Business & Technology

Coal-burning energy company demands more regulation

Baltimore company Constellation Energy has retrofitted two coal-burning power plants in anticipation of new EPA emissions laws. Now a lawsuit has delayed the new regulations from being enacted, and Constellation is pissed; if they're going to shell out $885 million to be in compliance, by god everyone else should have to, too. So they're flipping a Uie from usual energy company behavior, and agitating for stricter rules.

Critical List: Toxic chemicals on the rise; baby seals in trouble

The EPA may retest water in Dimock, Pa., where residents have linked polluted water to fracking operations. In its first round of testing the town's water, the EPA declared it safe. GM is fixing up the Volt in order to avoid in real-life battery fires like the ones that started during testing. As winter sea ice disappears in the Arctic, fewer baby harp seals are making it. The amount of toxic chemicals shunted into the environment went up 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, according a new EPA report.

Climate change bumps prices at Starbucks

Crap weather means that the wholesale price of arabica beans is at a 14-year high of $3.09 per pound, and coffee distributors are blaming climate …

Embattled teen genius actually better, smarter than most people

Back in August, the Internet discovered Aidan Dwyer, a 13-year-old go-getter who worked out a way to make solar panels more efficient. Because nobody likes a 13-year-old go getter, the Internet basically told him NO YOU'RE WRONG. Okay, so he should have measured power instead of voltage when testing his solar panel design. But it turns out Dwyer is totally getting the last laugh here, and is proving that nerdy 13-year-old go-getters actually are just better at life than most people on the Internet. Dwyer's spoken at PopTech's annual innovation conference and is scheduled to speak at the World Future Energy Summit.

Critical List: Patagonia becomes a Benefit Corporation; oil industry threatens Obama

Patagonia has become a Benefit Corporation, which means it can prioritize goals other than profit. The oil industry is sending a message to Obama: Approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or face the political music in 2012. It is possible to avoid earthquakes when disposing of fracking wastewater. It's just really, really expensive. The U.S. isn't the only country leery of the EU's carbon trading airline scheme: China's protesting, too.

Fossil fuels receive 250 different kinds of subsidies

Even though renewables get federal subsidies for research and development, they’re still at a disadvantage when competing with fossil fuels, because fossil fuels receive even more subsidies. We basically all knew that already, but few of us realized it was quite this bad. Turns out fossil fuels get 250 different kinds of subsidies, and they’re getting more all the time.

Huge strides in fuel efficiency innovation canceled out by bigger cars

If, and this is true, automakers have made huge strides in fuel efficiency over the past 30 years, why aren't we all driving the 100 MPG ubercars we were promised at Epcot Center when we were but wee lads and lasses? The answer is that our cars, like our homes and just about everything else we consume, have been supersized, says MIT economist Christopher Knittel.

Screw China: American scientists are finding replacements for rare earth

Priuses, wind turbines, and other clean technologies require rare earth materials, which generally go into ultra-strong magnets that help power clean technology. But rare earth elements have a couple of problems: China controls most of the supply, they require less-than-environmentally-friendly mining to get at, and, uh, they’re rare. So there's a race on to create a replacement magnet component that doesn't require rare earth. CleanTechnica reports that a team at Boston's Northeastern University has taken one step in the right direction -- developing a material with similar magnetic properties to rare earth.


Fixies to the people! Building a business on no-frills bikes

Here's the formula: Take a bike, boil it down to the basics -- frame, wheels, pedals, seat, handlebars. Offer it online, cheap. Then stand back and watch people snatch them up.