Th!nk City: “The iPod Car for the Google Generation”

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 13 Comments

TH%21NK-i-city-i_large.jpgAs the cost of oil continues to soar, and as big names like GM and Ford plan to focus production on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, Norway’s Th!nk City car couldn’t be entering the US at a more opportune time.
The Th!nk City is a compact, electric car capable of going up to 100 km/hr (approx 62 mph) and travel 180 km (approx 112 mi) on a single charge. The company recently announced plans to enter US markets, specifically focusing on California and several other key targeted markets. With it’s body made of recyclable ABS plastic, the City will cost around $25,000, making it both competitive with other EV alternatives such as Zap and AMP, as well as more popular, gas-powered vehicles like the Mini.

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James Law’s Eco Egg: The New Shape of Architecture

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 2 Comments

egg.jpg James Law is a self-proclaimed “cybertect.” Working within the realm of futuristic design, cybertecture fuses architecture, infrastructure and city planning with emergent technologies and artificial intelligence. At first glance, this seems like the plot synopsis of a bad, made-for-The SciFi Channel movie. However, the design for the new “Cybertecture Egg” in Mumbai could also very well be the zeitgeist of the architectural revolution of the 21st century.
The 13-floor, egg-shaped office building is a hybrid of environmentally focused design with new engineering and intelligent systems. The original design concept was to recreate the world as an eco-system, where life is allowed to evolve sustainably. “[Buildings] are no longer about concrete, steel and glass, but also the new intangible materials of technology, multimedia, intelligence and interactivity,” according to the firm’s website. In addition to several interactive features (such as the ability of an occupant to change his or her “view” at their desk to real time imagery of places around the world), the building will also feature a green roof, wind turbines, and a water filtration system that will process the building’s grey water.

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Small Business Owners Are Half The Game In The Climate Change Battle

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 2 Comments

nada.jpgUS business leaders have never been as switched on to climate change as now. Congress members are tackling cap and trade issues at long last and a new international climate deal is on its way. It’s easy to lose track of the obvious in all the politics and the fact that half of the US economy’s greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to small businesses escapes many. But the little guys themselves are beginning to make efforts for instant impact measures.
Take the example of US car dealers. Some 500 of them have pledged to reduce their businesses’ energy consumption by 10%. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has calculated that the dealers make combined energy savings of $4.8 million. That’s an impressive amount which also translates in considerable greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

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New NREL Wind Power Partnerships in Colorado, Texas

| Wednesday June 4th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) yesterday announced several initiatives aimed at realizing the ambitious goal of generating 20% of the nation’s electricty via wind power.
NREL, in partnership with a state consortium led by the University of Houston, will build a wind turbine blade test facility – the Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility – at Ingleside on the Texas Gulf Coast. A second, similar facility to be constructed on the East Coast by NREL in partnership with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative was announced earlier.
Addressing the press and attendees at the American Wind Energy Association’s Windpower 2008 Conference at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, NREL also announced that it was partnering with Siemens Power Generation to build and test a commercial 2.3 megawatt, SWT-2.3-101 turbine at the Lab’s 305-acre National Wind Technology Center outside Golden, Colorado. At the same time, just north of the Center, NREL and Siemens Power will build and bring into operation its first U.S.-based wind technology research and development center in Boulder, Co.
“The projects announced today demonstrate the shared commitment of the federal government and the private sector to achieve 20 percent wind energy by 2030,” DOE Assistant Secretary Alexander (Andy) Karsner said in a press release. “To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary to expand the domestic wind manufacturing base and streamline the permitting process.”

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Getting Down and Dirty with a Solar Industry Insider

Shannon Arvizu | Tuesday June 3rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

solarresized.jpgIn line with other news posted today on solar industry developments, we bring you the scoop on the state of solar in the U.S. from Mike Hall, President of Borrego Solar. Borrego Solar is unique in that they have a particular social focus. In addition to getting homeowners and businesses to go solar, they also help schools and affordable housing projects with their solar needs.
I heard Mike lead a panel on the solar industry at the GreenWest Expo two weeks ago. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing him to gain a better appreciation of two main obstacles in solar panel adoption in the U.S.: inconsistent state/federal policies and financing. With a revised federal policy framework that resembles that of many European countries, we could begin to see even more solar panels on roofs in coming years. This, coupled with new financing structures, could really help to propel the industry forward.

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World’s Largest Polysilcion Plant Comes On-Line in Michigan

| Tuesday June 3rd, 2008 | 3 Comments

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Production of polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) has begun at Hemlock Semiconductor Corp.’s new facility – the single largest in the world – in the Michigan town of the same name. The new plant will produce some 9,000 metric tons of polysilicon a year, bringing the Hemlock facility’s total annual capacity to approximately 19,000 metric tons by the end of this year.
Producers of high-grade silicon are going flat out to meet growing demand. “Delivering polysilicon from our new facility as quickly as possible was essential to meet our customers’ expectations,” Rick Doornbos, Hemlock Semiconductor president and CEO, said in a press release. “These customers have put a lot of faith in us and the additional quantities of silicon feedstock will enable them to advance solar technology throughout the globe.”

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First high speed train at a high risk cost: Argentina

| Tuesday June 3rd, 2008 | 15 Comments

tren.jpgConstruction of the first high speed rail link in America will take place in Argentina, connecting the cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. A contract has been made with Alstom and partners, Iecsa, Isolux Corsan and Emepa, which will see the rail link accommodating trains operating up to 320 km/hr.
The national government and other proponents of the plan envisage a positive influence for economic development in the region. It is hoped that the project will revive the railway system of Argentina, which has suffered extensively since the wave of privatization that occurred in the 90s. Furthermore, it will offer an attractive travel mode for tourists in the region.
However, there are many risks associated with the success of the project, namely the cost of travel which is

“disproportionately expensive relative to the number of people who will benefit from it”

(Poder Ciudadano in Spanish)
The prices are not comparable to the bus system which moves the majority of people between these cities and is not likely to replace air traffic travel either. People in Argentina are questioning the usefulness of the link, as it will be unfordable for most and because there is a desperate need to address other infrastructure issues nationwide.

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Growing Solar PV Demand Brings Jobs to Michigan

| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Growing demand for thin film solar photovoltaic laminates is bringing jobs to Greenville, Michigan.
A leading player in the field, United Solar Ovonic LLC expects to about double employment at its Greenville manufacturing facility by bringing on as many as 400 new employees in order to raise the facility’s production capacity to some 300 megawatts (MW) by 2010.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (Nasdaq:ENER), United Solar Ovonic uses proprietary technology to manufacture building-integrated and commercial rooftop thin film PV laminates that are distributed globally under the UNI-SOLAR brand.
“This is great news for our employees and the community. It takes a large pool of talented people for United Solar to build and ramp-up a solar production facility,” Gary DiDio, United Solar Ovonic’s Greenville plant manager stated in a press release.
“Greenville is a wonderful place to work. We were still very busy hiring for our initial production needs. The expansion will require an additional 400 employees. The majority of our hiring will be for production technicians, but there are immediate needs for supervisors, engineers, and many other roles.”
Greenville and United Solar’s plant are located 35 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. Job opportunities are listed on the company’s web site. If you’re interested, many can be applied for via e-mail, according to the company. You have to apply for production technician jobs through the Michigan Works program, however.

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GHG Education Stretches Beyond Traditional Universities

| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

CC_logo_small.jpgAs the need for climate change solutions continues to grow, so does the need for properly educated greenhouse gas management and measurement professionals. With the help of various media outlets most people understand and accept the most basic aspects of climate change – global temperatures are rising, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are extremely high and ever increasing, and action needs to be taken, on a personal level and at government and business levels. While it is a positive sign that the general population has this basic understanding, there is also a need for advanced education in greenhouse gas accounting and climate change mitigation. Universities and colleges are typically the first place one thinks of when they hear “advanced education”; unfortunately, these institutions alone do not currently provide education for the full spectrum of the climate change industry.

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Europe’s Mandatory Carbon Footprint Labels Could Have Major Impact

| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

tesco.jpgThe European Parliament recently approved carbon footprint labeling for goods and services and international business leaders are following the current operational developments with hawks’ eyes. Already there are reports that millions worth of imports from the EU have been affected as a result of carbon neutrality claims. Export potential is believed to further rise as a result of this decision because consumers around the globe have a keen interest in labeled products.
“There’s no delaying this major political and consumer trend”, commented an official of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development. He predicted that the next step will be shareholders and auditor demands for information about companies’ carbon footprint labeling policies.

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Two Wheels Good

| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

trek950.jpgIn Cambridge, MA, where I used to live, bike ridership is at record numbers, and growing. Up 70 percent in the last 5 years. Bike businesses in the area are booming.
Thank you, $4/gallon gas.
We in the sustainability movement often talk about sustainability’s “3 Legged Stool”–the social, economic and environmental goals that go hand in hand, are inextricably linked. If you have one but not the others, the thing eventually topples over.
Cambridge’s bike story is similar to Portland, Oregon’s, whose robust bicycle culture and the economy it supports give us another sustainability metaphor, this one with two-wheels. What started as a group of Portland cyclists committed to the environment and public health has morphed into something more interesting and powerful: a small but stout industry, with the jobs, tax dollars and storefronts to prove it, supporting and inspired by the city’s cyclists. It’s a great example of sustainability-in-motion, of social, economic and ecological values each supporting the other and revolving, like the wheels of my old Trek 950 mountain bike (equipped with beefy street tires for my former Cambridge, MA commute), in a positive, virtuous, dare I say it, cycle.

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The Lacey Act: Protecting American Wildlife

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 4 Comments

180px-Phasianus_colchicus_2_tom_%28Lukasz_Lukasik%29.jpgThe recently passed Farm Bill included an amendment to the Lacey Act which extends protection to plants and trees illegally harvested outside of the U.S. TheLacey Act, named after congressman, Rep. John Lacey, the Congressman who introduced it, and signed into law in 1900, authorized the Secretary of the Interior to restore “game and other birds…where where they have become scarce or extinct and to regulate the introduction of birds and animals in areas where they had not existed.”
U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said, “This critical provision gives the U.S. an important new enforcement tool to put a stop to the unfair competition brought on by the importation of illegally harvested wood and the products made from that wood. American timber and furniture jobs should not be undercut any longer by foreigners who deal in illegally harvested woods and pilfer timber profits from law-abiding citizens on our own soil.”

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Cities Around The Globe Halve Their Operating Budgets By Installing Energy Saving Lamps

| Monday June 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

echolon.jpgSeveral cities around the globe have begun replacing their regular, sodium, streetlights by low energy lamps. This way they typically save 40-50% on their city operating budgets, in some cases streets get safer and maintenance is also lower.

Take this; the total number of lamp posts in the top ten largest US cities is 4,424,361. These streetlights use an estimated 2,988,500,000 kWh of electricity annually. This produces the equivalent of 2.3 million metric tons of CO2 a year.
Now take this; using energy saving lighting easily reduces the kWh used by 50%, or savings of 1,494,250,000 kWh or 1,161,716 metric tons of CO2.

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Uncontacted Tribes of the Amazon in Danger

| Sunday June 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

Uncontacted tribes exist around the world and late last week the speculated existence of one group in the Amazon region was confirmed. The Brazilian Government has taken aerial photography of tribal peoples who live close to the Peruvian border in complete isolation from the modern world. The photograph shows Indians painted red and aiming longbows at the aircraft.
uncontacted%20tribes.jpgThis tribe forms part of a larger global community of uncontacted peoples whose isolation is under threat from modernisation. The Amazon region is home to approximately 60 of the world’s 100 uncontacted tribes.
The overflight at the Brazilian-Peruvian border was undertaken to confirm the presence of the tribe “to show they are there, to show they exist,” said Jos√© Carlos dos Reis Meirelles J√∫nior who works for FUNAl, the national foundation for Indians. Stephen Corry the director of Survival International commented about the recent photographs,

‚ÄòThese pictures are further evidence that uncontacted tribes really do exist. The world needs to wake up to this, and ensure that their territory is protected in accordance with international law. Otherwise, they will soon be made extinct.’

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Are Biofuels the Root Cause of Rising Food Prices?

| Saturday May 31st, 2008 | 4 Comments

Riots over food and fuel prices and supplies have broken out across western and northern Africa, in China, India, Pakistan and Mexico, as well as other countries around the world, posing real and substantial threats to civil order. Tens of thousands of fishermen in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal have gone on strike and are protesting in European capitals due to spiraling fuel costs.
Rapidly rising food prices and supply concerns have led many to point the finger of blame at biofuels production, along the way reigniting the debate about the net effect biofuels have on land use, the environment and carbon dioxide emissions.
As the EU considers cutting back its recently enacted biofuels targets, it seems that counter-arguments of biofuels proponents are being drowned out. Is this a case of the tail wagging the dog, or cow, perchance? And are these early portents of what is to come in other countries around the world as energy supplies continue tight, prices continue to climb and climatic conditions change?
Are biofuels the root, or even a signifcant, factor in rising food costs and supply shortages? Three other factors seem to be of much greater significance: rising oil, fuel and fertilizer prices; changing diets in rapidly growing urban populations in countries around the world – China and India in particular; and a changing climate, which is disrupting agricultural supplies.

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