Archives for September, 2011

A major study modeled after goal-setting reports from the Departments of Defense and State, the first Quadrennial Technology Review by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), called for a shift in energy research and development priorities to reduce America’s dependence on oil. “Reliance on oil is the greatest immediate threat to U.S. economic and national…

At the 2011 Solar Decathlon, where collegiate teams are displaying their super-efficient model homes for judging in Washington, D.C., Planet Forward host Frank Sesno speaks with Don Ferrier, president of Ferrier Custom Homes, about green roofs. (Related Photos: Solar’s Model Homes at the 2011 Decathlon) Using the University of Maryland WaterShed model home as a…

With so many business ventures vying for a piece of the green economy pie, it’s hard for investors to know which firm will be the next SunPower and which will be the next Solyndra. AlwaysOn, a business media and social networking company in Silicon Valley, CA, has released its list of the 200 top private…

Ever have those days when you feel you just can’t get ahead? That’s been the story with energy efficiency for some time now. There’s a constant stream of highly touted innovations designed to get the same amount of work done using less energy. You can hardly open up a catalog or walk into a store…

Wangari Muta Maathi, the Nobel Prize-winning environmental activist who founded the Green Belt Movement, died Sunday at Nairobi Hospital at the age of 71 after “a prolonged and bravely borne struggle with cancer,” her website announced. I got to know Mwalimu Maathai initially 20 years ago when working on stove and woodlot projects in rural…

A leaked World Bank document, due to be presented at the G20 meeting in November, proposes that rich countries eliminate their fossil fuel subsidies and instead contribute the money to climate aid for poor countries to help with green energy and adaptation measures. The paper also said donor countries are unlikely to come up with…

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a bi-annual competition among collegiate teams to build solar-powered houses, opens to the public this Friday in Washington, D.C. Twenty teams from around the world will compete in 10 contests including architecture, affordability, home entertainment, and energy balance. The sustainable technology in the competing houses makes them interesting,…

A Surge of Wind Over Brazil

Brazil has suddenly realized the attractiveness of its immense wind power potential. Once deemed too expensive and small-scale, unable to meet the country’s power needs, it is now braced to grow sevenfold to 2014. Brazil has today a dismal 1 gigawatt of wind power installed capacity. But the government’s regulatory agency has already approved an…

When it comes to water from hydrofracking, the question of safety is murky at best. The Chemical Cocktail of Fracking Fluid For many folks the big baddie of hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, is fracking fluid — the mixture of water, sand, and chemicals that’s injected deep below the surface to fracture the…

The U.S. nuclear industry needs more qualified people and better equipment to assess seismic risk for its nuclear plants, panelists told regulators in a meeting on post-Fukushima safety recommendations this week in Rockville, Md. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Japan Near-Term Task Force report, which was released in July, outlined 12 action items for bolstering plant…

Former U. S. President Dwight Eisenhower was particularly fond of the saying, “plans are nothing; planning is everything” to describe his desire for teams in his administration to carefully describe what they hoped to achieve, and how far and fast they were moving to actually achieve those goals. The analytic tools were useful, but what…

President Obama unveiled a new job creation plan in a major speech to Congress last week and follow-up speeches this week, in which he called for an end to tax breaks for oil and gas companies to bring in an additional $32 billion over 10 years to pay for increased government spending. Earlier this year,…

The Obama administration has given another boost to big solar in California, finalizing the $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee for Abengoa Solar’s 250-megawatt (MW) Mojave Solar project. The financing, which had been conditionally set in June, joins a host of loan guarantees closing before the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Section 1705 program for renewable…

As others have noted, Obama said very little about green jobs in his jobs speech last Thursday.  But when he proposed to pay for his new plan, he targeted the subsidies we give to the oil and gas industry and allocated $40 billion in cuts from these very, very profitable companies to partially pay for…

The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to bring Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries, is being billed as a make-or-break moment for energy: Will America place its bets on fossil fuels, or we will turn instead to more reliance on renewable energy? It’s an important debate, but one crucial point that’s often missed…

It is not widely discussed, but the United States does, in fact, have a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. In the heady days of January 2010 after the Copenhagen Climate Conference, many nations put pen to paper and wrote to the UNFCCC pledging to reduce emissions by 2020 relative to some baseline. This was a…

Today, America relies on oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear to power our country. But our aging infrastructure demands refurbishment to meet 21st century needs. As Amory Lovins explains in his upcoming book, Reinventing Fire, efficiency and renewables can end our addiction to fossil fuels, create the core industries of the new energy era, generate…

Solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which recently filed for bankruptcy, got special treatment from the Obama administration, some have alleged, since the company’s $535 million in federally guaranteed loans had much lower interest rates than those of other green energy companies, according to an investigative report. The FBI raided Solyndra’s Fremont, Calif., offices Thursday, although it…

What’s the moment at which sick children and premature deaths from asthma become the priority? Earlier this summer, the EPA presented the president with a proposal to reduce the amount of ozone–a key contributor to smog–that’s allowed in our air. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had referred to the existing smog standard as “legally indefensible.” Last…

Obama: A No-Go on Ozone

A tactical retreat or an abdication? It’s a scant 14 months to the 2012 elections. The economy’s in the tank, as are the president’s poll numbers. (See here, here, here and here.) The pundits tell us (for instance here and here) that Obama will pivot to jobs, jobs, jobs in an effort to rehabilitate his…

More than 200 people were reportedly arrested Saturday at the White House on the final day of a two-week stretch of sit-ins against the planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas. (Related: “Is Canadian Oil Bound for China Via Pipeline to Texas?“) Tar Sands…

Hundreds of protesters—including famed climate researcher James Hansen—have been arrested in protests in front of the White House over the past two weeks, in an attempt to stop the construction of a pipeline from Canada to Texas to carry diluted tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries, mainly over concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and risks…

What will it take to foster and spread the ideas and practices needed for sustainable development? One thing that has stirred innovative thinking are the positive results of recent prize competitions. Perhaps the most notable of these–so far–has been the Ansari X Prize. The Ansari X Prize was a space competition in which the X…

Nearly two months after a rupture at ExxonMobil’s Silvertip oil pipeline spilled at least 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, there is no end in sight to the cleanup efforts. The company recently said that the process has been more difficult than expected, and estimated that cleanup would continue for several months…