Business & Technology

How to Green Your Friendly Neighborhood Monopoly

What should Microsoft do on climate?

Caught up today with Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s smartie-pants green dude, who elaborated on CEO Steve Ballmer’s TOP-SECRET memo to his 90K employees laying out the company’s ambitions on energy and climate change. The memo contains juicy nuggets like: “Our goal is to reduce our carbon emissions per unit of revenue by at least 30 percent compared with 2007 levels by 2012.” (Kinda hard to unpack what that means, I know.) Microsoft has been criticized by some as behind the times on green, compared to, say, a Google, but Bernard, who has been on the job about a year and a …

Reaching for the stars

California utility bets on space-based solar power

A conceptual image of what a space-based solar power plant would look like. The image was commissioned by the National Space SocietyMafic Studios, Inc. Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of PG&E. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new technologies, to seek out new sources of renewable energy and new revenues, to boldly go where no regulated utility has gone before. Captain Kirk’s voice keeps popping into my head as I read through utility PG&E’s 24-page application seeking regulators’ approval for the world’s first space-based solar power plant. Yep, a flying a solar farm. It’s to be built …

Every job can be green, part two

This is part two of my chapter, “Green jobs in a sustainable economy”, published recently in the book “Mandate for Change”.  You can also read part one, in which I discuss the first three ways in which to create an environmentally sustainable economy. Fourth, in the United States today, about two-thirds of our electricity and one-third of our natural gas is used within residential and commercial buildings. Heating and cooling accounts for almost all of the natural gas use in commercial and residential buildings, and accounts for 30 percent of all electrical use in the country. And those natural gas …

Man of steel

Ads call for green jobs to revitalize steel towns

Environmental Defense Action Fund, United Steelworkers, and the Blue Green Alliance unveiled new television ads this week in support of a cap on carbon and a comprehensive green energy and jobs bill. The ads focus on the disappearance of steel-industry jobs from Braddock, Pa., and the mayor’s hope that new green jobs will replace them. The ads are part of a campaign with its own website: The Cap Solution. “Towns like Braddock need Congress to cap carbon so we can get to work,” says John Fetterman, Braddock’s young, tattooed, Harvard-educated mayor.  “It takes 250 tons of steel to make a …

Trouble at home

Why Obama’s bank bailout could be bad for the environment

Back to the future?Photo: Julep67The Obama administration’s plan for reviving the banks is predicated on the idea that the “toxic assets” weighing down balance sheets aren’t really all that toxic at all; that the banks, in other words, aren’t actually insolvent, but  just the victims of temporary investor panic. If that logic proves true, then we may be in the process of delaying a much-needed reckoning of how we arrange our built landscapes. in short, the Obama administration is placing a massive bet, with public cash, on the resiliency of suburbia — at a point when climate change and hair-trigger …

Something New Under the Sun

PG&E signs first-of-a-kind space solar power deal

Not many people I know think space solar is a low-cost, scalable solution. Certainly it is worth pursuing any genuine low-carbon baseload power source if it can be practical and scalable — and affordable, which I would put at $0.15 a kilowatt hour or less for.  The problem with space solar is that, like hydrogen fuel-cell cars, there is little chance it could be affordable until it is massively scaled up — and no guarantee that it would be practical and affordable even then.  That’s one reason major utilities have been unwilling to take the risk on it. Until now. …

Why the CDM should matter to the United States

A hot-blooded Spanish creature like me can get into an argument relatively easily, and I’m not afraid to argue strongly about what I know and/or believe. Can you picture Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona when she argues with Javier Bardem? Yep, that’s me! In the last four months here in the United States, I have attended quite a few conferences, gatherings, meetings, cocktails, you name it. At all of them I have found myself discussing carbon offsets, specifically the contribution of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) — the project-based market mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol that channels foreign investment …

Eat the rich with organic greens

Let millionaires pay to solve our twin environmental and economic crises

Economic and environmental problems are two consequences of one mistake, a mistake every farmer used to know the folly of: eating our seed corn

lies, damned lies and statistics

Adventures in the FUD-osphere

Don’t FUD it upImage: psdFDR must have been talking about the Internet when he famously said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Everywhere you turn there is another study raising some new hazard and questioning some baseline assumption about how our society lives, eats or fuels itself. And then in short order, another study appears questioning the conclusions of the first — leaving us all full of nothing but FUD. FUD, of course, stands for the bedrock principles of a depressingly large segment of corporations (and politicians) — Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. The concept may go back as …

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