4 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 15: ‘Smart charger’ invented at DOE lab rolling out; China shift to low-carbon model vital for future — U.N
Electric vehicle maker ZAP announced today the planned rollout of a charging control device invented at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for use in the United States, Korea and China.
The “smart charger controller” lets the owner of an electric car manage how and when the vehicle will charge, taking into account time-of-day or energy-cost signals.
The controller relies on a wireless communication device using the proprietary ZigBee standard to relay information about energy pricing and the vehicle’s state of charge. It also senses voltage or frequency disruptions on the electric grid. The device then manages power flowing to a vehicle based on user-programmed settings and the grid’s state.
Experts say this type of control can alleviate strain on the grid caused by large numbers of plug-in cars.
“If millions of owners plug in their electric vehicles to recharge after work at the same time, it could cause stress on the grid,” said Pacific lab engineer Michael Kintner-Meyer. “The smart charger controller will prevent those peaks in demand from plug-in vehicles and enable our existing grid to be used more efficiently.”
ZAP distributes electric trucks, vans, motorcycles, scooters and cars worldwide and is developing an electric vehicle dubbed the Alias.
The controller license agreement is between Battelle, the company that manages the Energy Department’s lab, and ZAP, according to the auto company. The companies did not release financial details of the agreement.
ZAP plans to use the technology for vehicles and charging stations to be introduced in the United States and Korea, and to sublicense it to a joint venture operating in China, it said. Those rollouts are expected later this year.
A previous Pacific lab study found the U.S. power grid could support about 158 million vehicles, or about 70 percent of the light-duty fleet, if battery charging is carefully managed.
The Basel Action Network, an American watchdog group that has sought to curb the export of toxic electronic waste from the United States, plans to begin a new certification and auditing program on Thursday for both recyclers and companies that generate electronic refuse.
In addition to outlining safe domestic handling and disposal practices for old televisions, computers and other electronic devices, the system would effectively bar participating recyclers from exporting toxic, nonfunctional electronic waste to developing nations. The program will compete directly with a less stringent standard recently developed by industry and the federal government that companies and recyclers say makes more economic sense.
“The U.S. has been asleep at the switch,” said Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, which takes its name from the Basel Convention, an international agreement governing the handling and trade of hazardous waste, including discarded electronics. More than 165 countries have ratified the convention, but the United States has not.
Much of the debate over the handling of electronic refuse arises from the metals like lead and mercury that are used to make electronic devices. Most discarded equipment is either ported to landfills or sold into a murky global market, where it often ends up in vast and unregulated harvesting and smelting operations in poor corners of Africa and Asia. In either case, the disposal poses significant environmental and health risks.
Some 53 million tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2009, according to ABI Research, a technology market research firm. Only about 13 percent of it was recycled. Global revenues for e-waste recovery were roughly $5.7 billion last year, according to ABI, and are expected to grow to $14.6 billion by 2014.
The Basel network has long administered a program in which participating recyclers promised to abide by a set of rules for responsibly handling electronic waste.
Beginning Thursday, the group’s certification, called e-Stewards, will be based on standards set out by the International Organization for Standardization, and compliance will be independently audited.
Recyclers will pay a fee to the auditor and a licensing fee to BAN “” roughly $15,000 for a midsize company, Mr. Puckett said “” which will earn them the right to use the e-Steward logo.
Electronic waste generators, including corporate buyers of technology and gadget makers, would earn an e-Steward Enterprise designation in return for a smaller licensing fee and a commitment, subject to continuing monitoring by BAN, to make a “best effort” to use e-Steward certified recyclers.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the phase-out yesterday of seven inhalers that use ozone-depleting chemicals.
At issue are chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, used as propellants to move the medicine from inhalers.
Four inhalers referenced by FDA are no longer manufactured. Companies that made them –Tilade Inhaler by King Pharmaceuticals, Alupent Inhalation Aerosol by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Azmacort Inhalation Aerosol by Abbott Laboratories and Intal Inhaler by King Pharmaceuticals — say they won’t be sold after this year.
Three other inhalers will be phased out over the next three years, according to their manufacturers — Aerobid Inhaler System by Forest Laboratories, Combivent Inhalation Aerosol by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals and Maxair Autohaler by Graceway Pharmaceuticals.
“During this transition, FDA wants to ensure that patients have access to safe and effective alternative medications to treat their asthma or COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” Badrul Chowdhury, director of FDA’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products, said in a statement.
CFCs are known to damage the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer, and FDA has been working for years on the phase-out. The United States banned CFC production in 1996 except for certain limited uses, including metered-dose inhalers.
FDA struggled with eliminating the asthma inhalers and delayed a plan in 1998 to gradually replace CFC-inhalers with CFC-free alternatives given a lack of alternatives that were fully developed, widely available and affordable.
In 2007, the agency proposed to phase out the seven remaining products and made its final announcement after reviewing more than 4,000 public comments, according to the agency’s Web site.
Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, pointed to the Montreal Protocol — the international treaty for eliminating ozone-depleting chemicals — as the impetus behind FDA’s announcement. The treaty, ratified by the United States in 1987, established target phase-out dates for the manufacture and consumption of most ozone-depleting substances.
“This is the final step,” Edelman said, “in something that’s been ongoing for a long time.”
A House Science and Technology subcommittee yesterday approved a $48 billion bill to fund research and development programs at the National Science Foundation that include big boosts in funding for innovative technology research and manufacturing research.
The committee print — part of the reauthorization language for a broad 2007 research and education bill — was approved in the Research and Science Education Subcommittee by voice vote.
In addition to authorizing $47.5 billion in NSF spending over the next five years, the measure approved yesterday includes language that would direct NSF to use at least 5 percent of its research budget to fund basic, high-risk, high-reward research proposals that have the potential to radically change understanding of existing scientific or engineering concepts or could lead to the creation of a new field of science or engineering.
The language would also establish a program to award grants to university researchers studying transformative advances in manufacturing technologies, processes and enterprises that will support U.S. manufacturing.
Lawmakers yesterday largely agreed that the language would boost and strengthen activities at NSF, although Republicans expressed some misgivings about the price tag and some Democratic amendments.
“Many of my colleagues are concerned that the authorized levels of funding for the NSF may be excessively high in light of our current economic situation,” said subcommittee ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.).
Republicans were especially concerned by an amendment offered by subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) that would authorize a new pilot program to award cash prizes in an effort to stimulate innovative research. “The prizes would highlight important problems no one knows how to solve and would benefit a broader range of researchers than traditional grants,” Lipinski said, stressing that the program was not meant to replace grants but to supplement them.
Despite GOP misgivings, the measure was ultimately approved by voice vote.
“I think prizes are an excellent idea, and they have a place and can be used effectively in certain areas, but I have some concerns about NSF being a part of the process,” Ehlers said. “There is no evidence that NSF is equipped to implement them in an effective manner.”
The subcommittee also approved several other additions, including a manager’s amendment offered that makes minor technical changes and several other Democrat-offered amendments dealing with math and science education.
Legislators voted down three amendments offered by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) that would shorten the overall authorization period from five years to three years, reduce authorized funding levels for certain programs and broaden language for the manufacturing research program.
Yesterday’s markup was the second of three subcommittee markups the House Science Committee is holding on reauthorization of the 2007 America COMPETES legislation. The Energy and Environment Subcommittee marked up the first portion of the reauthorization bill, dealing with the energy program, last month (E&ENews PM). That language would reauthorize the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, through 2020 and authorize $3.4 billion through 2015.
The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee meets next week to mark up the final part of the larger bill. That markup will focus on programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Science Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said the full committee will mark up the bill by early May, and it will move to the House floor by Memorial Day.
China should step up its drive to a low-carbon growth model to maintain economic development and preserve achievements that have made it the world’s third largest economy, a United Nations report says.
The report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released on Thursday says China’s current growth model will be hard to sustain as the nation becomes more urbanized and the economy keeps expanding, consuming ever more amounts of energy.
China is already the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases from power plants, industry and transport blamed for heating up the planet and is under international pressure to curb the growth of its emissions. Coal is, and will remain, a major source of energy.
The country is also the world’s most populous with 1.3 billion people and the number is expected to keep growing in coming decades. Hundreds of millions expect to migrate to the cities, threatening a massive spike in carbon emissions.
“The shift to a low-carbon development pathway is imperative as China balances further economic development with environmental sustainability and the need to respond to the threat of climate change,” Khalid Malik, UNDP Resident Representative in China, said in a statement.
The report, “China and a sustainable future, toward a low carbon economy and society” and written in partnership with Renmin University of China, links economic growth, carbon emissions and human development in China.
The League of Conservation Voters announced Wednesday that it will work to defeat Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) this year.
The group named Bachmann to its “Dirty Dozen” list of targets for the 2010 cycle, but with a twist – LCV said she won 60 percent in an online vote LCV hosted to select a “people’s choice” addition to the list.
“Representative Bachmann’s landslide win as the ‘People’s Choice’ clearly shows voters are fed up with her over-the-top, anti-science rhetoric in which she continually parrots the talking points of Big Oil and other corporate polluters,” said Tony Massaro, LCV’s senior vice president for political affairs, in a statement.
The group criticized Bachmann for voting against climate and energy legislation the House approved last year. LCV also cited several Bachmann statements on environmental issues, such as her pronouncement that global warming is “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”