Business & Technology

Beyond Petroleum -- For Real

How we can end our addiction to oil

It’s time we moved on to something else, or this is going to kill us. Not only are world oil supplies running out, but what oil is still left is proving very dirty to obtain. We need to kick our oil addiction now if we expect to preserve any hopes of economic prosperity, or unspoiled habitats. “This is what the end of the oil age looks like.” We have the Deepwater Horizon oil spill now precisely because the easy to obtain oil is already tapped. You don’t drill in mile deep waters if you have somewhere else you could go. …

revenge is sweet (crude)

Black BP out of the web like BP blacked out the Gulf of Mexico

If you’re feeling outraged but impotent about the effect of the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, the internet (or some paint and an ad poster) can offer a little catharsis. Web developer jess3 has created a Firefox plugin which splashes a bit of oil on every mention of BP on the web. Once you install the add-on in your Firefox browser, it blacks-out the following: BP, British Petroleum, Transocean, Gulf Oil Spill, and Deepwater Horizon. And, as I discovered while writing this post, this applies to images with any of those words as the alternate image text, or …

Mmm, 'damp dog hair'

The fight over salt: Big Food vs. Us

Salty dog Alton Brown The biggest loser in Michael Moss’s New York Times exposé of the food industry’s fight against salt restrictions isn’t the food industry. It isn’t government, either. In my view, the real loser is television chef Alton Brown: With salt under attack for its ill effects on the nation’s health, the food giant Cargill kicked off a campaign last November to spread its own message. “Salt is a pretty amazing compound,” Alton Brown, a Food Network star, gushes in a Cargill video called Salt 101. “So make sure you have plenty of salt in your kitchen at …

I pod

Latest podcast: A close look at the “town that food saved”

Ben Hewitt on his farm outside of Hardwick.Hardwick, a hardscrabble town in rural Vermont (pop. 3,200), once based its economy on a non-renewable resource locked up in its surrounding hillsides: granite. But then the granite ran out — taking the town economy down with it. More recently, the town has embarked on a wild experiment. Its economy is now based on farming and food production at a variety of scales, from niche veggie farms to a national organic seed business, from a locavore café to a statewide salad-greens producer. It’s worked. While the national finances plunged into the abyss in …

Wind electricity from flying energy generators cheaper and more reliable than coal?

A technology that might provide clean electricity that is cheaper and more reliable than coal is ready for testing. Some of the world’s leading scientists think it will work. So why aren’t we spending a few million (not billion but million) dollars to find out? The basic idea: wind blows harder and more constantly at high altitudes where aircraft fly than over the tops of towers we install wind turbines on today. Attach wind turbines to tethered helicopters and we can generate many times the energy of conventional turbines. We can use the tethers both to send electricity to the …

going for a granholm run

Michigan: Where U.S. clean energy, emissions, efficiency policy really counts

On Friday, May 21, President Obama gathered in the Rose Garden the chiefs of his transportation and environmental departments to take the next big step to leverage federal climate policy and clean energy investment to spur new job growth. The president directed Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to draw up new rules that make heavy trucks much more fuel-efficient and produce less global warming gases. “This standard will spur growth in the clean energy sector,” Obama said. “We know how important that is. We know that our dependence on foreign oil endangers our security …

Valley forged

Obama preaches green tech gospel to California choir

Silicon Valley in the Internet age has not made for great presidential photo ops. The Valley’s computer-chip factories were off-shored decades ago and (Google excepted) the software giants that supplanted hardware companies just didn’t have the same pizzazz — T-shirted geeks writing code can’t compete with guys and gals in bunny suits tending big futuristic machines. The rise of green tech has changed all that. The Valley is back in the business of building stuff — solar panels, electric cars, fuel cells, and various energy efficient widgets and gadgets. And so when President Obama’s helicopter landed Wednesday morning at Solyndra, …

Crock pot

Officials admit BP disaster worst in U.S. history, best estimate of flow rate a total crock

Cross-posted from Wonk Room. Officials have finally admitted that the Deepwater Horizon blowout is the worst oil disaster in American history, exceeding the Exxon Valdez spill. After a month of insisting that the damaged well was only spewing 210,000 gallons (5000 barrels) of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, officials admitted this morning that was a gross underestimate. In a conference call, Dr. Marcia McNutt, U.S. Geological Survey Director and chair of the technical group convened to determine the flow rate, announced that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has now spewed between 15 and 40 million gallons of oil …

Making money on oil disasters

Will BP take responsibility for the Gulf spill or squeeze profits from it?

This post is co-authored by Susan Lyon. ExxonMobil will convene its annual shareholders meeting in Dallas this morning as the magnitude of the ongoing BP oil disaster grows. This is a reminder that oil companies need to be held accountable for their actions—both while the oil gushes from the ocean floor and 20 years after the spill. The Exxon Valdez oil accident that slimed Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989 is a chilling reminder of the need for government oversight and corporate accountability. Exxon and BP’s broken record Many would assume that BP—the company responsible for the Gulf Coast …

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