“Cash for Clunkers” Program a Success – U.S. Government Approves Further Funding

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

traffic

The government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program – which offers compensation for older automobiles swapped out for newer ones – has been more than successful. Apparently, Americans have swapped out so many clunkers that the government is scrambling to obtain more funding. Today the House approved a bill allotting another $2 million to fund the program; the proposal will run through September 30, 2010, and will draw from an Energy Department loan. The bill awaits approval by the Senate.

“Cash for Clunkers” provides up to $4,500 in rebates for consumers who trade in aging automobiles for newer, more fuel-efficient ones. The government launched the program in June, with an initial $1 billion, in order to jump-start the auto industry. According to unofficial estimates, consumers have already sold close to 250,000 vehicles to the program, quickly exhausting available funds. For the struggling auto industry, the program has, apparently, provided a viable, national stimulus. Analysts reportedly believe that, if the program continues, it will boost U.S. auto sales to a record high (for this year) of more than 10 million units for 2009.

Legislators are not in agreement over the funds; some oppose using Energy Department funds for the auto industry, while the White House supports the program.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

podium[Your News Here]

Dot Eco – Uniting Environmental Websites? Or Distraction?

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 15 Comments

www

When it comes to combating climate change, Dot Eco LLC has a plan: to establish an obviously green, top-level web domain (TLD). It is high time, Dot Eco founders believe, that environmental websites gain the instant-recognizability of the .coms, .nets, .govs, .edus, and .orgs of the world. Moreover, by establishing .eco as a credible TLD, Dot Eco will, it believes, be able to provide steady funding for environmental organizations while increasing environmental initiatives and awareness.

“How will it do so?” you ask. Simple: the web is divided into several semantically meaningful zones (i.e. education, government, and organizations), each of which is denoted by a TLD (i.e. .edu, .gov, and .org). To be included in a TLD, an organization must meet certain benchmarks for that TLD (i.e. for .edu inclusion, an organization must be an accredited academic institution and contain relevant information on its site). Sustainability proponents would like to believe that environmentalism is becoming semantically meaningful enough to deserve its own TLD, hence the creation of the .eco domain name.

Creating a moniker-specific TLD for a group of random (but similar) websites has an effect similar to that of a well-known philanthropist adopting several orphans and giving them all his last name: the renaming creates a sense of “community” for the orphans, prevents them from slipping through the cracks, and prevents their mistaken identification with other philanthropists. Similarly, by adopting a .eco domain name, environmental organizations can join an online community of likeminded groups. By making sure the .eco domain is well-established, Dot Eco will lend credibility to participating sites, thereby increasing their chances of obtaining funding. Currently, Dot Eco also gives more than half of its profits to organizations committed to fighting global warming.

To qualify for the .eco domain, organizations must affirm their concurrence with Dot Eco founding principles and fund proven climate change combating efforts. Former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club, and the Surfrider Foundation area among the organizations backed, via charter, by .eco funding.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

India to Pursue Monetary Rewards for Curbing Deforestation

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

india-env-minister-jairam-ramesh

India is poised, Reuters reports, to pursue billions of dollars from the U.N. for bumping up India’s forest protection efforts. India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, pledged Friday to invest approximately $200 million in curbing deforestation (thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions). If India keeps this promise, it could potentially earn significant funding from an emerging U.N. scheme.

The scheme, called “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”, or REDD, would allow developing nations to earn billions (in carbon offsets) by rehabilitating and protecting their forests. India could, in turn, sell the offsets to rich nations to and use the funds obtained to reach India’s emissions goals.

The U.N. proposed the REDD scheme in preparation for its climate negotiations, scheduled for December in Copenhagen, in which the U.N. will construct the next international climate treaty. Any international cooperation on sustainability efforts the U.N. can secure is seen as laying the groundwork for the Copenhagen conference. Many developing countries, including India and China, have presented a challenge to the U.N. thus far in securing such cooperation: these countries have asserted that developed nations should take responsibility for reducing emissions.

India will take a number of measures to obtain the REDD funding: it will report (by August 10) how much CO2 emissions are captured by green cover in India; conserve and restore unique vegetation; control forest fires; strengthen forestry infrastructure; and extend its forest cover by an additional six million hectares over the next six years, among other measures. Taking these steps would be major progress in India’s (thus far) lagging sustainability efforts.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

John Kerry: U.S. and China Must Work Together to Fight Greenhouse Gas Emissions

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

john-kerry

When it comes to the U.N.’s make-or-break climate change talks scheduled for December, all eyes are on China. Securing the country’s cooperation is crucial in creating an international climate deal and, ultimately, to saving a planet in peril. In an article published recently on the Financial Times website, Senator John Kerry voiced his views on issue.

He describes China’s relationship to the U.S. as key to successful climate negotiations. When the two countries bridged their political gap in 1972 (with Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing), they established what Kerry refers to as a relationship of “well-known colleagues.” Now, this relationship is being put to the test as the world attempts to transform the energy economy. Kerry is not alone in wondering: will it be possible for the U.S. and China – the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters – to forge a partnership strong enough to avert a climate disaster?

Yet Kerry insists, with our climate at stake, that the U.S.-China relationship be the “blueprint for future collaboration”: that the U.S. exemplify sharing of the climate change burden (instead of shifting the blame for it). Kerry asserts that attempting to force China to accept binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will not be effective. He recommends that, instead, other nations deepen their collaboration on China’s current environmental protection successes: for example, its clean energy solutions and its desire, voiced by some Chinese leaders, to join international climate change negotiations. He also recommends that other nations train specialized workers for sustainability initiatives and continue to improve alternative energy technology, demonstrating that the green economy of the future is already here.

Would Kerry’s technique work, though? Is his analysis a case of magical realism (“if we build it they will come”) or idealism (“be the change you want to see in the world”)? Or is he simply reiterating already-thought thoughts in an effort to regain an international audience?

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Forged Letters Sent to Congressman to Undermine Climate Legislation

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 4 Comments

Capitol HillWhen considering how he’d vote on the Waxman-Markety bill last month, Charlottesville, Virginia Representative, Tom Perriello, did what any legislator should. He listened to his constituents. Among the thousands of emails, letters, and faxes he received, a handful in particular stood out.

One was written by Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that works with Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. Five more from the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP. All urged the freshman congressman to vote against the important climate change bill. All, it turns out, were forgeries.

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” Tim Freilich, an executive committee member of Creciendo Juntos, told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

SolFocus Designs CPV Solar Panels for Commercial Scale Deployment

Sarah Lozanova | Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

concentrated photovoltaicConcentrated photovoltaics (CPV) is not a new technology, but commercial utilization is. In the past, panels demonstrated high efficiency in the laboratory, but were not designed for manufacturability. Since SolFocus was founded in 2005, the company has taken a different approach to this technology.

“We have designed our product for manufacturability,” says Nancy Hartsoch, VP of Marketing for SolFocus. “Otherwise, we will end up with an expensive lab experiment.”

SolFocus recently announced raising over $77 million in Series C funding. This will help the company ramp up production to commercial scale production, something that they have had in mind from the beginning.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Renewable Power Feed-In Tariffs: Simpler, Cheaper, More Effective

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment

Lee_Rising_Sun2 Feed-in tariffs—by which renewable power suppliers are guaranteed grid access and premium, long-term rates—are the surest, most effective and least costly regulatory means of stimulating the adoption and use of renewable power in the U.S., according to a policy paper published by the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s Transatlantic Climate Policy Group.

With the recent change in administration and subsequent Congressional initiatives, the international community is looking to the U.S. government to enact policies that will transform the US into a leader in, and leading market for, the development and adoption of renewable power and energy.


“Unfortunately, American renewable energy policy consists of a byzantine mix of tax incentives, rebates, state mandates and utility programs,” according to the report, hampering “the ability of states and communities to maximize the benefits of their renewable energy resources.”

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Cityscape Farms – The Evolution of a New Agricultural Model

Tori Okner | Friday July 31st, 2009 | 5 Comments

ban-startup-friday
Cityscape Farms, a greenhouse based urban farming initiative, promotes their mission with the slogan, “An idea whose time has come.” Whether it’s San Francisco’s new aggressive regional food policy or the famous organic garden on the White House lawn, the local food movement—specifically the urban local food movement—is garnering increasing media attention and validity. Yet, for Cityscape founder and CEO Mike Yohay, executing the launch of their pilot program has proven that where eco-entrepreneurship intersects with urban farming, there’s new ground to break.

mike yBased in San Francisco, Cityscape Farms is a young company, currently in the initial stages of implementation. One could amend their slogan to read, “An idea in the making.” Yohay, a graduate of Dominican University’s Green MBA program, may be the next poster boy for the hipster meets locavore movement. Born in Brooklyn to a family of backyard farmers, his commitment to urban gardening evolved, paradoxically, when he left the city. When living in the Midwest, studying art and computer science, he observed industrial agriculture to be “massive and inefficient” and a stark contrast to the low-impact farming he participated in years later, in Costa Rica. There, he was impressed with the emphasis on recycling wastewater and its role in creating a self-sustaining food community.

The confluences of these experiences solidified Yohay’s vision. He has embraced, “the creative environment inherent in agriculture and horticulture,” and wants to seed cities with greenhouses, which he equates to “installations with a critical use.”

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Microcharity Shows Donors the Money

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 2 Comments

ban-startup-friday

money-cartoon-people-holding

In some ways, donating to a charity can be like cleaning a really dirty house: when a cleaning sesh provides really visible results, it provides a heightened sense of satisfaction, thereby encouraging future clean up endeavors. A remarkable new startup, the Jolkona Foundation, is banking on this parallel. The organization encourages young donors to give (even contributions as small as 5 dollars) by obviating the results of each donation.

The Washington State-based organization seeks to fulfill a simple mission: to “build awareness and mobilize our youth to support successful community development projects around the world.” SpringWise.com reports that Jolkona targets donors between the ages of 15 and 35, using technology and social networking to add a sense of “pop appeal” (and immediacy) to charitable giving. It also allows donors to see the small-but-collectively-potent impact of each donation – hence the organization’s name, which means “drop of water” in Bengali.

The process is relatively straightforward. Donors create an online account in the Jolkona system. They may then choose from a variety of projects, basing their choices on criteria such as location, price, and focus area (public health, education, environment, empowerment, or cultural identity). Donors contribute online (securely) via Google Checkout, and their monies are tracked henceforth; Jolkona informs donors of their donation’s impact through online photos, stories, and other means.

Jolkona is involved in a number of projects, ranging from the (fair) trade of products hand-crafted by Bangladeshi women to the sale of pottery hand-hewn by Nicaraguan potters. Recently, Jolkona even rewarded donors – and benefitted several Indian, Ethiopian, and Haitian communities – by planting trees in those areas (one tree for every supporter on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, for a total of 750 trees).

How is Jolkona able to sustain its operations? By its self-described “no-nonsense” approach. The Foundation minimizes costs by partnering with existing projects. It also depends on technology for marketing, fundraising, and follow-up – operations Jolkona pays for through the Kona Fund, which is supported by private corporate donations. Jolkona maintains donor satisfaction through transparent reporting and the giving of 100 percent of donors’ gifts to their chosen project.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

The “Green Trade War” – Business Groups up in Arms over Carbon Tariffs

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

 

“Business Groups: U.S. Faces ‘Green Trade War’ over Carbon Tariffs.” When I read this Environmental Leader headline, the idealist in me sighed. Wouldn’t it be nice if passing environmentally helpful legislation was, well, easy? In reality, though, businesses are expressing strong concerns – and warnings – as legislators attempt to shape a more eco-friendly economy.

According to a Reuters report, four powerful U.S. business groups (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Foreign Trade Council) wrote a letter to Congress warning against levying tariffs against carbon-intensive products. Doing so, the letter said, could start a “green trade war,” disrupting global trade systems, violating U.S. trade obligations, and negatively impacting the nation’s relations with key trading partners. The letter reportedly advised “international cooperation” instead of “unilateral ultimatums.”

Not exactly music to legislators’ ears, given the already-intense debate in the Senate over passing Obama’s climate change legislation, which passed in the House last month. (The bill is due to pass the Senate in September.) Senators have debated everything from the bill’s provisions to its language. The bill, which is designed to reduce U.S. CO2 emissions by 83 percent by 2050, includes a “border adjustment” program that would, if passed in its current form, allow additional tariffs on carbon-intensive goods (i.e. steel, cement, and paper) from countries not doing enough to trim their emissions (per the U.S.’s estimation).

U.S. businesses are not alone in their objections to the bill. China, India, and other developing countries have also objected strongly to it, asserting that the U.S. (and other emissions-heavy developed nations) should take responsibility for curbing emissions.

Climate change will, expectedly, be high on the White House’s agenda next week, when it will host talks with Chinese Vice President Premier Wang Qishan and other Chinese officials. (The U.S. is second only to China in per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, and the two countries combined account for approximately 40 percent of emissions annually.)

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Australian Prime Minister Fights Unemployment, Seeks to Create Green Jobs

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

kevin-rudd-aussie-pmIt’s a great day, apparently, for Australian green job enthusiasts. Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, promised today to create 50,000 such jobs (and apprenticeships) and tackle climate change, the Boston Globe reports. His promise is part of a greater pledge to prioritize environmental legislation while tackling the country’s burgeoning unemployment problem.

The PM’s 94 million Australian dollar ($77 million) green jobs package will support a number of programs designed to equip Australians for employment in the emerging eco-friendly economy. These programs include 30,000 apprentice programs (offering training in sustainable building practices); creation of 10,000 Green Jobs Corps positions (offering training and public works jobs for unemployed youth); and creation of 10,000 additional jobs that encourage sustainability and green building practices.

President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions reportedly described the green job plan a “great step forward.” The plan is also, judging from unemployment statistics, direly necessary: analysts predict Australia’s unemployment rate will rise almost 30 percent next year (from its current 5.8 percent to a whopping 8.5 percent).

In an effort to curb Australia’s CO2 emissions, Rudd, a member of the Labor Party, is also seeking to pass some tough climate legislation, which most opposition parties oppose. (Climate change is a hot topic among Australia’s legislators, many of whom are embroiled over the issue.) The legislation goes before the Senate for a second round of voting next month. If it doesn’t pass, the government may have to call a snap election.

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Cambridge Outlines “Critical” Options to Reduce Transportation GHGs

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

moving cooler imageAs long as gasoline-powered vehicles ply the nation’s highways reducing transportation pollution is perhaps the most critical element in the effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report from group of federal agencies and advocacy groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund.

Once that realization sinks fully in and actions are implemented it will still take a long time, like 40 years, before significantly measurable reductions actually occur.

Will it be too-little-too-late? Possibly but that’s not the theme of Moving Cooler: Transportation Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, a study released Tuesday by Cambridge Systematics, a transportation consulting firm.

The 97-page report outlines six “strategy bundles,” including various pricing strategies such as congestion pricing, pay-as-you drive insurance and vehicle miles traveled, that if implemented in their entirety would result in annual GHG reductions of up to 47 percent annually by 2050. Pricing strategies are always controversial and political hot spots; without those in place, the GHG reductions drop dramatically to 24 percent a year by 2050.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

Senate Passes Energy and Water Bill – Will Close Nuclear Waste Storage Facility

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

nuclear-storage-cartoonBig news in the environmental legislation world: the Senate passed a $34.3 billion energy spending bill yesterday that will cover hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers water projects and allow for the closing of the Yucca Mountain (Nevada) nuclear waste facility. (Obama promised, during his campaign, to close the facility.)

According to an NPR report, the federal government has scrapped plans to open the Yucca Mountain facility, although it is 25 years (and $13.5 billion) in the making. Closing the Yucca Mountain facility will leave the nation without a long-term nuclear waste storage solution. (Radioactive waste is now stored, instead, on nuclear plant grounds [and storage containers] around the country.) A 1987 law requiring that nuclear waste be stored at Yucca Mountain is still on the books, so the facility could, in theory, be re-opened (in which case, the bill affirms, the facility would still receive $196.8 million for work on the site).

The funds will also cover a variety of water, energy, and transportation projects: clean energy research, improvement of mass transit (including the Washington Metro and Amtrak systems), cleaner-fueled buses, airport improvements, high-speed rail systems, and (hotly debated) subsidies for rural air travel. The bill also includes an amendment that will allow for water transfers (from the eastern portion of California’s Central Valley to the western portion of the San Joaquin Valley) to mitigate the effects of drought in the region.

The bill essentially freezes spending for the programs it covers (this distinguishes it most other bills for the 2010 budget year beginning on October 1, which contain spending increases in excess of inflation).

Permalink discuss Discuss This »

Spanish Study Claims Each Green Job Costs More than Two Traditional Ones

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

windturbinefireThere are too many economists. That, it seems, is the surest deduction one could make about a new Spanish study, which claims that for every renewable energy job financed by the government, approximately 2.2 traditional jobs are lost.

The key phrase is “financed by the government.” The study (PDF), written by Professor Gabriel Calzada Álvarez of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, is essentially another salvo in an ideological war over opportunity costs, state subsidies and climate change. The argument, in a nutshell, is that when the government mandates that money be spent on a certain industry, such as wind turbines or solar panels, as is the case in Spain, it sucks away money from private enterprise, which, as the old saw goes, knows how to allocate resources the best.

Like on Wall Street. Or those free-and-efficient energy markets created by Enron.

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »

The Latest Open Source Innovators: Nike and Best Buy?

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Nike and Creative Commons are not two organizations you’d typically hear in the same sentence. And especially not working together. Try, “…a project of Nike, Creative Commons, and Best Buy.” That’s what GreenXchange is. Here’s a video laying the groundwork:

GreenXchange is a part of CC’s Science Commons project. As in other Creative Commons efforts, this is about sharing knowledge so that others can create new works based on this knowledge, building upon it in ways that weren’t anticipated by the originator. The GreenXChange website goes into some depth as to the how and why the acceleration of sustainable innovation is important and possible, but these three sentences from their pdf on the project sum it up quite well, in a way that the most tight fisted businesses can understand:

Click to continue reading »

Permalink CONTINUES » discuss Discuss This »