Art Rosenfeld

Badges? We don't need them to pursue clean energy

Mexican character actor Alfonso Bedoya delivered what may be one of the most frequently misquoted lines of all time.

The movie in which he delivered it is "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and stars Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. Bedoya played an unnamed bandit, listed in the credits as Gold Hat.

But in my mind he stole the movie with the line, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

To some degree, those of us toiling away to make clean energy a viable and stable industry share a lot of similarities with Fred Dobbs, Bogart's character in the 1948 film. Dobbs meets up with the grizzled prospector Howard, played by Huston, down in Tampico, Mexico about 1925.

Together they go off in search of gold.

Clean energy gold rush

Sounds familiar. The gold this time around is the free energy around us on a daily basis. There's enough gold in them thar hills, I mean solar energy emanating from the center of our system to provide more than enough energy the world could consume. We just have to find the means to harvest that energy without breaking the bank and do it cheaper than we can by either digging coal out of the ground or sucking and processing crude oil.

No problem. Dobbs did find his gold. But bandits, most notably Gold Hat, and the realities of the desert made realizing that dream difficult. Of course there was the greed. I watched the scene in which Dobbs turns crazy for his riches with horror. I was a kid with my friend Torg in the University of Alaska's Schiable Hall on a crazy cold winter night in Fairbanks, wondering how it could be hot any place in the world.

The treasure in the case of clean energy is right in front of us. I found this bit of data at "All of California's electricity can be produced from 200 square miles of sunshine; 128,000 acres of desert land." The author of the piece helps the reader visualize that space by saying Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, covers more than 200 square miles.

Challenge can be met

That's pretty straightforward math. The challenge is harnessing that energy, storing it for use during evening hours and creating an energy grid able to adapt to the ebbs and flows of a renewable energy reality.

It all boils down to innovation and know how. The April 2012 report, Beyond Boom & Bust, says the only solution is "to drive innovation and cost declines so that clean energy technologies can ultimately thrive on their own in American markets without subsidy."

The cost of fossil fuels is assisting that quest. So is climate change. But it can't be done without help.

Innovators wanted

Clean energy does have heroes -- adventurous types, who like Dobbs go out in search of riches. Art Rosenfeld comes to mind. He's father of the Rosenfeld Effect, which refers to how installing efficiency basically pays for future energy uses. As a member of the California Energy Commission, he applied the ground-breaking policy to the state and enabled it to save enough energy to avoid having to build far more electrical generation plants.

Another standout is Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, who has packaged his ideas for a fossil-free future in his latest project, dubbed "Reinventing Fire." The concept is to divest the economy completely of crude oil and coal by 2050, using private enterprise to do it.

There's also sustainable energy advocate and writer Al Weinrub. He argues that decentralized energy, or putting renewable systems in as many places in a community as possible, generates wealth, spurs economic revitalization and helps adapt to climate change.

And there are many thousands more, people like Pete Moe, who helped organize the energy efficient auto segment of Fresno Earth Day 2012, or Connie Young, who convinced me to answer potential questions after the screening of "Your Environmental Road Trip." The documentary chronicles a group of friends going to every state in the Union to find the most interesting clean energy innovators. (Shameless plug: The event is planned for 6 p.m. April 21, a Saturday, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2672 E. Alluvial Ave., between Chestnut and Willow avenues, in Clovis.)

Credentials come with results

This all boils down to that infamous line of Bedoya's. When Gold Hat is taken to task by Dobbs for not having any credentials, he takes offense. After all, he wants the prize as much as Dobbs.

Heck, we all do. Being able to see the Sierra in summer would be phenomenal here in the San Joaquin Valley. Currently, a thick haze blankets that view. I'd prefer cleaner air and an unabstructed look at the mountains naturalist John Muir routinely hiked in and thought of as beautiful.

I was inspired to write this post by Jim Beaver of who wrote hundreds of bios on obscure actors, honoring their work and illuminating for fans like me the people behind celluloid memories. Beaver's research revealed the man behind the line, a guy who had the same dreams as the rest of us, pursuing a better life.

Alfonso Bedoya, Gold Hat

Here's some of Beaver's entry: Bedoya "achieved his greatest success in U.S. films. He was born in a tiny village in Mexico and he had a nomadic upbringing, living in numerous places throughout the country including, for a time, Mexico City. He received a private education in Houston, Texas as a teenager, but dropped out and roamed about doing an assortment of jobs. His family, however, brought him back to Mexico City, where he subsequently found work in the struggling Mexican film industry.

"He appeared in many Mexican films before director John Huston offered him the role of Gold Hat in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Bedoya stole the scenes in which he appeared as the smiling cutthroat and delivered the famous line about not needing any 'stinking badges.' He made a number of popular films in the U.S. in the next nine years, but a drinking problem destroyed his health. He died at the age of 53," the same year Bogart died.

Powerful clean energy policy 'works out' in California

The California Energy Commission wants nothing less than a reduction in overall greenhouse gas in the state.

The agency's approach is multipronged but hinges on energy efficiency. The state seeks to reduce CO2 emissions about 20 percent to a target 426 million metric tons annually by 2020.

The question is: Can it be done? State leaders believe so and are encouraging local officials to join the effort. California's Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, passed in 2006, also sets a goal of 33 percent renewable energy generation by 2020.

Benchmarking energy

A key part of this plan involves going city by city and charting energy use. It's believed that once cities and counties learn how much they're actually spending on electricity, their leaders will do something about it, putting big power users on a diet and drafting sustainability plans that actually work.

"Decisions about community planning and land use, as well as transportation infrastructure and electricity infrastructure, have a dramatic impact on our ability to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions," says the state's Energy Action Plan update report from 2008.

Each local government in the state will be producing its own community-wide energy action plan, spelling out exactly how it will pursue sustainability, reduce waste, foster alternative energy and save its residents money.

Energy Action Plans

I read through a number of these plans looking for ideas. My nonprofit, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, has a grant to assist several small cities write plans and catalog, or "benchmark," their buildings according to utility meter to chart energy usage.

After perusing about seven of them, I started to see real strength in the phrasing -- as if these documents weren't just meant to collect dust on a shelf. Somebody plans to use them, and use them well.

The plan for one Los Angeles-area beach community pulled no punches. "Huntington Beach led the last energy revolution in Southern California with oil production over the last century and is poised to lead
the next clean energy revolution in Southern California as we prepare for the impacts from peak oil production and climate change."

My sister lives in nearby Hermosa Beach. The communities are known for being progressive.

The plan spelled out past successes and quantified savings. It also spelled out how to garner additional energy savings, citing the Rosenfeld Effect. Based on CEC commissioner Art Rosenfeld's groundbreaking policies now more than three decades old, the effect refers to how efficiency basically pays for future energy uses.

What's interesting is these plans actually have a very likely shot at getting accomplished what they were intended to do. Piedmont, Calif. Mayor Abe Friedman writes, "I am certain that with the guidance of this plan both the City government and Piedmont residents can together make meaningful changes in our everyday lives and operations to reduce our carbon footprint."

He sounds like he really believes it.

I'm starting to feel somewhat optimistic. After the trials and tribulations of two years trying to Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant money spent, I'm a little gun shy around energy efficiency projects.

Getting results

But this makes sense. Communities planning out their strategies.

Berkeley's plan also calls a spade a spade. Here it refers to the benchmarking practice: "The emissions inventory is useful for another important reason: it helps to remind us that we are both part of the global warming problem and part of the solution."

And not the Final Solution. I've been reading Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon Israeli spy novels again.


California pushed from top energy efficiency spot

It had to happen.

California, the land of energy efficiency pioneer Art Rosenfeld, has lost its title as the most miserly power consumer to East Coast upstart Massachusetts.

It's the first time in the five-year history of the annual Energy Efficiency Scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, that Massachusetts has displaced the high-performing Golden State. The group says "a sour U.S. economy, tight state budgets and a failure by Congress to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy have not slowed the growing momentum among U.S. states toward increased energy efficiency."

Energy efficiency budgets increase

The report says that overall budgets for energy efficiency increased to $4.5 billion in 2010, up about a third over the previous year. Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama and Maryland rated the most improved, and about half the nation's states have established energy efficiency standards and improved building codes.

"Energy efficiency is America's abundant, untapped energy resource and the states continue to press forward to reap its economic and environmental benefits," says ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel, in a statement.

Nadel calls energy efficiency "a pragmatic, bipartisan solution that political leaders from both sides of the aisle can support."

Rounding out the top 10 are New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Connecticut and Maryland.

Poll says people want efficiency

The news comes on the heels of a poll released by the University of Texas at Austin, which found that less than 14 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction on energy.

University officials say that of more than 3,400 consumers surveyed, 84 percent were worried about U.S. consumption of oil from foreign sources and 76 percent about a lack of progress in developing better ways to use energy efficiently and develop renewable sources.

Bill Powers, president of UT Austin, put it this way: "This survey shows that the public craves leadership on energy issues."

Embracing the submeter

The public isn't the only place where concern over energy sources and energy efficiency are fostering change. Corporations, building managers and others that pay big utility bills for operations of major square footage or spread over multiple buildings are looking to trim costs through efficiencies.

Paul Baier of reports that the next big expansion in energy efficiency will be "submetering," or installing sensors and meters in buildings to monitor and tweak energy usage. "As more and more companies find energy savings opportunities based on submetering their facilities, interest in the technology continues to grow," he writes.

Baier says much of the savings comes through behavior changes, such as turning off unneeded equipment. The University of Texas poll likewise finds that many U.S. consumers would be willing to employ similar strategies on their own turf with 68 percent concerned about the energy efficiency of their homes.

Could politics be far behind?

Judging by this widespread potential adoption of efficiency, politicians won't be far behind including it in their platforms and bragging about measures they've taken in their own homes. Although I just can't imagine Texas Gov. Rick Perry going Al Gore and saying his house is net zero.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says his state set aggressive goals and laid the foundation for greater investment in energy efficiency through its Green Communities Act, "and now we are proud to be a model for the nation and world."

Expect more of the same after this year's numbers are tallied. Maryland and Illinois, which showed big gains, are taking energy efficiency seriously.

Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, says Illinois Gov. Martin O'Malley also set aggressive energy efficiency goals, saving residents more than 700,000 megawatt hours of electricity and more than $91 million since 2009.

Warren Ribley, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity director, says the investment of more than $600 million in energy efficiency projects over the last four years has meant putting people to work. "We are creating jobs, building more sustainable communities and securing our place in the new energy economy," he says in a statement.

The bottom performing 10 states from last to No. 42 are: North Dakota, Wyoming, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, Missouri, Alabama and South Dakota.

Photo: Boston Harbor at night.

Godfather of Green wins Global Energy Prize

Art Rosenfeld, perhaps more than any one person, advanced energy efficiency and the clean energy movement in California, setting an example for the rest of the country.

He's been at it for 40 years. Now the world is paying attention.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev presented Rosenfeld with the 2011 Global Energy Prize, which rewards innovation and solutions in global energy research and environmental challenges. The official ceremony took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Rosenfeld shared the $1 million prize with Professor Philipp Rutberg of Russia, who was recognized for his work developing energy plasma technologies which can convert waste materials into synthetic fuels, with minimal harmful emissions. Using this technology, a town of around 30,000 people could supply all its heating needs and a portion of its electricity needs using domestic waste as a power source.

"Arthur Rosenfeld embodies the spirit of the Global Energy Prize," said Igor Lobovsky, president of the Global Energy Prize Partnership.

Lobovsky called Rosenfeld the epitome of a socially and environmentally aware scientist and said his work has directly benefited humanity.

Those who know Rosenfeld, a nuclear physicist and California energy commissioner, say he's a modest guy who's great to work with. He's extremely practical about saving energy and a tireless advocate of energy efficiency. He was dubbed the Godfather of Green by KQED FM in San Francisco and told CBS News that the United States' descent into an unrepentant energy guzzler can be explained simply: "Energy in the U.S. is dirt cheap. And what's dirt cheap is treated like dirt."

He's a hoot to listen to and offers practical lessons that make more sense than most. Here's a link to a recent "Cool Cities Cool Planet" presentation. Here's a shorter piece from CBS from 2007.

The Global Energy Prize is considered one of the world's most respected awards in energy science.  Rosenfeld received the prize in recognition of his pioneering energy efficiency work.

Rosenfeld helped establish energy efficiency standards for new homes, businesses and industrial buildings in California. According to a statement from the Global Energy folks, past U.S Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said in 2006 that Rosenfeld's legacy "yields an astounding annual savings of around $100 billion and growing."

In 2010, a new unit of energy conservation was named after Rosenfeld. The 'Rosenfeld' equals 3 billion kilowatt hours, or the energy savings needed to replace the output of one 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant in a year.

At the event, Rosenfeld said he was delighted. "The concept of energy efficiency has had a tremendous impact on the world, both economically and environmentally, and I remain excited about innovations, which will lead to even greater levels of energy savings."

He also repeated one of his catch phrases: "The cheapest form of energy is that which you don't use."

Photo: Art Rosenfeld on CBS News program Eye To Eye.

Energy efficiency scores big, and there's growth on horizon

An increasing number of public and private organizations are realizing the importance of energy savings and picking up on the philosophy pioneered in 1970s California by the Godfather of Green, Art Rosenfeld.

While Rosenfeld, a nuclear physicist and California energy commissioner, started the movement that saved the state having to build many new electricity generating facilities, he's no longer the Lone Ranger.

For instance, the Manteca Unified School District reportedly shaved $2.2 million from its energy bill over 19 months through energy efficiency.

DTE Energy, which operates Detroit Edison, reported that its energy efficiency programs saved customers $31 million in 2010 with lifetime savings estimated to be about $520 million.

And 16 members of the American Chemistry Council saved enough BTUs through energy efficiency measures in 2010 to power all the homes in a city the size of Akron, Ohio, for one year.

To quote Donald Trump: "That's huge."

Energy efficiency operates through a simple premise: install devices that use less power to save energy and, more importantly, money. Another benefit is a reduced greenhouse gas footprint. But that benefit is more esoteric and generally lost on Joe Consumer, especially with fuel prices taking an extra share of his resources.

Many of the cities and counties we're working with at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization are doing the same thing. Although the only recognition they're likely to get is whatever I write in this post and others that follow.

One of them, the City of Delano recently purchased 250 ecostrips for employee work stations. These power strips enable workers to turn off various electronic devices when not in use to reduce what many in the business call "vampire" power. This siphons off electricity for unneeded functions.

According to my calculations, which show the average ecostrip can save about 12 percent of energy used, the savings for Delano can save about 36,180 kWh a year. Not bad for something that costs $24.95. The project is just the start, and the city has much more planned.

And Tulare County, which is gearing up to launch an $826,000 energy efficiency lighting upgrade of about 17 of its buildings, could rack up savings of about 900,000 kWh. And that's just by replacing light fixtures and bulbs.

In fact, SJVCEO's work with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which includes Tulare County and 35 other jurisdictions, amounts to potential savings of 5.5 million kWh. The savings on electricity bills and in CO2 should be noticeable.

When I started working for this organization about a year and a half ago, energy efficiency hardly seemed tangible. Sure, I knew about using less power. In fact, I had nothing but a swamp cooler in my home despite summer temperatures in the Valley pushing past 100 degrees 40 to 50 days a year. Evaporative coolers use a fraction of the power an AC unit does.

And I knew about turning off lights. My father, the light cop, also wouldn't turn on the furnace until the mud puddles outside started to freeze at night.

But my experience working with utility and state engineers on energy audits and my own research has shown what an important role energy efficiency can play on a national scale. Buildings use an estimated 80 percent of the nation's generated power.

Cut that by a third, and dividends come not only in reduced emissions but in national security. Less reliance on imported energy means less exposure to fluctuations in oil prices.

Extending that argument into renewable energy further bolsters the national security benefit while reducing pollution.

Some of the biggest drivers in this sector are institutions of higher learning.

For instance, universities in the Big 10 purchased 256.6 million kWh of green power in the 2010-2011 academic year, earning a first-place conference ranking in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's College and University Green Power Challenge. The University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League won for best individual college with 200.2 million kWh purchased.

Gazing into my imaginary crystal ball, I see energy efficiency gaining increased importance on all fronts. Yet, I also see people responding more favorably to renewable energy, especially as prices for alternatives drop. If solar does become economically favorable even without subsidies, the decentralized power generation system envisioned by Al Weinrub will become a game changer.

And I see the EPA's annual greenhouse gas inventory gaining importance. The recently released 16th annual report shows a 6.1 percent decline in overall emissions for 2009, largely due to a stalled economy.

Perhaps in a few years, that decline will be attributed to efficiencies and alternatives.

Photo: Pre energy efficiency at old Lathrop School. Courtesy Manteca Unified School District.

Energy efficiency movement gains steam

Energy efficiency doesn't boast the sex appeal of solar or wind power, but it gets results.

And influencing more people to champion the cause could siphon off a large resource of untapped energy savings. At least that's the conclusion of a study released this week by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE.

After all, the nation’s largest single user of energy -- accounting for about half -- is homes and commercial buildings, said William Fay, executive director of the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition, this week. Fay made his remarks at the Final Action Hearings for the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday where building officials from across the country voted for a series of new building energy codes expected to improve energy efficiency in new buildings by 30 percent, according to

The ACEEE study's authors said programs that motivate green behavior could lead to significant savings and should be implemented with greater zeal. "We need to design and build programs that change habits as well as light bulbs," they said.

The sentiment reflects that of Art Rosenfeld, the nuclear physicist and California energy commissioner, a pioneer and tireless advocate of energy efficiency. He was dubbed the Godfather of Green by KQED and told CBS news in a past interview that the United States' descent into an unrepentant energy guzzler can be explained simply: "Energy in the U.S. is dirt cheap. And what's dirt cheap is treated like dirt."

Rosenfeld adopted the position advocated by ACEEE early on, successfully working to change consumers' wasteful habits in California.

The state got the message -- with Rosenfeld's help -- back in the 1970s at the height of the anti-nuclear movement. To avoid building another reactor, the state went with energy efficiency, improving building and appliance standards. The result: the Rosenfeld Effect, which resulted in the flattening of the state's per capita energy use.

ACEEE's researchers made a number of recommendations for enhancing the acceptance of energy efficiency. One was increasing the visibility of energy using behaviors. One particular program, already offered by PG&E's smart meters, allows consumers to see more clearly how much power they consume.

The smart meter on my house enabled me to monitor power consumption of my new SEER 13 air conditioning unit. I had switched from an evaporative, or swamp cooler, and was worried about ballooning electric bills. Fortunately, those didn't come to pass, and my family was able to keep summer cooling bills relatively low, keeping the thermostat on 78 degrees.

We're still not great about dealing with vampire power -- the electronic devices all over the home constantly sucking energy and consuming as much or more than 10 percent of a home's power demand.

Changing habits can make a big difference to the environment, not just the bottom line. As Rosenfeld said, "To delay global warming, you get halfway there with efficiency."

Energy efficiency is what many refer to as the "low-lying fruit" in the move to clean energy. For instance, a recent report by Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research estimates potential annual energy savings of more than $41.1 billion if all U.S. commercial space built as of 2010 were included in a 10-year retrofit program.

The next step in the clean energy movement is more costly.

Rosenfeld said renewables like solar and wind should be pursued once energy efficiency is addressed. "But renewables cost you money, while efficiency saves money," he said.