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"He deserves the win"

Prius will no longer be silent under 5 mph

The silent approach of the Prius' hybrid-electric motor is legendary. And by legendary, I mean it's pretty incredible that a mundane fact about the Prius' (lack of) noise has successfully managed to percolate pop culture. Fans of the TV show The Office will, of course, realize that I'm talking about how this quietly creeping car was turned into the weapon of choice in modern TV duels. "The Prius is silent if he keeps it under 5 mph. He deserves the win." But all this hilarity about the not-a-peep Prius will soon be drowned out by the news that, as of …


California greening

Anti-Prop 23 campaign taps out-of-state donors

Prop 23 opponents, like its supporters, are now tapping out-of-state donors to help bankroll their campaign.With the campaign season revving up, even more money is starting to flow into the campaign to defeat Proposition 23. Prop 23 is the California ballot initiative that would suspend the state's landmark climate change law. Its opponents had been relying mostly on the largesse of a California coalition of environmental groups and Silicon Valley's venture capitalists and tech elite to finance their No on 23 campaign. But now the No forces are tapping out-of-state donors. On Thursday, they got $250,000 from New York investor …


shifting gears

A global shift to renewable energy: But will it be fast enough?

A new energy economy is on the horizon.Photo courtesy Kevin Dooley via FlickrAs fossil fuel prices rise, as oil insecurity deepens, and as concerns about climate change cast a shadow over the future of coal, a new energy economy is emerging. The old energy economy, fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas, is being replaced by one powered by wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Despite the global economic crisis, this energy transition is moving at a pace and on a scale that we could not have imagined even two years ago. And it is a worldwide phenomenon. Consider Texas. Long …


Friday Flashback

Mystery island, magical bikes, and 8 other green stories to keep you in the loop

What a week. While scientists testifying on Capitol Hill trashed the government's estimates on how much oil lingers in the Gulf, sound-sensitive munchers everywhere trashed the new compostable Sun Chips bag because it's louder than a New York subway train. Really. But here's some under-the-radar items that will provide even more snappy repartee fodder for your weekend social soirees: The Copenhagen Wheel.Photo: SENSEable Cities LabThe wheel deal: Hybrid bikes may soon be getting a lot cooler. Using a principle from Formula 1 racing, a team from MIT's SENSEable Cities Lab is moving forward with an invention they call the Copenhagen …


Waste not, want not

Flush away greenhouse gases

FuelCell Energy: Giving new meaning to the phrase "a powerful poop."Photo courtesy starryeyez via FlickrIt's been a crappy week -- and I mean that in a good way. On Wednesday, I wrote about the California egg farm that bought a 1.4-megawatt fuel cell powered by biogas produced from chicken poo. (Forget free-range eggs; carbon-free could become all the rage with fashion-forward foodies.) Now the company that makes the fuel generator, FuelCell Energy, said it has signed a deal to provide two 300-kilowatt fuel cells to a Southern California water district that will install the devices in wastewater treatment plants. These …


Happy retirement

Utilities can meet EPA standards without threatening reliability

As we saw, coal utilities are trying to scare Congress into thinking that if EPA follows up with its planned regulations, electricity rates will soar and there will be reliability problems in the electricity grid. Is it true? According to a comprehensive new analysis, no. It's not true. The report was commissioned from M.J. Bradley & Associates (MJBA) by a group of electric companies. MJBA recruited Susan Tierney to coauthor the report, which is pretty significant. Tierney is a widely respected expert on these issues who worked under governors of both parties in Massachusetts, in the Energy Department under Clinton, …


falling behind

The U.S.-China three legged race

In the past few weeks, how many of us have seen (or participated in) that summer staple, the three-legged race? Two people stand side by side, each placing one leg into a gunny sack, then trying to coordinate movements to stay upright while running to a picnic table at the finish line. Visualize the U.S. and China similarly tethered together, but each trying to beat the other to a prize more valuable than hot dogs and potato salad -- economic dominance in the 21st century. The two superpowers are clearly joined at the hip economically, because so much of China's …


snack, crackle, pop

The (incredibly loud) sound of SunChips on the Today Show — featuring Grist!

SunChips' biodegradable bag hit snack shelves this past Earth Day and has been making a lot of noise ever since. Literally. The excessively loud crackle of the new packaging has inspired a rash of less-than-chipper-sounding YouTube videos and Facebook pages. People have compared the bag sound to sirens, and an Air Force pilot said it's louder than the cockpit of his airplane. Watch the Today Show -- and me! -- break down the issue of the biodegradable bag: The new chip bag is made from plant material instead of plastic polymers but clocks in at 95 decibels (about the same …


Photovoltaic carports

They paved paradise and put up a (solar) parking lot

A REC solar carport in Paradise Valley, Ariz.Photo: REC SolarEvery time I fly over Phoenix, Las Vegas, or some other sprawling sun-scorched Southwest city, two thoughts come to mind: Who had the bright idea of putting black shingles on all those desert subdivisions, and why aren't those roofs covered in solar panels? Apparently the administrators at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson had the same idea. This week REC Solar, a California company, announced a deal to install a 2.9-megawatt photovoltaic array on the hospital's carports. That's in addition to the 302-kilowatt system ground-mounted system REC Solar …



A chicken poo-powered fuel cell

Ahhh, glad I took off a load of renewable energy!Photo courtesy KM&G-Morris via FlickrWhen Bloom Energy unveiled its long-awaited fuel cell earlier this year to much media attention and announced it had installed the 100-kilowatt devices at Google, eBay, and other Fortune 500 companies, there was sniping in some quarters about greenwashing as the Bloom Energy Servers ran on natural gas. But generators can also use biogas and on Tuesday a Bloom competitor, FuelCell Energy, announced the sale of a 1.4-megawatt chicken poo-powered fuel cell to an egg farm in California's Central Valley.   Olivera Egg Ranch will install an …