AskPablo: Iceberg Water

| Monday September 17th, 2007 | 1 Comment

greenland.jpgAfter seeing images of the melting Greenland Icecap on television this weekend my mother asked me if it would be economical to collect that water and deliver it to drought stricken regions. After my posting on bottled water (AskPablo: Exotic Bottled Water) many of you know that I am generally not a fan of shipping drinking water over great distances. But could this be a more environmentally friendly solution than desalination (AskPablo: Desalination and the Water-Energy Relationship)? Read on to find out…

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The Media on Oil Refinery Expansion

| Friday September 14th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Not long ago, BP met a public relations disaster by making a request to increase its dumping of particulate matter into Lake Michigan by expanding its massive refinery on the south side of Chicago (lake calumet, technically). Despite the fact that the refinery’s added discharge would be somewhat trivial compared to the grand total of mysterious substances that Chicagoland’s industry and sewers dump into the lake annually, the request was quashed by an outraged public. Trivial or not, expanding oil refineries probably sets a bad precedent these days with great lakes cleanup high on the national priority list and fuel efficiency being far more important than increased production. The Chicago area press did a good job exposing the issue and leading the outcry against the added discharges.
Now, here’s an interesting piece of press. The JSOnline reports that Murphy Oil wants to make an even bigger refinery expansion in Superior, Wisconsin to process Alberta Oil (among the filthiest fuel options ever discovered). It’s unknown whether the expansion would result in added discharge to Lake Superior, but the company is taking the somewhat odd step of doing “everything it can to keep a similar controversy from exploding on the shores of Lake Superior”
The reason it’s odd is that I can’t tell from the article if Murphy oil wants to avoid discharges all together, or if they are simply trying to avoid having anyone find out. Read the article and you tell me. Economic opportunities are important, but increasing our dependency on oil, and worsening the state of the lakes, especially the relatively pristine Lake Superior seems like a bad policy to me. Whether they like it or not, the press is out now.

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ConocoPhillips $10 Million Deal to to Offset Expansion

| Wednesday September 12th, 2007 | 3 Comments

conocophillips.jpegIn the news today, ConocoPhillips is reporting that they will spend $10 Million to offset the carbon emissions of a proposed refinery expansion in the Bay Area. I have mixed feelings about this, but basically think it’s a good thing. On the one hand it lends a big boost to the legitimacy of carbon offsets, most of the money will be tied to indirect and difficult to audit projects such as wetlands restoration and tree planting. It also would seem to give people the idea that dumping a bunch of money on such projects suddenly makes it “ok” to burn a lot more oil. But unfortunately, that seems like what we’re destined to do for a while whether we offset or not.
What do you think?

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Net Impact Releases 2007 Business as UNusual Guide

| Tuesday September 11th, 2007 | 0 Comments

netimpact.jpgThe Second Annual Net Impact Business as UNusual Guide has just been published. The guide details leading MBA programs, including student responses to surveys, curriculum information, inside perspectives on faculty and alumni networking, as well as broad data aggregated from all the schools in the study. It’s a great resource to check out, especially if you’re looking into getting an MBA.
Take a look at the whole thing on PDF here.

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Sun’s Project BlackBox Using Shipping Containers as Server Rooms

| Monday September 10th, 2007 | 0 Comments

sunbox.jpgI love shipping container architecture, but the following innovation by Sun Microsystems takes it to a new place. “Project Blackbox” offers clients portable data centers inside of standard shipping containers. Not only is this easy and safe to deploy and transport, but it apparently takes a lot less energy to cool, and as a semi-permanent structure is obviously a lot less resource intensive in its construction. No word on whether these are used or new containers, however.

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AskPablo: Coal-Fired Power Plants

| Monday September 10th, 2007 | 13 Comments

This week I am going to examine the world of coal-fired power plants. Coal is an energy-dense substance found deep underground. Like oil and natural gas it is made from prehistoric organisms and biomass under intense heat and pressure. The living precursors to these fuels sequestered CO2 from the atmosphere, as plants do today, and have locked it away for millions of years, making the atmosphere conducive to life as we know it. In extracting and combusting these fuels we are returning that CO2 into the atmosphere. Is one fuel just as bad as the others or is coal just evil? Let’s look at some numbers and find out.

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Billions for Great Lakes Cleanup Actually Makes Money

| Wednesday September 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

greatlakes.jpgThe Great Lakes are a mess. Invasive species such as the dreaded Zebra mussel have turned the lakes’ ecology upside down. Sewerage overflows have pumped billions of gallons of filth in to the lakes. Industrial pollution, channel dredging, and all sorts of other culprits have all added to the lakes’ misery.
The charge to clean it all up? $26 Billion.
But, as this article so simply states, it’s not a cost at all but an economic investment that not only repairs much of the damage done, but pays for itself at least two-fold in direct economic benefits to the region.
This is a great example of more holistic thinking when it comes to both economy and environment (and recreational culture for that matter) and it’s the kind of thinking that can cut through political differences because it’s just plain common sense.
UPDATE – Check out the PDF with the full report.

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Guest Post: Basic Green Building Principals

3p Contributor | Friday August 31st, 2007 | 2 Comments

greenbuilding33.jpgBy Mary Eisenhart

These days, when we’re considering a home building or remodeling project, we’re thinking about the same issues that have driven homeowners for centuries: making the place more compatible with our taste and lifestyle, keeping up with necessary maintenance, enhancing the home’s resale value. We also have to consider the ever-growing pile of local regulations likely to have some impact on our plans. And, definitely on our radar: the project’s impact on the neighborhood, the community, and the planet.

Some projects clearly hit the sweet spot. Replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient models not only reduces your energy bill and planetary impact, it’s been found to pay for itself when you resell your home. Installing a garden of native plants fed by a drip irrigation system reduces your water consumption (and bill); it helps maintain the local ecosystem, and it drastically cuts the time you spend on garden maintenance. Solar water heaters for swimming pools – great investment, great citizenship. The list goes on.

Each project offers its own opportunities for long- and short-term benefits – social, environmental, financial and more. Here are a few possibilities:

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The End of Paper Airline Tickets? Finally?

| Wednesday August 29th, 2007 | 4 Comments

planeticket.jpegIt remains amazing to me that paper airline tickets have persisted as long as they have. It’s merely testament to the complexity of bureaucracy and arcane technology trumping common sense and communication I suppose.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that IATA (the authority which governs such things) has finally, magically, dealt a final blow to the persistence of paper tickets and they will officially be a thing of the past by June 1st. The result will save untold numbers of trees, a lot of hassel, and apparantly $9 per passenger. No word on whether you’ll see that $9 though. Read the rest on Reuters.

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Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship – Guidelines Posted

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 0 Comments

skoll.jpgThe Skoll Foundation (created by Jeff Skoll, the first employee and first President of eBay) is now accepting new applications for its social entrepreneurship awards. These three-year awards “support social entrepreneurs whose work has the potential for large-scale influence on critical challenges of our time: environmental sustainability, health, tolerance and human rights, institutional responsibility, economic and social equity, and peace and security…. Skoll social entrepreneurs are innovators who have tested and proved their approach and are poised to replicate or scale up their work.”
Past recipients include an impressive group of social enterprise pioneers: Benetech, College Summit, Global Footprint Network, Institute for OneWorld Health, Room to Read, and TransFair. It is worth a visit to the site to learn about the enterprises they have supported in the past. Even if you are not quite ready to compete for this award, it is a good one to keep on your radar.
To be considered for funding in advance of the 2008 Skoll World Forum, applicants must submit their Online Application no later than September 24, 2007.

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Terrapass Customer Survey Challenges Carbon Offset Myths

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 2 Comments

tp-logo.jpgAlthough I still think there’s a lot of uncertainty in the “carbon offsetting” business, especially when individuals are concerned, the idea that people only buy offset to assuage guilt for an otherwise un-green life is looking more like a myth. Take a look at this PDF from TerraPass’s recent customer survey. The results show that people who’ve bought offsets from TerraPass are, generally speaking, making a lot of significantly green changes elsewhere in their lives. It’s not a huge surprise to me, but for those who might doubt people’s sincerity, it’s a good document to pass around. More on the TerrPass blog….

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AskPablo: Wave Power

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 6 Comments

wave.jpgAugust 13th’s article on desalination received a lot of great feedback. On reader informed me of a technology that uses wave power to pump sea water, at high pressures, through a reverse-osmosis filtration system, using virtually no fossil fuel-based energy. He also informed me that the same technology is being used to pump seawater uphill into large storage tanks. When electricity is needed the water is run back downhill and through a turbine generator. Brilliant! But how much energy can we get from the waves and how do we go about figuring that out? Well, that’s what I’m here for. Read on to find out…

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Trilby Lundberg: Got Reliable Sources?

| Thursday August 23rd, 2007 | 4 Comments

bush_exxonmobil.jpgOnce in a while, it makes sense to check one’s “sources”.
With the glut of information that is continually flooding my mind space from a seemingly endless array of sources and mediums, it is necessary to develop a system for both cataloging and qualifying information. The “system” I have developed is a hybrid of intuitive sense and objective reasoning.
For example, if I am reading about a current event, I intuitively account for the particular slant (political/philosophical, etc) of the publication and I also look for 3rd party verification of information presented. Off the top of my head I can think of several such 3rd parties that are used in the media to validate information—Gallup, BBC, Zogby, New England Journal of Medicine, etc. Another “source” that I hear quoted on at least a weekly (if not daily) basis is the Lundberg Survey, which is often used in reference to U.S. fuel prices (gasoline and diesel) as well as a source for a myriad things relating to the Oil Industry.
Somehow, I have been cajoled into accepting the Lundberg Survey as an unbiased source for market research relating to the Oil Industry. My Mistake. This past week I was shocked when I came across the Ms. Trilby Lundberg’s pontifications on oil consumption, conservation and climate change being reported by none other than CNN.

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Cost of Building Green GoesDown

| Tuesday August 21st, 2007 | 1 Comment

eartrh.jpgPerception has held for a long time that “building green” was always more expensive than building in so called “traditional” manners. Of course, we’ve always argued than almost all extra up-front costs are accounted for before too long, and those that aren’t are paid for indirectly via PR, HR or other less easy to quantify benefits.
Well, according to WBSBD those tangible, financial costs may be over-stated by as much as 300%! That should be more than enough to get most construction projects thinking a little harder about engaging in at least some basic green practices.
The whole report is available here. The bottom line suggest that the 17% premium originally suggested for “green” projects is really more like 5%.

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AskPablo: Commuting

| Monday August 20th, 2007 | 5 Comments

traffic.jpgThis week Calvin Tran wrote to AskPablo about commuting. He wrote: “I spend a lot of time in traffic because of bottlenecks in the highway system (three lanes going to two lanes). How much gas (and $) could be saved in removing these bottlenecks?” What a great question. I have been pondering this on my own commute since I frequently get stuck at one such bottleneck. Let’s explore the numbers…

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