Not to be completely outdone by former Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his work battling climate change, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set out to remind people he's a green politician too.

On Friday, the governator signed a legislation package aimed at energy efficiency, conservation and pollution reduction.

Past political green moves by Schwarzenegger include imposing the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions in September 2006.

Also a big hit among green investors was his Million Solar Roofs plan. The idea was that a $2.9 billion incentive plan targeting homeowners and building owners who installsolar-electric systems would make way for 1 million solar roofs in California by the year 2018.

The latest legislation signed into action by Schwarzenegger might not be as groundbreaking, but the mix does add incremental steps toward Californian turning a deeper shade of green. Check out below the seven bills he signed:

  • AB 662 Expands the California Energy Commission's authority to set water-efficiency standards for appliances.
  • AB 1103 Requires electric utilities to maintain records of energy consumption in nonresidential buildings. It also calls for building owners to provide the data to prospective buyers, lessees or lenders.
  • AB 1109 Enacts the California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act, which prohibits the sale of certain general-purpose lights that contain hazardous substances. The bill also requires the California Energy Commission to adopt energy-efficiency standards for all general-purpose lights.
  • AB 1406 Requires condominiums to use recycled water for toilet and urinal flushing when possible.
  • AB 1470 Provides incentives for the installation of 200,000 solar water-heating systems by 2017.
  • AB 1481 Creates a statewide permitting process to use recycled water for landscape irrigation.
  • AB 1560 Requires the California Energy Commission to incorporate standards for water efficiency and conservation into the existing building standards.

Is a Win for Al Gore a Win for Cleantech?

Al Gore's got to be feeling pretty good these days.

But what does the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded Friday to Gore and a group of climate scientists, mean for an industry that not so long ago was just a fledgling group of solar enthusiasts?

"This is a clear signal from the international community that this message is important to consider," Jonathan Bonanno, an investor in clean-energy technologies, said Friday. "I think this is a phenomenal boost in the visibility of the problem of climate change."

In the last few years, Al Gore has been traipsing around the country giving PowerPoint presentations on the dying polar bear to anyone who would listen, and a group of scientists organized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued numerous reports spelling out the dangers of climate change.

During all this, media awareness and recognition that global climate change is a very real problem that needs to be addressed grew.

And, simultaneously, the cleantech industry that funds technology meant to fix the problems laid out by Gore and the IPCC saw its investment dollars rack up. Investment in cleantech grew 67 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to New Energy Research.

At a press conference Friday, Gore painted his win as "a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges we now face."

But some cleantech industry insiders reached Friday, cheering for Gore and the scientists' win, still thought they might be able to offer a more powerful message to sway global-warming skeptics than even the Nobel Committee's illustrious award.

"There are people who are pretty hard-core skeptical about this, and they're not going to be influenced the Nobel Peace Prize," said Robert Wilder, who manages energy indices for Wilder Shares. "How I think these folks are swayed is by the opportunity to make green from greenery. When the solar stocks go up, and wind power creates jobs, and energy efficiency leads to better cars, and they find out that you don't have to give up anything, then we'll be successful."

MPG Best and Worst: Prius, Lamborghini Murcielago

New-car buyers might be disappointed when they see the miles-per-gallon stickers in the windows at auto dealerships this month.

That's because a new standard took effect with 2008 model-year cars that has dropped fuel-economy numbers across the board, in an effort to better reflect the mileage drivers actually get.

According to the 2008 Fuel Economy Guide, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy on Friday, the Toyota Prius still gets the most miles per gallon.

But it's now listed as 48 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, compared with last year's claim of 60 mpg in the city and 51 mpg on the highway. (The EPA and DOE have revised prior years' figures so a fair comparison can be made. The new 2007 figures are now equivalent to the 2008 figures.)

The 2008 car with the lowest fuel economy is the Lamborghini Murcielago with automatic transmission, which gets 8 mpg in the city and 13 mpg on the highway.

For more rankings, see http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bestworst.shtml.

Cash For Vibration Energy

Perpetuum, a startup in Southampton, UK, this week announced it raised £5 million (about $10.2 million) to commercialize a technology that generates energy from vibrations.

Investors include the Environmental Technologies Fund, Quester and Top Technology.

The company, which spun out of Southampton University in 2004, claims its technology generates electricity from the energy of low levels of vibrations caused by electric motors in industrial applications and other sources. The electricity is then used for the wireless transfer of data, such as in wireless sensor networks.

MMA Renewable Ventures Closes Third Fund

MMA Renewable Ventures said Friday it has closed its third fund with investments from Wells Fargo & Co.

The company didn't disclose the amount of the fund, but said the capital will be enough to finance, own and operate 10 to 15 megawatts of new solar projects across the United States.

Renewable Ventures said its Fund III brings its total capital for solar-energy projects to $300 million. That includes the first two funds, as well as funding for the Nellis Air Force Base project the company announced Wednesday (see In Brief: Solar, Coal Get Funding; Ethanol Gets Slapped).