Business & Technology

A grow-your-own jobs program

[UPDATED] While the big cats cower, time to build robust food economies

Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! While the Democrats hide, time to grow our own jobs program.Photo: Kevin Collins via Flickr[UPDATE at bottom of article.] I have a big, strapping cat who’s infamous for darting under a couch and cowering when a dog, even the tiniest, enters a room. Well, a yipping toy poodle has entered the Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Never a bold bunch, the Democrats have gone into full-on retreat, spooked by the loss of Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat. While the economy continues to unravel, Obama responds by declaring a freeze on “non-discretionary”–i.e., non-military–spending. That’s not a bold …

No good speech goes unpunished

Will Google’s fight with China stymie climate negotiations?

If any progress is to be made in the global fight against climate change — whether via diplomatic negotiations or cleantech partnerships — it will only happen through cooperation between the U.S. and China.  But the potential for collaboration of any kind took a big blow this past week thanks to the Google fracas.  Reports The New York Times: Beijing and Washington both initially tried to treat the Google case as mainly a commercial dispute. But Mrs. Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom on Thursday, with its cold war undertones, has catapulted the dispute from the realm of technology and cybersecurity …

Big bright green cleantech machine

Did China block Copenhagen progress to pave way for its own dominance in cleantech?

You hear it all the time, one of the most frequently voiced excuses for Western countries failing to radically cut carbon dioxide emissions: Taking any such action would hand a massive competitive advantage to fast-industrializing China. Yet evidence is piling up that the very opposite is the case. The main challenge from the world’s new industrial superpower is not that it will continue to use the dirty, old technologies of the past, but that it will come to dominate the new, clean, green ones of the future. As developed nations fail to put an adequate price on carbon, and thus …

Thar she blows

A gust of energy

Photo courtesy obrien26382 via Flickr The great hope for powering a sustainable world is renewable energy. The great barrier to powering a sustainable world is the cost and complexity of building a new national transmission grid that will transmit the carbon-free electricity generated by remote wind farms and solar power plants to population centers. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report that concluded the United States could obtain 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2030. This week the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory issued a study that shows how the eastern half of …

Superego v. Id

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. takes on mountaintop-mining magnate Don Blankenship

On Thursday the University of Charleston in West Virginia hosted a debate between Don Blankenship, CEO of mountaintop-removal mining firm Massey Energy Co., and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., environmental lawyer and founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance. I kept up a running play-by-play that can be accessed by scrolling back through my Twitter feed, but I didn’t take notes, so this is from memory and I won’t be using direct quotes. The mystery to me going in was why Blankenship agreed to it. What possible incentive is there for a corporate CEO to put himself in a risky situation, publicly defending …

Low carb diet

U.S. feeds one quarter of its grain to cars while hunger is on the rise

The 107 million tons of grain that went to U.S. ethanol distilleries in 2009 was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels. More than a quarter of the total U.S. grain crop was turned into ethanol to fuel cars last year. With 200 ethanol distilleries in the country set up to transform food into fuel, the amount of grain processed has tripled since 2004. The United States looms large in the world food economy: it is far and away the world’s leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Russia combined. …

The investor game of chicken

Who will make the first move toward a clean energy future?

Last week several hundred investors huddled together at the U.N. with government officials and non-profit groups to discuss one thing — carbon. They heard from U.S. climate change negotiator Todd Stern, international political royalty, and a host of economic prognosticators about topics including the recent talks in Copenhagen, potential Congressional action, and whether new clean tech would set us free from our fossil fuel addiction. And what was the take-away? That everyone expects someone else to make the first move. To put this in perspective, Al Gore spoke about how investors put money to work based on assumptions. In the …

making his mark

When it comes to energy, Mark Jacobson thinks big

Mark Z. Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, is an unusual figure in the field of climate change. He literally wrote the book on computer modeling for atmospheric changes, and he is a respected expert in the impacts of energy production and use. But what truly sets Jacobson apart is his vision. He’s a “Big Picture” kind of thinker, focused on finding large scale, but practical, solutions to the problems of climate change. For example: a few months ago, Jacobson co-authored a cover-story in Scientific American sub-titled, “Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of …

putting the lab in labyrinthine

FDA on BPA: Our hands are tied

The FDA finally released its report on Bisphenol A. The good news is that the FDA now admits that BPA — the endocrine-disrupting, heart disease–causing ingredient in plastic food packaging and can linings — isn’t entirely safe (contradicting the agency’s statement from 2008 that it was), particularly for infants and children. The bad news? There’s not much the agency can do about it. Here are the immediate, limited steps the FDA feels it can take “to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply”: support the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for …

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