Monthly Archives: February 2010

We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change

February 28, 2010
Op-Ed Contributor
We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change
The New York Times

It would be an enormous relief if the recent attacks on the science of global warming actually indicated that we do not face an unimaginable calamity requiring large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.

Of course, we would still need to deal with the national security risks of our growing dependence on a global oil market dominated by dwindling reserves in the most unstable region of the world, and the economic risks of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas in return for that oil. And we would still trail China in the race to develop smart grids, fast trains, solar power, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy — the most important sources of new jobs in the 21st century.

But what a burden would be lifted! We would no longer have to worry that our grandchildren would one day look back on us as a criminal generation that had selfishly and blithely ignored clear warnings that their fate was in our hands. We could instead celebrate the naysayers who had doggedly persisted in proving that every major National Academy of Sciences report on climate change had simply made a huge mistake.

I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion. But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.

Because these and other effects of global warming are distributed globally, they are difficult to identify and interpret in any particular location. For example, January was seen as unusually cold in much of the United States. Yet from a global perspective, it was the second-hottest January since surface temperatures were first measured 130 years ago.

Similarly, even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.

The heavy snowfalls this month have been used as fodder for ridicule by those who argue that global warming is a myth, yet scientists have long pointed out that warmer global temperatures have been increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, putting significantly more moisture into the atmosphere — thus causing heavier downfalls of both rain and snow in particular regions, including the Northeastern United States. Just as it’s important not to miss the forest for the trees, neither should we miss the climate for the snowstorm.

Here is what scientists have found is happening to our climate: man-made global-warming pollution traps heat from the sun and increases atmospheric temperatures. These pollutants — especially carbon dioxide — have been increasing rapidly with the growth in the burning of coal, oil, natural gas and forests, and temperatures have increased over the same period. Almost all of the ice-covered regions of the Earth are melting — and seas are rising. Hurricanes are predicted to grow stronger and more destructive, though their number is expected to decrease. Droughts are getting longer and deeper in many mid-continent regions, even as the severity of flooding increases. The seasonal predictability of rainfall and temperatures is being disrupted, posing serious threats to agriculture. The rate of species extinction is accelerating to dangerous levels.

Though there have been impressive efforts by many business leaders, hundreds of millions of individuals and families throughout the world and many national, regional and local governments, our civilization is still failing miserably to slow the rate at which these emissions are increasing — much less reduce them.

And in spite of President Obama’s efforts at the Copenhagen climate summit meeting in December, global leaders failed to muster anything more than a decision to “take note” of an intention to act.

Because the world still relies on leadership from the United States, the failure by the Senate to pass legislation intended to cap American emissions before the Copenhagen meeting guaranteed that the outcome would fall far short of even the minimum needed to build momentum toward a meaningful solution.

The political paralysis that is now so painfully evident in Washington has thus far prevented action by the Senate — not only on climate and energy legislation, but also on health care reform, financial regulatory reform and a host of other pressing issues.

This comes with painful costs. China, now the world’s largest and fastest-growing source of global-warming pollution, had privately signaled early last year that if the United States passed meaningful legislation, it would join in serious efforts to produce an effective treaty. When the Senate failed to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, forcing the president to go to Copenhagen without a new law in hand, the Chinese balked. With the two largest polluters refusing to act, the world community was paralyzed.

Some analysts attribute the failure to an inherent flaw in the design of the chosen solution — arguing that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. Moreover, these critics add, the financial crisis that began in 2008 shook the world’s confidence in the use of any market-based solution.

But there are two big problems with this critique: First, there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically. It is difficult to imagine a globally harmonized carbon tax or a coordinated multilateral regulatory effort. The flexibility of a global market-based policy — supplemented by regulation and revenue-neutral tax policies — is the option that has by far the best chance of success. The fact that it is extremely difficult does not mean that we should simply give up.

Second, we should have no illusions about the difficulty and the time needed to convince the rest of the world to adopt a completely new approach. The lags in the global climate system, including the buildup of heat in the oceans from which it is slowly reintroduced into the atmosphere, means that we can create conditions that make large and destructive consequences inevitable long before their awful manifestations become apparent: the displacement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees, civil unrest, chaos and the collapse of governance in many developing countries, large-scale crop failures and the spread of deadly diseases.

It’s important to point out that the United States is not alone in its inaction. Global political paralysis has thus far stymied work not only on climate, but on trade and other pressing issues that require coordinated international action.

The reasons for this are primarily economic. The globalization of the economy, coupled with the outsourcing of jobs from industrial countries, has simultaneously heightened fears of further job losses in the industrial world and encouraged rising expectations in emerging economies. The result? Heightened opposition, in both the industrial and developing worlds, to any constraints on the use of carbon-based fuels, which remain our principal source of energy.

The decisive victory of democratic capitalism over communism in the 1990s led to a period of philosophical dominance for market economics worldwide and the illusion of a unipolar world. It also led, in the United States, to a hubristic “bubble” of market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere. Over time, markets would most efficiently solve most problems, they argued. Laws and regulations interfering with the operations of the market carried a faint odor of the discredited statist adversary we had just defeated.

This period of market triumphalism coincided with confirmation by scientists that earlier fears about global warming had been grossly understated. But by then, the political context in which this debate took form was tilted heavily toward the views of market fundamentalists, who fought to weaken existing constraints and scoffed at the possibility that global constraints would be needed to halt the dangerous dumping of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

Over the years, as the science has become clearer and clearer, some industries and companies whose business plans are dependent on unrestrained pollution of the atmospheric commons have become ever more entrenched. They are ferociously fighting against the mildest regulation — just as tobacco companies blocked constraints on the marketing of cigarettes for four decades after science confirmed the link of cigarettes to diseases of the lung and the heart.

Simultaneously, changes in America’s political system — including the replacement of newspapers and magazines by television as the dominant medium of communication — conferred powerful advantages on wealthy advocates of unrestrained markets and weakened advocates of legal and regulatory reforms. Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as “socialist” any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis — inconvenient as ever — must still be faced.

The pathway to success is still open, though it tracks the outer boundary of what we are capable of doing. It begins with a choice by the United States to pass a law establishing a cost for global warming pollution. The House of Representatives has already passed legislation, with some Republican support, to take the first halting steps for pricing greenhouse gas emissions.

Later this week, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman are expected to present for consideration similar cap-and-trade legislation.

I hope that it will place a true cap on carbon emissions and stimulate the rapid development of low-carbon sources of energy.

We have overcome existential threats before. Winston Churchill is widely quoted as having said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes, you must do what is required.” Now is that time. Public officials must rise to this challenge by doing what is required; and the public must demand that they do so — or must replace them.

Al Gore, the vice president from 1993 to 2001, is the founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection and the author of “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.” As a businessman, he is an investor in alternative energy companies.


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Meetings Go Green In Post-Copenhagen China

Posted By China Travel Editor On February 23, 2010 @ 5:29 am

The most direct effect on China of the recent and inconclusive Copenhagen Climate Conference is that carbon reduction has become an an issue in every aspect of economic and social life, including the hospitality and travel industry.

According to the final accord signed at the conference, developing countries will take voluntary steps to reduce emissions and information about these steps will be readily available. China has announced its carbon emissions goal for the first time, saying that by 2020 it would reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40% to 45%, compared to 2005 levels. In a speech on December 18, 2009 Premier Wen Jiabao said, that China would improve the way it disclosed information on emissions, increase transparency, and actively conduct international exchange, dialogue, and cooperation.

For China carbon reduction is a difficult task, increasing transparency on carbon reduction is also a big challenge. Premier Wen said at the Copenhagen conference that China is at a key stage of rapid industrialization and urbanization. The country’s energy structure mainly depends on coal and has caused particular problems in reducing emissions. However China has regards confronting climate change as an important strategic task. To reduce CO2 emissions to such an extent requires a lot of effort.

To achieve the goal of greenhouse gas emission reductions that Chinese government has set requires efforts by many industries, including tourism. “The View on Accelerating the Development of Tourism Industry” mentions “green tourism” and “low carbon tourism” several times, which implies environmental tourism and a balance between tourism and nature. The View also states that China would develop tourism into a strategic polar industry for the national economy, and into a more satisfactory modern service industry. Tourist numbers for domestic travel should reach 3.3 billion, and that the numbers for inbound and outbound travel should reach 200 million. According to Alicia Yao, the deputy general manager of the meeting and incentive division of CITS Head Office, this poses a great threat to the environment if tourism is not sustainable and “green”.

Promoting Green MICE
For some years CITS’s meeting and incentive division has been cooperating with international travel professionals to promote ecotourism and green meetings. It has integrated the concepts of eco-friendlyness and protecting the environment in the design of international convention and incentive travel. Yao said that international conferences and conferences of multinational corporations are often quite influential in that any activities they undertake at conferences may be followed by other organizations. People who are in charge of meetings should pay attention to the company’s social responsibilities and actively promote green MICE.

In 2009 Yao was actively promoting green hotels and green meeting management to her clients. She would suggest that clients take environmental and green measures during meetings or events. For example, using reusable curtains and computer generated backgrounds instead of disposable backdrop boards; using energy saving bulbs and reusable stages; adjusting the air conditioning temperature of meeting venues to a minimum of 26 degrees; using environmentally-friendly materials for packages and documents; using local food and drinks instead of imported ones; holding dinner party at hotels clients are staying in or a in place that is less than a 30-minute drive from the hotel, or that can be reached on foot. The company has also designed various ecotourism programs and environmentally-friendly teambuilding activities for clients, for example bicycle tours and trekking tours.

“Green strategy” plays a key role in the MICE sector. Yao said that “green” and “sustainable development” are not temporary slogans, but the vital requirements from mainstream customers. “Green” is not only a trend but is the inevitable choice for better development of China’s MICE sector. Meetings should reflect social and environmental responsibilities, benefit the people, allow cities or enterprises to cooperate as well as compete, make our society more creative, and should improve their capability for risk management. However Yau added that it is still difficult to promote green meetings in China as recognition of green issues is low and clients need to be educated about environmental requirements. Therefore, the development of MICE sector needs the joint efforts of government, associations, professional conference organizers, destination management companies, meeting venues, and other meeting suppliers. Everyone involved in the MICE sector should participate actively in the promotion of ecotourism and green meetings.

Reduce and Reuse
Angelina Wu, the public relations manager of Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya, thinks that since Sanya is a tropical paradise as well as a MICE destination, Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya has benefited from its unique environment. Therefore, the hotel is committed to caring for the environment. As a resort hotel it is quite prepared to propose that MICE organizers hold the meetings and banquets in outdoor venues, such as at the private beach, in the hotel garden or on the lawn, so that all the delegates will have a personal experience of the value of the natural environment. Wu believes that a green meeting consists of four components: Green Accommodation, Green Food, Green Service, and Green Environment. By looking at these components a hotel can help meeting organizers to minimize the impact on the environment, as well maximize cost savings, and to increase the environmental awareness for all delegates.

When communicating with clients, the hotel would usually recommends the following measures for environmental protection and reducing consumption. First, replacing paper document with e-documents to reduce the cost environmental impact of mailing. Second, replace the traditional sign boards with electronic meeting sign boards. Third, in all conference activities, hotel make a point of suggesting the Reduce and Reuse principle to clients.

According to Wu luxury does not necessarily mean waste. For example, Kempinski Resort & Spa Sanya believes that the ultimate luxury is lying on on the private beach and enjoying the magnificent sunsets over the South China Sea. By maximizing the use of hotel’s own resources and the natural environment, and by providing excellent service, the hotel is committed to enabling customers to realize real luxury actually comes from the beauty of nature.

Start Small for Environmental Protection
Wei Mingyang, the director of meetings at InterContinental Beijing Beichen, told China Hospitality News that green meetings encompass the integration of the proper use of resources and environmental protection into the planning and preparation of events to ensure that the impact on the environment and ecology should be the prime consideration for aspect of an event.

Wei also suggests the hotels put more attention to three aspects of environmental protection. First, redundant materials are a waste of paper. Paper or paper materials can be recycled after being used. Second, lunches and dinners should be of appropriate amounts. Third, choosing reusable materials to make backdrop boards to avoid resource waste.

When communicating with clients Wei takes the initiative to introduce the benefits a green meeting would bring to both the clients and to society, and also to provide some suggestions on how to protect the environment and reduce emissions. For example, choosing reusable materials to build backdrop boards; using public transport in preference to private cars; reducing the use of paper and the cost of mailing by building a website about the event; communicating via email for registration, confirmation and hotel booking; distributing materials online or via CD instead of on paper; switching off all equipment and lights before leaving the venue; presenting gifts made of sustainable, reusable, and recyclable materials.

Asked what hotels should do to reduce emissions while maintaining service quality Wei said: “Start small”:
Desserts should be simply packaged; avoid the use of disposable paper cups and tissues.

Monitor indoor lighting and heating and switch them off in a timely manner.

Choose local food and reduce the use of imported products.

Office supplies, magazines, and other paper products that are not used up at large-scale events can be donated to schools or community centers for handy-crafts.

Communicate with the person in charge of food and beverage to ensure that any uneaten food will be delivered to food distribution points, donated to community welfare meals, or composted into fertilizer.


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The Long Road to an Alternative-Energy Future

FEBRUARY 22, 2010.
The Wall Street Journal

New energy technologies are coming that will shrink our use of fossil fuels and cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

Just don’t expect them anytime soon.

The Journal ReportSee the complete Energy report.
Why the delay? After all, the computer revolution has shown how rapidly new innovations can be imagined, developed, brought to market and have an impact. But new energy technologies don’t work that way—they can take years to gain just a toehold in the market, and 20 to 30 years to push aside existing products or techniques.

That’s partly because of the sheer size of the energy market. The U.S. utility industry in 2009 produced an estimated 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity; nearly half of that was produced by coal. Solar power, which is doubling every couple of years, contributed less than 0.1%. Or consider transportation, which used an estimated 3.3 billion barrels of gasoline. And how much of that consisted of renewables, mainly corn-based ethanol? About 8%.

View Full Image
Brian Stauffer .
Of course, no single technology needs to replace all that carbon-producing power. Researchers planning for future energy supplies are working on several technologies simultaneously, including carbon capture to produce electricity, and next-generation biofuels and electric-powered cars to move us around. They talk about the need for “silver buckshot,” instead of a silver bullet.

Researchers also agree that policy makers can speed or delay these developments—at least up to a point. A price on carbon, either through a tax or a carbon-trading mechanism, would make new technologies competitive with cheap oil and coal more quickly, spurring investment and adoption. Governments can also spend money on research, development and pilot projects, speeding the move from the drawing board to the market. Higher oil prices also make all the energy alternatives more attractive to investors and consumers.

But even if you combine all the current alternatives, they aren’t likely to make much of a dent for quite a few years. To better understand why, we offer a closer look at a handful of the most-promising clean-energy alternatives, and the reasons they’ll be a long time coming.

Read about alternative-energy options:

■New Nuclear Reactors
■Algal Biofuels
■Carbon Capture and Storage
■Electric Vehicles

Write to Michael Totty at

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The Bloom Box to revolutionize alternative energy

The Bloom Box to revolutionize alternative energy
By Isabel Goncalves

It’s an exciting week for energy. Bloom Energy unveiled a refrigerator-sized personal power plant that produces energy cheaply and cleanly and may one day replace the traditional power grid.

Bloom Box is the creation of Bloom Energy, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is promising to revolutionize energy with its “power plant in a box.”

Bloom Energy’s K.R. Sridhar, holding up fuel cells that are key components of the so-called “Bloom box.” (Credit: CBS)According to K.R. Sridhar, founder of Bloom Energy, two blocks can power the average high-consumption American home — one block can power the average European home.

Sridhar wants to put one in every home by 2020.

Bloom Energy became an instant hit online after it was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

So what is Bloom Box?

It’s a collection of fuel cells – skinny batteries – that use oxygen and fuel to create electricity with zero emissions.

The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop and cell phones supplanted landlines.

Bloom Energy boxes cost between $700,000-$800,000, but Sridhar envisions making it available in every home, so he estimates they will lower the price to around $3,000 for a unit.

Bloom Energy (click here for their website) will go public on Wednesday, February 24, where it is expected to announce further details about their much-anticipated energy box.

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The Long Road to an Alternative-Energy Future

The Long Road to an Alternative-Energy Future
The Wall Street Journal

Blame it on technology, infrastructure or policy. But it’s going to take many years for new technologies to make much of a dent in our current energ. Just don’t expect them anytime soon.

Why the delay? After all, the computer revolution has shown how rapidly new innovations can be imagined, developed, brought to market and have an impact. But new energy technologies don’t work that way—they can take years to gain just a toehold in the market, and 20 to 30 years to push aside existing products or techniques.

That’s partly because of the sheer size of the energy market. Global power consumption is estimated to total 150 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2010. The utility industry in the U.S., the most energy-hungry nation on the planet, produced an estimated 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2009. Nearly half of that was produced by coal, while solar power contributed less than 0.1%.

Wind power is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy in the world. But by the end of 2008 there were still only 121.2 gigawatts of generated capacity—representing around 1.5% of global electricity consumption.

Of course, no single technology needs to replace all that carbon-producing power. Researchers planning for future energy supplies are working on several technologies simultaneously, including carbon capture to produce electricity, and next-generation biofuels and electric-powered cars to move us around. They talk about the need for “silver buckshot,” instead of a silver bullet.

Researchers also agree that policy makers can speed or delay these developments—at least up to a point. A price on carbon, either through a tax or a carbon-trading mechanism, would make new technologies competitive with cheap oil and coal more quickly, spurring investment in and adoption of alternatives. Governments can also spend money on research, development and pilot projects, speeding the move from the drawing board to the market. Higher oil prices also make all the energy alternatives more attractive to investors and consumers.

But even if you combine all the current alternatives, they aren’t likely to make much of a dent for quite a few years. To better understand why, we offer a closer look at a handful of the most-promising clean-energy alternatives, and the reasons they’ll be a long time coming.

New Nuclear Reactors
THE TECHNOLOGY: Advanced nuclear reactors use simplified, standardized designs that should be cheaper and quicker to build and easier to operate. Passive safety features lower the risk of accidents.

These “generation 3+” reactors consume more of the nuclear fuel, lowering operating costs and trimming waste. Looking ahead, some generation IV designs can recycle used nuclear fuel, producing even less waste and relying less on new uranium supplies.

CURRENT STATUS: About a dozen generation 3+ reactors are being built around the world, and more are planned, including nearly two dozen in the U.S. awaiting certification and licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

For generation IV reactors, an international group of scientists and researchers is coordinating research and development, and they’ve agreed to a list of six technologies to pursue.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: While China and France, among others, are moving ahead with construction of the generation 3+ reactors, the first new plants in the U.S. aren’t likely to appear until late in the decade; NRC certification of the new designs may not occur before early 2012, and construction, even if accelerated, will take at least four or five years.

Even in France, Europe’s most enthusiastic devotee of nuclear power, a third-generation plant at Flamanville in Normandy, which is intended as a prototype for up to 40 others, won’t be completed until late 2012.

Generation IV reactors aren’t expected to enter commercial development until after 2020. In 2006, France started funding prototype fourth-generation, sodium-cooled fast reactors. But the technology will not be ready for industrial deployment until after 2035 at the earliest.

Carbon Capture and Storage
THE TECHNOLOGY: Carbon-capture technology pulls carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal and other fossil-fuel plants, pressurizes the gas and pumps it underground for permanent storage.

CURRENT STATUS: A handful of small-scale carbon-capture and storage pilot and demonstration projects are under way around the world. In a test to capture CO2 from an operating power plant, American Electric Power Co. is running a pilot at its Mountaineer plant in West Virginia, collecting about 1.5% of the plant’s CO2 emissions and storing them under the site. Other sites in Europe, Africa and Australia are investigating underground storage, but Mountaineer is the first to integrate capture and storage.

Work has also begun on a carbon capture and storage test power plant at Schwarze Pumpe in Germany. It will be used to test oxy-combustion, which generates purer carbon dioxide that is easier to capture and store.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: Technically, carbon capture has been shown effective in small, less expensive pilot projects. In capturing larger emissions streams, operators have to fine-tune the equipment and see how it works in different weather conditions and using different grades of coal. In a test at AEP’s Mountaineer plant, this stage is expected to take at least a year.

Once that is done, the next stage is building and operating a commercial-scale demonstration plant. AEP recently received $334 million in U.S. government stimulus funds for its planned 235-megawatt demonstration plant. AEP expects that power-plant builders could begin offering commercial versions of the technology by 2020.

The Schwarze Pumpe facility in Germany is also only a prototype for a prototype. Eventually, larger demonstration plants will be built in Germany and Denmark, but not until 2015.

Earlier this month, the European Union agreed to provide as much as $13.6 billion in funding for carbon-capture trials but does not believe the technology will be commercially available until 2020.

Ultimately, commercial adoption will depend on whether governments decide to impose a price on carbon and what that price is. Carbon capture is expensive—it could double the price of electricity from some existing coal plants, and cuts plant efficiency by about 30%.

Most experts agree that it is going to take a carbon price of at least $50 a ton for carbon capture to become economically feasible.

Algal Biofuels
View Full Image
Solazyme A fermentor used by Solazyme to improve growth of microalgae
THE TECHNOLOGY: Algae are fast-growing, consume carbon dioxide and have the potential to produce more oil per hectare than other biofuels. The oils they produce can be used to make substitutes for diesel fuel, aviation fuel and gasoline.

CURRENT STATUS: About 150 companies world-wide are working to commercialize algal biofuels. U.S. government support has soared in the past few years; the Energy Department recently granted $44 million for research into commercializing algal biofuels and $97 million for algae pilot and demonstration projects.

In the biggest project, Sapphire Energy of San Diego, Calif., plans to break ground on a 300-acre (121- hectare) biorefinery in New Mexico later this year.

Another recipient, Solazyme Inc., uses a fermentation method to produce algae-based fuels and has contracts to provide the U.S. Navy with 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) of jet fuel and 20,000 gallons of diesel to power navy ships; the company is converting a plant in Pennsylvania into a demonstration biorefinery. Big oil companies, including ExxonMobil and BP, have invested in algae-biofuel projects or companies.

European support for biofuels has oscillated wildly. The European Union originally imposed a compulsory 10% quota of biofuels in all petrol and diesel by 2020 but came close to scrapping this amid concerns it would jeopardize food production. The focus has shifted to sustainable biofuels—a likely boon to funding for algal biofuels, according to experts.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: As promising as the technology is, it hasn’t proved that it can produce fuels in sufficient quantities or at a low enough cost to make a dent in global liquid-fuel consumption. Solazyme’s fermentation method, which grows algae in dark, enclosed tanks, is considered by some experts to be closest to maturity; the company expects to reach commercial-scale production by 2013.

THE TECHNOLOGY: Wind power is one of the fastest-growing alternative energy sources in the world—a low-carbon, renewable source of electricity that can deliver millions of watts of relatively low-cost power.

CURRENT STATUS: Seven of the world’s 10 largest markets for wind-powered electricity generation are in Europe, which accounted for 54% of the world’s total installed wind capacity at the end of 2008. In the U.S., wind produced about 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year, about 2% of total generation and enough to power about 13 million homes. Industry capacity rose nearly 10,000 megawatts, or 39%, last year to a total of about 35,000 megawatts.

Plans for the Beauly-Denny line, a backbone of pylons to carry electricity from wind farms in the Highlands of Scotland to the more densely populated parts of the U.K., were conceived in 2003 but have only just gained approval.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: It may not. Wind power capacity in Europe is expected to increase by roughly 9% a year until 2030. In the U.S., the Energy Department laid out a scenario for how wind could meet 20% of the nation’s total electricity demand by 2030—about 300 gigawatts—displacing half of natural gas-powered and 18% of coal-fired generation. But a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, found that the Eastern U.S., which isn’t blessed with substantial onshore wind resources, could hit the 20% target by 2024.

Still, reaching that goal is going to take significant investments in new transmission lines, especially in a transmission “superhighway” to carry electricity from parts of the U.S. with lots of wind to places where demand is highest. The NREL study estimates the price tag could be as high as $93 billion.

Local opposition to transmission lines can also present a challenge, especially when lines have to cross state lines. And hitting the U.S. goal also may require significant additions of offshore wind power, which the Energy Department predicts could deliver about 17% of its projected 2030 total. Offshore wind generation promises more reliable power. But it’s about twice as expensive as onshore wind power.

THE TECHNOLOGY: Energy from the sun can be used to make electricity directly with photovoltaic panels or indirectly using concentrated sunlight to heat a liquid, which produces steam to turn electrical turbines. Concentrating solar plants can be built to store heat and deliver power for several hours without sunlight.

CURRENT STATUS: Total capacity—the amount of power that could be produced if the sun shone constantly—of solar photovoltaic systems has been nearly doubling every two years in both the U.S. and Europe, and the pace of increase is expected to rise further.

In the U.S., the estimated 2,000 megawatts of solar capacity in 2009 was nearly 45% higher than in 2008. That includes about 980 megawatts of concentrating-solar projects; an additional 81 megawatts are under construction. In the EU, there was an estimated 9,530 megawatts of solar capacity in 2008, up from 4,940 megawatts in 2007.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: Even at that rate of growth, solar power is still minuscule: Solar generation in 2009 accounted for less than 0.1% of total electricity production in the U.S. Solar capacity remains less than 1% of the total.

“The biggest obstacle is that we’re starting at such a low level,” says John Benner, a research manager at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In Europe, nearly 92% of total solar power capacity is accounted for by just Germany and Spain. Spain alone more than quadrupled its photovoltaic capacity between 2007 and 2008. This surge has been driven by government incentives that have yet to be matched in the rest of Europe.

The cost of solar installations has fallen in recent years, but remains high, partly because demand continues to keep pace with supply. And like wind farms, utility-scale solar photovoltaic and concentrated-solar projects also require additional transmission connections.

Electric Vehicles
THE TECHNOLOGY: In theory, electric vehicles could replace most gasoline-powered cars and light trucks. They can run entirely on battery power, or in the case of plug-in hybrids, on batteries that can be charged by a separate gasoline engine when needed as a backup.

CURRENT STATUS: About 56,000 electric vehicles are in use world-wide, but the numbers are deceiving—most are limited to low-speed driving and have limited range. So far, Tesla Motors Inc.’s Roadster is the only open-road electric vehicle in the U.S., but a handful of other all-electric cars, including Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf, are expected to come to market in 2010. The first commercial plug-in hybrids, led by General Motors Co.’s Chevy Volt, also are slated to be available later this year.

In Europe, there is a wider range of models, including Reva’s G-Wiz, the most popular electric car in the U.K. Later this year, the Mitsubishi i MiEV, the first electric offering from a mainstream manufacturer, will be launched in Europe.

WHY IT’S GOING TO TAKE SO LONG: The biggest obstacle is cost. The advanced lithium-ion battery pack that powers the Volt, which can travel 40 miles (64 kilometers) on a charge, can cost as much as $10,000, though prices are expected to fall as production ramps up. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in 2030, the added cost of a plug-in hybrid will be higher than fuel savings unless gasoline costs around $6 a gallon (3.78 liters).

Another challenge is the need for public recharging stations. Most American drivers travel fewer than 40 miles a day. For European drivers, the average is even lower. This is well within the range of first-generation electric vehicles, but consumers will balk if they worry about running out of juice. Charging networks are scheduled to be rolled out over the next two years in Denmark, Israel and Portugal in cooperation with national power companies and supported by governments. Similar projects are planned in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Public charging spots are less important for plug-in hybrids, which are more likely to be recharged at home. Still, owners may need to upgrade their existing outlets to recharge more quickly. A 240-volt outlet, which can charge an electric vehicle in about three to six hours, generally requires adding a circuit to the home’s electric system to handle the additional load.

Write to Michael Totty at

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Green eyewear: 95% recycled stainless steel and repurposed plastics.

Green Eyewear – Local Optometrist Making a Difference

Monday, February 22, 2010

— One Tree Planted for Each Pair of Eyeglasses Sold

Pasadena, CA – February 22, 2010 /PRAvenueNW/ — Linden Optometry is going green, with the addition of the ECO (Earth-Conscious Optics) line, a new collection of eco-friendly, luxury eyewear. ECO is the first affordable luxury eyewear that brings the focus on environmental responsibility to the forefront. The new collection has been designed for stylish and Earth-conscious men and women.

Picture Caption – Green Eyewear – click to enlarge

With a 360-degree approach to sustainability, the eyeglass frames are created from 95% recycled stainless steel and repurposed plastics. The entire ECO collection, which includes both classic and trendy shapes, is packaged in recycled materials. And, each new pair of ECO eyewear is accompanied by a mail-in recycling kit for old, unwanted eyeglasses.

ONE FRAME – ONE TREE: Linden Optometry is giving back to the environment. Linden Optometry plants a tree for every ECO eyeglass frame purchased.

“We have been test-marketing the ECO line of eyewear since January, and the response from the community has been overwhelming!” said Alan Limfat OD, President of Linden Optometry. “We have planted 500 trees so far. The ECO collection is a wonderful addition to our showroom, because it allows people to help the environment while purchasing something they need, without extra cost. The ECO eyeglass frames are stylish, earth friendly, and wallet friendly!”

TRUNK SHOW AND DRAWING: A Grand Opening Trunk Show for the ECO Collection will be held on Saturday, February 27th, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Linden Optometry at 477 E. Colorado Blvd in Pasadena. Shoppers will be able to try on the latest eco-friendly eyewear styles for 2010. The complete ECO line, including Sunglasses and Eyeglass Frames, will be on display. Fashion consultants will be on hand to help earth-conscious shoppers choose the styles that are best for them. Refreshments will be served. A drawing will be held and one lucky winner will go home with a free pair of ECO Sunglasses (includes non-prescription sunglass lenses; total value up to $200).

GREEN SHOPPING BAG GIVEAWAY: The first 200 shoppers who try on a pair of ECO eyeglass frames on February 27th will receive a Reusable Green Shopping Bag. No purchase necessary. Limit one per person.

About Linden Optometry

Linden Optometry, P.C. is a full service vision-care center, offering designer eyewear and sunglasses, eye exams for the entire family (from infants to seniors), contact lenses, and treatment of eye infections and minor eye injuries. Linden Optometry has won the Pasadena Weekly’s “Best Eyewear in Pasadena” award 15 years in a row, and was recently voted ” #1 Fashion Eyewear in L.A.” by MyFoxLA. Founded in 1956, Linden Optometry has become a destination spot for fashion shoppers from all over Southern California, with over 10,000 pairs of sunglasses and eyeglass frames on display in their showroom.

For More Information Contact:
Pat Suarez
Phone: 626-796-1191
VoiceMail: 626-299-1146

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The Environmental Perks of DIY Soda Machines

The environmental perks of DIY soda machines
Elisabeth Braw
22 February 2010 04:00

When Sodastream was founded a century ago, it was a luxury device for the upper class.

Today the DIY soda company rides high again, thanks to fizzy-drink lovers’ eco-consciousness.

“It’s great when a company has a reason to exist,” says Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. “Every time we sell a machine, we think ‘we just saved the world from a thousand bottles.”

That’s not what Sodastream focused on in 1903, when it presented its first soda-making machine.

“For the first decades, our machines were pretty much just used by the aristocracy,” concedes Birnbaum.

“In the 50’s they became a household item. But three years ago, we realized that we’re an extremely green company.”

Sodastream’s realization came at the right time.

Today Sodastream sells its soda-machines and 180 different-flavored syrups in 32 countries, including the United States, Mexico and most of the EU.

It remains the market leader in DIY soda machines, and for the past three years, sales have increased steadily.

“People are realizing that they can make their own Coke in 10 seconds and help the environment, too,” says Birnbaum. “But we can’t compete with Coca-Cola.”

It can’t compete with Coca-Cola’s price, either: the machine retails for $60 and up.
The syrups and the fizz-adding gas cylinders add to the cost.

While regular consumption quickly makes the it pay for itself, Birnbaum concedes that the up-front cost turns people off.

“The environment alone isn’t enough to make Sodastream a mass-market product,” he says.
“We have to reduce the price of the machine.”

Meanwhile, the Israel-based company is adding cylinder-filling stations in different markets — it’s about to open two in Holland and Sweden — to reduce its cylinders’ flight miles.

“There’s a revolution happening.” exclaims Birnbaum. “100 years ago soda-machines were about convenience. Now they’re about the environment.”

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