By Nathan Shedroff
Like the, now mythical, debate about Hummers vs Priuses, nuclear power is an issue who’s pros and cons largely can’t be addressed without an LCA (Life Cycle Analysis). Sure, Nuclear reactors, without a doubt, produce fewer carbon emissions than coal and other traditional power plants in their use phase – (actually, natural gas and hydro, both of which can be considered “traditional” as well, probably beat nuclear, not to mention renewable energy sources like solar and wind). But coal is the big, dirty source of power that makes nuclear look good so let’s stick with it, for now.
What this view of nuclear power doesn’t show us, however, is the massive impacts on the environment that nuclear has before and after its use phase. From the mining of the uranium and it’s sad, continuing legacy of heart-breaking heath effects and irresponsible history of safe-guarding local communities, to the refining and transportation of the fuel, to the building of the power plants themselves to the lack of viable, long-term options to deal with the waste – stretching into the thousands of years – nuclear powers’ impact vastly outweighs coal and dwarfs the impact of most other energy sources.
By Nathan Shedroff
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A collaboration of physicists, scientists and businesses have teamed up to create cheap and highly effective solar cells on a nanoscopic scale. Spearheaded by the Idaho National Laboratory, this team is onto a fresh way of producing solar panels that can continue to absorb energy even after the sun has set. The technology, not only efficient at nearly 80%, will also be cheap to manufacture, at estimated pennies a yard.
A specialized manufacturing process will stamp tiny square spirals of a conducting metal onto a think sheet of plastic that have been coined “nanoantennas.” At the slight width on the order of 1/25 the diameter of a human hair, these nanoantennas can absorb energy produced through the infrared spectrum. Infrared energy is produced in massive quantities by the sun, a portion of which is absorbed by the earth only to be released as radiation after the sun has set. These nanoantennas can absorb energy from both the rays of the daylight sun and the heat radiated from the earth at a higher efficiency than modern solar cells.
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A recent survey of corporate executives published in the latest McKinsey Quarterly indicates that though climate change is considered important and awareness is high, relatively little is being done in terms of building climate change mitigation, energy usage and emissions reduction into corporate decision-making or operational processes. And yet while a large majority expect some form of regulation coming in their home countries, one-third see opportunities and risks equally balanced and more than one-third believe the effect on profits will, to varying degrees, be positive on the whole.
Sixty percent of respondents view climate change as an important consideration in determining overall strategy and nearly 70% consider it important for managing corporate reputation and brands. Yet 44% responded that climate change isn’t a significant item on their agendas. Moreover, many stated that their companies consider climate change only occasionally when managing corporate reputation and brands, developing new products or even managing environmental issues, according to the report.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I feel I should get my significant other some flowers. But I’ve read that flowers, especially in winter, have to be shipped from South America and other places. What’s a responsible Cupid to do?
Yes, Hallmark Day is upon us and it’s time to give our sweethearts sappy cards, chocolate and little heart-shaped candies that taste like chalk. Aside from the commercialization, I do appreciate the intent behind the holiday and intend to brighten my wife’s day with some flowers. You are right, though: With most of the nation in the midst of winter, there is little chance that those dozen roses are coming from your neighborhood rosebush.
The United States imports between 60 and 80 percent of its cut flowers, and most of them come from greenhouses in Latin America, or even as far away as Africa or Europe. Up to 90 percent of the roses sold for Valentine’s Day are from Colombia and Ecuador; in 2006, the wholesale value of imported roses was over $300 million.
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Every year the Worldwatch Institute publishes their annual State of the World Report. Each report outlines major factors effecting the sustainability and condition of human society and global environmental systems. In addition, each annual spotlights a specific topic of discussion. Recent issue of State of the World have focused on global security, the consumer society, China and India, and the future of urban society.
This year the focus is the growth in innovation and sustainability in business and the world economy.
“Environmental issues were once regarded as irrelevant to economic activity, but today they are dramatically rewriting the rules for business, investors, and consumers”.
-from the Worldwatch Institute website
Measuring Corporate Sustainability Across Sectors: How Do You Do It? State of Green Business 2008, Pt. 3
In a continuation of our analysis of the State of Green Business 2008 report by GreenBiz.com, we look at how to track corporate environmental sustainability practices across sectors. For this, we look to the work of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. Innovest provides a rating service called the “Intangible Value Assessment” (IVA). For the sake of this report, the score of each sector over the past eight years was averaged to look at long-term patterns. So what indicators are used to measure “intangible value” of corporate sustainability? And what are the results?Click to continue reading »
The opacity of global oil supply data and just how much oil can be counted as Proven (90-95% probability of recovery), Probable (50%) or Possible Reserves (5-10%) has heightened uncertainty and added impetus to the arguments of Peak Oil theorists and proponents.
Taken together with the sharp and sustained oil price rise, rapid industrial growth in places like China, India and other large developing countries, the rapid rise to political prominence of climate change mitigation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts and associated incentives to promote alternative, renewable energy sources this has raised the uncertainty of demand for oil – and hence investment conditions – and put oil, and fossil fuel producers more generally, on the defensive. Looking at it cynically, you might say that they can cry all the way to the bank, at least for some time to come.
We’ve been keeping tabs on the progress of the Beluga SkySails, first modern commercial cargo vessel to harness wind power with a deployable computer controlled kite.
The ship arrived in the Venezuelan port of Guanta on Tuesday, leaving from Germany on January 22nd.
SkySails didn’t deploy the high-tech kite system until reaching the Azores, midway in her voyage. Once fully deployed, the system saved between 10 and 15 percent in fuel consumption, or $1000 to $1500 per day, according to Verena Frank, project manager for the SkySails. This was the first time the system had been tested under the difficult conditions of the mid-Atlantic.
As bugs get ironed out and crews gain expertise with the system, the kite can be deployed for up to half of a typical voyage while fuel conservation is expected to increase another 5 to 10 percent.
While some skeptics insist that the kite system isn’t practical for the largest cargo vessels, SkySails’ innovative approach and application of wind power may just prove the skeptics wrong.
By Brian Lillquist
It’s Saturday night in San Francisco and the line outside Temple nightclub extends well beyond the velvet rope and ominous looking bouncers. Inside, DJ’s in three rooms pound out house beats as the whole 1000 person venue pulsates. While this all looks normal to the average clubber, this venue is the catalyst to “greening” the nightclub industry.
Paul Hemming shows me his notebook from 2004. Sustainable clubbing, eco friendly restaurant, vertical gardens, building spiritual consciousness through music, the list goes on. Four years later, the list is surprisingly accurate, a lot of his vision as the owner has come to fruition.
“We started with consumables, the no brainers,” explains Mike Zuckerman, Director of Sustainability for the club. “Compostable cups, straws, all corn starch based. We recycle our bottles and we compost our food. The easiest things to implement are the ones with immediate financial returns. We get rebates and receive credits on our waste bills by keeping up good recycling and composting practices”. “We try to take the decision making out of the partiers hands when they get to the venue so all they need to think about is having a good time” explains Mike.
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In the second installation on the State of Green Business 2008 report from GreenBiz.com, I’d like to bring our attention to an interesting recent trend – a drop in national carbon intensity and slower growth of overall CO2 emissions. This is great news, right? Let’s break out the locally-grown wine and celebrate! But wait….to what can we attribute these recent trends? And is “slow growth” just as good as “no growth” in CO2 emissions?
As green entrepreneurs go, the guys behind Green Options have been doing a particularly top notch job. Today is the one-year anniversary of the launch of their site, an accomplishment which includes the launch of a number of micro-sites including ecopreneurist.com, a site aimed at social and environmental entrepreneurs. Way to go David, Jeff and the rest of the crew.
Net Impact’s 2008 “Green Challenge” launches Tuesday, February 5th to accelerate the greening of campuses and businesses around the world. This competition recognizes and rewards positive impacts created by teams of students and professionals dedicated to using business to produce sustainable environmental change. Net Impact members who are leading environmentally friendly initiatives on campus or in their workplace are encouraged to participate and compete for global recognition and cash prizes.
I’m particularly honored to be one of the judges this year. So start the applications today!
Visit www.netimpact.org/greenchallenge for more information and to enter your project.
Car Sales & Ownership: The Key to Oil, Energy Demand, CO2 Emissions Reduction and Environmental Degradation
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An initial, cursory look at energy demand forecasts contained in OPEC’s World Oil Outlook 2007 suggest that currently envisaged global CO2 emissions reduction targets and efforts will fall woefully short and turn out to be so much “hot air” – pardon the pun.
OPEC’s base case forecast and reference scenario sees world energy demand growing an average 1.7% per annum between 2005 and 2030. The cartel expects oil to remain the leading source of energy worldwide during this 25-year period with oil’s share of total world energy demand declining slightly, from a current 39% to 36.5%. Oil demand is forecast to rise 34 millions barrels per day (mb/d) to 118 mb/d. This implies global CO2 emissions will increase 50% by 2030, according to the report.
The world is going to hell and it’s your fault. If you have a child, are fat, get a divorce, or are simply male, you’re even more guilty.
Don’t like the sound of that? Who can blame you. (After all, you fancy yourself part of the solution don’t you?)
Writing in GreenBiz.com, columnist Brad Allenby writes of the dangerous rise of what he calls “carbon fundamentalism”, pointing to the transference of social trends and behaviors into a simple and simplistic equation of “carbon footprint” as a sign of a growing authoritarian “moral mapping” in the climate change debate.
The idea that environmentalists and “greenies” can take on a screeching whine that turns otherwise intelligent and concerned people off isn’t too much of a stretch. This is the central, if oversimplified, thrust of Breakthrough by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger (though at times their own indictment of “mainstream” environmentalism starts to take on a shrillness of its own).
But Allenby is talking about something a little deeper, in his mind more sinister, and, if you will, fundamental.Click to continue reading »
This week, GreenBiz.com launched its inaugural report, “State of Green Business 2008.” In it, you will find a wealth of information on green business trends with a cross-sectoral approach. Over the next week, we will bring to you a synopsis of some of those trends. To start off, here’s a list of the “Top Green Business Stories of 2007.”Click to continue reading »