Bahrain unrest latest Mideast crisis to alarm US
The United States also moved to support efforts to erect a new democracy in Egypt by redirecting some of the money once intended for the ousted government of Hosni Mubarak.
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Archive for February 20th, 2011
Bahrain unrest latest Mideast crisis to alarm US
A new office building for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is going to be home to a whole raft of green building technologies that are becoming pretty familiar, along with something a little unexpected: a beautifully disguised “green” sewage treatment plant right plunk in the middle of the lobby. Talk about hiding in plain sight! The installation, designed by the company Worrell Water Technologies, is integrated into the lobby design as well as exterior landscaping.
Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment
The installation is basically a constructed wetland, which is a wastewater treatment system that breaks down pollutants with plants and naturally occurring biological processes. The result isn’t necessarily potable quality, but it’s good enough for irrigation, maintenance, and other res-uses such as toilet flushing. Constructed wetlands save a significant amount of energy compared to conventional treatment, and they can be used as an energy-efficient way to clean up sites contaminated with industrial pollutants. Constructed wetlands have the characteristics of a natural wetland, so they also double as wildlife habitats.
Constructed Wetlands Knocking at the Door
Worrell Water’s contribution is to move the concept into lush, formal landscaping for buildings through its “Living Machine” system. The system uses a series of carefully engineered steps that mimic tidal flows, compressing natural decomposition into a fast, tightly controlled operation that can fit into a relatively small area. That opens up some interesting possibilities for outdoor landscaping, such as the new walkway planned for one of the busiest border crossings in the U.S., which will take visitors on a pleasant stroll a through a Living Machine constructed wetland. But, why stop at the front door – Worrell has also introduced the system partly indoors, one stunning example being the tony El Monte Sagrado resort.
The New San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Building
Siting a Living Machine at a sprawling resort is one thing, but putting the concept to work at a high-rise building in a densely packed urban area presents quite a challenge. The PUC expects to save about 750,000 gallons of water yearly and produce another 900,000 gallons of treated water that can be use for non-potable purposes. Energy to run the system will come from the building’s solar cladding and wind turbines. If it proves adaptable and cost efficient, it could fit right in with President Obama’s new Better Buildings energy efficiency initiative, so stay tuned.
Image: Water lily by therealbrute on flickr.com.
The new polluter-funded GOP House majority continues to dance with those that brung them – international oil companies, gas companies and coal companies, and the many front group organizations they spawn that further their interests.
As a result, the latest “slashing” of the US budget completely eliminates funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a cut that will have virtually zero effect on the federal budget. According to Climate Science Watch, the vote passed by a party-line vote of 244-179.
The IPCC synthesizes the most up to date available science on climate change to help the public and policymakers know the current state of the evolving science, in order to plan, mitigate and prevent the very worst effects of climate change with good smart policy that incentivizes a move to clean non-polluting energy to safeguard our future. Hardly controversial in a sane nation. And cost-effective.
The level of US funding has fluctuated, depending on the year, between about $5.6 million under Democratic congresses, down to about $200,000 during the last GOP congress, in the first six years of the Bush administration. The current level is $2.3 million from last year’s “split” congress (Pelosi House, but Minority Rule Senate – the 60 vote hurdle created a de facto “McConnell” Senate).
The IPCC will probably do fine with no funding from us.
The organization is able to achieve as much as it does because the thousands of scientists from around the world who work on the reports receive no direct compensation for their considerable time and effort drafting, reviewing and editing the summary documents. The IPCC summaries are updated every 3 or 4 years.
After noting the previous vote to de-fund the EPA’s ability to collect greenhouse gas data on polluters, Waxman said: “Now we’re being asked to de-fund the work of international scientists to learn about the threat.
The assumption seems to be that there is no threat, and therefore let’s not study it. I think that is not a wise assumption. This is a very shortsighted proposal to cut these funds.
It’s like putting our heads in the sand, denying the science, and then stopping the scientists from working – because they might come to a different conclusion from the Republican Party’s ideology, in believing that there’s no problem and therefore we don’t need to know anything about it”.
Indeed. The paltry cuts are not about cutting the budget.
De-funding the IPCC is no big saving. But that is not the point. Even $200,000 is too much to give an organization that collects and publishes findings decidedly at odds with the interests of the international polluter cartel that controls the US GOP.
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Posco and LanzaTech to collaborate on conversion of flue gas to ethanol and key value-added productsAuthor: EcoFriendly
New Zealand-based LanzaTech, developer of a proprietary gas fermentation technology (earlier post) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea’s Posco, one of the largest steel producers in the world, covering the implementation of its gas fermentation technology to convert the steel maker’s flue gases to ethanol and other value added products.
LanzaTech uses non-food renewable resources to produce ethanol and also 2,3-Butanediol (2,3-BD), a key building block used to make polymers, plastics and hydrocarbon fuels. It has investment from K1W1 (New Zealand), Khosla Ventures (US) and Qiming Ventures (China) as well as funding from the New Zealand and US governments.
Posco is a Korean conglomerate with interests in steel, power, energy, engineering and construction. Its crude steel production for 2010 was 33.7 million tons.
LanzaTech chief executive Dr Jennifer Holmgren says her team is delighted to have the opportunity to partner in technology with Posco, which has a research and development budget of 1.7% of consolidated revenue: US$476 million of US$28.1 billion in 2010.
Posco’s environmentally conscious policies are consistent with LanzaTech’s technology vision of reducing the carbon footprint while increasing energy efficiencies at industrial facilities. The proposed licensing by Posco of our patented microbe and fermentation process fits with our growth strategy in Asia.—Dr Holmgren
Noi-Ha Cho, chief technology officer of Posco, says gas fermentation technology creates more value from by-products of the steel process.
It provides a new way to produce green energy and it will also contribute to reducing CO2 in steel plants.—Noi-Ha Cho
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars confirmed the development of 102EX, a one-off, fully electric-powered Phantom, to debut at the Geneva Motor Show on 1 March 2011. The car will tour during 2011, serving as a test bed to gather research data which will be used in informing future decisions on alternative drive-trains for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
We have engineered the world’s first battery electric vehicle for the ultra-luxury segment. With this vehicle, we begin an exploration into alternative drive-trains, seeking clarity on which alternative technologies may be suitable to drive Rolls-Royce motor cars of the future.—CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos
With 102EX, also known as the Phantom Experimental Electric (EE), the company intends to carefully test the opinions and reactions to alternative drive-train options of a range of stakeholders including owners, enthusiasts, members of the public and the media. 102EX will serve as a working test bed for a global tour that takes in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America. Through test drives, owners will be given the opportunity to experience an alternative drive-train technology and to feedback their experiences, thoughts and concerns directly to Rolls-Royce.
Although there are no plans to develop a production version, as one of the company’s EX models it will serve to begin a dialogue with existing owners and stakeholders, posing as well as answering questions of its audience. These include the car’s ability to deliver an acceptable range between re-charges and to operate in extreme weather conditions. But also to benchmark reliability and quality against customer expectations of the world’s pinnacle automotive brand.
In preparation for the Geneva debut, Rolls-Royce will launch the website www.electricluxury.com this week, a portal to fuel a wider global debate seeking views on the question of electric luxury from media, VIPs and stakeholders. The site will also deliver regular updates of the car’s progress while on tour.
Clorox Discloses Additional Ingredients Info
February 9, 2011 – The Clorox Company is expanding its communications strategy in an effort to help consumers make informed choices about the products they use in and around their homes. The company is disclosing additional information about the chemicals in its products through its “Ingredients Inside” program.
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Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist’s video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn’t degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.
By CAP’s Lee Hamill and Valeri Vasquez.
What happens when military leaders and CEOs join forces? A nation gets a plan for action. In their February 9th report released by Secure America’s Energy Future, or SAFE, the Energy Security Leadership Council, or ESLC, follows through on a muscular statement of purpose and minces no words:
Hostile state actors, insurgents, and terrorists have made clear their intention to use oil as a strategic weapon against the United States.
Ok, we’re listening.
The report, “Transportation Policies for America’s Future: Strengthening Energy Security and Promoting Economic Growth,” ticks off solutions systematically, with a strategic efficiency characteristic of its authors and their day jobs. Policy recommendations zero in on basic economic principles, drawing a direct connection between Americans’ dependence on foreign oil and our national energy security. Uppermost among the proposals is a focus on using oil reduction as a key criterion for transportation policies and investments.
Ours is a Cadillac nation. Transportation alone accounts for 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption, making it an obvious target for oil reduction. The report warns that infrastructure design is not in line with demand, and calls for a significant overhaul:
According to USDOT statistics, physical highway capacity since 1980 has remained essentially unchanged while total miles traveled on the U.S. highway system have almost doubled. The Texas Transportation Institute reports that drivers in metropolitan areas experienced 4.8 billion hours of delay in 2009, wasting 3.9 billion gallons of fuel.
So besides promoting the implementation of final and proposed fuel efficiency standards, and an increased use of alternative fuels, the report lays out several policy options to further reduce oil demand by bolstering investments in infrastructure that lower oil use.
Rather than fund new projects, the report calls for a “fix it first” strategy. Half the nation’s states are guilty of poor infrastructure management, and there are currently projects being funded that build upon these deteriorating roads and highways. In order to see measurable improvements, the report recommends fixing what’s broken before building something new. This benefits American drivers, since 30 percent of fatal accidents are caused by old roads and unsafe highway conditions. Vehicles driven on repaired roads also achieve better fuel economy.
The Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT, fees proposed as a replacement to current fuel taxes are an interesting proposal. Applying above revenue-neutral fees could save between 45 and 180 thousand barrels per day. What differentiates VMTs from fuel taxes is that instead of taxing gas, VMTs tax the number of miles traveled. Just as they were with fuel taxes, the revenue from VMTs would be invested in transportation infrastructure. As biofuels begin to play a bigger role in the energy market, states with fuel taxes will suffer as their investment funds fall with the falling consumption of fuel. The challenge of a VMT task is to ensure that it does not punish drivers with more fuel efficient vehicles, which the existing tax gas favors because drivers who use less gasoline pay less tax.
Other policy suggestions drawn from the report include reducing road congestion via federal funding and demand-side management. Consolidating federal transportation programs and eliminating duplicate efforts would free a percentage of annual federal transportation funding to be redirected towards congestion-management initiatives like public transportation. The authors also propose a plan for state congestion pricing, or charging travellers for road usage during periods of peak demand. Funds would be redistributed every two years based on factors such as congestion levels and the fuel wasted by idling in traffic. Already proven effective in London, this method has helped clear up traffic while reducing the amount of wasted gas— not to mention road rage. Here at home, the policy could save an estimated 4.8 billion barrels of oil over the next two decades.
High speed rail (HSR) already has a high-level campion in Vice President Joe Biden. SAFE and the ELSC support it as well. The report suggests that 20 percent of total infrastructure funding be allotted to intercity highways and passenger rail. The ELSC analysis clearly shows rail as a viable option that’s becoming steadily more popular as gas prices rise. Both 2007 and 2008 experienced the highest volume of rail passengers in over 50 years.
While there are several intercity rail systems already in place, there is only one HSR service in the country: the Acela Express. It knocks 1.5 hours of travel time off the commute between Boston, DC, Philadelphia, and New York. As the Center for American Progress noted in the article “It’s Easy Being Green: Rail Transport Picks up Speed,” there are enormous environmental and oil savings benefits to HSR. The proposed California HSR system alone would save 12.7 million barrels of oil by 2030 and “remove 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year by 2030 because it uses electricity generated from wind, solar, and other renewable resources.”
The three objectives when it comes to rail funding are improving the operating efficiencies of existing systems, renovating current systems, and expanding rail in areas where it makes economic sense. The report supports HSR with the business-minded qualification that it should be implemented where demand exists. And there is demand in some metropolitan areas. The American Recovery Act of 2009, which set aside $8 billion for HSR, was a great promotion for HSR and other intercity rail systems. Since then, $50 billion has been requested by 24 different states for HSR project funding. As of November 2010, $7.9 billion had been used to fund nearly 80 projects across the country. The governors of New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin would be well advised to reconsider their rejection of HSR, given the jobs this system would create in
the planning, design, and construction of track and station infrastructure as well as the management, design, and manufacturing of high-speed trains. A study by the California High-Speed Rail Authority found that building their proposed HSR system—which would run from Los Angeles to San Francisco and voters OK’d in 2008—will create 150,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs.
The U.S. can and must reduce its oil consumption. “Transportation Policies for America’s Future: Strengthening Energy Security and Promoting Economic Growth,” represents some refreshing proposals to the debate. By focusing on “fix it first,” Vehicle Miles Traveled, and high speed rail strategies, the report provides a guide to improving our transportation sector, more efficiently connecting our population and cutting our oil use in the process.
Read the full ELSC report here.
– By Lee Hamill and Valeri Vasquez of the CAP Energy Policy Team.
Siemens and the Economist Intelligence Unit have worked to rank the greenest cities in Asia. In an interesting study they compare 20 leading Asian business capitals and rank them across eight areas. These were: energy and CO2, land use and buildings, transport, waste, water, sanitation, air quality and environmental governance. . And the results were
There were some other very significant findings :
Environmental awareness is growing, and the majority of the Asian cities have already introduced comprehensive environmental guidelines.
Average annual CO2 emissions per capita are 4.6 tons in the Asian cities, and below the corresponding figure for Europe …
Advances in Producing Hydrogen by Mimicry of Photosynthesis
Image: Hydrogen spectrum, cosmiccandace
Last time we checked in on Thomas Mallouk’s work applying biomimicry to generate hydrogen, he was reporting about 0.3 percent efficiency. According to his projections, the proof-of-concept device for producing hydrogen using the same trick applied in plants for photosynthesis could eventually reach efficiencies of 10-15%, beating nature’s average of 1 to 3 percent. Mallouk is back at the annual meeting of the… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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The Tree on Stage: Wood Furniture That Connects to Nature
Photo: Alex Davies
At TreeHugger, we’ve got a bit of a thing for good wood furniture: tables, chairs, shelves and other pieces that are beautiful and built to last. A few weeks back, I wrote about Olivier Dollé, whose furniture evokes the trees that are the source of the wood he uses. Now I give you the work of Edy Boucher, another French lover of wood, whose work emphasizes even more the connection of nature and design…. Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Why Food Is ‘The New Indie Rock’ — And Why That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
An indie-music festival in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jennifer Hattam.
With foodies getting flack for being elitist, fad-focused, and out of touch with how and what people really eat, The Guardian‘s “Ask the indie professor” columnist comes along with a piece comparing them to indie-rock fans — an analogy that, somewhat surprisingly, brings out some of the best qualities in both groups…. Read the full story on TreeHugger
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