California voters say no to pair of green initiatives

Not entirely unexpectedly, two California initiatives that would have substantially expanded the state's clean-energy profile -- but which opponents argued were ill-conceived -- foundered at the polls Tuesday.

Proposition 7, which would have required California's electric utilities to get half their power from renewable sources by 2025 (the current requirement is 20 percent by 2011), was easily defeated, with 65 percent of voters casting ballots against the measure.

Proposition 10, meanwhile, which would have created rebate incentives for the purchase of cars and trucks running on natural gas or other alternative fuels, was also struck down, with nearly 60 percent voting "no" at last count.

Critics opposed Proposition 10 on the grounds that the state is already cash-strapped, facing a $15.2 billion deficit. If approved, the measure would have cost the state billions of dollars through public bonds aimed at financing rebates.


Researchers ponder turning algae into energy

Could the next green fuel be pond scum?

Supporters believe that algae could someday be turned into cheap fuel for automobiles and airplanes, and are betting heavily with infusions of venture capital money and intensive research.

About $180 million in venture capital money has been raised for algae research, with more than half coming in the third quarter of this year, according to Cleantech, an industry research group.

"I'm convinced algae will work, but it'll take a different, out-of-the-box approach," billionaire Vinod Khosla of California's Silicon Valley said at the Algae Biomass Summit in Seattle last month. The potential is there, but it will take scientific breakthroughs to bring down costs, Khosla said.

The Department of Energy has invested $2.3 million in algae-to-fuel grants this year. It invested $2.2 million in algae research in 2006 and 2007. And the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is launching a program to study algal feedstock material.