Archive for March 30th, 2009

Fairmont Hotel Joins WWF’s Climate Savers Program
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WWF announced today that Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is committing to its Climate Savers Program. Fairmont said they will reduce operational CO2 emissions from its existing hotels by 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2013, while also working on reducing their CO2 emissions through the brand’s new Energy and Carbon Management program. Is this a greenwash or truly something significant?


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Historic Day For Protection: President Obama Signs Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Expansion
obama signs wild scenic rivers act photo
Signing ceremony for Wild & Scenic Rivers Act expansion, March 30, 2009. Image credit:Rebecca Wodder

Today, President Obama signed into law the second largest Wild and Scenic Rivers package in history. Today’s law expands the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System by more than 50 percent, bringing the total number of Wild and Scenic Rivers to 252….
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Sustainability News Headlines – 3/30/2009
News of Sustainability Benefiting People Today
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BuildingGreen Bulletin: Cost-Effective Retrofits — April EBN
Twice each month, BuildingGreen publishes an email news bulletin with current news and product information briefs. Sign up here — it’s free. We will never share or sell your email address, and you may unsubscribe at any time.

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Cosmic Log: Green power from algae?

Cosmic Log: Green power from algae?

Will crops of algae plants provide the ultimate in green power, or are such schemes merely green pipe dreams?Science editor Alan Boyle’s Weblog: Will crops of algae plants provide the ultimate in green power, or are such schemes merely green pipe dreams?

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Teamwork Creates Recycled Sail and Tire Bags
Teamwork Recycled Sail Bike Tire Bags Photo
Image via: Teamwork Bags

Co-owners of Teamwork Bags, Nick Stygstra, Justin Mast and Nick Stockton, are just three local boys from the Great Lakes region with a passion for business and the environment. The result: Teamwork Bags, made from recycled sails and bike tires – all local items that would otherwise end up in a local landfill. …
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Microbes Eat CO2, Make Fuel

Microbes Eat CO2, Make Fuel

When electricity flows at  a trickle pace, it’s not very useful for a lot of our high-power applications. That’s why, as we all know, finding a way to store that energy so that it can build up slowly over time is critically important.

One way to store that trickle is to run a chemical reaction that will leave us with some combustible fuel.  For example, scientists are working on catalysts that will make it easier to split water into O2 and H2 – the latter being combustible hydrogen – using electricity derived from photovoltaic power.

In the same vein, scientists recently developed a process called electromethanogensis.  If you break down the name, you see that the process involves generating methane (natural gas) from electricity.  How does this happen?  The answer lies in a species of bacteria known as Methanobacterium palustre (see the word “methane” in there?), which is able to chemically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane (CH4).

The bacteria is used as part of an electrolytic cell.  An electrolytic cell is the opposite of a battery – a battery takes two compounds that want to react with each other and taps that potential in the form of electricity.  In an electrolytic cell, the electrons are pumped in and they drive the reaction uphill, so to speak.  In this case that uphill reaction is CO2 turning into CH4 (the opposite of the downhill version, which happens when we burn CH4, or any other fossil fuel).  The bacteria’s job is to catalyze the process, which means that you get a lot more natural gas for the same amount of electricity fed in.

What’s interesting is that the scientist primarily involved, Dr. Bruce Logan of Penn State University, has also used bacteria for the opposite process – microbial fuel cells (in fact he wrote a book on the subject).  In that process, bacteria are harnessed to eat nasty molecules from sources such as municipal waste pools, break them down and release electric energy as a byproduct. 

This is the kind of thing that makes biological-based energy sources so intriguing.  In reality, bio-energy makes up a tiny fraction of all renewable energy out there, and some suggest that it will always be that way.  But in principle, bio-energy holds so much potential that it’s hard to say where the technology will be in 10 years from now.  We’ve been tweaking microbes to make drugs and natural products for a while, but we’ve only begun thinking about incorporating them into the energy infrastructure, be it in methane synthesis such as this, bio-diesel production or algae fuel.

Via Green Car Congress
Image via Penn State

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Does Earth Hour Actually Mean Generators Produce Less Electricity?
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In my post Dear Deniers and Cranks: Earth Hour Made a Difference, I said “Gas and coal fired plants dial up and down all the time to adjust for peak load, so an event like Earth Hour is actually turning down the dirtiest fossil fuel burners, taking it right off the top.”

Many commenters disagreed, saying “Usage may have gone down but generation did not change. Generators have schedules and don’t react to a small change such as this.” and “Come on, man-up and own your mistake. The plants did not reduce output due to this, you know that.”

Are they right or am I?…
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Obama to Automakers: Make Greener American Cars or Go Under
obama-auto-bailout greener american cars photo
Photo via Motor Trend

Yesterday, big news broke that Obama denied Chrysler and GM further bailout funds. Both had submitted plans detailing how they’d use the funding to get their companies back on track. Both were deemed ‘not viable’. How did they fail to make the grade? One reason was neither planned on going green enough–after rejecting both plans, the Obama administration laid out a “Path to Viability” for both companies. Common to both? Putting more effort and resources to…
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UC Berkeley Hydrates Its Students Twice as Fast
Man Filling Water Bottle at Berkeley Campus Hydration Station Photo
Image via: UC Berkeley News/Peg Skorpinski

Ban the Bottle! Skip the Styrofoam! Pack Your Polycarbonate (Nalgene)! These are more than just empty slogans around UC Berkeley, which has just taken additional steps to encourage students to frequent local water fountains on campus instead of purchasing plastic, disposable water bottles. The I Heart Tap Water Campaign
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Video: Test Drive of Tesla Model S Electric Car
tesla model s test drive video

Elon Musk Shows Tesla Model S to Steve Jurvetson
Last week the Tesla Model S electric car was unveiled (but only after some photos were leaked by Kevin Rose), but what was missing from all Model S coverage was a test-drive video……
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Obama signs bill protecting wilderness areas
President Barack Obama signed legislation Monday setting aside more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness.

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GE Digital Energy Building Wireless "Smart Meter" Network For 2.4 Million Power Customers
GE-smart-meter-pole-photo.jpgHere comes that “smart metering” thing again. With politicians and TreeHugger publicly praising “smart meters;” and, with GE networking a huge number of them in Houston Texas, it’s clear the day will soon come for retiring our ‘dumb meters’.

Ready. Set. GE Digital Energy reports it is under contract with Houston Texas electric power utility CenterPoint Energy, Inc. to supply wireless communications for an Advanced Metering System (AMS) serving millions. …
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Emory U Students Pledge to Do 3 Green Things
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Image via: FastWeb

As part of their larger Campus Sustainability Initiative, Emory University (GA) students are being asked to commit to each doing three green things in their personal life and on campus. While the program is voluntary, the university has taken a commitment to sustainability and recognizes that this will only be achieved with the help and participation of the entire campus community….
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