Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who Will Resurrect the Electric Car?...Go Green Radio knows the answer…

When Sony Pictures released the movie, “Who Killed the Electric Car,” ( the U.S. political landscape was much different, and Detroit had a lot more clout than it does today. The movie honed in on a very specific moment in time when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) eliminated the production of electric vehicles in the zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) initiative, and pinned the blame on D.C.-based lawsuits and lobbying in Sacramento as the reasons electric cars failed to achieve economically-feasible market share. I’d be the last person to underestimate the effects of Sacramento lobbying, but in truth, there have been two primary consumer concerns that have inhibited the success of the electric car:
· the cost of the vehicles is higher than comparably-sized gasoline cars; and
· the mileage range of a typical car battery is much shorter than the range of a gasoline tank. For lengthy trips, that would mean having to stop every 150 miles or so, finding a place to plug the car in, and waiting several hours for it to power up.

A new company called Better Place ( has the solution to both of these problems, and may be the “enabler” that finally brings electric vehicles into the mainstream. Better Place CEO, Shai Agassi, has led successful beta operations in Israel, Denmark and Australia, but as of November 2008, he started making waves in the Golden State, as he eyes California as the U.S. toehold for his company.

At a press conference in the San Francisco City Hall on November 20, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayors of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco gathered with numerous Bay Area groups and Better Place to announce plans to engage in public-private investments in electric vehicles and ‘green’ infrastructure. Better Place is not an electric car manufacturer, but could provide the necessary infrastructure with their battery “filling stations.”

This week on Go Green Radio, my guest is Jason Wolf, head of North American business development for Better Place. I’ll be asking him… if Warren Buffet’s new investment in electric cars depends on Better Places’ success; …whether or not we’ll need more nuclear plants to facilitate clean electricity for our cars; …how the geopolitical landscape will change if Better Place makes it possible for us to ‘just say no’ to Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil; and much, much more.

The episode airs live on fro 9-10 a.m. on Friday, July 24. But if you miss the live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My interns ended up in jail!!!

When they signed up to be interns for the world’s largest environmental education program, they probably didn’t think it would land them in jail, but that is exactly what happened…and ironically, it all started with a chance encounter at Disneyland…
Over Memorial Day weekend this year, my family went to Anaheim, CA for an ice hockey tournament for my son. After a particularly grueling 7 a.m. game, we all went to Disneyland, and ended up seeing some good family friends outside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – it’s a small world after all! (: The mom of the family told me her daughter was coming home from Princeton, and that she studies architecture. I asked her if she would like to explore “green” architecture as my intern. Thanks to the kindness of my good friend with the Alameda County’s Sheriff’s Office, we were able to schedule a tour of a very ‘green’ county jail in our area on Monday. We saw recycling in numerous locations, solar panels on the roof, a hydrogen fuel cell that was installed in 2006, and a brand new recycled water system in the jail’s laundry facility.

Here is what Lauren wrote about the visit:

Why Prisons?

This summer, I am interning under Jill Buck for the Go Green Initiative as an undergraduate student interested in Architecture and Urban Studies. Despite being relatively new to the field of architecture, I have recently decided that studying the design of prisons would be a fascinating area of study. By shaping the layout and the internal space of a prison you help to manage the environment and atmosphere of the facility, which can in turn influence how inmates behave. Simply adding more windows and increasing ceiling height creates a calmer environment. Prisons are necessary, federally funded facilities that can serve as opportunities for behavior-shaping architectural experimentation. On top of the creative opportunity that prisons might be able to provide, they also serve as exciting spaces for green architectural innovation! Prisons are high energy facilities that require 24-hours of operation, 7 days a week. With regulations that demand high lighting and large amounts of water consumption they serve as black holes for energy resources; sucking up thousands of dollars in energy. By combining intelligent design with green techniques we can create facilities that are energy efficient and relatively calm. Simple things, such as increasing the number of windows in a facility, help to lower energy consumption by increasing the use of natural light. We recently saw such innovation at the Alameda County Jail, where administration is learning to save money by retrofitting their facility with solar panels and clean energy sources such as the Hydrogen Fuel Cell system. I do not think that the prison system is going anywhere in the near future, so why not make them energy efficient, socially controlled, and green now?

My daughter, Katie, is also interning for me this summer. She has literally grown up with the Go Green Initiative, and is now taking a leadership role in the organization. This was her reflection:

My First Trip to Jail

We are always hearing, “Give 110%!” Well that’s exactly what Santa Rita County Jail is doing. Between their hydrogen fuel cell and solar panels they are completely self sufficient…and then some! They sometimes create more energy than they can even use in a 4,000 person jail!(Out of those 4,000 inmates are people in there for a year or less, people on trial, or people waiting to be transported to prison.) The hydrogen fuel cell is essentially carbon free, and produces 60-80% of the jails electricity. The solar panels produce the other 30% of the energy. There are other ways that the jail is going green too. Not only recycling the laundry water to use it again, they also recycle water bottles just like I do at school. (I knew there were similarities between jail and school) One of my favorite parts of the tour was the Automated Guided Vehicle System. Basically these little robot carts moved around on their own to pre-destined places to deliver food, sheets etc. They relied on little maintenance and operator involvement. Very efficient! It improves security because instead of transporting hundreds of inmates around the campus you bring everything to the inmates.

To hear more about their impressions of the trip to the Alameda County Jail, tune into Go Green Radio this week when we’ll talk to Lauren and Katie about their field trip behind bars! Go Green Radio airs live on from 9-10 a.m. Pacific time, and if you miss the live broadcast, you can download the podcast later at