Tuesday, March 3, 2016

We need an affordable home performance rating system, that works

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Recognizing that full LEED certification is overkill for many projects (and costly), there is an opportunity to provide a web-based platform to serve as a rating system for new homes and remodels (with an oversight component for credibility). Homes could put a sign in their yard and/or a window sticker to promote their home's efficiency. It can also be used as a selling point for the real estate trade. Perhaps at some point it could even be used to get discounts on home mortgages or insurance.

For example, what if the analysis of a home's "green cred" was based on the actual *performance* of the home using actual utility bill data calculated against the size of the building and number of occupants? This is in contrast to a materials/process based approach, but has the same end goal.

It could work either of two ways. In the first scenario, the user could manually upload their utility bills in excel (the power, gas and water companies will provide this if asked). The system automatically captures and presents this information in a dashboard. As a bonus, the user can see how their data/performance compares with others in their community, city, state and nationally. An "Eco-Smackdown" if you will (I've registered the domain...)

In the 2nd scenario, if the user has a "smart meter", they can opt to have their data feed automatically inserted into the system via a web service provided by the utility (it is my opinion there is going to be a mandate in this regard to support Google's Power Meter application. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, is on Obama's board of advisors)

Wednesday, February 18, 2016

Can the Clean Tech Revolution Save the Economy?

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The 2016 stimulus bill just signed into law contains over $80 billion in energy spending. The President and administration are trumpeting the bill as a clean energy bill and, taken on its own, this would be the largest energy bill ever signed into law.

Much in the same way that the economy rode on the backs of the Silicon valley startups during the 90s, the administration is counting on some of those same entreprenuers, and countless others, to help revive the economy via clean tech; making their doubling-down gamble pay off in green.

The rapid infusion of capital and the imminent investment will surely provide a boost to clean tech reasearch and development. It remains to be seen if this is the impetus needed to kick start clean tech to heights not seen since the IT boom. A clean tech boom, in contrast to the IT boom that preceeded it, has the potential to be sustainable and game changing.

If just one to two clean tech ventures turn out to be the next "Google of Green", then the US might just be able to leverage the spin-off effects and regain economic superpower status. To make this happen, it would need to be a truly disruptive breakthrough that would transform the world economy.

The most obvious target for such a breakthrough is around energy. Specifically transportation. More specifically, battery technology to promote the widespread adoption and affordability of the plug-in hybrid vehicle.

There are hundreds of companies and research labs across the country that are chasing this dream. Perhaps a handfull of those are on the verge of a breakthrough that could change the world. Perhaps one will emerge with the golden ticket.

We can only hope and dream. For our children's sake. For their children's sake...

Thursday, February 12, 2016

What's in the final version of the Stimulus Bill: PART II

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• $29 billion for modernizing roads and bridges. States must obligate at least half of the funding within 120 days.

• $8.4 billion for investments in transit.

• $8 billion for investment in high-speed rail.

• $18 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments.

• $5 billion for improvements in Defense Dept. facilities.

• $4.5 billion to make federal office buildings more energy-efficient.


• Refundable tax credit of up to $400 per worker ($800 per couple filing jointly), phasing out completely at $200,000 for couples filing jointly and $100,000 for single filers.

• Child tax credit expanded to allow families to begin qualifying for the child tax credit with every dollar earned over $3,000.

• Earned Income Tax Credit expanded by providing tax relief to families with three or more children and increasing marriage penalty relief.

• New, partially refundable $2,500 tax credit for families.

• Suspends the Alternative Minimum Tax for 26 million families.

• $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers on homes bought from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, with no repayment requirement.

• Tax deduction for state and local sales taxes paid on purchase of new cars, light trucks.

• Temporarily suspends taxation of some unemployment benefits.


• Extends the bonus depreciation and increases small business expensing for investments in plants and equipment in 2016.

• Extends to small businesses expensing for investment in new plants and equipment, loss carry back, a delay of the 3% withholding tax on payments to businesses that sell goods or services to governments, and a cut in the capital gains tax cut for investors in small businesses who hold stock for more than five years.

• Delays the tax on businesses that have discharged indebtedness.

• Tax credits for hiring recently discharged unemployed veterans and youth that have been out of work and out of school for the six months prior to hire.

• New bond-financing program for school construction, rehabilitation, and repair.


• Continues through December the extended unemployment benefits program (which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits) that is otherwise scheduled to begin to phase out at the end of March.

• Increases unemployment benefits for 20 million jobless workers by $25 per week.

• Increases food stamp benefits by 13%.

• $100 million for Emergency Food & Shelter to help local community organizations provide food and shelter; $100 million for formula grants to states for elderly nutrition services including Meals on Wheels; and $150 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to purchase commodities for food banks to refill emptying shelves.

• $4 billion for job training including formula grants for adult job training, dislocated worker job training, and youth services (including funding for summer jobs for young people).

• $500 million for Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants to help persons with disabilities.

• $500 million to match unemployed individuals to job openings.

• $120 million to provide community service jobs to an additional 24,000 low-income older Americans.


• Payment of $250 to Social Security beneficiaries, as well as veterans receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Veterans Affairs.

What's in the final version of the Stimulus Bill: PART I


• $30 billion for a smart power grid, advanced battery technology, and energy efficiency measures.

• $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next 10 years.

• A three-year extension of the production tax credit for electricity derived from wind (through 2012) and for electricity derived from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, waste-to-energy, and marine facilities (through 2013).

• Grants of up to 30% of the cost of building a new renewable energy facility to address current renewable energy credit market concerns.

• Extended tax credits, through 2010, for such purchases as new furnaces, energy-efficient windows and doors, or insulation.

• Tax credits for families that purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles of up to $7,500.

• Clean renewable energy bonds for state and local governments.

• Manufacturing investment tax credit for investment in advanced energy facilities, such as those that manufacture components for the production of renewable energy and advanced battery technology.

• $5 billion to improve the energy efficiency of more than 1 million homes.

• $6.3 billion for increasing energy efficiency in federally supported housing programs.


• $3 billion for the National Science Foundation for basic research in fundamental science and engineering.

• $1.6 billion for the Energy Dept.'s Office of Science, which funds research in such areas as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences—areas crucial to our energy future.

• $400 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency in collaboration with industry.

• $580 million for the National Institute of Standards & Technology, including the Technology Innovation Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

• $8.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, including expanding good jobs in biomedical research to study diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, and heart disease.

• $1.5 billion for NIH to renovate university research facilities.

• $1 billion for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, including $400 million to put more scientists to work doing climate change research.


• $7 billion for extending broadband services to underserved communities.


• $19 billion to accelerate adoption of Health Information Technology systems by doctors and hospitals.

• $87 billion over the next two years in additional federal matching funds to help states maintain Medicaid programs.

• 60% subsidy for COBRA premiums for up to nine months. Currently, laid-off workers can buy into their former employer's health insurance, but the premiums are often prohibitively expensive.

• $1 billion for a new Prevention & Wellness Fund.

• $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, to help patients and doctors determine the effectiveness of different treatments.


• $53.6 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund—$40.6 billion to local school districts, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization, and other purposes; $5 billion as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures; and $8 billion for public safety and other services.

• Higher education tax credit increased to a maximum of $2,500, and makes it available to nearly 4 million low-income students by making it partially refundable

• Increases the maximum Pell Grant by $500, for a maximum of $5,350 in 2016 and $5,550 in 2010.

• $200 million added to the College Work-Study program.

• $1.1 billion for Early Head Start.

• $1 billion for Head Start.

• $2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care services to an additional 300,000 children in low-income families while their parents go to work.

• $13 billion for Title I grants to help disadvantaged kids reach high academic standards.

• $12.2 billion for special education grants.

2016 Stimulus to be a boon to Weatherizing contractors

Editor's note: After a slightly more than brief sabattical, the timing seems right to shift focus of this blog to the overall energy issues facing the US and the International community. In that line of thought...

Although the senate bill trimmed about 4 billion from the weatherizing provisions of the 2016 "spendulous" bill, the 2+ billion in federal spending to weatherize federal buildings and low income homes will have a marked effect on the various contractor businesses that provide weatherization services. Insulators, plumbers, smart home outfitters and the like, will all benefit in the coming months as local governments begin lining up these work orders.

I have to wonder why more money is not being spent here. This is the one expenditure that will have collateral effects not only on job creation, but also on energy (and carbon) reduction. Perhaps we will know more soon on why the Senate saw fit to trim the expenditure by nearly 2/3rds while setting aside a cool 30 mil for the now infamous "Pelosi mouse".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Breaking: Production Volt Finally Revealed!

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DETROIT - General Motors launched its next 100 years today by unveiling the much-anticipated production version of the Chevrolet Volt - a vehicle that delivers up to 40 miles of gasoline- and emissions-free electric driving, with the extended-range capability of hundreds of additional miles.

"Revealing the production version of the Chevy Volt is a great way to open our second century," said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. "The Volt is symbolic of GM's strong commitment to the future ... just the kind of technology innovation that our industry needs to respond to today's and tomorrow's energy and environmental challenges."

Form follows function
The design of the Chevrolet Volt production car has evolved from the original concept that was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Because aerodynamics plays a key role in maximizing driving range, GM designers created an aerodynamically efficient design for the production vehicle. Many of the design cues from the concept vehicle endure in the production Volt, including the closed front grille, athletic stance, rear design graphics, outside rearview mirrors and more. The Volt's rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and grille are functional, enabling air to move easily around the car. In the rear, sharp edges and a carefully designed spoiler allow the air to flow off and away quickly. An aggressive rake on the windshield and back glass help reduce turbulence and drag.

Working closely with GM aerodynamicists to shape the Volt, design and engineering teams developed one of the most aerodynamic vehicles in GM's history. They spent hundreds of hours with the Volt in GM's wind tunnel, testing and re-testing parts such as the front and rear quarter panels, rear spoiler, rockers and side mirrors. Aerodynamic improvements enabled GM to reach the Volt's target of driving up to 40 miles (based on EPA city cycle) without using gasoline or producing emissions.

Inside, the Volt offers the space, comfort, convenience and safety features that customers expect in a four-passenger sedan, and it delivers them in a variety of interior color, lighting and trim options unlike any offered before on a Chevrolet sedan. Modern controls and attractive materials, two informational displays, and a touch-sensitive infotainment center with integrated shifter distinguish the Volt's interior from other vehicles in the market.

Some of Volt's interior technological features include:

* Driver-configurable, liquid crystal instrument display
* Standard seven-inch touch screen vehicle information display
* Touch screen-style climate and infotainment controls
* Optional navigation system with onboard hard drive for maps and music storage
* Standard Bluetooth for cellular phone and USB/Bluetooth for music streaming

New era in automotive transportation
The Chevrolet Volt is leading a new era of electrification of the automobile by creating a new class of vehicle known as the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, or E-REV.

The Volt uses electricity to move the wheels at all times and speeds. For trips up to 40 miles, the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. When the battery's energy is depleted, a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt's electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. This mode of operation extends the range of the Volt for several hundred additional miles, until the vehicle's battery can be charged. Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Volt eliminates "range anxiety," giving the confidence and peace of mind that the driver will not be stranded by a depleted battery.

The Chevrolet Volt can be plugged either into a standard household 120v outlet or use 240v for charging. The vehicle's intelligent charging technology enables the Volt's battery to be charged in less than three hours on a 240v outlet or about eight hours on a 120v outlet. Charge times are reduced if the battery has not been fully depleted. At a cost of about 80 cents per day (10 cents per kWh) for a full charge that will deliver up to 40 miles of electric driving, GM estimates that the Volt will be less expensive to recharge than purchasing a cup of your favorite coffee. Charging the Volt about once daily will consume less electric energy annually than the average home's refrigerator and freezer units.

Charge out of driving
The Chevrolet Volt offers spirited driving performance in a remarkably quiet interior. More than 220 lithium-ion cells contained within the Volt's battery pack provide ample power. The Volt's electric drive unit delivers the equivalent of 150 horsepower, 273 lb-ft. (370 Nm) of instant torque, and a top speed of 100 miles per hour. The lack of engine noise, combined with special sound-deadening materials, make the Chevrolet Volt an extremely quiet vehicle to drive.

GM estimates that the Volt will cost about two cents per mile to drive while under battery power compared to 12 cents per mile using gasoline priced at $3.60 per gallon. For an average driver who drives 40 miles per day (or 15,000 miles per year), this amounts to a cost savings of $1,500 annually. Using peak electric rates, GM estimates that an electrically driven mile in a Chevy Volt will be about one-sixth of the cost of a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. The cost savings are even greater when charging during off-peak hours, when electric rates are cheaper.

The Chevrolet Volt is expected to be built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing facility, subject to GM successfully negotiating satisfactory government incentives. Production is scheduled to begin late 2010 for models in the United States. Pricing has not been announced. Visit media.gm.com/volt for more information.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the annual global industry sales leader for 77 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 266,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 35 countries. In 2007, nearly 9.37 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Hi-Res Spy Photos of Chevy Volt

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Click images for Hi Resolution

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Official: Chevy Volt Spy Shots Are Up!

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First ever shots of production Chevy Volt. Click images for Hi Rez versions...

Editor's Note: From the first shot below, you can clearly see the light coming through the sunroof and rear deck lid of the hatchback.

These shots were captured during filming of the next Transformers movie on Hollywood just yesterday. This is the first ever glimpse of the production Volt design in full.

[source: Transformers Blog]

Boone Pickens vs. NBC. Network Refuses to Run Ad Critical of Iran!

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T. Boone Pickens has issued an email call to his army of "Pickens Plan" volunteers to get the word out about NBC's refusal to run his latest ad. The 15 second spot, which highlights Iran's rampant rush to convert their automobiles to run on natural gas (in order to free up oil that they can sell for $120 a barrel to the US and rest of the world), has apparently been shunned by the powers that be at NBC. No other network has refused the ad however.

We brought you the story of Iran's subsidized CNG car conversion program back in July and we believe that the NBC/Iran controversy will only serve to increase the awareness of this issue.