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Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Natural Gas Camp : What is Natural Gas and How to Save

SJVCEO was a lucky recipient of an environmental community grant from Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) to host educational assemblies, Natural Gas Camp, with students in the San Joaquin Valley. During the assemblies students are exposed to the basics of natural gas, natural gas vehicles as well as how to conserve natural gas.

Yesterday SJVCEO held its first ever gas camp at Meadow Lane Elementary in Lemoore, CA. Students from three sixth grade classes rotated to different stations to learn about natural gas. During the 1.5 hour assembly students had hands on experience with gas meters, advanced gas meters and a CNG street sweeper from the City of Lemoore. Students were asked questions during each session and three lucky students were crowned Natural Gas Camp Champs and went home with Nest Thermostats. Thanks to Proteus Inc. the installation of the Nest thermostats to each household is at no cost. Each student was also given bags to take home that contained ways to save at home as well as fun giveaways from SoCal Gas and the City of Lemoore. 

Seeing a younger generation excited about natural gas and learning about what the future holds for the commodity was exciting! SJVCEO and all involved were so surprised that students were so aware of sustainability efforts with natural gas.







We cant thank all of partners enough for all of the help making this first Natural Gas Camp a success!



LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

wEEkly Update

05/05/2017


Funding Wizard | Energy Standards Online Resource Center | Energy Code Ace
CAISO Today's Outlook




The ZNE Residential and Commercial Action Plan meetings inlcuded in last week's update were postponed due to a major building maintenance issue at the CPUC. The meetings will be rescheduled soon.

News and Opportunities

NatGas Squeezed in California Climate Change Push, Say Edison Execs
Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International said the importance of upgrading Southern California Edison's transmission system to create a smarter, more efficient grid is critical for reducing GHG emissions.

CPUC Requires Additional 500 MW of Energy Storage from California IOUs
AB 2868, passed in 2016, requires PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to propose programs and investments for a combined 500MW of behind-the-meter energy storage.

SGIP Step 1 (mostly) sells out in 24 hours
On Monday SGIP, the Self-Generation Incentive Program, re-opened with more than $50 million in available subsidies for residential and commercial energy storage systems.

WISE Forums
The forums are part of a statewide program from the California Homebuilding Foundation (CHF) called Workforce Instruction for Standards and Efficiency (WISE).  The WISE program engages builders, manufacturers, and contractors in a variety of events throughout California covering best practices in high-performance wall and attic construction.

Publications and Resources

Civic Spark Project Partner Recruitment 
Over the past 3 years, CivicSpark has provided 130,000+ hrs of climate and water capacity-building support to public agencies throughout California. If you are a local government, State agency, or an NGO with a climate or water action project need, visit CivicSpark’s website to learn more. Apply online to receive project support for the upcoming 2017-18 service year. The second priority deadline is May 30th.

2016 IOU Energy Efficiency Annual Reports
The four investor-owned utilities have filed their annual energy efficiency program reports with the CPUC.

Water Heater Technology Economic Assessment: Draft Report
DNV GL prepared for the CPUC an assessment of the cost of ownership of efficient gas and electric water heating technologies within each IOU territory.

Intelligent Efficiency Technology and Market Assessment
ACEEE explores the benefits of intelligent efficiency, a term they use to describe the gains in energy efficiency enabled by the new responsive, adaptive, and predictive capabilities of information and communications technologies

Career Opportunities

General Manager for Sustainability, Environmental, and Energy Management - LA
The County of Los Angeles is in need of a new General Manager responsible for sustainability, environmental, and energy management. Candidates are encouraged to apply by May 26, 2017, for first consideration.
 



SEEC Calendar 
Click the SEEC Calendar link to view all upcoming events.

The 17th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is being held February 1-3, 2018 in San Francisco, CA! Visit NewPartners.org for more information!

5/9 - Efficiency Exchange 2017
Efficiency Exchange is the premier networking and learning conference for energy efficiency professionals from across the Northwest.

5/16 - Public Works Institute-Advancing Careers in Public Works Management
Participants will learn supervisory and management skills, and will learn how to apply them to real world public works applications.

5/16 - SB 350 Low-income Barriers Study Implementation
The CEC and the CPUC will jointly conduct a workshop to discuss implementation of the Sb 350 Low-Income Barriers Study

5/19 - CPUC and CEC En Banc on Community Choice Energy in California
The CPUC and CEC will hold a joint En Banc Hearing with Commissioners of both agencies attending to discuss the changing state of retail electric choice 


That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!

Cary Garcia Jr.
Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
eecoordinator.info
 

The Great White North may be key to promoting energy efficiency

Bob and Doug McKenzie on the set of SCTV.
The War of 1812 is long forgotten.

Few other than history buffs and students know much of the series of bloody battles which pitted what is now Canada against its southern neighbor. Those included the slow slaughter of Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend by then-Col. Andrew Jackson or the Battle of Bladensburg during which British forces captured and torched Washington, D.C.

Now Canada is good buddies with the United States. The country mostly surfaces in the news as being the source of Justin Bieber or, energy-wise, for its rich oil sands in the Athabasca-Wabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake reserves in Alberta. Estimates vary but Oil Sands InfoMine puts the recoverable deposits at about 170 billion barrels, placing Canada just behind Saudi Arabia. That oil is being extracted at a rate of about 1 million barrels a day and is expected to grow to about 4 million barrels by 2020.

Canada's energy rep

Canada's hardly known for its energy efficiency or its embrace of renewables like solar, wind and geothermal. Just ask activist and author Bill McKibben, one of the chief opponents of the Keystone Pipeline, which would send all that "tar" sands oil to the Gulf Coast.

But that could change. On June 21, 2012, Environment Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy released the second part of an ambitious plan outlining how the two countries will jointly advance clean energy technologies. The effort has possibly the least sexy name in clean energy history, dubbed the "U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II," or CED for short.


The plan renews a 2009 commitment between the United States and Canada to work together on carbon capture and storage technologies, clean and smart electrical grids and clean energy research and development. It also places "a greater emphasis on energy efficiency."

A shift in sentiment?

Peter Kent, Canada's minister of the environment, hailed the move from Rio de Janeiro where led the Canadian delegation at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. "It is our hope that the transformation of our economies and our joint work will identify clean energy solutions that will contribute to making sustainable energy a reality for all," he said.

Tyler Hamilton, a columnist with the Toronto Star, underlines the importance for his country of increasing clean energy investment in a piece about the pro-sustainability stand by the Paris-based International Energy Agency. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven calls for bold policies that radically transform the world's energy systems and says: "If significant policy action is taken, we can still achieve the huge potential for these technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and boost energy security."

An IEA statement that the alternative is the potential of "locking in high-carbon infrastructure" appears to irk Hamilton. "That’s what many people are worried about, and not just environmentalists," he writes. "They know that the decisions we make today will have a profound impact on the quality of life of our children and their children tomorrow."

Hamilton says certain Canadian cabinet ministers may deem the move to embrace sustainability radical, but "most common sense folk would call it risk management."

Big gains in efficiency

Canada's policy direction -- should it go even a pale green -- likely will have a profound effect on the United States, especially in energy efficiency. Colder Canada can make tremendous progress on improving its existing commercial and industrial buildings and save energy.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released a report that amplifies the importance for utilities of improving building performance. The report, "Three Decades and Counting: A Historical Review and Current Assessment of Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Activity in the States," says the initial concept that energy utilities should pursue electricity savings was a major departure from policies of the past.

"From these early roots, energy efficiency programs for electric utility customers have grown rapidly" to total budgets in 2010 of $4.6 billion for U.S.-based programs, the study says.

ACEEE says new policies and programs have driven down energy consumption, shown the environmental and economic benefits and demonstrated a "new era of energy efficiency ... marked by continued expansion and innovation."

Green gas in BC

That would be good for Canada, especially in light of the recent controversy caused by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark when she "redefined" three liquified natural gas plants in the northern region of her province as green energy. "This is consistent with our comprehensive natural gas strategy and it's also consistent with our efforts to use renewable energy," she said, according to Tamsyn Burgmann of the Canadian Press.

Gordon Hamilton of the Vancouver Sun reports that Clark's ruling means "gas-fired power plants used to make LNG or to propel gas along pipelines will be considered green energy, a move that will enable the oil and gas industry to produce cheap electricity without compromising the requirements of the Clean Energy Act."

All the more reason to focus on energy efficiency while that issue works itself out. Maybe renewables will get more attention, too.

In the meantime, Canadian businesses and local governments will likely be hiring energy managers, instituting energy audits and carrying out a number of energy efficiency-related savings programs.

Nothing says warm like efficiency

Say a guy in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, adds a premium efficiency heater, bolsters insulation, upgrades his ducting and eliminates all air leaks in his business. In addition, he installs other measures recommended by his energy auditors. His workers and customers feel the effects and say how great they are, especially when the thermometer dips to 40 or 50 below zero.

Changing attitudes and policies would work wonders to cut down the immense heating bills that many in more northern latitudes face every month. And lower operating costs can translate into additional profits (or continued existence) during tough economic times.

Anecdotes of successful retrofits and programs in the land of the maple leaf will leak down south, and that would benefit both regions.

Bob and Doug

So, eh? The reason I got into this post had very little to do with anything serious. I just had Bob and Doug McKenzie on the brain. I blame it on Canada Day. That devolved into thinking about Geddy Lee joining the two comedians on the song "Take Off" and wearing woolies in the winter.

Cold is something I'm very familiar with. Now I'm a pro at dealing with extreme heat, too. And I'll tell you, I'd take the cold any day. Maybe not 40 below. That just bites any way you look at it.

Bob and Doug of SCTV fame had their streak of popularity. One skit involved a game of beer hunter. They did drink a lot of beer. But anyway, here's a bit.


Seeing as it has been 200 years since that little dispute between the States and former UK territories, it's possible this next era will be one of prosperity and clean air. Sounds like a good reason to fry up some backbacon.

Clean energy is not for the weak-spirited

Recently in the downtown Fresno Radisson Hotel, five of us who make our living in clean energy discussed the state of the industry, the economy and the latest happenings in California's sun-drenched San Joaquin Valley.

"We're on the brink," one of our group said. "About to sail down the other side."

Like a roller coaster? Maybe. While our mood was optimistic -- you have to have a glass-half-full attitude to be in this line of work -- the reality of clean energy is that despite whatever technological advances made and the cost reductions in getting the Earth-friendly energy into the grid, there's always another hurdle, or several.

Modern Times

The latest wrench in the machine (I always think of Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" when I conjure that cliche) happens to be geopolitical. Continued Middle East unrest is messing with gas prices. Rather than flock to alternatives, the American public collectively hunkers down like the only available car on the road is an H2 Hummer.

A new study by the Pew Research Center says that while Americans still look favorably upon alternative energy, the sentimental surge in support for increased production of oil, coal and natural gas has increased over the past year. "Moreover, support for allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters, which plummeted during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has recovered to pre-spill levels."

The study found 65 percent favor allowing increased offshore drilling, up from 57 percent a year ago and 44 percent in June 2010, during the Gulf spill.

I mentioned the study's findings at my little meeting in the Radisson, but it failed to phase anybody. This group has built up thick skin from years in the business. Selling clean energy, energy efficiency and clean air isn't for the weak-spirited.

Alternatives for energy security

Recently I did a couple of posts on natural gas. It's a cleaner burning fuel, and what I especially like about it is that the United States has a heck of a lot of it deep underground. I'm personally all for energy independence, and one of the ways to get there is the "all of the above" theory. That means including fossil fuels.

My friend Charles in Texas would beat me over the head with that fact, arguing about the importance of crude oil to super custom choppers, fast cars and jobs -- in about that order.

But I also want to be able to see the Sierra Mountains from my house. Currently, the majestic range is only visible after a drenching rain. There's just too much pollution sequestered in this natural bowl in the center of California.

Some solutions have drawbacks

Natural gas is cleaner than coal, better than diesel (but not clean burning diesel) and it generates comments like this from culled from a story by Adam Lesser in gigaom.com. He quotes Carter Bales at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics Conference in Santa Barbara as saying, "Natural gas is half the carbon of coal. When we are burning natural gas, we are cooking ourselves a bit more slowly, but we’re clearly cooking ourselves."

Bales founded NewWorld Capital and is an authority on climate change. He points out the obvious in Lesser's piece, saying low cost energy via natural gas is good but may slow development of renewables.

Yet, the nation shouldn't ignore natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing must be done so that escaped gases don't infiltrate and render aquifers useless.

What sells in Berkeley

The bottom line is cost effectiveness. Vinod Khosla, green investor and venture capitalist, was quoted by Eric Wesoff of greentechmedia.com as saying, "Priuses sell well in Berkeley" but do not sell well in Mississippi, "and Mississippi is closer to the rest of the world than Berkeley."

In other words, for green to sell it has to make economic sense not just make you feel warm inside. "Nothing defies the law of economic gravity," Khosla says.

Ken Friesen, a Fresno Pacific University professor and shade-tree green mechanic, pointed this lesson out to those who walked by his homemade plug-in Prius at Fresno Earth Day 2012. On a no-nonsense display, he spelled out the cost between buying a new plug-in from the factory -- about $35,000 -- vs. a do-it-yourself version with an aftermarket battery pack and a used car.

The cost for the latter, as I recall -- about $17,000, depending on what you get the used Prius for and what kind battery pack used.

Those are market forces at work. Unfortunately, few are as talented as Friesen.

Market theory

The market theory is the same reason I have a VW Bug as my spare cool car. It's cheap and easy to work on and modify. There are a lot of VW enthusiasts. There is a ready supply of old bugs for a decent price and parts are available and cheap.

Apply that to clean energy. When solar panel prices drop to a certain sweet spot and battery prices become approachable to guys like me, expect a whole lot of new applications. Just like an iPhone, provide a platform and innovators will make stuff to put on it.

Nobody really wants to spend lots of money on electricity, just like nobody would prefer spending nearly $5 a gallon per gas. My mechanic was recently talking about when California instituted a 5 cent gas tax way back when he was a teenager (must have been the early 1970s). His boss at the gas station where he worked on Clovis Avenue and Fifth told employees to prepare for the worst.

After all, the tax represented a 20 percent increase in the price of fuel. Turns out nobody firebombed the station. My mechanic survived with a few insults and lectures, nothing a 17-year-old couldn't handle.

Chevelle economics 101

Given the chance, and maybe an affordable electric or plug-in conversion, many motorheads from in my era might jump at the chance to hop up a 1967 SS Chevelle (I just saw a sweet one like my old muscle car and placed a picture at the top of this story) so that it could blast by gas stations and just use the 396 cubic inch monster in emergencies. (Now that I try to make sense of how to engineer that, I wonder if it could be done. But I digress.)

So maybe we are on the brink. Leave it to the backyard innovator to make sense of it.

Photo: 1966 SS Chevelle found on pro-touring.com.

Keep on trucking with natural gas

Electric cars and hybrids get all the media coverage.

Lots of people have taken the hybrid plunge, purchasing a Prius, Ford Escape or a number of other models that couple battery power with a small gas engine to maximize gas mileage. And electric cars have captured the imagination of a nation interested in cleaner air despite the fact that their permanence in the consumer pantheon remains to be seen.

But what's the potential of a natural gas-powered car? America would seem to answer with a collective yawn.

There is an alternative

Does it matter that this country likely has enough natural gas to fill every single commuter's tank for decades? It should. The U.S. Energy Information Administration lists some 35.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Alaska's North Slope. And analysts at the Potential Gas Committee say that when they combine their findings with that of the EIA, they believe U.S. natural gas reserves to be a future supply of 2,174 trillion cubic feet.

That's an estimated 100-year supply.

And why should we care? There are a number of reasons. President Ronald Reagan put it this way: "Energy independence is the best preparation America can make for the future."

Another is air quality.

Cutting emissions

Exhaust emissions from natural gas vehicles are cleaner than their gasoline- or diesel-burning compatriots.

Natural Gas Vehicles for America says the only production natural gas-powered passenger car, the Honda Civic CNG, produces 95 percent fewer emissions of non-methane hydrocarbons, and 75 percent less emissions of nitrogen oxides than its gasoline counterpart. The EPA rates it as the cleanest internal-combustion car on the market.

Imagine this contrast: Stand behind a city bus that blows by burning diesel. The fumes can be noxious. Natural gas buses on the other hand have none of the soot and are much less likely to cause riders to hold their breath until they turn blue.

Finding opportunity

Companies are beginning to see opportunity, especially since the EIA says natural gas, on average, costs 42 percent less than diesel fuel on an energy equivalent basis and is expected to cost 50 percent less by 2035.

EcoDual LLC has developed a duel fuel system for heavy-duty diesel trucks that allows them burn up to 80 percent natural gas.

"Because heavy trucks use so much diesel and there is such a dramatic price differential between diesel and natural gas, the systems will pay for themselves in only about 12 months of typical use," says Doug Thomson, vice president, government relations and marketing of EcoDual LLC, in an email.

Thomson says the main hurdle is that his company has to certify the emissions for each family of engines. He says the company is working its way through the process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. He says the emissions are "definitely better with natural gas, but for now we are focused on just showing off the operating cost savings."

Range is not a problem

And for the popular misconception that compressed natural gas trucks have limited range? Thomson says with new large tanks and his company's technology, "that’s no longer a problem."

Ngvglobal.com reports that EcoDual has won authorization from the EPA to begin installing its systems on 2004 to 2009 Cummins ISX engines.

Natural gas won't end the dangerous climate warming build-up of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, but it does provide an inexpensive and cleaner alternative while innovators work the kinks out of other energy delivery systems. It's obviously not the most popular on Wall Street, but it's got a shot and should have a place in the mix.

Fleets going natural

Municipalities, small governments and public entities are certainly paying attention.

Fresno, Calif., which is my neck of the woods, is on board. The city has 66 buses that run on compressed natural gas, four trollies, nine light duty trucks, eight street sweepers and a bunch more.

City officials adopted "Operation Clean Air" in 2003 with other counties, cities, businesses and nonprofits in the region. Fresno continues to update its fleets. The initiative is committed to improving air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, which ranks near the top for worst air pollution in the United States.

Perhaps the highest profile West Coast move to clean trucking has been at the Port of Los Angeles, which estimates it has reduced emissions 80 percent compared with 2007 average air emissions data. Port officials say that as of January 2012, 100 percent of the "cargo gate moves" at port terminals are made with trucks meeting EPA clean truck standards. Many of those trucks use liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas.

Sharing the highways

Natural Gas Vehicles for America reports that there are about 112,000 natural-gas vehicles on U.S. roads and more than 13 million worldwide. However, there are only about 1,000 domestic fueling stations with about half open to the public.

About 30 different manufacturers in this country produce 100 models of light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles and engines, according to Natural Gas Vehicles. The organization says industry data shows that natural gas consumed by vehicles "nearly doubled between 2003 and 2009."

And demand is growing, especially from bus fleets, at airports and in private fleets.

The EIA shows relatively stable natural gas prices despite recent inventory draw downs that spiked prices. "Natural gas working inventories continue to set new record seasonal highs and ended January 2012 at an estimated 2.86 trillion cubic feet, about 24 percent above the same time last year," EIA analysts write.

Carving out a consumer market

Despite inroads, acceptance of the fuel by the average consumer faces an uphill battle.

For instance, Greencarreports.com offers on its home page a menu that says "car types."

The photo-heavy drop-down offers the latest news on hybrids, electrics, clean diesels and fuel cells with a more specific cluster off to the right drilling down into posts about Chevy's Volt, Nissan's Leaf, Tesla's Roadster and Toyota's Prius.

Nothing on natural gas. Of course, I'm just referring to the menu listings and not the coverage. Writer John Voelcker offers some of the best green car coverage on the web, and his piece on the Honda CNG is a great backgrounder on the only production natural gas vehicle offered in the country. The page design reflects interest.

Honda enters the fray

Yet, the Civic CNG, which just received its nationwide rollout in late 2011, may change some minds. James R. Healey of USA Today gave one a test drive and debates its the pros and cons. He says the main downside is price (at $26,925 still cheaper than a Volt, Leaf or average hybrid) and finding a fueling station.

"Heroic cuts in emissions and fuel costs, but too expensive and too many compromises for most people," Healey writes.

Maybe that will change. Gas prices are expected to climb and possibly break some records this summer.

Earth Day: Don't mind the maggots

OK, OK. So I used a Rolling Stones "Some Girls" reference in the headline.

But my point is -- if I have one -- that on the eve of Earth Day 2011, debate over the environment appears as contentious as ever. For instance, on the late-night lineup of cable channel ABC Family, the Rev. Pat Robertson appeared questioning climate change as junk science. (My son had it tuned to the channel.)

Really? Pat Robertson? (He's still alive?) I shouldn't be surprised. The brutal economic downturn and televised armed conflict invading American living rooms on a daily basis have most of the country on edge. Politics is more heated than ever.

Environmental protections, climate change and clean energy look like luxuries easily jettisoned by people more interested in keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. There's no fault in taking advantage of unease to push political agenda. Heck, leverage is the American way.

Yet, the issue transcends the conservative-liberal divide. Clean energy is not limited to the granola-crunching Sierra Club member anymore. Wal-Mart is a huge proponent of sustainability and renewable energy. And Raytheon Co. just won an Energy Star Award for Sustained Excellence from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "reducing energy intensity by 3 percent in 2010 and by 22 percent since 2007" and cutting more than 2 million kWh in 2010.

That's right, Raytheon, the Waltham, Mass.-based defense contractor that produces "missiles, smart munitions, close in weapons systems, projectiles, kinetic kill vehicles and directed energy effectors for the armed forces of the U.S. and other allied nations," according to yahoo.com finance.

Soon, I believe, a lot more of this clean energy stuff will make sense to J.Q. Public. Already, energy efficiency is moving into the corner hardware store in the form of light-emitting diode and compact fluorescent technology and programmable thermostats. Heating and air conditioning companies are even getting into the solar mode, advertising exactly what it would cost the consumer to install 10 modules.

Honest. In the Fresno Bee, which I still read despite being a casualty of its shrinking newsroom, an ad showed a system for $12,000. Tax incentives and rebates drop that by about $4,000, according to the company. That's approachable pricing, especially with summer AC power drains coming up.

On earthday.org, the site is trying to get people, organizations and corporations to embrace its "A Billion Acts of Green" campaign. The idea -- to pledge to live and act sustainably -- has reportedly received 45 million "actions" to date and seeks to register 1 billion in advance of the Earth Summit in Rio in 2012.

And why not? Many of these cost nothing.

For instance, T. Boone Pickens went big for wind power and now is investing in natural gas, joining with investment group Perseus in a $160 million deal to build a natural gas powered vehicle, according to a story by Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech.com.

Natural gas is abundant. We've got a lot of it up on Alaska's North Slope (just wait for Sarah Palin to start talking about the gas pipeline) and huge domestic reserves in the Lower 48 that can be accessed by the increasingly controversial method of hydraulic fracturing.

There may be traction on the natural gas front soon. Deirdre Shesgreen reported in ctmirror.org that Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., is working with Pickens to "promote legislation that would provide billions of dollars in tax incentives to spur the development and purchase of natural gas vehicles."

One of the first goals of the bill, dubbed the NAT GAS Act, should it pass would be to drive development of commercial trucks away from diesel and into the fold. But expect more stations around the country offering the fuel and more natural gas powered Honda Civics using them.

"It's abundant, it's accessible, it's American," Shesgreen quoted Larson as saying. "The events in the Middle East and the events that have happened tragically in Japan only further underscore the urgency behind this."

Ah yes. Security. There's the immediacy. Pickens also touts energy independence. Just check out his Pickens Plan website.

Advances also are being made in algae fuel, cellulosic ethanol and isobutanol. None of this should be partisan. It's just really interesting and could pay off with huge dividends.

And by dividends, I mean jobs.

That's what it's all about. Opportunity in this industry for me is personal. We're working to assist teachers to train the next generation for jobs in clean energy through the Valley Legacy Grant. The resources come from the Workforce Investment Act. I'd like to see the kids from rural San Joaquin Valley communities with 20-plus percent jobless rates get a leg up in a growing industry. For more, check out our site, http://www.wiasjvceo/.

But to get there, this nation's gotta chill on the rhetoric. And it comes from both sides. I can rip on the Republicans, but the greenies do the same thing.

In a story on Huffington Post by Brenden DeMelle, executive director of desmogblog.com, about climate-related dangers of methane emissions from shale gas fracking, a commenter who goes by the name gdauth provided perspective. DeMelle called his post "Highway to Hell," and I do appreciate the AC/DC Bon Scott reference.

"Let's see," writes gdauth. "Can't use natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear, hydro; what is left? Wind? Nope can't use that it kills birds. Geothermal­? Don't have any in Florida. How about solar? The Chinese own all the factories, besides a hail storm and a tornado wiped out the solar farm that looks like h*** anyway. Besides the Chinese own all of the battery factories so what o we do at night? I guess I will go home to my cardboard box under the bridge and cook my spam over a candle."

Yep, take a bite of the big apple. Just don't mind the maggots. It's a big issue and maybe we'll figure out how to get it all down.

Photo: Courtesy earthday.org

Automotive future: Silent running or Hello Kitty?

Electric cars offer buyers a badge of immediate environmental friendliness.

Buy one and you can say to heck with Abu Dhabi’s $90 per barrel light Murban crude. But short of rigging some sort of electronic replacement, electric automobiles will never have one thing.

Decent sound.

The entire lineup -- no matter the manufacturer -- will never offer the throaty response of a Mopar, the finessed rumble of a GM Corvette V8 or even the riotous recoil of a hopped-up tuner. The really fast electrics do let out a kind of whine at the command of a floored accelerator, but I prefer the dual-carbed Super Beetle in my backyard. That meat-and-potatoes air-cooled roar alerts my dogs of my arrival a block from home.

This concept crosses my mind as the electric automobile finally crosses the threshold in the arms of Joe Consumer. Let the wedding begin. Whether the marriage will be a happy one or fall apart after a rough weekend in Vegas is anybody's guess.

Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research said that union will be far from blissful with consumers having to accept the bad times with the good if they expect it to work. The 14-page study published this week said most people who drive electrics won't own them but be driving a fleet car and predicted that the media is likely to overreact when someone somewhere has a bad EV experience.

The rest of Pike's 10 predictions were push-back developing over charging times, arrival of start-stop technology (at stop lights to save power), charging stations going idle, emergence of fuel-cell vehicles, advanced battery development, range anxiety becoming more myth than fact, two-wheel EVs outselling cars and a drop in electric component pricing.

"Electric two-wheeled vehicles, including bicycles, scooters and motorcycles, comprise a huge global market that will continue to overshadow electric passenger vehicles for the foreseeable future," wrote senior analyst John Gartner and Pike President Clint Wheelock.

After going over their conclusions, I tried to imagine what the roads will look like by 2015 when Gartner and Wheelock say annual EV sales will surpass 300,000 units. Certainly more diverse.

But the highways may have some hydrogen-powered cars and other alternative fuel vehicles. Natural gas may wind up a decent competitor when domestic drillers find a measurable way to avoid disturbing underground aquifers with new fractal extraction techniques.

Hopefully automotive designers will stop making cars for Hello Kitty and produce something noteworthy. Although I must admit the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger meet coolness requirements. But they're supposed to.

The majority of the models from U.S. and Japanese manufacturers (I'm talking gas-burners) look pretty vanilla in a weirdly rounded way. I just hope they take a lesson from Tesla and kit-car Sigma when producing the next generation of electrics.

Go for just a smidgen of cool. Then along with the eco-badge, EV owners can retain just a bit of respect from the fossil fuel folks.

How shale gas is changing the world

Say something like "We've got gas" in a crowded room and you may send the wrong impression.

I'd get "the look" from my wife.

However, in this case, having gas -- lots of it -- is a good thing.

New technology has improved the ability to extract natural gas from very hard sedimentary rock called shale. Improvements in hydraulic fracturing in which the rock is split in the depths of the earth and injected with sand to provide a conduit for trapped gas reservoirs coupled with horizontal or directional drilling have given producers the tools to economically bring product to market, said Chris Jent, a spokesman for independent oil and natural gas producer Triple Diamond Energy Corp. in an article on ezinearticles.com. Triple Diamond is based in Addison, Texas.

"Much of the gas in the Texas Barnett Shale is lodged beneath the City of Fort Worth," Jent said. "Horizontal Drilling has helped create a financial windfall for the city."

These developments are such a big deal that they have given the United States an entirely new source for fuel.

"The U.S. shale gas phenomenon has transformed global energy markets," said David L. Goldwyn, U.S. State Department coordinator for International Energy Affairs at a briefing on the Global Shale Gas Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C. today. "Because we have discovered and we have the technology to develop efficiently large quantities of gas from shale, global prices of liquefied natural gas have decreased.

"Gas has become cheaper. Gas is now competitive with coal on a BTU basis, which means that countries that might use coal can now not make an economic choice, but on a competitive basis choose gas for their next level of power generation."

The conference drew representatives from 20 countries and a number of U.S. regulatory agencies. The purpose was to help other countries develop their own resources "safely and efficiently," Goldwyn said.

In light of the Gulf Oil Spill, safety has morphed into an even bigger concern when extracting underground resources.

Goldwyn called shale a terrific boon for global energy security. He also said many countries and hundreds of millions of people need access to electricity and diversity of energy supply -- making the issue of great concern to the State Department.

Another benefit, he said, is improving the climate.

Goldwyn said 10 percent of U.S. production comes from shale gas and that reserves have increased eight-fold over the past 10 years. He said projections from the National Security Council show about 30 percent of future gas supply in the United States, Canada and China coming from unconventional sources such as shale-type gas and coal bed methane.

"For the U.S., this has been a game-changer in the sense that we thought we were on the decline and now we’re very significantly on the rise," he said.

Graphic: lngpedia.com