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News and Events

January 2012

Story Tip: Coast Guard going green

To comply with the mandate to increase the use of alternative fuels, the Coast Guard has enlisted the help of Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers with expertise in fuels and engines. "The Coast Guard has decided to use biobutanol rather than ethanol to mix with gasoline in their smaller craft, and biodiesel rather than petroleum diesel in their larger engines," said Tim Theiss, group leader of the Fuels, and Engines and Emissions Research Group Center. During the three-year project, researchers will focus on a number of tasks, including determining the maximum acceptable level of these renewable fuels with the marine engines and infrastructure necessary to operate in a saltwater environment. Since 1790, the Coast Guard has safeguarded America's maritime interests and the environment. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226;]

December 2011

Lowering Energy Costs

The New York Time

With energy prices having gone from bad to worse and back to just bad in the last couple of months, homeowners are more determined than ever to find ways to save on heating bills.

The solution, experts say, is simple. “Adding insulation is the first thing a homeowner should do,” said Jeff Christian, of the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In fact, he said, because of volatile energy prices, the agency has revised its Insulation Fact Sheet, which provides recommendations for insulation in the home. It takes into account insulation and energy costs, dwelling type and amount of existing insulation to arrive at the optimum amount, based on a structure’s location. (You can find the sheet by typing “Insulation Fact Sheet” into the search box at the home page of

“And the part of the house that most people can do something about is the attic,” he said.

The television host Bob Vila said that houses built 20 to 40 years ago probably have fiberglass insulation 6 to 9 inches deep, either blown in or in fitted batting, between the attic floor joists. But that does not produce a high enough total R-value, he said, referring to the measurement of a material’s ability to resist heat flow. So most houses probably need more insulation.

There are a couple of options. One, he said, is to blow loose insulation — either cellulose or fiberglass — over the top of the existing insulation. Most home centers will lend a machine to blow the insulation from outdoors, where it is loaded, up through the house and into the attic. The insulation itself costs about $11 a bag for cellulose and $27 for fiberglass, but the ultimate cost to the homeowner is about the same, as fewer bags of fiberglass are needed. A 100-square-foot space would need about 2.5 bags of cellulose or 1 bag of fiberglass.

Another option is fiberglass batting, precut lengths of fiberglass insulation that fit between floor joists.

Gale Tedhams, of Owens Corning, a fiberglass-insulation manufacturer in Toledo, Ohio, said that for most houses, attic-floor insulation should be 19 inches deep if batting or 22 if blown. “Adding what you need is very easy,” she said. Usually, she said, it is best to apply “unfaced” batting perpendicular to the floor joists. Faced insulation has paper or foil on one side as a vapor barrier. If insulation is already there, unfaced is better to use to avoid condensation between barriers.

Owens Corning retailers also sell loose fiberglass and provide a machine to install it, the AttiCat, which is free if part of a promo- tion or up to $100 a day to rent, based on how much is needed.

If the attic is a living space, it is necessary to insulate between the roof rafters instead of the floor joists. The traditional way is batting; another option is spray polyurethane foam insulation.

Alex Wilson, the president of BuildingGreen of Brattleboro, Vt., said there are two types of spray-on polyurethane: closed- cell and open-cell. Closed-cell is mixed as it is sprayed and then quickly expands to fit. Open-cell, a newer product, is also sprayed but expands even more. Closed- cell is about $1.20 for a one-inch- thick square foot, including prof- essional installation; open-cell, half that. Open-cell has a slightly lower R-value, but Mr. Wilson said it is comparable to closed- cell, since a thinner layer of closed-cell is usually applied.

Open-cell is available in a slow- ly expanding form that can be poured into a cavity and used to retrofit uninsulated walls in ex- isting buildings. Whatever is used, optimal insulation is a must. “The price gyrations over the last couple of years have de- monstrated how vulnerable we are,” he said, referring to fuel. “We just can’t depend on low prices sticking around anymore.” 

What motivates spending on energy efficiency studied

By Larisa Brass
Posted December 5, 2011 at midnight

Amy Wolfe, an anthropologist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is one of the few researchers focused on the consumer mindset regarding energy efficiency.

Utilities are launching incentive programs, companies are hawking products from LED light bulbs to Energy Star-rated HVAC systems, the government has poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns — all designed to encourage customers to become more energy efficient.

So what makes them bite?

That’s what Amy Wolfe, researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is working to find out.

An anthropologist among the engineers, biologists and other scientists in the lab’s environmental sciences division, Wolfe is studying the behaviors that make consumers embrace or reject energy efficient technologies and practices.

“In general, it has proved difficult to get people to sign on to do these programs,” she says. “What we’re trying to do is figure out other channels with which to appeal to people.”

Wolfe is working with colleague Jeff Christian, an engineer, to retrofit local homes with technologies and renovations that will result in energy savings of 40 to 50 percent. Each participant’s home undergoes an energy audit, performed through TVA’s Energy Right program, which is followed by recommendations from Christian.

Wolfe is conducting two to three interviews with the homeowners, asking why they decided to adopt certain technologies and not others, about any change in behaviors related to efficiency and how they feel about their choices when the renovations are complete. The 11 homeowners range from those who have exceeded the recommendations to those who have yet to do any work. Although incentives are included in the program, homeowners signed on expecting to pay for the bulk of the work themselves.

While the homeowners don’t represent the population as a whole — it’s a very small group of homeowners who have both the desire and wherewithal to carry out the retrofits — the project will offer insight into what motivates customers to embrace energy efficiency or discourages them from following through with their intentions, she says.

“I find it really interesting to see, even in this set of people that you might think is similar … there’s a tremendous amount of variation, not just in what they do but in what they think,” Wolfe says.

For example, one homeowner went beyond Christian’s recommendations for home improvements and “kept adding and adding and adding on,” she says. “They’re extremely happy with what they’ve done, but if you were thinking about any kind of payback, there’s just no way. They see it as their patriotic duty.”

Others were motivated by cost savings, while one homeowner was simply tired of living in a drafty house. “She didn’t care what money she saved down the road,” Wolfe says.

Wolfe’s work represents the kind of research that’s needed in a sector that’s been dominated by an engineering and utility mindset, says Susan Mazur-Stommen, who was recently appointed to the new position of director of behavior and human dimensions at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, based in Washington, D.C.

“One thing I’m finding is that, as I’m prepping my research and reviewing literature and looking at numbers, there are still a lot of untested, ungrounded assumptions baked into a lot of people’s previous research or findings in terms of people’s behavior,” she says. “Anthropologists are late to arrive on the scene.”

She relates a conversation with a fellow “soccer mom,” in which the woman revealed that, although she lived in a home half the size of Mazur-Stommen’s, her electricity bill was twice as much.

“This is an educated woman, working for the school district,” she says. “This whole messaging business has never gotten to her. She just lived with it like it was the weather.”

One problem, Mazur-Stommen says, is the way energy efficiency is promoted.

“Often times utilities position it as, ‘You can save energy,’ ” she says, but without context, this message has no meaning for consumers.

Another issue, she says, is that while utilities across the country are introducing programs to improve energy efficiency, no studies examine their effectiveness as a whole. And the research that’s being done often doesn’t incorporate terminology that people understand, she says. For example, someone asked in a questionnaire whether they carpool might say, “no.” But if asked whether they “get a lift” to school or work, “there may be a verydifferent finding,” she says.

Regional differences existing as well. Next year, ACEEE will be traveling to the South — with planned stops in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and possibly Tennessee and other neighboring states—to talk with consumers in a variety of settings to better understanding energy consumption and consumers’ mindset.

The upshot is coming up with methods for encouraging energy efficiency that actually work.

For instance, Wolfe says, while TVA and local utilities may promote energy efficiency, actually getting the work done can be an overwhelming prospect to their customers.

“One of the things (study participants) value almost uniformly in this project is the access to an unbiased source of information,” Wolfe says, referring to ORNL’s involvement in the projects. “They’re not sure what they should do first, and rather than taking a very expensive chance that they might do something wrong, they do nothing.”

Larisa Brass is a contributing writer to the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

November 2011

Technology Partnerships Are Yielding Reliable, Cost-Saving Appliances

By Roland Risser
Program Manager
Building Technologies Program


Oak Ridge National Laboratory's facility tests several water heaters at one time. Because of ORNL's accelerated durability testing, they estimate that 10 months of constant operation in its testing facility is comparable to 10 years of service life in a typical residential setting. | Photo courtesy of the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center, ORNL

Out of sight and out of mind, the humble water heater goes mostly unnoticed until the day it quits and you miss that hot morning shower.

Despite its inconspicuous role in your home, heating water for bathing, cleaning, and laundry can be the second largest household energy expense. In fact, Americans spent a whopping $33.8 billion on residential water heating in 2010 -- anywhere from $200 to $600 per household. And the market for innovative water heaters that will save consumers money by saving energy is continuing to grow. In the U.S., the demand for energy-efficient water heaters grew from 625,000 units shipped in 2006 to 1 million in 2009.

Energy Department partnerships with industry are driving many of the product innovations that have made reliable and efficient water heating an affordable option for consumers.

For 35 years, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Building Technologies Program has spearheaded research and development activities resulting in more energy-efficient residential water heaters. Technology advances such as electric heat pump water heaters (HPWH) are making it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to design and produce reasonably priced, reliable, efficient  water heaters for homes across the country.

One of the first successful electric water heater products to come to market is General Electric’s GeoSpring heat pump water heater. Before the company moved forward to introduce the technology to market, GE entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in 2008 to rigorously test the new product. Final test results showed the GeoSpring water heater used less than half the energy of a conventional 50-gallon tank water heater and could last at least 10 years. Because of the R&D investments made through this successful public-private partnership, families can now save more than $300 per year on energy bills by using the GeoSpring water heater.

Along with many other electric and gas water heaters, the Geospring is ENERGY STAR-qualified, meaning it delivers important energy and cost savings.  The ENERGY STAR program is a partnership between the Energy Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that highlights the benefits that can come when the country’s public and private sectors work together to accelerate the development and deployment of energy-efficient technologies.

The many partnerships between the Energy Department, national laboratories and consumer product companies get to take the credit for the broad market adoption of many of these advanced technologies. By providing independent verification of energy efficiency claims, the ENERGY STAR and national laboratory programs help manufacturers, retailers, builders, and plumbers offer their customers reliable, affordable products that save money without sacrificing performance. 

October 2011

Have Politics Battered Climate Change Talk?

By Margaret Ryan
Published: October 11, 2011

Climate change solutions were battered by the recession and political shifts have pushed the issue to the sidelines of the US energy debate, while international climate talks remain mired in the same arguments that have derailed consensus for years.

That was the message from speakers at the US Association of Energy Economists conference October 11 in Washington, DC. In the US, they say the only climate-related action in the next few years will probably come from the Environmental Protection Agency, while internationally, there's no sign of any progress for December's UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Durban, South Africa.

Margot Anderson of the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank said there is "no national bipartisan narrative on energy and climate" in the current political landscape. While the 2009 stimulus program supplied $42 billion for climate-related research and projects, now Congress is cutting DOE programs.

Dallas Burtraw of Resources for the Future said states and localities are key players in climate change issues, since they control land use and implement many environmental rules under the US system of "environmental federalism." At issue now is whether states will be leaders in climate change, like California and the northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or will be pre-empted and stopped by federal fiat.

Stephen Eule of the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy said the EPA's pending regulations tightening limits on pollutants like sulfur, nitrogen and mercury will also cut carbon.

He said the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill, at 1,400 pages, was far too complex to be workable. Cap and trade only works by making energy more expensive, he said, and that's "bad for the economy."

Burtraw said there is no economic gain if energy is nominally cheap but has a "hidden tax" of negative health effects.

Internationally, Burtraw noted that much of the $100 billion in climate aid promised by the US at Copenhagen by 2020 was to come from the private market purchasing carbon off-sets in emerging nations. "That will not happen without cap and trade," he warned.

Eule said the most important number for climate negotiations is 67 – the number of US Senators required to ratify any new US treaty commitment. The developed nations in the Kyoto Protocol are balking at extending their carbon-cutting commitments unless the US and China both adopt parallel commitments. The US has always rejected Kyoto, and China contends it is a developing nation with no obligation to take on carbon cuts.

The developed and developing nations remain at loggerheads over climate adaptation and mitigation aid, with some developing nations demanding 0.5-3% of developed nations' gross domestic product – "a wealth transfer that no Western government will agree to," Eule said.
"Essentially, the talks are stuck," he said, not just for the upcoming Durban meeting but for the foreseeable future.

A related factor, said David Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is the public's being led to believe that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. In fact, he said, that consensus is "overwhelming," but a "deliberate attempt to misinform the public" has been "a success."

Eule said there had also been deliberate misinformation by climate advocates about the scale and difficulty of what has to be done to reduce emissions enough to make a difference.

Anderson said "the jury is still out" on whether many "green" measures will prove to be job creators or not in the long run. "That's why we're struggling," she said.

Photo Caption: Former US Vice-President and environmental activist Al Gore speaks during an environmental summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador on March 17, 2011.

EPA offical: the future of the internal combustion engine is bright and clear

Green Car Congress
Energy, Technologies, Issues and Policies for Sustainable Mobility

5 October 2011

The future of the IC engine is bright and clear; I don’t think that could be any more obvious to all of us,” said Byron Bunker, Director, Heavy Duty Engine Center, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, US Environmental Protection Agency during his remarks in a panel discussion on the role for internal combustion engines in the energy future at the US Department of Energy’s 2011 Directions in Engine-Efficiency and Emissions Research Conference (DEER) in Detroit.

Even while projecting to the future and talking about batteries and electric vehicles, he said, “when you look at our actual analysis and you look to our projections for the future, 95% or more of the vehicles, all of the heavy-duty vehicles in our analysis are relying on IC engines. The future that we point to [is] very conventional-looking engines.”

Bunker spent the bulk of his presentation describing the new medium- and heavy-duty fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations from EPA and the Department of Transportation. (Earlier post.) However, in closing, he shared some thoughts on attributes of future engines:

  • Engine should become more robust to fuel variation;

  • Engine should trade elastic power delivery for higher peak efficiency;

  • New engines need to be able to be produced in high volume to control costs but tailored to individual duty cycle to optimize performance—especially in the heavy-duty vehicle sector; and

  • Sophisticated adaptive control schemes and new sensor technologies will be critical.

While many over time have grown dismissive of radical new engine ideas, remember that they have the opportunity to change the dynamic...we should not discount novel engine designs.

—Byron Bunker

Bunker’s emphasis on the general ongoing importance of the internal combustion engine—along with the different technology pathways for improving their efficiency—were echoed by a number of DEER speakers, looking at light-duty as well as medium- and heavy-duty sectors.

Hugh Blaxill, Managing Director of Mahle Powertrain, for example, said that the current surge in volume of 4-cylinder engines along with the rapid ramp in direct injection and variable valvetrain technologies across all manufacturers marks the start of a sharp increase in downsized applications and hybrid powertrains.

In the longer term (out toward 2030), Mahle sees increasing downsizing, with a surge in 3-cylinder applications, increasing electrification, and increased use of bio- and gaseous fuels.

In his talk during the opening plenary, Dr. David Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory put the importance of improving efficiency in the transportation sector in the broader context of an ultimate transition to a different form of energy—i.e., non-petroleum-based—for transportation.

He suggested that in the face of the three major energy challenges for the global transportation system—climate change mitigation, energy security, and sustainability—“the number one priority, I think, is and should be improving the energy efficiency of the global transportation system.

Other things are important as well, eventually bringing alternative energy...into the transportation system. Electricity, hydrogen, biofuels. But for right now, our top priority should be what you all are working on which is improving energy efficiency. To do that cost-effectively—which means to do it at all—requires both advanced technology and effective pubic policy.

...At the end of the day, if we are going to get to a sustainable transportation system, for 2050 and beyond, and if we are going to get to petroleum independence...I mean shrinking the problem to a manageable size which we can do without getting completely off of oil, if we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level to avoid dangerous climate change, ultimately almost certainly we are going to have to introduce a different form of energy to run our transportation system.

As I said, this will be a whole lot easier if we can double the energy efficiency of transportation at the same time. Let’s shrink the size of that task by a factor of four. That’s very important.

There have been major energy transitions in the past...they have all be driven by market forces. We are facing a much more difficult challenge, I believe, which is to induce a transition to alternative energy for public goods. For energy security, for protection of the environment, and for sustainability of energy for future generation. These are not going to be achieved by market forces.

So we are embarking on something that is new and different and hasn’t been done before by human society. Improving energy efficiency will shrink the size of that task by a factor of four, and it is our number one, most important priority today.

—David Greene

Story Tips from the DOE's ORNL – P.T. Jones

Released: 10/4/2011 1:30 PM EDT
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Newswise — To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our Media Contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to

RACING -- Green checkered flag . . .

Getting to the finish line quickest with the least environmental impact is what’s driving the Green Racing initiative that has made its way to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Through the program, fans of racing and the environment are learning about fast cars, energy efficiency and emissions. “Green Racing incorporates a scoring formula that takes into account the amount of fuel consumed, the number of laps completed, speed, energy efficiency and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the race,” said ORNL’s P.T. Jones, who heads the project for the Department of Energy. Making the learning more fun is the Green Racing Simulator, developed at Argonne National Laboratory. The simulator provides an arcade-like experience and generates a score based on information that mirrors the metrics of the Green Challenge competition. Jones noted that another goal is to support industry’s efforts to accelerate the transfer of efficient automotive technologies from the track to the driveway. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

August 2011

Live Green At Heart: Home Energy


As the cost of energy increases more homeowners are looking for ways to make their houses more energy efficient. With the help of the Oak Ridge National Lab, a Rockwood man has gone all out to cut his utility bills.

John Shaw decided that when he did a kitchen makeover and fixed a roof problem, he would tackle a bigger issue. He invested an additional $8,000 to use less energy. 

The first job was to seal up the air leaks and add insulation. He then replaced his old air conditioner with a different design. Eliminating the outside ductwork makes the entire system more efficient.

He bought new appliances and installed LED and florescent lights. "Everybody can do this. You can call your utility, wherever that bill is going to and have a home energy evaluation. Take about 90 minutes of your time. Somebody walks through and customizes your long term plan for that house," said ORNL Building Researcher Jeff Christian.

John's house is one of ten retrofitted energy upgrades being studied by ORNL. Temperatures, Humidity and electric use are monitored by computers at the lab in a year long study. 

Shaw's electric bill for July was $106, which is 35% less than July 2010. With those kind of savings it will take ten to eleven years to pay for the improvements. 

The Department of Energy said investment in home's energy improvements will not only reduce the country's need for oil, but create jobs as well.

UT receives $18 million award to study nation's power grid

By Megan Boehnke
Post: August 18, 2011

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011 // Buy this photo

University of Tennessee researchers Kevin Tomsovic, left, and Yilu Liu discuss their five-year $18 million federal grant to study the nation's energy grid during a news conference Wednesday at the Science and Engineering Building. They will head a new center that will focus on finding efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power. (MICHAEL PATRICK / NEWS SENTINEL)

Even before he accepted the job at the University of Tennessee, Kevin Tomsovic was accessing how to assemble a dynamic team that could lead the country in finding solutions for the nation's outdated power grid.

Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2011
Buy this photo »

A frequency disturbance recorder developed by the University of Tennessee which was partly responsible for them being awarded an $18 million federal award to lead a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center that will study the transfer of electrical energy. The new center, called CURENT or Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks, will focus on finding efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power. (MICHAEL PATRICK / NEWS SENTINEL)

Three years later that vision came to life when the National Science Foundation announced Wednesday that UT was chosen to lead a prestigious Engineering Research Center to study the transfer of electrical energy. The five-year, $18 million joint NSF and Department of Energy award has positioned UT to be at the forefront of President Barack Obama's plan to overhaul the nation's energy grid.

"It's a chance to really make a difference in how the power grid is operated in the future and will allow us to more easily integrate renewable (energy)," Tomsovic said. "We put together a very, very good team. It's first and foremost about the people."

Tomsovic, head of UT's electrical engineering and computer science department, and colleague Yilu Liu, a Governor's Chair and top researcher in the country on power transmission systems, will lead the new center at UT.

The Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmission Networks — or CURENT — will work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority and more than 40 industry partners to find efficient methods of transferring electric power that could be used to build a new "smart grid" to deliver the nation's power.

This is the first time UT has been selected to lead a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center and only 33 schools have been selected to lead a center since NSF founded the program in 1984.

Though Tomsovic and Liu have been conducting research in the field of power transmission since the 1980s, the combination of increasing population and the introduction of renewable energies like solar and wind have put stress the current grid not designed to handle either. The resulting blackouts and lost energy has thrust the issue of revamping the system into the national conversation, making this a good time to be a researcher in the field, said Tomsovic.

"I think the thing is if there's more investments then actually things are going to get implemented. So you really have a chance to start seeing research have an impact on the system," Tomsovic said.

Obama announced in June new policies to accelerate the development of a "smart grid," including loans to deploy new technology, partnerships with private industry and resources for the public at

Liu, who Tomsovic recruited from Virginia Tech two years ago, has been monitoring the power production and use through thousands of frequency disturbance recorders installed in different parts of the nation's grid. New investments mean expanding the monitoring to help better understand the

"Before you take any action, you need to see what's going on, so monitoring is an essential first step, then this will lead to better information knowledge and eventually control," Liu said.

Though the grant is guaranteed for five years, it can be renewed over the next 10 years.

"It also opens up a lot of other opportunities, and by the nature of receiving these things you become the place for doing this sort of research," Tomsovic said. "We're already being contacted by people who want to be associated with it."

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

Dr. David Greene's Comments (Obama Claims Connection Between Fuel Standards, Jobs, But Reality is Complicated)

By: Amy Harder
Uodated: August 12, 2011

President Obama speaks Thursday on fuel efficiency and new jobs at Johnson Controls advanced battery facility in Holland, Mich.

President Obama says his new automobile fuel economy standards will create jobs.

Not so fast.

What he doesn’t say is that those standards will lead to sustained job creation only if Americans choose to buy more fuel-efficient cars in the coming years. And if recent history is true, the driving decision behind that will be the price of gas.

Over the past two weeks, Obama has repeatedly touted his ambitious new fuel-economy standards as good for the environment and good for the economy. While the first part of that statement may be self-evident, the second is open to debate.

On Thursday, Obama again claimed a nexus between higher mileage vehicles and jobs, this time while touring the Holland, Mich., plant of Johnson Controls, which builds advanced batteries for hybrid and electric cars.

“I brought together the world’s largest auto companies who agreed, for the first time, to nearly double the distance their cars can go on a gallon of gas,” Obama said. “That’s going to save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump. It’s going to cut our dependence on foreign oil. It’s going to promote innovation and jobs, and it’s going to mean more groundbreakings and more job postings for companies like Johnson Controls.”

The new fuel-economy standards apply to cars and light trucks through 2025 and – for the first time – to heavy trucks through 2018. Cars and light trucks must reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (up from the current 28 mpg). The truck standards require cuts of 7 to 20 percent in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions for trucks between 2014 and 2018.

But an underreported aspect of the standards is that they’re based on what automakers sell, not what they build. And Obama included a possible escape clause for automakers: A 2018 review of the car standards that could let automakers argue for reducing the miles-per-gallon targets if the most fuel-efficient cars aren’t selling.

“It all boils down to figuring out what the consumer is going to do,” said Dean Drake, president of the Defour Group, a consulting firm that advises the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “They don’t value fuel economy the way the government values it.”

Experts say most car buyers don’t base their decision exclusively or even primarily on greater fuel economy – especially if the most fuel-efficient cars are more expensive.

“It would take an extraordinary combination of high gasoline prices and unexpectedly low cost of technology to even make this [new fuel economy standards] jobs-neutral,” Drake said. “It’s very, very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which you could add thousands of dollars to costs of new cars and create jobs.”

Consumer behavior changes when gas prices are consistently high.

In March, hybrid car sales jumped 46 percent above the same month in 2010, spurred by this spring’s soaring gasoline prices, according to auto market analysts Baum & Associates.

“When the price of fuel is high, it encourages consumers to demand more fuel-efficient cars and enables the use of more expensive technology to make cars more fuel-efficient,” said David Greene, an expert on this subject at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Still, the growth in hybrid sales is relative. The 30 gas-electric hybrids on the market combined accounted for 2.4 percent of all U.S. auto sales last year – and were outsold by the single best-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, said Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance, a coalition of most of the world’s biggest auto manufacturers.

Greene says that the one sure way to ensure high gas prices, and thus prompt sustained hybrid sales and job growth, is through a new federal gas tax.

Good luck getting that through Congress.

30th edition of the Transportation Energy Data Book is online

The Transportation Energy Data Book (30th ed.) debuted on the website on July 25, 2011. The Transportation Energy Data Book is a compendium of data on transportation, with an emphasis on energy. Designed for use as a desktop reference, the TEDB was first published in 1976 and has continued to the 30th edition. The TEDB is produced by the Center for Transportation Analysis for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The TEDB's most current electronic version is available in Excel and PDF formats and can be found here. Hard copies of the book are currently being printed. To receive a hard copy of the book once they are available, e-mail Stacy Davis at

June 2011

ORNL researchers win seven R&D 100 Awards -- ETSD wins three of the seven R&D 100 Awards

Media Contact: Miriam Kramer
Communications and External Relations
News Release

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 22, 2011 — Scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have received seven R&D 100 Awards presented by R&D Magazine.

These awards, sometimes referred to as the "Academy Awards of Science," honor the 100 most outstanding advances in technology for the year and are chosen by an expert panel of independent judges and the editors of R&D Magazine.

"I want to congratulate this year's R&D 100 award winners," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. "The Department of Energy's national laboratories and sites are at the forefront of innovation, and it is gratifying to see their work recognized once again. The cutting-edge research and development done in our national labs and facilities is helping to meet our energy challenges, strengthen our national security and enhance our economic competitiveness."

The seven awards bring the total number of R&D 100 awards won by ORNL researchers over the years to 164.

"Winning seven of these prestigious awards is a testimony to the talent and creativity of a remarkable staff," ORNL Director Thom Mason said. "Our researchers do a tremendous job of delivering our mission of scientific discovery and innovation."

ORNL / ETSD researchers were recognized for the following technologies:

Mesoporous Carbon for Capacitive Deionization Electrodes for Desalination, developed and jointly submitted by ORNL's Sheng Dai and Richard Mayes of the Chemical Sciences Division, David DePaoli and Costas Tsouris of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, James Kiggans Jr. of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Craig Blue, director of the Energy Materials Program, Charles Schaich of the Measurment Science and Systems Engineering Division, former post doctoral researcher Xiquing Wang and Frederic W. Seamon III of Campbell Applied Physics. This novel technology makes it possible to desalinate large quantities of water more effectively than conventional technologies. Instead of using thermal or membrane separation—which can be costly and consume high amounts of energy—this desalinization tool can absorb salt ions by running brackish water through mesoporous carbon, inexpensively making the water fit for human consumption. This technology could make it possible for large numbers of the world's population to create safe drinking water at a relatively low cost. The DOE's Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy provided funding for this research.

Isaac Mahderekal, Abdolreza Zaltash, Randall Linkous, Randall Wetherington, Ed Vineyard, Patrick Geoghegan 

NextAire Packaged Gas Heat Pump, jointly developed and submitted by ORNL's Ed Vineyard, Abdolreza Zaltash, Randall Linkous and Isaac Mahderekal of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, Randall Wetherington of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, Patrick Geoghegan of the Neutron Facilities Development Division and Southwest Gas, an investor-owned utility serving customers in Arizona, Nevada and portions of California and IntelliChoice Energy, headquartered in Phoenix. The gas heat pump technology is used to heat and cool small and medium sized buildings using fuel—typically natural gas—instead of electricity to power the compressor. To operate conventional electric heat pumps, fuel is converted to electricity at power plants, resulting in waste heat discharged to the environment. In addition, further energy losses occur as the electricity is transmitted over power lines and converted to mechanical power by the compressor. By reducing conversion and transmission losses, the NextAire unit significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. By converting fuel at the gas heat pump location, waste heat to the atmosphere is dramatically reduced and exhaust heat given off by the engine can be used to supplement the heat provided by the unit. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Industrial Technologies Program and the National Energy Technology Laboratory funded this joint venture.

CermaClad, jointly developed and submitted by MesoCoat of Euclid, Ohio, Edison Materials Technology Center of Dayton, Ohio, and ORNL. The ORNL team consists of Craig Blue, director of the Energy Materials Program, Art Clemons of the Energy Materials Program, Nancy Dudney, Chad Duty, David Harper, Adrian Sabau and Vinod Sikka of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Ron Ott of the Energy and Transportation Science Division and John Rivard of the Global Security Directorate.