Monday, December 23, 2013

Ocean Wave Air Pressure Power Plants

Sovereign technologies [link]

“Wave Power Plant Design”, 2013-12-18 []:
100% Green Energy! End Oil & Nuclear Plants for good! Share this and lets make this a reality! Donate to this project: []
it is, however they're taking a long time to reach the most efficient design thats possible engineering-wise. it will come, but it would definetly come faster if more money was put towards development.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Petroleum made from algae

Sovereign technologies [link]

"Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab"
2013-12-19 from "SPX" newswire []:
Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae - a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.
The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.
In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.
With additional conventional refining, the crude algae oil is converted into aviation fuel, gasoline or diesel fuel. And the waste water is processed further, yielding burnable gas and substances like potassium and nitrogen, which, along with the cleansed water, can also be recycled to grow more algae.
While algae has long been considered a potential source of biofuel, and several companies have produced algae-based fuels on a research scale, the fuel is projected to be expensive. The PNNL technology harnesses algae's energy potential efficiently and incorporates a number of methods to reduce the cost of producing algae fuel.
"Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel," said Douglas Elliott, the laboratory fellow who led the PNNL team's research. "We believe that the process we've created will help make algae biofuels much more economical."
PNNL scientists and engineers simplified the production of crude oil from algae by combining several chemical steps into one continuous process. The most important cost-saving step is that the process works with wet algae. Most current processes require the algae to be dried - a process that takes a lot of energy and is expensive. The new process works with an algae slurry that contains as much as 80 to 90 percent water.
"Not having to dry the algae is a big win in this process; that cuts the cost a great deal," said Elliott. "Then there are bonuses, like being able to extract usable gas from the water and then recycle the remaining water and nutrients to help grow more algae, which further reduces costs."
While a few other groups have tested similar processes to create biofuel from wet algae, most of that work is done one batch at a time. The PNNL system runs continuously, processing about 1.5 liters of algae slurry in the research reactor per hour. While that doesn't seem like much, it's much closer to the type of continuous system required for large-scale commercial production.
The PNNL system also eliminates another step required in today's most common algae-processing method: the need for complex processing with solvents like hexane to extract the energy-rich oils from the rest of the algae. Instead, the PNNL team works with the whole algae, subjecting it to very hot water under high pressure to tear apart the substance, converting most of the biomass into liquid and gas fuels.
The system runs at around 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit) at a pressure of around 3,000 PSI, combining processes known as hydrothermal liquefaction and catalytic hydrothermal gasification. Elliott says such a high-pressure system is not easy or cheap to build, which is one drawback to the technology, though the cost savings on the back end more than makes up for the investment.
"It's a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher," said Elliott. "In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We're just doing it much, much faster."
The products of the process are:
+ Crude oil, which can be converted to aviation fuel, gasoline or diesel fuel. In the team's experiments, generally more than 50 percent of the algae's carbon is converted to energy in crude oil - sometimes as much as 70 percent.
+ Clean water, which can be re-used to grow more algae.
+ Fuel gas, which can be burned to make electricity or cleaned to make natural gas for vehicle fuel in the form of compressed natural gas.
+ Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium - the key nutrients for growing algae.

Elliott has worked on hydrothermal technology for nearly 40 years, applying it to a variety of substances, including wood chips and other substances. Because of the mix of earthy materials in his laboratory, and the constant chemical processing, he jokes that his laboratory sometimes smells "like a mix of dirty socks, rotten eggs and wood smoke" - an accurate assessment.
Genifuel Corp. has worked closely with Elliott's team since 2008, licensing the technology and working initially with PNNL through DOE's Technology Assistance Program to assess the technology.
"This has really been a fruitful collaboration for both Genifuel and PNNL," said James Oyler, president of Genifuel. "The hydrothermal liquefaction process that PNNL developed for biomass makes the conversion of algae to biofuel much more economical. Genifuel has been a partner to improve the technology and make it feasible for use in a commercial system.
"It's a formidable challenge, to make a biofuel that is cost-competitive with established petroleum-based fuels," Oyler added. "This is a huge step in the right direction."

The recent work is part of DOE's National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, or NAABB. This project was funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Both PNNL and Genifuel have been partners in the NAABB program. In addition to Elliott, authors of the paper include Todd R. Hart, Andrew J. Schmidt, Gary G. Neuenschwander, Leslie J. Rotness, Mariefel V. Olarte, Alan H. Zacher, Karl O. Albrecht, Richard T. Hallen and Johnathan E. Holladay, all at PNNL. Reference: Douglas C. Elliott, Todd R. Hart, Andrew J. Schmidt, Gary G. Neuenschwander, Leslie J. Rotness, Mariefel V. Olarte, Alan H. Zacher, Karl O. Albrecht, Richard T. Hallen and Johnathan E. Holladay, Process development for hydrothermal liquefaction of algae feedstocks in a continuous-flow reactor, Algal Research, Sept. 29, 2013, DOI: 10.1016/j.algal.2013.08.005.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Skaggs Island Redevelopment: Emerging Energy Group’s vision

Contact Information:
* Dale Anderson and/or Diane Byrd [415-847-6156] []
* Janet Pomeroy []
* Fred Grange [415-456-2712] [] 
* Douglas Samuels [209-296-7644] [] 

President Obama Administration’s Key Goals:
• Economic Recovery and Development
• Creation of Jobs
• Development and Implementation of Green Energy Technologies

Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island Plan encompasses all of President Obama Administration’s key goals
The EEG Skaggs Island plan puts President Obama Administration’s ideas into action!

The people of California’s San Francisco Bay Region are faced with a choice regarding the fate of Skaggs Island -
Representative Lynn Woolsey has a ‘Good Idea’: U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey’s good idea-U.S. Bill H.R.5844- is to return Skaggs Island to its natural state- which would be to remove the ‘human footprint’ and flood the island- returning it to a marsh condition- preserving the island as part of the North Bay natural wildlife sanctuary.

Emerging Energy Group begs the Question: Should the former 3,300 acre naval base centrally located in the San Pablo Bay area be demolished and flooded at a cost of approximately $30-40 million to the tax payers? Legislators have committed $8 million of California tax money towards demolition of the buildings. The demolition costs are anticipated to be an additional $2.5-3 million for which there is no funding committed. Toxic waste clean-up costs have not been adequately estimated and the federal agencies are disputing financial responsibility.
In order to accomplish the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed flooding of the land major additional funds [federal or California?] will be required- and the only funds ‘committed’ are California funds.
Nevertheless, the demolition and flooding plan of Skaggs Island is proceeding even though there is inadequate funding and disputes between the potential funding sources. The flooding project was planned during better financial times when federal and California tax funds were available. At this time, neither the federal government nor the state of California have the necessary discretionary tax funds required to accomplish the original plan which involved transferring Skaggs Island from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Emerging Energy Group has a ‘Better Idea’ -
This historic WWII military property must be preserved and redeveloped into a green technology industrial and research park?
Furthermore, EEG’s Skaggs Island Plan fulfills President Obama Administration’s Key Goals:
• Economic Recovery and Development
• Creation of Jobs
• Development and Implementation of Green Energy Technologies

Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island plan would allow private industry to revitalize the property into a high tech green and sustainable energy research center designed to meet the need of the 21st Century.
Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island Plan will eliminate the $30-40 million project costs for which we the tax payers would otherwise be burdened.
Approximately 500-1,000 long term jobs will be created.
Private industry would be responsible toxic clean-up and restoration of the buildings. In Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island Plan, the project developers will be responsible for all project costs, not the California and federal tax payer.

Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island Plan -
Emerging Energy Group has diligently searched the San Francisco Bay area for a suitable research and development green industrial park site. The only suitable site EEG was able to locate was Skaggs Island. Skaggs Island is a unique site within the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. There is no other large acreage site available with a key location for the development of a green technology industrial park.
Emerging Energy Group is a consortium of private developers, environment organizations, and private citizens who promote the research and development of green energy technologies. See website:
The Emerging Energy Group - has obtained strong interest in EEG’s green energy technology industrial park development of Skaggs Island from numerous colleges and universities including: UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, as well as from national and international research facilities such as the Buck Institute.
Academic institutions are especially interested in EEG’s Skaggs Island plan because Skaggs Island can fill a research niche unavailable on university campuses:
• Many of the actual research conditions that deserve academic research cannot practically be conducted on existing university campuses
• Skaggs Island can provide a realistic and functional green energy research project site providing developers and researchers the opportunity to conduct experimental testing of emerging technologies.
• Emerging Energy Group’s Skaggs Island plan provides the industrial conditions required for developing green technologies.
Skaggs Island research and development technologies may very likely hold the potential of providing future generations: sustainable energy; clean air; clean water; while also protecting wildlife and the quality of our rivers, lakes, and marshes.

Benefits to California and Federal Tax Payer’s -
Flooding Skaggs Island: 
The benefits demolition are minimal. (The environmental impacts of demolition, however, are serious issues that must require an EIR.) The clean-up of the site’s toxic waste is necessary but there are no funds committed. The benefit of an additional wildlife sanctuary in addition to the existing wildlife sanctuaries of the region is unknown
There will be no economic benefit derived from the demolition project other than
providing short term demolition employment.
There certainly will be no technological benefit for California or America.

EEG’s Skaggs Island Plan:
The redevelopment of Skaggs Island will provide 500-1,000 jobs and bolster community spirit. The preservation of this historic military site will inspire American pride and patriotism for generations to come. The potential economic benefits for the American economy, as a result of the development of green and sustainable technologies, are extraordinary. The savings to tax payers is sensible. The pride that we can all enjoy in being a sponsor of this worthy project by itself provides sufficient cause for supporting Emerging Energy Group’s campaign to save and redevelop Skaggs Island.

Background on U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey’s ‘Good Idea’ -
U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey authored U.S. Bill H.R. 5844 (April 17, 2008), which was signed into law by President Bush at the end of his term (Nov. 2009) which authorizes the Navy to complete the transfer of Skaggs Island from the Navy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Woolsey’s bill authorizes the federal government to accept $8 million from the California state environmental funds to demolish the 120 buildings- houses, warehouses, office buildings, apartments, church, store, etc.
However, up to the present (April 2009), the transfer remains held up due to a continuing disputes between the various agencies as to which agencies will pay for the which costs related to the proposed demolition, toxic clean-up, maintenance of pumping system, dike construction, and flooding. Plus, the additional funds required have not been committed.
(Note- Since the 1993 Navy base closure, the Navy has been obligated to maintain the Island’s pumping system to keep the island dry at a cost of $250,000 annually. This ongoing cost would also be assumed by the developers.)

The remaining ‘flooding project’ costs (which remain uncommitted) are approximately $22-32 million.
Uncommitted flooding costs include:
• Demolition costs not committed: $2.5-3 million (Only $8 million of the $10.5-11 million is committed by California State Environmental Fund)
• New bridges and roadways to service island farmers- approximately $5 million
• Clean-up of toxic waste (unknown cost)
• Removal of road way materials and contaminated soil
• Relocate FAA radar facility- approximately $3 million
• Rebuild the pump station to protect the remainder of the island
• Construction of dike and levee system- approximately $12 million
The project has been stalled for several years is due to governmental agencies fighting over which agencies are responsible for which costs and from which agency’s coffer the money is to come.
This entire federal project/federal bill is currently only based on California funding. Perhaps it is the perspective of the federal government that California has tax funds readily available? The fact is that California cannot afford to fund even vitally important environmental programs at this time. Meanwhile the federal agencies refuse to commit federal funding, but ‘want the project to move forward’!
For example, the California Water Quality Control Board Proposition 84 $8.4 grant program to implement Best Management Practices to protect the Central Valley water quality from agricultural contamination was cancelled in January 2009 due to lack of available funding. This program was instigated on the hopes of resolving serious water quality problem hexing the entire California agricultural industry. This is simply one example of California’s financial inability to fund even vitally relevant environmental programs at this time.

Emerging Energy Group develops  a ‘Better Idea’ -
The EEG plan will provide training and employment for veterans as well as for the general public. President Jimmy Carter after being presented the EEG Skaggs Island Plan, offered the services of Habitat for Humanity in remodeling the existing housing.
The adjacent City of Vallejo is experiencing major financial problems (including bankruptcy). The redevelopment of Skaggs Island will bolster Vallejo’s economy- as well as improving the Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties economies.
Flooding the Island will not.

We should also keep in mind that Skaggs Island already enjoys major infrastructure improvements which are highly valuable and in many situations simply are not available:
• Rail Road and Rail Spur;
• Electrical Transfer Station and Major Power Lines;
• Major Gas Line;
• Roadways and Roadway Accesses;
• Water and Sewer.

Existing infrastructure to be utilized in the EEG plan:
* Green (farm, vineyard, and municipal) waste from Sonoma and Napa Counties that is currently being trucked right by Skaggs Island can be utilized in the Island composting and bio-digestion systems
* Processed biogas can be pumped into the existing gas lines (sold as natural gas).
* Bio-gas can also be utilized onsite for numerous purposes including heating, water heating, industrial uses, etc.
* Biogas can also be utilized to generate electricity. The electricity can be used on site and/or transmitted via the power grid.
* A major solar installation will provide the project electrical power as well as selling electricity to the grid.
* Rail provides an economical and efficient method to transport product to and from Skaggs Island.
Also, Skaggs Island is fairly remote and secluded from passerby visibility. Thus, for the public, the proposed development proposal with not alter the scenic beauty and natural setting enjoyed by travelers on route via State Highway 37. For the researchers, the seclusion of Skaggs Island offer security, safety, and a confidential atmosphere in which to develop new technologies.
Is there a responsible, financially sensible, and well thought out choice possible other than supporting Emerging Energy Group’s campaign to save Skaggs Island?
We think not!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Solar panels seen as boost to homes' resale value"

2013-12-13 by David R. Baker []:
An installer prepares a roof for solar panels in Encinitas (San Diego County). Home buyers tend to prefer newer systems. Photo: Sam Hodgson, Bloomberg

In California at least, home buyers are willing to pay a premium for solar.
A new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that houses with rooftop solar panels sell for higher prices than comparable non-solar homes.
In general, that premium more than covers the cost of the panels themselves, with homeowners making a small profit on their solar investment. Bigger solar arrays fetch higher premiums than smaller ones.
But the study also includes a caveat: Buyers appear to prefer newer solar systems to older arrays. The premium a solar home commands declines with the age of the photovoltaic panels.
"The take-away here is the market is showing that PV is valued by home buyers," said Ben Hoen, staff research associate at the laboratory and the study's lead author. "There could be a green cachet for the PV system that would be over and above the expected price."
The study, "Exploring California PV Home Premiums," examined sales data for 1,894 solar homes and 70,425 comparable non-solar houses sold in California from 2000 through 2009. It builds on an earlier study released by the lab in 2011 that noted the solar premium but didn't explore it in the same depth.
The authors found that the size of a solar array can make a big difference in a home's resale value. Among the houses studied, that value increased about $5,900 for each kilowatt that an array can generate. Most home solar systems can produce between 2 and 5 kilowatts of electricity.
But the premium falls with age, dropping about 9 percent for each year that the array has been in place. That presents a bit of a puzzle. The amount of electricity generated by a silicon solar panel does decline over time, but only by less than 1 percent per year. The premium, in other words, falls much faster than the panel's output.
"They might be perceived as older technology, even if they're still producing electricity at the expected rate," Hoen said.
He cautioned that the premium is not set in stone. Some homeowners will get more for their solar-equipped houses, and some will get less.
"We do not have that level of precision down to a single dollar," Hoen said. "An individual home is going to have its own, individual premium for PV."
Hoen and his fellow researchers plan further updates, using more recent sales figures from multiple states - not just California.
After all, much has changed in the solar market since 2009. The price to install a home solar system in California has been cut nearly in half, from $10.73 per watt at the start of 2009 to $5.71 per watt this year, according to statistics from the state.
In addition, most homeowners going solar now choose to lease their panels rather than buy them outright. Residential solar leases had just begun in 2009, and they weren't examined in the current Berkeley Lab study. Researchers will include them in the study's next iteration, Hoen said.
Assessing the value of home solar systems has been a problem for real estate appraisers. But Hoen noted that the study's results largely tracked those of an appraisal tool called PV Value, developed by Sandia National Laboratories and the Energy Sense Finance consulting firm.
"Valuing homes with green technologies of various kinds is becoming more common," he said. "It's not a process that happens overnight, but it is happening."

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Exposed: The Rightwing's National Plan To Crush Green Energy; From supporting Keystone XL to opposing home solar panels, ALEC planning assault on the environment"

2013-12-05 from Sarah Lazare from "Common Dreams" []:
The American Legislative Exchange Council's war on green protections is poised to expand over the next year, taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulations, and even solar panels installed in individual homes.
This is according to internal documents revealed Wednesday by The Guardian and supplemented by interviews that expose this corporate lobbying powerhouse's vast anti-green agenda [].
The revelations come in the midst of a three-day ALEC policy summit in Washington, DC bringing together 800 legislative and corporate leaders from around the country.
In 2014, ALEC will push a series of measures aimed at preventing the federal government from curbing greenhouse gas emissions and blocking state efforts to expand wind and solar power, according to The Guardian's summary of the documents [].
John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC's energy, environment and agriculture program, told The Guardian that ALEC will also advocate for increasing financial penalties for individual homeowners who would otherwise benefit from feed-in solar energy programs. Many sustainable energy advocates see state-level feed-in schemes—like the one that recently came under attack in Arizona—as one of the keys to a national transition to clean, renewable energy.
ALEC also notes that its resolution in support of the Keystone XL pipeline has "been introduced in at least seven states this year which has helped highlight state support for this project."
In 2013 alone, ALEC introduced at least 77 anti-green bills in 34 states, according to The Center for Media and Democracy [].
As Connor Gibson, a research associate at Greenpeace, explained to CMD: "ALEC's long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation."
"ALEC's guise of 'free market environmentalism,'" Gibson continued, "is just a code word for its real mission in our states' legislatures: to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests. That's not a free market."
An excerpt from the documents, boasting of past accomplishments, can be seen below.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Electric bicycles

"New Electric Wheel Could Expand Bike Commuting"
2013-11-13 by Kelly McCartney []:
Now that the invisible bike helmet has arrived, among the remaining things that stand between commuters and bikes is the inevitable sweatiness that comes from pedaling your way to work or school. No one wants to start their day sticky and stinky. But traditional electric bikes... well, they kind of miss the point of biking. That is until now.
With only 11 days to go on their Kickstarter drive, the team behind the FlyKly Smart Wheel [] has blown way past their initial $100,000 goal and have almost reached their wildest dreams of $500,000. This little gizmo is a lightweight, all-in-one, pedal-assisted wheel that fits on almost any bike frame. Inside the casing is an ultra-thin electric motor -- with speeds up to 20 miles per hour! -- that is activated by the pedals and a battery bank -- with ranges up to 30 miles on a single charge! -- that gets recharged when coasting or by plugging it in for a couple of hours.
And for the über-techies among us, the wheel is controlled via a mobile app that allows you to set your desired speed, to lock the wheel when the bike is parked, and to track a stolen ride. The app will even send a notification if the bike is going somewhere without its rider or if the wheel needs a check-up.
One concern is that the power-assist wheel, if widely adopted, may reduce the potential health benefits of bike commuting. The price may work against that. However, the wheel plus bike combination is a much more cost-effective option than car ownership, so could expand bike commuting from that population in addition to people who, for health and other reasons, need a power assist. Check out the specs and video below for more information.

Tech specs
Weight: 9 lbs / 4 kg
Range: 30 miles / 50 km
Speed: 20 mph / 25 km/h
Motor: 250 watts
Battery: 36V Lithium
Charge: 2 - 3 hours
Sizes: 26” or 29”
Colors: white, black, grey, blue, red, green, yellow, pink
Lifespan: 1,000 cycles (that's nearly three years of daily use)
FlyKly App: iOS, Android, Pebble Watch compatible
Price: $590

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hydrogen fuel production

"Low-Cost Hydrogen Breakthrough Uses Solar Power And Rust"
Hydrogen fuel cells are emerging as key players in the clean energy landscape of the future, except for one problem: it takes a lot of energy to make hydrogen, and here in the US, the preferred source of that energy appears to be natural gas. That’s hardly a sustainable solution. However, not to worry. Researchers have been turning their attention to renewable energy for producing low-cost hydrogen. The most recent development is a low-cost photoelectrochemical cell that produces hydrogen bubbles in water with the help of a little iron oxide, aka rust.

A Low Cost Photoelectrochemical Cell -
Photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) use solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. They don’t produce electricity directly like photovoltaic cells do, but they could have a huge impact on the electric vehicle market by providing a path to cost-competitive fuel cells. That in turn would give the auto industry a low-cost, high-mileage alternative to conventional EV batteries.
The sticky wicket is to bring down the cost of PECs, and the latest breakthrough involves one of the cheapest materials around, in the form of iron oxide.
Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology teamed up on the hydrogen project, which involved the creation of an electrode based on nanostructured iron oxide particles described as “cauliflower-looking.”
The team was able to pinpoint the movement of electrons through the nanoparticles with the help of transmission electron microscopy, and identify the most efficient configuration.
This “champion” structure became the basis for a 10×10 cm prototype that creates oxygen bubbles in water as soon as it is exposed to sunlight.
That one-step process has the potential to cost far less than other solar-powered water-splitting devices, which typically involve hooking up an electrolyzer to a regular photovoltaic cell.
How much cheaper? According to the research team, in Europe, the lowest cost for producing hydrogen with the photovoltaic cell/electrolyzer combo currently comes in at about 15 € per kilo, and the team’s goal for its rust-based PEC is only about € 5 per kilo.

Dodging The Natural Gas Bullet -
President Obama launched a national hydrogen fuel cell/fueling infrastructure initiative earlier this year called H2USA, which is all well and good but for now we’re giving it the sustainability stinkeye due to its emphasis on using natural gas, specifically shale gas, to produce hydrogen.
However, as we’ve previously noted, the initiative does not preclude the use of renewable energy, and that is already starting to become part of the picture.
On a large scale, we’ve been following one company called HyperSolar for a couple of years, which envisions a network of solar powered hydrogen “farms.” The company announced plans for its first commercial-scale facility last March.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the “artificial leaf” concept of a low-cost, pocket-sized device that could be dunked in a jug of water to produce hydrogen. While not necessarily the most efficient solution, it could provide a renewable, off-grid alternative for households with low energy demands.
In the meantime, you can bet that fuel cells will become a far bigger part of the US vehicle market sooner rather than later. GM and Honda just launched a fuel cell development partnership, and these two companies happen to lead the world in vehicle fuel cell patents.

Dodging The Water Bullet -
As far as long-term sustainability in the fuel cell market goes, energy for producing hydrogen is only half the equation. The other half is water, and in that regard the world’s water scarcity issues could become a stumbling block.
The problem is that conventional hydrogen production involves clean water as a raw material. Now consider the introduction of millions of fuel cell vehicles around the world and you can see trouble brewing on the horizon.
On the other hand, a solution is on the horizon. Researchers have been developing solar-powered systems that involve producing hydrogen directly from “dirty” water, and the aforementioned HyperSolar already has a wastewater process under its belt.
Another interesting example involves the “artificial leaf” device under development at Harvard, based on research initiated at MIT. In earlier iterations, it used clean water, but researchers have tweaked the surface to prevent film buildup by bacteria.
Speaking of bacteria, researchers are already on track to create high-efficiency wastewater treatment systems integrating hydrogen fuel cells with microbial fuel cells.
A good example of this trend is under development at the University of Colorado at Denver, where researchers are working on a system that uses microbial fuel cells to desalinate water and/or treat wastewater while generating electricity, which is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be used in fuel cells to run equipment at the treatment facility.

"US Army Could Be Silent Partner In New GM Honda Fuel Cell Initiative"

GM and Honda have just announced a next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage collaboration, and since their joint press release rather cagily mentions that the two companies will work with other “stakeholders” to develop a fueling infrastructure we’re guessing that the US Army is or will be holding some of those stakes in the GM Honda fuel cell tent. Just last year, the Army launched the world’s first military fuel cell vehicle fleet in partnership with GM in Hawaii, and for that matter Honda has signed on to the Obama Administration’s new initiative to promote a national fueling infrastructure for next-generation fuel cell vehicles. Wait for it…hey, we built this!

The GM Honda Fuel Cell Partnership -
The new collaboration between GM and Honda is described as a “long-term, definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel system and hydrogen storage technologies,” and the matchup promises to deliver on its self-imposed time frame of 2020. Between the two of them, GM and Honda rank first and second in total fuel cell patents filed in the ten years leading up to 2012, adding up to 1,200 different patents.
Aside from patent filings, the two companies have also been building up a body of real-world experience.
GM has piled up almost 3 million miles of fuel cell driving for its 119-vehicle fuel cell fleet under the long running Project Driveway program, and Honda began leasing its FCX sedan ten years ago in the US and Japan. Honda launched a successor in 2009 called FCX Clarity and already plans a third iteration of the vehicle for 2015.

The H2USA Fuel Cell Umbrella -
The Obama Administration launched H2USA this past May in order to break out of the chicken-or-egg conundrum facing the fuel cell vehicle industry. It’s the same problem that confronted early manufacturers of gasoline vehicles. Not too many people are going to buy into the new technology until you can make it reasonably convenient for them to fuel up, but how do you get companies to invest in a fueling infrastructure until there are enough vehicles on the road to make it worthwhile?
Honda signed on to H2USA shortly after the initial launch, in which the Energy Department was joined by the American Gas Association, Association of Global Automakers, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, Hyundai Motor America, ITM Power, Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition, Mercedes-Benz USA, Nissan North America Research and Development, Proton OnSite, and Toyota Motor North America.
As you can tell by the launch partners, one strong focus of H2USA is the production of hydrogen with natural gas, specifically shale gas, and for that reason we’re giving the sustainability stinkeye to the project, at least for now.
However, H2USA does not preclude more sustainable means of hydrogen production, and in announcing their fuel cell partnership GM and Honda emphasize that hydrogen can be generated from wind power, biomass and other forms of renewable energy.

The US Army And Fuel Cell Vehicles -
That brings us right around the to US Army’s interest in fuel cell vehicles.
Last year, the Army launched a fuel cell vehicle pilot program in Hawaii, in partnership with GM. The pilot program consists of a fleet of 16 GM fuel cell vehicles stationed at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, on Oahu. That sounds modest enough but according to the Department of Defense, it’s the world’s largest military fleet of fuel cell vehicles.
The choice of Hawaii for the project indicates that the Department of Defense could nudge H2USA into a stronger focus on renewable hydrogen. Given its lack of local fossil resources and high fuel prices, Hawaii has ample incentive to transition out of fossil fuel dependency. The state has already established itself as a national test bed for transitioning to locally sourced renewable energy through its Clean Energy Initiative.
With military facilities accounting for an enormous chunk of Hawaii’s overall fuel consumption, it’s pretty clear that the fuel cell vehicle project will eventually interact with other renewable energy projects in the state.
For now, though, the Hawaii fuel cell project appears to be focused on gas. The program kicked off in collaboration with the gas company Hawai’i Gas (formerly TGC), which already has a track record in hydrogen production along with a distribution network.

"Honda Introduces Solar Hydrogen Station on Saitama Prefectural Office Grounds; FCX Clarity Used in Electric Vehicle Testing Program to Serve as Mobile Electric Generator"
2012-03-27 from "" []:
TOKYO, Japan, March 27, 2012 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. unveiled a Solar Hydrogen Station on the grounds of the Saitama Prefectural Office. The initiative is part of the Electric Vehicle Testing Program for Honda’s next-generation personal mobility products with Saitama Prefecture, in which Honda, Iwatani and Saitama Prefecture collaborate to build. In a further initiative, Honda has equipped the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle with an outlet to function as a 9kW power source. Since the FCX Clarity uses a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce power with zero CO2 emissions, with its new outlet, the vehicle will be able to serve as a zero-emission mobile electric generator.
Solar Hydrogen Station

Solar Hydrogen Station & FCX Clarity

FCX Clarity with power supply system

This is the first installation in Japan of a total system to produce, store and dispense hydrogen with ZERO CO2 emissions. A high pressure water electrolysis system, uniquely developed by Honda, produces hydrogen.  With no mechanical compressor, the system is nearly silent and highly energy efficient. Using Solar and grid power, the system is capable of producing 1.5kg of hydrogen within 24 hours which enables an FCX Clarity to run approximately 150km or 90 miles. Honda aims to further develop the system to offer clean energy sources for the home in the future.

"Diesel, Fuel Cells Get Spotlight as Plug-Ins Lose Favor"
2013-11-11 by Angela Greiling Keane from "" []:
With U.S. sales of plug-in electric vehicles on pace to reach half of President Barack Obama’s goal, regulators are following customers and automakers to vehicles powered by other fuels, from hydrogen to diesel.
California, which leads 10 states that require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles, may alter its system of tradable credits to stop favoring plug-ins over hydrogen-powered cars. That would hurt Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) while helping Honda Motor Co.
Obama, who touted electric cars in his first State of the Union address and gave $5 billion in U.S. loans, grants and tax breaks to spur their development, hasn’t mentioned them in public since July. His administration halted loans for their development and reversed moves to de-emphasize fuel cells.
“I don’t think they should just pick technologies that they say or feel may be better,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh, who’s seeking more favorable regulatory treatment for clean diesel, said in an interview.
Automakers that sell vehicles in the U.S. must double their vehicles’ average fuel economy by 2025 under rules Obama adopted. The target is considered impossible to achieve just by improving the gasoline engine.
Auto-industry executives surveyed by Booz & Co. and Bloomberg LP predicted vehicles running on electricity and other alternative powertrains would account for 20 percent of sales by 2020 -- unless the government stopped its support, in which case their predicted share fell to 12 percent.

Fisker, Tesla -
Obama in 2009 set a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. About 95,000 plug-ins will be sold this year, said Alan Baum, an analyst at Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He forecasts sales to pass a cumulative 500,000 in 2015.
The Energy Department last made a loan for electric-vehicle development in 2011. While Tesla repaid its loan nine years early, an award to Fisker Automotive Inc. became a talking point for Republicans during the 2012 presidential campaign. The defaulted loan was put up for auction in October after Fisker stopped production and failed to find a buyer.
Early in Obama’s presidency, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu questioned the merits of hydrogen-powered cars and cut funding for fuel-cell research. Administration officials began praising fuel cells in 2012 and, last week, announced $4 million in awards to develop better hydrogen storage systems that would benefit autos.
California in September passed a measure to fund at least 100 hydrogen fueling stations as part of its clean-vehicle plans.

‘Broadening Scope’ -
“They’re broadening their scope,” analyst Baum said of regulators. “It’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck strategy, which includes the internal combustion engine, too.”
California’s proposed revisions would cut the Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV, credits Tesla gets for its electric Model S sedan by as much as 40 percent from 2015. The state’s Air Resources Board on Oct. 24 deferred a decision on the matter until next year.
“I have always felt that there was a hard-core enthusiasm for fuel-cell vehicles among key regulators that was in no way justified by the commercial viability or technical progress” of fuel-cell vehicles, Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president for business development, said in an e-mail.
He criticized bonus credits for fast refueling “designed specifically to reward” fuel-cell vehicles and state funding for hydrogen filling stations.

‘Technology Neutrality’ -
“Technology neutrality ought to be the standard by which the ZEV regulation and other vehicle standards are written and enforced,” he said. “Instead, and with particular reference to hydrogen technology, the bias seems to make sure that hydrogen technology can keep up with the fast-moving market development of EVs in the tortured hope that both technologies will flourish in equal measure.”
Tesla’s sales of emission credits fell to $10 million in the third quarter, from $51 million in the second quarter and $68 million in the first quarter, the company said Nov. 5. Total third-quarter revenue was $431.3 million.
Changing the credit formula may help Honda’s hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, of which only six have sold in the U.S. this year through Oct. 31, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
The shift also favors General Motors Co. (GM), which hedged its bets by investing in hydrogen technology while producing this year’s best-selling plug-in car in the U.S., the Chevrolet Volt.

GM, Audi -
Honda and GM, the top-ranking holders of fuel-cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012 according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, in July announced a partnership to develop a fuel-cell and hydrogen-storage system. Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) are both planning new fuel-cell offerings by 2015.
Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of environmental and energy strategy at American Honda Motor Co., said the company has worked on hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell options as well as improving gasoline engines and aerodynamics.
“The challenge for automakers is to find the right balance between meeting social values like lower carbon transportation and finding the new values that customers will appreciate and enjoy,” he said in an e-mail.
German automakers including Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi unit are pushing to change the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mileage formula for showroom window stickers and fuel-economy rule compliance, and to end the 6-cent-a-gallon difference in U.S. taxes between diesel fuel and gasoline.
The formula, Keogh said, favors gasoline cars over diesel because it assumes more city than highway driving. Diesels get maximum efficiency on the highway.

Clean Diesel -
Diesel is about one-third more fuel-efficient than gasoline in comparably sized vehicles, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Changes to engines, the advent of ultra-low sulfur diesel and treatment of tailpipe exhaust mean today’s diesel cars aren’t the ones drivers remember from 40 years ago.
“If you’re referring back to the 70s and diesel products that GM launched, it’s not the case anymore,” Audi’s Keogh said.
Half of Audi’s A3 Sportback purchases in the U.S. are diesel, as are about a third of the Q7 sport-utility vehicle sales, Keogh said. The automaker’s U.S. advertising features its diesel models and pokes fun at diesel’s old image as a dirty fuel only for truckers.

‘Every Base’ -
While Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) is introducing its first plug-in electric in the U.S. for 2014, it’s also working to boost diesel sales and sees hydrogen as “one of the technologies for the future,” Manuel Sattig, project manager for BMWi, said in an interview.
“We have every base covered,” said Jacob Harb, head of BMW of North America electric-vehicle operations and strategy. “There’s no silver bullet.”
In September, the most recent month available, 9 percent of customers visiting the auto-information website considered a non-gasoline vehicle. Hybrid-electrics such as Toyota’s Prius were the most considered at 4.1 percent, followed by diesel with 2.1 percent. Only .8 percent of customers shopped for a plug-in electric hybrid while 1.9 percent looked at fully electric cars.
Consideration on the website is higher than actual sales, Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo said.
“Continued support through government policy as well as automakers developing the technology and getting it out there on the road is going to help the transition,” said Don Anair, Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program research director. “But it’s not going to happen in two or three years.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Start a Grocery Co-op

2011-11-11 by Nina Misuraca Ignaczak []:
Based on An Online Guide to Starting a Food Co-op [] by the Cooperative Grocers Information Network [].
The Cooperative Grocer’s Network lists 362 grocery co-ops in existence in the United States and Canada []. Grocery co-ops are entering the mainstream, as health-conscious consumers demand more knowledge of where their local food is coming from, according to a recent Aspen Times article []. As Yes! Magazine reports [], cooperative businesses across multiple sectors—food, banking, health insurance, even steel-making—are on the rise, partly in response to people’s disillusionment with big business in the wake of the Great Recession. The grocery co-op provides a time-tested alternative business model to the industrialized food system that can both build community and empower individuals.
In the sharing economy, new and innovative business models are being developed for everyday needs like housing, work and transportation; think car sharing, bike-sharing, co-working, and Airbnb.
But one of oldest and tested sharing business models is the humble grocery co-op. Grocery co-ops have been around since 1864, when the first co-op was established in Rochdale, United Kingdom in response to the vagaries of the Industrial Revolution.
The first co-ops in the United States were established in colonial times. American co-ops have developed in multiple waves over the centuries, often in response to economic downturns, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association.
A co-op is a business that is driven by cooperative values as well as profit. The original Rochdale pioneers set forth a set of seven principles [], which have been adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) [] and govern co-op operations to this day.
As defined by the ICA, a cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
The Cooperative Grocer’s Network published An Online Guide to Starting a Food Co-op in March 2002 outlining nine steps to forming a grocery co-op. The report details extensive resources and case study examples.

The following is a condensed summary of the nine steps:
Step One: Gather background information -
This step involves familiarizing yourself with the co-op business model, understanding local and regional resources, business costs like space, utilities, and regulatory issues, and most importantly, understanding the needs of the community the co-op will serve, how a co-op might serve as a solution to those needs, and if there is interest in pursuing a co-op solution.

Step Two: Organize -
At this step, a meeting is held to evaluate whether sufficient interest exists to justify starting a new co-op. Now is the time to hold multiple informational meetings in the community to gather input. It’s a good idea to invite experts to share their knowledge of co-op operations. If there is enough interest to warrant moving forward, a steering committee is developed through a consensus process.

Step Three: Research feasibility -
This step involves studying whether or not a co-op can be both successful from a business standpoint s well as beneficial to its members. A feasibility analysis includes surveying potential members, understanding the operations of similar organizations, identifying funding sources, and identifying resources and partners.  Professional consultants may be useful in this process. A final feasibility analysis should include a market capacity analysis, internal capacity, financial needs and options, and the feasibility of design and project specifics.

Step Four: Review findings and vote to incorporate -
The feasibility analysis prepared in step three is presented to a meeting of potential members and a vote is held to incorporate. If the vote is successful, articles of incorporation are drafted, voted on, and filed with the appropriate governmental agency. At this time, a formal board of directors is selected and other functional roles assigned.

Step Five: Recruit members -
In this step, a membership structure is selected and the participation and financial commitment of members is secured. Goals and deadlines for number of members, equity, and loans must be set and tracked. Visual aids to show progress are helpful at this stage.

Step Six: Develop Business Plan -
A specific and detailed business plan and financial model are constructed in this phase, describing all operations, employees, management structure, products, customers, capitalization, and projections for revenue and costs.

Step Seven: Secure financing -
The first source of base financing is members, who may loan or invest in the co-op as part of their membership. Other alternatives may include grants, commercial loans, private investment, and vendor financing. Lenders should be made to clearly understand the implications of the cooperative ownership structure. Contact with local economic development agencies may identify governmental incentives, such as tax incentives, that can be included as part of the financing package.

Step Eight: Begin operations -
The business plan should guide all aspects of this phase, in which a space and equipment is secured, a store is set up, accounts with vendors are established, and a manager is hired.

Step Nine: Open the doors -
Hold two grand openings—a soft opening to de-bug operations, and a highly publicized grand opening with a ribbon cutting and special events. The first year is usually rough, so plan on a nine-month board retreat to assess operations.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Communitarian Farming programs from University of California

"UC plants seeds of growth for local farmers"  
2013-11-02 by Stacy Finz from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Flower seller Katie Koch photographs fruits and vegetables during a tour of Washington Vegetable Co. in San Francisco. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

Emma Torbert, a stone-fruit grower, didn't know what to expect when she got off a bus to tour wholesale food businesses in the Bay Area.
By the time she went home to her farm near Davis, her head was filled with possibilities.
She and 17 other growers, participating in a University of California workshop, learned that being a small farmer is actually a boon in today's market, where consumers are clamoring for fresh and local foods with a story. The demand is great enough that wholesalers are doing something entirely new - passing up large-scale commercial growers for people like Torbert, who farms only 4 acres.
"The trip has been encouraging," said Torbert, 34. "I currently sell to markets in my area, but am interested in expanding. Today, I got the impression that there is a lot of demand."
While some consumers have gone straight to the source, many shoppers are demanding that their neighborhood retailers carry fruits and vegetables from local farmers instead of huge conglomerates that buy from worldwide growers.

Focus on local food -
In 2009, Mintel, a global marketing research company, found that 1 in 6 consumers made it a point to buy food grown regionally to support the local economy. Shoppers also perceived that food produced relatively close to home was fresher, better tasting and better for the environment, according to the firm.
Last year, Mintel found that 52 percent of consumers polled said that it was even more important to buy local fruits and vegetables than organic produce.
Torbert's tour last week was intended to help small growers like her find new avenues to sell their products besides farmers' markets, fruit stands and community-supported agriculture. The tour was organized by the UC Davis Cooperative Extension, the university's Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program along with the Agricultural Sustainability Institute.
"Everyone wants to do business with them," David Visher, a project analyst who helped organize the workshop, said of his tour group, mainly farmers from along the Interstate 80 corridor. "We're not advocating that they choose processors over farmers' markets. We're just trying to show them their options and introduce them to the right people so they can make their own choices."
Many small farmers have complained that farmers' markets and farm stands aren't a sustainable way to do business. Transportation and labor are expensive and take them away from the land. Several on the tour acknowledged that they were looking for other, more cost-effective models.
One of the stops was Bay Cities Produce, a large processing company in San Leandro. The company wants to work with local, small farmers and even offers incentives to fulfill Bay Cities' stringent food safety requirements.
"We've gone from 5 percent local to 50 percent in the last three to four years," said Karl Kolb, Bay Cities' food safety executive. "Our clients want quality, and they know that they can get it from the small farmer."
Same demands nationally
In addition to selling produce to grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Andronico's and Mollie Stone's Markets, Bay Cities sells to restaurants, institutional kitchens and hospitals. All have become particular sticklers about having locally grown produce, Kolb said.
"We're seeing it across the nation," he said. "Our clients want to know where the food is sourced, how it's sourced and who it's sourced from. In Kansas they want produce from Kansas."
Kolb said dealing with small farmers - his definition is anyone who cultivates up to 1,000 acres - is more difficult than buying from industrial growers. One bad frost isn't likely to wipe out a commercial producer's entire crop, so the grower is more reliable, he said. Their product also tends to be more consistent in size, shape and color, and delivery times are consistent. Furthermore, the big guys already have safety standards in place.
"But the customer is always right," said Steve Del Masso, vice president of Bay Cities, which was founded by his father. He added that if his clients want small and local, he'll deliver.
Because small growers can't always afford to set up food safety mechanisms on the farms, Del Masso offers financial incentives, including cash, to pay for systems that ensure water and soil quality and ways to trace back produce in instances of food-borne illness outbreaks. Once the farmers comply with Bay Cities' rigid health requirements, Kolb said, "we will meet their price. We pay very well, according to the market."

Broadening his business -
Chip Morris, an heirloom dry bean farmer from Thornton (San Joaquin County), was impressed with the tour. He sells his beans to Williams-Sonoma and specialty markets such as restaurants, but would like to find a midsize distributor to broaden his business.
When the bus stopped at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market on Jerrold Avenue, Morris started to get excited by his prospects.
"We're not hurting," he said. "We're going pretty strong in California with restaurants. But we haven't done too much with grocery stores, and we don't have a marketing team. If we could find a company like Bay Cities to get us out there, it would be great."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monopolization of agricultural seeds

"We Have a Right to Save Seeds. Right?"
2013-10-21 by Cat Johnson []:
Growing food should present no legal problems. You plant seeds, care for the plants, harvest the food, then save some seeds for the next year. Right?
Not anymore. Big agribusinesses are enclosing the seed commons. Seed ownership has become complex, littered with regulation, copyright issues, forgery charges and corporate manipulation.
The following video gives a brief overview of the current “crazy seed situation” in Europe. Created by the Open Solutions Project, the video uses talking (and singing) potato people to explain the barriers that prevent growers from saving and re-sowing seeds. It also shines a light on a sane solution to the problem: public domain seeds.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interview with the Moneyless Man

2013-10-28 by Mira Luna for "" []:
Mark Boyle is the author of the Moneyless Man and the Moneyless Manifesto [], and is the founder of Freeconomy [] .
After studying economics and business in college, he managed two organic food companies in Bristol, UK. In 2007, a pivotal conversation with a friend sparked the realization that "money... creates a kind of disconnection between us and our actions" and he set up the Freeconomy Community. A few months later, Boyle inspired by the non-violent salt march Gandhi led across India and America’s Peace Pilgrim, he decided to live a more self-sufficient life without money, which he's done for the last five years. He insists that a moneyless life is not a new idea - it's the system of money itself that's a new development, existing for only a small fraction of human history.
I decided to interview Mark, not only because I believe money has had such a detrimental effect on the DNA of modern culture. But also, his story is remarkably inspiring in that, in a short period of time, he achieved great clarity of purpose and acted on it with such urgency and integrity. He embodies a courageous spirit that the world desperately needs right now.

Mira Luna: How did you come to the decision to embark on the moneyless journey and how did your background as a trained economist influence you?
Mark Boyle: There is an entire spectrum of ecological, social and personal reasons why I now believe that it's imperative that we, collectively and individually, wean ourselves off our dependency on money to meet our needs. However, it began as many journeys do with an initial impulse. It was 2007 and I had been feeling overwhelmed by the horrors I was witnessing around me - factory farming, homogenisation of cultures, bottom-trawling, sweatshops, deforestation, the mechanisation of our livelihoods and the general flat-packing of the Earth along the assembly line of industrial civilisation. I wanted to spend my life doing something I personally felt was meaningful, something to act as a counter-friction to the cogs of the machine economy. But as globalisation disempowers us through its sheer scale, I, like most of us, had absolutely no idea what to do about any of it.
After years of exploring these issues as deeply as I could, I came to the understanding that, in general terms, they had a common denominator - they were all different symptoms of our perceived separation, or independence, from the rest of the community of life: Nature. Money, through its function as a medium of exchange, allows us to consume products with components or ingredients from across the entire Earth. On a superficial level, and with a very narrow sense of self, this has many perceived benefits. What wasn't being spoke about at the time, however, were the intended and unintended consequences of money, and like all technologies, it has its consequences, regardless of whether we want to be honest about them or not. Apart from its widely ignored psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical effects on us personally, it also had the added consequence of allowing us to be protected from the abuses and massacres that occurred at every level of the supply chain of the products we consumed, and all the social and ecological problems associated with that.
So I began speaking out about these consequences. Yet after a while I felt that I had little right to, being enmeshed in the monetary economy as much as the next person. At that point I had no idea if it was even possible to move beyond monetary economics, or how it would feel as a human being to live without it mediating the majority of my relationships with the rest of life. So in 2008 I decided to give up money, initially as a one year experiment, to see how it felt, if it was possible, and what the lessons would be. It became the greatest experience of my life.
Of course, the reasons why I believe we would be wise to transition away from our dependency on money has evolved a lot over the subsequent years. The first half of my new book, the Moneyless Manifesto [], explores these reasons and the philosophy behind moneyless living in depth, before describing a large toolkit of ways in which we can easily diversify our economies and build much more resilience and connection into how we meet our needs.
My education in economics has, rather oddly, been of great benefit to me, despite the fact that I obviously didn't go into studying it with this in mind. In order to create a new way of doing things, it helps to fully understand - as much as one can given the complexities of monetary economics today - how the current system works, and the cultural, anthropological and philosophical assumptions underpinning it. It also helped me understand, later in life, that economics should not be conflated with finance, and that monetary economics is but one, and a very recent one at that, model of economy.

"The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle" film by James Light [] published on Oct 29, 2012 by "Gorilla Filmmaker Now" []: Mark Boyle's new book The Moneyless Manifesto explores in-depth the social, personal, ecological and economic reasons why we may want to transition beyond money into a localised, gift-based economy.

Mira Luna: How has your life changed for the better or worse? What do you enjoy most about the lifestyle and what is most challenging and how have you overcome those challenges?
Mark Boyle: My life is much more connected, whole and integrated now, and so much for the better. Like every way of being human, it has its challenges, but these are offset by the many joys and adventures it has brought me.
The biggest initial challenge was overcoming the sense of insecurity I had felt in the first few months - I had no money, no bank account, nothing to fall back on. I was surprised by how much this affected me. However, the antidote was simple: experience. When, after a prolonged period of time, you meet your needs every day without the need for a connection-reducing medium such as money, you begin to trust in life a lot more, and in it as a way of being human in the world. You stop worrying and become part of the organic flow of Wild Nature again. No other species on Earth feels insecure about not having money, and for the majority of our time here, neither did we.
Another challenge was time. Everything seemed to take longer. In some senses, I partially overcame this by honing my own skills, and connecting with people in my community, but in other senses I overcame it by making my life more whole and integrated. Art was no longer something I'd create in the spare time that industrialism allowed me in the evenings and weekends - Art was integrated into every aspect of my life, from what I grew to what I created. Life became Art. Work became leisure. There was no segmentation of my life.
The amount of detailed challenges, in terms of the practicalities, I faced in the first year were fairly lengthy, and these I write about more in the first book, The Moneyless Man, which focuses primarily on the human experience of it all. What struck me, however, was that each of these challenges had a solution, sometimes old, sometimes new. The longer the first year went on, the more heart I gained from that understanding. Before long, living without money was the easiest thing in the world.
What do I enjoy most about it? That sense of freedom we all crave. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, and in between I am able to do the things that I feel passionate about, and that give me meaning.

Mira Luna: What is Freeconomy?
Mark Boyle: Freeconomy is a skill- and tool-sharing project, organised online [], which now has local groups in over 170 countries around the world. Unlike bartering and swap schemes, Freeconomy was based on the idea of the gift, where everyone shared their skills, tools and advice on an unconditional basis, not because they wanted to get anything in return - whether that be money or a credit of some sort - but for no other reason than another person needs help with something. Freeconomy is to labor and tools that Freecycle is to stuff [], Couch-surfing to travel accommodation [] and so on.
We feel that people need inspiring again, and to feel good about the world and the communities they live in. What could make them feel better than someone coming over to their house, showing them how to make sourdough bread or fix their bike, simply because they want to be of help? Contrast that feeling with the money-dependent interactions we usually have, mostly with strangers with whom we'll never develop a meaningful relationship with, each day. The sense of community you feel in a gift-based model is tangible and uplifting, and this is the feedback we've received from many people from all walks of life across the Earth.
It is an economy based on interdependence and gifting, as opposed to the illusion of independence and the notions of credit, debt and exchange.

Mira Luna: How do you hope to impact the world?
Mark Boyle: I don't have any hopes in that regard. I believe the best you can do in life is what you feel is the greatest use of your time here, living with as much honor and courage as you can, yet with enough humility to realise that there are much greater forces than yourself taking care of things. The latter is not to say you should leave it up to Nature to sort things out - you are as much a part of Nature as anything else, afterall. So all I hope to do is all that I can.

Mira Luna: If other people feel they can't get away from using money, because of responsibilities, what more moderate or intermediate steps would you recommend taking?
Mark Boyle: In the words of Howard Thurman, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." There is no one course of action I could recommend, other than following your heart with as much courage as you can muster. There is so much healing work - of our land, our communities, of ourselves - needed that the only sustainable course of action is one which you feel passionate about. Of course, many of these courses of action don't pay very well, therefore no matter what service you choose to give to the world, it can only help to become less dependent on money, even if living moneylessly is not your primary aim.
In terms of reducing your reliance on money to some degree, in The Moneyless Manifesto I outline what I call the Progression of Principles (POP) Model, which allows anyone, anywhere to make a transition from the highly globalized and monetized culture we live in today, to a much more local, gift based culture. And have a lot of fun in the process! It enables you to start this journey wherever you are at, and make positive changes in whatever timescale you feel is both realistic for you and appropriate for the convergence of crises we face.

Inspired? Check out, Freeconomy, buy the book or read it online for free, and watch Mark Boyle's TedX talk below on living without money.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Solar-powered street lights

"World First for Stand-Alone, Solar-Powered Lighting Column" 
2013-10-15 from "SPX" []:
The height of the column and the number of solar modules can be tailored to the situation, up to a maximum height of 18 metres.

Oss, Netherlands -
Kaal Masten is presenting the Spirit: the world's first solar-powered lighting column that does not use mains power and is available in a complete series (up to 18 metres). As a result, we now have a complete range of stand-alone lighting columns that can provide top quality lighting anywhere in the world.
 The Spirit is a modular lighting column that exclusively uses solar energy and LED technology. The fact that cabling is a thing of the past means that Spirit columns can easily be installed at locations that do not have an electricity connection, such as motorways, rural road, car parks and mountain roads.
 The height of the column and the number of solar modules can be tailored to the situation, up to a maximum height of 18 metres.

Sustainable solution -
 The Spirit is the most sustainable form of public lighting. Electricity consumption is reduced to zero and the columns and batteries are entirely recyclable. The columns are also suitable for all high quality LED fittings - also one of the most sustainable choices - and manufacturer Kaal Masten is a CO2-neutral company.

The future -
 Jos van den Hurk, director of Kaal Masten, sees the introduction of the Spirit as a significant milestone; not just for his company but also for the sector as a whole.
 "This is the future of public lighting. Firstly because of the stand-alone nature of the column; governments and other managers of open spaces are no longer dependent on the mains network in order to realise top quality lighting, and therefore safety. In addition, sustainability plays a significant role; the CO2 footprint for public lighting will be substantially reduced as a result."
 The Spirit is being introduced during the Public Spaces Day (Dag van de Openbare Ruimte) in Expo Houten. The first Spirits will soon be installed at the TU/e in Eindhoven. This column has taken about 3 years to develop.

Vehicles 100+ mileage

Urbee vehicles
"3-D printer used to manufacture car body"
2013-10-15 by David R. Baker from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
The Urbee's plastic body is made with a 3-D printer. A cross-country trip in the lightweight vehicle is expected to require less than 10 gallons of fuel. Photo: Kor Ecologic

If Jim Kor gets his way, building a fuel-efficient car may one day be as simple as pressing "print." Well, almost as simple.
Kor heads a team of Canadian engineers designing a car whose plastic body can be manufactured with a 3-D printer. They've already made a prototype of their car, dubbed the Urbee, and are working on a second, more advanced version.
"What we like about 3-D printing is it can print anything," Kor said Tuesday during a presentation at the Verge technology and sustainability conference in San Francisco. "And when you can print anything, you can think of everything."
Kor's presentation, sadly, included just a small model of the Urbee, rather than the real thing. But San Franciscans may get a close look at the car in another year or so. Kor and employees of his startup company, Kor Ecologic, plan to drive the second prototype from New York to San Francisco in 2015.
And if their ideas pan out, the entire trip in the small, lightweight and aerodynamic Urbee 2 - equipped with an advanced hybrid engine - will take less than 10 gallons of fuel. That works out to roughly 290 miles per gallon, given the route that Kor plans.
He doesn't consider it a pipe dream. Kor and his colleagues, whose past work includes designing buses and farm equipment, have created a car whose every feature is designed to reduce the horsepower needed for travel at freeway speed.
It's low to the ground, shaped like a lozenge and almost as small. It seats two and runs on three wheels. And its body - basically one elongated bubble - is smooth enough to make most mass-market cars look like bricks.
"I tell people there are no square fish in the ocean," Kor said Tuesday. "There probably were, but they were eaten."
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kor and his team came up with the basic concept for the car, built a metal chassis and sculpted the body in clay.
They scanned the clay model into a computer, refined the dimensions after doing some virtual wind-tunnel testing, and fed all the specs into 3-D printing equipment from Stratasys at a facility in Minnesota.
The first body panels were ready within weeks, far less time than would have been required to make them from fiberglass. And the nature of 3-D printing, which builds objects by depositing ultrathin layers of material on top of each other, created panels with no wasted plastic - and therefore, no wasted weight.
The 2015 drive - assuming it happens - will largely follow in reverse the route of America's first cross-country road trip in a car. In 1903, Horatio Jackson and Sewall Crocker drove from San Francisco to New York, accompanied by Jackson's dog, Bud. The trip took two months and nine days. Kor wants his sons, Tyler and Cody, to drive the Urbee 2, along with their dog, Cupid.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worker-Owned business is subsidized in Bolivia

"Bolivian government authorizes workers to take over closed or abandoned firms"
2013-10-10 by Richard Fidler []: Note - a correction to this article has been posted at 2013-10-24 "Bolivia’s Enatex, or how state sovereignty intersects with workers’ interests" [].
LA PAZ − On October 7, President Evo Morales issued a government decree that allows workers to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, or unjustifiably closed or abandoned. These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance. 
Morales issued Supreme Decree 1754 at a ceremony in the presidential palace marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia (CGTFB – the General Confederation of Industrial Workers of Bolivia). The Minister of Labour, Daniel Santalla, said the decree was issued pursuant to article 54 of Bolivia’s new Constitution, which states that workers  “in defense of their workplaces and protection of the social interest may, in accordance with the law, reactivate and reorganize firms that are undergoing bankrupty, creditor proceedings or liquidation, or closed or abandoned without justification, and may form communitarian or social enterprises. The state will contribute to the action of the workers.”
In his remarks to the audience of several hundred union members and leaders, President Morales noted that employers often attempt to blackmail workers with threats to shut down when faced with demands for higher wages. “Now, if they threaten you in that way, the firm may as well go bankrupt or close, because you will become the owners. They will be new social enterprises,” he said.
Labour Minister Santalla noted that the constitutional article had already been used to establish some firms, such as Enatex, Instrabol, and Traboltex, and that more such firms could now be set up under the new decree.
Business spokesmen predictably warned that the new provisions would be a disincentive to private investment and risk the viability of companies.
Santalla also said that firms that do not comply with their workforce obligations under the law will lose preferential mechanisms to export their products to state-managed markets. And he cited some recent cases in which the government had intervened in defense of workers victimized for their attempts to form unions. In one such case last month, Burger King, the company was fined 30,000 Bolivianos ($4,300 US), ordered to reinstate the fired workers and to recognize the union.
In the following article Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, draws attention to some important developments within the country’s labour movement and suggests some means by which the unions can be more effectively incorporated within the “process of change” being championed by the government of the MAS-IPSP, the Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples.
"The working class and the political process in Bolivia"
by Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, from "Rebelión" (translated from Spanish by Richard Fidler) []:
Five months ago, I was in Tarija participating in a forum debating the political process in Bolivia, a process we call the Democratic and Cultural Revolution. One of those attending asked me whether it was possible to deepen this revolution, to make it an economic and social revolution, without the participation of the working class. My immediate response was no, that to consolidate a period of transition to the construction of a new form of communitarian socialism it was absolutely necessary that the workers participate within the revolutionary social bloc that has managed this process of transformations starting in 2000 in the so-called water war, when the overthrow of neoliberalism began.
It was a very relevant question since at that moment, in May of 2013, the mobilizations over the Pensions Act called by the leadership of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB – Bolivian Workers Central) in opposition to the government of Evo Morales were at their height.[1] Strongly influenced by ultraleft political tendencies organized around the self-described “Partido de los Trabajadores” [PT -- Workers Party], the COB committed a monumental error in mobilizing their ranks with fevered speeches calling for replacing Evo with “another government,” as a leader of the urban teachers in Santa Cruz put it.
This maximalist orientation led the COB inexorably to defeat, since the strike and the mobilizations never met with popular support and in the end the union leadership had to retreat in virtual disarray. The diversion that led to the defeat originated in the characterization that the ultraleft makes of the present government as “bourgeois and pro-imperialist,” a simplistic deceit peculiar to the political currents of an excessively classist and workerist ideological mould that blocks them from understanding the varied nature of the Bolivian social formation, which can only be analyzed in terms that combine nation and class.
The present process of change is made up of a dynamic deployment of social class struggles within capitalism that are combined, sometimes in a contradictory way, with the historic struggle of the indigenous nations against the internal capitalism. That is the dialectical nature of this process, in which the anticapitalist and anticolonialist structural tendencies expressed in the political action of exploited classes and oppressed nations make possible the revolutionary transformation of the economic relations of exploitation, the political relations of exclusion and the cultural relations of oppression. Yet there is always the risk that this course of transformations, as a result of external pressures, internal fragmentation or programmatic concessions, will become exhausted or reversed.
Turning to the conflict with the COB, following its dénouement the government set itself the task of rapidly mending its relationship with the working-class sectors while at the same time the rank and file workers began to settle scores with the ultraleft leaderships within the unions. That is what has just occurred in the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores Mineros de Huanuni [Combined Union of the Mining Workers in Huanuni], an emblematic organization because that district, located in the western department of Oruro, has the largest proletarian concentration in the entire country. Its 4,500 miners more than a year ago had elected a union leadership radically opposed to the government. This leadership led in the May strike, the blockade of roads in Caihuasi and the blowing up of a bridge located in that locality. Today, weakened and isolated, that ultraleft that was perched for some time in the Huanuni union has ended up being removed by a mass general meeting of the workers, who also decided to approve the construction of a new political pacto de unidad [unity agreement] with the government of Evo Morales.
No doubt such repositioning within the workers movement will have a major impact on the future of the PT since that political instrument has now lost its backbone; the effects will also be felt in the orientation of the Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia [Federation of Mining Workers of Bolivia] and in the COB itself.
Let’s look at another industrial sector, that of the construction workers. This is one of the fastest growing sources of employment owing to the expansion in public and private investment in new building construction. Everywhere in Bolivia’s cities you can see building and housing complexes under way, and with them the hiring of many workers as casual or piecework labour. But the unions in this sector are weak and dispersed, partly because their leadership tends to be controlled by the big construction companies but also because of the sparse regulation exercised by the state.
This submissiveness of the unions began to change at the most recent national congress of the Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores en Construcción de Bolivia [Bolivian Construction Workers Union Confederation], which met in the city of Santa Cruz. The construction workers elected a new union leadership and set their sights on the mandatory organizing of all the building workers, teachers and assistants, replacing oral agreements with the bosses with collective labour contracts in all construction projects. This will also be a means of overcoming the situation of “informal workers” that is one of the worst legacies of neoliberalism in a country in which less than 20% of the workers are unionized.
Manufacturing workers have been one of the hardest-hit sectors, decimated by the massive layoffs euphemistically labelled “relocations” by Supreme Decree 21060 of August 1985. The manufacturing sector was subsequently subjected for almost two decades to the labour flexibility policies of neoliberalism in order to reduce payloads and increase the profits of capital.
Today the manufacturing sector is undergoing a rapid reorganizing of the unions that has helped to strengthen the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia [General Confederation of Manufacturing Workers of Bolivia]. Yet to be consolidated is the organization of new unions, particularly in the cities of El Alto and Santa Cruz, the two major concentrations of industrial factories in Bolivia.
The importance given to reincorporating workers in the process of transformations around a common programmatic agenda with the Morales government lies not only in the fact that it will help to bring together a strong labour base of support, but also that it will strengthen the anti-imperialist and revolutionary tendencies in the process. The programmatic agenda to which we refer could address the following aspects: (1) a new General Labour Law which, while preserving the advances already in the present law, will grant new rights to the workers; (2) a natonal campaign of massive union organization in all industries that are unorganized; and (3) the strengthening of the social and communitarian sector of the economy, in alliance with the nationalized state sector.

[Footnote 1] The COB demanded an increase in state pensions to 8,000 bolivianos ($1140) annually for miners, and 5,000 bolivianos ($715) for other sectors. The government offered 4,000 and 3,200 bolivianos respectively ($600/$470), saying that any more would risk the financial sustainability of its pension scheme.
The conflict saw miners, teachers and health workers take to the streets of La Paz, while roadblocks and strikes took place across the country. Police were deployed to break up blockades in Cochabamba and La Paz, leading to several arrests and injuries, while workers at the state-run Huanuni mine joined the La Paz protests, paralysing tin production and costing several million dollars.
Other social sectors in Bolivia organised counter-marches in favour of the government. Representatives of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Confederación de Mujeres Campesinas y Originarias Bartolina Sisa marched in La Paz to reject the blockades and mobilisations organised by the COB, while coca workers also protested in favour of the government in Cochabamba. At a rally in La Paz, Morales strongly criticised the COB leaders, accusing them of being at the service of imperialism, capitalism and neoliberalism.
After 16 days of protest, COB leaders agreed to lift the strike for 30 days to allow time to analyse a government offer to reform the current pensions system. Union leaders negotiated for several days in La Paz with officials from the labour and finance ministries, during which the union lowered its demand on pensions to 4,900 bolivianos for miners and 3,700 bolivianos ($700 and $530 respectively) for other sectors. It remains to be seen whether permanent settlement can be reached. (Source: “Strikes and blockades organised by trade unions in pension protest,” Bolivia Information Forum, News Briefing May-June 2013)

"Are American Transit Manufacturers Afraid of American Jobs?"

2013-10-10 by Rachele Huennekens of "Jobs to Move America" []:
“Frankly, I’m surprised that American jobs are so controversial.”
These words, spoken by Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) senior researcher Linda Nguyen-Perez, hung in the air of a Chicago hotel conference room last week during the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Annual Meeting.
Linda and I attended the conference on behalf of the new Jobs to Move America campaign, explaining our effort to transit agency officials, consultants and transportation equipment manufacturers from across the nation. The budding coalition behind this movement unites community, small business, labor, faith, small business, philanthropy, academic and environmental groups, including LAANE, all of whom want to maximize the 5.4 billion American taxpayer dollars that public transportation agencies spend every year, to improve transportation systems, create good American jobs and generate opportunities for such struggling unemployed American workers as veterans, single parents and residents of low-income neighborhoods.
Linda made a special presentation to APTA’s Business Procurement Steering Committee on the Jobs to Move America plan. She revealed preliminary findings of research conducted with academic partners, demonstrating how many valuable components of buses and rail cars are currently being manufactured overseas because of weaknesses and loopholes infederal “Buy America” laws requiring at least 60 percent American-made parts []. Linda also laid out several alarming economic statistics, showing double-digit unemployment rates brought on by the Great Recession and continual offshoring of good-wage industrial jobsover recent decades. These have created a crisis for millions of American workers now facing “significant and multiple barriers to employment” [].
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to leverage taxpayer investment to create more good American jobs, right?
Wrong, according to the reaction of many manufacturing companies in the conference room. Business representatives raised objection after objection to the Jobs to Move America plan, declaring that they already manufactured as much as possible in the United States and denying the research findings of Buy America flaws. Other businesses threatened that they might have to lay off workers in existing American factories if they hired workers in another American location. One business representative even accused Linda and I of “micromanaging…[and] interfering with our business.”
Where was the disconnect? we wondered. Perhaps the companies were blind to the negative consequences of their business-as-usual practices, whereby they used taxpayer funds to manufacture so many of our trains and buses in faraway factories, limiting their U.S. investment to small “final assembly” facilities? Perhaps they didn’t see the devastating impacts of closed factories in communities across America’s Rust Belt and Northeast regions [], or notice the more than 11 million unemployed Americans who are desperate for good jobs to support their families []? Perhaps they didn’t see how efficient and high quality our buses and trains could be, if they were made by skilled workers right here in America? Or maybe these manufacturers were truly afraid of American jobs?
Yet, as Federal Transportation Administrator Peter Rogoff pointed out in the Procurement Steering Committee meeting, “ultimately, the financiers of this project are taxpayers, and they care about jobs.” Rogoff also pointed out that “there is strong interest in strengthening Buy America” within the the Obama Administration, and told the business naysayers, "This is not just a discussion between advocates and industry… a key constituency are mayors and other elected officials, and they are very concerned about jobs and concerned about who is getting those jobs."
Manufacturing companies may be afraid of American jobs, but the Jobs to Move America coalition is not. In the months ahead, our campaign will continue to ask public transit agencies to invest billions of American tax dollars into good jobs, opportunities and factories, right here in America.