Business & Technology

Weeding out the influence

Weighing safety of weed killer in drinking water, EPA relies heavily on industry-backed studies

Illustration by Lagan Sebert, Huffington Post Investigative Fund, EPA Image by Harry Hanbury, Crop Duster image courtesy Jenni Jone via FlickrCross-posted from the Huffington Post Investigative Fund Companies with a financial interest in a weed-killer sometimes found in drinking water paid for thousands of studies federal regulators are using to assess the herbicide’s health risks, records of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show. Many of these industry-funded studies, which largely support atrazine’s safety, have never been published or subjected to an independent scientific peer review. Meanwhile, some independent studies documenting potentially harmful effects on animals and humans are not included …

Recurrent Energy

California’s photovoltaic push

Amid the hullabaloo over government-chartered mortgage giants derailing the green financing program known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, the march toward distributed generation of renewable energy — that is, generating electricity from decentralized sources such as rooftop solar panels or backyard wind turbines — continues. Case in point: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) announced Wednesday that it had awarded contracts to San Francisco’s Recurrent Energy to install 60 megawatts’ worth of solar panels in the region surrounding California’s state capital. Rather than construct a central solar power station, Recurrent will scatter a dozen five-megawatt installations around two …


Sure it’s hot, but here are six reasons not to hate the sun

Spend a week on the sticky East Coast and it’s easy to go off on the sun. But stay cool. If we have any hope of beating our oil addiction, we need that Great Heat Machine in the Sky. Just last weekend, President Obama committed to $2 billion in loans to solar energy companies, including one outfit building a huge solar plant in Arizona. That’ll help. Here are six stories to remind you that the sun is our friend. Really. The  plane, the plane:  Sure, it’s all wing and has a top speed of only 75 miles an hour, but …


Treasury Department hits PACE homeowners

On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency effectively shut down an innovative green financing program called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, by restricting the ability of homeowners to take out loans to install solar panels and make other energy efficiency improvements. Now the United States Treasury Department has piled on. A new Treasury directive tells the nation’s banks how to enforce the FHFA rules. The move could pose new problems for homeowners who have PACE loans, and complicate efforts to get the program back on track. Homeowners repay PACE loans through an annual assessment on their property taxes. On …


Holiday weekend brings good news — and bad — for clean energy

The Fourth of July isn’t quite Earth Day but it’s becoming a favored holiday for companies and policymakers to declare energy independence, as was the case this past weekend. Cypress Semiconductor, kicked things off when T.J. Rodgers, the company’s chief executive, declared at a press conference that the Silicon Valley chipmaker would go completely off the grid by 2015. Not go carbon neutral — the favored strategy of many companies that buy carbon credits to supposedly offset their greenhouse gas emissions — but to actually cut the power cord. On Friday, Rodgers, one of the Valley’s more iconoclastic iconoclasts, unveiled …

a barrel full of family fun

BP offshore oil board game: Seemed like a fun idea at the time?

Back in the ’70s, BP decided to market a family board game by the name of “Offshore Oil Strike,” boasting the “thrills of drilling” as well as the “hazards and rewards.” I mean, Monopoly worked out pretty well for the Wall Street tycoons even in the midst of the Great Depression, right? On the other hand, if you drew one of the game’s Hazard Cards, even little Suzy could probably predict what might happen in the Gulf of Mexico one day: “Blow-out! Rig damaged. Oil slick clean-up costs. Pay $1 million.” It appears the BP execs who lacked the foresight …

Good News From the Past and the Dump

In a week that saw more oil wash over Gulf of Mexico shores and more oil lobbying money wash over Congress – – both with predictable results – – I thought we could all use some good news and reasons to be hopeful. I found that inspiration on a trip to Germany and the UK inside two companies that have very unique perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that the world faces today. Of course the continuing debacle in the Gulf speaks for itself, shouts from the headlines with failure upon failure to stop the oil gusher and from the …

Giving BP twit for tat

The mystery BP Twitterer revealed!

Leroy Stick is the brains behind a fake BP Twitter account called BPGlobalPR that’s racked up more than 180,000 followers. Need to Know‘s Erin Chapman grabbed an exclusive on-camera interview with him at the TEDxOilSpill conference. Stick (an alias) began feeding his updates to humor-starved news junkies on May 19 and — like the oil — hasn’t slowed since. Some of his recent status reports include: As long as we can get loaded potato skins at T.G.I.Friday’s, seafood can suck it. Tropical Storms = 1/2 days. Anyone accusing us of tarring and feathering pelicans is ignorant. They feathered themselves. In …

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 …

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