Business & Technology

The Big Green Buy

How Obama can wean the country off oil without help from Congress

Obama could kick off the “Big Green Buy.”Photo: Wikimedia CommonsThis article is part of a special issue of The Nation magazine about green energy, “Freedom From Oil.”  In the wake of the BP oil spill, some captains of industry have begun calling for government leadership to spur a clean-energy revolution. In June, billionaire software mogul Bill Gates visited Washington and encouraged lawmakers to pony up public subsidies to triple clean-tech R&D funding from $5 billion to $16 billion annually. Gates explained to the Washington Post that much of what is touted as free-market innovation was born of government subsidies: “The …

who knew?

Ten green stories you probably missed this week

The big story of the week, of course, is that BP, after almost three miserable months, may have finally stopped its Gulf gusher. (Emphasis on “may.”) But chances are you missed these greener tales — from the beauty of pond scum to the bendable bike to the regenerative power of beer.  Flasks of algae waiting to be made into green diesel.Photo: Sapphire EnergyScum and get it: It used to be a term reserved for ex-boyfriends and telemarketers, but now pond scum is feeling the love. For all their (sometimes) stench and sliminess, algae are powerful little engines that convert solar …

real solar pimps of texas?

‘Dallas’ oil baron now solar energy pimp

Never thought you’d see the day when a Texas oilman turns sunny-side up? Oh wait, T. Boone Pickens has been there, funded that. OK, how about a fictional oil tycoon? Larry Hagman, who slicked himself up as exactly that in the hit TV soap opera Dallas – Wikipedia tells me it was a hit; it was before my time — has now reprised his role as the famous oilman in a commercial for the German photovoltaic manufacturer, SolarWorld. It was apparently the BP oil disaster that spurred this actor and solar advocate to produce the TV spot. However, in return …

smart bid

Got a killer smart grid idea? General Electric’s got $200 million to spend on it

GE’s stylish WattStation electric car charging station.Photo: GE Jeff Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, flew into San Francisco to announce on Tuesday that GE was hooking up with prominent venture capital firms from Silicon Valley, the East Coast, and Europe to offer a supersized version of the X Prize for smart grid innovation. (GE and the participating venture capitalists are each contributing $100 million to the challenge.) “We really believe this digital energy space is going to move fast and big as an economic proposition,” Immelt said before a hundred or so of Silicon Valley’s green tech elite who …

the man your man would perform like

Dear Old Spice Man, will using your product make me, um, less manly?

Dear Old Spice Man, I see you a lot on TV lately, running around with your shirt off telling me that I won’t be a man if I don’t use Old Spice Body Wash. I hate commercials that blatantly play at gender stereotypes. But I’m not gonna lie, these ads (and your response videos) do make me chuckle. However, I’m worried that your “manly” line of products may actually make me less manly. According to the Environmental Working Group, all but one of the 92 Old Spice products pose a moderate or high health risk to consumers, or all those …

New Agtivist Q&A

N.C. chef Vimala Rajendran tells how cooking can save a family — and build a food ecosystem

An underground legend goes legit: Vimala Rajendran with staff in her gleaming new kitchen. (Kathryn Stein photo) In our New Agtivist interview series, we talk to people who are working to change this country’s f’ed-up food system in inspiring ways. When Vimala cooks, everyone eats–well. (Shannon Barry photo)When the going gets tough, the tough get cooking. That’s the main lesson I’ve gleaned from my friend Vimala Rajendran, a legendary underground cook in Chapel Hill, N.C., who has recently gone legit by opening Vimala’s Curryblossom Café. Doing justice to her life story would require the skills of a Salman Rushdie or …

Raw deal

Raids are increasing on farms and private food-supply clubs — here are 5 tips for surviving one

When the 20 agents arrived bearing a search warrant at her Ventura County farmhouse door at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday a couple weeks back, Sharon Palmer didn’t know what to say. This was the third time she was being raided in 18 months, and she had thought she was on her way to resolving the problem over labeling of her goat cheese that prompted the other two raids. (In addition to producing goat’s milk, she raises cattle, pigs, and chickens, and makes the meat available via a CSA.) But her 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, wasn’t the least bit tongue-tied. “She …

Hitachi and Schwarzenegger

Hitachi’s Plant Technologies division and two cities in Japan are selling treated sewage water to an iron ore mining company in West Australia for use in industrial processes that today consume scarce drinking water. Ore ships go to Japan fully loaded, but come back to Australia empty, taking on seawater as ballast for that return trip. The treated sewage water will be used for ballast instead, so there is no extra energy used (or net carbon and smog emissions) in moving the water. Moreover, invasive marine species typically hitch a ride in ballast water of ships (California is among many …

Froot Oops

Tainted cereal exposes soggy food-safety system

Photo by Mykl Roventine, FlickrOn June 25, Kellogg’s issued a “voluntary recall” of 28 million boxes of its breakfast cereals, including Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, and Honey Smacks. The company revealed it had detected an “uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner in the package” of the suspect cereal and warned of “possible temporary symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea” from eating it. Before we plunge our spoon into this cereal bowl of trouble, let’s ponder the enormity of the recall. A box of cereal contains about 12 servings. That means Kellogg’s recalled enough cereal to serve breakfast …