The climate clock ticks faster, a solar campus, butter as biofuel, and 7 more green tales
1) You’re getting warmer: If you’ve been feeling a little stressed by the ticking of the global-warming clock, take a deep breath. It’s ticking faster. At least that’s the conclusion of researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Based on a new carbon-cycle model they’ve devised, the tipping point will come in 2015. If the world doesn’t start reducing carbon emissions by then, serious global warming and climate instability are pretty much in the cards. That’s five years sooner than the estimate presented at the Copenhagen summit last year. Get the ugly details at Greenbang.
2) Turn the heat around: Now some good news. Conventional solar cells can’t really take advantage of the heat produced while generating electricity — plus, hot weather can actually make them less efficient. But a team of Stanford researchers has devised a process they call “photon enhanced thermionic emissions,” aka PETE. It would enable solar panels to produce electricity from the heat they capture. The scientists estimate this could make solar cells twice as efficient. Ucilia Wang fills you in at earth2tech.
3) Where students pray for rain: Until someone can harness the power of beer pong, Butte College, a two-year school in northern California, will hold a unique distinction. By next May, after 15,000 solar panels are added to the 10,000 already on campus, it will become the first college in the country to produce more energy than it uses. See the light at Solar Daily.
4) Waiter, there’s a fly in my locusts: Given that the raising of cattle, pigs, and sheep creates 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, the responsible thing to do is to stop eating meat. But you can shrink your diet’s carbon footprint and still keep meat on the menu. Just a different kind of meat. A meat that goes crunch. The United Nations is reviewing a policy paper recommending that it aggressively promote the eating of insects, particularly in Western countries, where for some reason we still prefer burgers to scorpion on a stick. Damian Carrington of The Observer has more.
5) Van on a mission: The Volt is generating a lot of electric buzz for GM, but the car company is also getting behind other plug-in endeavors. This week it announced it was investing $5 million in an Indiana company named Bright Automotive, which plans to build a fleet of plug-in hybrid delivery vans. Bright hopes to have its vans buzzing around cities by 2014. Chuck Squatriglia is plugged in at Wired‘s Autopia.
6) Greenwashing we need: Sure, your washer, your dryer, your fridge, and the rest of your appliance posse are always there for you. But face it, they’re energy pigs. Thanks to an agreement signed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers this week, their children and grandchildren will be able to get their green on. The trade group committed to set new standards for reducing energy and water use in plugged-in pals of the future. GreenBiz has the story.
7) That blows: And how can we forget our best friend of all this summer, our humming bud, the air conditioner? Unfortunately, it’s among the biggest energy suckers on the planet. Air conditioners are responsible for 15 percent of America’s energy consumption. In fact, we burn more energy using air conditioners than the entire continent of Africa does for all of its energy needs. And countries like India are just getting started; by 2020, the energy consumed by air conditioners there will be 10 times what it was five years ago. Rob Sharp tells the chilling tale in The Independent.
8) Save the rainforest, make big money: Here’s a novel idea: Ecuador is asking to be paid $3.6 billion not to drill for oil. By agreeing not to tap into the estimated 846 million barrels of oil under its Yasuni National Park, the country wants to be the first to tap into a United Nations trust fund being created to encourage countries to protect rainforests. Stephen Messenger provides the details at Treehugger.
9) Give your bike a lift: For those who just can’t bear to leave their bike behind after they reach their destination, there’s now the VeloMini. It’s an electric bike powered by a 24-volt lithium battery, and when you get to where you’re going, you just fold it up and shove it into a carrying bag about the size of a guitar case. How cool would that make you? Darren Quick has just the facts at GizMag.
10) I can’t believe it’s butter: Of all the things in your refrigerator that might one day run your car, that stick of butter didn’t figure to be a frontrunner. But a group of clever scientists has come up with a way to convert the old-school spread into a biodiesel fuel. One other blood-thickening fact from Teresa Shipley’s report for Discovery News: The U.S. produces about a billion pounds of butter every year.
Did your thighs just twinge?