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  • Here are some

    Last week I discussed the basic arithmetic associated with population and economic growth, which will make it impossible to dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions without major improvements in technology. (Some commenters protested, saying that current technology is sufficient, but they are mistaking the ability to reduce emissions based on current levels of income and population and what emissions will be as countries grow and economies expand.)

  • New company says it can make better, cheaper biofuels

    Picture a liquid fuel that is derived from the same feedstocks as cellulosic ethanol (switchgrass, sugar cane, corn stover) but contains 50% more energetic content and is made via a process that uses 65% less energy. Unlike cellulosic ethanol, this fuel can be distributed via existing oil pipelines rather than gas-hogging trucks and trains, dispensed […]

  • Solar confusion

    This is a neat concept — a solar water filter — brought to us by reader Zack Scott: But I’m confused. Does this work, say, if I’m lost in the woods and waterless? Does it filter out enough of the undesired elements to render water safe for drinking? Thoughts from Gristmillers?

  • Japan experiments with seaweed as biofuel

    As birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is one of the pioneering countries in climate change policy and research. In 1990, Japan pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 6 percent by 2012. One of their proposed stratagems for meeting this goal is to replace the 132 million gallons of gasoline that Japan car drivers use with a biofuel option.

  • Malawian man powers village with a $16 windmill

    A great story via Inhabitat: With all the sobering news lately about global warming and war, it’s important to remember all the positive things that are also going on in the world at any given time. Case in point: the story of intrepid Malawi youth William Kamkwamba who, despite having no education or training, recently […]

  • California is no longer leading the pack on wind energy

    Last year, California suffered the ultimate indignity in its quest to be the “greenest state.” It was passed by red Texas — the oil heartland — for the title of state with the most wind-power generating capacity. The numbers get even more depressing. Last year, California’s wind capacity grew at a slower rate than any […]

  • Umbra on thin-film solar panels

    Dear Umbra, I read that thin-film solar panels are now being produced on a wider scale. I always hear that they can be sandwiched into window glass, but are there any companies that are actually using the technology in architectural products? How does thin film compare to the traditional PV panel? Jen Oakland, Calif. Dearest […]

  • Looks like the plug-in might actually happen

    volttop.jpgGeneral Motors is apparently serious about introducing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which I have repeatedly argued is the car of the future (PDF). The race is now on between Toyota and GM as to who will be the first to introduce this game-changing vehicle.

    The Chevy Volt is to be the "legacy" of Robert Lutz, GM's vice chair of product development, according to Business Week's "Auto Beat" column. The Volt will go about 40 miles on an electric charge before reverting to being a regular gasoline-powered hybrid.

  • Concrete images of a greener society

    Global warming activists have often advocated policies based on numerical goals or painted scary scenarios of the future. But there is a third way to advocate for long-term policies: propose solutions that contain a positive vision of a fossil fuel-free society.

    The importance of this approach was underlined to me when I heard Betsy Rosenberg of the radio show Ecotalk interview Chip Heath, an author of the business-oriented book, Made to Stick. She asked Heath what he thought of the phrase "20% by 2020," that is, reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. She thought it had a nice ring to it ... until Heath responded, well, no, nothing turns people off like a bunch of numbers. Instead, the author advised environmentalists to use "concrete images."

    Therefore, instead of talking about numeric targets for carbon emissions reductions in order to avoid hell on earth, I'd like to try to paint a picture of how to create a society that might be better than the one we live in now. In that spirit, let me propose the following scenario: