Across Rhode Island, businesses, researchers, and advocates are working to reduce pollution, conserve energy, and make Rhode Island “greener.”  Rhody Green is a new forum that will showcase those efforts and recognize Rhode Island’s green champions.  My staff and I will update this page with examples of local efforts to position Rhode Island at the forefront of the green economy, and we’ll share highlights of my legislative efforts in the Senate.  If you have any ideas for future issues, please submit your ideas at the bottom of this page or to rhodygreen@whitehouse.senate.gov.

Environmental News from Washington

In Washington, I’m fighting hard every day to break through the barricade of special interests preventing action on climate change.  I give speeches every week urging my colleagues to “wake up” to the realities of our changing planet, and I helped found the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change to craft legislation and keep pressure on the Obama Administration to take action.  Click on the links below to read about some of my most recent efforts, and visit whitehouse.senate.gov/climatechange for frequent updates.

•    Sen. Whitehouse introduces National Endowment for the Oceans
•    Time to Wake Up: The Faith-Based Community and Climate Change
•    Sen. Whitehouse and Others Release Carbon Price Discussion Draft
•    Time to Wake Up: Climate Science Obstructionism
•    Sen. Whitehouse Statement on Nomination of Gina McCarthy to be EPA Administrator
•    New England Senators Applaud Regional Effort to Reduce Carbon Pollution

RI Green Champion – Ross McCurdy and the Kitty Hawk Biofuel Flight

Ross-McCurdy-1In each Rhody Green update we’ll highlight the work of someone in Rhode Island who is making a difference for our environment.  For this installment, I asked my staff to check in with Ross McCurdy, a science teacher at Ponaganset High School with a passion for renewable energy.  Ross made history on March 2nd when he participated in the nation’s first biofuel-powered flight from Lincoln, Rhode Island to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, home of the Wright Brother’s Historic First Flight.  My staff asked him a few questions about his experience.

How did you conceive the idea for the biofuel flight to Kitty Hawk?  There is a huge potential for biodiesel and other biofuels and as a science teacher I have been working to teach my students about clean, renewable energy and to promote this through education, demonstration, and application.  During the summer of 2008, three students and I demonstrated biodiesel fuel with our Coast–to-Coast Biodiesel Pickup Project by driving from Rhode Island to California using essentially pure biodiesel locally produced by Newport Biodiesel and distributed by TH Malloy.  The truck ran great on the biodiesel over the entire 7,000 mile round trip and it still does.  With the success of the biodiesel in the pickup truck we wanted to take the next step and use biofuel in an airplane.

It is fascinating to see how excited your students are about science.  Our students at Ponaganset High School have been very enthusiastic about the alternative energy projects that we have had the good fortune to work on.  These projects rely on a combination of academic skills and hands-on technical work to get the job done, which really reinforces scientific principles to the students.  What I find especially motivating is the students who have been influenced enough to take it to the next level after high school.  Chris Charest, one of my former students, is working on his mechanical engineering degree at Kettering University and has done internships with GM’s fuel cell and battery divisions.  It was nice to hear that the photo of him and another student driving our Fuel Cell Model T in Hot Rod Magazine was a big help in getting him the internship.  He now knows much more than me in both of these areas!

Ross-McCurdy-planeAs you know, Senator Whitehouse and Congressman Henry Waxman have established a bicameral Climate Change Task Force to focus congressional and public attention on climate change and to develop effective policy responses.  What role can educators play in raising awareness?  Educating our students about the climate change problem and teaching them how we can all be part of the solution is paramount.  Ensuring all our schools and students are provided adequate resources including books, articles, data, films and other multimedia, computer modeling programs, visiting speakers, etc. are all essential to teaching our students  what really needs to get done to address and fix this problem.

What’s next?  Now that we have achieved the Kitty Hawk Bioflight we want to continue our work with aviation biofuels to achieve the Coast-to-Coast Bioflight from Rhode Island to California.  In our school’s Alternative Energy Lab we are hoping to produce our own biodiesel from used cooking oil soon and also build our own highway-capable electric vehicle.

Federal Money At Work – RI Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP)

The federal government is constantly investing in promising new technologies and local projects that can make a difference for our environment, but too often those investments go unnoticed.  Each installment of Rhody Green will highlight federal funds being put to good use in the Ocean State.

Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership: Funded by a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) is a three year (2012-2015) collaborative effort to achieve energy savings in state and municipal facilities and build a sustained, effective infrastructure for ongoing savings.
Led by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, RIPEP brings together key state agencies, municipal governments, utilities, and state university partners to:

  • Create a comprehensive inventory of energy consumption in the public sector;
  • Implement energy efficiency measures in approximately 100 facilities to attain an average of 20% energy reduction; and
  • Identify and mitigate barriers to efficiency improvements in the public sector.

For more information contact Rachel Sholly, RI Office of Energy Resources at (401) 574-9121 or visit: http://www.energy.ri.gov/pep/index.php

RI Green Economy Spotlight – eNOW

Copyright Josh Edenbaum - eNOW Truck Exterior

One of the benefits of protecting our environment and addressing climate change is that it will keep our state, and our nation, at the forefront of the new “green” economy.  Each installment of Rhody Green will shine a spotlight on a Rhode Island business taking part in this exciting new field.

ON THE ROAD TO SAVINGS: The trucking industry plays a major role in our economy, and the business community relies on truckers to keep costs down, meet regulatory requirements and deliver products on-time, all while protecting the environment.

Jeffery Flath, President and CEO of eNow, has been driving an eNow truck around the country to demonstrate how truckers can reduce fuel costs with the addition of a solar-powered power system.  eNow’s proprietary solar panel systems use the latest technology to capture and convert the sun’s energy into useable power.

Copyright Josh Edenbaum - eNOW Truck InteriorThis Warwick-based company has designed a system that will reduce fuel consumption and pay for itself in less than two years.  At the heart of the system are solar panels mounted on top of the truck trailer.  These feed a battery, which in turn powers the cab’s heating and air conditioning, refrigerator, television, and other electrical needs.  Unlike conventional solar panels, eNow panels are plastic with an aluminum backing, and weigh a fraction of what traditional glass panels weigh.

Flath says eNow systems are being used by Arpin Van Lines and the Maine Department of Transportation.  “Creature comforts” and savings are Flath’s big pitch.  To run all of a truck’s creature comforts, Flath said a truck burns one to 1.5 gallons of diesel fuel an hour.  This adds up to about $50 a day at the current cost of diesel fuel.  Trucks with eNow’s solar-powered system can run creature comforts without keeping their engine idling.  With annual fuel savings of $10,000 and a sale price of $12,000, the cost of the eNow system can be recouped in 1.2 years. With the 30% federal solar tax credit, the system only costs $8,400, so it can pay for itself in less than one year.