October 2008 Archives Week 2
October 17, 2008 |
Gil Friend, who heads up Natural Logic, which delivers strategic sustainability consulting services to companies and communities, hasn’t seen any slowdown yet. “People are wondering what the impact will be,” he reported, “but we actually closed a few new assignments this past week."
For Friend, this is not the time for corporations to cut back. “A lot of people believe that sustainability initiatives are a corporate cost center. From this perspective, it makes sense to eliminate them. But that point of view confuses real with apparent value. Corporate sustainability programs are a great way to reduce costs, make operations more efficient, and create real value. Forward-thinking executives will recognize this and give them the priority they deserve. This is a time when insightful managers can build a competitive advantage.”
Nicholas Eisenberger, who is a managing principal at Greenorder, a sustainability and marketing strategy firm, also sees opportunity in these troubled times. As evidence he points to the recent annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which took place in late September. “I was there,” he reports, “and it was interesting to see the reaction of these prominent corporate, civil-society, and political leaders. Instead of bemoaning the impact of the crisis on the issues that the Initiative focuses on, there was a widespread sense that these were the right things to be paying attention to.”
“Clinton himself summed it up best,” Eisenberger continues. “He said it’s true that deregulation is one cause of the crisis, and greed is another--but that the main cause has been a failure of the imagination about how to get rich. We’ve been putting our money into illusory bubbles rather than investing in the issues that the Clinton Global Initiative is all about—— education, energy and climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation.”
Eisenberger recounted a separate conversation he’d had with a man who’d just attended the Harvard Business School Centennial, where “four hundred business leaders were talking about the need for capitalism to adapt to this crisis by creating more enduring forms of wealth.”
“A big change is occurring,” Eisenberger concludes. “If 1989 was the high-water mark for capitalism, we’ve come to low tide now. We've reached the end of the era when it was generally believed that market forces were the best way to foster human development. I'm heartened to see a lot of introspection going on currrently. People are asking questions like, 'Are we living beyond our means? Are we investing in a sustainable future?' There are inefficiencies in the market, such as an emphasis on short-term rather than long-term pricing, that this crisis is making people look more deeply at correcting. This is a watershed moment."
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Recent and numerous calls for next year's new Congress and administration to forge a comprehensive national energy policy take on a new urgency in troubled economic times, and underscore a longstanding recommendation from the National 25x'25 Alliance for a renewable energy and energy efficient future that will boost our economy, as well as enhance our national security and improve our environment.
"Through the creation of a 25x'25 energy future, we can stimulate the economy and put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work," says Read Smith, co-chairman of the National 25x'25 Steering Committee. "Let's not bury our heads in the sand during these very challenging times. We have solutions that we can bring to the economic recovery table."
A national study undertaken by the University of Tennessee Department of Agricultural Economics shows that if America's farms, ranches and forestlands can meet 25 percent of the nation's energy needs with renewable resources - biofuels, biomass, wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy and hydropower - an estimated $700 billion in new, annual economic activity would be generated, and 4 million to 5 million new jobs would be created.
The Tennessee study, commissioned by 25x'25, is said by its authors to be one scenario among many in meeting the 25x'25 vision. And while the analysis includes forest waste from hazard-reduction programs and mill residue, there are numerous resources that are not taken into account woody biomass from managed forests, agricultural wastes (other than corn and wheat) and urban wood waste - suggesting the economic benefits of a 25x'25 future could be even greater. Furthermore, while the analysis includes the production of dedicated energy crops, some varieties of feedstocks currently under research in laboratories and universities, including energy cane, Miscanthus and hybrid willow, may not have been fully evaluated in the analysis, indicating even greater economic returns.
Another strong indicator of renewable energy development's potential to strengthen the economy comes from the Department of Energy, which looked at just wind energy and concluded that it is capable of becoming a major contributor to America's electricity supply and economy over the next three decades. The DOE says that achieving a 20-percent wind contribution to the U.S. electricity supply would increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5 billion by 2030 and support roughly 500,000 jobs in the United States.
When presented with those kinds of economic incentives, says 25x'25 Project Coordinator Ernie Shea, the alliance's Steering Committee developed a set of recommendations for a national energy policy that will not only reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and address climate change challenges, but will reinvigorate the economy and create new jobs. "The 25x'25 recommendations will lead to a comprehensive, long-term energy plan that will accelerate the production of all forms of renewable energy and create new renewable energy markets," Shea says.
Among the 25x'25 recommendations that directly address the current economic issues are the establishment of a mechanism to create a market for carbon; a change in the way utilities are regulated to give them a real incentive to aggressively pursue cost-effective energy efficiency; the expansion and extension of federal loans and loan guarantees for renewable energy production; the creation of incentives to accelerate the production and deployment of flex fuel and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; and the modernization of the nation's power grid. The alliance also calls for an increase in federal research, development and deployment funding to accelerate the commercial implementation of renewable energy technologies.
Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C. think tank and 25x'25 endorsing partner, says the United States can create 2 million jobs over two years by investing in a rapid "green" economic recovery program. In a recently issued report, the group says a $100-billion public/private investment package would create nearly four times more jobs - including a vast majority paying at least $16 per hour than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry, and would reduce the unemployment rate from the 5.7 percent recorded in July of this year down to 4.4 percent over two years.
The report, Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy, which was prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst under commission by the Center for American Progress, also shows that the proposed green economic recovery package would boost construction and manufacturing employment. The report says the green recovery program, at the least, can restore some 800,000 construction jobs lost, from 8 million to 7.2 million, over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse.
John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, says falling home prices, foreclosures, bank failures, a weaker dollar, steep prices for gas, food, and steel, and layoffs in the banking, construction and manufacturing sectors are all indicators of serious economic strain. "What's more, evidence suggests the current downturn will continue for at least another year," he says. "At the same time, we face a growing climate crisis that will require us to rapidly invest in new energy infrastructure, cleaner sources of power, and more efficient use of electricity and fuels in order to cut global warming pollution."
Podesta says the time is now "for a new vision for the economic revitalization of the nation and a restoration of American leadership in the world" and "at the heart of this opportunity is clean energy, remaking the vast energy systems that power the nation and the world." He says the economic opportunities provided by a fundamental change in the way energy is produced and consumed, are vast.
The $100 billion package envisioned by the Center would include $50 billion for tax credits, $46 billion in direct government spending, and $4 billion for federal loan guarantees. By comparison, U.S. crude oil imports during the first eight months of this year totaled $251 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
"The green economic recovery program addresses the immediate need to boost our struggling economy and accelerate the adoption of a comprehensive clean energy agenda," says Podesta, noting that combining tax credits and loan guarantees for private businesses along with direct public investment spending would retrofit buildings to increase energy efficiency, expand mass transit and freight rail, construct "smart" electrical grid transmission systems, and boost wind energy, solar power and advanced biofuels.
The report shows the vast majority of the 2 million new jobs would be in the same areas of employment that people already work in today, in every region and state of the country. For example, the report notes, constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists, and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting requires roofers, insulators, and building inspectors. Expanding mass transit systems employs civil engineers, electricians and dispatchers.
On another front, The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and community leaders, and a 25x'25 endorsing partner, has released its own economic investment strategy the authors say will build a clean energy economy while cutting energy bills for families and businesses. Alliance officials say the plan will generate and invest $500 billion over the next ten years and create more than five million "high-quality, green-collar" jobs.
The New Apollo Program: Clean Energy, Good Jobs, which the alliance says is a collaboration among several labor unions, environmental groups, businesses, industry associations, and socially responsible non-profit organizations, is a strategy designed to be carried out through initiatives such as establishing a national energy efficiency commitment to reduce energy use in new and existing buildings at least 30 percent by 2025; improve efficiency by 20 percent in existing power plants and industries by 2025; restore America's manufacturing leadership to meet the demands of the clean energy future; establish a National Energy Innovation Fund to invest in the most promising new clean energy technologies emerging from our nation's laboratories; and train America's workers for the new clean energy economy.
The nation's mayors have joined renewable energy advocates in their calls for a "green" overhaul of the nation's economy. In a study from the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Center, the U.S. economy currently generates more than 750,000 green jobs-a number that the report projects will grow five-fold to more than 4.2 million jobs over the next three decades. The report issued last week establishes a "Green Jobs Index" and is the first calculation of its kind to measure how many direct and indirect jobs are in the new and emerging U.S. green economy.
"This report proves that being green is not optional, it is necessary for a healthy and robust economy," said conference President Manny Diaz, the mayor of Miami, FL. "Creating green jobs is an investment we must continue to make."
Prepared by Global Insight, Inc, the report found that more than 400,000 of current green jobs identified in the study are in the engineering, legal, research and consulting fields, highlighting the important role supportive or "indirect" jobs play in moving the economy toward energy independence. Renewable power generation maintains 127,000 jobs, while agriculture and forestry provides 57,500 jobs.
Under assumed scenarios and with government commitment and investments, the report projects green jobs could contribute 10 percent of all new jobs through 2038, representing the fastest growing job segment in the U.S. economy. By 2038, the report forecasts that renewable electricity production will create 1.23 million jobs; alternative transportation fuels will give rise to 1.5 million jobs; engineering, legal, research and consulting will account for more than 1.4 million positions; and commercial and residential retrofits will generate 81,000 jobs.
While recent news accounts focus on the difficulties faced by national economies around the world, some encouragement is offered by news from the United Nations Environmental Program that an estimated $148 billion was invested in new wind, solar, biofuels and other alternative energy development around the world last year, a spike of nearly 60-percent increase more than the $92.6 billion spent on such projects in 2006. UN officials say the upsurge in investment, which they describe as a "green energy gold rush," has been gaining speed the last few years because of rising concerns over climate change and energy prices. In 2005, some $58.5 billion in new money was invested.
One of the largest and most diverse American museums, New York’s American Museum of Natural History has unveiled its newest environmental exhibit, Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future.
Several exhibits educate viewers about environmental mistreatment and conservation programs that limit destructive impacts and increase habitat for flora and fauna. Showcasing species preservation, the exhibits educate visitors on how human development decreases biodiversity and changes ecosystems.
Visitors described the new additon as “eye opening and sobering,” according to Katy Mantyk a reporter covering the opening for the Epoch Times.
The exhibit opens with a 60-foot timeline that illustrates how human development has changed the planet since the species appeared on the planet, including the largest contribution to global climate change, the Industrial Revolution. Juxtaposed against the development timeline is a measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Interpretative pieces includes interactive videos and stations that show how human development has contributed to excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and heating of the Earth.
To grab the hearts and minds of visitors, the exhibit presents possible outcomes of climate change impacts at varying degrees: what could result if no action is taken or if some action is taken. Visitors can see scientific best estimates of how communities will experience increased droughts, severe weather like hurricanes and blizzards, reductions in water supply, sea level rise and destruction of habitats and ecosystems as sensitive flora and fauna become stressed by changing climate patterns.
Curators present solutions for both individual citizens and big business, showing how America can decrease its use of fossil fuels for energy, and replace those supplies with renewable energy options like wind or solar power.
The exhibit ends by capturing visitor questions, comments and fears on a 12-foot comment wall. One child wrote, “Since trees are able to absorb so much C02, why not plant a whole bunch out in space, and let them do the work?” Exhibit mission complete.
Don Iburg heads up the community’s task force on energy issues and preserving natural resources. He says so many of his generation grew up during the Depression conserving money and everything else, so taking care of Earth's resources comes natural to them.
Querencia is one of several new green senior communities, a new niche for the green building movement. Developers Harris Interactive and Shea Homes are building similar green senior communities throughout Arizona, California, Florida and Washington that use solar panels, green building materials, energy- and water-efficient appliances technologies that use sensors to regulate weather patterns and outdoor and indoor conditions to maximize efficiency.
The residents of Querencia are taking conservation further by installing solar films on the complex windows, heating the swimming pool with solar power and promoting the local energy utility company’s wind-energy system. They say they are trying to preserve natural resources for their grandchildren.
What an unexpected pleasure, then, to see a report issued under his name that could have been issued by Good News Central. Entitled New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States, the update declares unequivocally that the “old energy economy, fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas, is being replaced by one powered by wind, solar, and geothermal energy.” Not only that, but the “transition is moving at a pace and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago.”
The report focuses on three renewable-energy areas: wind, solar and geothermal. Wind, the report declares, “appears destined to become the centerpiece of the new U.S. energy economy, eventually supplying several hundred thousand megawatts of electricity.” Solar power is “growing at breakneck speed,” while “geothermal energy is also developing at an explosive rate.”
The report cites some of the most exciting projects currently underway, including a 2,000-megawatt wind farm in Wyoming being developed by the Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz and two PG&E solar projects that will cover twelve miles of desert with solar cells and have a peak output comparable to that of a large coal-fired power plant.
Why the breathtakingly rapid transition to a new energy economy? According to Brown, “It is historically rare for so many interests to converge at one time and in one place as those now supporting the development of renewable energy resources in the United States. To begin with, shifting to renewables increases energy security simply because no one can cut off the supply of wind, solar, or geothermal energy. It also avoids the price volatility that has plagued oil and natural gas in recent decades. Once a wind farm or a solar thermal power plant is built, the price is stable since there is no fuel cost. Turning to renewables will also dramatically cut carbon emissions, moving us toward climate stability and thus avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change.”
There’s a bit of the old (and depressing) Lester Brown in that last sentence, which reminds us that in some ways we’re past the climate-change point of no return. Still and all, it’s a very upbeat report. Brown’s conclusion: “(F)or the first time since the industrial revolution we are investing in energy sources that can last forever. This new energy economy can be our legacy to the next generation.”
According to a survey released Thursday from the Social Investment Forum (SIF), an association for socially and environmentally responsible investment professionals, clients are still asking for new clean tech investing opportunities.
Of the 14 companies surveyed, 10 expressed interest in launching new clean/green oriented investment vehicles during 2009.
While some solar companies such as SunPower are seeing revenues rapidly increase, many solar stocks are taking a beating. "Clean energy stocks have been crushed this year despite the fact that revenues and profits are growing rapidly. However, we believe that despite the increased risks associated with the credit crisis, the fundamentals of these firms are so strong that they will find necessary financing to continue rapid growth," said Adam Seitchik, chief investment officer for Trillium Asset Management, in a press release.
The tightening of credit could make capital hard to come by for clean tech startups. During the last quarter clean tech investment grew to a record $2.6 billion according to Earth2Tech, but clean tech startups such as Tesla Motors may find it harder to find investors during the coming months.
The final presidential debate has come and gone, giving the candidates the opportunity to offer their views on energy and the environment. While McCain and Obama differ significantly on these issues, you wouldn’t have known it from what they said. They came across as the Frick and Frack of energy and the environment:
McCain: “I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil.”
Obama: “I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela.”
McCain: “We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.”
Obama: “(N)othing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billiion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia.”
McCain: “And the point is that we can become energy independent and we will create millions of jobs – millions of jobs in America.”
Obama: “We can move in a direction not only of energy independence, but we can create 5 million new jobs all across America.”
Hey: maybe the same puppeteer was whispering in their ear? (You’ve gotta watch out for that Trilateral Commission!)
Both candidates also espoused a multi-faceted energy portfolio, including renewable energy technologies and more domestic oil production, complete with offshore drilling. McCain also spoke out for the sharply increased use of nuclear power, and although he got a bit snarky with Obama on the subject, Obama’s pro-nuclear as well. At different points they both said yes to clean coal technology, too.
Bottom line, both came across as centrist and inclusive in their approach to energy independence, and committed to using the transition to energy independence to drive what Obama called “the economy of the future.”
It was all very tame and safe. More intriguing, perhaps, is what they did not say. The moderator, Bob Schieffer, framed his question on this subject as being about “energy and climate.” (He said “climate control,” actually, making it sound as if he were asking about air conditioning; McCain corrected him with “climate change”.) Yet both candidates took a strictly geopolitical approach to the issue by focusing on how energy independence can end our reliance on bad actors and unreliable allies. There was nary a mention of record droughts or no more maple trees or, hey, Florida disappearing.
At massively mass-market events like these national debates, the fact is that talking seriously about the climate crisis is pretty much off limits. Yup: it’s a political third rail, right there alongside marijuana legalization. This is because you can’t come across as wanting to do away with oil and coal entirely if you want to win an election——and you can’t credibly talk about addressing climate change while touting increased oil and coal production.
The simple reality is that to address the climate crisis, we need to shift dramatically in the direction of renewable technologies. Obama alluded to this when he said, “We can create 5 million new jobs all across America, including in the heartland where we can retool some of these plants to make … highly fuel-efficient cars and also to make wind turbines and solar panels, the kinds of clean energy approaches that should be the driver of our economy for the next century.” But he only hinted at it.
At the close of a famous Sherlock Holmes story, Watson asks the detective how he solved the mystery. “It was the curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” Holmes says. Watson: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “That was the curious incident,” says Holmes.
Climate change was the dog in the night-time at last night’s debate.
Eco-fashion is supposed to be environmentally sensitive, but is often pricey. The brand’s name is still hush hush, but the shoes will sell for around $30. Payless consumers want environmentally considerate products and affordable pricing.
The collection is expected to hit 500 stores in early 2009, and be available Payless.com. The collection feature organic cotton, linen and hemp for cloth materials and use recycled materials for shoe soles. Women’s shoes will be come first, and men’s and children’s shoes will follow later in the year. Payless will also help cut down waste by using environmentally safe packaging methods.
Payless has hired consultant Summer Rayne Oakes who provided fashion advice as part of the Planet Green project led by the Discovery Channel Network. Oakes has also published Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty, where she provides eco-style advice for the average consumer
Parents interested in eco-friendly transportation can get some tips from a new guide published in Britain by the York Steiner School, written by parent Anna Semlyen.
The Sustainable Travel Guide is chock full of suggestions for walking and biking, and includes carpooling information. Parents will find directions, maps and contact information so they can call to ask about bike parking or other logistics. Cutting down on car journeys helps parents and students cut their carbon footprint.
Semlyen points out that school transportation systems have decreased over time and parents are making up for it with their own vehicles. Parents are also sending their kids to schools further away from home and logging more vehicle miles, adding to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
With parents driving their children to school, fewer kids are biking and walking -- not only because they no longer have to, but also because more vehicles on the road means greater safety issues for kids. Showing parents how walking and biking can work for their family commute helps them save money by cutting fuel costs, keeps the family healthy and, of course, decreases a family's environmental impacts.
When she's not being a York Steiner mom, Semlyen works as a circulation consultant, helping minimize traffic congestion in York neighborhoods. The Sustainable Travel Guide is just one of her several publications that address greener ways to get around. Her guide, Cutting Your Car Use, with accounts of how families have successfully reduced their vehicle miles, has sold more than 100,000 copies in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Sustainable Travel Guide will go a long way toward getting parents and students out of their cars and back on their feet. Semlyen has also written eco-travel booklets for the University of York.
BlueTEC, a technology that uses cleaner diesel made from biofuels, will be used in three 2009 SUV models: the ML320, GL320 and R320.
BlueTEC uses an AdBlue injection process that greatly reduces the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted by vehicles. In fact, up to 80 percent of nitrogen oxide never hits the atmosphere through Ad Blue technology, helping to prevent increased air pollution and particles known to cause smog.
BlueTEC is described by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as an "advanced lean burn technology,” more efficient than current partial zero emission vehicles like the Ford Focus. The SUVs also qualify for tax credits similar to those offered with hybrid vehicles.
One benefit of using a biofuel vehicle in preference to a hybrid is the way in which fuel efficiency is achieved. Hybrid vehicles generate battery power through a driver’s brake usage. Biodiesel vehicles maintain a constant fuel efficiency level that does not depend on variable driving patterns. Thus, these SUVs prove to be good for the environment, as well as for luxury car owners who want the flexibility and power of a sport vehicle.
Dr. Juliana Hansen noticed as far back as 2000 the large amounts of waste -- mainly plastic packaging material used for instruments, sutures and gauze -- in operating rooms.
Nurses at Hansen's hospital, Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, have been prepping ORs with recycling bins so that operating supply discards can be disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner. The effort is paying off at OHSU and this, along with other green measures, could serve as a model for other hospitals.
"It's fantastic what can be done," Hansen said in a press release from the American College of Surgeons. "You realize there are ways we can do our part in the OR without creating an environment of wastefulness."
Beyond recycling, OHSU’s operating rooms have been retrofitted with energy-efficient LED lighting, in addition to low-mercury lamps. These new features save the hospital 340,000 kilowatt hours at an average cost of $40,000 every year.
All operating rooms are also using greener cleaning products and limiting use of cleaning chemicals. These efforts safeguard local waterways from increased chemicals and pollution.
According to sustainability figures presented by Hansen to the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, OHSU's operating room staff recycled approximately 300 pounds of paper and plastic products every day from the hospital's 21 operating rooms. In 2007, OHSU recycled approximately 1,100 tons of solid waste, saving OHSU more than $85,000 in waste collection and management costs.
Success in the operating room has spread across the hospital and, as a result, more sustainable practices are taking shape. A Green Team was established by the maintenance department and is finding ways to achieve further cost reductions. The hospital has also received the first platinum ranking from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for its new green building.
The Portland Aerial Tram, meanwhile, now connects the hospital’s campuses, allowing employees to eliminate a 15-minute drive between campuses and save greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, fuel and time. The tram is estimated to save employees 2 million vehicle miles annually, equal to 93,000 gallons of gas.
And finally, the hospital also participates in purchasing environmental credits that support solar and wind power as well as restoration activities within local and important watersheds.
When batteries don't work any more and we have forgotten the rechargeables, we should throw them away, right?
Wrong. Batteries are one of the worst things that can be dumped into a landfill, so you need to find a place to recycle them in your neighborhood. But they're so small and it's so much trouble that you just never quite get around to it. So those discarded batteries pile up in the kitchen drawer, don't they?
Before you end up throwing them out and feeling guilty about it, consider Energy Seed, an invention that powers street lights by siphoning what remains from recycled batteries.
Even when batteries don't work any more, they actually have some juice left. It's not enough to power what they did before, but put together with enough other used-up batteries, it could be enough to power an efficient LED.
What if you could drop off your old batteries at an Energy Seed recycling system on any street corner? You'd slip the used batteries down the tube of Energy Seed (like seeding the ground; hence the name), and once enough batteries were lined up they would light the LED on top.
If anyone wants to market this excellent idea, contact South Korean designer Sung Woo Park, who created Energy Seed.
It might work even better marketed as a porch light for your front door. Then you could just by one at Home Depot.
In any case, it's a better way of disposing of old batteries than just tossing them out.
Major program goals include cutting between 33 million and 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2012, as well as 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide per year by 2012, while saving 150 million barrels of fuel per year.
SmartWay was launched by the EPA in 2004 to provide cleaner and more efficient transportation methods in the United States. Subsequently, SmartWay Transport was begun as a joint effort between the EPA and the freight industry -- trucking companies, railroad carriers, maritime cargo -- to achieve the same environmental and energy goals.
To become part of the program, the EPA ranks each freight carrier’s fuel efficiency methods and environmental performance. Penske’s 200,000-vehicle fleet received a 1.25 rating, the highest score possible. Penske's cutting-edge fleet technology, as well as other fuel efficient strategies and ongoing education of customers and employees alike, helped it achieve the score.
The Department of Transportation plans to establish a national network of short water transportation routes as a way of easing congestion on some of the nation's busiest roads, according to GreenCarCongress.
While using the mighty Mississippi seems like a great idea for relatively low carbon transportation, some of the proposed routes seem just a little fragile for the task of carrying barge traffic.
Navigable waterways running near six interstate routes have been designated by the DOT as "Corridors of the Future":
* I-95 from Florida to the Canadian border
* I-70 in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio
* I-15 in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California
* I-5 in California, Oregon, and Washington
* I-10 from California to Florida
* I-69 from Michigan to Texas.
How "navigable" these waterways truly are remains to be seen. In parts of California, that canal alongside Interstate 5 is not much bigger than a bathtub. You wouldn't want any environmentally hazardous substances in there.
With higher grain production, Missouri producer R.D. James says that barge traffic will become increasingly important for transportation of petroleum and other energy forms.
“Pipelines and railroads are already at maximum capacity, and building new facilities is difficult because of environmental and other regulatory requirements."
“Barges are a far more economical method of shipping than rail or truck," James said. "The nation’s shippers save $3 billion a year by moving their goods by barge. The typical barge can move 750,000 bushels of corn; that same amount would require 870 trucks.”
Bulk shipments of fertilizer, grain and coal, as well as iron ore, alumina, DRI and HBI, ferro alloys, ferrous scrap, pig iron, steel slabs and coils, metallurgican and petroleum coke and wood chips, all depend on barges to reach market.
The United States already transports about 1 billion tons of domestic cargo annually using waterways, which includes more than 25,000 miles of inland, intracoastal and coastal waterways. The road is still king, though: About 92 percent of all domestic freight currently moves on road and rail infrastructure.
The DOT estimates that congestion on roads, bridges, railways and in certain ports costs the United States as much as $200 billion a year.
“These (water) highways have no stoplights, traffic or potholes,” said Deputy Secretary Barrett, in a Department of Transportation press release. “Sometimes transportation solutions require new concrete, but other times the answer is as simple as using existing water.”
The huge benefit of using waterways, of course, is that it is a low-carbon way to move stuff. Barge transportation burns far less fuel per ton of product transported than, say, an 18-wheeler.
But in the twilight of this administration, it's likely not the lack of "stoplights, traffic or potholes" that the current administration sees as the benefit of water transport, so much as the freedom to transport environmentally dubious energy supplies that citizens might object to on the highway.
The DOT plan is up for public review and goes into effect after a 120-day comment period, so if you've got a canal running behind your house and you're concerned, now's the time to say something.
Photo by flikr user MNkiteman
Most of the semiconductor industry’s effort goes toward making silicon as pure as possible.
But nearly ten years ago Harvard graduate students in physics professor Eric Mazur's lab accidentally discovered the opposite approach worked better: finding that it can actually be more useful to create silicon devices with impurities, defects, and unconventional structures.
“We are messing up perfectly good silicon,” says James Carey, one of those students, and now co-founder of Harvard spin-off company SiOnyx. As a result, says Carey “We have seen a 100 to 500 times increase in sensitivity to light compared to conventional silicon detectors.”
Scientists already try to improve silicon crystal efficiency by doping them with atoms of various elements.
But what the grad students found was that if, in addition, they hit the surface of a silicon wafer with an incredibly brief pulse of laser energy in the presence of gaseous sulfur and other dopants, the resulting material turned out to be much better at absorbing photons and releasing electrons, up to 500 times better.
The laser pulses force unusually large numbers of dopant atoms into a thin layer of silicon on the surface of the cones. “The laser allows you to put in a million times more sulfur than you would normally get in if you just combined and heated them,” says Carey.
This leaves the wafer festooned with tiny cones, which the photons were apparently bouncing between; greatly increasing their chances of being absorbed. Once the silicon has absorbed all wavelengths of light (even infra-red) it turns black.
Because this "black silicon" is just normal silicon that has been roughed up by their femtosecond laser pulses and chemical treatment, this 500-fold improvement could simply be integrated into current production lines fairly easily. “You can do everything we’re talking about without extraordinary, Herculean effort, and you can do it in a way that fits with high-volume manufacturing flows,” says Carey.
You might wonder why this is news now, 10 years after their discovery. Till very recently, Harvard actually took a dim view of commercializing student discoveries made on school time by its tuition-paying students. The school’s technology transfer office simply “wasn’t very excited” about their discovery of "black silicon" back then, according to Carey.
However, three years ago, in a shakeup of technology licensing policy, Harvard hired the university licensing veteran Isaac Kohlberg, who saw the potential of roughed up silicon and began to iron out the licensing deal that has now made SiOnyx possible.
So after the formerly ignored grad students secured the exclusive license from Harvard to commercialize the process, last year their startup SiOnyx got $11 million in venture funding from Harris & Harris, Polaris Venture Partners, and RedShift Ventures, and this weekend the rest of us find out about it.