Business & Technology

Star power

Mass. startup uses biotech smarts to take the corn out of ethanol

On Monday, the latest entrant in the biofuels sweepstakes takes the wraps off a solar-powered technology designed to transform C02 and sunlight into ethanol. “We capture the energy of the sun into a solar converter,” says Bill Sims, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Joule Biotechnologies. “Inside exists a solution of brackish or gray water, nutrients and highly engineered photosynthetic organisms that directly secrete biofuels. There’s no intermediary that has to be introduced or processed.” So far, Joule’s “helioculture” technology has only produced ethanol in the lab. But, says Sims, “We’re moving the lab outside as we speak. We aren’t expecting any …

Just Tell the Truth

The eternal durability of greenwash

Not too long ago I was on a panel with GM’s VP of Environment, and I was reminded of how very old school most big corporations are when it comes to discussing their environmental programs. In GM’s case, listening to this VP, it was as if GM was God’s great gift to the environment, and always has been. In fact, despite admirable efforts to retool the company around the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt, GM has been nothing of the sort. Actually, it’s been a death star for green, between its crappy, huge vehicles, and its gruesome and nauseating national greenwashing …

Bag it

Better ways to spend $1 million on plastics

The American Chemistry Council will spend more than $1 million to fight a 20-cent fee on plastic shopping bags in Seattle, hoping voters reject the proposal in August. Or send the Bag Monster and all his friends to Copenhagen this December!Photo by Bag Monster via FlickrIf it seems absurd to spend a cool mill defending something as ubiquitous, hard to love, and (very often) wasteful as disposable bags … consider that this trade group for the plastics industry sponsored a program to pay parents to expose their children to pesticides and allow researchers to study the effects. Before the ACC’s …

Are new nuclear plants the answer? No.

Oh, those sexy building codes: More powerful than 100 nuclear plants

Building energy codes are the key.Are 100 new nuclear plants the solution to our climate troubles? I asked that question in a post last week. The answer lies buried deep within the 1,428-page Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act), passed by the House and now under consideration in the Senate. It is Section 201, pages 320-348. It is this section that makes H.R. 2454 worth passing. No matter what else is compromised or changed in the climate bill as it works its way through the Senate, Section 201 must not be changed or weakened. …

From this VantagePoint

Silicon Valley VC sees bright future for green tech — and a need to engage policy makers

A BrightSource Energy solar thermal project.Photo: BrightSource EnergyDrive around the San Francisco Bay Area and you can see the emerging corporate infrastructure of the new green economy. In a downtown Oakland office tower, you’ll find the headquarters of BrightSource Energy, a solar thermal power-plant developer that has scored contacts to build more than 2,600 megawatts’ worth of solar farms. Off Highway 101 in the Silicon Valley suburb of San Carlos, Tesla Motors is developing its next electric car. Down the road in Palo Alto, Shai Agassi‘s Better Place is designing regional electric-car charging networks and battery-swapping stations for Australia, Canada, …

what's it wirth to you?

Timothy Wirth, natural-gas advocate, takes gas industry to task

This story was written by ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten. Timothy Wirth.They were tough words for the natural gas industry to hear. In a blunt speech before the Colorado Oil and Gas Association last week, Timothy Wirth, a former Colorado Democratic senator and Under Secretary of State for global affairs in the Clinton administration, warned industry leaders that they need to pay attention to the environmental and climate concerns that are shaping national policy, or risk being left behind. Wirth took the industry to task for not engaging in the climate legislation being debated in Congress — a bill he said every …

Ambition and trouble collide

Vancouver’s Olympic village aims for green, runs into problems

Vancouver’s vision for its Olympic village looks dazzling from afar, like the city itself. Up close the details get hairier.Photo: ecstaticistThe city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has a lot to brag about. It’s got an enviable location, wedged between the Strait of Georgia and the snow-capped Coast Mountains. It’s a perennial winner of “most livable cities” rankings, thanks in part to its parks, arts, and the Canadian social safety net. Its youthful mayor, Gregor Robertson, talks up the city as the greenest in North America and has laid out a plan to make it the most sustainable city in the …

Talk to me, baby

“Smart” appliances that talk to the grid are coming your way soon

Sure, it’s smart, but is it a good conversationalist?So the oven says to the refrigerator, “Don’t be so cold.” That line will soon be more than a bad joke. The Jetsons are coming to life as dishwashers, washing machines, and other home appliances begin to talk to each other and to the electricity grid in an effort to manage and reduce energy use. Last week, for instance, General Electric and Boulder, Colo.-based smart-grid startup Tendril unveiled a deal to collaborate on software to connect the industrial giant’s “smart appliances” to the grid. Pilot projects with utilities are expected to begin …

Old dog, nuke tricks

Sen. Alexander calls for 100 new nuke plants, won’t work with Dems on climate bill

Lamar Alexander unveils his plan.Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Monday called for 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years as the central element of a climate and energy plan that Republicans intend to introduce in the Senate. In presenting the plan, he shot down the possibility that he would work with Democrats to craft compromise climate and energy legislation. Just a few days ago, Alexander seemed willing to work with Dems on a bill if it included major support for nuclear power. But at a press conference on Monday, he argued that the approach used in the …

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×