The Death of the SUV and the Wisconsin City Dealing With the Repercussions

| Friday June 13th, 2008 | 6 Comments
GM SUV

Photo Courtesy of Autoblog.com

Opened in 1919, the GM auto plant in Janesville, WI is the company’s oldest in the country. It has survived both the Great Depression and WWII. The place is an institution. And, according to GM CEO Rick Wagoner, that institution is going to close by 2010.

This is but one of four SUV-producing auto plants that will feel the pinch of corporate belt-tightening, as production costs soar and public opinion of larger, gas guzzling cars diminishes. Along with Ford and other automotive manufacturers, GM intends to focus production on smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles as we witness the “structural” rather than a “cyclical” change in the auto industry, according to Wagoner.

The GM CEO even said that the company will take the Hummer under “strategic review,” hinting at possibly selling off the once immensely-popular line. For all intents and purposes, this symbolizes a win in the war against the fuel-inefficient, impractical SUV that has haunted environmentalists for years.

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SunEthanol-Harvard Team Up on ‚ÄòQ’ Microbe-Ethanol Production

| Friday June 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Researchers at Harvard University Medical School working with SunEthanol will try to develop new, genetically modified strains of the ‚ÄòQ’ microbe, an anaerobic bacterium found in soil that holds out the promise of accelerating the commercialization of second-generation biofuels made from woody biomass and the remnants of food crops, such as switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse and wood pulp, as well as other organic material, such as recycled newspapers and wood chips.
SunEthanol has developed a more efficient Complete Cellulose Conversion industrial process that harnesses the ‚ÄòQ’ microbe’s ability to very efficiently break down sugars found in plant material and convert them into ethanol, thereby significantly reducing the costs of producing a commercial fuel from biomass.
By employing microbes, in theory, as much as 96% of energy in plant sugars can be converted to ethanol. Actual yields are slightly lower but still the most efficient yet found, according to Dartmouth College professor of engineering and biology Lee Lynd.
*Photos courtesy: Sun Ethanol

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UK Government Offers Cash For Biomass For Heat And Energy Generation

| Friday June 13th, 2008 | 2 Comments

scotwillow.jpgUK farmers and businesses producing biomass that can be used for fuel and electricity creation can apply for government grants of up to GBP200,000. By paying farmers for various types of wood, grass, straw and dead forest wood, the UK government hopes to raise electricity derived from biomass supply to 6% by 2020, up from 3.5% now. Demand for renewable heat is expected to increase to 6% by 2020, up from 0.6% currently.

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Brazil’s Banco Real Named Financial Times Sustainable Bank of the Year

| Thursday June 12th, 2008 | 1 Comment

ft-ppp.jpgEdging out 129 institutions across 54 countries, Brazil’s Banco Real was chosen as this year’s Sustainable Bank of the Year by London’s Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Awards were given out to financial institutions operating with triple bottom line principles, incorporating social and environmental aims into their investment portfolios and business practices.
“When we initiated this process of inserting sustainability into our business,” according to a statement by the bank, “our aim was to build a new bank for a new society, and reinforce the role of banks generally as agents for economic and social development.” A subsidiary of Spain’s Banco Santander, Real has a product portfolio offering carbon credit solutions as well as fosters local development through microcredit initiatives.

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Clearing Forests Of Dead Wood Prevents Massive CO2 Emissions

| Thursday June 12th, 2008 | 14 Comments

woodb.jpgIt’s a known fact that trees are only temporarily carbon sequesters and that by the time they start to rot, all the nasty material gets transmitted back into the atmosphere again. So why not prevent this? Thus far we’ve been held back from doing so because intervening into the natural cycle somehow doesn’t feel right. But if we only tidied up one sixth of all the tree wastage lying around on the forest floors, we’d be nearing the carbon levels emitted by burning fossil fuels.

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Emissions Cap-and-Share: Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Economic Depression

| Thursday June 12th, 2008 | 5 Comments

feasta-gaspump.gif Growing energy demand and peaking fossil fuel production may lead to worldwide economic depression and disastrous climate warming as oil and fossil fuel production peaks and energy demand continues to increase, cautions Feasta, the Foundation for Economics of Sustainability.
Seeing parallels between economic developments today and the disastrous effects of petrodollar recycling seen in the 1970s – stagflation, a massive debt crisis and a 20-year-long slump in oil prices – the trillion or so dollars a year over and above anticipated revenues being funneled to oil exporters and the governments of oil exporting nations taking place today not only is the largest and fastest transfer of wealth yet seen in economic history, it is driving dislocations in savings, investment, economic growth and capital allocation that threaten the prevailing global economic system, Feasta argues.
Turning the economic concept of scarcity rent on its head in its May 2008 paper, “Cap and Share: A fair way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Feasta proposes addressing both issues through the establishment of a politically practical, market-based Cap-and-Share system that would cap and then rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving every adult in countries that adopted it the means of generating income from rising oil and fossil fuel prices.
As stated in the executive summary, “The paper argues that C&S needs to be adopted urgently not just for climate reasons but because the scarcity rent being captured by fossil fuel producers is concentrating global wealth in a way that threatens to collapse the world economy. The payment of scarcity rent is already causing severe hardship for millions of poorer people around the world.”

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How to reduce waste at shopping malls

| Wednesday June 11th, 2008 | 6 Comments

Recycled%20banner%20shopping%20bags.jpgWalking through some trendy shopping district, with seasonal banners/flags above, do you ever wonder where they go after they’ve been switched out? In most cases, they get disposed of, adding to the waste stream. While it could be argued that these districts could find other creative, less resource intensive ways to promote themselves, one area, Commercial Drive in Vancouver, has taken another path:
They take previously used banners and make them into attractive shopping bags, 10 colors in all, in two sizes. This is brilliant for multiple reasons: It takes the current burgeoning popularity of eco friendly shopping bags, and gives people the option to get a visually unique choice. And it’s a conversation piece that will likely result in additional person to person promotion of the shopping district it came from, and the store that they purchased it at.
Aware that re-purposed billboards have long been around doing this same trick, the Commercial Drive district bag initiative also donates proceeds from these bags to the creation of new green spaces in the area.
What sort of impact does this have?

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Whither Fuel Prices and National Energy Policy?

| Wednesday June 11th, 2008 | 5 Comments

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Republicans are unwilling to slap a 25% windfall profits tax and rescind $17 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years for Big Oil that were earmarked to provide incentives to develop alternative energy, arguing that such measures would only add to gasoline prices at the pump and increase U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
In blocking a Democrat-led bill voted on in the Senate yesterday, they also blocked renewal of the renewable energy production tax credit for solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.
The bill would have also given Congress greater powers to take action against excessive oil market speculation, increasingly viewed as a big factor in the oil price rise as Saudi Arabia makes the case that recent price rises are unwarranted in light of supply-demand conditions. It would also have made energy price gouging a federal crime and would have opened up the possibility of anti-trust actions against OPEC members, accoridng to an AP report.

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Canadians Launch Federally Regulated Carbon Trading Exchange

| Wednesday June 11th, 2008 | 0 Comments

montreal.gifCanada’s derivatives exchange in Montreal has begun trading the country’s first carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) contracts. The newly established Montreal Climate Exchange (MCeX) developed the product together with the Chicago Climate Exchange in the US. The CO2e units can be traded by industrial companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The listing of the MCeX futures contract is a ‚Äòfirst’ and it makes Montr√©al the first regulated environmental market in Canada.

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Estelux to Build State of the Art Polysilicon Plant for Solar PV

| Tuesday June 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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There’s a new player moving forward with plans to add to the world’s supply of high-purity silicon. With supplies tight and demand for polysilicon forecast to continue growing strongly on the back of demand for silicon-based solar photovoltaics and semiconductors, Pasadena-based
Jacobs Engineering Group announced today that it will provide engineering, procurement and construction management services for Italy’s Estelux, which plans to construct a state-of-the-art polysilicon manufacturing facility, on the site of an existing petrochemical plant in Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna.
At a cost of 360 million euros and due to be completed in 2010, the plant will have the capacity to produce 4,000 tons of polysilicon per year. Backed by investors including Solon Photovoltaik, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of solar PV modules, Estelux sees the gap between polysilicon supply and demand continuing to widen. Production totaled approximately 32,000 tons in 2005.

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Want A Fully Biodegradable Couch? Think C2C!

| Tuesday June 10th, 2008 | 4 Comments

sofa.jpgDespite all the talk about green interior design, there’s a long way to go before we live with furniture and household items that are actually biodegradable. A truly green sofa ought to be disposable via the compost heap in your own garden by the time you’re done with it, don’t you agree? That’s the central argument in the Cradle2Cradle philosophy. Unlike durable design, C2C is the real end of the throw away society.
The C2C philosophy has been around for the last five years, but to find furniture designers that adhere to its principles it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. A recently created design house by eight Dutch design students has embraced C2C fully. The company, called Artishok, has just completed its first designs after spending months researching the best 100% biodegradable materials for modern furniture.

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Carbon Offsets: Why No Two are Created Equal

| Tuesday June 10th, 2008 | 4 Comments

carbon-offest.jpgBefore we get into the nitty gritty, let’s make sure we’re all clear on what a carbon offset actually is. In its most simplified form, a carbon offset is a commitment that 1 metric ton of C02 equivalent has been prevented from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Whew. Feel free to read that again if you need to. The offset can come about through dozens of different means like tradable credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange, or they can take the form of different carbon reduction projects.
Carbon offsets can be categorized into three main types: renewable (emissions free) energy generation, energy efficiency, and sequestration. The first two avoid emissions, while sequestration projects attempt to aim to absorb or capture emissions that have already occurred.

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Is LEED green enough? Conversations from Dwell on Design LA 2008

Shannon Arvizu | Monday June 9th, 2008 | 3 Comments

dwellresized.jpg At this past week’s Dwell on Design LA conference and expo, one of the most striking conversations centered on whether LEED standards are enough to meet the growing climate challenge. Energy consumption by buildings contribute to almost half of carbon emissions in the U.S. As a result, many city governments, including Los Angeles, have created ordinances for new buildings to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. But just how effective are LEED standards in addressing resource consumption and carbon ouput? Is LEED becoming more of a marketing tool for high-rise developers? Influential players in the field were present at Dwell on Design LA to discuss these very topics.

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AskPablo: Summer Vacation

| Monday June 9th, 2008 | 2 Comments

With gas prices breaking new records every day I am wondering, is it better for the environment to fly or drive to my summer vacation?
In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the quick answer is that driving is far better than flying. But let’s see why that is.
According to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the internationally accepted process for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions, the emissions from a long-haul (less than 1,000 miles) flight are 180 grams per passenger mile. So a nonstop flight from San Francisco to Boston would create 487 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per person (2,708 miles x 180 g/passenger mile), or almost 1 ton for a round-trip. For a family of three, the “carbon footprint” of your vacation would already be almost 3 tons! Generally, larger airplanes are more efficient per mile, so short-haul flights release even more emissions.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/ask_pablo/2008/06/09/ask_pablo_summer_travel/index.html

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Rising Oil Prices Spark Strikes in Spain and a Saudi Call to Meet

| Monday June 9th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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*Photo Courtesy: EPA/Robin Townsend
A week or so ago it was fishermen and seafood supplies, now its food supplies in general, as well as fuel, a bevy of other products and traffic flow that’s being disrupted in Spain as truckers have gone on strike in protest of rapidly rising fuel prices.
Truckers blocked principal routes into major cities around Spain this morning and are refusing to transport food, fuel and a range of other supplies, including new cars, as a call for an indefinite national strike begins its third day. With news reports fanning concerns people are beginning to horde fish, meat and other foodstuffs.
Mounting price pressures and the growing number of protests and demonstrations in developing and developed countries around the world has led Saudi Arabia’s cabinet to call for an international meeting of oil producers and consumers.

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