Business & Technology

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 …

Dear BP: We do not live in the Gulf of Mexico. Sincerely, walruses

The 7 dumbest things in BP’s spill response plan

We do not live in the Gulf of Mexico, you stupid oil company.Oil companies are supposed to have spill-response plans prepared before they begin drilling in American offshore waters. Minerals Management Service safety regulators are supposed to scrutinize those plans before signing off on them. But it’s looking more and more like no one bothered to read BP’s backup plan before the Deepwater Horizon rig began drilling 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Here’s the evidence: 1. BP mentions sea lions, seals, sea otters, walruses in its Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf of Mexico region. The geniuses who …

summertime and the system is wheezing

In wake of Gulf spill, should this be the summer of energy reform?

The New Yorker‘s Elizabeth Kolbert tells how the 1968 Unocal oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., spurred public outrage that prompted Congress and President Nixon to pass the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act-cornerstones of American environmental law — and create the EPA. “BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill makes the Santa Barbara spill look like a puddle,” says Kolbert, yet it has not thus far jolted the nation into doing much of anything about its dependency on oil. She concludes with a call to action: The President needs to set higher standards-for his Administration, for …

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