3p Contributor: Andrew Burger

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and across the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: Huginn.Muginn@gmail.com

Recent Articles

Global Ocean Commission Charts Course for High Seas Recovery

| Wednesday July 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

GarbageShoreCovering nearly 75 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is the single largest ecosystem on the planet. From influencing weather patterns and climate trends and providing food, essential nutrition, livelihoods and recreation for billions to supplying the oxygen we breathe, it’s difficult to overestimate the influence of the ocean on the development, evolution and maintenance of life and human civilization.

Unfortunately, the health of the global ocean is in decline. “Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are pushing the ocean system to the point of collapse,” according to an introductory letter from the co-chairs of the Global Ocean Commission.

“Governance is woefully inadequate, and on the high seas, anarchy rules the waves. Technological advance, combined with a lack of regulation, is widening the gap between rich and poor as those countries that can, exploit dwindling resources while those that can’t experience the consequences of those actions. Regional stability, food security, climate resilience, and our children’s future are all under threat.”

In “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean,” the Global Ocean Commission Report 2014 puts forth a package of eight proposals that it believes can turn the tide and reverse the degradation of the global ocean within the next decade. That’s if the proposals are “expeditiously acted upon,” which is why the commission is also issuing “Mission Ocean,” a call to action for public and private sector leaders and concerned individuals the world over.

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Business Leaders Call on Congress to Extend Clean Energy Tax Credits

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GE1.7WindTurbine Business leaders are calling on Congress to take action and extend clean energy tax incentives. A total of 302 companies and business associations signed a letter urging Congressional leaders to vote ‘yes’ and pass the EXPIRE Act, which would extend the tax credits they say “are critical to the continued growth of clean energy technologies.”

Listed among the 62 tax incentives included in the EXPIRE (Expiring Provisions Reform and Efficiency) Act are renewable energy production and investment tax credits that have been seminal in fostering rapid growth in wind, solar, biofuels and other clean renewable energy sources across the U.S. The EXPIRE Act would extend these provisions for an additional year, through Dec. 31, 2015.

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Waste Heat Recovery a Path for Cement Makers to Cut Costs and Emissions

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

IFCCementWHRCvr Widespread adoption of waste heat recovery (WHR) systems could drive substantial reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for cement manufacturers, according to a recently released report from the International Finance Corp. (IFC) and the Institute for Industrial Productivity (IIP).

The predominant building material of our times, cement manufacturing requires an inordinate of energy. It also produces an inordinate amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. It is estimated that cement manufacturing alone accounts for 5 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally.

Prodded by environmental NGOs and government regulatory agencies, cement manufacturers have been on a drive to reduce their CO2 emissions, and they’ve made significant progress. Looking to add to them, installation of WHR systems “can reduce the operating costs and improve EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) margins of cement manufacturers some 10-15 percent. According to IFC-IIP’s “Waste Heat Recovery for the Cement Sector: Market and Supplier Analysis” report.

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The High Cost of Cheap Shrimp

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ShrimpRptCvrThanks in large part to aquaculture, global shrimp production has increased by an average 13 percent per year since the 1980s. Prices have dropped nearly 30 percent. That’s turned shrimp from a luxury food item into one of the most popular and affordable seafood products in the world — and made shrimp aquaculture a lucrative and important industry in Asia and other developing regions.

While the benefits of lower prices and greater availability are clear for consumers to see, the social and environmental costs associated with shrimp aquaculture and fishing are often not. As a report from CSR Asia highlights, shrimp production as it’s being practiced today is associated with environmental degradation, excessive use of antibiotics and chemicals, and land grabs — not to mention scandals revolving around slavery and human trafficking.

In “Opportunities for Inclusive Business: A Case Study of the Shrimp Value Chain,” CSR Asia brings to light 10 key challenges facing the shrimp industry in three of the world’s leading shrimp producing nations, then goes on to identify “possible entry points and interventions for inclusive business opportunities.”

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Bill’s Passage Boosts California Distributed Energy and Storage

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PNM_Prosperity_Energy_Storage_Project_picCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown signed a wide-ranging Public/Natural Resources trailer bill into law this past weekend. Among a host of significant new measures and amendments, Senate Bill 861 (SB 861) adds impetus to the California state government’s pioneering energy storage initiatives, which extend down from utility-scale energy storage mandates to incentives for small- and medium-sized companies to deploy intelligent solutions.

More specifically, enactment of SB 861 maintains annual funding of $83 million of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), allocating a total $415 million in state funds to assure its operation through 2019. Run by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), SGIP provides “rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer-side of the utility meter.”

In addition to wind turbines, waste heat-to-power systems, pressure reduction turbines, internal combustion engines, micro turbines and fuel cells, qualifying SGIP technologies also include advanced energy storage systems, which are poised to play a significant role in the emergence of a clean energy ecosystem in California.

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Joule Assets Targets First $90 Million for Energy Efficiency Contractors

| Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

led-lit-bridgeJoule Assets on June 18 announced that it is targeting an initial $90 million of an anticipated $270 million in funding for 10 U.S. energy efficiency and demand response contracting companies.

Opening up the mid-tier energy efficiency and demand response markets to accredited investors across the U.S., co-founders Mike Gordon and Dennis Quinn launched Joule Assets’ Energy Reduction Assets (ERA) Fund in late January. The fund enables investors to earn a share of the returns generated by energy efficiency and demand response projects carried out among U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

“In a given year, a typical energy efficiency contractor may see $2 million to $3 million worth of projects stall due to a customer’s budget constraints for upgrades. The lines of credit from Joule Assets enable those small-to-mid-sized contractors to offer financing options, radically shortening sales cycles and extending their project pipelines,” Joule Assets stated in a press release.

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Germany Sets Three National Solar Records in Two Weeks

| Tuesday June 24th, 2014 | 4 Comments

8158394785_59dd13c524_zA core facet of Chancellor Merkel’s historic “Energiewende” clean energy transition, Germany has led the world in driving adoption of solar energy technology and systems. Although it is now pulling back hard on incentives, the market momentum created by its precedent-setting solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT) persists.

Three national solar energy records were set in Germany over the past two weeks. According to the Fraunhofer ISE solar energy research institute:

  • Solar met more than 50 percent of Germany’s total electricity demand for the first time;
  • A new solar peak power production record was set; and
  • Weekly total solar power output hit new highs.

That’s not all. With prospects for new, cheaper and more effective energy storage solutions improving, sales of solar power storage systems are “set to skyrocket in Germany,” according to German economic trade and development agency GermanyTrade & Invest

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1 Million Hectare Reforestation Project Planned for Panama

| Monday June 23rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

forest_carbon1_f A groundbreaking initiative launched in Panama highlights the role agroforestry can play in promoting sustainable socioeconomic growth, combating climate change and enhancing the value of ecosystems.

Establishing a precedent-setting alliance, ANCON (Panama’s Association for the Conservation of Nature), the Panama Association for Reforestation (ANARAP), and the Panama Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (CCIAP) on June 17 announced a sweeping project that envisions forestation or reforestation of 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of land.

Dubbed the “Alliance for 1 Million,” the 20-year forestation project has three main goals: strengthen sustainable development of Panama’s forestry sector; help realize the goals elaborated in Panama’s National Forestry Plan; and help Panama meets its pledge to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by capturing as much as 7 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

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EVs and the Emerging Solar-Powered Energy Ecosystem

| Friday June 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a two-part series on building a national fleet of electric vehicle charging stations. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here.

Google-Solar-Parking-Lot-From-Avinash-Kaushik-on-Flickr-490x367 With SolarCity and Tesla, Elon Musk and team have crafted a template for a triple bottom line business that melds the production of solar electricity and its use in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings. Tesla‘s Supercharger fleet of electric vehicle charging stations is a key facet of this vertically integrated, solar-powered energy “ecosystem.”

As 3p reported in part one of this series, Tesla isn’t the only one looking to build out a nationwide fleet of EV charging stations. Miami’s Car Charging Group, Inc. is working to assimilate and revive the EV charging station assets it acquired during a recent string of acquisitions. Furthermore, a recent executive hire points out the longer term direction the company may be heading, one that could capitalize on the same sort of business symbiosis inherent in the Solar City-Tesla combination.

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Ohio Stalls Green Energy Projects

| Friday June 20th, 2014 | 0 Comments

wind-farmjpg-4ebfd008dba10857_large Ohio Gov. John Kasich took what clean energy proponents deemed retrograde executive action last week, putting the brakes on Ohio’s clean energy drive.

In 2008, Gov. Kasich signed Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) into law, requiring utilities by 2025 to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from alternative energy resources, and at least 12.5 percent from renewable energy resources. On Friday June 13, Kasich enacted Ohio Senate Bill 310 (SB 310), which freezes renewable and energy efficiency drive for two years.

Gov. Kasich and the Ohio state legislature followed that up by “abandoning $2.5 billion in wind energy projects,” according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). This past Monday, June 16, Ohio’s governor signed House Bill 483 “without vetoing a last-minute insertion that requires wind turbines to be at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line instead of the nearest house,” AWEA explains in a news release.

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The Race to Build a National Fleet of EV Charging Stations

| Thursday June 19th, 2014 | 0 Comments

EV_highway_sign_web-280 Paralleling the historical development of a cross-country network of gasoline and diesel filling stations, a nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging station network is beginning to emerge in the U.S. As with any technological advancement that breaks new ground and disrupts vested commercial and political interests, the U.S. fleet of EV charging stations is growing in fits and starts. There have been business casualties, scandals and fatalities, and there will be more. But real progress is being made, and the overall trend appears clear.

It took some 50 years from the time the first gas stations cropped up to the emergence of a nationwide network of gasoline and diesel filling stations. Given current conditions and progress to date, a nationwide EV-charging infrastructure is likely to emerge in far less time, perhaps as little as two decades.

Tesla‘s Supercharger network is the highest profile effort to date when it comes to building a cross-country network of EV charging stations. Tesla isn’t alone by any means, however. Flying largely under the radar, Miami’s CarCharging Group, Inc. has been on an acquisition spree, acquiring assets on the cheap and planting the seeds of what could turn out to be a national fleet of EV charging stations.

Having acquired four competitors in 2013, CarCharging is now the largest owner, operator and provider of EV charging stations and services in the nation. Scooping up distressed EV charging assets, the group acquired ECOtality’s Blink Network for over $4 million in a bank auction last year. It also acquired 350Green, another failed EV charging venture.

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Ethical Tea Partnership, Oxfam Lead Campaign for a Living Wage

| Wednesday June 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

image013The minimum wage, and the difference between earning a minimum versus a living wage, has moved to the forefront of the civic mind and politics in the U.S. recently. With income and wealth disparities at historically wide levels, President Barack Obama continues his campaign to raise the federal minimum wage. Seattle’s city government recently voted to raise the municipal minimum wage to $15, while fast food workers and public interest groups have been putting pressure on some of America’s — and the world’s — largest employers, such as McDonald’s and Walmart, to follow suit.

A fair, living wage is considered a fundamental human right by the U.N. While this issue has only really come to the fore in the U.S. over the course of the past decade, it has long been an issue in developing countries. For developing and less developed countries, cheap access to natural resources has been touted as a keystone of economic development, while for industrially developed nations it has been a linchpin of economic growth and globalization.

Tea estate workers offer a case in point. Though it is the most popular drink in the world, other than water, tea is typically grown in poor countries. And while those countries have set minimum wages for tea estate workers, those often aren’t even high enough to be considered a living wage. A coalition of organizations led by Oxfam and the Ethical Tea Partnership is out to change that.

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Mars Coral Reef Restoration Empowers Indonesian Islanders

| Tuesday June 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

sustain_v4Multinational food, drink and confectionery company Mars, Inc. recently announced the completion of one of the world’s largest coral reef restoration projects off the southern coast of the island of Pulau Badi in southern Indonesia. Located just 20 kilometers (~12.5 miles) from a Mars cocoa processing factory on the neighboring Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Mars’ project also includes the establishment of a new marine protected area and development of a local industry in which ornamental tropical fish are raised.

Part of the Coral Triangle, the tropical coral reefs and eastern Pacific Ocean waters surrounding Pulau Badi and Sulawesi are recognized worldwide as being home to the richest marine biodiversity on the planet. Unsustainable fishing practices, such as the use of dynamite and cyanide, have devastated large tracts of coral reef and associated fish populations — robbing local residents and communities of food and nutrition, as well as livelihoods.

Spanning an area of 7,000 square meters (~75,347 square feet), the project entailed installation of over 3,000 “specially-constructed, innovative structures on which coral fragments grow to rehabilitate and re-establish native fish populations,” Mars Symbioscience elaborates in a press release. Realizing the multi-faceted project was a collaborative effort on the part of the island community, Mars Sustainable Solutions, itself a part of Mars Symbioscience, and employees participating in the Mars Ambassador Program.

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Ceres: Bumper Harvests Mask Serious Threats to U.S. Corn Production

| Tuesday June 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

americangothicLast year was a “bumper” year for corn production in the U.S., as American farms harvested nearly 14 billion bushels, enough to fill a freight train longer than the Earth’s circumference. However, “climate change, unsustainable water use, and inefficient and damaging fertilizer practices” pose a real and present threat to the long-term productivity of U.S. corn production — threats that ripple through U.S. corn’s extensive and vital supply chain, according to a new report from Ceres.

Nearly doubling in size over the past 20 years to yield $67 billion a year in revenue, corn is America’s biggest and most important crop. Nearly one-third of U.S. farmland — an area equivalent to two Floridas – is being used to grow corn. This is far more than the second and third largest U.S. crops, wheat and soy. In addition, U.S. farmers grow, harvest and export more corn than their counterparts anywhere in the world. That’s the good news.

Last year’s record corn harvest — and the corn industry’s growth over the past two decades — masks serious, and growing, threats from climate change, inefficient water use and over-reliance on fertilizers, Ceres report authors highlight in Water & Climate Risks Facing U.S. Corn Production.

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Do Perovskites Hold the Keys to Ubiquitous Solar Energy?

| Friday June 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

What are perovskites? Perovskite is a relatively inexpensive mineral composed of calcium titanate (titanate is a salt composed of titanium and oxygen). It is attracting attention in the renewable energy space for its semiconductor properties.

Perovskite2_-_Perovskite_Hill,_Magnet_Cove,_Hot_Spring_Co,_Arkansas,_USA The Department of Energy announced $10 million in new research and development (R&D) funding for six research teams during the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit 2014 two weeks ago. The teams will use the funds to develop cheap, efficient thermochemical energy storage (TCES) solutions for utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. For at least two of the six, perovskite minerals are to serve as the energy storage medium.

Finding a cheap, efficient means of storing energy produced by CSP plants would be a major milestone for the fast-growing renewable energy sector, and that’s probably an understatement. Perovskites may be more than the key to cheap energy storage for CSP, however.

A class of lamellar organic-inorganic minerals found in igneous and metamorphic rocks, perovskites have generated intense interest among photovoltaic (PV) energy researchers as well.

A semiconductor, perovskite PV cells can essentially be “painted” on to almost any type of surface – flexible or rigid. Solar PV researchers having been making significant strides in boosting the energy conversion efficiency and lowering the cost of producing perovskite PV cells, leading one prominent researcher to assert that they “are poised to ‘break the prevailing paradigm.’”

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