Monday, November 8, 2010

Beyond Corn Ethanol: Bioproducts from 'Garbage'

Though algae has great promise to secrete oils or be biomass itself,  algae always seems to about “five years away,” according to Dr. William J. Orts of USDA’s agriculture research service  in Albany, CA who spoke at UC Davis Energy Institute this past week.

Seemingly to prove his point, one of the large oil companies has been running a TV advertisement, featurng a middle-aged researcher:

“It is was 1975 and my professor at Berkeley asked if I wanted to change the world.   I said sure.  And he said, ‘Let's grow some algae’.”

Dr Orts talk, “Agriculturally Derived Biofuels and Bioproducts: Going Beyond Corn Ethanol” began with corn ethanol summary: Though it is in production now, enjoys a $0.51 per gallon subsidy  and “we know how to do it,”   it suffers from several drawbacks, including a bad carbon footprint when all the fertilizer use and transportation is factored in.  Ethanol is also corrosive, so can not be put into pipelines, and there is not enough of it to make a real dent in US demand for transportation fuels.

Much research is now focused on second generation biofuels.  Energy crops are “very hot now”, he said, for example switchgrass.    Dr. Orts outlined the basic line of attack on cellulosic biomass (think: harder to degrade corn or rice stalks, not the corn) by pointing out that  we should learn from anything that ‘eats wood’, from fungus to cows.  

Like algae, it is not so easy.   Whereas corn starch breaks down with just 2-3 enzymes, heavy cellulosic materials can need 16.  The goal for many researchers is finding the right “3-in-1” kind of sauce with the right genetic-modified material and optimized enzymes to seek out and attack the chemical and biological weaknesses of cellulose.

But Dr. Ortis then turned to one of his favorite approaches which can work now:  garbage.  Garbage, or municipal solid waste ( MSW), is about 40% cellulosic.    MSW - the waste,  plastic bottles and all - can be sorted,  ‘cooked’ in the right environment  (temperature, enzymes, etc) to yield biofuel (ethanol) or biogas (ex: natural gas) or even paper for paper plates.  (There are hopes of this new bioproducts industry will even replace petroleum  in the manufacture of man-made  fibers, polymers or even the medicines that we have become so used to. )

The city of Salinas is planning   a project with uses pre-treatment and sorting MSW.   The equipment then “cooks” it and  creates ethanol.   It avoids the landfills completely.  And, it can be done now.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

China’s Farm Waste to Energy Programs

As part of an ambitious farm waste-to-energy program, the Chinese government provides rural households with an anaerobic digester as a way to provide inexpensive cooking biogas and heat while also removing farm animal and human waste, according to Dr. Xiujin Li of Beijing University of Chemical Technology, who visited UC Davis today with a Chinese delegation.

China began a program for anaerobic digesters in 1975, but many suffered leaks and were of poor quality and were phased out.    Today, some 35 MM of these rural digesters many made from newer durable materials now exist, up from 10 MM in 2000.  Many are the size of a couple of refrigerators and buried underground on a farm.  The price is $400, beyond reach of most Chinese farmers but paid for under the government program.  Dr. Li mentioned that Americans have asked him where to purchase.

In larger Chinese communities or larger farms,  such as a commercial chicken farm, the Chinese government has offered since 2005  a second program for  much larger anaerobic digesters  to convert the waste into biogas, fuel for electricity or natural gas for vehicle fuel.  The government provides just over $700 MM annually for the equipment and the maintenance of these larger, more complex biodigesters, in which Dr. Li said  support  is “only a phone call away.”    Local governments must then commit an equal amount of the funding. [update: Here is an excellent video by Amy Zeng about biogas production in Kunming]

China also a problem with dry, crop residue.   Annually, China produces 700 MM tons of dry rice, wheat, corn  waste (the stalks), half of which is  burned in open fields.   This dry waste has a high lignocelluloisic component, making it difficult to biodigrade.   Dr. Li described several university research efforts  in China to improve the biogas yields and reduce the time to produce.  One promising approach is pre-treating with sodium hydroxide, other research effort range from fungus to various reactor designs.  

What works in the lab, of course, may not work in the fields.  This is true everywhere, but it is particularly important to realize that in a developing country, like China, development is uneven.   The best features of a modern society can often be  juxtaposed with the face of a poor, less developed society.   In other words, Dr. Li stressed technologies used in anaerobic digestors must not only be low capital, cost-effective but also reliable and must scale easily.  

Still, some lingering questions remain, do the small biodigesters leak and contaminate underground water?   Who decides which villages and farmers have access to the government’s financial programs?

One way answer is to encourage collaboration with foreign scientists and this was just one purpose of Dr. Li visit, who had obtained his Ph.D from UC Davis.

(Remark: Dr. Li’s talk was about biogas.  China limits the use of food crops for ethanol, but is working with  jatropha )

Additional information:

Biogas in developing countries background

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"For All the Tea in China" - a book review

For All the Tea in China
How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History

by Sarah Rose

In 1839, the local Chinese government in Guangzhou (Canton) seized opium and destroyed it.  The consequences - Opium Wars, foreign treaty ports, the eventual fall of a dynasty - are in some ways still being played out, for example how China handles international criticism.

Though the life and times of one astonishingly resourceful Scottish botanist, Sarah Rose has written a delightful short, "popular history" which chronicles just one of those many consequences: the international trade in tea.   By disguising himself as a Chinese official - or Mandarin -  and traveling to areas well off limits to foreigners, Robert Fortune, a quite man with little formal education or opportunity in Britain, came to learn more about Chinese methods of tea cultivation and preparation - not to mention China's flora and geography -  then had been known in the West before.  

In the process of relaying his story, Rose teaches a bit about travel in rural China, English gardens, the notions of face and guanxi, British trade as well as crucial Chinese history just after the First Opium War (1841) leading up to the Taiping Rebellion  But what keeps us turning page is a an adventure story based on her subject's own writings and the extensive records kept by the East India Company, which we can recognize  today as multi-national corporation.  Rose keeps us in suspense through wise jumps in time, though once or twice this can also confuse, and she adds conversation to the bones of the story, though surely no one can be certain exactly what was said on the top of mist-filled mountain.  Of course, that is not the point.   Nonetheless, a rough map of Fortune's travels, trade routes and a  diagram of tea plant would make things easier.

Why did the British develop a taste for black tea when Chinese drink green tea?  The answer is as telling about then as it is about today.  

[The reviewer lived in Fuzhou in 2003 where WuYi Mountain is revered.    He was also told if he wanted to learn about modern China, the place to start was Taiping Rebellion that began during Fortune's stay: "The Chinese seldom stand up, but when they do there is real trouble."]

The Long March To Renminbi Convertibility

Although I keep my rmb under the mattress, waiting for appreciation, I am aware international financial markets require more activity than this kind of buy-and-hold strategy.  Here's an update from the Financial Times on recent developments in rmb convertibility.

The Long March To Renminbi Convertibility

China continues quietly to take steps toward convertibility of the renminbi, writes David Pilling of the Financial Times.  In a first, for example, McDonald's issued a small, 200 MM rmb denominated debt ($29 MM) in Hong Kong.    

For the most part holders of trade-related rmb have little opportunity to invest, i.e.  foreign firms holding the rmb must either exchange the currency or put  it into low interest banking accounts.     Pilling summarizes recent Beijing efforts to allow trade settlements in rmb (2009), offshore banks to exchange rmb among themselves (July) and now allow offshore banks to invest in China's interbank bond market .   Hong Kong expects to play a key role any markets in offshore rmb, similar to the way London maintains markets for overseas US dollars, Eurodollars.

However, Beijing's motivation for these still small steps is unclear.  Pilling explains it could seen as an effort toward establishing the rmb as an alternative reserve currency to US dollars, a way to remove currency middleman in China-centric trade, or a more humble effort to stimulate China's nascent domestic debt market, where bonds seldom trade and are usually held to maturity without risk or 'price discovery.'  Most agree Bejing is far from comfortable with a fully convertible rmb in which capital can flow in or out of China in an instant.

Read more about the renminbi convertibility

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

California - Comment to the FPPC

August 10, 2010

Fair Political Practices Commission
428 J Street, Suite 800
Sacramento, CA 95814

via fax: 916-322-6440

re: Agenda Item #1, August 12, 2010

Dear Chairman and Commissioners:

I will be brief.  This is not on the agenda and I will be happy to return again when it is.

My name is Jim Rothstein; I have no affiliation.  I came to Sacramento 5 months ago because California and Jiangsu Province, China signed an excellent energy cooperation agreement (MOU) in October 2009.   I came because I was eager to observe and perhaps participate as a citizen in its implementation.   (I lived in China for 6 years.)  

For my efforts - on my dime, I basically got nothing:  not a 'yes',  not a 'no', just a kind of undefinable, muddled 'mush'.

I  then did the natural thing:  I began to scratch; I began to use some of the available tools available to the public  - some of which you provide.   

This is why I am here today.

Some of what I found - using FPPC tools and other tools (CPRA) - include:
(Note: I will file a detailed complaint with FPPC Enforcement.  This is not my purpose today.)

  • Meetings and numerous state-organized groups, some raising money and others drafting implementation or policy, that I could not attend or join.     I found evasive answers ('You can call it a program, or a policy initiative.') when I asked about open meeting laws.

  • Private groups paying for official trips to China, some 'mission critical', for regulators, legislators - together with investment bankers, California business people.     Lots of taxi receipts - but no one could tell me where they were going or meeting.   No one could verify the 'mission critical' guarantees were actually met.  And, Form 700 merely disclose a US 501(c)3 with a Beijing address, completely obscuring whether or not the payment originated from a  US or foreign entity.  It is a secret even who joined on these trips!

  • The same 501(c)3 then seems to have regular, private access to regulators and legislators.  The group can even help pay for Energy Commissioner James  Boyd, requested by Linda Adams of CalEPA - per public records, to travel to China to help close a ('mission critical' ?) business deal between two Chinese companies.  Then the same NGO can bring one of the Chinese state-owned  companies to Sacramento!   But to see the photograph, however, you have to visit a Chinese website.   So much for any prior beliefs you may have had about transparency.
  • And I found State agencies who miss no opportunity to delay, obscure, confuse, ignore, even belittle.   I found agencies so determined not to any release anything that might add to a growing list of doubts, dots and questions - or worse, inform the public - that laws appear to be negotiable.  

(Again, I will file a complaint - separate from today.)

The reason I am here today is that I found the tools you provide inadequate to answer the most basic of questions:   What is the role of these NGOs in implementing the California-Jiangsu MOU?   (Or, the original way:   What is the status of MOU implementation?  Or: Why are there so many other seemingly unrelated activities going on?)

"Disclosure" is not the same thing as comprehension or  allowing public oversight. 

Unfortunately, with your tools, I have found that a summer associate - not yet a lawyer - can easily outmaneuver me.   And it is not just me -  I sure you have noted that the Sacramento Bee's articles about China travel do not cover all the China trips, all the 501(c)3 or all the questions about the subsequent role these groups play in Sacramento - or who is behind them.

I urge to you cut off the private funding of trips and make the rules clear, easy and fair.   And, if a private group - after paying its fair share of taxes - feels it has extra money to donate to the State then please do allow them, but the  State must select the best use - in a transparent process, which  exceeds Form 801 or Governor's vague 'mission critical' requirement .   

And always verify.

I am happy to discuss any item in detail.

Thank you for your time.

Jim Rothstein

Thursday, August 5, 2010

California - Letter submitted to Sacramento Bee

I submitted this letter to the editor (Sacramento Bee; 200 word limit).

To the Editor:

Tom Knudson of the Bee has done a good job  reporting  free trips to China legislators and regulators, paid by private, non-profit money (Sacramento Bee, 7/26/09 ,; Public Eye, July 7, 2010; 

But there is more. 

Out of public view, State regulators continue to play an active role in brokering a 500 MW solar (PV) deal in California between two Chinese companies, proposing a California exhibition hall in China, selecting China  projects and industrial alliances, and hiding their own role with  the non-profit that has been involved in numerous activities, including paying for Linda Adams to visit China.

Charged with implementing the 'landmark', 'subnational' energy agreement between California and Jiangsu Province, one of China's industrial powerhouses, our State regulators should be working - transparently  - toward wise energy policies that leverage the best of California's leadership, resources and innovation together with China's ability to drive down market prices by low-cost manufacturing. benefit both countries. 

Instead, State agencies,  response to questions asked nicely or formally with answers so muddled and misleading - if at all  - that it is easier to find out about California's activities from Chinese websites (which have the photographs!) We keep hearing that China is not transparent.   Maybe it time to enforce our own transparency laws - the public's right to know, so well stated in the Bee's July 4 editorial about the Freedom of Information Act.

Friday, July 23, 2010

China Tops US in Energy Use - IEA

China became the world's largest consumer of energy, passing the US in 2009, according to calculations done by the International Energy Agency

The Chinese National Energy Administration (link) disputed the calculation, asserting the calculations are in error, and though China may become the largest producer, it is not the largest user.  The Paris-based IEA stands by its data. 

The IEA estimates that in 2009 China used 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent, a measure of the total energy used - from oil, coal, renewables and all energy sources - while the US used 4% less.  However, on a per capita basis, the average American still uses far more energy than the average Chinese.

In response to a question asked at an energy policy seminar in Sacramento, Lynn Price, a senior researcher at the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley Lab said, "It does not matter whether China passed the US this year or last year or next year but that China's energy use is growing extremely rapidly."

Indeed, in 2000 China's energy use was only half that of the US.   But in the last decade, the US energy use grew slowly, declining since 2008, while China energy use has continued to grow rapidly and now matches the US.

Even if the exact timing is not important, the significance may be a harbinger.    The US passed the UK in energy use 100 years ago and went on to become the leading economic power of the 20th century.

China's rapid increase in energy use has already had ramifications in world energy markets, diplomacy and seemingly mundane issues like the positioning of international pipelines.

Yet China may not welcome the scruntiny and possible responsiblies of being the leading energy consumer.   The IEA has often complained about the ambiguity in Chinese energy data.   China, for its part, prefers to emphasize its energy efficiency or green energy policies.  

Whatever the issue at the moment, a natural question might be,  given China's voracious and growing energy appetite, just how high can its energy use go?   

In the next 15 years, China may expand its energy production by an amount equal to half of what the US consumes today.   China may eventually have a fifth of the world's population, but consume a quarter of the world's energy

As much as China works to be green and energy-efficient, including higher auto fuel efficiency standards than in the US,  its citizens also want to have simple modern conveniences, which means more energy.

July 18, 2010

July 21, 2010 (China disputes IEA)

July 4, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

California/EPA - "Please refrain" - California Public Records Act

CalEPA and ARB continue to avoid releasing public records related to China.   They rarely claim specific exemption, but find other ways to prevent the disclosure that we are all entitled to see.  This is my response to recent request to "refrain" and my reasons.

[Update:  Visited CalEPA/ARB, no "files available" - no Form 700s, no documents since last inspection on June 8, 2010. Full list.]

July 7, 2010

Dear Mr. Llerandi , Mr. Koyasko, Ms. Barron:

cc: Clerk of the ARB Board (to supplement June request)

Your  advice of July 6, 2010 is inappropriate:
"We advise that you please refrain from further PRA requests until the multiple requests that you have thus far submitted are answered so as to avoid future issues."

The reason is that you - Cal/EPA, ARB, C3 ( plus various entities created for China projects)  - are not complying with California Public Records Act.

Moreover, you continue to hold discussions and meetings regarding China without public participation or disclosure - for example May private discussions and meetings with iCET and a Chinese company that wants to put a 500 MW solar farm in California.

And you have shown bad faith:  Mr. Koyasako's email to Judy Stoulil, marked "Confidential" and "High" importance "I don't think I can put him off much longer."  (You took it back and I asked you not to destroy the paper.)

I do not appreciate your unilateral attempts to weaken or circumvent a very important law.

Trust, but Verify

At the last ARB Board meeting, Ms. Nichols spoke about 'trust, but verify' philosophy.   Today, I will be at CalEPA/ARB after lunch also to  'verify,' as is the public's right - even responsibility - under the CPRA.

As you know, the CPRA is based on the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was lauded in a July 4th Sacramento Bee editorial.

CPRA is but one way for the public to understand its government. As I have explained before, I know 3 ways for the public to gain an understanding of State government's multiple efforts with China, including  the California-Jiangsu MOU:

(a) open, public, transparent government with public participation
(b) have public officials keep the public readily informed
(c) the California Public Records Act

I vote for (a).  But the public was excluded from discussions with CalEPA's C3 : California-China Clean Tech Initiative, and the development of the Working Plan for the Jiangsu-California MOU, as two examples.

I also tried (b) by personally asking Susan Kennedy (Govenor's Office), Dian Grueneich (CPUC), Margret Kim (ARB) for information in early March, plus the ARB Board and Energy Commission - but got few replies.

So your agencies have left the public with (c) as the only option.   This was your choice.

Under CPRA,  like the FOIA, the burden is on you - the agency, as it is even in recent, effective laws in India, which provides stiff fines to those for failure to comply.


The CPRA calls upon you to "promptly" make public records available.  In previous emails you asserted, more than once, a right to delay.  But you gave no reply when I asked for a court case or rule.

In Mr. Koyasakao's June   23, 2010 email, which I pointed out issues and inconsistencies, especially about iCET and April California delegations to China, he neither replied nor released records.   

Bottom line: an accumulating a set of data which  illustrate you are using a variety of ways merely to delay.

More Questions

As long as you continue to operate without public participation and transparency, the public can issue CPRA requests.  As long as private groups like iCET can pay for regulators to travel to China and participate in business matters affecting California (and Linda Adams can ask regulators to travel, and the Governor's office approve such travel), the public can file CPRA requests.  And, as long as you fail to answer concerns - such as June Koyasako letter - you will only get more requests.

Of course, your agencies could  decide on option (a) and always operate transparently and thus mitigate some of the imperative for CPRA, though we always will need to verify.. 

Otherwise, I see no such restraint on the public to "refrain" under the law - especially as new developments occur, even if each request creates a 'burden' and mutliple requests create multiple 'burdens' for you. 

And yet, you do have a simple and quick remedy for your burdens:  release all the records now. Done.

If you do not agree, use the courts to show your self-imposed 'burdens' are of higher importance than the public's right to know and to know 'promptly.'  

However, even Ms. Kim  - one of the people at the center of the State's work in China - believes in open government  

"... it was not until I actually got involved in China, that I really got to realize the true value and appreciate our open government system."

I will  inspect the records after lunch today.  I reject your attempts to weaken CPRA and your efforts to create delay.

Thank you.

Jim Rothstein

Sunday, June 27, 2010

California Letter - To My Chinese Friends (June 27)


To My Friends in China & Beyond:

I am in Sacramento, where  the temperature is now 86 F (30 C) and may reach 101 F (38 C) today.   

However, it is dry heat, not humid heat - not like China, or the eastern half the  US.   So it is hot, but the shade is more comfortable; evenings cool down; sleeping is ok and not too many bugs.   Sacramento is in between the sea (San Francisco) and the mountains where gold was found (Sierra Nevada).   The sky is almost always blue and sunny, and the land is very flat and good for agriculture.  This is northern portion of California's Central Valley and the location of the State capital.  Here the buses are always air-conditioned in summer but the price is dear:  9 rmb.  (But almost everyone drives their car.)

visited an elementary school in Sacramento that will start teaching  half in English and half in Chinese, beginning in kindergarten.  The school has a Chinese teacher, but there are starting to be more programs in the US which teach Chinese.  I think it is good.

I read a long article about increasing trade between China and Russia's Siberia.  Historically, Russia has always wanted ports that are open in winter (one reason why Dalian was so important), but now there is more talk about Russian raw materials (iron, wood, oil) going to China and, in return, Chinese manufactured goods heading west by rail through Siberia to Europe.  In 2012, Russian oil will go to China by a new pipeline (1 MM barrels of oil each day; about what California uses EACH day).  This will free up freight trains to carry commodities and manufactured goods.   (I remember discussions in Chongqing about a rail line going north to Russia that enable China's interior to export goods.  Anyone know more?)

When Americans think about Siberia or Manchuria - which unfortunately we seldom do - we think about vast, desolate, cold lands with political prisoners.  Because of border disputes between China and Russia,  there was little development or relatively little Chinese trade with Russia (ok, maybe not in Shenyang).   This may be changing in a bit way.

Westerner newspapers are full of information about Chinese strikes at large foreign factories. (Honda, Toyota)   The results seem to be slightly better wages and working conditions for the millions of young migrants who come for a better life.     I heard even the KFC in Shenyang gave the workers a bit more money.  Do you hear about this?  I don't think Chinese companies treat workers very well and it will take  time to change.

Hope everyone is well.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

California and China - CPRA Update

Jiangsu-California MOU Update

As I posted before,  California and Jiangsu Province signed a landmark, subnational agreement on energy cooperation in October 2009 (MOUhereherehere),  Since then, California has quietly initiated a range of activities, bodies, work plans.   At least 2 Calfornia delegations have visited China and in April there was California-Shenzen  conference.   Nanjing University and UCSB have begun cooperation on efforts to effect community energy reductions.  NRDC will do a building/DSM study in Jiangsu.

Although the Calfornia governor's legal office has blocked release of all documents related to the MOU (also here), some of the pieces can be put together through information obtained from various State agencies via CPRA requests, the California Public Records Act.   Early on, Susan Kennedy, of the Governor's Office, and Dian Grueneich of CPUC, acknowledged knowledge of the MOU and activities but did not returned repeated phone calls or emails.  

CalEPA and CARB have dragged their feet for months, including accusations of defamation, but did release limited information on June 8 in response to an April CPRA request.   They have not explained omissions or  responded to subsequent emails to obtain the remainder.  They also redacted a document while I was looking at it, which said in part "I don't think I can put him off much longer", a reference to me.  

Similarly the Energy Commission and CPUC have released limited information, but only under the CPRA.  

Below is a brief summary of some of the California-China activities.   The original goals of the MOU are quite good: to work together on policies, technologies, standards that would lower GHG and energy.   Some of projects (NRDC, UCSB) seem quite encouraging.  As information beomes clearer on the State's polcies I will update and post on this  DOE energy wiki. 
Besides the State of California, several non-profit organizations play active, but poorly understood roles in California-China relations: Ex:  CFEEiCETecolinx.    

CFEE's Study trips abroad are reported by Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee. (7/26/2009). is a foundation of Margaret Kim, China Program Director for CalEPA.

The reason for California state government's acute sensitivity to an energy and environmental MOU is not known.  The situation at this moment is to obtain missing information from CalEPA,CARB.   I think preferable the State of Government disclose all of its China efforts and include public participation; unfortunately, it has chosen this route.

Caution:  Much of the following information has been obtained by CPRA, and I have reason to believe that the State of California is withholding key information which may shed additional facts and interpretations  to this information.   However, what I write I have physical paper to back up or credible second or third-party websites to support.  Nor is this a complete list of activities.  
Clarification is needed.

October 2009
-California-Jiangsu MOU signed

-Calfornia Regulatory & Legislative Delegation visits China and Jiangsu, includes Jeffrey Bryon  (CEC) and Michael Peevey (CPUC), California business leaders, legislators.   Trip paid by CFEE, includes:
John Perez $7,847 gift
Bonnie Lowenthal $8037 gift
Carol Liu, $7469 gift
Curren Price, $8259 gift

November 2009
-UCSB and Nanjing University researchers report on opportunties (under MOU) for coordinated, joint research.  (Based on visit to Suzhou Industrial Park and Nanjing on October 28-30, 2009) 

December 2009
-CalEPA, NRDC, WRI meet in Copenhagen to discuss MOU implementation

-Chinese delegations visit CEC (several each year)

Februrary 24, 2010
-C3 (and earlier?) organized by CalEPA, meets privately at Energy Foundation in SF. [I was not allowed to attend, listen or obtain information.] Sponsors?

March 2010
Following verbal request to CARB and Mary Nichols, Margret Kim, China Program Director, released minimal C3 information, accused me of 'defamation.'  Neither she nor Mary Nichols return emails seeking additional C3 or MOU information, or the role of Ms. Kim's non-profit

April, 2010  (CalEPA omits April information from CPRA request; many questions)

-California Delegation visits China, led by Linda Adams, CalEPA, and James Boyd, CEC.
includes at least these 3 distinct conferences
-members of California delegation - unknown; 
-other activities in China - unknown; 
-who pays - mostly unknown; 
-objectives, outcomes - unknown
-process by which CalEPA approves these activities is unknown, not public

April 16-18, 2010  - "2010 International Low-Carbon Development Forum - Shenzen - California", including "deliverables": [from CPRA response]
-"California-Shenzhen PKU Energy Efficiency Research Centers" [established by State of California, University of California (Davis) and Shenzhen City.]
-"California-China Clean Tech Initiative (C3) hub in Southern [sic] China" (State of California is 'partner')
- Low Carbon Sister City relationship between Shenzhen city and Sacramento, California
"US-China Low-Carbon Industries Alliance (UCLCIA) formed, includes the State of California
-Shenzhen signs C3, R20?
-Keynotes include:
Dan Sperling, UCD, CARB
Michael Siminovitch, UCD
Linda Adams, CalEPA
Nancy Skinner, California Legislator [Rep Skinner's office said she did not visit China; emails and phone calls were not returned]

-April 19 - 20, 2010 - "energy and clean transportation conference and strategy meetings" (UC Davis - Institute of Transportation Studies),  CalEPA requests Boyd attend (Shanghai, Chongming Island - ZEV), payment by UC Davis.  MOU pending?
-April 21 - 23, 2010 - study tour, Jiangsu & Beijing, solar PV, manufacturing, joint venture discussions.  CalEPA requests Boyd attend, paid by iCET 

May 2010
(NRDC &  Jiangsu Research Institute of Building Science Co, Ltd & State Grid DSM Instruction Center) to be completed by 12/2010 - thanks to Barbara Finamore of NRDC who provided this.

(2 year workplan - details coming - CPRA - CalEPA)

-MOU Steering Committee formed (1 member ?? -   James Boyd)

June 2010
Bren School, UCSB and Nanjing U. begin cooperation
(also CPRA info)


Organizations mentioned in this article (partial)
C3 (invitation), C3 (ecolinx)
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council - US NGO)

Bren School of the Environment, UCSB  also:

Links mentioned in this article (partial)
Open energy wiki, (The Open Energy Information initiative (OpenEI) is a platform to connect the world’s energy data. Run by US Dept of Energy; public)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sacramento - English Word for Someone Who Speaks Only 1 Language?

Sacramento public schools are about to offer "Chinese immersion," instruction in Chinese from day 1, in Kindergarten, at its Elder Creek Elementary School.  Next year two more Sacramento schools will offer "Chinese immersion."  It is a modeled on a successful program in San Francisco.

When I started school - (no hints when) - schools were named for Presidents, we had rabbits and one choice for language of instruction.  A foreign language was for high school.

But times change.  Ask Mark Pinto, Applied Materials CTO who started his young children on Chinese and then took them and his company's solar R&D manufacturing center to Xi'an, China.  And we all know that young children pick up languages with ease while most of us struggle. [age 3-11 is the best time.]

Though the Sacramento program starts with about 80% Chinese (the rest English), it slowly starts to shift toward 50-50 Chinese-English by the 6th grade.  It is not a choice of somehow choosing one language over the other; children can learn both.  

The community around Elder Creek is has a large number of immigrants:  Vietnamese, Hmong, Chinese, Russian, Hispanic.   The school aims for about half the students in the 'Chinese Immersion' program  to be native Chinese speakers and half native English.

The school hopes to form a relationship with a school in Beijing.

In China, a school offering free instruction in 2 languages would soon have parents from the entire province surround it. [Chinese don't like to queue.]   Multilingual education is really something new here; I wish I had it.   

The Sacramento program  is also about globalization in the best sense.  When I first went to China, I met a young New Zealand couple who were sending their daughter to a regular Chinese school.   The little girl was  like any other happy, well-adjusted child - and a world citizen.    When I asked the blond-haired, blue-eyed lady where was her home, she thought for a moment, smiled and said, "China."    It meant she had one foot firmly in each culture (Chinese/New Zealand) and was already light-years ahead of me.

But again, there is a joke in China.  "What is the English word for someone who can speak 3 languages?   Trilingual.    And   2 languages?  Bilingual.   And the English word for someone who only speaks one?   American."

[More information about the Chinese Immersion Program:  call the school principal Mary DeSplinter, 916-277-5978, during working hours.  School has good popcorn, too.]

Monday, June 7, 2010

California Energy - Game Change?

The massive Gulf oilspill was a called a "Game Changer" by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, of the Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry group, at a recent Climate One - Commonwealth Club event on May 21, 2010.

Four panelists and a moderator spoke on a wide range of energy policies and technologies.  They were

-(DM) Dan Miller, Managing Director, Roda Group
-(CRB) Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President, Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)
-(MB) Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club 
-(JB) Jim Boyd, Vice Chair, California Energy Commission (CEC) [Mr. Boyd and Ms. Reheis-Boyd are related by marriage.]
-(MOD) Greg Dalton, Moderator

Although Michael Brune (Sierra Club) and Catherine Reheis-Boyd (WSPA) disagreed on many things, both did agreed this oilspill is  "Game Changing."   At least as interesting  were the nuanced policy differences between Jim Boyd (CEC) and Michael Brune (Sierra)

The full audio is here plus some video clips.  Climate One website is here.
A few summaries by topic:

Off-Shore Drilling
JB: Did support off-shore drilling; now is cautious; but seems to like new slant technology oil drilling which would generate State revenues, including funds for education.
MB: Wants permanent off-shore drilling ban.

Plan to move away from oil
JB:  "our most optimistic projections show that we are going to be using petroleum for a long, long time."  And added it be nice if all domestically produced, but not realistic.
MB: We will use oil as long as we allow ourselves to use oil.   Instead, he suggested immediately create policies - policies to electrify transportation (rail, cars), switch heavy trucks to natural gas, green the grid.  

Electric Vehicles
JB - Likes PHEV (ARB opposed?), likes Chevy Volt, says he wanted 40 mpg in 2003
MB - electrify transportation, beginning with fleets (like postal service)

California ZEV policy
JB - Was instituted on his 'watch.'  Battery technology disappointed. Favors PHEV.  [California pioneered ZEV regulations; but withdrew and car companies removed models.  It may now be making a comeback at ARB.]

JB - insufficient but likes; hydrogen is in the future 
MB - environmental concerns about water use and full life cycle GHG emissions
DM - With right rules and investment, can be done by 2015.
[CEC was criticized at recent Biofuels workshop]

Canadian Coal Tar Sands
JB -  Better we use it then send it to China  because we will get air pollution back because of their unregulated use.
[Mr. Boyd led a Calfornia delegation to China in April to discuss low-carbon economy, solar, ZEV, policy, etc.]
MB - Global problem, need global leadership

Natural Gas - fossil source
JB - cleanest fossil fuel, wants Combined Cycle (heat & power), use as bridging fuel; concerns about shale gas
MB - natural gas industry must be cleaner; increase regulatory standards for drilling and production

On energy policy
JB - Target #1 in California is building -not just home - efficiency
MB - Wants goals and use criteria: fastest, cleanest, cheapest, quickest

On electricity generation for the grid
JB - defers to MB
MB - No new coal; retire old coal plants; loading order is (1) energy-efficiency (2) small scale distributed generation (solar, wind, etc.) (3) large scale solar/wind (4) if necessary, large Natural Gas 
[CEC has a policy of supporting CCS]

MB - $1 Trillion will be invested in the energy in next 10 years.  How to apportion it?

JB - against for waste, cost 
MB - nuclear comes in last on his criteria (fastest, cleanest, cheapest) - so no nukes
DM - nukes vs. coal - which is worse?

I think the game change is presence of Michael Brune.  He seems to have clear objectives.

Climate One at the CommonWealth Club

Sunday, May 30, 2010

California - the 1960s and 1/2 day of gasoline

Growing up in the 1960s, certain radio headlines seem to remain engrained in my pre-mp3, auditory memory:  Wayne Morse, James Meredith, murders of civil rights workersDiem, Medicare (yes, Medicare).

I understood neither the context nor parental answers ("He wants to go to school"), but I am certain the hourly news and daily repetition on classical WQXR (hey, I didn't have choice) created a permanent mental image not unlike an image etched into an old CRT monitor.

Recently, other distant names have surfaced:   permafrost and Alaska pipeline,  Torrey Canyon  and a very far-away place with beautiful birds and beaches called Santa Barbara.

It was a long, long time ago, so long ago that only aging sailors had tatoos.  But I remember.

Rather than complain about the relative guilt of BP, George W Bush, Obama or our addiction to oil, I want to do a calculation - something useful to get a feeling about how much oil has spilled into the Gulf.

For example, if all of the spilled oil had been gasoline, how many gallons would every California car get?  Let's try.

How Much Oil Has Spilled in the Gulf?

BP said 1,000 then 5,000 bbls a day.   After BP released a short video, NPR started reporting that scientists thought it was 20 -80,000 bbls per day.

Let's assume oil is flowing at a rate of 20,000 bbls each day.   There are 42 gallons of oil in a barrel and it has been spilling for 40 days.  If you multiple this out, it is about 34 MM gallons of crude oil.

Since the explosion on April 20, 2010, today's papers say about 18-40 MM gallons oil have spilled, so I in the right ball park.   Let's split the difference the assume the real number is 29 MM gallons of crude oil have spilled into the Gulf.

Ok, 29 MM gallons of oil sounds like a lot. 17% of Louisiana jobs are related to oil. If you are a Louisiana Brown Pelican, it is an awful lot of oil!   But what does 29 MM gallons mean to us?

Crude Oil to Gasoline?

A gallon of gasoline is not the same as a gallon of oil.  Both are mixtures of all kinds of chemicals and hydrocarbons.

Gasoline sold in California has about 100 different molecules.

But let's assume each gallon of crude oil results in 1/2 gallon of gasoline, give or take.  This is a "guesstimate."

So the 29 MM gallons of oil in Gulf, comes down to about 15 MM gallons of gasoline.

15 MM gallons of gasoline

Ok, we are get close.   Now California consumed 360 MM barrels of gasoline for transportation in 2008, i.e. all of us in California collectively consume 1 MM barrels gasoline EACH DAY (360/365) for our cars.  This is 42 MM gallons of gasoline each day in California.

Here we are then:  the total amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico would power every California car (yours and mine) for less than 1/2 day (15/42)!  Morning rush hour, barely!

May 30, "Plans for the Worst" New York Times


Louisiana & Energy, the Pelican State

California - 360 MM Barrels Gasoline, Transportation (2008)

Permafrost and Alaska Pipeline

1962  James Meredith

1967 Torrey Canyon Disaster

1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill