating requirements of appliances. The certification is valid through 2010.

FuelMaker VRAs are designed for the refueling of small to medium sized fleets of natural gas vehicles, ice resurfacers and forklifts. The VRA can be incorporated in on-site fast fill and time fill refueling stations, and help fleets realize the benefits of on-site refueling in situations where larger stations would be too costly. Read more ..


Petropolitics and Oil

Imposed Shariah and Flex Fuel Standards

February 20th 2008

Frank Gaffney headshot
Frank Gaffney

Ironically, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Rowan Williams, who in his capacity of Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England. Our thanks are not due this cleric, however, for his appalling pronouncement last week that we had better get used to the imposition of Shariah law in Britain since it is now, in his words, "unavoidable."  

Rather, we should be appreciative because, by his declaration of capitulation to and appeasement of the Islamofascists – who agree with him on the inevitability of the triumph of the brutally repressive totalitarian theo-political-legal code they call Shariah – Archbishop Williams has, albeit wholly unintentionally, sounded a needed alarm. In response, UK politicians of every stripe are suddenly professing concern about the danger a courageous British author named Melanie Phillips has, until now, been reviled for depicting as "Londonistan." Read more ..


Kicking the Oil Addiction

Kenworth to Produce LNG Trucks

February 4th 2008

Kenworthg LNG truck
Kenworth LNG Truck

Kenworth Truck Company has announced that it will expand its presence in the growing market for LNG vehicles by beginning production of Kenworth T800 LNG trucks at its manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington in 2009.  Under an exclusive agreement with Westport Innovations, Kenworth will use Westport’s LNG fuel system technology adapted for the Cummins ISX-15-liter engine. Westport will open a new LNG Fuel System Assembly Center in British Columbia to support the Kenworth factory initiative and to rapidly increase production capacities of LNG fuel systems to meet growing market demand. LNG freight trucks will be an essential element of any national strategy to get off of oil.

Kenworth’s move coincides with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announcement to approve a new $1.6 billion Clean Truck Superfund. The fund will assist replacing many of the 16,800 Class 8 trucks serving the ports with LNG-powered vehicles. The ports also have introduced a new progressive ban that will remove all pre-2007 trucks by 2012. Westport’s LNG fuel system is the only alternative fuel technology currently qualified for financial support under the ports’ Clean Truck program.

Kenworth and Westport Innovations have previously collaborated on an aftermarket basis to equip Kenworth T800s with LNG fuel systems. These trucks are already serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In addition, Pacific Gas & Electric Company in San Francisco recently became the first utility in the nation to operate Kenworth T800 LNG-powered trucks.


Plug Power chief technology officer separated from the company last year

John Elter headshot
John Elter

Plug Power of Latham NY, the promising technical edge of Honda’s home hydrogen refueling strategy, filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Chief Technology Officer John Elter's last day was December 31, 2007, according to a Form 8K disclosure recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by this reporter. Even though Elter’s last day on the job was reportedly December 31, at press time on February 4, the company’s website still shows him as the Chief Technology Officer, and no company press release had been posted on the site, a check shows. Plug Power did not respond to questions on the topic and at press time Elter could not be reached.

Dr. Elter was responsible for the development of advanced fuel cell systems, managing the Company’s Centers of Excellence and guiding the development of fuel cell technologies that drive overall product strategy. He was reportedly a well-respected leader in the field. No reason was given for his departure.

Elter’s separation agreement, detailed in a December 21, 2007 letter to Elter, became effective December 31, 2007, according to the SEC filing. The agreement calls for him to be consultant to Plug Power for one year. The agreement specified in section 8 that during that year, Elter will not provide services to such businesses such as UTC Power, ReliOn, IdaTech, Ion America/Bloom Energy and/or Proton Energy without first informing Plug Power, according to the SEC filing. In addition, according to section 10, a non-disparagement clause, Elter is prohibited from any issuing an disparaging remarks about the company and further agrees to cooperate with any private litigants, according to the SEC filing.

In section 11, entitled “Communications Concerning Your Separation,” the agreement states: “If asked about the circumstances of your separation of employment with the Company, you shall state that you retired from your position and will otherwise make statements consistent with any communication and/or press release issued by the Company announcing your retirement from employment; provided that this shall not prohibit you from testifying truthfully in any legal proceeding, providing truthful information in response to a request from a governmental agency, or providing truthful information in response to a request for information in connection with your application for employment with another employer,” according to the SEC filing.

Paragraph 12 entitled “Information Concerning Actual, Potential or Alleged Financial Irregularities” states, “You represent that you are not aware of any actual, potential or alleged financial irregularities concerning the Company,” according to the SEC filing.

Elter is scheduled to receive his salary of $267,671 for a year, the agreement states, according to the SEC filing.

The well-regarded Elter has held his position at Plug since 2004, during which time the promising Honda hydrogen-producing Home Energy Station [HES] received much media attention. The HES, which is designed to transform CNG into power electricity for the home and into fuel for the forthcoming Honda Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, has been inexplicably sidetracked in recent months by Honda.

Plug is also hunting for a new chief executive officer. CEO Roger Saillant is set to retire April 7 when he turns 65.

At press time, Plug Power did not respond to questions on the agreement and Elter could not be reached. Story updated at February 4, 2008, 4:40 PM EST


Petropolitics

Bush Begs the Saudis

January 28th 2008

Gal Luft 1
Gal Luft

President Bush’s appeal to the Saudis to increase oil production is more pitiful than understandable. At $100 a barrel, the United States bleeds over a billion dollars per day in order to finance its petroleum import needs. The result: ballooning trade deficits, growing unemployment, a weakened dollar and crumbling financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch now forced to beg Persian Gulf monarchies for cash infusions. At current oil prices, the U.S. economy is melting faster than the ice caps.
But despite the president’s sweet-talk, his ridiculous appearance in a traditional Arab robe, his hand-holding with the Saudi monarchs, and even his gift of 900 precision-guided bombs, the Saudis were quick to respond with a slap in the face. Within one hour, the kingdom’s oil minister announced that oil prices would remain tied to market forces and the Saudis would not open the spigot.

This is hardly a surprise to me. The Saudis—despite their claims that oil high prices are the doing of Wall Street speculators and American SUV-driving soccer moms—are the first to blame for the current oil crisis. Their reluctance to invest in new production, their lack of transparency on reserve data and their anti-market practices, which prevent international oil companies from operating in their midst in any meaningful way, are the real reason for the quadrupling of prices in the past six years. Read more ..


Getting Off Oil

New Dehli Considers Banning non-CNG Heavy Vehicles

January 28th 2008

CNG

CNG could become a mandatory alt fuel in the New Dehli region in the coming years if officials follow through with a new policy now under coinsideration. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit recently stated: “While CNG has benefited Delhi immensely, the effect of CNG gets mitigated when vehicles from other states not using CNG enter the city.” This in mind, the Delhi government will ask its National Capital Region Planning Board to implement mandatory CNG usage in the region. “If vehicles in other states don’t start converting their commercial and public transport vehicles to CNG, then we will have no option but to prevent them from entering the state and this will affect inter-state trade. Therefore this is not a road we want to go down,” said the chief minister. In that vein, the Delhi Cabinet decided on Monday to prohibit light duty vehicles--up to 6,600 lbs--froms enter its city from other Indian states unless they are operating on CNG. The new rule saeemed to be designed to reinforce an existing policy. “While this is a policy that already exists, these vehicles [non-CNG] have been entering the city. Now the government will strictly implement the rule and ensure that such vehicles are not allowed to ply here,” said a government official.


Getting Off Oil

Turning Oil into Salt

December 14th 2007

James Woolsey
R. James Woolsey

A determined pack has begun to race its engines and to try to shoulder us off the road toward energy independence. It’s time for those determined to stay on the track to drive aggressively.

The energy-independence question is really about oil — the rest of U.S. energy use presents important issues, but not the danger of our being subject to the control of nations that “do not particularly like us,” as the president put it. Some of the engine racers have an economic interest in keeping our transportation system 97-percent oil-dependent. Less understandable are the authors of a recent Council on Foreign Relations report accusing those working for such independence of “doing the nation a disservice.”

The authors of that report and their followers define “independence,” contrary to both Webster’s and common sense, as essentially “autarky” — i.e. complete self-sufficiency, or not importing oil even though we remain dependent on it. Such a Pickwickian definition captures none of the thinking of serious advocates of reducing our oil dependence: The point of independence is not to be an economic hermit, but rather to be a free actor. Read more ..


Getting off Oil

Joint American-Israel Effort to Get off Oil

December 13th 2007

Empty on Oil

One little known but crucial provision in the comprehensive energy legislation that just passed the Senate last week is the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act (USIECA). The bill is headed for passage in the House this week and the President’s signature thereafter.

USEICA allocates U.S. funding for Israeli research into new technologies to decrease American dependence on foreign oil. The law will establish a multi-year program of grants for joint projects at the basic research level between U.S. and Israeli academic institutions, and at the applied research and development level between U.S. and Israeli companies. Administered by the Secretary of Energy, the program who will be driven by a joint American and Israel board of advisors.

USIECA was the brainchild of Jack Halpern, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress’s Energy Independence Task Force. For his part, Halpern expressed “Extraordinary pride in the passage of this important measure because of the many years we put into the effort for its enactment, beginning with our conceptualization of the measure in 2003, through lobbying for the measure for four years.” Read more ..


Getting Off Oil

Honda’s Decisive Clarity Steals LA Auto Show

November 14th 2007

Honda Clarity Fueling
Honda's new Clarity

American Honda Motor Company stole the Los Angeles Auto Show with decisive clarity today. Shortly after show doors opened, the company announced the summer 2008 initial rollout of its sleek, new and tantalizing four-passenger zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. The long-awaited, market-ready hydrogen car, called “Clarity,” will use zero oil and feature zero emissions.

No longer experimental, the Honda FCX Clarity is powered by a breakthrough, “V Flow” fuel cell stack that delivers vastly increased power and range over previous FCX hydrogen models. The FCX Clarity utilizes its V Flow stack in combination with a new compact and efficient lithium ion battery pack and a single hydrogen storage tank to power the vehicle's electric drive motor. Hydrogen combines with atmospheric oxygen in the fuel cell stack, where chemical energy from the reaction is converted into electric power to propel the vehicle. Additional energy captured through regenerative braking and deceleration is stored in the lithium ion battery pack. It is used to supplement power from the fuel cell when needed. The vehicle's only emission is water. Indeed, the company invites drivers to drink the exhaust, and has even distributed novelty drinking glasses to drive home the point. Read more ..


Green is Gold

New Mexico Mandates Renewable Utilities

August 9th 2007

Energy / Environment - OK Turbine

Among America’s leading energy producers in the 20th century, New Mexico now is poised to become a powerhouse in the rapidly evolving clean-energy economy of the 21st century. A new law taking effect next month promises to help New Mexicans quite literally tower over the competition as states scramble to cash in on the burgeoning market for cleaner and more predictably priced power.

The state has enacted a combination of innovative tax incentives and ambitious standards designed to make the most of New Mexico’s abundant renewable energy resources— wind, solar and biomass— and encourage new ways to make traditional energy sources cleaner and reduce the amount of climate-changing greenhouse gases they produce.

Tax credits make investment in commercial-scale renewable energy technologies more attractive. Stronger “Renewable Portfolio Standards” embraced by the Legislature— requiring major utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020— make those investments necessary. Read more ..



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