Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fujian Province & a New York high school

To My Chinese friends, in Fuzhou and everywhere:

[This post is about Fujian students at New York's Stuyvesant Hight School in New York, not energy.]

This article is about Fujian mother, who does not speak English, with two children at Stuyvesant High School in New York.

[Stuyvesant is one of 2 or 3 special public high schools in New York (Bronx Science is another) which are famous for superb academics, very successful graduates (many are children of immigrants, as in this article) and more than a few Noble Prizes winners.  Admission is based on ability or merit, not red envelopes or family influence.  At a public high school, there is no charge.]

Article: "At Stuyvesant, Interpreting Parent-Teacher Night" -

A few comments:

Full article:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sacramento and Energy - A Citizen Visits

Last week, I had my first glimpse of Sacramento and how the regulatory, legislative process works.

Here's the short version of my experience, plus a few comments.

Tuesday at UC-Davis
-Rosenfeld Symposium, or more descriptive "California Rock Stars Discuss Our Energy Future"

The word 'awesome', as in inspiring awe, fits.   Billed as a Symposium in honor physicist Art Rosenfeld, the father of energy efficiency in California and the world, this event was a who's who of scientists, smart regulators, leaders in California; some of the best of the best.

As expected, I hung on every word from scientists I knew Dan Kammen (hubs, universities too  convservative, everthing!?), Mark Levine (China - appliance standards have saved equivalent of another 3 Gorges Dam) , Rich Muller (Physics for Presidents - showed ICCP errors which would not be tolerated in a grad student) and many people I didn't know before: Dan Sperling (2 Billion Cars), David Goldstein ("continuous improvement", free market best?) and, of course, Art Rosenfeld, happily pointing out whose roofs in Washington, DC are cool (white) and whose are not; and several others.  [I hope their will be a video plus speaker's slides.]

Something I did not appreciate when I studied physics is how much honest insight these people offer in so few words but with backing of data.

Dian Grueniech, of the CPUC, known as a dynamo and who with Art Rosenfeld has visited and studied China and India, stressed long-term planning, investment in efficiency, CalSpree and the need for changing behavior, and made a clear call for new thinking.  I liked that.

Dan Adler, California Clean Energy Fund,  spoke of need for science-based policy and offered some reasons why VC investment in energy-efficiency has been insufficient, despite the clear benefit.  Insightful.

But Susan Kennedy, chief-of-staff for the governor, gave a thoughtful and forceful speech, again stressing urgent need for comprehensive policy, followed by action.   Only afterwards I learned she is master of bad press, i.e.  she gets things done - including Policy, I hope.

My favorite politician, Nancy Skinner, Berkeley's assemblywomen, spoke and so did several other scientists, regulators - almost all with some important, relevant, insightful idea and data.   I appreciated the high information content.   Of course, we must always watch that actions follow words.

Some of the things I came away with are need for 'energy hubs', data, policy, tough standards do work, and of course some of the many achievements of Art Rosenfeld.  In his honor, energy savings that reduce the need for 1 new coal fired power plant (~ 500 MW) will be called 1 Rosenfeld.   And, "Rosenfeld's Law" is that for the past 150 years, energy intensity has been reduced approximately 1% per year - but now we  need to do better.

Wednesday, I was at California Energy Commission

CEC - meeting
I arrived 17 minutes late and it was over.   Fortunately, the court reporter played back the audio for me - a fuel-cell grant to UC-Irvine and others.  I will arrive on time next time; the opportunity to hear, learn and ask questions about the future is just too great to miss.

I did attend a CEC workshop re: Contracting with CEC/PIER for Disabled Veterans, and learned quite a bit  from Michael Gravely and Philip Misemer about what exactly PIER research is about -  the nuts and bolts - from new combustion chambers to smart grid software to buoys to capture ocean waves.

Unfortunately, I failed in another of my objectives - to understand how CEC responds when a local government  asks for ARRA grant that appears to lack policy (ex: when 'highest priority' is to install LED lights (good) in a parking garage (bad!)) 

Thursday, I was at California EPA/Air Resources Board

-SB 375 (land use and transportation)
Bill Blackburn and Doug ito of ARB spent an hour with me and illumunated a bit of the process to a greenhorn; the occasional divide between state and various local air boards; the process for SB 375 and their plans to draft GHG targets by June 2010.  Policy into action is not easy.   Under SB 375, local governments are going to need to formulate policy - and this is a process we must all engage in.

ARB - 375

-China and California
Another failure for me.

Despite California's numerous MOUs, official visits to China and a pressing need to engage with China, I was disappointed with my meeting with Margaret Kim, director of China Program, who steered me away from C3, the MOUs and other energy/policy activities between California and China and its provinces.

Perhaps this is really all my fault: Ms. Kim may be speaking on behalf of, a private group, i.e. none of business, which she founded, while  I thought we were discussing China and State of California (i.e. you and me).  Ecolinx, which didn't come up in the hour long conversation, does appear to do very relevant energy things between China  and California that I thought the State was doing ( trips, cooperation, Steering Committees, Guangdong MOU (note who funds), JIangsu MOU (6 months later and ?) and now C3, part of the Jiangsu MOU - at least it was the week before).

There is a need here for transparency, urgency, inclusiveness and true engagement with China from California ARB and Secretary Linda Adams - not more China visits or presentations with titles referencing 'public participation'!

I plan to blog in more detail about our engagement with China.   I lived in China 5+ years and think Americans can learn much from China about a low-carbon economy (fresh, sun-dried clothes anyone? Or, air-conditioned buses in March in Santa Cruz.)

Climate Action Team

Staying in tune with tardiness, I missed the first 45 minutes.   But I did hear a good presentation about health concerns from climate change.  The speaker proposed using VMT as a rough indication of how California is progressing on goals of health and mitigating climate change and had interesting geographical data.

Climate Action Team Meeting


Again, the opportunity to hear, question and meet experts is too great to pass up.

Afterward, I spoke briefly with James Boyd of CEC, who in just a few sentences explained a lot of why things are the way they are - difficulties of coordinating state and local governments when implementing policy; the CEC's work.  I appreciate his straight, informed answers.  There may be wisdom in Sacramento.

Friday was  furlough day, and Sacramento turns into a ghost town.
Doug Grandy, publisher of California Onsite Generation and veteran staff, generously spent over an hour explaining how Sacramento works, how bills get passed and who controls what.

Cory Jasperson was working and we spoke  about energy policy.  I hope he will focus on comprehensive energy policy legislation.  (And ignore industry when it lobbies for things like fake butter on popcorn, an incident he described to me.)

So, what to do now?

Read these reports
-CPUC strategic plan
-CEC recommendations ( 2020 - net zero homes, renewable portfolio, accelerated permitting of RE, biomass and air pollution, combined heat/power)
-ARB goals for the year (cap & trade, passenger vehicles, RPS, efficiency, low-carbon fuel, SB375)

Find out who is doing:
-Energy Hubs
-Policy and its implementation

Sacramento works from an invisible agenda.  If you ask about X and the focus is on Y, you will get a lot stares.  

I saw a number of hard-working, thinking people in Sacramento at CEC, CPUC, and ARB and beyond.   Some really do work for us, but we have a responsibility to be check and to help.  I want to thank everyone who gave me time, explained things and to Mr. Rosenfeld, who seems to have really started something.

And so I have decided to spend a few more weeks in Sacramento.