Monday, August 31, 2009

Cash For Appliances Program

Beginning late this fall, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is initiating a $300 million Cash For Appliances Program to boost sales of energy-efficient home appliances. The program authorizes rebates of $50 to $200 for purchases of high-efficiency household appliances. The money is part of the broader economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year. Program details will vary by state, and the Energy Dept. has set a deadline of Oct. 15 for states to file formal applications.

DOE expects the bulk of the $300 million to be awarded by the end of November. (Unlike the clunkers auto program, consumers won't have to trade in their old appliances.) The rebates will help families make the transition to more efficient appliances. Only appliances covered by the Energy Star seal will qualify. In 2008, about 55% of newly produced major household appliances met those standards, which are set by the Energy Dept. and Environmental Protection Agency.

The initiative will help such leading appliance makers as Whirlpool of Benton Harbor, Michigan and North American shipments for its Stockholm-based rival Electrolux, and General Electric. ENERGY STAR qualified appliance categories eligible for rebates include: central air conditioners, heat pumps (air source and geothermal), boilers, furnaces (oil and gas), room air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, and water heaters.

The federal outlay will piggyback on rebate programs for energy-saving appliances that have existed for years in more than 25 states, but which have largely failed to spur demand. The new funding will be awarded to states and territories, through their energy offices, using a formula set forth in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Each state or territory is required to submit a plan that specifies which ENERGY STAR appliance categories will be included in their rebate program, the rebate level for each product type, how the rebates will be processed, and their plan for recycling old appliances. States and territories must first file an initial application expressing their intent to participate by August 15, 2009, followed by a full application by October 15, 2009. States and territories can use these funds to leverage the utility companies and energy efficiency program sponsors in their area. ( Week, 8/24/09, Saving To Invest)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Do You Calculate MPG For Hybrid & Electric Vehicles?

How do you measure the efficiency of automobiles in terms of gasoline usage as automobiles increasingly rely on multiple fuel sources, or on electricity alone. How do you give consumers accurate information about the financial and environmental costs of driving?

General Motors (GM) says its Chevrolet Volt will get 230 mpg fuel economy in city driving. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still finalizing rules for how it will measure fuel economy on the Volt or other cars that can be plugged into an electrical outlet, so manufacturers' claims are not official. The 230-mpg figure for the Volt, which will be able to run on both electricity and gasoline, doesn't provide energy equivalent information for the use of electricity. The Volt's mpg claim is also based only on city driving -- a standard that favors electric cars.

According to GM, the Volt's battery, when fully charged, can power trips of about 40 miles. Battery-fueled trips won't use any gasoline, although they will require electricity. Once the battery runs out, the engine begins drawing on gasoline. So drivers who use the Volt only for short trips, relying only on electricity, in theory could enjoy infinite fuel economy. Meanwhile, drivers who routinely use the Volt for long journeys, where gasoline power would be necessary, would see a far lower fuel economy than the 230 mpg advertised.

According to Nissan, its all-electric vehicle, the Leaf, will get 367 mpg. That number, a combined city/highway figure, is based entirely on converting electricity usage into a petroleum equivalent, because the Leaf won't use gasoline at all. Although the mileage number is lofty, it doesn't mean that operating the Leaf will be seven times as efficient as driving a 50-mpg Toyota Prius hybrid, because electricity costs vary by region and even by time of day. It also is more difficult for consumers to calculate their savings, because electricity costs aren't posted at roadside stations like those for gasoline.

Researchers are struggling to determine the best way to calculate a single fuel-efficiency rating for vehicles that rely on both electricity and gasoline. Should the conversion factor be based on how much energy each fuel source produces? On how much petroleum is required? Or on the level of harmful emissions produced?

The Department of Energy has come up with guidelines that draw from several competing approaches. Citing those guidelines, Nissan says 82 kilowatt hours of electricity are the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline for the all-electric Leaf. Using the same standard, the GM Volt's city fuel economy could drop to about 130 mpg, if the car's expected electricity consumption were factored in. (WSJ, 8/26/09, Graphic Courtesy WSJ)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Harold Ford, Jr. on the Climate/ Energy Legislation


Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council

President Obama can pass energy legislation this year, but to do so he needs to absorb four lessons from the health-reform debate.

First, write the bulk of the energy bill with the input of Congress. Despite recent dips, Obama's favorable ratings are high enough to enact reform. Having served in Congress, I respect and admire the Democratic leadership, but the country wants the president to lead on his top priorities.

Second, he should own energy. He did as a candidate; he should as president. Control the debate and don't lose control. The country voted for change; give it to them. Regrettably, the health-reform debate has been about "death panels" and "higher taxes," instead of real talk of insurance reform, cost containment, more access for those who don't have insurance and incentives for preventive care. Obama needs to seize the debate and make it about fewer wars over oil, lower gas and electricity prices, and more jobs for Americans.

Third, settle on better language than "cap and trade" and climate change. These abstract labels don't resonate in Kansas. Some analysts have projected that the House energy reform bill will cost each U.S. household $175 a year. That's a small price to prevent today's 13- and 14-year-olds from having to go to war in the Middle East in 10 years to protect oil, which we should drastically reduce our dependence on.

Finally, lead by example. Get on the road and sell energy reform. Practice conservation in the White House. Launch a national competition in public schools that encourages energy conservation. And tell the country why this is important to keep America safe and growing. (Wash Post, 8/23/09)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Types of Mercury Lamps

Mercury is used in a variety of light bulbs. Mercury is useful in lighting because it contributes to the bulbs' efficient operation and life expectancy. Fluorescent and other mercury-added bulbs are generally more energy efficient and last longer than incandescent and other equivalent forms of lighting. While the bulbs are being used, the mercury within them poses no health risk.

Fluorescent lamps operate at a very low gas pressure. They produce light when an electric current passes between two electrodes (also called cathodes) in a tube filled with low-pressure mercury vapor and inert gases, such as argon and krypton. The electric current excites the mercury vapor in the tube, generating radiant energy, primarily in the ultraviolet (UV) range. The energy causes a phosphor coating on the inside of the tube to "fluoresce," converting the UV light into visible light. Changing the composition of the phosphor powder inside fluorescent tubes changes the spectrum of light produced. Mercury is present in the lamp in both the phosphor powder and in the vapor.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Illustration of the components of a fluorescent lamp and how they work
Photo Source: Northeast Lamp Recycling, Inc.

Fluorescent lamps require a ballast, which is a device used to provide and control the voltage in the lamp, and stabilize the current in the circuit. Fluorescent lamps are more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs of an equivalent brightness because more of the energy input is converted to usable light and less is converted to heat. They also have a longer lamp life.

Depending on the type of fluorescent lamp, they can contain a wide range of mercury, from greater than 0 up to 100 milligrams (mg). According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), about half of the fluorescent lamps manufactured by their members and sold in the U.S. contain 5 to 10 mg of mercury; while a quarter contain 10 to 50 mg.

The typical types of fluorescent lamps include: linear (straight), U-tube (bent), and circline (circular) fluorescent lamps/tubes; bug zappers; tanning lamps; black lights; germicidal lamps; high output lamps; cold-cathode fluorescent lamps; and compact fluorescent lamps.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) use the same basic technology as linear fluorescent lamps, but are folded or spiraled in order to approximate the physical volume of an incandescent bulb. Screw-based CFLs typically use "premium" phosphors for good color, come with an integral ballast, and can be installed in nearly any table lamp or lighting fixture that accepts an incandescent bulb. Pin-based CFLs do not employ integral ballasts and are designed to be used in fixtures that have a separate ballast. Both screw-based and pin-based CFLs are used in commercial buildings. Residential use of these types of bulbs is growing because of their energy efficiency and long life.

Individual CFLs generally contain less than 10 mg of mercury, with a significant portion (two-thirds) containing less than 5 mg. A small percentage of CFLs contains between 10 and 50 mg of mercury.

(Source: NEWMOA, Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nuclear Industry Loses Another Giant: Angie Howard

Angelina 'Angie' S. Howard, left, retired as vice president of the nuclear industry's Washington, DC-based association, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), on May 15, 2009. Prior to joining NEI, Howard was vice president and director of industry relations and information services for the Atlanta-based Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. Before joining INPO in 1980, Howard worked at Duke Power Co. from 1969 to 1980.

Howard was a very good friend to the Center and AAEA. She was always open and helpful to our efforts to achieve a nuclear power renaissance. Clearly the renaissance movement is hurt by her retirement. We could call on Howard anytime and anyplace and she welcomed our participation. We will miss you Angie. Feel free to contact us anytime.

Angie went out of her way to accomodate us when a leading representative of China's nuclear R& D program was in Washington, DC to brief the Department of Energy. At our request, she quickly arranged a meeting at NEI so that Dr Yujie Dong could brief NEI on Tinghua Univesity's nuclear power plant research [see video below].

Dr. Yujie Dong is the Director of the High Temperature Reactor Design Division, Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Dr. Dong is leading the team that is developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). His team has built a functioning PBMR research reactor about 40 miles northwest of Beijing near the Great Wall. Center President Norris McDonald and Center Vice President Derry Bigby were graciously briefed, entertained and given a tour of the PBMR in 2007.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dr. James J. Markowsky Confirmed as DOE's Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy

Dr. James J. Markowsky, left, was confirmed by the Senate on August 7, 2009, as the 11th Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. As Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Dr. Markowsky will serve as the primary policy advisor to the Energy Secretary and the department on issues involving federal coal, oil, and natural gas programs, including extensive research and development efforts in those areas.

His responsibilities will include management of the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Home Heating Oil Reserve, coordinating and implementing the Fossil Energy elements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, managing the FutureGen project, and overseeing the Fossil Energy organization of over 1,000 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative staff throughout the nation.

Dr. Markowsky began his career with American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEP) in 1971 as a Senior Engineer in AEP’s Mechanical Division. In 1977, he was named Program Manager for AEP’s pressurized fluidized bed combustion development program.
From 2004-2005, Dr. Markowsky was the President of Research and Development Solution, LLC, where he was involved in providing technical support services, including R&D technology, project, and operations planning and analysis to DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Dr. Markowsky holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pratt Institute, master’s degrees from Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate from Cornell. (DOE)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Cash For Clunkers: Congress Is Selling Cars, Passes Bill

The Senate, on a vote of 60-37, just put $2 billion more into the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program to extend the popular trade-in arrangement until Labor Day. Congress appropriated $1 billion in mid-June, which was meant to stimulate the economy and get people to turn in their gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles, but itran out of funds in days instead of by Nov. 1. Last week, the House hastily approved an additional $2 billion for the program. The White House backs extending the program and President Obama will sign the bill into law ASAP. Under the program, consumers can turn in their clunkers for a voucher worth up to $4,500 toward a new vehicle.

The Transportation Department put out new figures showing that a total of 184,304 trades had consumed $775.2 million of the $1 billion originally appropriated. The Toyota Corolla is the No. 1 selling new car under the clunker program.

Forty-five percent of the new car sales are from the Big Three American automakers. General Motors was the most popular choice, with 18.7 percent of the buyers choosing one of its vehicles, followed by Toyota with 17.9 percent and Ford with 16 percent. After the Corolla, the top-selling new vehicles are the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota's Prius and Camry. Of the new vehicles not manufactured by the Big Three, according to a preliminary analysis by the Transportation Department, "well over half" were made in United States. Of the trade-ins, more than 80 percent are trucks, the government said, with Ford's Explorer and F-150 pickup topping the list. The average miles per gallon of the new vehicles is 25.3, compared with the trade-ins that average 15.8 miles per gallon. (Wash Post, 9/9/09)

Sotomayor (68-31) and Cash For Clunkers approved on the same day. See? The Congress is being very productive.

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Need To Be Restructured

The Center long ago recommended that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be broken up into 20 competing smaller companies. Now it appears that the Obama adminstration is taking our advice. The Obama administration, through its White House's National Economic Council, is considering a preliminary proposal to overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by striping them of hundreds of billions of dollars in troubled loans and create a new structure to support the home-loan market.

The bad debts the firms own would be placed in new government-backed financial institutions -- so-called bad banks -- that would take responsibility for collecting as much of the outstanding balance as possible. What would be left would be two healthy financial companies with a clean slate.The "bad bank" would be a depository for Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's toxic assets.

Then the government could create new companies that would attract private investment in support of mortgage finance. Options for the "good banks" include consolidating the firms into one government agency, leaving mortgage finance to private banks or maintaining a hybrid model.

Fannie and Freddie were effectively nationalized in September 2008 amid a market meltdown that revealed much of their holdings to be troubled. The government has since pledged more than $1.5 trillion, including $85 billion in direct aid, to keep the mortgage market working through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Federal Reserve has bought well over $1 trillion worth of mortgage-related securities and debt from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That further helped to lower interest rates on home loans. The government also has pledged up to $400 billion in direct investments in the firms. (Wash Post, 8/6/09)

Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Bail Out Bill Signed By President Bush

Net Metering Backed Securities

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Energy Information Administration: Climate Bill Will Cost Postage Stamp Per Day By 2030

A new analysis by the Energy Information Agency EIA confirms findings by earlier reports from the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency that the Waxman-Markey energy and climate legislation will cost Americans roughly the same as a postage stamp a day. The EIA analysis projects an increased cost of about $83 (adjusted for inflation) by 2030 -- or roughly 23 cents a day. (DOE)

The EIA Report