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Chair-dance-worthy indie rock video explains why plastics don’t have to suck

It's like Threadless and the Arcade Fire teamed up with BASF to talk about green chemistry and the threat of peak oil.


U.S. cleantech support about to fall off a cliff

If you care about cleantech in the U.S., this graph should make your blood run cold:

Boom & Bust: the coming cleantech cliff

That's from a new report -- "Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence" -- from folks at the Breakthrough Institute, Brookings Institution, and World Resources Institute. It's a welcome and much-needed attempt to put some numbers behind the debate over federal cleantech support.

It's divided into three parts. The first tells the story of cleantech policy over the last five years. Early in his term, Obama unleashed a ton of support for cleantech, mainly via the stimulus bill, but also by funding some programs from the Bush era and earlier. At around $150 billion, federal cleantech spending from 2009-2014 will amount to over three times what was spent from 2002-2008. But that funding is dropping off a cliff:

In the absence of legislative action to extend or replace current subsidies, America's clean tech policy system will have been largely dismantled by the end of 2014, a casualty of the scheduled expiration of 70 percent of all federal clean tech policies. ... Furthermore, many of the remaining programs will end shortly after 2014.



America could power a city on all the small-scale hydroelectric power we’re not harvesting

Every year, America misses out on 1.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity, enough to power a small city. Where's it all going? Literally, it's being flushed down the drain.

With the right kind of technology, we could harvest the energy of water running downhill through America's infrastructure, including canals, tunnels, pipelines, and existing dams, reports Susan Kraemer at Earth Techling.

The key is "micro-hydropower" devices, which can harvest small amounts of water power. For human-made waterways, there's Hydrovolts "Big Canal Turbine."


Cleantech spending drops 75 percent in five years

A new paper from Brookings, the World Resources Institute, and the Breakthrough Institute shows exactly how much trouble cleantech is in:

Depressing, no? Some of that rapid decline comes from the end of stimulus spending. But the researchers found that even discounting those funds, federal support for cleantech dropped 47 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Read more: Cleantech


Turbine makes fresh water out of thin air in the desert

If you've ever watched water drip out of a window air conditioning unit, you've seen the operating principle of Eole Water's new wind turbine in action. Tests of the turbine in Abu Dhabi have yielded between 500 and 800 liters of water a day, and the company thinks it can get it up to a cool 1,000 liters -- not bad for a desert.


People power: Crowdfunding fires up local solar projects

Nikki Henderson, executive director of People's Grocery, with the community solar project that is expected to save her organization more than $30,000 over the 20-year lease.

Here’s a not-terribly-novel idea: Get a bunch of people together, pool your money, and invest it in a project or a business that will make enough money to pay you back -- hopefully with interest. Banks do it, right? And it seems like a decent way to fund promising green technology like solar power.

Or you’d think so, anyway.

Banks will fund huge commercial solar projects, but when it comes to community-level solar installation, they won’t touch it, says Billy Parish, president of Solar Mosaic, a Berkeley, Calif.-based company that seeds local solar projects. “When we were first getting started, we went looking for funding from banks,” he says. “Wells Fargo told us, ‘Come back to us when you have a book of $50 to $100 million worth of projects.’”

That just wasn’t gonna happen. And that’s why Solar Mosaic’s seemingly mundane business model is so interesting.


Solar ‘scandal’ upshot: China is dominating global solar market, for better or worse

Chinese flag against sunBlame China. Or thank China?

Conservatives are going nuts about a "new Solyndra," a gullible media is falling for the hype, and the only voice of sanity is ... Politico?

Wonders never cease. Good on reporter Alex Guillen for noting that the scandal of $2.1 billion in government money going to a bankrupt solar company (Sun Trust this time) looks a little less like a scandal when you note that the government didn't actually give the company any money. Not only did Rush Limbaugh and RedState get that wrong -- getting thing wrongs is more or less their vocation -- but even AP and Reuters left this crucial detail out of their initial stories. Most disturbingly, Guillen notes that Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who's on the Energy and Commerce oversight committee, didn't seem to know that the company was never actually given money. Guess he's just another Rush listener.

Anyway, the actual, true story behind the latest solar kerfuffle -- related with typical clarity by Todd Woody -- is quite interesting. It's got very little to with the wisdom of Energy Department support for clean energy, but a great deal to do with the big story in solar power today: China.


If everyone used as much energy as Americans, we’d run out of oil in 9 years

Unlike gluttonous American industry, Europe's most profitable companies plan to make even more money by getting ahead of this whole peak oil trend, reports Der Spiegel. And it’s a damn good thing, because if everybody guzzled oil like Americans, we’d be even more screwed than we are now.

Case in point:

If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.


Google saves energy by cooling its buildings with ice

Google's new $700 million data centers in Taiwan will make ice at night, when electricity is significantly cheaper, and use it to cool the buildings during the day, reports Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge. It's called thermal storage, and it's basically a battery, but for air conditioning.


Geek legend hacks together an off-grid smart home

Loren Amelang is a pioneer in C++ programming, and his homebrewed live/work space is a monument to sustainable geekery, says Fair Companies.

The entire south side of his home is covered in solar capture devices: 1600 watts of photovoltaic power, solar hot water panels, a sunroom/greenhouse and a solar hot air collector.

This isn't just your usual passive house or living building, either: Amelang can control the entire thing from a smartphone.