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A Tesla for the rest of us? Elon Musk dishes on the new, cheaper model

tesla cars factory
Tesla Motor Events

One of the knocks against Tesla (besides the slight chance of the automaker's cars going up in flames) is that the sexy zero-emission rides are darn expensive. Case in point: The much ballyhooed Model S starts at $69,900.

But a more affordable Tesla is on the way. CEO Elon Musk recently announced that a new model, called the 3, will start at around $35,000. The 3 is set to be on sale by 2017.

Here are some additional details, via an exclusive with U.K. car mag Auto Express:

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In Iowa, solar is fighting back against utilities and winning

SolarPower
iStockphoto

Last week, I wrote about the pushback that solar is getting from utility companies, who fear it will cut into their profits and break their monopolies. (The predictions in certain corners of the business world that solar is coming to "take their lunch" isn't helping either.)

But there's another story - which is that solar is fighting back and winning. The most recent evidence is a decision last week in Iowa's Supreme Court, that has big implications for solar, both in the Midwest and elsewhere.

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Wasting water in California will now cost you $500

water wasting
Shutterstock

Here's a list of things that could now get you fined up to $500 a day in California, where a multi-year drought is sucking reservoirs and snowpacks dry:

  • Spraying so much water on your lawn or garden that excess water flows onto non-planted areas, walkways, parking lots, or neighboring property.
  • Washing your car with a hose that doesn't have an automatic shut-off device.
  • Spraying water on a driveway, a sidewalk, asphalt, or any other hard surface.
  • Using fresh water in a water fountain -- unless the water recirculates.

Those stern emergency regulations were adopted Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the State Water Resources Control Board -- part of an effort to crack down on the profligate use of water during critically lean times.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) asked the state's residents to voluntarily conserve water in January, but they didn't. Rather, as the San Jose Mercury News reports, "a new state survey released Tuesday showed that water use in May rose by 1 percent this year, compared with a 2011-2013 May average."

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Sean Parker backs San Francisco’s “cars first” measure, twirls moustache

SeanParker
Helga Esteb

Okay, Sean Parker. I don't really mind if you have a Live Action Role Playing wedding in the redwoods, since you paid to clean it up. I don't care if you invest in tobacco marketed to kids. And it's none of my business which conservative politicians you support. But it does tick me off that you're putting your shoulder behind this cockamamie ballot measure to make San Francisco more car-friendly.

Of course it bothers me because, in my experience of San Francisco, making things more car-friendly always means making things less human-friendly. I tend to side with the humans. And on the other side, every time the city has taken freeways or parking lots and instead dedicated them to cyclists, pedestrians, or transit, it has made things easier, faster, and safer.

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Nestlé doesn’t want you to know how much water it’s bottling from the California desert

plastic-water-bottles
Shutterstock

Nestlé may bring smiles to the faces of children across America through cookies and chocolate milk. But when it comes to water, the company starts to look a little less wholesome. Amid California's historically grim drought, Nestlé is sucking up an undisclosed amount of precious groundwater from a desert area near Palm Springs and carting it off in plastic bottles for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.

The Desert Sun reports that because Nestlé's water plant in Millard Canyon, Calif., is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' reservation, the company is exempt from reporting things like how much groundwater it's pumping, or the water levels in its wells.

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You know what this threatened Florida forest needs? A Walmart and a Chick-fil-A

PineRockland
Miguel Vieira

Walmart is all about convenience, which is probably why the company is building its new Miami-Dade store on 125 acres of Florida’s dwindling pine rockland: There are currently about 2,900 acres of pine rockland left outside of the Everglades, and Walmart’s new store will make choosing a home about 5 percent easier for the many imperiled species that live only in these shrinking forests. Thanks, Walmart!

Jenny Staletovich at the Miami Herald has more on this developing story:

About 88 acres of rockland, a globally imperiled habitat containing a menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else, was sold this month by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer. To secure permission for the 158,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness center, Chick-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants and about 900 apartments, the university and the developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve.

Ram also plans to develop 35 adjacent acres still owned by the university.

But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and biologists scratching their heads.

“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, who wrote to Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday demanding an investigation.

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This cute solar puppy needs a name. Won’t you help?

solar-dog
CPS Energy

Everybody knows solar farms need solar sheep, but did you know solar sheep need solar dogs? And apparently, those solar dogs need solar names. That’s where you come in.

CPS Energy, the Texas utility that uses sheep to cut the grass on its solar farm so technicians can access the panels, is letting people vote on the name for its latest ecofriendly herding dog. Which makes sense: Since CPS is owned by the city of San Antonio, the pooch kind of belongs to the whole town.

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Business as usual

Corporate polluters are almost never prosecuted for their crimes

corporate polluter
Shutterstock

If you committed a crime in full view of a police officer, you could expect to be arrested -- particularly if you persisted in your criminality after being told to cut it out, and if your crime were hurting the people around you.

But the same is not true for those other "people" who inhabit the U.S.: corporations. Polluting companies commit their crimes with aplomb. An investigation by the Crime Report, a nonprofit focused on criminal justice issues, has revealed the sickening levels of environmental criminality that BP, Mobil, Tyson Fresh, and other huge companies can sink to without fear of meaningful prosecution:

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for whom the label tolls

Can we have our sustainable seafood and eat it too?

fish
Tyler Parker

You know the feeling: You're standing in front of the seafood counter, running down the list of evils you might be supporting when you buy one of those gleaming filets. There’s overfishing, but also pollution from fish farming, not to mention bycatch, marine habitat destruction, illegal fishing … and that's before getting to the problem of seafood fraud, and the fact that 1 in 3 seafood samples in a massive study by Oceana was served under pseudonym.

Programs like Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch and the Safina Center’s Seafood Guide are helpful when it comes to sorting seafood’s angels from its demons, but only if you can be sure the red snapper you’re looking at is actually red snapper (hint: It probably isn't).

Meanwhile, third-party certification outfits -- the ones that slap their seal of approval on seafood that’s harvested responsibly -- are not without their flaws. In fact, the current demand for certified “sustainable” seafood is so high that it’s driving, you guessed it, overfishing. Someone get Poseidon in here because that, my friends, is what the Greeks called a "tragic flaw."

Still, these third-party groups may offer the best hope for ocean-loving fish eaters like myself, so it’s worth paying attention to how they operate. And while these certification programs are very much a work in progress, they’re getting better.

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U.S. tariffs on Chinese solar panels break trade rules, WTO says

solar panels
Shutterstock

When it comes to global trade in solar panels and components, the U.S. trade representative wants to have his suncake and eat it too. Even as the trade rep has been hauling India before the World Trade Organization, complaining that the country's requirements for domestically produced solar panels violate global trade rules, the U.S. has been imposing new duties on panels imported from China and Taiwan. By some estimates, the U.S. duties could increase solar module costs in the country by 14 percent.

On Monday, WTO judges who were mulling China's complaint against the U.S. over its duties on solar panels and steel ruled in favor of -- you guessed it -- more world trade. Reuters reports: