Todd Woody

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

Green Cars

China charges up the on-ramp of the electric highway

Electric charging stations like this one in Shenzhen could become a common sight in China if the government sticks to its ambitious EV goals.Photo: Remko TanisWhen it comes to the future of electric cars, as with other green technologies, the wild card is China. The People’s Republic has invested billions in renewable energy and has become a solar superpower in photovoltaic manufacturing. It’s also poised to one day potentially blow away the competition in wind turbine production. China’s new five-year plan calls for dramatic increases in energy efficiency and designates electric cars as a strategic industry. (The government has set …

Green Cars

Free ride: Rising oil prices boost electric cars’ affordability

Will car buyers get the message?Photo: Tom LafteryOne of the biggest knocks against electric cars, other than their current range, is the rather steep upfront cost due to the price of the battery. Of course, you’re essentially pre-paying much of your fuel costs for the life of the car. But that’s a hard message to get across to a potential buyer contemplating forking over $41,000 for a Chevrolet Volt or $33,000 for a Nissan Leaf before state and federal incentives. However, rising gasoline prices — now topping $4 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area — may finally drive …

Green Cars

Charging ahead: Report predicts 3.8 million electrics on road by 2016

The Volt is still charging up.As the first mass-market electric cars start to, slowly, hit the streets, the big question is whether battery-powered vehicles are the future or a fad. The answer won’t be known for years but a new report from GTM Research offers some interesting insights into where the electric road might lead. The report, “The Networked EV: The Convergence of Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles,” predicts there will be 3.8 million electric cars on the road worldwide by 2016, with about 1.5 million in the United States, 1.5 million in Europe and 760,000 in Asia. “It is …

Dumbing down smart meters

PG&E to let customers disable their smart meters — for a price

Over the past year, a revolt against the rollout of utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s smart meters has swept through Northern California as some customers claimed the devices’ wireless transmission of electricity data was harming their health. In response, city councils in a number of cities tried to ban their installation. On Thursday, PG&E, acting under orders from state regulators, unveiled a proposal to let customers have their smart meter’s radio turned off — for a price. PG&E would charge a one-time fee ranging from $105 to $270 and then customers would pay between $14 and $20 a month for …

Serious sh*t

California going to sh*t — for green electricity

This is an opportunity we want to go down the drain.Recession-wracked California is truly going down the toilet. For green energy, that is. In a gift to headline writers everywhere, the California Energy Commission on Wednesday handed out nearly $1 million to fund an experimental project to convert what it politely refers to as “biosolids” into electricity. In other words, sh*t. Okay, we’ll suppress our inner 12-year-old boy now. This is serious sh*t. No, really, we’ll stop. Biosolids are a nasty pollution problem; beyond human waste, they can also include a sludge of heavy metals and other toxins left over …

The sun will come up tomorrow

San Francisco mayor calls for city to go 100% renewable by 2020

San Francisco’s mayor wants an all-renewable town.Photo: jfraserWhere could you get 797 people to stand in line outside a nightclub to attend a $100-a-ticket fundraiser for a nonprofit that advocates for solar energy? Not-so-sunny San Francisco, of course. The queue to get into the Vote Solar Initiative annual spring equinox bash snaked down the street Monday, and even the sun made an appearance during a break in the deluge that has been soaking the Bay Area for the past week. Now, I don’t cover the party beat. But as someone who lived in San Francisco during the dot-com boom of …

Not the usual suspects

Cities with the most energy efficient buildings: L.A., Houston, Detroit, Dallas

It’s that time of year, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency releases its list of the top 10 American cities [PDF] with the most energy efficient buildings. In this case, that means commercial buildings that have earned an Energy Star rating that signifies they consume 35 percent less energy and release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than average buildings. For the third year running, Los Angeles, generally not considered a paragon of restraint, snagged the No. 1 spot in 2010 with 510 Energy Star buildings, up from 293 buildings in the previous year. That 75 percent …

Life is meshy

Can peer-to-peer sharing green the planet?

It’s all about the connections.Photo: Côte d’AzurBy the third day of any conference, one’s eyes begin to glaze over. But Lisa Gansky provided an intellectual jolt on the final morning of the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco this week when she appeared on stage to talk about “the Mesh.” That’s what Gansky, a veteran Internet entrepreneur, calls the confluence of social networks, GPS-enabled mobile technology (smartphones, iPads, and the like) and the tagging of physical objects with chips that pinpoint their location. “The Mesh is a fundamental shift in our relationship to the things in our lives,” said Gansky, who …

Keeping it clean

This year’s Cleantech Forum: Less sexy, more efficient

Looking for new ways to get in the cleantech game.Photo: emilydickinsonridesabmxIt’s a rite of spring, the annual Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. Venture capitalists, startup entrepreneurs, and various hangers-on gather at an upscale hotel to network, pitch, and hopefully clinch some deals. There are scores of these green biz conferences, of course, and after awhile they all tend to blend together in a mashup of hype and prognosticating. Still, the Cleantech Forum is one I make an effort to attend, and not just because it’s a short BART ride from Berkeley. Over the years, I’ve found the confab to be …

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