Although it might seem ironic to many environmentalists, the EPA’s latest list of leaders in renewable energy consumption is topped by none other than the United States Air Force. The USAF is using a whopping 321,416 MegaWatts of green power mostly on bases in the desert southwest. Although green energy is still a small percentage of the military’s total consumption, the sheer volume is important in creating an economy of scale for other groups looking to green their energy usage. (USAF press release)
An Engligh program called Changing Places, involving 500,000 volunteers and £57 million of investment, has been extended to complete its ambitious schemes. Already, some of Britain’s worst wastelands, derelict collieries, former chemical dumps, old quarries and industrial areas have been transformed into parks, wildlife areas, gardens and sports facilities. Rags to riches, one of the concepts in the American entrepreneurial spirit of pulling oneself “up by the bootstraps”, is in many ways synonomous with turning liabilities into assets. In this vein, it would seem a wonderful reinfusion of core American values to learn by example from this profound English project.
With gas prices skyrocketing, economic conversations often turn into furious complaint sessions pertaining to these rising costs. What is rarely considered is how ridiculously cheap gasoline actually is. Upon comparison to a relatively simple commodity such as Coca Cola whose supply is seemningly limitless, the tremendous impact government subsidies have on one of our most coveted resources is suddenly obvious. When gasoline prices are compared to other liquid products, Snapple comes out costing 5 times that of gas, with nasal spray topping the list at a whopping 230 times the price of gasonline. Free market rationale is without an explanation as to how such a contested resource that requires so much time and energy to mine, convert, and transport can be cheaper than compounds whose complexity is barely beyond combining water and sugar.
A town in Japan has rolled out a cooking-oil powered bus which provides transportation for residents, and gets rid of hard to dispose of waste, as reported in Japan for Sustainability. The “Inaba EcoLimo Waiwai Go-Go” is free to residents who bring in used cooking oil for recycling.
If you havn’t read Biomimicry, I highly recommend picking it up. Either way, this moth-eye based innovation by a company called Autotype is a fine example of learning from nature. The material, known as Autoflex MARAG, is based on the nanostructures found in the eyes of night flying moths. It’s a natural light absorber that can be used to coat flat screen panels, preventing glare. (as seen on the excellent Z+Partners Blog)
Electric cars, once the most promising automotive option for drivers wanting to get out from under the thumb of oil companies, are all but extinct. In fact, instead of offering former lessees the option of buying these cars, American automotive companies have refused to do so, with GM opting to take its EV1s out to the Arizona desert and crush them instead of letting their legend live on. Only Toyota has allowed their customers the option of buying these cars.
There are numerous theories as to why electric cars failed and American manufacturers seem so petrified to still have them on the street. Ideas range from the fear of being sued for lack of replaceable parts, to animosity on the part of automakers that California legislation mandated that major auto manufacturers build a certain number of polltuion free vehicles amidst clean air efforts.
Led by Toyota’s venerable Prius, the Hybrid car market nearly doubled in 2004 from the year before. Despite the vehicles’ higher costs, government incentives combined with a surge in consumer awareness have continued to make hybrids the rising stars in the automotive marketplace. Some estimates suggest that within 10 years, hybrids will account for a third of all vehicles sold. Toyota and Honda are the clear leaders in the field; it remains to be seen if US car makers can join them with similar success. (AP via MyYahoo)
Although the Green Home Guide of Northern California is geared toward a particular market, the tips, product guides and articles on the site are suitable for a general audience of both consumers and buisineses. The website is a clearing house for information on residential green building, and judging by the extraordinary number of businesses listed, it proof once again of the growing vitality of the green marketplace.
Sometimes it takes a little civil disobedience to convince companies do the right thing. Through a series of protests and demonstrations, the Rainforest Action Network has convinced J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.—the third largest bank in the U.S.—to develop a new policy limiting lending and underwriting for environmentally-damaging industrial projects. I reckon other banks should follow suit before the activists choose their next target…
Read the Wall Street Journal article or check out the the new policy (via Rainforest Action Network).
Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the US, and certainly one of its largest consumers of paper has adopted a remarkably green outlook on paper consumption that should reduce the environmental footprint of the company. Maximizing the use of post-consumer recycled paper is a primary goal, as is validating that suppliers are getting paper from forests that meet a high standard of sustainable management. (more details in GreenBiz)
Already a leader in alternative energy, Austin-based Green Mountain Energy has embarked upon a goal to offset 100% of its carbon footprint. Everything from corporate travel to office paper is to be considered in making thei calculations needed to bring a CO2 neutral position to reality. More info on BusinessWire.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, most Chinese companies are more environmentally aware than expected. This is great news given the typically gloomy outlook for China’s pollution problems, and indeed the world’s.
The survey also showed that 22 per cent of respondents are implementing tougher environment standards than legally required, with 13 per cent calling for even stricter mandatory rules. These standards related to reducing CO2 emissions, waste pollution and using energy efficient technologies.
More good news for Earth Day: The Economist has two outstanding articles on the rise of Environmental Economics, simply put – accounting for environmental externalities on the balance sheet. Environmental Economics also makes it more obvious that positive environmental moves have economic payoffs that are often bigger than heavyhanded alternatives. For example, as pointed out in the first article, reforesting the steep hillsides that flank the Panama Canal will prevent the erosion that clogs the channel, a cheaper investment than dredging.Click to continue reading »
Read this fantastic opinion piece about keeping the green dream alive in this unsettling, changing world from Kelpie Wilson of Truthout.org. She gives us a few suggestions to help us change the world on this Earth Day 2005 and implores us to “think of them as investments in a better future” not as chores “to add to an already endless list.” Happy Earth Day!
Shell Oil’s chariman, Lord Oxburgh, has repeatedly taking steps to acknowledge the seriousness of the global environment that are unprecidented among his peers. A Sunday Telegraph article (reproduced here) quotes him:
We are going to find, on a 50-year timescale, much easier ways of meeting energy needs than extracting fossil fuels from the ground. We may not get anywhere near exhausting fossil fuel resources, as a combination of environmental and price pressures and new technologies make alternatives much more attractive
Despite recent company setbacks, Oxburgh is optimistic about the future of Shell in continuing to lead the energy industry. (more)