Posts Tagged California

The International Climate REDI Project

Posted by on Tuesday, 4 January, 2011

The Climate Renewables and Efficiency Development Initiative is an international agreement, led by the Department of Energy, that helps residents of low income countries switch to more energy efficient appliances. According to the Department of Energy, the United States will be paying $85 billion of the project costs from 2011-2015, and other developed countries will cover the remaining $265 billion in costs.

This project includes several new programs. One program is the Solar and LED energy program. LED bulbs are much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they are even more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs. The purpose of this project is to provide the bulbs, along with solar generators, to rural residents and other people who don’t have access to the electric grid.

The Super Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment program is also a new program that Climate REDI establishes. The program focuses on market incentives. California and other states periodically offer tax credits for energy efficient appliances, immediate purchase rebates, and provide subsidies so that sources of clean energy can compete with other power sources such as coal and oil. According to Humboldt State University, California advisers are already familiar with establishing standards for these incentive programs because of the previous and current initiatives in the state.

The third new Climate REDI program is the Clean Energy Information Platform. This is a database that allows scientists in developing countries to easily exchange information with advisers in the developed countries that are funding the project. Each technologically advanced country picks different areas of expertise, so Australia and Britain consult on carbon capture and Germany and Spain give advice about solar power.

Another program is the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program. $250 billion out of the total $350 billion of project funds will support this program, which is an existing program that the World Bank manages, according to America.gov. Although Climate REDI offers $250 million to finance this project, the World Bank also uses funds from other sources to support renewable energy projects in developing countries.

Climate Change Grants

Posted by on Friday, 20 August, 2010

Federal funding is available for climate change research and education projects. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides monetary contribution to states as well as to cities, counties, and other local programs. The goal of ARRA is to support existing initiatives, so many of these projects form partnerships, with more funding provided by existing donor companies and local taxpayers.

The City of Minneapolis has an annual program which awards climate change grants, which was founded in 2007. The Minneapolis program is open to all types of applicants, from individuals to universities and corporations, and the 2010 program awards up to $10,000 per winner. One unique requirement for this grant is that the applicant should help people register for the Minnesota Energy Challenge.

The California Energy Commission awards climate change grants as part of its PIER program. PIER, or Public Interest Energy Research, supports both efficiency in energy use and projects which produce additional clean energy. PIER grants are large, as the California Energy Commission may provide up to $1 million in funding, and the project may also receive additional federal support.

The Department of Agriculture also awards climate change grants. These are some of the largest climate change grants available anywhere, as the USDA can award up to $25 million for a single project. This is even larger than the Department of Energy grants which average around $5 million. The Department of Agriculture is looking for methods which reduce the amounts of energy, water, and nitrogen based fertilizer that farmers require. These grants are also available to anyone, including individuals, and the Department of Agriculture will award smaller grants for projects with less requirements.

California also has a program available that supports small individual projects. The California Energy Commission created the Energy Innovations Small Grant Program, which provides as much as $95,000 for hardware demonstrations and up to $50,000 for projects which model climate change. This program allows small businesses to apply. These projects cover the same topics as the PIER request for proposals, just on a smaller scale.

Vermont also awards climate change grants. According to the Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, 17 projects throughout Vermont received $188,000 in total funding in 2009. Projects included replacing inefficient boilers at schoolhouses, adding efficient insulation to buildings, and replacing inefficient light bulbs such as incandescent bulbs. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources lists the grant conditions, which focus on small scale efficiency and conservation improvements that can easily be implemented in several Vermont communities.

Solar Electric Charging Stations in California

Posted by on Thursday, 15 July, 2010

Electric cars are a sustainable alternative to petroleum powered cars, since electric cars do not need a constant supply of gasoline or diesel to fuel them. One of the major issues with powering electric cars is the sustainability of their power supply, as charging an electric vehicle from a wall socket likely means that the car is using electricity generated by coal plants or other nonrenewable sources. In addition, electric generator stations are not available in many locations.

A partnership between the solar company Solar City and Rabobank provides solar power to many California residents. Rabobank is assisting in two ways, it is financing construction of solar power generation facilities, and it is setting up electric power charging stations at bank branches. Many banks offer their customers pens, I don’t know of any that offer their customers a place to refuel their cars. The Rabobank locations offering power generation are in locations such as Atascadero and Salinas, along the coast and inland area following Highway 101 in Central California. Central California includes many long stretches of highway where cities and gas stations are rare and it could be 30 miles before reaching the next station, so this is very useful to drivers of electric vehicles which may have a shorter range than gas powered vehicles. There are plenty of electric charging stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so providing a charging station halfway between the cities is the logical step. According to Rabobank, there will be six power generation stations in Central California producing a combined 200 kilowatts of solar power to charge electric cars’ batteries.

This charging station project is also operating with the assistance of Tesla Motors, an electric vehicle manufacturer. According to Tesla Motors, Solar City already builds electric chargers for home charging of Tesla Motors cars. The partnership ensures that these charging stations are designed to operate with existing electric vehicles available on the California market. Although Tesla mentions that these stations are in populated locations, most of these towns are extremely small compared to the densely populated Southern California and Northern California locations. Adding locations in Goleta, Watsonville, Salinas, and a few other cities cuts the distance between charging stations to around 60 miles as far as I can tell which should provide plenty of leeway. It would be interesting to see charging stations on the northern section of 101 up to Portland. Although much of the area is heavily forested, people up there are environmentally conscious enough to make it work. Arcata has an electric charging system already, so chargers in the Mendocino region would be the most helpful.

California Organic Regulations

Posted by on Monday, 14 June, 2010

The State of California regulates companies that sell farm produce with organic labels on it. These are separate regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture Organic program, although California lawmakers do coordinate their rules with federal regulators. For example, the state California Organic Program mentions both the Organic Foods Production Act, a federal bill, and the state’s Organic Products Act.

Certification is mandatory for any business that sells more than five thousand dollars of organic products each year. The certification process includes farm products such as grains and vegetables as well as farm animals, and applies to businesses that claim the “organic” label even if they don’t state that their product is completely organic. The process requires an inspection from a government worker and businesses that cannot prove they passed the inspection may be fined.

California legislators passed the California Organic Products Act which synchronizes California organic regulations with federal regulations. The law separates federal and state responsibilities, and according to the California Department of Health Services, the federal government now regulates many processed organic foods and the state regulates raw and unprocessed forms. Federal regulators like to use the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to regulate any product which can be sold in other states, so it makes sense that raw products are more likely to be sold within the state and state authorities can handle their sale, and processed products that may be purchased elsewhere in the United States properly fall under federal authority.

The California Organic Products Act requires farms to register with the California Department of Health Services. This includes an annual registration fee, which also covers some of the state’s inspection expenses. According to the State of California, organic pet food is now subject to the same labeling requirements as food intended for humans. Organic cosmetics are also now regulated and the requirement is that they contain 70% or more organic material to use the organic label. That’s the main organic cosmetics requirement, the State doesn’t mention cruelty free products or what is allowable in the other 30% of the content.

The State does provide a general description of organic livestock care. According to Take Charge California, organic feed is a requirement for ranchers who wish to sell organic meat. The livestock should also receive natural treatment such as being able to roam around outside, and not be stuffed with medication. Farm animal medication is a major issue since it can lead to the growth of bacteria that resist antibiotics and other drugs, some of which can get into meat which is improperly processed.

Organic regulations vary according to the amount of organic content claimed, according to the State of California. California regulates solids according to product weight and liquids according to fluid volume, according to the Organic Products Act. Since water and salt may be added without jeopardizing the product’s organic status, it is possible to add water to get a product past the 70 percent threshold, although this will be obvious to consumers if a farm or manufacturer takes this route.

California Proposition 16 and Alternative Energy

Posted by on Sunday, 6 June, 2010

California has several propositions on the ballot. One of these propositions, Proposition 16, requires a two thirds vote before establishing a community power generation project. The proposition is backed by Pacific Gas and Electric, the large utility, since it would prevent cities and counties from setting up competing power generation systems.

This proposition would have a significant detrimental effect on renewable energy generation. Wind turbines, solar panels, and other clean energy generating systems require an investment to install, and many individuals cannot afford to purchase them. This is why the federal government is distributing money for the state rebate programs. Since communities have more resources than an individual, they can afford the upfront costs to set up a renewable source of energy. Proposition 16 requires a supermajority which means that a third of the people in an area could block the wind or solar plant.

Alternative energy systems are already operating throughout the state. Santa Clara Green Power provides renewable energy to its customers with a surcharge of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Customers who sign up for this program are also supporting wind and solar generation systems nearby. One of these wind turbine installations is the High Winds wind farm in Solano County. Santa Clara Green Power mentions that this does not include the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, which are an older design that produces hazards to birds. New turbine designs such as the two blade turbines that Nordic Wind Power receives federal loan guarantees to produce are less hazardous to birds.

The proponents of Proposition 16 will argue that their ballot proposition saves residents money. According to Marin Clean Energy, the county offers residents the opportunity to buy renewable energy at the same rate their current power suppliers charge. The Marin County Energy Authority administers this program and provides energy to Marin County residents, including residents of cities such as Belvedere, Mill Valley, San Rafael, and Sausalito.

Clean energy generation is not limited to cities in Northern California. One of the famous community power projects operates in Anaheim. Anaheim provides water and power as a local service. According to the City of Anaheim, power rates are as much as forty percent lower than rates in neighboring cities, and this is in Orange County where the cost of living is very high. The City of Anaheim is also offering double rebates to residents who purchase Energy Star appliances. Note that Pacific Gas and Electric, the major utility supporting Proposition 16, doesn’t operate this far south, Southern California Edison is the main regional utility, and according to Black Voice News, it hasn’t taken a position on Proposition 16.

According to the Topanga Messenger, the community power generation projects were established after the Community Choice Aggregation Bill of 2002. This bill was a response to the electricity crisis that occurred a year or so earlier, which involved Enron, blackouts, and significant price gouging. Communities decided they didn’t want to be forced to buy electricity on an easily manipulated market, and set up their own power generation systems.

Environmental Lawyers in Ventura County

Posted by on Saturday, 29 May, 2010

Environmental lawyers are lawyers who specialize in environmental suits. These include claims against companies such as BP for disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon crisis. Another major area is asbestos litigation, since asbestos causes the disease mesothelioma and it is very difficult to remove from buildings safely. Environmental lawyers also take cases involving topics such as toxic mold, that can grow inside walls if inspectors do not properly examine a building.

Knowledge of environmental topics is necessary, in addition to having the credentials to practice law. Michael Lyons, a local lawyer, mentions on his web site that he has experience in environmental remediation, as well as a degree in environmental studies. It’s necessary to know how to appropriately clean up a contaminated site so a lawyer can explain what a company or individual should have done. This includes knowledge about pesticides and other harmful chemicals that drain into the groundwater.

Real estate overlaps with environmental law. Some of the major fights in Ventura County are over the conversion of farmland into new housing tracts. Apartments and condos replace the strawberry and orange fields that were once much more common in this area. The firm of Richard Francis handles real estate and the environment, and works with other groups on initiatives such as the greenbelt legislation that regulates development in cities such as Oxnard and Camarillo.

There are specific rules that affect environmental lawyers. Typically an environmental law firm performs an audit for a client to determine the extent of damage, such as pollution. Janet Dillon notes that this audit can be used against a client in court unless the lawyer requests the audit, which provides confidentiality.

Environmental law involves compliance with federal and California regulations about air and water quality. This is especially important in cities near the San Fernando Valley, since the structure of the valley traps smog and there are many cars on the 101 and other freeways which produce lots of smog. Attorneys such as Gregory Regier may specialize in compliance with national legislation such as the National Environmental Policy Act, or state regulation such as the California Environmental Quality Act.

Special projects such as the liquid natural gas terminal I wrote about yesterday are also a topic in environmental law. Lawyers can delay or even block a dangerous project. Some lawyers also advise state governments about the risks of a liquid natural gas terminal project, such as Matthew Berger.

Food litigation is another topic in environmental law. A product must be grown according to specific rules if the seller wishes to make certain claims. Organic products, grown without many pesticides, sell for greater amounts because customers want healthy foods. Becki Kammerling provides consulting services for companies who want to certify produce as USDA Organic.

Methyl Iodide and California Farm Regulations

Posted by on Sunday, 2 May, 2010

California is considering legalizing the use of methyl iodide as a fumigant for crops such as strawberries. This chemical is being considered as a replacement after the ban on methyl bromide, which was banned because of its effects on the ozone layer. Methyl bromide is also poisonous but methyl iodide is worse.

Methyl iodide is selected because the larger iodine atom is heavier than bromine, so it cannot rise into the atmosphere as easily as bromine. Light also degrades methyl iodide faster than methyl bromide. As the iodine atom is larger, it is also more stable as an iodine ion, and disassociates much more easily from the methyl group. The methyl ion is what is causing the toxicity problems, since the methyl free radical can attach to chemicals in the body and react with them, as it reacts with ozone in the atmosphere.

The selling pitch is that methyl iodide is more effective at killing plant bugs and worms than methyl bromide, which is true for the reasons mentioned above. Some growers and pesticide manufacturers claim that methyl iodide is safe because of its lower vapor pressure. The heavier iodine containing molecule does not evaporate into the air as easily as bromine does, even if it is more toxic. That reduces the amount of methyl iodide in the air, but if it’s on clothing or the workers’ skin, as well as on the vegetables, it remains very dangerous.

According to the Sacramento Bee, methyl iodide is approved as a fumigant in 47 other states. This is concerning, since it means that this pesticide is sprayed in other fields where foods are harvested for shipment to California. California grows a lot of its own crops, so pesticides from other states are not a huge concern, but people who live near farms in other states and countries might want to be aware of this regulatory battle.

Green Refrigerator Payback Period

Posted by on Saturday, 17 April, 2010

The State of California, along with the other US states, offers rebates on the purchase of energy efficient household appliances, including refrigerators. The payback period for these green refrigerators is the amount of time it takes before a homeowner covers the expenses of their new refrigerator and starts gaining money.

A green refrigerator is sold at a retail store, such as Best Buy or Sears. The customer receives a rebate that the merchant turns in to the state government agency in charge of the environmental rebate program, so there is a deduction included in the purchase price. The customer also pays money to transport the new refrigerator home and have it installed.

So you add up the initial costs:
Refrigerator $1000
State Rebate ($200)
Installation $50
So the total purchase and installation cost is $850.

Next, add the operations expenses and energy savings each year. An Energy Star qualified refrigerator reduces energy consumption by at least twenty percent. Because of the additional cost for powering other appliances in the house, the savings from purchasing an Energy Star refrigerator may be a lot higher. Using the Energy Star Calculator and California’s average power rate, the site shows a cost reduction from $183 a year to $58 a year for a typical California refrigerator, an average annual savings of $125. Refrigerators don’t last forever, so the payback period includes the refrigerator’s depreciation cost. This requires estimating the refrigerator’s normal lifetime. Since we are buying a new 2010 refrigerator for $1000 sticker price, it’s a quality product, so we’ll use 20 years as the lifetime. Dividing $850 by 20 we get a straight line depreciation of $42.50.

Operation costs and savings:
Energy Savings $125
Depreciation ($42.50)
So the total savings each year is $82.50.

Dividing the initial refrigerator cost, $850, by the savings in energy bills, $82.50, provides the payback period, 10.3 years. The homeowner breaks even after 10.3 years, but the refrigerator usually lasts for 20 years. Multiplying the savings of $82.50 by the remaining lifespan, 9.7 years, gives the homeowner a total power bill reduction of $800.25 when buying a refrigerator through the California program. This calculation assumes energy costs remain the same, so if they increase each year, the refrigerator buyer will save more over time.

California Energy Star Rebates for Washing Machines, Refrigerators, and Air Conditioners

Posted by on Thursday, 15 April, 2010

The Energy Star Rebate program, also part of the Recovery Act, provides rebates to buyers of household appliances. Appliances have to qualify as energy efficient, and there has been some debate over unacceptable appliances recently. Recent scandals involved rebate approval for green products that weren’t actually green, so the state governments paying out the rebates are now paying a lot closer attention to the Energy Star rebates.

California’s program for energy star rebates is called Cash for Appliances. The program begins accepting rebate applications on Earth Day and continues for a month afterward, from 4/22/2010 to 5/23/2010. Surprisingly enough, the California government allows rebate applications to be sent in as late as 6/25/2010 in case people need a month to send in the Energy Star rebate coupon. As with the Cash for Clunkers program, the California rebates only apply to the replacement of appliances. People must turn in their older, less energy efficient appliances to program participants and have them destroyed. Like the cars, destroying an appliance and purchasing a new one will cost a consumer more money than they receive through the rebate, although the consumer receives the money back over time with reduced energy bills, especially if energy prices increase in the future. The effects of Peak Oil and carbon taxes are likely to raise the cost of purchasing heating oil, propane, and other products necessary to fuel home appliances, so an opportunity to get federal subsidies is very helpful. For example, a consumer can receive a two hundred dollar rebate on a new refrigerator or a one hundred dollar rebate on a new washing machine, or a fifty dollar rebate for an air conditioner, as long as it is purchased and installed in California. The program isn’t going to pay for transporting the new washing machine home or hooking it up in a consumer’s house, or dragging away the old washing machine, although home improvement stores and other retailers who sell these products may offer deals there.