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Business & Technology


Bear markets and bull clean-tech investments

Cleantech venture investment hits record $2.6 billion in third quarter

And what are the three hottest technologies? Smart grid, algae (advanced biofuels), and, surprise surprise, thin-film solar. Venture capital investment in clean tech has been soaring in recent years because of high energy prices along with the growing concern and growing action on global warming. You might think that VC investment would be hurt by the financial downturn, as credit freezes up and capital markets lose money. But in fact VC investment is aimed at payoffs in the three- to five-year time frame and beyond. People who understand that oil prices are inevitably going up in the medium-term (assuming we …


Shortages to the left of me, shortages to the right

Demand for green products exceeds supply

My relatives in the D.C. area are on a Prius waiting list. People wanting to build their own electric bikes are on waiting lists for parts. If you're planning to put up some solar panels, well, get in line. According to Rich Bunch, at Silicon Solar Inc, their next shipment of solar components is due on Oct. 15 and 90 percent of it is already spoken for. I'm guessing that this shipment, like most shipments, is coming from China. Shortages not only trip up building schedules, but they also inflate prices. I recently received an estimate of about $9,000 to …


Green, Inc. author says big environmental groups have sold out to big business

For my money, there's nothing more delicious than a book that lays bare the rot of a corrupted industry from an insider's perspective. In the hands of a skilled observer, the subject can spring to life. Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis's hilariously disturbing account of Wall Street's investment-banking industry in the late 1980s, comes to mind. Green, Inc., by Christine MacDonald. Lewis's book traces its lineage to Mark Singer's Funny Money, a masterpiece of nonfiction that exposed the double-dealing and corruption that led to the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Singer's impeccable reporting and lively writing carries the reader …


ReGeneration Roadtrip: A Green Exchange of ideas, video

Constructing a green space for green biz

Driving along I-90/94W out of downtown Chicago, you can see London, France, the old Vassar Swiss Underwear Company building now under construction. A sign adorning the highway-facing façade tells you this will soon be the Green Exchange, a retail and office facility that will house some 100 businesses, all of them environmentally and socially responsible. To fully see the potential for this place, Todd and I were fitted with hard hats and given the hand-wave tour: you know, "this over here" and "that over there" and "imagine here, if you can." As we stepped over dust and debris in this …


ReGeneration Roadtrip: Buffers and biomass, video

Streamlining the agricultural process in Iowa

This is a guest post by my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell's, where this post originally appeared. ----- I have a shocking piece of news for you. You may want to sit down for this: Agriculture is big business in Iowa. Did I say "big?" Maybe that's an understatement. Of the state's 35 million acres, 31 million are used for agricultural purposes, and Iowa stands amongst the world's most altered land in the world. What was once described by our forefathers as an ocean of tall grass and prairie land is now almost entirely made up …


All-electric version of tiny Smart car unveiled at Paris Auto Show

Automaker Daimler unveiled an all-electric version of its tiny Smart car at the Paris Auto Show this week, dubbed the Smart ED for its electric drive. Diesel-powered versions of the ultra-cute, ultra-compact Smart Fortwo went on sale in the United States just this January to wide acclaim. Company spokespeople said the all-electric Smart Fortwo will be available in the U.S. by 2012 at the latest, and that a very small number of the EDs will be available somewhere in the world by the end of 2009. Daimler has been testing 100 or so of the Smart EDs in London since …


NYC eco-mayor will seek third term; mayors foresee green jobs

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking to change term-limit rules and win reelection to a third term; if he succeeds, it will be to the benefit of his ambitious plans to address climate change. Bloomberg's PlaNYC aims to reduce municipal greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2030 through planting 1 million trees, converting taxis to hybrids, and making buildings more energy efficient. In other mayor news, a study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests that 4.2 million green jobs could be created over the next 30 years, up from 750,000 or so now. "It could be the …


Step one: Subsidize us

Business association lays out recommendations for energy policy

The Institute for 21st Century Energy is a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which bills itself as a bipartisan trade association. In fact, it has effectively become part of the Republican machine, dominated by -- and lobbying fiercely for the interests of -- Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Pharma, and other such Bigs. Earlier this week, the Institute released its long awaited Blueprint for Securing America's Energy Future [PDF], which contains more than 75 recommendations for lawmakers. While not nearly as bad as I expected -- fully implemented it would represent an improvement over the status quo -- …


Bush signs off on $25 billion loan to Big Auto

President Bush on Tuesday signed a $630 billion spending bill that includes a $25 billion loan to the struggling auto industry. (Bush's sign-off also marks the expiration of the offshore-drilling ban and keeps the federal government funded through Mar. 6, 2009.) The loan package -- the biggest federal subsidy for Big Auto since the feds bailed out Chrysler in 1980 -- is aimed at helping carmakers improve overall vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, as authorized in the 2007 energy bill. But the money may be a time in coming: the Department of Energy has 60 …


Meat Wagon: House of fools

While antibiotic-resistant bugs flourish, a House subcommittee buries its head

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. As the fruits of three decades of financial-market deregulation and lax oversight ripen on Wall Street, now is a fitting time to mull over our government's efforts to regulate the food industry. Let's think specifically about its actions regarding antibiotics in livestock production. In industrial meat production, you stuff animals together in close contact with their own waste, essentially ruining their immune systems. To keep them alive until slaughter weight, you dose them liberally with antibiotics. Not surprisingly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains have begun to rise …