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News Archive - June 2006

LA, Long Beach Ports Announce New Enviro Policies
June 29, 2006 – Los Angeles, CA – The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced what are described as radical new environmental policies that could change the way America's ports operate, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The neighboring ports, which together handle the most shipping traffic in the country but are also among the nation's worst polluters, are aiming to drastically reduce lethal, cancer-causing diesel emissions from oceangoing ships, railroads, trucks and cargo handling equipment. The California Air Resources Board issued a report in April calling for better environmental controls at the state's ports, estimating that diesel emissions were causing approximately 2,400 premature deaths regionally a year, most of them in Los Angeles, where the principal source of diesel exhaust is the port. David Freeman, chairman of the powerful Los Angeles Harbor Commission, said in an interview the ports' actions would likely affect other major ports, including Oakland, as the major shipping and cargo moving companies are forced to switch to newer, more efficient equipment. Freeman said the ports believe the new programs will reduce the harmful emissions buy as much as 85 percent of current levels in 10 years or less, even as port traffic increases on the back of California's booming trade with Asia.

Scientist Says Climate is Warming Abruptly
June 28, 2006 – Columbus Ohio – A leading expert on glaciers has concluded that Earth's climate is undergoing an abrupt change, reports the Washington Post. Lonnie G. Thompson, a scientist who's worked for 23 years with core samples from glaciers, says a cooler period, which began with a swift "cold snap" in the tropics 5,200 years ago, is ending. The warming around Earth's tropical belt is a signal suggesting that the "climate system has exceeded a critical threshold," which has sent tropical-zone glaciers in full retreat and will melt them completely "in the near future," Thompson said. Writing with eight other researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Thompson noted that ice samples show that the climate can and did cool quickly, and that a similarly abrupt warming change started about 50 years ago. Thompson, in an interview in his lab at Ohio State University, referred to climate thresholds, noting that when they are crossed, "there is the risk of changing the world as we know it to some form in which a lot of people on the planet will be put at risk." Thompson's work summarizes evidence from around the world and ice core sampling from seven locations in the South American Andes and the Asian Himalayas.

ARB Contracts Quantum to Supply Hydrogen Hybrid Vehicles
June 28, 2006 – Irvine, CA – Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc has announced the California Air Resources Board's intent to lease four hydrogen-fuel Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles. The vehicles will be used by the State of California later this year as part of the California Hydrogen Highway Network (CaH2Net). CaH2Net is a State initiative to promote hydrogen as a means of diversifying our sources of transportation energy wile ensuring environmental and economic benefits. Quantum's H2Hybrid package for the Toyota Pius includes an electronic multi-point hydrogen injection system, turbocharger and intercooler, compressed hydrogen fuel storage module, hydrogen fuel delivery system and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) crashworthy design and validation. In addition to meeting designated starting conditions and drivability specifications, the vehicles have been designed and tested to achieve Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) emissions standards. Quantum is also developing an H2Hybrid package for the Ford Escape Hybrid sport utility vehicle in conjunction with the U.S. Army. "Interest in Quantum's hydrogen hybrid technologies continues to grow, with 30 hydrogen Priuses currently in operation in Southern California and 23 more now on order, including 15 that are bound for Norway," said Alan P. Niedzwiecki, President and CEO of Quantum. For more information, click here.

Supreme Court to Hear State's Regulation Case
June 27, 2006 – Washington, DC – Over the Bush administration's opposition, the Supreme Court has entered the debate over global warming by agreeing to rule on whether emissions from new cars, trucks and power plants must be further regulated to slow climate change, reports the Los Angeles Times. It gives a tentative boost to 12 states and a coalition of environmentalists who have accused the Environmental Protection Agency of having "squandered nearly a decade" by failing to act. The Bush administration's lawyers questioned whether the government could and should "embark on the extraordinarily complex and scientifically uncertain task of addressing the global issue of greenhouse gas emissions" by regulating motor vehicles sold in the United States. The case could be one of the most important environmental disputes to come before the court, with a far-reaching potential to impact automakers. It also could determine the fate of California's effort to adopt its own rules designed to limit greenhouse gases from cars and trucks, since those rules, set to go into effect in 2009, require EPA approval. "Everything now hinges on what the Supreme Court does," said David Bookbinder, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups that pressed the issue. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he was confident the Supreme Court "will make history by striking down the Bush administration's stance" against regulating greenhouse gases.

Chevron, Georgia Tech Collaborate on Biofuels, Hydrogen
June 23, 2006 – San Ramon, CA – Chevron Technology Ventures plans to collaborate with Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Institute, for research and development of cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen as renewable transportation fuels, reports Chevron will contribute up to $12 million over five years, with the focus on developing commercially viable processes for the production of transportation fuels from renewable resources such as forest and agricultural waste. This is an advancement over first-generation biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which are made from agricultural food crops such as corn, sugarcane and soybeans. Research will focus on four areas: production of cellulosic biofuels or hydrogen from biomass and also understand the conditions needed for large-scale production facilities. Scientists from Chevron and Georgia Tech are also working to develop regenerative sorbents that can be used repeatedly, thereby reducing the cost of hydrogen production from natural gas. "Beyond this project, Chevron in 2006 expects to spend approximately $400 million in the development of alternative and renewable energy technologies and in delivering energy efficiency solutions," said Don Paul, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Chevron Corporation.

World Oil Demand to Rise 37 Percent by 2030 – EIA
June 21, 2006 – Washington, DC – World oil demand is set to increase 37 percent from the existing level of 86 million barrels per day (bpd) to 118 bpd in 2030 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Higher demand is expected to come from Asia, especially India and China. The oil cartel, OPEC's supply share will fall from 39.7 percent to 38.4 percent as West Africa and the Caspian increase production. At the same time, oil production in Europe's largest producer, Norway, is expected to decline. Much of the world incremental oil demand is projected for use in the transportation sector. The US will still be the single largest consumer, with the EIA predicting it will consume 27.6 million barrels per day (bpd) up from this year's 20.8 million. Though worldwide oil demand is forecast to increase, the higher price is expected to temper demand and boost the appeal of other sources of energy. Oil represented nearly 38 percent of the world's total energy consumption in 2003, but is expected to fall to 33 percent by 2030.

ULA Metro, Orange Line Cited for Excellence
June 20, 2006 – Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles County's Metro was cited as the nation's 2006 Outstanding Public Transportation System by the American Public Transportation Associations (APTA). According to a Metro release, the agency earned the annual 2006 Outstanding Public Transportation System award for large transit properties, given annually to public transportation systems that have demonstrated achievement in efficiency and effectiveness. Among the achievements that earned Metro the award are: the success of the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley; commencement of tunneling for the underground portion of the Eastside Extension light-rail project linking the Pasadena-to-Union Station Metro Gold Line with Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Boyle Heights and East los Angeles; and the expansion of the Metro Rapid System of 2,000 clean-air compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, targeted for a 100 percent CNG fleet by 2008. Also considered in granting the award were the Metro Blue Line light rail line – between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach – reaching a ridership record of more than 80,000 average weekday boardings; and planning for the Exposition light rail line, due to break ground this year, and by 2010 to link downtown Los Angeles with Culver City and eventually with Santa Monica. According to a Metro spokesperson, the Orange Line also won both Project of the Year and Transit Project of the Year at the California Transportation Foundation (CTF) TRANNY awards. This is the latest accolade for the Metro Orange Line, which recently reached 21,828 boardings in May 2006; a milestone that Metro originally predicted wouldn't be reached until 2020.

Cal Fuel Prices Outpace National Trend
June 19, 2006 – Sacramento, CA – According to a report released last week by the California Energy Commission (CEC), California drivers paid up to 60 cents per gallon more for gasoline, and nearly $132 million more in total for fuel this spring, than drivers elsewhere in the nation, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The analysis found that prices in California spiked 60 cents per gallon above those in New York during a three week period ending May 9. No similar increases were reported in other parts of the country, raising questions about market manipulation. State officials said they have not attempted to research the cause of the price increases and have left that question for a report due in August. They did acknowledge that market manipulation could be a factor, as well as other issues such as refinery bottlenecks and other market influences. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the initial investigation in April, commenting last Thursday that while this report found no evidence of price gouging, the state will take action if subsequent investigation finds otherwise. "If we find that Californians have been subjected to market manipulation or other unfair business practices, we will hold the responsible parties accountable and take every legal action at our disposal," said Schwarzenegger, who has accepted nearly $2 million in campaign contributions from oil companies. Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said the California fuel market is extremely volatile, as a result of unique market factors including high taxes, a costly clean-fuel mandate and the very limited supplies. According to the report, California fuel prices have historically been higher than other parts of the nation, but price increases generally reflect hikes everywhere. The magnitude of the jump this spring, however, was not repeated anywhere else. Researchers said they will now evaluate a number of issues including maintenance schedules at refineries, inventory levels, and pipeline and port operations.

AQMD Approves $3 Million to Replace Old Diesel School Buses with CNG
June 16, 2006 – Southern California's clean air agency has approved nearly $3 million to replace 15 of the region's oldest diesel school buses with new natural gas-powered buses. The South Coat Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. SCAQMD approved the funding to purchase new compressed natural gas (CNG) powered buses as well as CNG fueling stations for five school districts. The program is funded by $2.1 million fro the state and $857,750 from SCAQMD. The California Legislature last year approved $12.5 million to replace 89 of the oldest buses statewide. SCAQMD has a number of policies and incentives to replace dirty diesel school buses with alternative fuel models, including rules requiring that school districts purchase alternative fuel buses, when they replace older ones, if outside funding is available. The district has approved $55.8 million to date to replace 357 older diesel buses with 271 new CNG and 86 lower-emitting diesel buses, and retrofitted more than 2,100 buses with particulate traps. It is currently seeking applications for $14 million in funding to replace older buses. In a recent evaluation of the condition of school buses by the Union of Concerned Scientists, California received a "C" grade on soot pollution but a "Good" rating for its clean-up program.

Westport Innovations Gets $22.1 Million Investment; for Commercial Launch of LNG Trucks
June 16, 2006 – Westport Innovations, a global leader in gaseous-fueled engines and fuel systems, will receive significant new investments that will help it expand its advanced engine markets. Perseus LLC, a U.S.-based private equity fund management company, has completed definitive agreements for a strategic investment of approximately 22.1 million Canadian dollars (US$20.1 million) in Westport. The proceeds will fund the commercial launch of High-Pressure Direct-Injection (HPDI) LNG truck engines in North American and Australia, development of Westport's international business ventures, and general working capital requirements. The parties also have agreed to a further investment of approximately C$8.3 million to be used to pursue new business opportunities, subject to shareholder approval. High Pressure Direct Injection relies on combustion chamber of a diesel engine. HPDI gives the engine the efficiency and low-speed torque advantages of compression ignition while using natural gas as the primary fuel. With HPDI engines, approximately 95 percent of the diesel fuel consumed in a diesel engine is displaced with natural gas.

UPS 'Green Fleet' Passes 100 Million Miles Mark
June 15, 2006 – Atlanta, GA – UPS, one of the largest delivery fleets in the world, announced that its fleet of alternative fuel trucks hit a major milestone, traveling more than 100 million miles to deliver packages to homes and businesses. According to a company press release, the total mileage accumulated since 2000 now stands at 108 million miles, or the equivalent of circling the Earth more than 4,337 times or traveling from Earth to Venus four-and-a-half times. UPS has invested more than $15 million in its alternative fuel fleet, which is currently operating hydrogen fuel cell, liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas, electric and propane-powered trucks in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany and Brazil. UPS also has partnered with government agencies and major corporations to help advance the state of vehicle technology, including two such partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). UPS, the EPA and DaimlerChrysler are working together to obtain practical knowledge about operating hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a commercial delivery fleet. UPS's second partnership with the EPA includes building and testing the world's first hydraulic hybrid urban delivery vehicle. This multi-phase project includes two UPS truck prototypes with different full-series hydraulic hybrid drivetrains. UPS also said it will add 50 hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet over the next year.

Report: Global Opportunities for Natural Gas Fuels
June 14, 2006 – Amsterdam – A new report designed to support efforts in developing a global strategy for NGV commercialization using different and appropriate technologies has been released by the International Gas Union, reports NGV Global. This report was undertaken over the last 3 years by a team of 30 experts, and was presented to the World Gas Conference in Amsterdam 5-9 June 2006. The report contains an overview of existing technologies from the simplest to the latest development, analysis for the same counties with observed trends in number of new NGVs, fuelling stations, and expert views on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (SWOC analysis) regarding their particular country/market. The leader of the project was Davor Matic of Energy Institute Hrvoje Pojar, Croatia. This report and the associated databases will be used over the next three years to look more closely at the national, regional and global potential and markets for NGVs. The project covers on and off-road applications, taking into account compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and biomethane. The updated report will be presented at the next World Gas Conference in Argentina in 2009. The current report is available for download at the IANGV web site.

Volvo to Preview Multi-Fuel Vehicle at Challenge
June 9, 2006 – Volvo will preview a prototype five-fuel vehicle at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2006 in Paris, reports Green Car Congress. The Volvo Multi-Fuel is a new prototype optimized for running on five fuels: bioethanol E85; methane in the form of either natural gas or bio-methane; gasoline; and a 10 percent Hythane blend (10 percent hydrogen, 90 percent natural gas). Hythane refers to hydrogen-CNG mixtures of 20 percent or less hydrogen by volume; blends of 21 percent hydrogen by volume or more are called HCNG. Tests with Hythane have shown reductions in NOx emissions compared to pure CNG without affecting vehicle fuel consumption or power. The Multi-Fuel meets virtually all known emission standards in the world, including the proposed Euro5, according to Volvo. Running on pure renewable fuels like hydrogen, biomethane and bioethanol means negligible net contribution of carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect. The turbo-charged engine delivers 200hp (149kW) of power. WestStart, which has a longstanding relationship with the Swedish carmaker, has projected a "poly-fuel future" where a variety of alternative fuels may be used. Volvo has long advocated bi-fuel vehicles – running on natural gas or biomethane, with a petroleum reserve – and also has clean diesel and ethanol fueled vehicles in its product line.

One Year Ago: Volvo Bi-Fuel Rated Cleanest Mid-Class in Germany
June 9, 2006 – The Volvo V70 Bi-Fuel is the cleanest upper mid-class car on the German market, according to the results of the recent ADAC Eco Test 2005. According to a company release, the test examining the environmental compatibility included 276 vehicles in seven vehicle classes. The Volvo V70 Bi-Fuel received the highest score in its class, and demonstrated exceptionally low CO2 emissions. Testers also measured the automobile's fuel efficiency and V70 Bi-Fuel took first place by a considerable margin ahead of the 25 other competitors in its class. In the overall ranking, the Volvo received the second-highest score, second only to the Toyota Prius hybrid. Germany's network of natural gas stations is continuously growing and currently comprises 600 stations. Natural gas will be available at 1,000 gas stations as early as next year. Volvo Bi-Fuel is available in the V70, S60, and S80. The technology has been developed since 1995.

High Fuel Prices: What is Being Done?
June 8, 2006 – Public and political suspicions that the oil companies are engaged in price gouging and collusion to set artificially high prices are receiving widespread coverage. An editorial in Light & Medium Truck suggests that Congress has seen this before and has opted not to do anything beyond holding public hearings or grandstanding. This time, the pressure is mounting: they may hold hearings again and they may try to punish the oil companies in some fashion. Analysts say punishing the oil companies would not reduce the price at the pump nor ease the crunch that is the real cause. The danger would be a rush to action without a clear; long-term strategy – something the editorial notes that we, as a nation, do not have. What is real is a growing push by state, local and municipal fleets to go green. States are mandating that their fleet managers make a greater effort to buy more environmentally sensitive vehicles. Several fleet managers at the National Association of Fleet Administrators' annual conference in Orlando in May said they are being required to step up their purchases of low- or zero-emission vehicles. It presents challenges for the fleet managers because the current green vehicle choices are expensive and the alternative fuel is still difficult to get in many locations. What the fleet managers said they would like to see is a more serious, prolonged effort on the part of the vehicle manufacturers to develop commercially-viable choices. But manufacturers would be foolish to believe that all the talk about 'greening' is just temporary. The mandates are out there, and fleet managers are a pragmatic lot.

Alchemy to Acquire Metal-Air Fuel Cell Tech from Cal Tech
June 5, 2006 – Alchemy Enterprises has been working with NASA/JPL on the development of a metal-air fuel-cell (MAFC) targeted at the heavy-duty transportation sector, and has now entered into an option agreement to acquire patent and license rights to the technology from California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech), reports Green Car Congress. Cal Tech – which operates Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) a federally-funded Research and Development center sponsored by NASA – will be issued eight percent of Alchemy Common Stock, and will receive an annual fee. In exchange, Alchemy will have exclusive worldwide rights to the current and all subsequent patent rights related to the metal-air fuel cell developed by NASA/JPL under the agreement. What Alchemy calls its Electric Power Cell Technology was first developed for long-range solar-powered high-altitude unmanned aircraft applications. MAFCs generate electricity using metal and oxygen, rather than combining hydrogen and oxygen as in a PEM fuel cell. Compared to conventional batteries, MAFCs can have as much as 75 times greater energy density. The company contracted with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories to design and develop a prototype system specifically for initial implementation in public transport and commercial heavy-duty vehicles. The initial working prototype is under development, and is being specifically tailored for implementation in vehicles manufactured by Designline Group in New Zealand, a leader in the production of electric drive systems for buses. The company expects to be able to unveil a working prototype by December of 2006, and to begin early-stage implementation beginning in 2007.

Petersen, KPCC Host Alt Fuel Auto Panel
June 2, 2006 – Los Angeles, CA – The Petersen Auto Museum and Pasadena public radio station KPCC's "Air Talk" hosted an expert panel on the future of automobile propulsion in an era of rising oil prices. Orchestrated by KPCC host Larry mantle, James Bell, from consumer web site Intellichoice, Dan Neil, the Pulitzer Prize-winning auto journalist from the Los Angeles Times, and Roland Hwang of National Resources Defense Council weighed in on current trends and possibilities for the future in the context of rising economic and environmental concerns. Though his company's website has been less than sanguine about the "hype over hybrids", Bell confessed he was on his second Prius, and was very interested in the potential for plug-in hybrids. Neil, a self-confessed car nut who relishes cars for their power and speed, expressed skepticism about the domestic industry's commitment to changing the status quo. Hwang contributed insight on the policy side, noting that while environmentalists support hydrogen, its future as a transportation fuel was uncertain, despite high-profile support from government and industry, a sentiment shared by his co-panelists. Hwang opined that it was premature to choose a winner from the up-and-coming biofuels – including biogas (a renewable form of natural gas), biodiesel and ethanol – and suggested that a good outcome might be a choice of environmentally friendly offerings for consumers from the major energy companies. Neil decided to leapfrog the biofuels question and put his vote behind electric vehicles, citing the advances in battery and hybrid technology. The Petersen Museum's exhibit, "Propulsion After Petroleum", will be on view until September 10, 2006.

Study: Bad Air Has Costs in San Joaquin Valley
June 1, 2006 – A new study tallies the smog-related health costs in the San Joaquin Valley at a hefty $3.2 billion annually, reports the Los Angeles Times. The study, released last week by Cal State Fullerton, tagged most of the costs to the estimated 460 smog-related deaths each year. The agricultural region, which boasts some of the worst air quality in the nation, could save in excess of $3 billion per year by coming into compliance with federal and state regulations governing ozone and particulate pollution. Savings would be derived from a variety of benefits, including 180,000 fewer school absences and a similar number of reduced activity days for adults; 23,000 fewer asthma attacks, and reductions in a variety of other health related problems. Though the valley as a whole suffers due to topography and weather, poor communities, notably in Kern and Fresno counties were hit hardest. Similar studies are being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations to characterize costs and benefits of reducing air pollution. Lead author Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the Institute for Economics and Environmental Studies at Cal State Fullerton emphasized the importance of such research, "because it gives people a concrete sense of what price people pay for dirty air, and the flip side of that is the economic benefits of moving quickly to achieve air quality standards."

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