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Tracking “Project Better Place” Electric Cars

Shai Agassi's Electric Car Plan Good Enough to “Wipe out Gasoline Cars” says Deutsche Bank

May 26th 2008

Energy - E-Tank
Better Place E-Tank

Imagine your cell phone transforming into an electric car. Sound far-fetched?  

Not if you're Shai Agassi, the founder of Project Better Place (PBP), and you believe you have finally created the concept that could transform the notion of car ownership and make the vehicle you own an electric one. The underlying premise of his paradigm-changing business plan is to sell clean, green transportation services on the cellular telephone model.

Israeli-born Agassi's idea, for which he's received some $200 million in venture funding, led by The Israel Corporation is to create the electric car equivalent of a cellular phone network. Where forests of cellular phone towers and repeaters are the most visible manifestation of the networks that make cell phone service possible, in PBP's case, the network will consist of hundreds of thousands of battery charging stanchions and scores of battery swapping centers. Just as it isn't the cell phone that generates revenue for the likes of Sprint, Verizon and ATT&T, it won't be the electric cars in Agassi's model. Instead, it will be the convenient, affordable and environmentally-sustainable transportation services that he hopes to offer.  

A recent study of Project Better Place's plan by Deutsche Bank concluded that not only can it be financially successful, but that it has the potential to "wipe out gasoline cars." Read more ..

Kicking the Oil Addiction

New Zealand Sees Wood Waste Ethanol Breakthrough

May 26th 2008

Energy - Pine Vista
Pine--a viable corn ethanol alternative

New Zealand believes it may have discovered a solution to global warming and diminishing energy with its own alternative fuel. Scion, a state owned forestry research corporation, says that  can be used for biofuel production. The announcement could presage an alt fuel breakthrough.

The investigation by Scion via bio refineries has been the target and hopes of this company. They are currently able to process waste from pulp and paper mills. There is a processing plant in the Central North Island of New Zealand that has the potential to produce over ninety million liters of ethanol annually. This would surpass the Government’s target of a 3.4 per cent biofuel component of gasoline and diesel by 2012.

Scion has been successful in working with other companies to help with the growth of this alternative energy. Agresearch, another state-owned company is just one of the partners. A wood process, Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) is investigating the potential of adding a bio-ethanol manufacturing plant to its corporate infrastructure. This plant could be implemented at one of CHH’s pulp and paper mills in the Central North Island of New Zealand as well. This would allow them to test the product for long-term use and potential. Read more ..

Running Out of Oil

Shell Execs Briefed on Peak Oil in 1956

May 5th 2008

Unknown - Shell Oil - Hubbert
Shell Geologist M. King Hubbert

When did Shell executives first learn that the world would one day face the moment of peak oil, known to many as Hubbert’s Peak? Answer: as far back as 1956 when M. King Hubbert delivered his seminal speech to Shell employees predicting the day when oil reserves would begin to decline. For more than a half century, Shell has known that the world of the 21st Century would begin running out of oil with disastrous ramifications. Yet little was done to prepare society.

The story begins in 1950s when the United States was the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil, making it mostly self-sufficient. The U.S. also was the largest creditor nation, while its manufacturing output fed the world’s demand for tools and machinery. This new world power from the West emerged relatively unscathed from the second of two world wars, for which its unprecedented access to oil proved the deciding factor. This quite literally was America’s peak in wealth and potential.

Before embarking on an ambitious plan to rebuild the bombed-out cities of Europe, the U.S. built more than 2 million homes on the home front, mostly to meet the unprecedented demand of returning GIs. The resulting paradigm shift, constructed around a flawed assumption of infinite bounty, was the beginning of the suburbanization of America that continues to follow its terminal path. Intensive highway development would continue for decades, further solidifying American’s love affair with the automobile and redefining the American Dream. Read more ..

Exposing Corn Ethanol

The Corn Ethanol Deception—How Politicians and Agribusiness Tried to Silence the Critics and Promote a Bad Idea

May 5th 2008

Headshot - Edwin Black
Edwin Black

Corn ethanol has exploded recently in the headlines as the latest big fuel mistake and cause of public outrage. Its very production has been denounced by numerous world leaders as a “crime against humanity” because corn cultivation for ethanol diverts food acreage to fuel acreage creating the tectonic cause of the severe spike in food prices. This has in turn helped swell a rising tide of starvation for millions around the world. Corn ethanol’s inherent energy inefficient character has been exposed by experts who have resisted the tobacco-style science corn lobbyists have proliferated. But all these headlines were shouted years ago by critics who foresaw the current predicament.

What began as an additive functioning as a 10 and 15 percent gasoline extender has become elevated to a potential major ingredient in a gallon of gas. E85, for example, is an emerging blend of automobile fuel composed of 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Dedicated E85 pumps are now being established at gas stations, mainly in the Midwest’s corn-rich farm belt.

At first blush, ethanol from corn appears to be a solution from America’s heartland, a win-win proposition in the struggle to free the world from harmful hydrocarbons and politically embroiling fuel. But American corn ethanol cannot stand on its own. Ethanol actually depends upon the continued use of petroleum and by necessity increases petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases. Many experts say ethanol simply uses more petroleum than it saves. For example, a key series of studies was conducted by Tad Patzek, a University of California geoengineer and David Pimentel, a Cornell University expert in life sciences, energy, and sustainable agriculture. Pimentel’s and Patzek’s studies asserted that, “ethanol production using corn grain required 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced” and that even proposed alternative ethanol cellulosic sources other than corn, such as switchgrass, wood, and straw, “required 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.” Those energy expenditures cover a range of hydrocarbon users from the diesel-burning tractors and combines on the farm to the ordinary trucks needed for transport to and from the industrial centers. Read more ..

Kicking Our Oil Addiction

Electric Vehicles--The Immediate Years Ahead

May 5th 2008

Energy - Electric Car
Spyder Electric Car

It took a war, a movie, and $100 a barrel oil to bring back the electric car.

Not that you can walk into your local car dealership and buy one, much less kick its tire, but that day may not be too far off.

A competitive option just a century ago, electric vehicles or EVs, found themselves eclipsed by models powered by gasoline that offered greater driving range. Awash in cheap Texas crude, Americans gradually found themselves pulled ever-deeper into their 100-year-long relationship with the gas-powered motorcar and the freedom it promised.

But that was half-a-century and thousands of brimming oil fields ago.

Now concerns over national security, climate change, and global resource competition are spurring a revival of interest in cars that run on electricity instead of petroleum. While the number of energy sources that can power an internal combustion engine are essentially limited to petroleum and biofuels, an electric car can be charged from myriad sources, including fossil fuels and nuclear power, as well as renewables running the gamut from hydropower to geothermal to wind and solar.

Even General Motors CEO and President, Rick Wagoner, has begun extolling the virtues of the electric car as a way to remove the automobile from the "environmental equation." GM--the company that "killed the electric car" as charged in the acclaimed Chris Paine documentary of the same name, and that helped destroy America's electric trolley system as documented in Edwin Black's bestseller Internal Combustion--now promises extended-range electric car called the Volt will roll down the streets of America sometimes during the 2010 time frame.

EV 101

Before discussing what's available now and in the years immediately ahead, we need to understand some basic concepts about today's electric cars. Read more ..

Kicking The Oil Addiction

Wind Networks to Power Electric Vehicles

April 28th 2008

Unknown - Cropped Wind Turbine

A Danish utility has partnered with a California company to power electric vehicles with renewable wind energy.

Palo Alto-based Better Place and Dong Energy A/S will build an infrastructure in Denmark to support an electric car system designed to make use of the cheap power that wind energy provides on windy days. Targeted for completion in 2010, this system will include vehicle charging at charging spots and battery-exchange locations throughout the country.

Better is rolling out a similar network in Israel and is partnering with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. to build fully electric mass-market cars that run on lithium-ion batteries.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Better CEO Shai Agassi was quoted as saying, "Cars are the perfect match for wind power. They charge sitting in the garage at night when there is little other demand for electricity."

As a country that meets 20% of its total electricity needs from wind production, Denmark is at the forefront of countries waking up to the unique challenge of balancing power surges on windy days with zero production on still days. These ups and downs of wind power can strain the electricity grid, a continuing problem in the use of renewable sources of intermittent energy. Additionally, in areas such as western Denmark, a windy day can produce so much electricity traditional fossil-fuel plants utilities will scramble to offload excess power or take a financial hit. Read more ..

Energy Economics

When Al Meets Abe

April 21st 2008

Al Gore 2
Al Gore

Earlier this month, Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection launched a $300 million advertising campaign aimed at mounting pressure on political leaders to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its scope, the largest ever for a public policy issue, is on par with the size of the movement Gore has helped create. In fact, over the short history of the 21st century no issue perhaps other than terrorism has risen from near obscurity to the center of our public discourse as global warming. What started as chatter among concerned scientists and diehard environmentalists has turned in just five years into one of history’s fastest growing mass movements, one that consumes increasing bandwidth of governments and world leaders.

The launch of Gore’s campaign coincided with a much less noticed event: the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Abraham (Abe) Maslow, one of America’s foremost psychologists, the father of humanistic psychology. Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a pyramid. The most basic needs--air, water and food--are at the bottom. Then come shelter and security. Once these have been attained, it's time to strive for more spiritual needs like love and acceptance. At the top of the pyramid people begin to focus on self-actualization and on solving problems outside of themselves. This is where concern for the planet’s health would be found. Maslow believed that unfulfilled needs lower on the pyramid would prevent a person from climbing to the next step, while backsliding in the pyramid forces us to redefine our priorities and refocus on the self at the expense of the global. In other words, we care about issues because we can afford to do so.

What does all of this have to do with Gore?

Despite its current popularity, Gore’s climate movement may be close to its zenith and in the not-so-distant-future it might lose its allure. The challenge will not come from the so called climate skeptics but rather from the millions, currently sympathetic to the movement, whose priorities are about to change as a result of what now seems to be an inevitable global energy crunch. Read more ..

Capturing the Wind

Better Batteries Dramatically Boost Wind Energy

April 14th 2008

Cropped Wind Turbine

The giant wind turbines on the west coast of Ireland stand not only on the geographical limits of Europe, but also on the cutting edge of a revolutionary technology that makes wind power more reliable and valuable. The 32 megawatt (MW) Sorne Hill wind park will be Europe’s first to integrate a large scale battery back-up system that ensures a reliable supply of electricity regardless of how the wind blows.

“The battery enables large amounts of energy from wind or solar power to be stored, managed, controlled and sent into the electricity grid when it is needed. It doesn’t matter whether the wind is blowing or not; the battery makes the electricity output predictable and reliable,” said Tim Hennessy, CEO of VRB Power Systems, the battery manufacturer based in Vancouver, Canada.

Analysts say the potential market is huge for technology that can improve the reliability of large amounts of energy from wind and solar power. Wind power is not generally considered dispatchable or “firm” because wind is intermittent and fluctuates greatly on all scales (e.g., minute by minute, day, season). Furthermore, the wind does not always blow when electricity is most needed and therefore valuable.

Battery storage is particularly useful when wind power feeds a grid belonging to a so-called “island” such as in the UK and Ireland. Spain, on the Iberian Peninsula, is also effectively an electrical island because it has limited interconnections with France in the north and Morocco in North Africa.

By contrast, the electricity grids of Germany and Denmark are interconnected with those of their neighbors. Their excess wind power goes all over Europe; the extensive and varied demands of the grid negate the need for a huge storage system. In addition, Germany uses hydropower and biomass to back up wind and compresses air into salt mines to store excess energy. Read more ..

Transfer of Wealth

Oil Dependency is America's Financial Ruin

March 31st 2008

Gal Luft 1
Gal Luft

By now, it is abundantly clear that the U.S. economy is in dire straits. What should also be clear is that the path to economic recovery will be compromised as long as America is dependent on imported oil to the degree that it is while oil continues to hover over $100 a barrel.

At current oil prices, this country sends overseas $460 billion per year to finance the daily buying of 12 million barrels of imported oil. This amount of money is about the size of our defense budget and three times the size of the “economic stimulus” package recently passed by Congress. But the real economic impact of oil dependence is hidden to most Americans. Energy economist Milton Copulos (who passed away this month) calculated last year that the grand total of all external costs associated with foreign oil dependence -- including the cost of oil-related defense expenditures, amortized cost of supply disruptions, and lost economic activity and tax revenues -- stands at $825 billion per year.

To put the figure in perspective, this is equivalent to adding $8.35 to the price of a gallon of gasoline refined from Persian Gulf oil, making the cost of filling the gasoline tank of a sedan $214, and of an SUV $321. At today's oil prices, these costs would be even higher. For the U.S. economy, oil dependence is a double whammy. While it contributes to our economic decline, it allows OPEC governments, many of which do not have our best interests in mind, not only to laugh all the way to the bank but to literally own the bank. The recent buyout by foreign governments of chunks of America's prime symbols of economic prowess -- like Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone Group and Bear Stearns -- is only the preview to what is yet to come should the petrodollar fueled transfer of wealth continue.

The Race for Nuclear

Nuclear Energy breakthrough--from Atomic Waste to Recycled Inert Material

March 24th 2008

vetrified slag

Vetrified slag radioactive waste now inert

The problem of radioactive waste is a global one, and getting worse. All countries in the industrialized world are waking up to the need for safer hazardous waste disposal methods.

The laws of conservation of energy and mass say that energy or mass cannot be created or destroyed--it can only change form. But with the help of Russian scientists, Israeli firm Environmental Energy Resources (EER), has created a reactor that converts radioactive, hazardous and municipal waste into inert byproducts such as glass and clean energy.

"In the beginning, nobody believed that we could do it," says Itschak Shrem, chairman of investment company Shrem, Fudim and Keiner representing EER at a recent in Tel Aviv press briefing announcing the innovation. Shrem, himself an invoker of small miracles through the founding of one of Israel's most lucrative venture capital funds - Polaris (now Pitango) - pointed to a chunk of black, lava-like rock sitting on the table in front of everyone's coffee cups. The journalists cautiously eyed Shrem as he assured them that the shiny dark material, emitted from EER's pilot waste treatment reactor near Karmiel in the north, was safe to touch. Read more ..

Biofuels Beyond Food Crops

Driving Automobiles on Algae

March 17th 2008

Dr. Amit Mor
Amit Mor

With scientists all over Israel and the world racing to find an efficient fossil fuel substitute, interest in "second generation biofuels" is growing. Scientists, companies and investors are looking beyond biofuels made from corn, sugar cane and vegetable oils and are turning to organic materials and waste that won't compete with food crops.

One promising biofuel alternative that Israelis are actively working on is made from seaweed, or more accurately algae. Not long ago, those on the quest convened at the Samuel Neeman Institute at the Technion-Israel Technological Institute, to find ways to help Israel accelerate development in this area.

Dr. Amit Mor from Eco Energy, an energy investment and consulting firm, is an advocate of renewable energy solutions. He was at the meeting. Through Eco Energy, Mor and his partner Shimon Serroussi specialize in greening Israel's energy, environmental, and infrastructure sectors. Their latest projects include conducting due diligence for renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, solar energy, bio-fuels and clean-tech startups. They conduct financial valuations and write business plans for Israeli oil refineries, petroleum depots, and power plants.

Active in the newly developing market of Israel's greenhouse gases emission reduction programs and emission credits, the company has also prepared the Energy Master Plan for the State of Israel, commissioned by the Israeli Government. Read more ..

Kicking The Oil Addiction

Woolsey Drives off in a 100 MPG Plug-in Hybrid

March 12th 2008

Jim Woolsey and President Bush

Jim Woolsey and President Bush.

In a special ceremony at the massive Washington International Renewable Energy Conference Former CIA Director and Set America Free co-founder Jim Woolsey picked up the keys to his newly converted Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

Woolsey's Prius was upgraded by Watertown, MA-based A123 Systems using an advanced Lithium-Ion battery developed at MIT. The conversion allows the Prius to achieve 100+ MPG and travel up to 40 miles on predominantly electric drive from one overnight charge. Each charge takes about 4 hours and costs about 65 cents in suburban Maryland.

"And if my Prius had an ethanol, other alcohol, or bio-based diesel engine using 85 percent biofuels," said Woolsey, "I would get close to 500 mpg on the petroleum fuel in the engine."

Woolsey's auto upgrade came on the same day that the 13-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rejected requests from America to increase oil production. As a result, petroleum that day close at $104.52 per barrel, and continues to soar upward. The former CIA chief and now alt energy champion told a panel of carmakers and other vehicle design experts that average consumers paying at the gas statsion were responsible for sending young Pakistani boys to madrassas to become suicide bombers. He asserted that Saudi Arabia finances more than 90 percent of radical Islamic education and that country's prime income source was oil. Woolsey also addressed a seminar on energy security sponsored by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, moderated by Gal Luft.

President George Bush dropped by to take a look at Jim's newly converted plug in hybrid vehicle and admired its bumper sticker: “Bin Laden Hates This Car." Bush also stated, "America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence." He did not explain what he meant. Read more ..

New Fuels

Coal boom declines as global warming boosts natural gas and renewable power

March 12th 2008


Some 45 coal-fired power plants were either cancelled or delayed in the past 12 months, according to a report by the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory. The trend reverses the utility industry’s craving for coal plants with some 150 such facilities in development.

Indeed, natural-gas and renewable projects have now outpaced coal plants, according to Global Energy Decisions, an energy information supplier. Non coal plans total more than 70,000 megawatts while coal has dropped to just 66,000 megawatts in the pipeline.

Investors have become cautious which is taking a toll on coal development plans. "You turn off the money spigot, you've turned off those plants," said Robert Linden, a senior oil and gas analyst at Pace Global in New York.

About 28 coal-fired power plants already under construction are moving forward, as are plant expansions. But for six other facilities "near construction," their fate has become unknown. Another 80 plants “in development” may be cancelled outright. Last year, Texas utility TXU alone canceled eight of its planned 11 coal-fired power plants.

Whether coal is booming or not, is a debate. "We're in the middle of a coal building boom with more new coal plants now under construction than anytime since the 1980s," asserts Joe Lucas, executive director of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, a coal and utility lobby group. Read more ..

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


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 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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