Business & Technology

To make poverty history, make clean energy cheap

Why Bill Gates is right

Bill Gates speaking at the TED conference.Photo: jurvetson via Flickr“If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years,” declared the world’s wealthiest man during last week’s TED 2010 conference, “I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine … or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no CO2 emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact.” Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major …

The new, new urbanism

Cleveland, worker-owned co-ops, and new ideas for a flailing economy

Is the way forward for our ailing economy to be found along the banks of Lake Erie? Despite talk of a recovery, the national economy remains in shambles. In Sunday’s New York Times, reporter Peter Goodman brought devastating news: Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed. Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives–potentially for years …

Step 1: Cut a hole in a box

What the heck is a Bloom Box and will it solve the world’s energy problems?

The internet loves mysterious product unveilings, especially those promising to revolutionize the world and how we live in it. (Think Apple’s iPhone.) But few (except for maybe the iPhone) actually live up to the hype. (Or so I hear. Anyone wanna get me an iPhone?) CEO K.R. Sridhar is starting to peel back the layers of secrecy from his magic boxes like a Bloomin’ onion. Now, after nearly a decade of secrecy, Bloom Energy CEO K.R. Sridhar is coming out of the shadows to tell the world how his “Bloom Box” will do all of this and more as a …

chewing the scenery

Organic grain miller goes employee-owned

In “Chewing the Scenery,” we round up interesting food-related video from around the Web. ————- Miller’s crossing: Bob Moore creates a progressive institution. For years, Oregon-based Bob’s Red Mill products have a been a staple of food co-ops and natural-food supermarkets. The company puts out a variety of top-quality, stone-ground organic grain products: from flours to grits to “bear mush” hot cereals. Now that CEO/founder Bob Moore is ready to start thinking about a succession plan, he probably could have cashed in nicely by selling out to some conglomerate looking for organic cachet–and a slice of one of the food …

Raw deal

Farmer-consumer group challenges FDA authority to ban interstate raw-milk sales

Don’t cry over raw milk. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is taking on the Big Enchilada in the raw milk war: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition on interstate shipment of raw milk. The FTCLDF filed suit over the weekend in U.S. District court against FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and the secretary of the FDA’s parent agency, Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, challenging the constitutionality of the agency’s prohibition, enacted in 1987. It filed the suit on behalf of consumers and a farmer from six different states; the consumers all travel from states where raw milk sales are …

An unwelcome status update

Does Facebook deserve the hell it’s catching from Greenpeace?

Social networking giant Facebook has been taking heat from enviros recently for its decision to site a massive new data center in Prineville, Ore. The issue? Pacific Power, the utility that serves Prineville, gets most of its power from coal, the enemy of the human race. Greenpeace International has started a Facebook group opposing the move. Facebook, clearly feeling some heat, responded to the controversy over the weekend. Its new data center will involve all sorts of efficiency efforts, but the company’s main argument is that the dry, temperate climate in Oregon will allow it to forego any mechanical chillers …

Green giants

When the big guys want to do the right thing

How green are those Cheerios? Well, no — you’re right — Cheerios shouldn’t be green, but I mean green green. Increasingly, restaurants and food service companies are weighing the need to green their operations and products but the results are often not what they anticipated. According to stories in this week’s issues of two food service industry magazines, QSR and Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), greening up the kitchen is an effort fraught with as many potential pitfalls as it is possible benefits. Equally as frustrating to customers as it can be for the companies attempting to clean up their acts, …

No money down!

Creative borrowing spurs commercial retrofits

On the heels of San Francisco’s announcement last week that it plans to spend $150 million greening up homes, comes a new report that studies a slew of other innovative ways to finance energy efficiency improvements for all types of buildings. It’s no big surprise that the key to ramping up the energy efficiency industry and fostering technological advances is no-money-down financing so building owners can avoid the capital costs of retrofits.  And that’s exactly what the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) is working toward. Energy efficiency “immediately saves money for end-users, improves the bottom line for companies, reduces local …

Lack of cap-it-all

Could transparency make up for a lack of a carbon cap?

If we can’t yet require companies to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants, can we shame them into doing it? The Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress have not so far succeeded in forcing big polluters to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.  But the U.S. EPA is about to force them to report their greenhouse-gas emissions. Big whoop, you say?  Well, actually, it might be.  The new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which took effect last month, requires industrial facilities that release 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent a year to measure and report their emissions.  (For comparison, that’s …

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