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If fossil fuel subsidies were distributed to every person, we’d each get $58/year

Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.


The Solyndra sideshow peters out

Time to pack up the Solyndra circus, boys. (Photo by Thomas Totz.)

No one is more invested in seeing the Solyndra investigation continue to produce "news" than Politico, so it's significant that reporter (and Solyndra devotee) Darren Samuelsohn has basically called it. After over a year, Republicans have turned up nothing, as this sad excerpt makes clear:

"Is there a criminal activity? Perhaps not," Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told POLITICO after last Tuesday’s showdown with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Is there a political influence and connections? Perhaps not. Did they bend the rules for an agenda, an agenda not covered within the statute? Absolutely."

The agenda was to give innovative clean energy companies the best possible chance to survive and thrive. It’s difficult to see how that’s not “covered” in a statute establishing a loan guarantee program to give innovative clean energy companies the best possible chance to survive and thrive.


Would you like a bamboo keyboard? Of course you would

The iZen bamboo keyboard is 92 percent bamboo, because normally keyboards are made from plastic, and plastic is made from oil and we'd rather not.


DIY printable furniture ships as information, not parts

If your modular furniture from IKEA was fashioned from wood harvested on one continent, cut and finished on another, and shipped to yet a third, that’s not exactly sustainable. That's why design firm Filson and Rohrbacher decided to replace actual furniture with its evanescent, Platonic ideal: pure information. Download the computerized machine-ready plans at their website and you can use them to build just about anything out of anything.


One giant, offshore wind turbine can provide power for 6,000 people

Off the coast of Belgium, truly gigantic wind turbines are going up. They're rated at 6.15 megawatts. The blades of these monsters cover the surface of two soccer fields, according to RWE Innogy, the German company behind the project. The hub holding the gear that makes the electricity? It's the size of a two-family home. Just one of these things can provide power for 6,000 people.

It's hard to get a sense from the photo above how big wind turbines like this are, because the sea is so massive. But check out this video of a six megawatt rated wind turbine … it's just huge.

Read more: Cleantech


Human wings: The green answer to air travel

Forget subways, trains, and bikes -- those are old hat compared to what we’re about to tell you. Meet the new green form of transportation: strapping on human bird wings and flying through the air with the greatest of ease.


Mayor awesome: Against all odds, L.A.’s mayor stays green

Los Angeles' supergreen mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. (Photo by David Starkopf.)

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is about as green as they come. Since his election in 2005, Villaraigosa has instated a massive climate action plan, slashed air pollution at the Port of Los Angeles, pulled more than 2,000 diesel trucks off the roads, retrofitted more than 64,000 street lights with energy-efficient LEDs, enacted some of the nation’s strictest green building standards, championed the restoration of the L.A. river, created 51 new parks, slashed the city's water use, increased recycling, and started work on an ambitious mass transit expansion in a city that is famously enamored of the automobile.

Granted, Villaraigosa has a tendency to lay plans that will have no chance of coming to fruition before he is term-limited out in 2013: Build 1,600 miles of bikeways! Plant a million trees! And now he wants to wean L.A. from coal power by 2025. But at a time when most cities are struggling just to meet residents’ basic needs, he can be forgiven for being overly ambitious.

One of Villaraigosa’s policy centerpieces has been Measure R, a voter-approved tax that will raise $40 billion over 30 years to fund transportation infrastructure. Almost half of the money will go to mass transit. And to speed progress, Villaraigosa has convinced Democrats and Republicans in Congress to support a plan called America Fast Forward, which would allow L.A. to get the work done in 10 years, rather than 30 -- and similarly reward other cities that are taking on ambitious transit projects.

At press time, America Fast Forward is tied up in Congress, where the House and Senate are engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken over passing a new transportation bill. But political high jinks in Washington aren’t stopping Villaraigosa from dreaming big. He says he’ll move forward with or without help from Washington.

We caught up with Villaraigosa this week to see how he’s managed to stay green in a time when, as a famous frog once lamented, it’s anything but easy.


Chinese cheaters? U.S. slaps modest tariffs on solar panels from China

Chinese workers with a solar panelCross-posted from Climate Progress.

After months of speculation and debate about unfair Chinese subsidies to domestic solar manufacturers, the U.S. solar industry finally has an answer to one piece of the ongoing trade case: Solar panels imported from China will be hit with a small tariff.

The Department of Commerce issued a preliminary decision today based upon the agency’s impartial review of Chinese subsidies to domestic solar companies.

The tariffs range from 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent -- dramatically lower than the 20 percent expected by many industry analysts. But this decision from Commerce is just the first of two key tariff rulings. While today's ruling addressed the issue of subsidies, a separate decision on whether Chinese companies are dumping panels into the U.S. market below cost is expected in May.


Soon, your toilet could heat your apartment building

Now you can dump energy waste just by, well, taking a massive dump. Green tech company OriginOil is working on a project that uses toilet wastewater as a way to heat apartment buildings.

OriginOil, a start-up based in Los Angeles, CA., has begun a pilot of its urban algae farm concept at the La Défense complex near Paris. Wastewater from buildings nourishes algae growth; algae is processed to make heat. The company is attempting to prove that integrating algae production into large building complexes will help bring them closer to net zero.


This lamp absorbs 150 times more CO2 than a tree

It's still in the "so crazy it just might work" stage, but these microalgae-powered lamps, invented by French biochemist Pierre Calleja, could absorb a ton of carbon from the air every year. That's as much as 150 to 200 trees.

Read more: Cleantech, Living