Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PHEVs and the Smart Grid discussed at UCLA conference

With the imminent launch of two new plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, just around the corner, sixty or so engineers and officials active in energy and transportation research, policy development, and commercialization gathered yesterday (September 28, 2010) in Boelter Hall at UCLA to talk about these innovative new cars, the “smart grid,” and the relationship between the two.

The “smart grid” is the next generation version of the energy-delivery network, which allows for two-way transfer of power and includes the means for granular communication and control of the energy flow process.

Organized under the auspices of the Wireless Internet for the Mobile Enterprise Consortium (WINMEC) by its Director, UCLA Professor Rajit Gadh, the event featured a keynote address by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Timothy Simon.

The main point made by the speakers was that there is a strong synergy between the deployment of PHEVs and the creation of a “smart grid” able to manage two-way energy and information flows over the power distribution network.

Many of the speakers highlighted the need for more customer education, in order to bring the public up-to-speed on the technological and economic aspects of the transition to a more widespread deployment of electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support them.

In his keynote presentation to the group, Commissioner Simon pointed out that 40% of California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation and that the increased use of PHEVs could significantly reduce US importation and consumption of foreign oil, while delivering the equivalent of $0.75/gallon gasoline.

After his talk, Commissioner Simon also expressed his belief that Proposition 23, which would effectively shut down AB 32, the climate change law, would not be approved by California voters in this fall’s election. He also said that threats to privacy through the enhanced ability of the smart grid to monitor customers’ use patterns was no greater than that already enabled by everyday use of credit and debit cards to make gasoline purchases.

Peter Suterko, Fleet Manager at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), talked about the actual experience his agency has already had with using electric vehicles and pointed out that the annoying stop-and-go traffic so much in evidence in Los Angeles has a hidden benefit in that it’s ideally-suited to the regenerative braking technology found in hybrids.

Phil Gow of Coda Automotive of Santa Monica, California, talked about his company’s soon-to-be launched PHEV and the innovative marketing plans it has for their product, involving selling them from retail storefronts at malls.

Mike Gravely, Manager of the Energy Systems Research Office of the California Energy Commission, delivered the Lunch Keynote, entitled “How Providing Grid Services Can Improve the Cost Profile of Electric Vehicles.” He asserted that 25% of the electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. would be found in California in the coming years, meaning that California would adopt this technology at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the country.

He also mentioned a pilot program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)of 2009 and involving UCLA, USC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology, that would investigate what it would take to build out a smart grid in Los Angeles. He talked about California becoming recognized at the Smart Grid State, and discussed the synchrophasor technology that uses GPS and other advanced methods to monitor and control energy flow in the grid.

Mr. Gravely also referenced the provision of “grid ancillary services” through the “second use” of PHEV battery packs in home and commercial devices that could provide smart grids with the ability to use these systems to store green energy from wind turbines at night and then call upon their stored energy during times of peak demand, thereby eliminating the need to build additional facilities.

Conference organizer Rajit Gadh announced the creation of a UCLA SoCal Electric Vehicle-Smart Grid Consortium that will work with commercial partners to take advantage of the research and thought leadership being generated at the school through its ongoing programs and special conferences such as this one.

UCLA provided its usual range of tasty and nutritious food to sustain conference participants throughout the day and at the patio reception at the close of the event.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No "clarifying language" on federal pre-emption of feed-in tariff policies in RES

Supporters of feed-in tariffs had hoped that “clarifying language” taken from Section 102 of H.R. 2454 (Waxman-Markey) would be included in the stand-alone Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) bill introduced on Monday, September 20th, and supported by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and others. Such language, they believed, was required in order to resolve the question of federal pre-emption of states’ rights to implement feed-in tariffs specific to their own state, as provided for under PURPA (the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, passed in 1978 as part of the National Energy Act).

According to Bill Wicker, Communications Director for the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, these hopes have been dashed. Asked if such language was included in the new RES bill, Wicker wrote to Etopia News on September 21st that:

"Answer is 'no.'

"This 'clarifying language' was not part of the RES section of the omnibus energy bill, S. 1462. Since we made no substantive changes to that committee-reported legislation, 'clarifying language' is not part of the stand-alone RES bill introduced today, either."

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) thinks such language is essential for sound renewable energy policy going forward. On September 22nd, he told Etopia News:

“States should have the ability to develop incentive programs that will help get electricity generated from renewable technologies onto the grid; due to the current regulatory framework this is not possible. Language to address this has already passed the House, as Section 102 of H.R. 2454. We hope that the Senate will see the wisdom in this approach and agree to our language.”

Inquiries to the offices of RES co-sponsors Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Susan Collins (R-ME) about the possible inclusion, through the amendment process, of such “clarifying language” in the RES had not yet been answered as of today, Thursday, September 23rd.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slick spots vs. social networks

The basic premise of democratic theory is that collective decisions will be arrived at through a rational process of give-and-take, of discussion based on commonly-accepted facts and differing opinions generated by diverse interests and personal preferences. The antithesis of this democratic model is one of secret manipulation of public opinion by means of a flood of emotionally-based appeals, developed using the tools of marketing and advertisement and delivered ubiquitously with funding by powerful and anonymous sponsors.

It should be obvious to even the casual observer which model, in a post-Citizens United world, is ascendant. With virtually-unlimited budgets and bland front names (Citizens for Prosperity, American for the Future, Citizens United) corporations and billionaires can now work to elect their candidates and qualify and pass their initiatives with a free hand.

Simultaneous with the rise of this model of anonymous manipulation on a grand scale has been the emergence of social media as its antithesis. Just as Iranian dissidents confronted their country’s corrupt clerical oligarchy through street protests organized using Facebook and Twitter, Americans with non-corporate political agendas find themselves relying more and more on these same technologies in order to coordinate their own political efforts.

What has emerged, then, is a contest between slick and omnipresent 30-second television spots designed to appeal to visceral and emotive aspects of the human psyche and an electronically-mediated movement or set of movements calling for the pooling of individual action through social networks. Of course, both sides (to the extent that there are only two sides) are using both approaches, when they can afford to or as it suits their purposes.

What we have then, is a vast system of money, polling/focus groups, attitudes, linguistic and audio/video formulations, membership lists, and professional practitioners vying for access to, and the ability to modify the thoughts, feelings and actions of, all the individuals who together make up the body politic, using increasingly powerful and persuasive electronic media, both uni-directional and interactive.

One can only hope that the billionaires who control Facebook will remain willing to be traitors to the economic class to which they now belong, lest the playing field tip even more thoroughly in the direction of the 30-second tv spot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bruce Lieberman explains the pros and cons of Proposition 23

Bruce Lieberman, science and the environment journalist, explains the campaigns to pass, and to defeat, California Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's landmark climate change law, AB 32, recorded from San Diego, California, on September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Margarita Fernandez on California's Citizens Redistricting Commission

Margarita Fernandez, Chief of Public Affairs at the California State Auditor's Office, talks about the process that is creating a Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw the lines for State Senate, Assembly, Board of Equalization, and, possibly, Congressional, districts after the 2010 Census. Recorded from Sacramento, California, on September 8, 2010.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What “Yes on 20/No on 27” has to say about Congresswoman Chu’s statement of support for Proposition 27

Responding to Congresswoman Judy Chu’s recently-published statement in support of California Proposition 27, a spokesperson for the “Yes on 20/No on 27” campaign provided the following statement to Etopia News:

"If politicians like Congresswoman Chu have it their way, all the progress California has made to create fair election districts will be lost. Indeed, the politicians who drafted Prop. 27 not only want to eliminate the voter-approved Citizens Redistricting Commission, but they also strike provisions in the current law that would prohibit them from drawing districts that protect themselves, their friends and their political parties. With Prop. 27 Congressman Chu and her friends will protect incumbents, avoid accountability, and prevent challengers from running against them.

“The fact is, Proposition 27 is nothing but a vehicle for politicians to overturn voter will, take power away from voters, return to the days of backroom deals and avoid being held accountable for addressing the serious issues the state faces."

Why Congresswoman Judy Chu is supporting Proposition 27

According to a September 2, 2010, press release from the “Yes on 20/No on 27” campaign, “Congresswoman Judy Chu has contributed more than $600,000 in support of Prop 27.”

Here is a statement sent to Etopia News today from Congresswoman Chu’s office stating her reasons for supporting Proposition 27:

“I’m a strong supporter of Proposition 27, Financial Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR), because it ensures a fairer redistricting process. Unlike Prop 20, which sets up a totally new redistricting commission, California’s voters can hold the people who determine our state’s redistricting accountable for their decisions. These decisions are simply too important to leave solely in the hands of three randomly selected, unelected accountants which would determine the membership of this commission. Commissions take power away from the people and their elected representatives, and gives it to faceless, non-accountable bureaucrats.

“Not only that, Prop 27 will also save CA taxpayers millions of dollars by cutting wasteful spending on unnecessary new bureaucracies, at a time when our state is facing an unprecedented economic crisis and cannot even pass a budget. Finally, Prop 27 puts in new rules to prevent cities and counties from being split and requires precise population equality for all districts. Unlike current law where there can be population variations by as much as 1,000,000 people, Proposition 27 mandates precise population equality for all districts. ‘One person, One vote’ should be the law in California!”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

California’s Tea Party Patriots likely to support Proposition 20 and oppose Proposition 27

Dawn Wildman, California State Co-Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, told Etopia News today that her fellow movement activists “like the idea of the Citizens Redistricting Commission(CRC).”

The CRC was created in 2008 by the passage of Proposition 11. It takes redistricting authority over State Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization districts away from the State Legislature and gives it to a panel of 14 individuals, to be selected by the California State Auditor's office, representative of the state's population.

She said that they were “annoyed” to be having to vote on Proposition 20, which expands the authority of the CRC to include Congressional redistricting, since they’ve just recently voted on essentially the same thing. Nevertheless, she says that opinion in her group is tending toward a “Yes” vote on Proposition 20 and a “No” vote on Proposition 27, which would abolish the CRC and return all redistricting authority to the State Legislature.

The Tea Party Patriots are currently engaged in a period of study and discussion of the various ballot initiatives, and are looking to determine what the group’s consensus positions on these measures ought to be. One hundred and eighty-six local Tea Party Patriot (TPP) groups are involved in this process, which will close on Tuesday, September 7th. Ms. Wildman said that the TPP would announce the results of this consultative process the next day, on Wednesday, September 8th.

She also said that the proposition of most interest to her group was Proposition 23, which would repeal AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. “We helped to get it on the ballot,” she said, and added that the TPP would be using “rallies, bumper stickers, and information distribution” to get it passed, including a rally in Sacramento on September 12th.

Also important to the TPP is Proposition 24, on which she said the building trend in the party was for a “No” vote, since that measure “repeals corporate tax breaks.”

One ballot initiative that doesn’t seem to have a strong TPP consensus either way is Proposition 19, which would allow the recreational use of marijuana while authorizing local jurisdictions to tax its sale.

While there is opposition to the measure among some TPP members, others, Ms. Wildman said, especially those who came of age in the 60s, “don’t consider pot a gateway drug,” and want it legally-available and heavily-taxed, perhaps as a way of reducing the need for other taxes. Still, she said, many in the party are worried that the passage of Proposition 19 would lead to the creation of another bureaucracy and more regulation, which is anathema to the Tea Party Patriots.

Despite their likely support for Proposition 20 and likely opposition to Proposition 27, she said, the TPP will “probably not” devote much energy to these measures, but will concentrate instead on securing the passage of Proposition 23, the anti-AB 32 measure.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How diverse is the current applicant pool for the Citizens Redistricting Commission?

In an Etopia News article published yesterday (“Haim Saban's loan to Proposition 27 has been paid back”), Mr. Saban was quoted as saying that he had decided to switch his previous position of support for Proposition 11 to support for FAIR/Proposition 27 “because the state’s diverse population has not been adequately represented in the process of selecting members of an independent commission.”

Proposition 11, passed by California voters in 2008, transferred responsibility for redrawing the legislative and Board of Equalization district lines from the California State Legislature to the people in the form of a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. Proposition 27 on the November 2, 2010, ballot, would transfer that responsibility back to the State Legislature.

In an August 21, 2010 press release, the California State Auditor’s Applicant Review Panel, the body tasked with identifying 60 of the most qualified applicants for California’s first Citizens Redistricting Commission, announced that it “is holding public meetings to interview the 120 applicants remaining in the pool.”

According to this press release, “The Panel began the public meetings to interview the remaining applicants on Friday, August 6th. Interviews continue through Friday, September 10th….

“The 120 applicants consist of 40 registered Democrats, 40 registered Republicans, and 40 who are registered as decline-to-state or with another party. Of that applicant sub pool, 47 percent are women, 12 percent are African-American, 27 percent are Latino, 14 percent are Asian-American or Pacific Islander, 5 percent are American Indian and 37 percent are Caucasian.”

For additional information about the applicant pool members' race/ethnicity, gender, party affiliation, geographic location, and income, see the spreadsheet here.