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Wal-Mart truck fleet on track to meet fuel-efficiency goals

Wal-Mart has improved the fuel efficiency of its 7,000-truck fleet by 20 percent since Oct. 2005 and is on track to meet its goal of a 25 percent improvement by the end of 2008, a Wal-Mart executive said Friday. Having already downsized its diesel tanks and started rolling on more efficient tires, the company also hopes to introduce hybrids into its fleet and perhaps devise a scheme to keep refrigeration running while the engine is off. "With gas at $4 a gallon, we're keenly working on reducing costs," says Matt Kistler, senior vice president of sustainability at the retail behemoth. …

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Big Three automakers get plug-in funding from feds

The U.S. Big Three automakers will get $30 million over three years for plug-in hybrid R&D, the Department of Energy announced Thursday. While less than automakers wanted -- last year they pushed for $500 million -- each welcomed some funding for various aspects of plug-in research. Chrysler plans to build a test fleet of 80 plug-ins, including 10 adapted Dodge Durangos and Chrysler Aspens; General Motors will also build a fleet, as well as focusing funds on enhancing engine innards; and Ford will work on a project "to identify a pathway that accelerates mass production of plug-in hybrid vehicles." DOE …

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PR firm Edleman launches charm offensive for the GMO giant

Not so long ago, I was an utterly obscure farmer-blogger dashing off indictments of industrial agriculture for some 30 loyal readers (many of them house-mates and relatives). And then, evidently by the miracle of the Google search, a functionary from Monsanto's legal office discovered my blog and fired off a cease-and-desist letter. I published it, added a tart response, and alerted a few editors to the exchange. Within days, my site meter showed thousands of readers piling in. Within months I had a paid writing gig. Thanks, Monsanto! Evidently, the GMO seed giant is still paying folks to scan Google …

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E.U. chemical-registration and testing law kicks in; industry gets huffy

The European Union's comprehensive chemical law, REACH, is finally starting to take effect, requiring manufacturers and importers of chemicals to begin registering their products with a new regulatory agency. The REACH law was heavily diluted between its first introduction and final passage due to heavy pressure from the chemical industry, but it's still expected to have a big impact on the E.U. marketplace. Chemical manufacturers from around the world will eventually be forced to test their products for safety before selling them in the European Union. U.S. businesses are particularly miffed about the new regulatory requirements, saying they're expensive and …

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Lack of credit threatens solar industry

Originally posted at the NDN Blog. The failure of the Senate to obtain cloture on the Solar Investment Tax Credit -- coming on the heels of the collapse of climate change legislation last Friday -- should send a wake up call to the environment and clean technology communities that a new more forceful strategy is needed to make progress on climate change and energy independence. At a moment when the U.S. economy is suffering from the effects of a full blown oil shock, when the United States is fighting a hot war in the Middle East in part to protect …

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Protests erupt worldwide over fuel prices

Skyrocketing fuel prices show no sign of flagging, and no one's happy about it (except the occasional holier-than-thou environmentalist). Truck drivers and transportation operators have threatened to strike, gone on strike, or are still striking in Britain, France, Hong Kong, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand. In some places truckers have quit the roads altogether, while others are driving at a crawl and snarling traffic. In those countries as well as Malaysia and Nepal, protesters have taken to the streets; two protesters in Spain and Portugal have died trying to block traffic. The pushback is …

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Airline industry takes small steps to offset high fuel prices

To offset the impact of rising fuel prices, the airline industry is doing the obvious: retiring less-efficient aircraft, flying slightly slower, and plugging into electrical systems when parked at the gate. But even smaller steps, multiplied over a large fleet, can have a significant impact. Various airlines are carrying less water for the facilities and seeking out passenger seats and drink carts made of lighter materials. Delta is considering asking its cockpit officers to share pilot manuals so that one set of books can be left at home; Northwest considered serving soda out of plastic bottles instead of cans (though …

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Good big-picture view of the emerging cleantech market

I found this video, from an NDN event called "Understanding the Cleantech Investment Opportunity," intensely educational (warning: it's over an hour long):

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First deal inked for maker of modular, utility-scale solar thermal power plants

In the transition to a clean, green economy, one milestone promises to be the most symbolically powerful. It's the one adopted as an official target by Google: renewable energy cheaper than coal, or RE<C. When it announced its campaign, Google also announced the recipients of its initial investments. One was eSolar, a Pasadena, Calif.-based company spun off from business incubator Idealab. "Our view of what it takes to make solar power viable and a widespread technology," says Robert Rogan, eSolar's executive VP of corporate development, "is to be able to compete with fossil fuel energy prices in an unsubsidized way." …