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Watch KQED-TV QUEST Tues; Radio's CA Report on Low Carbon Fuel Standard; GM Vote Update
Feb 12, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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FIRST, KQED-TV has launched a new science show: QUEST. It's one of the more ambitious (and well-funded) efforts in some time. It includes radio, TV, and online interactive elements. See the description at­quest/­

The first shows were last Tuesday. This Tuesday, PHEVs are in the second episode, QUEST Television airs every Tuesday at 7:30pm on KQED 9, KQED HD, and in vivid high definition on Comcast 709.

SECOND, last week, on the California Report Magazine, heard on KQED-FM and many other Northern California Public Radio Segments, PHEVs were featured in "Can California Get Enough Alternative Fuels?" This segment was about the new Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and PHEVs were the lead-in topic. (Apologies for the confusion between CalCars' conversion and that by EnergyCS, which is the car discussed, and the overstatement on the frequency of refueling!)

You can listen to the RealMedia streaming version at­domains/­californiareport/­archive/­R702091630/­a or download the podcast (from 0:58 to 6:15) at:­.stream/­anon/­radio/­tcrmag/­2007/­02/­2007-02-09-tcrmag.mp3 We were motivated to produce a transcript, which you can read below, because the segment includes important comments by Dan Sperling of UC Davis and Cathy Reheis-Boyd heads the Western States Petroleum Association.

THIRD: Before that transcript, one more "media item:" remember how GM asked people on its website what they thought about the Volt? On January 11, after 4 days, we reported "GM Gets Feedback from its Own Website: 11,565 Customers"­calcars-news/­654.html -- 98.5% of them would consider buying the car. A month later, here are the numbers (see the original posting for our comments on the fact that this is not a scientific poll)­company/­gm_exp_live/­events/­naias_2007/­index_flash.html

Would you like to see GM build the Chevrolet Volt?:
Yes - 99.4% (385,216 votes)
No - 0.6% (2,186 votes)
Valid responses: 387,402

If GM builds the Chevrolet Volt, would you consider buying one?
Yes - 99.3% (384,878 votes)
No - 0.7% (2,523 votes)
Valid responses: 387,401

Katherine Baron, Host of The California Report: We begin this week in the tank -- the gas tank, that is. California is leading the nation in efforts to fight global warming by reducing the carbon content of gas and diesel fuel by ten percent. The goal is to turn the clock back to 1990 levels on greenhouse gasses. Alternative fuels are a key element of that effort, but there's a long road ahead to fuel the state's transportation needs. We have two stories, beginning with Cy Musiker.

Cy Musiker: The Governor's low-carbon fuel standard doesn't mandate any particular technology or fuel supply, but Felix Kramer thinks he knows one way to make the plan work.

Felix Kramer: If you're looking for something that doesn't require new technology, doesn't require a new infrastructure, fueling delivery systems, or anything, plug-in hybrids are one of the best first things we can do.

CM: Kramer runs Calcars, a non-profit, lobbying auto companies to build hybrids with enhanced battery power and a plug. Kramer has modified his own Prius for about $10,000.

FK: The main difference is in the back... so if I open up the hatchback, then inside...

CM: Kramer leans into the trunk and lifts up the floor panel.

FK: What we now have in my car is the entire area there is taken up with a red box that's full of lithium-ion batteries...

CM: So now Kramer can go months without ever buying gas. As we cruise down the street car motion in background, we watch a computer display showing how many miles per gallon Kramer is getting.

It has hit the limit of its ability to measure, which is 999.9 miles per gallon, but in fact we're getting an infinite number of miles per gallon because we're not using any gas at all?"

FK: Exactly.

Which doesn't mean Kramer is not burning carbon. The battery juices up from the state's electricity grid, fed by a mix of natural gas and coal-fired power plants, hydroelectric and wind power. The carbon intensity, the carbon footprint of that electricity is about half that of gasoline.

Dan Sperling: So there's a whole long list of strategies and tactics on how to make fuel with lower carbon.

CM: Dan Sperling is Director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. He's one of the two men the Governor has charged with the tricky task of squeezing 10% of the carbon out of the state's transportation fuels.

DS: "And the challenge here is to develop a set of rules that acknowledge this great diversity of opportunities, but yet keep the program simple enough so that it can be administered."

CM: Over the next few weeks, Sperling and a team of researchers will estimate the carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere -- of every fuel source in California. Then each gallon of gas of gas, ethanol or biodiesel, each watt of electricity will be assigned a value in a carbon-trading market.

DS: The way it will probably work is... for instance, the oil refiner has to reduce the carbon. Well, PG&E comes along, and they say we've got 100,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids out there that we're providing electricity for and therefore the average carbon is, say, 50% of what it is for a gasoline car, and so therefore, they will be able to sell that 50% reduction to the oil refiner, and there will be a market for that credit.

CM: For now at least, fuel providers are supporting the concept of a carbon market. Cathy Reheis-Boyd heads the Western States Petroleum Association.

CR-B: We are happy with that performance-based approach, which is, you know, "Don't tell us how to meet your targets." Let us have the flexibility, because nobody knows our business better than us.

CM: Boyd says some refineries may bank carbon credits by increasing refinery efficiency. More often, refineries will reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel they sell by blending in ethanol and biodiesel -- premium commodities in the carbon market. There's a problem with ethanol though: demand may soon far outstrip supply.

Richard Hamilton: My short answer to all of this is, "It's the cellulose, stupid."

CM: Richard Hamilton is the President of Ceres, and he sees tremendous business opportunity in California's Low Carbon Initiative. The Thousand Oaks company genetically engineers crops suited for ethanol made from cellulose. That's the stuff that makes up the cell walls in nearly every plant species. Cellulosic ethanol could be highly valuable in a carbon market because it takes much less energy -- much less carbon -- to make than corn ethanol. High distillation costs slow commercial development of cellulosic ethanol, but Hamilton and many experts soon believe that will soon change.

RH: What we're betting on at Ceres is that when those refining technologies come online in the next several years, farmers will want to grow as much cellulose as they can per acre, rather than as much starch as they can per acre.

CM: And Hamilton's bet may pay off sooner than expected. State regulators could decide this spring to dramatically accelerate how quickly they mandate a carbon market moving the inaugural date to as early as 2010.

For the California Report, I'm Cy Musiker

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