Sunday, December 26, 2010

Green Machine New Year Message

The end of the year is upon us and the Green Machine has survived 360 days in 2010 being bombarded with mostly junk science and bad news on the topic of green. The movie Wall Street 2 is out and it too had a green theme in its plot. Greed is Good replaced by Green is Good. Hell No! just some fusion nonsense woven into thin film PV woven into human greed and fear. Obama and Chu have wasted our dollars on myriad junk ideas. The worst but not the largest waste was the guaranteeing of loans for Raser the Wealth Eraser that is now delisted from the NYSE. Perhaps the second biggest pile of junk that got loan guarantees from Uncle Sam was A 123. The third is Tesla and the fourth is Solyndra. The list is long and the money is gone. Unemployment remains at 9.8%. We are crawling out of the recession with GDP growth of approximately 2.5% for the year 2010. The one big increase that Mr. Obama can point to is the increase in carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 over 2009. Yeah CO2 emissions are up by 3.9% over last year. Well done Mr Chu Chu Train you spent a hundred billion bucks on green and yielded CO2 emissions. Chu and his Boss will say we had a hot summer and increased economic activity. Well we will have many more hot summers and hopefully increased economic activity in the future so how in the name of Lincoln can we reverse carbon emissions from growth to decline and reverse economic decline to economic growth?

Obama inherited a mess from Bush and both of them get an F in Thermodynamics 101. Bush and Bodman gave us the junk science of hydrogen and corn ethanol. Obama and Chu get an even lower grade for the nonsense they have invested in and their support of companies like Raser and A 123. This country needs a real energy policy and it needs to be taken out of the hands of the parties. We need an Engineering General like the Surgeon general who can operate on the basis of science and not the basis of political expediency. My worthless Congresswoman is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to websites that claim how well she did on green legislation. She did nothing and simply tried to placate me by giving me 15 minutes of her time while her party ruled the house. What a joke! When I now asked her to call the director of the EPA to a hearing for the nonsense the EPA is allowing plug in junk to claim for MPGs her chief of staff replied you will have to ask the Republicans to do this as she no longer sets the agenda for her subcommittee. The only agenda she ever set was her own agenda and the agenda of her party that ruled the house for many years and wasted our tax dollars. She should take note that soon the only icebergs that will be left will be lettuce and she will melt away with a legacy of less value than a beat up 2000 Subaru Legacy.

Now that I have moaned about the distressed state of our union what can be done and what make sense other than the junk of Project Lost in Space, The Bloom is off the Rose, and Raser the Wealth Eraser. LEDs makes sense, small diesel or standard hybrid cars make sense, electric bicycles make sense, double paned windows with argon fill makes sense, smaller home closer to work makes sense, carpooling makes sense, reusable cloth shopping bags make sense, not overheating or overcooling your home makes sense; roofs painted white make sense, heating water on demand with natural gas makes sense, eating less red meat and more chicken and tofu makes sense, recycling aluminum cans and other materials makes sense, synthetic lawns makes sense, and yes carbon taxes makes sense. The list goes on. The problem with our parties is it is not about sense it is about dollars that to them are worth 100 times what sense is worth. The other institution that should bear blame for the mess is the press. Sixty Minutes used to expose hype and fraud now they tout the gangrene hucksters that claim to be the saints of green. Yeah their green is the green that can be counted, my green is the green that counts. Readers pay attention to the words of this sign that hanged in Albert Einstein’s office at Princeton: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Happy New Year and remember you can fuel some of the people some of the time but you cannot fuel all the people all of the time. The good news is Toxic Tony is now sailing somewhere with his silver foot in his mouth. What a year it was!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pesticide link to ADHD

Perhaps we need to take a step back and assess our priorities as individuals and as a society. Don't know if anyone saw this in the news several months ago, but a Harvard and U of Montreal study found that children age 8-15 with higher levels of organophosphate pesticide residue in their urine had roughly double the chance of being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) compared to those without detectable levels. While the study did not address causation, it certainly is evidence that pesticides used on agricultural crops are making their way into our (kids') bodies.

I haven't heard anyone claim pesticides in the bloodstream do any good. On the contrary, they seem to be at the very least contributing to some harm. What concentration of pesticide, if any, is an acceptable risk? How can we, the consumers, prevent pesticides from entering our bodies? Go organic, for starters.

Organic methods of farming enhance soil fertility and crop growth without the use of fossil fuel-based chemical N:P:K fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Natural weed and bug-fighting methods are used so as not to harm the ecosystem of the farm. After all, soil is a living thing with mycorrhizal fungi interacting with plant roots and bacteria to cycle "organic" or life-produced nutrients through the soil into the plants and animals that eat the plants. Crop rotation is essential to prevent the buildup of harmful plant pathogens and stripping of vital nutrients.

Critics of organic farming say it produces lower yields and if all farms suddenly went organic there would not be enough food to feed a growing population. Nonsense, I say. Numerous long-term field studies have been conducted which show organic yields are as good or better than conventional chemical farming on neighboring control plots. In fact, organic plots often have lower rates of disease and infestation, perform better in droughts, do not leach many harmful nitrates into the groundwater or erode topsoil, and tend to be more profitable per acre.

Should we let the evidence be our guide?

~Mark Bremer, Green Explored Contributor

Thursday, December 16, 2010

LED = Leveen Enlightened Democrats

Lots of news out of Asia that LEDs are gaining market share in the lighting world. I had tried but in vain to enlighten my Congresswoman who is a dyed in the Woolsey democrat. I tried to tell her that the energy policy of Chu Chu Train was headed toward a siding that joins the bridge to nowhere. I wrote her an email this past month saying that had she listened to the Green Machine she may have left a legacy of energy policy that was blazoned in bright white light but alas her legacy is now that of a black hole where no light escapes. Had she listened to the Green Machine she would have been a LED or a Leveen Enlightened Democrat.

LEDs the real ones not the Leveen Enlightened Democrats are amazing devices that emit light with much less energy. Here are two article from a Taiwanese Microelectronics Trade Magazine called Digitimes. Note a lm is a lumen and a 60 watt incandescent bulb emits about 890 lumens. Therefore at $1 per 500 lumens a LED with the same lighting intensity of a 60 watt incandescent bulb will cost $1.80 to produce. A high first cost but the LED will not burn out within 100,000 hours.

Lighting-grade LED chip costs to fall to US$1/500lm in 2-3 years, says Epistar executive

Siu Han, Taipei; Willie Teng, DIGITIMES [Thursday 16 December 2010]

Production cost of lighting-grade LED chips will fall to US$1/500lm in the next 2-3 years, and if that is the case, LED lighting's market penetration will reach 20-30% in 2012 according MJ Jou, president of Taiwan-based LED chip maker Epistar.

At the recent Beijing-Taiwan Science and Technology Forum held in Taichung, Taiwan, Jou said that 40W LED light bulbs are currently US$20-30 and 60W light bulbs are US$40. Judging by market conditions, there is a good chance that the LED sector could beat the target of US$1/500lm in 2015 set by the US' Department of Energy, Jou noted.

At the moment, lighting-grade LED chip costs have reached US$1/200lm at the lowest, and could become the average in 2011.

In the past, manufacturers added red phosphor powder to warm white LEDs, which reduced luminance by 30-40%, Jou said. Epistar's red LED chip has improved from 165lm/W to a laboratory-achieved 180lm/W in December.

According to Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) data, Taiwan's LED lighting production totaled NT$93.6 billion (US$3.1 billion) in 2009 and will rise to NT$16.77 billion in 2010. LED chips and modules will account for 64%, backlight applications 31% and lighting applications 5%. Taiwan has about 50 LED chip makers, 60 chip packagers and 100 end-use application companies, ITRI noted

TSMC aims to become top-5 LED player worldwide
Siu Han, Taipei; Yvonne Yu, DIGITIMES [Wednesday 15 December 2010]

With its LED lighting R&D center to be finished soon, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) hopes to become a top-five LED player worldwide in the future.

TSMC noted that with the LED lighting market taking off, the lineup of current global top-five LED players is expected to change. In addition to players from Japan and Korea, there will be one more player from Asia in the new top-five.

Current top-five LED players are Royal Philips Electronics, Osram, Cree, Nichia and Toyoda Gosei.

TSMC's LED R&D center will be completed at the end of 2010 and start mass production in the first half of 2011. Unlike other LED players using sapphire substrate for production, TSMC will use silicon and will focus on the cost advantages of mass production scales, producing own-brand LED light sources and light engine products and produce LED lighting products through a vertical integrated system.

TSMC noted that although most players expect demand for LCD TV backlighting to increase significantly in 2011, LED-backlit TV market share is expected to be lower than in 2010 due to high prices. Unless LED-backlit TV prices drop significantly, LED-backlit TV market share will not be able to reach 40% as expected.

Demand for LCD TV backlighting brings new hope for the LED industry and is causing players to actively expand their MOCVD sets, overall MOCVD sets in China are expected to reach 300, and 100 sets in Taiwan. However, players did not expect the usage of LEDs in TV backlighting to be reduced through design, resulting in reductions in LED chips while LED-backlit TV shipments continue to increase. Korea-based TV vendors' strategy for LED-backlit TVs is expected to affect the schedule for LED lighting to take off. Once LED capacity exceeds demand, players will become more active to generate growth in the LED lighting market.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Secretary Chu Agrees That Lithium Ion Is Dead End

Finally the chu chu train has pulled into the station. Old Stevie Wonder Chu the brain behind Obama's energy policy has admitted that his Boss and him have wasted the treasury's money on thermo junk science. This is not me opining but a guy named John peterson out of Switzerland. Here is what old Uncle John said:

Disclosure: Author is a former director of Axion Power International and owns a substantial long position in its common stock.
About the author: John Petersen

I'm a U.S. lawyer based in Switzerland. I work as a partner in the law firm of Fefer Petersen & Cie ( and represent North American, European and Asian clients, principally in the energy and alternative energy sectors. My practice is limited to corporate securities and small... More
• Company: Fefer Petersen & Cie
• Blog: EV Insights

Last week Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun. After watching the video presentation several times, I can't help but wonder whether the Secretary didn't politely caution his audience that lithium-ion batteries are a dead-end electric drive technology. I could be misinterpreting Secretary Chu's remarks, but if you own stock in a lithium-ion battery developer like A123 Systems (AONE), Ener1 (HEV), Valence Technologies (VLNC) or Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTID), or are considering any of these companies for your portfolio, the discussion that starts 25 minutes into the following video could be very important.

My impressions, observations and interpretations are summarized below.

Secretary Chu began his electric drive remarks with a politically correct but specious comparison of vehicle efficiencies that followed the EPA fuel efficiency party line I criticized in the article Alice in EVland, Part II. The numbers simply don't work unless you ignore efficiency losses and emissions on the utility side of the electric meter. Ignoring the political posturing, the most curious and troubling aspect of the Secretary's electric drive remarks was his description of what it would take for electric drive to be competitive with internal combustion:
"And what would it take to be competitive? It will take a battery, first that can last for 15 years of deep discharges. You need about five as a minimum, but really six- or seven-times higher storage capacity and you need to bring the price down by about a factor of three. And then all of a sudden you have a comparably performing car; let's say a mid-sized car which has a comparable acceleration and a comparable range."

Now, how soon will that be? Well, we don't know, but the Department of Energy is supporting a number of very innovative approaches to batteries and its not like its 10 years off in the future, in my opinion. It might be five years off in the future. It's soon. Meanwhile the batteries, the ones we have now, will drop by a factor of two within a couple of years and they're gonna get better. But if you get to this point, then it just becomes something that's automatic and I think the public will really go for that."

While Secretary Chu was explaining these bottom-line technical and economic requirements, the following summary text was superimposed on a background slide that compared the relative energy densities of common fuels.

"A rechargeable battery that can last for 5,000 deep discharges, 6-7 x higher storage capacity (3.6 Mj/kg = 1,000 Wh) at 3x lower price will be competitive with internal combustion engines (400 - 500 mile range)."

The unspoken yet undeniable truth in Secretary Chu's presentation is that it's impossible to achieve energy densities of 1,000 Wh/kg with lithium-ion batteries. The following graph comes from the Electricity Storage Association and shows the relative energy densities of various battery chemistries on a logarithmic scale. While the graph uses kilowatt-hours per ton and per cubic meter for its scale, the magic of the metric system means that the watt-hours per kilogram and per liter end up at the same root numbers, just three orders of magnitude smaller.

Lithium-ion battery developers have made great strides over the last few years when it comes to cycle-life and safety. In every case, however, the gains have come at the cost of reduced energy density. Today's lithium-ion batteries have energy densities of 95 to 190 wh/kg and it's reasonable to believe energy densities will continue to improve at rates of 4% to 5% per year. However, the only battery chemistries that have a chance of achieving energy densities in the 1,000 wh/kg range are rechargeable metal-air and other technologies that IBM and others are working feverishly to develop.

What most investors don't understand is that emerging metal-air technologies have nothing in common with lithium-ion technology. The raw materials, fabrication methods, manufacturing facilities and fundamental chemistry are completely different. I can't predict whether or when the new technologies will be available, but Secretary Chu seems confident that the timeframe is more than five years and less than ten. Since he's forgotten more about battery technology than I'll ever learn, I tend to take his predictions seriously.

EVangelicals who believe electric drive ranks right up there with motherhood, apple pie, truth and justice have heralded Secretary Chu’s presentation as wonderful news. From an investor's perspective, I don't see how it can be viewed as anything less than a shot across the bow of the lithium-ion battery industry – a clear statement that electric drive requires better price and performance than lithium-ion batteries can deliver and an unmistakable implication that the DOE is now focused on more promising technologies.

Were I stockholder in a lithium-ion battery developer, Secretary Chu's presentation in Cancun would scare me senseless. He effectively said that developers of lithium-ion batteries can expect a couple years of intense cost pressure before their products become marginally non-competitive. If prices fall far enough and fast enough, those developers will enjoy a three- to eight-year window when they can build market share and perhaps earn a profit. By 2020, a new generation of even more advanced battery technologies will make the best lithium-ion batteries obsolete.

A recurring theme in this blog is that energy storage plays by a different set of rules. Information technology was great fun because creative types could write code one day and roll it into the global market the next. In the battery business, developers have to spend years refining their technologies, developing new production processes and building factories; which invariably means the next generation technology is nipping at their heels before they can hit the start button for a shiny new factory. Once a newer, better and cheaper technology starts grabbing headlines, obtaining expansion capital to build a second factory for yesterday's technology can be very difficult.

I was a Prodigy user in the early-90s and remember what happened when America Online launched a better platform. I also remember what happened when Yahoo! (YHOO) supplanted AOL and when Google (GOOG) supplanted Yahoo! Nobody knows what it will take to knock Google off its pedestal, but I have every confidence that some creative entrepreneur will find a way, because that's the nature of the beast. Today's apex predators always become tomorrow's lunch.

During the fifth industrial revolution, investors made outsized returns by speculating in companies that would be market leaders when the future unfolded. In the sixth industrial revolution the outsized returns will come from investments in established market leaders that sell proven products into rapidly expanding markets while the future unfolds.

I like the lead-acid battery sector because a global manufacturing infrastructure already exists; top manufacturers like Johnson Controls (JCI), Exide (XIDE) and Enersys (ENS) generate billions in annual revenue and substantial profits by selling mundane products that serve the mundane needs of everyday people; and upstart innovators like Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) are developing important enhancements to proven technologies that can be integrated into existing factories without building new manufacturing infrastructure from the ground up.

There will always be a raging battle for the peak performance crown among battery technology superstars. Unless the overall rate of technological progress slows to a snail's pace like it did in the case of corn ethanol, today's best battery technologies will not have enough time to mature and build a global footprint before they're eclipsed by tomorrow's best battery technologies. Meanwhile the established industry leaders will continue manufacturing profitable products to meet rapidly growing global demand.

Call me a Luddite, but I don't want to own a technology that will be obsolete before it becomes profitable.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Scare tactics against cloth bags

Here is a ridiculous article about how reusable grocery bags might kill you. How about we worry about the antibiotic-resistant fecal-contaminated factory farmed animal parts we put into these bags and eventually OUR MOUTHS that are contaminating the bags because they are pumped full of antibiotics to keep them "healthy" as they stand/sit in their own feces all day long and are actually fed USDA approved chicken manure as a protein supplement (just read Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin)... and I've got news for you: coliform bacteria are everywhere you care to look. 50% of the bags NOT having coliform is pretty good. (BTW I teach Microbiology) See dumb article below.

~Mark Bremer, Green Explored Contributor

Reusable Shopping Bags: Safe?

According to a joint food safety research report issued by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University, reusable grocery bags can serve as a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health.

The researchers randomly tested reusable grocery bags carried by shoppers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tucson. Researchers also found consumers were almost completely unaware of the need to regularly wash their bags.

"Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half the bags sampled," said Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a University of Arizona environmental microbiology professor and co-author of the study. "Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags after every use."

reusable-bag.jpgGerber said the bacteria levels found in reusable bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even lead to death. This is a particular danger for young children who are especially vulnerable to foodborne illnesses.

The study found that people were not aware of the potential risks. A full 97 percent of those interviewed have never washed or bleached their bags. Gerber said that thorough washing kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in reusable bags.

The report comes at a time when some members of the California State Legislature, through Assembly Bill 1998, are seeking to promote increased consumer use of reusable bags by banning plastic bags from California stores.

"If this is the direction California wants to go, our policymakers should be prepared to address the ramifications for public health," said co-author Ryan Sinclair, Ph.D., a professor at Loma Linda University's School of Public Health.

The report noted that "a sudden or significant increase in use of reusable bags without a major public education campaign on how to reduce cross contamination would create the risk of significant adverse public health impact."

Sinclair noted that contamination rates appeared to be higher in Los Angeles than the other two locations. He believes this is likely due to that region's weather being more conducive to growth of bacteria in reusable bags.

The report, "Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags," offered the following policy recommendations for lawmakers, as well as tips for consumers who use reusable grocery bags including:

1. When using reusable bags, consumers should be careful to separate raw foods from other food products,

2. Consumers should not use reusable food bags for such other purposes as carrying books or gym clothes, and

3. Consumers should not store reusable bags in the trunks of cars because the higher temperature promotes growth of bacteria.

Haggen grocery stores have introduced an antibacterial polypropylene reusable bag that helps prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

The antibacterial bags at Haggen and TOP Food stores are the first in the world that are treated with AP-360, an antimicrobial product that controls harmful and odor-causing bacteria (MRSA), mold, mildew, and fungus. It is produced from natural resources that are abundantly renewable. Chitin, the active substance, is derived from the shells of crabs and contains unique antimicrobial properties.

"We know some customers have wanted to embrace the environmental benefits of reusable bags but have had food safety concerns," said Becky Skaggs, spokesperson for Haggen and TOP Food stores. "These antibacterial reusable bags help prevent the spread of E. coli, Salmonella and other bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, even after repeated washings."

Haggen and TOP Food stores contracted with Proforma Mountainview Printing of Lynden, Washington, which used chitin in developing the antibacterial reusable bags.

The bags are $1.99 a piece and are safe to use by everyone, including those who are allergic to shellfish, according to the Bellingham Herald.

A partial list of bacteria and fungi that are controlled by AP-360 can be found here.