Archive for April, 2009

Oregon wants to give electric car market a charge

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Oregon wants to give electric car market a charge

 

By TIM FOUGHT Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Ted Kulongoski kicks no tires, but he is giving a workout to the offerings of electric car manufacturers in hopes they will help Oregon lead the nation in switching from gasoline to electrons.

For the third time in recent weeks, Kulongoski took a spin Wednesday in an electric vehicle, this time a Mitsubishi, and one with a steering wheel on the right-hand side, at that.

“I kept turning on the windshield wipers,” Kulongoski said after his test drive in downtown Portland — where often, though not on this dry Wednesday, the wipers would be useful.

It won’t be until 2011 or 2012 that Mitsubishi brings Americans a model with the steering wheel on the familiar left side, company officials said.

That will be beyond Kulongoski’s tenure. His second term will draw to a close next year, and he’s limited to two consecutive terms.

It will not be beyond his ambition for Oregon’s motorists and economy — he may be the governor most passionate about the vehicles. He hopes for a leading role for a green-leaning Oregon, as a test market, a port-of-entry for the cars, or a location for plants that make vehicles, batteries or chargers.

He went to Japan and China in November to court manufacturers, and take test drives.

He’s backing bills in the Legislature to give buyers of all-electrics a $5,000 state tax credit and to provide business tax credits for charging stations. A few weeks ago, he held press conferences and drove electric models from Nissan and a Norwegian car named Think, whose maker is considering building a plant in Oregon.

He’s signed agreements with Nissan and Mitsubishi and the state’s largest utility, Portland General Electric, focusing on his administration’s effort to create a network of charging stations.

State Department of Transportation officials say the widespread availability of electrons is a threshold issue among people contemplating plug-ins; they don’t want to run out of juice.

Mitsubishi officials said the car Kulongoski drove Wednesday would have a range of 80 to 90 miles, about what a car with good gas mileage could do on two to three gallons.

As officials imagine electric driving, most charging would be done at night, at home. The secondary source of power would be at job sites — in parking lots or garages.

Beyond that would be a third level of charging stations at, say, rest areas and other public places, “so that people begin to be comfortable that they will be able to get where they’re going,” said Art James, an Oregon Department of Transportation official managing the project.

The department has asked for proposals to create a standardized network of such stations and expects to complete that work this fall.

James said the stations would feature 240-volt connections, which Mitsubishi officials said would allow their all-electric to recharge fully in six to seven hours. A full recharge at the ordinary household force, 120 volts, would take twice as long, they said.

Efforts to create the infrastructure for electric cars are under way in other states, including California, Arizona and Tennessee.

Kulongoski said Wednesday that Oregon’s next step would be to seek a share of $300 million in federal stimulus money set aside to promote purchases of electric cars and charging stations. He said he expects competition across the country to be strong.

The state has gotten about 70 expressions of interest from “public and private entities” who want to push the transition to electric vehicles, Kulongoski said.

He said the state will look for commitments to buy electric cars or install charging stations. Department of Transportation officials said that would be a way of providing the local money to match the federal dollars.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.)

Green Wedding Week: A Review of the Green Bride Guide

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Green Bride Guide

It’s green wedding week here at IntimateWeddings.com. To kick things off, I’ve reviewed Kate Harrison’s The Green Bride Guide. Stay tuned for more eco-friendly wedding posts throughout the week!

**********************

You will not save the planet by having a green wedding (headlines like this one from the Toronto Star bring my blood to a rolling boil.) Using soy ink on your recycled paper invitations, and opting for a second-hand dress is not going to save Mother Earth, but if you are an eco-conscious individual who happens to be planning a wedding, green nuptials are a natural choice. After all, a wedding is one of the most significant events in one’s life and it usually reflects the values of the couple saying ‘I do.’

That said, just because you are environmentally conscious does not necessarily mean you know how to navigate the foreign land of veils and vendors with a ‘green’ compass. And that’s where Kate Harrison’s The Green Bride Guide comes in.

The Green Bride Guide is a comprehensive guide to help eco-conscious couples of all budgets make green decisions in all phases of wedding planning. The book covers everything from finding a ‘green’ venue to choosing the most eco-friendly wedding favors. In every chapter, the green choices that are offered are divided into price categories ranging from the least expensive to the most expensive.

According to Harrison, the size of a wedding has the biggest influence on how ‘green’ it is.

“The size of your wedding is the most influential factor affecting both the cost and sustainability of your wedding. Generally speaking, the smaller the wedding, the less expensive it will be and the less environmental impact it will have. A fifty-person wedding at $100 a head is $5,000. A two-hundred person wedding at the same location is $20,000 and has roughly four times the environmental impact,” she writes. {Chock another one up for small weddings!}

Harrison stresses the importance of communicating your vision of a green wedding to each of your wedding vendors. She includes an anecdote from her own wedding that highlights the importance of clear communication.

“My new husband and I were waiting with our friends for the arrival of what was supposed to be a biodiesel shuttle, when up pulls a pimped out (faux-leopard interior) SUV limo – pretty much the least environmentally friendly form of transportation you can imagine … We had been unwittingly ‘upgraded’ by our well -intentioned but environmentally uninformed transportation company,” she writes.

Harrison also discusses ‘greenwashing’ and advises couples to be vigilant about choosing vendors. Terms like ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ are not regulated by the US government and can be used by anyone. (Just think of all the ‘organic’ shampoos on the shelves that are loaded with parabens.) ‘Green’ has become a giant money-making industry and oftentimes it’s difficult to know who is legitimate and who is simply out to make a buck. Harrison’s book and website  help couples choose legitimately sustainable businesses that the author personally recommends.

One of the most important points that Harrison makes is that a green wedding is not only about making eco-friendly purchasing decisions, but also about spreading the gospel – in a non-preachy way.

” … in the same way that a wedding is an opportunity for you and your fiancé to showcase your tastes, it is also a unique chance for you to showcase your values.”

When it comes to creating a green event,  it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: trying your best is what counts, says Harrison. And The Green Bride Guide will help you do just that.

Reports say billions in transportation and green spending could add millions of jobs

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

by Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian

Tuesday April 07, 2009, 12:45 PM

The federal government could boost the economy and generate more than 1 million new jobs by spending $100 billion on transportation infrastructure and environmentally friendly projects.

That’s the chief conclusion of two reports out today by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington D.C.-based think tank.

Each $100 billion invested in transportation infrastructure and in green jobs would expand the economy’s annual output by about $160 billion and generate approximately 1.1 million jobs, the reports say.

In “Green Investments and the Labor Market,” EPI economists say that each dollar of infrastructure investment broadly defined provides about $1.59 in additional economic growth, making it about 33% more effective than tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

Spending on energy efficiency could provide an even bigger boost for jobs, the report says.

“Much of the construction spending undertaken in the name of energy conservation would be mostly directed toward retrofitting existing structures rather than building new ones from scratch,” the report says. “This sort of “fix-it-first” construction typically is more labor-intensive than average and hence would make better economic stimulus.”

The transportation job-creation study is titled “Transportation Investments and the Labor Market.”

Both transportation and green investments disproportionately create jobs for workers without a 4-year degree, and benefit sectors covered by unionized work.

However, spending on green jobs would not benefit everyone equally across the labor market, the report says. Only 26 percent of the direct and indirect jobs created would go to women.

Since more than half of individuals in poverty are in households without adult males, the green jobs report says, “this would not be, by itself, an effective anti-poverty tool unless coupled with other policies so that it provides ample job opportunities to women.”

– Dylan Rivera; dylanrivera@news.oregonian.com

Making green by going green

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

by Jonathan Cavanagh, guest opinion

Thursday April 02, 2009, 10:14 AM

The trend toward “going green” has engulfed our political and business landscapes. While the marketing of sustainability and green commerce is well known in our lexicon, there are tangible benefits for companies that green their operations.

Aside from societal responsibility and stewardship, companies can, and are, improving corporate earnings. Customers are increasingly loyal to companies that are practicing sustainability. Even the bastion of liberal and environmental angst, Wal-Mart, has embarked on a successful sustainability campaign.

The sustainability movement has three distinct characteristics that companies can implement. First, is reporting on corporate sustainability efforts. This reporting is similar in style, albeit tailored for each company, to annual financial reporting. Second, there are tax incentives available for companies that have invested in sustainability. Finally, companies are able to cut costs by streamlining operations and eliminating waste and excess energy. As a result, companies are profiting from the sustainable movement.

Many companies are publishing annual reports, often in the same style as their annual financial reports, to boast about their corporate responsibility. Recently, the international accounting firm of KPMG produced a report on corporate responsibility reporting. The report articulated that there is a moral and a business case to be made for corporate responsibility.

The business case is that businesses perform best when they play a strong role in their community. Whereby the local community is a key element for corporate responsibility that can, and often does, lead to increased customer loyalty.

For large, international companies, corporate responsibility reporting has become commonplace. Almost seventy percent of Global Fortune 250 companies report on sustainability focusing on social, environmental, and economic concerns.

What is even more remarkable is that the main driver for corporate responsibility reports is economic considerations, followed by ethical considerations and innovation. Corporate economic interests are furthered by corporate responsibility, and it is foolish to avoid this reality of the new business environment. International Accounting Standards now require organizations to account for changes in asset values that result because of environmental factors (e.g. trading permits). The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive requires that companies in the European Union register emissions and report this data so the findings can be made public

States are encouraging companies to participate in sustainability by providing tax credits and subsidizing sustainability. In Oregon, the Business Energy Tax Credit (“BETC”) is available for trade, business, and rental property owners who pay taxes for a business site in Oregon. The BETC is available to those who invest in energy conservation, recycling, renewable energy resources, and less-polluting fuel used for transportation. The credit is 35% of eligible expenses (the incremental cost beyond standard practice) and taken over five years, 10% in the first year, and 5% for the remaining four years. But, if the eligible project costs are less than $20,000, the entire credit can be taken in the first year.

Also, an Oregon nonprofit, tribe, or public entity that partners with an Oregon business or resident is also eligible by using the pass-through option. The pass-through option for five year BETC is 25.5%, while the one year BETC is 30.5%. The scope of the BETC is large and covers projects ranging form conservation, alternative fuels, hybrid vehicles, sustainable buildings, and transportation. Loan and permit fees, along with direct costs are eligible.

With the challenging economic times, the BETC is a great way for businesses to create jobs and expand energy development in Oregon. Recently, ECONorthwest conducted a study that showed that in 2006 the BETC led to an increased economic output of $140 million, reduced energy costs by almost $50 million, and created over 1,200 new jobs.

There are energy tax incentives in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Principally, the act seeks to expand the production and development of alternative sources of energy including biomass, solar, and wind technology. The law increases the credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling for commercial and retail stations. The credit is 30% of the cost of the property placed in service and is limited to $50,000 for 2009 and 2010. There is also a tax credit for electricity produced from renewable sources and extends the credit for wind facilities through 2012, and 2013 for other renewable sources. Further, the law expanded the energy investment credit to include small wind energy property.

By streamlining operations, companies are lowering costs while improving sustainability. Wal-Mart has established an internal sustainability program that has reduced their shipping container use by 500 units annually. This has resulted in 1,000 fewer barrels of oil and 3,800 trees while saving the company $2.4 million.

Toyota has become the leader for sustainability in the automobile manufacturer market. During 2000-2005, Toyota cut emissions by 56%, reduced its energy use by 30%, and eliminated 95% of the waste to end up in landfills. Toyota has eliminated wasteful production processes resulting in greater corporate profitability by focusing on sustainable production. By reexamining and reevaluating past production, Toyota found opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint while enriching shareholders.

There are compelling, and justifiable, reasons why companies should adopt a corporate culture that embraces sustainability that is grounded in corporate ethics. But there are also fiscal incentives for companies who embrace sustainability. Sustainable business practices lead to increased brand loyalty and good will with consumers. In Oregon, tax credits are available for companies that invest in sustainability and renewable energy development. By focusing on sustainability companies are better adept at reducing waste in the production cycle, which leads to less energy and consumption resulting in a stronger bottom line.

Jonathan Cavanagh is a CPA and a law student at the University of Oregon Law School.

Oregon Department of Transportation Issues RFP for Electric Vehicle Charging Station Equipment

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

2 April 2009

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has issued a first-in-the-nation solicitation for charging equipment to service electric vehicles (EVs). At the request of local entities and electric utilities throughout the state, ODOT is using its public/private partnership authority to establish consistent standards and uniformity in building an EV charging infrastructure for Oregon.

Oregon is poised to lead the nation in the early adoption of plug-in electric vehicles. Having one common, open system for all types of vehicles is the only way this will be successful. This effort to promote consistency in the EV charging network is vital to gaining public recognition and acceptance of the new technologies coming on the market.

—Gail Achterman, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission

Among the technical requirements for qualified proposals are:

  • Support for SAE J1772 Level 1 and Level 2 charging
  • Compliance with SAE recommended practice J1772 “SAE Electric Vehicle Conductive Charge Coupler”
  • The EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) must be equipped with leakage and ground current monitors with interruption capabilities;
  • A minimum one year warranty on all EVSE, including repair or replacement.
  • Operation without any decrease in performance over an ambient temperature range of -22 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of up to 95%.
  • Manual reset capabilities on the EVSE with instructions to enable the end user to reset the EVSE in the even of an over current or leakage/ground current interruption.

A desirable, but not required feature, is a NEMA 5-20R, 120VAC/20 amps receptacle to accommodate plug-in hybrid and neighborhood EVs not equipped with the SAE J1772 coupler.

The RFP will be open for 90 days. ODOT plans to execute purchase agreements and have entities in Oregon begin deployment of EV charging infrastructure in September-October of this year.

ODOT is also pursuing grant opportunities to accelerate the state’s EV infrastructure initiative. The US Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program received a $300 million boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is encouraging qualified entities to apply for funding for sustainable projects.

April 2, 2009

Hey, your truck smells delicious

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

SUSTAINABLE LIVING

The Bee, Apr 1, 2009

If a Portland Water Bureau truck is watering down your street this summer, you might detect a smell of barbeque, popcorn, or French fries coming from its exhaust pipe.

(news photo)

An Encore Oils employee collects used vegetable oil from a restaurant. In Salem, the oil is processed into biodiese, and used locally to power vehicles.

Courtesy of Empire Oils

This aroma is associated with the Water Bureau’s use of B99 – or 99.9% biodiesel – in its vehicles during the warmer months. During colder months, more petroleum-based fuel is mixed in to prevent solidifying.

Biodiesel is not to be confused with ethanol, which is a gasoline replacement, distilled mainly from corn. Biodiesel is a replacement for traditional diesel fuel, and is extracted from vegetable oil.

Many people may not realize that their local community can be a good source of vegetable oil for the production of biodiesel. In the Woodstock neighborhood, for example, Super Torta Restaurant on S.E. Woodstock Blvd. at 57th Avenue sells its used cooking oil to a local company, SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel.

Once a month, a vegetable oil collection company, Encore Oils – a subsidiary of SeQuential – picks up the used vegetable oil that Super Torta stores in a 55-gallon drum. From there, the used cooking oil is hauled to Salem, where it is processed into biodiesel.

The SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel plant produces five million gallons of biodiesel a year.

Gavin Carpenter, who has worked as SeQuential’s regional sales manager for almost three years, says that the Burgerville at S.E. 25th and Powell, across from Cleveland High School, also sells its used cooking oil to SeQuential.

“What is cool, is to take something that is considered waste, and make it into fuel that is cleaner burning – and have all of the money stay in the Oregon economy,” Carpenter grins. “The biodiesel we process in Salem is made from 98% waste cooking oil.”

Once the used cooking oil is processed into biodiesel at the SeQuential plant in Salem, Star Oil Company trucks haul it back to Portland to a McCall Oil facility. Local oil companies come to McCall Oil to purchase the biodiesel and take it to homes for heating, and to storage tanks for city vehicles, among other destinations.

Carpenter, who drives his VW Jetta on biodiesel, claims the alternative fuel reduces his car’s green house gas emission by 78%.

He responds to the claim that using biodiesel requires more maintenance by explaining that biodiesel is a solvent. “It will actually clean out your fuel intake system. The sludge and dirt that builds up from using petroleum diesel is removed by using biodiesel. If you have a high blend in your car engine, it is a good idea to have an extra fuel filter on hand. It also has higher lubricity than petroleum diesel, which reduces wear and tear on engines.”

Individual households can also recycle their cooking oil. In these days of health consciousness, many households avoid making the deep-fat-fried donuts and French fries that once were family favorites, but deep-frying turkeys has become a choice for many, though a sometimes-hazardous one for those new to the process.

“Over the holidays, we collected 280 gallons of used cooking oil at a single public drop-off location,” reports Carpenter.

Household used cooking oil – canola, olive, soy, safflower, or corn – can be recycled at Far West Fibers, two blocks south of Holgate Boulevard at 4629 S.E. 17th Avenue, where the oil is stored in a mini-dumpster until it is trucked to Salem for processing.

To learn more about vegetable oil conversion to biodiesel, or how to recycle used cooking oil, go online to: www.sqbiofuels.com.

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