Business & Technology

Sun for the roses

Solar startups take a shine to Portland

Portland, the new hub of solar power in the U.S.?Photo courtesy of Keith SkeltonBack in the 1980s and ’90s, the region surrounding Portland was dubbed the Silicon Forest for the cluster of computer chip companies that had flocked to Oregon to set up shop. Now those old-growth tech companies are giving way to a new generation of solar startups that are sprouting up around Portland’s green metropolis, sometimes in old semiconductor factories that have been revamped to produce photovoltaic modules. Germany’s SolarWorld built the United States’ largest solar module plant in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro in 2008, and on …

little by little

A conversation with pro-drilling environmentalist Amanda Little [AUDIO]

Amanda LittleAlison Stewart of PBS’s Need to Know speaks with Amanda Little, a Grist contributor and self-proclaimed “pro-drilling environmentalist.” Little describes her personal experience on an offshore oil rig, her argument for continuing offshore drilling, and her optimistic belief that American ingenuity can solve our energy problems. Little is the author of Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells — Our Ride to the Renewable Future.

A newtility

Google Energy’s big green power purchase

A wind farm in Iowa.Photo courtesy Edith OSB via FlickrGoogle is officially in the green energy business. The search giant announced on Tuesday that its Google Energy subsidiary signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy. Google will begin buying 114 megawatts of electricity from an Iowa wind farm on July 30. Google, of course, cannot directly use the clean green energy generated by the wind farm; that power goes into the local grid. So Google Energy will sell the power on the regional spot market, where utilities and electricity retailers go to buy power when demand spikes and …

welcome to the club

The Gulf Coast joins an oil-soiled planet

More oil is spilled in the Niger Delta every year than has been spilled in the Gulf so far.Photo courtesy Amnesty International Italia via FlickrThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. If you live on the Gulf Coast, welcome to the real world of oil — and just know that you’re not alone. In the Niger Delta and the Ecuadorian Amazon, among other places, your emerging hell has been the living hell of local populations for decades. Even as I was visiting those distant and exotic spill locales via book, article, and …

After the spill is gone

The next phase of the Gulf oil disaster: lawyers and lobbyists descend

Watch out: They’re coming …We’ve gone from a gush to a seep in the Gulf.  Sounds like progress. But in some ways, things are only beginning to get oily. This is the part where the lawyers and the lobbyists come in.     What’s ours is ours: Let’s start with a report from the Mobile Press-Register that BP has been trying to entice university scientists near the Gulf to work on its legal team. According to the article by Ben Raines, BP is offering $250 an hour, and reportedly professors from Louisiana State, Southern Mississippi, and Texas A&M are already on board.  …

A heroin addict can't go cold turkey

A deepwater drilling moratorium might be a bad idea for Louisiana

We can’t all go cold turkey.This article is part of a special issue of The Nation magazine about green energy, “Freedom From Oil.”  PORT SULPHUR, La. — Captain Pete, as everyone in town calls him, has been an oysterman nearly his entire life. He started as a boy, learning the trade from his father, who had learned it from his father. Working fourteen-hour days from leased oyster beds in Barataria Bay, 40 miles south of New Orleans, Captain Pete’s family supplied the city’s premier vendor, P&J Oyster Company. When P&J closed its doors on June 10, it was front-page news …


UPDATED: McDonald’s new ad campaign: Is it localwashing or not?

[See UPDATE below.] McDonald’s has a new localwashing campaign playing out on billboards in Seattle.  This one targets the Ballard neighborhood … Photos: Gilman Park … and comes with an amusing disclaimer: “Participation and duration may vary.” This one targets Seattle as a whole: Have you seen any ads of this ilk? Cheddar from Wausau, Wis.?  Tomatoes from Immokalee, Fla.?  High-fructose corn syrup from Ames, Iowa? Tell us in comments below. Or better yet, email your photos to grist [at] grist [dot] org. (h/t Gilman Park) UPDATE, 22 July 2010: It turns out this is an ad campaign running just …

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 …