Todd Woody

Todd Woody is an environmental and technology journalist based in California who writes for The New York Times, Quartz, and other publications.

road kill

In the age of electric cars, who pays for highways?

Charging up a Chevy Volt. Photo courtesy mkooiman via FlickrHere’s a conundrum as the electric-car future arrives: Once we all start hitting the highway in our Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts and Think City’s, who’s going to pay for our roads? State and federal excise taxes on every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States currently finance a big chunk of road construction and pothole fixing, as Allan Schurr, an IBM executive, pointed out to me Tuesday when we sat down for some green car chat in San Francisco. It’s one of the many consequences of constructing an electron-fueled alternative …

It's a breeze

Cape Wind decision may take green power national

Offshore wind turbinePhoto courtesy phault via FlickrWhen Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced federal approval of the Cape Wind project on Wednesday, the media coverage tended to focus on the denouement of a nearly decade-long battle over the United States’ first offshore wind farm. And indeed, our East Coast cousins put Californians to shame when it comes to green NIMBYism. (Not to dismiss legitimate environmental concerns over offshore wind farms, but the nine-year struggle to put 130 wind turbines in the Kennedy’s backyard in Nantucket Sound makes the permitting of Mojave Desert solar power plants look like a breeze by comparison.) …

Amonix has real solar news instead of Earth Day idiocy

I’m waving the green flag of surrender, crushed by the organic cotton-gloved fist of the enviro-public relations-industrial complex. I will write an Earth Day column, my resistance broken by the ceaseless pitches from corporate PR people to include “in your Earth Day coverage” everything from how to “go green between the sheets [and] make your love life sustainable,” to a certain multinational beverage company’s LEED-certified bottling plant, to a defense contactor’s environmental initiatives. It just won’t be a column about any of those things. As I fruitlessly explained to those who wouldn’t take their deleted pitches and unanswered phone calls …

A ray of sunshine

Creative financing fuels California solar boom

Dropping my son off at school on Wednesday, I ran into Danny Kennedy, a fellow parent and veteran Australian Greenpeace activist turned solar entrepreneur. How’s business? I asked. Pretty bloody good, as it turns out. Kennedy’s startup, Sungevity, took in more orders for rooftop solar systems in March than in all of 2009. That solar flare is being fueled in large part, according to Kennedy, by a new lease option Sungevity recently began offering its customers. The option is financed through a $24 million deal with U.S. Bank. Rather than purchasing a solar array, customers can lease the system through …

Blow say can you see

Wind industry growing in blue and red states alike

Photo: NREL/Iberdrola RenewablesAs Paul Krugman’s New York Times Magazine cover story on environmental economics, “Building the Green Economy,” was ricocheting around the enviro blogosphere last week, the American Wind Energy Association released its annual report [PDF] on the state of the wind industry. It was an interesting juxtaposition — Krugman’s deep dive into the macroeconomics of an aggressive cap-and-trade or carbon-tax policy to limit greenhouse-gas emissions alongside a report from the frontlines where the green economy is actually under construction. What’s striking is that the wind farm–building boom continued through the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, with a …

Urba-culture

Sustainable urban farming ideas that think inside the box

Photo via .hello foto of FlickrIn my last Green State column, I wrote about Agriculture 2.0. The conference, held in Silicon Valley recently, brought together venture capitalists and sustainable ag startups in an effort to jump start a market for the regional distribution of fresh food. This week I take a closer look at some of the companies that tried to catch the ear and checkbooks of the high-profile investors who packed that confab at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. One of the more intriguing ideas came from startups thinking outside the agribusiness box by developing urban farms in …

Big money on small ag

Silicon Valley investors place bets on sustainable ag

I attended an agriculture conference this week at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. There were no pickup trucks in the BMW-packed parking lot, and few farmers with dirt under their fingernails could be found milling about the sleek hotel lobby. But the place was swarming with venture capitalists from some of Silicon Valley’s marquee firms looking to grow profits with investments in sustainable agriculture. Welcome to Agriculture 2.0. That was the name of the conference and represents a growing effort to scale up sustainable agriculture from a hodge-podge of hippies and back-to-the-land types into a viable big business by …

Hohm, sweet home

Things you didn’t know about your furnace

At a dinner this week in San Francisco, I found myself seated between Matt Golden, co-founder of energy efficiency retrofitter Recurve — the startup formerly known as Sustainable Spaces — and Cisco DeVries, co-founder of Renewable Funding, the Oakland outfit that pioneered municipal financing of residential solar arrays. The hot topic was Home Star — aka Cash for Caulkers — the proposed $6 billion federal energy efficiency rebate program now wending its way through Congress. The bill is being cast as a way to fight climate change, lower energy bills for 3.3 million homes and create an estimated 168,000 sustainable …

FOREVER PLASTIC

Breakthrough polymers promise versatile, immortal plastics — a good thing

If you want to build a sustainable street, neighborhood, city, or world, I have one word for you: plastics. The facts about plastic have become part of the green liturgy. More than 30 million tons of the stuff is dumped into the municipal waste stream each year in the United States. Disposable water bottles have become the Hummer of plastics — a petroleum-fueled symbol of extravagant waste, a F-You to the planet with some 13 billion of them ending up in landfills, littering landscapes and befouling oceans. But the reality is that even if you pried every Evian and Dasani …

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