Environment Forum

Sprouting business

Marie Larsson, Director of Operations at Toronto Sprouts, discusses the benefits of growing food in a downtown location.

Made Green in California (TM)?

California’s environmental and other regulations are helping to send manufacturers running, but the state can capitalize on its green image (and should streamline regulations) a new study by the Milken Institute says.

The study found that Golden State manufacturing was already contracting at an astounding rate even before the latest meltdown, and that it was lagging some other Western U.S. states which had seen small upticks in jobs for people who make stuff.

In particular, high-tech manufacturing fell to 485,900 jobs in 2007 in California from 629,400 in 2000, the report said.

Belgian city makes Thursday “Veggie Day”

 

By Caroline Linton

 

The average Belgian eats 1,800 animals in his or her lifetime, but the city of Ghent is trying to reduce that number by making Thursdays “Veggie Day” — a day without meat.

 

The Ghent City Council has joined forces with vegetarian activists in a campaign to encourage the city’s 240,000 residents to give up meat for one day a week.

 

Supporters say fewer greenhouse gases will be emitted by the meat industry and residents will be at lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Ghent officials say they are the first city in the world to take such a step.

Starting big, thinking small in batteries

Carmakers and regulators look at the adoption of electric vehicles, which draw their power from the electric grid rather than engines and thus emit no carbon dioxide from their tailpipes, as a necessarily gradual process, limited by battery technology.
 
But General Electric thinks its new battery technology, based on sodium, could radically speed up that process.
 
“The way the roadmap has been laid out as I’ve seen it is a lot of evolutionary steps,” with technological development taking years if not decades to replace traditional gasoline powered cars with hybrids, followed by plug-in hybrids, followed by pure electric vehicles said Glen Merfeld, who runs the chemical energy lab at GE’s global research center in Niskayuna, New York.
 
The reason for that long timeframe is that current battery technology limits the range of a car that draws its power solely from an internal battery.
 
“The sodium battery is potentially disruptive to that evolutionary look,” Merfeld said. The technology that we are commercializing will solve some of those problems.”
 
GE on Tuesday said it plans to build a new factory outside Albany, New York, where it will initially focus on producing sodium-metal halide batteries for railroad locomotives. That technology differs from the lithium-ion batteries being developed for the next generation of hybrid autos in that it is better suited for releasing small amounts of energy over time, rather than a lot at once.
 
Eventually, by pairing the sodium battery with a lithium-ion one, such as those made by A123 Systems, which GE owns a stake in, the company could design a power train for an all-electric car that would allow a range of hundreds of miles and cost 30 to 40 percent less than a single-battery power train, Merfeld said.
 
“You’d probably want to start with larger (vehicles) because that’s where you need to store more energy than in the smaller ones,” added Mark Little, a GE senior vice president who runs its research center. “We could imagine a day where you could go to the future and have a small lithium-ion system for the power side and a larger sodium battery for the energy side. But that will take some time to get to.”
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Chevron CEO sees smoke and mirrors in cap and trade

“If you liked credit derivatives swaps, you’re going to love cap-and-trade.”

One can presume that Chevron Chief Executive David O’Reilly is not a fan of the current deep worldwide recession — which was worsened by a credit-market lockup blamed in part on hard-to-value securities.

And, he made it very clear on Thursday that he is not enamored of the system the Obama administration hopes to use to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, which are produced through the burning of fossil fuels sold by the No. 2 U.S. oil and gas company.

Google co-founder may build eco-mansion

Google co-founder Larry Page is building green, according to a local report.

He’s planning a cozy 6,000 square foot eco-mansion on a 0.75 acre lot in Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Weekly’s Web site says. The interim city planning chief told us that’s the biggest house one could build on such a lot, although the total space allowed is nearly 11,000 including garages and other outbuildings.

The paper says Page is kitting the house out with solar panels and paving that lets the rain run through to get it “green points“. Check out Palo Alto Online, whose Web site has strong reaction from foes and fans of Larry’s plan.

(Picture of Sergey Brin and Larry Page by Reuters)

California climate chief has global warming plan

California looks ready to get the go-ahead to regulate greenhouse gases from cars, after President Obama on Monday told the EPA to reconsider a Bush administration refusal. California’s top climate official, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, last week predicted the okay would be ready to go by May. In the attached video, from the interview last week, she talks about California’s grand plans, which are the most aggressive in the United States.

For Reuters full environment coverage, check our stories here.

Don’t rain on my electric car parade

Electric car organization Plug In America revved up the inaugural festivities this past weekend with a parade of 74 plug-in vehicles in Santa Monica, California, dubbing it the “greenest procession of its kind.”

The non-profit group first applied to ride in the Presidential inaugural parade in Washington, but was not chosen. Undeterred, it took the parade west, said spokeswoman Zan Dubin Scott.

“Today we congratulate President Barack Obama, who has called for one million plug-in cars by 2015,” Paul Scott, one of the group’s co-founders, said at the parade on Saturday, taking the moment to make a “plug” for more plug-ins by 2016. “With the audacity of hope and the confidence born of years driving these cars, we’re asking Obama to accelerate his plan and make it happen three years sooner, then to boost that number to ten million plug-ins by 2016.”

How much electricity do you use in a year?

It was a disarmingly simple question but, embarrassingly, I didn’t have a clue when first asked that 18 months ago. Even though I’d have to describe myself as a genuine tightwad when it comes to expenditures, I simply had no idea, strangely enough, about how much money my four-person household was spending on electricity — nor how much carbon dioxide was being produced.

Now, after a year of carefully tracking the daily use of electricity, I’ve discovered a bit about when and where power is being used and, in theory, saved — without much pain. It seemed like a no-brainer and it honestly was not hard to cut our consumption by 1,000 kilowatt hours in 2008 to 5,000 kWh — saving about 200 euros and 500 kg of CO2 in the process. There were only minor sacrifices: rigidly turning off “standby” switches and unused lights, pulling plugs on little-used appliances, putting in energy-efficient lightbulbs, using the washing machine sparingly and the dryer only rarely, and replacing an inefficient dishwasher with a low-energy model.

In the past year, we used as little as 4 kWh on some days (in the summer) and as much as 30 on others (in the winter) — although most days were in the 10-to-17 range. Annoyingly, the house “wasted” about 3 kWh per day when we were away on holiday — largely due to the refrigerator, which I’ll be emptying and turning off next time. The 2008 total of 5,000 kWh (which amounted to an electricity bill of about 1,000 euros) isn’t bad for four people (one rule of thumb I’ve seen is 1,500 kWh per person/year) but I’m convinced that usage could be even less (the benchmark of 1,000 kWh per person/year is considered “thrifty”).

Economy leaves consumers feeling more blue than green

Has the global economic crisis got you feeling more blue than green? If so, you’re not alone.

U.S. consumers are pulling back spending on everything, and carbon-cutting products like hybrid cars and solar panels are no exception. After all, being green often requires us to pony up big chunks of change with the promise of cost savings later. That pitch, according to many green business owners, isn’t working so well these days.

“People are so scared about the future that they don’t want to commit to paybacks that have too long a window,” said Alan Finkel, owner of Santa Monica-based Green Life Guru, a company that helps homeowners reduce their gas and electricity usage.

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