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Growing solar industry depends on key tax credit that will expire this year

Advocates talk a lot about how renewable energy is not just good for the environment, but good for the economy as well. And here is some real-world proof: New Mexico, with strong leadership by Gov. Richardson, PRC Commissioners Lujan and Marks, and many others, has done more than most to establish the full suite of policies necessary to build a solar market. And the reward? Schott AG is investing $100 million in a new manufacturing facility outside of Albuquerque. It will initially employ 350 people, which could grow to 1,500. Good stuff, and congrats to New Mexico. But lookie here …

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Clean-tech and wind power both soaring

Investment in clean-tech companies rose 44 percent from 2005 to 2006, and jumped an additional 44 percent from 2006 to 2007, soaring to $5.18 billion, according to the Cleantech Group LLC. Last year in clean-tech, energy generation received $2.75 billion in investment, followed by energy storage ($471 million) and transportation ($445 million). And you know what that means: "More new car companies were financed in the last 12 months than probably in the last 50 or 60 years," says the Cleantech Group's John Balbach. Um ... great? In related news, U.S. wind power grew by 45 percent last year, boosted …

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Vodka maker launches global cooling campaign

In a partnership with Live Earth (yes, they're still doing stuff), Absolut Vodka has launched a Global Cooling campaign that "encourages consumers to reduce the effects of global warming by offering simple steps they can implement in their daily lives." As part of the campaign, Absolut is sponsoring the Live Earth Film Series, a collection of short films that will make the rounds at various film festivals this year -- starting with Sundance this weekend. Absolut will also be donating up to $500,000 to three charities -- the Environmental Media Association, The Ocean Foundation, and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation …

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As economic indicators trend downward, the clean-tech sector is still looking up

As one key economic engine after another -- housing, finance, autos, retail -- sputters and stalls out, the fledgling eco-economy is purring right along, fueled in no small part by venture capital firms hungry for new opportunities in industries that promise outsized returns on their investments. In the first three quarters of 2007, VCs poured $2.6 billion into alternative energy and clean-tech firms, more money than they invested for the whole of 2006. The new year promises to be another record breaker. And it's not only the Silicon Valley sharpies that are on the prowl: GE is promising to plow …

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Google announces expansion of philanthropic goals beyond alternative energy

Google has announced it's expanding the goals of its philanthropic arm, Google.org, beyond alternative energy to include fighting disease, averting pandemics and other mass crises, and alleviating poverty in the developing world. Along with the expansion of its mission, Google.org announced some of the recipients of the first round of grants and investments yesterday, totaling about $25 million. Over $7.5 million was announced for organizations as part of Google's "protect and prevent" initiative to combat pandemics, over $3 million is slated for organizations to "inform and empower to improve public services" in South Asia, and over $3 million will go …

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Google invests in solar thermal company eSolar

Today, Google announced it's investing $10 million in eSolar, a solar thermal company, as part of its RE<C project. (Speaking of the latter, we've got an excellent interview on it coming up soon.) Here's what esolar has to say about itself (PDF): To serve the renewable electricity needs of utility-scale energy providers, eSolar has developed a market disrupting solar thermal power plant technology. Generation can be scaled from 25 MW to over 500 MW at energy prices competitive with traditional fossil fuels. David Sassoon has more.

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Former Hollywood madam to open wind-powered brothel

Heidi Fleiss. Ten things I didn't know about former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss until I read this awesome Elle story: She's a vegetarian. She calls herself a tree hugger. She owns 24 parrots. She runs a laundromat called Dirty Laundry in Pahrump, Nev. (Pahrump!) Her next business venture will be wind-powered. It will be a brothel. For women. (There go the blow-job jokes.) Called the Stud Farm. Where clients can "get a manicure, a pedicure, and a shag." Seriously!

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Monsanto’s latest court triumph cloaks massive market power

At first glance, it was an open-and-shut case. In 1998, Mississippi farmer Homan McFarling bought soybean seeds with genetic traits owned by Monsanto, then as now the world's dominant provider of genetically modified seeds -- and also the biggest herbicide maker. Like all farmers who buy GM seeds, McFarling signed a contract obliging him not to hold back any of the resulting harvest as seed for the next year's planting. But McFarling saved his seeds anyway -- and Monsanto busted him. Hot to protect its multibillion-dollar investment in genetic modification, Monsanto set loose a cadre of rent-a-cops into the farm …

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Wal-Mart will open more-efficient stores

Wal-Mart -- ah, always Wal-Mart -- has plans to open four stores that "will operate at a level that's 25 percent more efficient than a traditional Wal-Mart supercenter," according to a representative. The chain, which has a goal of someday having all of its 2,400 U.S. stores reach that level of efficiency, is using tricks it learned from experimental stores in Texas and Colorado. The first of the second-generation stores is set to open its doors on Jan. 23 in Romeoville, Ill.

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Companies’ green record not important to MBAs, says study

Young professionals are our hope for the future, a generation that will value sustainability and push big employers to take environmental factors into consideration ... right, guys? Right? Oh, uh, this just in: MBAs rank a company's environmental record at the bottom of factors they use to select employers, says a new study. In a survey of 527 MBA students, only 34 percent viewed a company's green policies as "extremely" or "very" important factors in finding employment. Also relatively unimportant: corporate ethics, social responsibility, and community involvement. Says one unsurprised business professor, "What the company stands for is important, but …