Business & Technology

Critical List: 481 tornado deaths this year, Texas et al. v. EPA

The average number of tornado fatalities in the U.S. each year is 55. Already this year, 481 people have died. Fifteen states, led by Texas, are looking to overturn the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health. If they fail in court, they plan to stick their fingers in their ears and go “LA LA LA.” The New York City ban on smoking in parks kicked in, bringing “clean,” “fresh” air to all. The three remaining smokers complained; no one else noticed. The U.K.'s new green investment bank will open in April with an initial 3 billion to dole …

Energy Efficiency

Behavioral nudges on electric bills could save three coal plants worth of emissions

Smarter electric bills make smarter consumers.Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about social psychology, behavioral research, and how they can be used to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. I’ve also written quite a bit about Opower, a company that uses behavioral insights to help utilities communicate more effectively with their customers. (See links at the bottom of this post.) So it’s nice to see EDF releasing a study of Opower’s work: “Behavior and Energy Savings: Evidence from a Series of Experimental Interventions” [PDF]. The results are promising. The study tracks the use of “Home Energy Reports,” which are …

Cleantech

Five hot, rockin’ geothermal companies

Cross-posted from Climate Progress. Like the natural gas sector, which has experienced an incredible boom due to new drilling techniques that allow companies to cost-effectively access unconventional gas, the geothermal sector is going through a renaissance that may open up a vast new set of resources. Traditional utility-scale geothermal, often called hydrothermal, utilizes hot water or direct steam beneath the earth to run a turbine and generate electricity. While there’s only about 11 gigawatts of capacity built around the world (the solar photovoltaic industry built 17 gigawatts in 2010 alone), the actual electricity generation from these baseload plants typically doubles …

Can barcodes enforce sustainable logging in Liberia?

Liberia, semi-miraculously, is still covered in rainforest, even though at one point in its history, warlord Charles Taylor was more or less giving arms traffickers logging tracts in exchange for weapons. The U.N. eventually noticed this problem and ended up saving the country's forests by putting an embargo on the country's "logs of war.” But now that Liberia is stable, it's interested in growing its less-than-healthy economy, and those forests are one of its more valuable resources. That means the country needs to simultaneously capitalize on its timber, and protect it (especially from logging poachers). Liberia’s solution? Put a barcode …

Critical List: Tornado hits Joplin, Missouri; Chicago preps for climate change

A half-mile wide tornado leveled a Missouri town. And another volcano in Iceland poured ash into the sky. Cut it out, nature, we get it: you don't like airplanes. In Chicago, government officials not only believe in climate change, they are preparing the city for a steamier future. Local officials have been leading on adaptation for awhile, but, in this case, it probably doesn't hurt Chicago pols to say, loudly, that the city's destined to get less frigid. High gas prices means job-seekers are looking for employment closer to home. Sounds like it's time to invest in some public transportation …

Green Cars

Turning over the new Leaf

How do the Leaf’s emissions stack up?Finally. If you don’t like being dependent on oil — but find that you do need to drive — you’ve got at least one decent option. The Nissan Leaf is the first mass-produced, mass-market electric vehicle to hit the U.S. sales floors in … well, essentially forever. (Yeah, I know about the Tesla and the EV1. But the former is too expensive to be in the range of most families, and the latter was never really offered for sale — you could only lease it.) The Leaf’s a bit pricey, but for many families …

Critical List: Bike to work today; Amazon deforestation rate rose this year

It's Bike to Work day. Now all you bike commuters know how secretaries feel on Administrative Professionals Day: “One DAY? I’ve been doing this day in and day out all year!” The rate of Amazon deforestation has been declining in recent years; this year, it climbed again. The Brazilian government is — rightly — freaking out. The head of Tokyo Electric Power, the company responsible for handling the Fukushima meltdown, resigned today. Rumor has it that BP CEO Tony Hayward has already invited him to join the new, quickly growing Ex-Heads of Disastrous Energy Companies club. (Motto: “We Just Want …

Solar Power

By 2015, we could see a new generation of photovoltaic technologies, including 3-D solar cells

Image: Solar3DCross-posted from Climate Progress. Solar photovoltaics (PV) is one of the hottest high-tech areas around. For instance, 3-D technology is all the rage these days. Now, one company thinks it can bring the concept to solar too. Santa Barbara-based Solar3D is working on a silicon “microcell” at the nano scale that uses an optical element to direct sunlight into a walled-in structure, thus capturing more photons and increasing the amount of electrons that are discharged. If a traditional solar cell is the ceiling of a room, the 3-D solar cell would be the room itself with the optical element …

Sexiest LED lightbulb ever is first true alternative to incandescents

The true successors to incandescent lightbulbs aren't CFLs, but LEDs, which are a totally different technology that, to date, has been a tad too expensive for most consumer. (Think $40 to $50 a bulb.) Switch LED aims to change that, with a bulb technology that's different in a handful of key ways. First, the bulbs are liquid-cooled — hence their vaguely glass-paperweightish appearance. Second, their tiny LED bulbs are arrayed around the outside of the larger bulb, to create more diffuse light. And they're cheap: at $20 a bulb and only 15 percent the energy draw of a traditional bulb, …

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