Saturday, December 31, 2005

Britain lists top 10 green projects of 2005

The British Department of Trade and Industry has named the top 10 new green projects of 2005.

The list includes three wind farms, three solar-power projects, and two examples of microgeneration (mini power plants.) The other projects are a biomass plant in Northern Ireland that produces a new wood pellet bio fuel created by burning sawdust and woodchips, and a wave buoy project off the north Cornwall coast.

Britain has set a goal of generating 10 percent if its electricity from renewable energy by 2010.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Plug-In Hybrid Development Consortium Grows

Plug-in hybrids are attracting more and more attention. Southern California Edison has now joined a consortium of automotive suppliers, manufacturers and other organizations working together to accelerate the commercial production of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

Another new member joining the Consortium recently is Enax, makers of advanced Lithium batteries from Japan. Enax is also known for their high power battery technology capable of 5 minute rapid recharge and robotic manufacturing techniques.

The Consortium was organized to help reduce the R&D gap between component suppliers and OEMs; and to coordinate and accelerate the development of critical new solutions while reducing the development time for the next generation hybrid vehicles. The members of this growing Consortium plan to develop compatible components and cost-effective working designs, that would enable a plug-in hybrid that achieves 100-200 total mpg petroleum economy by driving its first 25 - 50 miles in all electric zero emission mode. This "Dual Mode" PHEV will then continue to operate in a high-efficiency hybrid electric mode to achieve conventional range of operation.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"There's a find future in water."

Water is becoming a major commodity for specultion in Colorado. According to water trader Alvin Geist; "It's fast. It's fast money."

Despite a Colorado legal doctrine intended to prohibit speculating on water, the practice is not a crime and can be stopped only in cases that come before a water court judge. Geist isn't shy about declaring that he has made a fortune through it.

He is one of a group of savvy investors who work largely behind the scenes buying and selling rights to water in irrigation companies, water conservancy districts and other markets - in one case doubling the paper value of their investment in a single afternoon.

Colorado Common Cause spokesman Pete Maysmith questions these sales; "Something broke down here. It just doesn't feel right."

But in an age when the Colorado no longer makes it to the sea, these sort of price dealings in water can be no surprise, and will likely only worsten in the future.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Scientists Study Suburbia

Jennifer Jenkins of the University of Vermont urged scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union to increase their study of suburbia.

Jenkins is involved in a study of suburban yards near Baltimore attempting to see how much carbon diozide the lawns absorb and give off.

Ecologists have alwaystudied forests and bogs, deserts and tundra and rain forest, but only recently did they turn to suburbia, perhaps because people-dominated landscapes are so complicated and always changing, or maybe they're just less exotic places to work.

Suburban sprawl has profound influences on the environment. According to one study, more than 43,000 square miles of the United States is paved or built upon, an area roughly the size of Ohio. This pavement increases runnoff of rainwater that would otherwise soak into the ground. This increased runoff sweeps up fertilizers used on lawns and gardens, contributing to the growth of dead zones in rivers and bays.

Scientists hope to use their findings to design more environmentally friendly suburbs. Pavements that absorb some water, rain barrels that catch runoff water, or sod roofs could help control polluting runoff.

One scientist commented; "We have to be patient. It's taken us 100 years to get into this state of having messed things up. It's going to take us a little time to recover."

Unfortunately we likely won't have 100 years to solve the problem.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mexico City is Sinking

Mexico City's 20 million inhabitants are draining the aquifer under the city, causing it to sink, wreaking havok on the city infratructure.

Walls of buildings are buckled, balconies lean at unnatural angles. Pavements and roads are cracked. 223 new steps had to be added to the famous statue celebrating Mexico's independence from Spain as the ground sank around it.

Estimates are that the city has sunk more than 9 meters in the last 100 years.

Still, conservation remains a low priority for the government. Some 40% of the water pumped from the aquifer is lost due to leaks in the aging supply system.

One in four people have no access to piped fresh water and must rely on water that is trucked in once a week.

Ilan Adler, an environmental scientist, has developed a system to harvest rain which now provides 80% of the water at his university, but there is little hope of widespread adoption of such a system anytime soon.

Mexico is squandering its water supply just as the U.S. is squandering the world's oil supplies. Both are in a state of denial and, apparently, will react only when the crisis reaches a critical stage.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Conservation Pays

According to Stanford author Walter Reid, California's strict environmental laws saved consumers and businesses $56 billion through gains in efficiency since the first major oil price spike in the 1970s.

Reid studied the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo and California, both in countries that have not signed the Kyoto accord. Both have made concerted efforts to cut greenhouse gases. Contrary to the critics, both have saved money. California's per capita creation of greenhouse gasses is now half that of the U.S. as a whole.

The heads of both states will be at the Montreal greenhouse gas meeting this week and will sign a pact to reduce greenhouse gases.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set California's target to reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 to 80 percent of 1990 levels.

For decades companies and states relied on relatively low-cost energy supplies but with oil and natural gas prices more than triple what they were in the late 1990s, investment in renewable energy sources is a no-brainer according to Reid.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Federal Agencies Agree to Abide By the Law

Four federal agencies have settled a lawsuit that sought to make them buy thousands of vehicles that would run on natual gas, electricity, ethanol, propane and other alternative fuels as required by the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992.

The Energy Policy Act required that 75% of all new cars and light trucks bought by federal agencies run on alternative fuels.

Originally the lawsuit was brought against 14 agencies, but 9 had already moved to meet the law's requirements. The CIA has not yet reported its vehicle purchases.

The agencies will be required an estimated 5,000 environmentally friendly vehicles. Peter Galvin, conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought the lawsuit, believes that, "These purchases will help these technologies mature into the mainstream so that eventually the consumer has a broader choice of alternative fuel technologies. The public deserves environmentally sound technology that will allow us to have clean air and stem the tide of global warming."

Another part of the lawsuit is still to be decided; whether the Energy Department must require large private fleets, such as those run by FedEx or UPS, to buy alternative fuel vehicles.