Business & Technology

Batteries included

California considers mandating energy storage

The California Assembly has passed legislation [PDF] that takes the first step to requiring that a percentage of electricity generated in the state be stored. Electricity, of course, is the ultimate perishable commodity. If the bill is approved by the California Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would apparently be the first time a state will move toward mandating that electricity generated by wind farms, solar power plants, and other intermittent sources be stored for use during peak demand.   That’s key if California is to meet its ambitious mandates to obtain 33 percent of its electricity from …

Hype haymaker

Supreme Court’s ruling on Monsanto’s GE alfalfa: Who won?

Updated 2:20 pm Pacific, June 21 The sustainable agriculture world is abuzz today with news of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding an earlier lawsuit, brought by alfalfa farmers, that sought to stop any planting of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa seed. While the press coverage heralds the ruling as a decisive victory for Monsanto, a close reading shows that, in fact, it’s a fairly significant win for opponents of biotech crops. Hay dudes, not so fast The background: As the fourth most-planted U.S. crop behind corn, soybeans, and wheat, alfalfa is worth $9 billion a year — the dairy …

a sorry site

You should totally apologize to BP

There have been a lot of apologies flying around this week. BP CEO Tony Hayward to the U.S. people. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to Hayward and BP. Now it’s Twitter’s (and your) turn to tell BP just how totally sorry it is for everything. It’s been a rough week. DrogoBoffin via Twitter@DrogoBoffin: #Imsorrybp That Kanye called you out. @itwaschris: #ImsorryBP for not giving you your props for the 8 other oil rigs you operate that are hardly leaking at all. @chrisbaskind: We Gulf Coast residents should quit whining and realize it’s not an oil spill. It’s BP’s new home delivery …

Bean there, done that

New Agtivist Q&A with John Scharffenberger: First wine, then chocolate, and now … tofu?

John Scharffenberger at the Hodo Soy Beanery tofu factory in Oakland, Calif.(Bart Nagel Photography) This is the first in Grist’s series of interviews with a group we’re calling the “New Agtivists” — the many people who’re working to change this country’s f’ed-up food system. Whether famous or un-, they’re a little bit country and a little bit punk rock. They’re starting urban farms, seed-saving ventures, and underground food-swapping markets. They’re fighting for better food in schools and fewer feedlots. They have one thing in common: they think food matters — and they’re taking it into their own hands to improve …


Transmission constraints derail solar project

Amid all the hope and hype about the nascent solar boom under way in California, there’s long been an elephant in the room — transmission. Billions and billions of dollars must be spent to build and upgrade transmission lines to connect dozens of proposed solar power plants to the grid. Now that elephant has rolled over and squashed one project’s use of innovative solar technology. Last year, California utility PG&E signed a deal with NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based electricity provider, to buy power from a 92-megawatt solar farm called the Alpine SunTower to be built near the desert town …

A Walk Through the Week's Climate News

The Climate Post: Nothing shaking on Barton’s ‘shakedown’ street

First things first: Congressional investigators have released material documenting troubles at the Deepwater Horizon site before it failed–and a culture of cost-cutting at BP that elevated catastrophic risk. Five days before the April 20 explosion, a BP engineer called it a “nightmare well which [sic] has everyone all over the place.” A detailed letter to BP chief executive Tony Hayward from two House Democrats details five missteps the company took when rushing to complete the Macondo well, including choosing a well design that has too few impediments to gas flow. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) letter can …

Contains: hope (you'll need a microscope to find it)

Republican infighting overshadows the Tony Hayward show

CSPANBP America CEO Tony McGaffeypants Hayward made his first appearance before Congress today, facing questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. What did it accomplish? What new information did it unearth? Ha, ha. Maybe you haven’t seen a Congressional hearing before. Hayward had little to say beyond a chorus of “I don’t know”s in response to questions about drilling practices, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and the company’s inept response to the Gulf leak. “I cannot recall … I am not prepared to draw conclusions about this accident,” he said. Hayward’s lack of candor ticked off committee chairman Henry Waxman …

Taking Stock of BP

As happens with stock charts, this one is likely to be out of date even before I get this post published.  But here’s Google Finance’s chart comparing the stock price of British Petroleum (in red), an energy-stock index fund (in blue) and an S&P 500 index fund (in yellow). Since the oil spill in the Gulf in late April, BP’s stock has tanked.  Meanwhile, the broader stock market has inched downward; and the energy mutual fund, dominated by big oil and gas companies, has done only a wee bit worse than the broader market. But remember, BP (in red) is …

Resource cursed

Oil spill underscores need for Gulf-area economies to diversify

In the best of times, the three states most directly affected by the Gulf oil disaster have pretty fragile economies. Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi all rank among the bottom ten U.S. states in per-capita income. Obviously, the ever-growing oil spill isn’t just wreaking ecological havoc. It also threatens severe economic damage. The commercial fishing and tourism industries, two linchpins of the regional economy, are obvious potential casualties. The third is the very industry that brought on the mess in the first place: deepwater oil drilling. If you live near the Gulf, you don’t have to be an oil-stained pol like …

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