Crowd Farm

| Wednesday November 14th, 2007 | 4 Comments

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Crowd Farm, developed by two MIT architecture grad students, is a concept that harvests the energy that is transmitted through our feet. It works like this: Beneath highly crowded subway platforms there would be a sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly due to the force of human footsteps above. These blocks rub together under the pressure generating power the same way as a dynamo, a device that converts energy from motion into an electric current.
This is a concept that is only worth its weight in gold in highly crowded ares where the feet are many since one human footstep can generate enough power for two 60-watt light bulbs for only a mere second. But get a coffee-primed crowd moving by the masses and the Farm could be in business. The typical New York subway train in Manhattan at rush hour will typically have 300 people in it, all of whom ran an average of 150 steps in the station to get onboard. That is equivalent to 45,000 steps every few minutes, which could be transferred to power the subway train. This is a brillant idea for reclycling the energy from human movement.

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Cool Housing Market Makes Green Buildings Shine

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday November 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

house%20for%20sale.jpgIn a slow housing market, many developers are looking to green features to set themselves apart from the competition. With increasing concern about energy costs, climate change, and indoor air quality, the market is ripe for green building. Market forces at work, with environmentally sound options excelling.
“There are not enough green builders out there, and demand is exceeding the homes available,” says Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Analytics, Alliances and Strategic Initiatives for McGraw-Hill Construction. Meanwhile quantity of certified green homes being built is growing rapidly.
Nearly 100,000 homes have been built and certified under voluntary green building programs across the country since the mid-1990s, with a 50% increase from 2004.

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Digital Audio and the Hydrogen Economy: My Personal Journey

| Tuesday November 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Is the hydrogen economy coming?Penn State researchers Bruce Logan and Shaoan Cheng announced yesterday the results of experimental research that produces hydrogen from microbes. Built upon earlier work that led to the production of electricity from microbes, Logan’s team has shown how to take those same hard working microbes and make hydrogen. Could the hydrogen economy be just around the corner?

Several years ago, after reading Eco Economy – Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of how a hydrogen based economy might work. Since its publication in early 2001 (and doesn’t that seem so long ago) I kept reading reports of the “false promise of the hydrogen economy” and my enthusiasm waned for hydrogen, despite my respect for Lester Brown’s visionary work. The obstacles to making hydrogen an efficient carrier of energy do appear daunting.

But technology and human innovation don’t always follow expectations. 

From tackling hydrogen distribution, storage, and efficiency to improvements in fuel cell technology and implementation,  the science and business of hydrogen is making great strides these days.

This reminds me of the early days of digital audio. Allow me to explain.

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Everyday Low Whole Paycheck, $46.00

| Tuesday November 13th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Amid the stock market turmoil last week, an interesting event took place in the market’s valuation of sustainability. If I were shopping for corporations, on Friday, I could have purchased one share of either Whole Foods Market or Walmart for $43.40. and today, I could have purchased either for $46.00. And if I had wanted to put a little hard-earned cash into owning a company in the crossfire of the green debate, what exactly would I have received for a little less than the cost of filling up a twenty-gallon tank of gas, or a reasonably priced dinner for two?
With Whole Foods, $46 could have bought me 1/140,000,000th of a growing organic grocer run by a libertarian vegan, bringing healthy food to people all over the country, and soon, perhaps, the world, while providing a delightful culinary shopping experience for soccer moms everywhere, spreading the good word on how to eat, and quite possibly reshaping commercial agriculture as it grows.
My $46 in Whole Foods could have bought just about $43 dollars in sales, and $1.32

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An End to the Petrodollar?

| Tuesday November 13th, 2007 | 1 Comment

petrodollar.gifOn Friday, June 16, 2006 Samuel Brittan wrote in the Financial Times (page 11) that “the most likely trigger for a dollar collapse would be a US housing market setback.” I read this with gratitude that someone was actually addressing this important global threat but I had to respectfully disagree. The greatest threat to the role of the US dollar as the international reserve currency, and indeed the global economy itself, is a sudden end to petrodollar hegemony.

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Green Festival 2007 – The San Francisco Version

| Monday November 12th, 2007 | 1 Comment

From Keith Rockmael at Greenerati.com

We felt a little guilty strolling through the San Francisco stop on Green Festival tour while others removed black gold from various wildlife that an Exxon Valdez-like tanker recently dumped into San Francisco Bay. At least a good percentage of the environmentalists, vegan hipsters, LOHAS types and simple non Green classifieds rode bikes, walked, skateboarded and even took Muni to the SoMa location. Unfortunately, the packed nearby parking lots had their share of cars which didn’t exactly make our green hearts go pitter-patter.

Once we entered, the various green venders assaulted our minds and stomaches with organic, free trade, vegan desserts, drinks and energy bars. With all the samples, who even needs to eat lunch at these Green festivals? Maybe we should have fed our dogs as well as the show offered half a dozen natural pet related displays and products.

Nevertheless, the main advantage of wandering around eating gave us that much more time to enjoy the words and wisdom of Paul Hawken and Deepak Chopra who typically feed the urban Greenies with more energy than can be had in a full can of Steaz and a Bumble Bar.

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Nanosolar: Power to the people

| Monday November 12th, 2007 | 1 Comment

nanosolar.jpgNanosolar coatings are as thin as a layer of paint and can tranfer sunlight into power quite efficiently. Imagine the possibilities, from solar coated shingles to solar lined windows to solar powered cell phones and ipods. Solar powered buildings and homes might just become standard in the future thanks to this innovative technology by Nanosolar Inc. The almighty dollar will launch these thin-film solar cells into worldwide applications thanks to the fact that it’s actually cheaper than burning coal. The underlying technology for these solar cells is nothing new, having been around for decades, but Nanosolar has created the actual technology to manufacture and mass produce the solar sheets. The solar cells are produced by a solar printing press of sorts rolling out these aptly named PowerSheets rapidly and cheaply. The machines apply a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil reducing production costs to a mere tenth of current solar panels and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. The first commercial cells for consumer use are scheduled to be released this year.
Cost has always been the burdening factor weighing down the mass application of solar technology at nearly $3 per watt. In order to compete with the energy produced from coal solar has been in need of finding a way to shrink its costs down to $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use absolutely no silicon as is the standard for current solar production and the efficiency of the PowerSheet cells are competitive with the traditional systems as well. The golden kicker, the cost to produce these solar coatings is a mere 30 cents per watt!!

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AskPablo: What’s up with “Clean Coal” and Carbon Capture and Sequestration?

| Monday November 12th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Many people have asked me about the feasibility of “clean coal” paired with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a genuine option for a more sustainable future. In a previous article I wrote about coal-fired power plants (see AskPablo: Coal-Fired Power Plants) so I won’t beat that dead horse too much. However, I will discuss coal-to-liquids as well as the feasibility of CCS.
Some politicians will have you believe that coal-to-liquids is a viable and sustainable alternative to our dependence on oil-based fuels. Whether or not these politicians are from coal-rich states, or which party they belong to I will leave up for you to explore.Here is how a liquid fuel is made from coal:

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Auto Industry Workers Say 35 MPG by 2020 Can Be Done

| Saturday November 10th, 2007 | 5 Comments

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by Lorna Li
The Big Three Auto Makers in America – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – are spending millions to convince Congress not to pass a 35 mpg fuel efficiency standard in the new 2007 Energy Bill.
A large group of auto workers and dealers have broken from the industry in order to support the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel efficiency standard. As members of the American auto industry who have designed, built and sold automobiles in this country for decades, they state that 35 mpg is attainable with current technology, will, in fact, create auto industry jobs, and can help the U.S. end its foreign oil addiction.

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Green Collar Jobs: A Ray of Sunlight in the Marketplace

| Friday November 9th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Solar Power for the PeopleThe American Solar Energy Society reports that by 2030 one in four workers will be wearing green collars at work. The report estimates the creation of up to 40 million green collar jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. 

 

Giving that report a gentle push was the announcement last week that GE Power Generation in New York state plans to expand its renewable energy division, investing $39 million and creating 500 new jobs.

 

Another unit of General Electric, GE Energy Financial Services, has plans to build a 120–megawatt wind farm in Texas, with completion of the project in April of next year.

 

And for a little icing on the cake, First Solar, whose initial public offering sold for $20 a share a year ago, soared up to the almost Google-like heights yesterday past $200 as share, finishing at $224.43 based on solid earnings reports (okay, maybe not Google-like – if only I’d gotten in on Google when it was “only” $200 a share).  

 

And First Solar isn’t alone, the market appears to be getting hot for a number of solar ventures.

 

But despite the enthusiasm, a press conference by House GOP members today had a noticeable lack of any mention of solar or renewable energy, pressing Democrats for an energy bill with “energy in it”; apparently under the impression that energy only comes from carbon and essentially blaming Democrats for the surge in crude oil prices. ANWR will forever remain in their sights.

 

Fortunately, it seems the private sector isn’t waiting for leadership in Washington.

 

Let the sun shine in.

 

 

Sources and Further Reading:
GreenBiz
Salon
Green Wombat

 

 

 

 

 

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TiO2 paint: At war with pollution

| Friday November 9th, 2007 | 4 Comments

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Commercial and urban buildings have a large variety of different exterior applications available, also known as it’s “skin.” Some buildings are painted in order to preserve and protect the surface exposed to the elements. The problem with painting applications is that it degrades over time and releases harmful toxins into the environment.
With the endless array of environmental products and innovations that are prevalent in today’s world, it’s no wonder there is a new paint on the cusp of bucking the damaging trend of its predecessor. Imagine a paint that can make a positive contribution to the environment and urban ecology in particular. How? By cleaning up the pollutants that are transported in the air, more specifically, by reducing the levels of nitrogen oxides in the surrounding atmosphere.
Millenium Inorganic Chemicals, a British R&D firm has developed what they intended to appropriately name “Ecopaint.” This paint utilizes the same photo catalytic process of the anti-smog cement developed and under going testing in Italy. However, it has the advantage of being applicable to many different surface applications.

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Show Me and Tell Me: The Roar of Conscious Consumerism and Green Marketing

Shannon Arvizu | Friday November 9th, 2007 | 1 Comment

A new marketing study reveals that conscious consumers expect accountability and transparency from companies that claim to be “green.” Companies that fail to do so put themselves at risk of a consumer backlash.
Who are these “conscious consumers”? According to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, almost 90% of Americans say this term describes them well. When shopping for products that are of equal value and price, these consumers would choose items that are energy-efficient, promote health and safety benefits, support fair labor and fair trade, and are made according to environmentally-friendly standards.

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What We Can Learn From Wine – Shipping and Packaging Matters

Shannon Arvizu | Friday November 9th, 2007 | 0 Comments

wine-map.jpgWhen managers consider how to reduce the carbon footprint of their products, distribution methods and packaging should be near the top of their list. A new study that evaluates the carbon footprint of wine shows that, although manufacturing processes are important, the manner in which wine is shipped and packaged makes all the difference.
Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino) and Pablo PaÃàster (our very own AskPablo author) show in their new study for the American Association of Wine Economists that shipping by container or reefer ship has far less of a carbon impact than shipping by train, truck, or airplane. In addition, shipping in bulk or in larger bottles also reduces the carbon footprint of wine.

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Environmentalism is Dead: Why Doomsday Doesn’t Work

| Thursday November 8th, 2007 | 0 Comments

The new environmentalism is based on prosperityPrincipals have no real force except when one is well fed
-Mark Twain

For many years I’ve harbored a nagging sense of futility in what I’ll call my “environmentalism”. For every plea to help forestall another environmental catastrophe comes the growing, somewhat melancholy, understanding that long-term solutions don’t lie in constantly reacting to current crisis.

The home improvement project will have to wait until after we put out the fire. But there’s always a fire.

That there is another way to look at what we call environmentalism is the subject of the book Breakthrough by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

“Complaint-based” environmentalism focuses on the fatalism of an overpopulated world constantly in the throes of the next ongoing environmental catastrophe; that ultimately, in terms of our energy-intensive modern society, things are as good a they’re going to get and will naturally get worse much faster for those it was never that good in the first place. It is a belief in limits, NIMBYism (or here), and anti-growth, dooming the impoverished of the world to perpetual struggle.

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You Can’t Eat Scenery II: The Search for an Index for Sustainable Development

| Thursday November 8th, 2007 | 1 Comment

pollution_historic_cody.gifAs was brought up in my previous post, the release of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008 draws attention to the prominent and crucial role socio-economic statistics play in formulating policies that will determine our collective futures, as well as that of the environment which sustains all forms of life on earth.
The preeminence of GDP as “the be-all and end-all” measure of a nation’s health and progress is certainly understandable from the viewpoint that it measures the total output of goods, services and capital, at least some portion of which makes life better, easier and more comfortable for more people than ever before – and it’s forecast that there will be 7 billion of us come 2012, the vast majority on the lower end of the material possessions and consumption scale.
What by definition GDP doesn’t even attempt to include or measure has always been a valid and serious source of criticism that led researchers to try and develop more comprehensive, socially and economically representative and useful measures. Such efforts have taken on an even greater urgency with the likes of Brazil, China, India, Russia and a host of other countries shifting to consumer-driven economies. Ignoring the costs to biodiversity, environmental quality and health of economic activities, economists’ and policy makers’ reliance on GDP or any other limited and strictly traditionally defined economic statistics can only result in a blueprint for fatally flawed mispricing and misallocation of capital and resources and, eventually, environmental and social catastrophe.

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