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Powering up: Green tech investment surges

The money's coming in for green tech.Photo: MoneyblognewzSome good news on the environmental front for a change: Global investment in green technology in the first quarter of the year spiked 52 percent compared to the previous quarter, to $2.57 billion. That's according to a report released Tuesday by the Cleantech Group, a San Francisco research and consulting firm. The increase represents a 13 percent jump over the first quarter of 2010, and indicates that investors' appetite for renewable energy, electric cars, and other green technologies continues to rebound from the recession. But the numbers aren't exactly good news for entrepreneurs …

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World Bank to the poor: ‘Coal’s good enough for you!’

The World Bank -- famous for funding gobsmackingly huge, planet-killing coal-fired power plants -- is changing its tune, sort of. Under a new set of proposed rules, the Bank would only be allowed to fund gobsmackingly huge, planet-killing coal-fired power plants in the world's poorest countries. Progress! Okay, that sounds dastardly, but it’s a little complicated. The world's poorest countries are exactly the countries that will suffer most under climate change, so less coal is good (though no coal would be better). But they’re also the countries for whom energy poverty represents an even bigger threat than climate change, meaning …

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Should we compromise on key environmental laws to get greentech support? Alexis Madrigal wonders

This is the fifth and final post in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: How should the lessons from your book alter the strategies of technologists and policymakers? How can they exploit these lessons? AM: I hate to jump on the innovation and jobs train -- I have my doubts about it -- but purely from a political point of view, we have a lot of the strengths we need to build strong green technology …

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Solar could save Minnesota schools millions

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Currently, Minnesota's public schools spend approximately $84 million per year on electricity costs, money diverted from the classroom. But a bill to make clean, local energy accessible now (CLEAN) could help the state’s public schools use solar to zero out their electricity bills and add $193 million per year to their operating budgets. The proposed bill would create a CLEAN Contract for public entities in Minnesota, requiring local utilities to buy electricity from solar photovoltaics (PV) systems on public property on …

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Alexis Madrigal chats about Danish wind power and how to fail well (also, sensors)

This is the fourth in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: Something that comes up again and again in your book is this seemingly irreducible mystery of wind and how it moves. The wind industry starts with all these windmills on farms, then up to the big turbines, all in the absence of any sophisticated scientific knowledge about how wind works. AM: There's this big debate in the history of technology around the role of …

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New Jersey leads U.S. in Superfund sites, spray tan and … solar power?

Jersey’s not all gym, tan, laundry. It’s also got more photovoltaic solar power capacity than any state except California (which is 19 times bigger). Even with a small square mileage, wishy-washy East Coast sun, and reality-show meatheads hogging the rays, Jersey’s managing to shore (ha) up its economy with solar -- the state has more jobs in solar power than in traditional power. New governor Chris Christie is revisiting the state’s energy portfolio, though, and while it’s certainly not the case that ALL Republicans are virulently anti-renewables, Jersey’s solar crown might end up at risk. The consequences? Ending up with …

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Artificial solar leaf beats trees at their own game

What's better than trees? I'll tell you: ROBOT TREES. Scientists at MIT have developed "artificial leaves" -- small solar cells, about the size (though not the shape) of an oak leaf, that use a photosynthesis-like process to turn water into electricity. Only they do it ten times more efficiently than natural leaves, and the electricity they produce can be used to power homes in the developing world. Trees: spanked. The leaves are cheap to produce and can operate continuously for 45 hours, which gives them a lot of potential for powering homes in countries where energy infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. …

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Alexis Madrigal chats about the crazy greentech history you’ve never heard

This is the first in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: What were the first glimmers of the book? AM: It was about 2007. At the time, Bruce Sterling had just said, "green will never be sexier than it is right now." And that was true. I kept hearing these apocryphal stories about renewable energy projects of the past. The first one I heard about was Luz solar plants out in the Mojave. As someone …

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it's nuked the fridge

How the 'peaceful atom' became a serial killer

Photo: Charles LeungThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. When nuclear reactors blow, the first thing that melts down is the truth. Just as in the Chernobyl catastrophe almost 25 years ago when Soviet authorities denied the extent of radiation and downplayed the dire situation that was spiraling out of control, Japanese authorities spent the first week of the Fukushima crisis issuing conflicting and confusing reports. We were told that radiation levels were up, then down, then up, but nobody aside from those Japanese bureaucrats could verify the levels and few trusted …

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A dollar that's what I need

Giving clean energy developers cash works better than tax credits, stupid US policy notwithstanding

One of the great undercovered aspects of U.S. energy policy is the fact that most of it happens through the tax code. That's one reason it's so unbearably lame. Why do we do energy policy this way? There are many reasons, but a big one is that decades of conservative agitprop have made it almost impossible to spend money (eek, big government!) on a particular industry (eek, picking winners!) in a way that's transparent and democratically accountable. Oh, we still direct money to favored industries, of course; we've always had industrial policy and always will. We just don't do it …