Business & Technology

Independence Thinking

10 fresh ideas that can help set you free (from oil)

With the Fourth of July approaching, let us pause and consider the words of that great patriot Sarah Palin: “Americans are not addicted to oil, Americans are addicted to freedom — the freedom to move freely and independently where and when we want.” Makes you want to go out and drive a Hummer in circles, no? But since, let’s face it, we are addicted to oil, here are 10 ideas that have popped up in the past month, which provide a glimpse of fossil-fuel freedom. 1. Power to the pedal: Sure, bike lanes are nice, but peddlers still have to …

Deficit hacks

Feed the economy, or starve it? The answer’s clear.

Photo: greenforall.orgIn economic-policy circles, a debate rages around what medicine might cure the ailing economy. The topic doesn’t draw much attention in environmental media, but I would argue that the direction of economic policy is at least as important as the hopelessly vexed question of energy policy. Before I get to the green implications, let’s look at how the economic-policy debate is playing out. On one side, you’ve got the champions of fiscal austerity. They look at the national budget deficit — puffed up by war spending, the Bush tax cuts, the bank bailouts, and the ’09-’10 stimulus — and …

BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf

How BP helped destroy democracy in Iran

This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP: Welcome to the club. It’s great not to be the only member any more! Does boycotting BP really make sense? Perhaps not. After all, many BP filling stations are actually owned by local people, not the corporation itself. Besides, when you’re filling up at a Shell or ExxonMobil station, it’s hard to feel much sense of moral triumph. Nonetheless, I reserve my right to drive by BP stations. I started doing it long before this year’s oil …

Partying like it's 2008

Green tech investment surges

President Obama examines a solar panel with Solyndra executives.Photo and caption: The White HouseGreen tech is back in the green. Global venture capital investment in green technology companies reached $4.04 billion in the first half of 2010, exceeding — slightly — the record set in the boom year of 2008, according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. Venture investment in the second quarter rose to $2.02 billion, up 43 percent from the year-ago quarter. Investments in the first half of the year spiked 65 percent from the same period in 2009. “There’s been a …

Little boy BP, go blow your horn

Let’s resolve the oil spill by annoying BP to death

Photo: Adam Quirk Even if you haven’t been paying attention to major events in the news lately, you still might have picked up on two things. There’s a huge, ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and BP is bungling it up taking the heat for it. The rest of the planet is obsessed with the World Cup and the long plastic horns (used for cheering or irritating, depending on how you feel about them) known as vuvuzelas. It was only a matter of time before those two things converged, and we have Adam Quirk to thank for that. …

Chemical retraction

Taking the petro out of petrochemicals

Genomatica’s pilot green chemical plant.Photo courtesy of GenomaticaYou can buy green jeans, green greens (at the farmer’s market), and green beer. But the reality is that many, if not most, products in our industrial society contain some petroleum-based chemicals. In fact, up to a quarter of the oil consumed in some regions of the United States — such as on the Gulf Coast — goes into petrochemical production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A number of startups, however, are working to develop green chemicals that take the petro out of petrochemicals and eliminate the environmental and safety hazards …

Girl's lawn wild

An ode to my new push reel lawn mower

I heart the Fiskars Momentum.It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new homeowner in possession of a good lawn must be in want of a lawn mower.  Unless you have access to a herd of goats, or you’re an aggressive gardener with immediate plans to xeriscape or cover all terrain with edible plants.   My significant other and I have started off with modest ambitions at our new homestead: keeping our small parcel of grass from degenerating into a weedy jungle. A gas-powered mower was out from the start.  Smelly, dirty, hugely polluting, and a pain to operate and …

High on the hog

If JBS gobbles up Smithfield, three companies will own U.S. meat market

(Grist illo; Carlossg/Flickr) A typical supermarket’s meat counter displays a landscape of easy bounty: shrink-wrapped chops, cutlets, steaks, roasts, loins, burger meat, and more, almost all of it priced to move. But the dizzying variety cloaks a disturbing uniformity. As the chart below shows, the great bulk of the meat consumed in the United States comes from just four large, powerful companies. These companies wield tremendous power to dictate not just what meat is available, but how that meat is raised. For these “meat titans,” turning a profit selling cheap meat means slashing the cost of doing business. And that …

Green state, brown state

‘The Climate War’ comes to California

Eric Pooley came to San Francisco last Tuesday to talk about his new book, The Climate War, at the offices of the Environmental Defense Fund. The book, subtitled “True Believers, Power Brokers and the Fight to Save the Earth,” is a riveting tale of the battle to pass climate change legislation in the United States. Pooley, deputy editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the former editor of Fortune magazine, embedded himself with key combatants in the climate war, including Fred Krupp, EDF’s president. (Read a review by Grist’s David Roberts here.) It is, of course, a book without an ending as …

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