Business & Technology

Renewable Energy

Can the Keynes notion of ‘spontaneous optimism’ help U.S. investments in clean energy?

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  John Maynard Keynes, a giant in modern economic theory, famously wrote, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.” This notion, laid out in his seminal book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, was meant to push back on the notion that people behave in an purely economically rational manner, that many of our decisions …

New wind now costs the same as new coal — the tiebreaker is one of them kills you

The radical environmentalists at Bloomberg have declared that the world's best new wind projects now produce electricity that costs about the same as electricity produced from new coal-fired power plants. A lot goes into these calculations, but here's the bottom line: wind costs $65 a megawatt-hour, while power from new coal-fired power plants costs about $68 an hour. Coal would be much cheaper if there were no environmental controls on it. So if you like asthma, poor air quality, and premature death, be sure to vote for whichever politicians are all about rolling back environmental controls.

Renewable Energy

How green are those solar panels, anyway?

SolarWorld’s ratings aim to keep the photovoltaic industry on the sunny side.So which is the sunniest solar manufacturer of them all? I don’t mean companies whose photovoltaic panels generate the most carbon-free electricity, but which are the most environmentally friendly in their manufacturing, labor, and recycling practices. Solar modules can contain toxic materials, and they have a finite life cycle. As the industry booms — the number of megawatts installed in the United States in 2010, for instance, spiked 67 percent — photovoltaic trash eventually will become an issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition this week released its annual Solar …

Putin test-drives, makes fun of radical new hybrid

Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia's richest man and owner of the New Jersey Nets, has bankrolled an all-Russian natural gas-electric hybrid car called the ë-mobile (pronounced yo-mobile), but that wasn’t enough to impress Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his tiger blood. Putin: "This yo-mobile of yours, I hope it won't fall into pieces, will it?" Before a test-drive of the ë-mobile, the famously butch-tastic Putin also joked about whether it had the range to make it all the way to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's house. Ha ha, puny hybrid! But the car held it together, so when the rest of the world …

How a carbon-neutral product is made

Making environmentally-responsible products is hard, so kudos to M.E. Heuck Co., houseware manufacturer, for even trying. After more than a year of work with their partner FirstCarbon Solutions, they have unveiled ZEROCA Carbon Neutral Cookware. Yeah, they had to buy offsets to make it totally carbon-neutral, but first they did their best to tamp down emissions in every area they could. They also sourced their materials as responsibly as possible: The handles are made from 'farm-managed' bamboo, and the steel is 100 percent recycled. FirstCarbon helped M.E. Heuck conduct an "independent analysis of manufacturing process, including the supply chain behind …

How to prevent climate change: Blot out the sun

As Montgomery Burns reminds us, since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. That’s lucky for the top brains who attended Sunday’s conference on climate change and geoengineering — deliberately tweaking the Earth, sea, and atmosphere for improved performance. Of the several geoengineering solutions they discussed, only one promised to alter warming on a global scale: "solar radiation management," otherwise known as blocking sunlight. No word on whether they discussed sending the Planet Express ship to drop slabs of ice into the ocean. The likely SRM technique doesn’t look much like Mr. Burns’ sun-blocking machine — …

Americans are crap at recycling mercury-containing CFLs — here’s how to do better

Update: Turns out the original story on which this post is based is bunk. Check out an update direct from the EPA here: CFLs are not a significant source of mercury, says EPA Every year, Americans recycle only 2 percent of the compact fluorescent light bulbs they toss an unknown proportion of the CFLs they toss. The unrecycled portion leads to the release of four tons a negligible amount of mercury into the environment annually. That’s almost 10 percent of the amount of mercury released by coal fired power plants, which are this country's No. 1 source of the fish-and-pregnant-woman-contaminating pollutant. The problem is …

Business & Technology

Powering up: Green tech investment surges

The money’s coming in for green tech.Photo: MoneyblognewzSome good news on the environmental front for a change: Global investment in green technology in the first quarter of the year spiked 52 percent compared to the previous quarter, to $2.57 billion. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the Cleantech Group, a San Francisco research and consulting firm. The increase represents a 13 percent jump over the first quarter of 2010, and indicates that investors’ appetite for renewable energy, electric cars, and other green technologies continues to rebound from the recession. But the numbers aren’t exactly good news for entrepreneurs …

Energy Efficiency

How to make energy savings info compelling

Over at the consistently interesting EnergySavvy.com, they’ve got a neat little post about the kind of cues that increase people’s participation in energy savings programs. They are helping the Department of Energy pilot test the new national Home Energy Score. You can read their post for all the details; I’ll just pass along the conclusions. Not surprisingly, the things that work are all about increasing emotional and social relevance: Keep it simple: Simpler, friendlier language and less data always “won” our A|B test cases. In an industry full of building science nerds (and we use that term affectionately), we’ve all …

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