Business & Technology

frackin' busted

Tech startup’s pollution detector aids enviro justice group

If you had been driving through North Texas this week you might have seen a white Dodge Sprinter van circling some of the natural gas wells and compression stations that have sprung up around the Barnett Shale belt like boom-time subdivisions. Drillers tap natural gas by splitting shale through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that injects fluids laced with chemicals into the rock formations. The proliferation of shale gas drilling northeast of Dallas has ignited an uproar among residents, some of whom fear that fracking could be poisoning ground water and polluting the air with carcinogens. But the …

Wally Green World?

Putting Wal-Mart’s green moves in context

What journalists and even environmentalists so often fail to do in reporting on Wal-Mart’s sustainability announcements is to provide some context. Context is everything. Consider Wal-Mart’s latest announcement: It will push some of the factories that supply its stores to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a good thing in and of itself, but what happens when we measure it against Wal-Mart’s overall impact on the production of goods? One of the significant consequences of Wal-Mart’s rise and radical reshaping of the global economy has been a steep decline in the life span of many products. We wear out clothing, …

Fecal matters

Peepoo bags help the developing world take off a load

A rotting Peepoo: what a load of crap.Photo: Sustainable sanitation via FlickrWhen poor people don’t have a loo, They pee and poo wherever it’s easy to, But it’s gross for them and the planet too. So Peepoople invented a biodegradable loo. It’s a little bag for doing numbers one and two, And after they planted it, they saw that it grew Tasty food for people to chaw and chew. Don’t sweat bad microbes on the doo-doo. This potty bag zaps them right off too. So if you can’t find a potty, get a clue, And pick up and plant the …

Bill & TED's excellent adventure

Bill Gates and our innovation addiction: A recipe for climate inaction

Bill Gates’ recent entry into the discussion about climate action and technology is welcome. Not only is Gates a very smart guy and one of the world’s leading philanthropists, but he also has at least the reputation of knowing what he is talking about when it comes to technology and innovation. That being said, his opening moves in this discussion — his speech at the TED conference and a post on his blog — are not beyond criticism. Though by no means his intention, Gates is encouraging a peculiar type of 21st century passivity by government officials, investors, and activists …

mississippi's burning

Trouble mounts for Entergy following radioactive leaks at Vermont nuclear plant

New Orleans-based power giant Entergy is in hot water following revelations that its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has leaked radioactive contamination to the environment — and its trouble isn’t limited to Vermont. The Mississippi State Attorney General is also taking aim at the company, questioning Entergy’s recent transfer of more than $1 billion from its parent company that oversees its Mississippi operations to its troubled nuclear division. Some background: In January of this year, it was reported that groundwater monitoring wells at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt. were contaminated with tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen routinely created …

Chemical burned

Dow trying to have it both ways on climate?

Does Dow Chemical support climate action? Or think it would destroy America? Depends on which Dow Chemical you’re listening to. Is it the Dow Chemical that’s a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership? That Dow made a major investment in clean energy in Michigan last week. From MLive.com’s The Mudpuppy: Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm says it was a great week for Michigan and the Dow Chemical Co., with Dow announcing three clean-energy projects in the state that will create up to 6,900 new jobs. “Dow announced a combined investment of almost $1.3 billion in three clean-energy projects that’ll create …

Better than sliced bread?

Bloom: Thinking inside the box

The Bloom Energy Servers installed at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose. Photo: Todd WoodyGreen tech had its Google moment this week in Silicon Valley when one of the most secretive and well-funded startups around, Bloom Energy, literally lifted the curtain on what it claims is a breakthrough in fuel cell technology: affordable electricity! Fewer greenhouse gas emissions! And that’s all before they throw in the bamboo steamer.    After eight years in stealth mode — until this week, Bloom’s website featured the company’s name and little else — the startup pulled out the stops in a carefully stage-managed media blitz that …

matter of factories

Making sense of Wal-Mart’s big green announcement

Wal-Mart made big news today with a major commitment to trim its greenhouse-gas emissions. Here’s the context: Over the past five years the retail giant has taken big, splashy steps to save energy, reduce waste, and sell cleaner products, like compact-fluorescent light bulbs. It’s given less focus to the impact of the factories that churn all over the world to keep the chain’s shelves and display cases full. Today’s announcement—a goal to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by the end 2015—focuses on those factories. Wall Street Journal reporter Miguel Bustillo reads this as a cop-out, which is …

jet fools

British Airways plans to get wasted on future flights

Being a good stewardess of resources Next time the state of the planet has you down in the dumps, remember you’ve got a reason to look up. By 2014 British Airways will be filling up with 10% waste to keep landfilling down. Sure, they have airways to go in green, but it’s plane to see why one person’s trash should be another person’s travel. Top: Francois Roche Bottom: D’arcy Norman (Flickr)