Global clean-technology venture investment plunged to $6.46 billion in 2012, down 33 percent from the $9.61 billion invested a year ago, according to San Francisco-based research and consulting firm Cleantech Group.
Why such a big drop-off?
The low price of natural gas has made it harder for renewable energy to compete on cost. Venture capitalists are shying away from capital-intensive deals after seeing companies like Santa Clara-based Misasolé sold at fire sale prices. And global economic uncertainty took a toll: Several privately backed cleantech companies, including Oakland's BrightSource Energy, were forced to shelve their IPO plans and raise additional funds from existing investors.
Analyst firm Mintel estimated last month that sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the US will exceed 535,000 units in 2013, a sizable increase on the 440,000 sold last year. Sales of hybrids and electric cars rose 73 per cent in 2012, making it the fastest growing segment in the US auto market.
A separate market analysis by Pike Research "estimates annual global sales of 3.8 million electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2020," the International Herald Tribune reports. It also "estimates that sales of plug-in cars will grow by 40 percent annually. During that same period, general car sales will grow by 2 percent."
The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt gets some of the credit for those rising numbers. "General Motors sold three times as many Chevrolet Volts in 2012 as it did in 2011, which was the car's first full year on the market," reports CNN -- "23,461 Volts in 2012 compared with just 7,671 in 2011." That's still below GM's sales targets, but, as Climate Progress points out, it makes GM "the first American auto manufacturer to sell more than one million vehicles with a 30-mpg fuel rating." No thanks to all the Volt-hating right-wingers out there.
It might be time to buy that dry suit you've had your eye on -- or start saving up for a submersible.
"Glaciologists fear they may have seriously underestimated the potential for melting ice sheets to contribute to catastrophic sea-level rises in coming decades," reports The Independent. Here's more from NBC News:
Melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland may push up global sea levels more than 3 feet by the end of this century, according to a scientific poll of experts that brings a degree of clarity to a murky and controversial slice of climate science.
Such a rise in the seas would displace millions of people from low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, swamp atolls in the Pacific Ocean, cause dikes in Holland to fail, and cost coastal mega-cities from New York to Tokyo billions of dollars for construction of sea walls and other infrastructure to combat the tides.
"The consequences are horrible," Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol and a co-author of the study published Jan. 6 in the journal Nature Climate Change, told NBC News. ...
The ‘aina is part of our legacy, Mr. President, and yours. Climate change poses the greatest environmental challenge of our time. A recent report by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) makes clear that the fish in our waters and the wildlife habitats in our highlands are threatened. Climate change endangers our very way of life. ...
Mr. President, your legacy is our future. As you return to Washington, please use the authority you have as president to set standards for new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act and protect our world. Please do what is pono.
A ballot measure that would have required labels on all genetically modified frankenfoods failed in California this past fall, but 2013 is a new year with new hope and a new roiling labeling movement, this time in Washington state.
Supporters of a GMO-labeling ballot measure have collected far more signatures than necessary, and if they're certified, the proposal will hit the state legislature in the upcoming session and then likely be on the ballot in November. The movement's colorful spokesperson is spreading the word, as The Seattle Times reports:
"Here we go, Round 2," said the Washington initiative's sponsor, Chris McManus, who owns a small advertising firm in Tacoma. "They got us the first time in Cali, but we're stitched up, greased up and ready to go."
“A little bit more information never hurt anybody about the foods they eat.”
But opposition is beginning to coalesce. Farm industry representatives call the proposal an attempt to scare people away from food sources that have no known health risks. If the initiative wasn’t about scaring people, asked Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, why did supporters deliver their petitions in an old ambulance?
It's generally a good sign when Warren Buffett starts investing in your company/industry/country. Known as the "Wizard of Omaha" due to his ability to send little girls back to Kansas, Buffett is the second most famous representative of investment powerhouse Berkshire Hathaway. (His heavily taxed secretary is the most famous.) And when Berkshire Hathaway makes an investment, markets move.
[Berkshire Hathaway subisidary] MidAmerican Renewables kicked off 2013 with another major purchase. The company announced this week it has acquired SunPower’s Antelope Valley Solar Projects, two co-located projects in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California.
MidAmerican didn’t disclose the purchase price. However, analysts have pinned the purchase price somewhere between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.
Together, the combined projects will form the largest permitted solar photovoltaic power development in the world, according to SunPower and MidAmerican.
Lake Tahoe is pretty. The water is clear; the mountains surrounding it are beautiful. For half a century, the environmental group Keep Tahoe Blue has fought to preserve the region's environmental sanctity, primarily by putting bumper stickers on Volvos, as far as I can tell.
Climate change could profoundly affect the Tahoe area, scientists say, taking the snow out of the mountains and the blue out of the water. ...
New climate models show that in a worst-case scenario average temperatures in the Tahoe area could rise as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That's equivalent to moving Lake Tahoe from its current elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level to 3,700 feet, climate scientists report in a special January issue of the journal Climatic Change. That's as high as the peak of Contra Costa County's Mount Diablo, which gets only an inch of snow a year. …
It's not just the mountains that would look different in a warmer climate, according to Climatic Change. The worst-case scenarios also predict a devastating ecological collapse of the lake and loss of its signature clarity and blue color.
Many lakes undergo a process every year, or every few years, that keeps the lake water well-mixed. As water temperature changes through the seasons, it creates circulation in the lake. The warm water on top of the lake in summer cools off in the fall and sinks, mixing with cold deep water. In a warmer climate, the surface water won't cool off enough to mix with deeper water.
Without that mixture, oxygen doesn't penetrate the lake, changing its chemistry. So long clarity. So long blue.
A small corroded pipe caused the initial blast at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif., this past August, but the oil giant's own firefighters, in their haste, may well have been responsible for the fire's spread.
"One theory we are exploring is that emergency response activities inadvertently accelerated the rate of the leak," said Daniel Horowitz, managing director of the Chemical Safety Board. "We are comparing possible tool marks on the pipe with tools recovered from the incident."
One tool that may have inflicted the apparent damage is a Halligan bar, which has a hook-like implement with a sharp end. Firefighters are commonly equipped with the device to help them gain entry into burning buildings.
Don Holmstrom, the Chemical Safety Board's lead investigator looking into the fire, said the blaze might well have happened even without the apparent puncture, but that the external damage could have been "an aggravating factor."
Investigators have not determined what sparked the blaze, but have raised questions about Chevron's decision to continue to run crude oil through the pipe even as workers responded to the initial, small leak.
On New Year's Eve, in the middle of a storm, Shell was trying to tow its Kulluk drilling rig from Alaska to Seattle. Why then? Why risk the bad weather, which, as it turned out, caused the rig to break free from its tugboats and run aground on Kodiak Island?