Dec 27, 2008

10 Biggest Cleantech Disappointments of 2008

Earth2techgives it's biggest cleantech disappointments of 2008 :

1) Tesla Hits A Wall: The startup started to run low on cash — reportedly at one point as little as $9 million

2) EEStor Delays Some More: We were waiting for mid-2008, then late the startup and its partner say the big unveiling won't come till 2009.

3) T. Boone Derailed: Oil baron turned wind power advocate T. Boone Pickens used his $58 million PR campaign this year to create a lot of hope and support for clean power. Then the economy tanked. Pickens told us that the debt markets in particular took the wind out of his sails.

4) Wave Power Plan Gets Washed Away: Canadian company Finavera Renewables saw its plans to install a 2MW wave power project in California waters wash out to sea when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) denied its application.

5) The Clean Coal Lobby Gets Dirty: A report from the think tank the Center for American Progress finds coal companies have only spent $3.5 billion over the past several years investing in R&D for carbon capture and sequestration, the most promising technology for reducing emissions from coal power — just 1/17th of the coal industry's profits in 2007 alone, according to the group.

6) Corn Ethanol Industry Still Asking for Aid: Corn-based ethanol companies had a rough year: Corn prices spiked, the industry faced political and public backlash, and margins on ethanol narrowed, forcing companies like VeraSun to file for bankruptcy. Most recently, the corn ethanol lobby asked for $1 billion in short-term credit from the government and as much as $50 billion in loan guarantees. The lobby claims it's not a bailout, but the industry isn't sustainable

7) GM Still Featuring Bob Lutz: The U.S. automaker with one of the most promising electric cars in the pipeline is still employing an exec that publicly disputes the carbon theory of global warming. GM has managed to convince the government it needs a bailout, which requires it to prove it can be financially viable and meet current emissions laws

8) UK Wind Plans Blowing Away: The UK looks to be facing an uphill climb when it comes to meeting its wind power targets. The government has a plan to supply a third of its electricity from wind by 2020, but both Royal Dutch Shell and BP have pulled their offshore wind projects investments in the region as reports suggest the goal is far too aggressive.

9) It's Gonna Be A Lot Harder Than We Thought:  The research, from the University of Colorado at Boulder and McGill University in Montreal, says Beyond problems with wind power, scientists and politicians have realized that meeting existing carbon reduction goals won't be enough clean technology is needed.

10) Administration:  The incoming administration's commitment to a modestly aggressive plan — $150 billion over 10 years in clean power

Dec 26, 2008


What's wrong with this plan? In a nutshell:

1) The plan entails as many as
100,000 separate CO2 disposal sites in the U.S. alone. This would require creation of a hazardous-waste-CO2 disposal industry as big as, or bigger than, the oil industry.[1]

2) Creating and running an enormous CO2 hazardous-waste disposal industry would roughly double the cost of fossil-fueled electricity. But this would make solar energy cost-competitive, so why not invest in renewable solar power now instead of investing in a dead-end CO2- waste disposal industry?

3) It would take decades to build this huge new CCS industry -- but we need solutions to the CO2 problem soon.
Solar power plants can be built much faster than this experimental CCS plan could develop.

4) The coal industry calls coal-with-carbon-capture "clean coal." But in reality coal-with-carbon-capture emits
60 times as much CO2, per kiloWatt of electricity, compared to a wind turbine making the same electricity.

4) CCS itself would require lots of energy. For every four power plants, we would have to build a fifth power plant just to capture and store CO2. This would waste even more coal and oil.

5) Every engineer knows that avoiding waste is far better than managing waste.
So CCS is fundamentally bad design. [For example, see the widely-endorsed
Principles of Green Engineering.]

6) Instead of solving the CO2 problem that we've created, CCS would pass the problem along to our children and their children and their children's children. Basically buried CO2 could never be allowed to leak back out. We should take responsibility for our own problems, not pass them to our children to manage.

7) Scientists paid by the fossil fuel companies say the CO2 will never leak back out of the ground. What if they're mistaken? Then our children and grandchildren will inherit a hot, acid-ocean, ruined world.

8) Sooner or later we're going to run out of fossil fuels -- all of them -- so eventually we have to adopt solar power. CCS just delays the inevitable -- a huge waste of time and money.
We should skip CCS and go solar today.

Dec 24, 2008

Money does (diesel) grow on trees

A tree fungus could be used to power diesel cars after it was found to contain many similar properties to that of regular diesel fuel.
It is found in the Patagonian rainforest and is remarkably similar to the fuel in its natural state, meaning that it could be used directly in a modern diesel engine with virtually no modification.
"This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist from Montana State University and lead researcher on the project, according to the Guardian.
"We were totally surprised to learn that it was making a plethora of hydrocarbons," he added.
The fungi, called Gliocladium roseum, were discovered growing inside a tree in the Patagonian rainforest and not only exhibits the same properties as diesel, but also eats the waste produced by biofuel production.
Although the project is still in its very early stages, the fungi could be used to dramatically improve the efficiency of biofuels production as well as providing a fuel source of its own.
"The results were totally unexpected and very exciting, and almost every hair on my arms stood on end," said Strobel.

Dec 23, 2008

$80 Billion in Projects at Federal Facilities efficiency, renewable energy and conservation

DOE Awards 16 Contracts for up to $80 Billion in Projects at Federal Facilities
DOE announced on December 18 that it will award sixteen new Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quality Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) that could result in up to $80 billion in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects at federally-owned buildings and facilities. The new contracts provide for a maximum individual contract value of $5 billion over the life of the contract, eliminate technology-specific restrictions, and allow federal agencies to use these contracts in national and international federal buildings. Full story

Happy Holidays to all readers!

It has been a long hard year with a longer harder journey ahead.
Thank you for protecting our greatest resources  'People and the Planet' -Haase
"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love."

Dec 21, 2008

Agriculture Began Global Warming 5000 Years Ago, Not Industrialization

Contrary to popular opinion that global warming began with the Industrial Revolution, a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists has found that global warming began 5,000 to 8,000 years ago with large-scale agriculture production in Asia and extensive deforestation in Europe.
The introduction of rice cultivation and tree removal caused increases in methane and carbon dioxide according to the research conducted with supercomputers and climate models.  Steve Vavrus, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin, explains the study's conclusion, "I think that the take-home message is that this hypothesis shows that climates are extremely sensitive to small variations in greenhouse gases."

Dec 18, 2008

The Alchemy of Air...

'how two brilliant innovators helped create the explosives, poison gas and synthetic fuels that enabled despots in a small nation to wage two catastrophic wars.'

The need for such a process was urgent. Agricultural crops required nitrogen, but by the late 19th century the parched flatlands of Chile's Atacama Desert were the world's only major source of nitrates, and supplies were running out. With most arable land already cultivated and populations on the rise, a Malthusian nightmare loomed.

Thomas Hager, a chemist living in Karlsruhe, invented a method of blending hydrogen and nitrogen in a high-pressure, high-temperature chamber using a metal catalyst. He developed a tabletop model and sold the ammonia production process to the German dye works Badish Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik, known today as BASF...The Haber-Bosch process is still the leading method of making synthetic fertilizer, Hager, a science writer who previously wrote a biography of Linus Pauling and a book about the discovery of the earliest antibiotics, tells the story of fertilizer well. But it takes up only half the book. The rest focuses on the personalities of Haber and Bosch, and on how their strengths ultimately became fatal weaknesses.

Hager describes the development of the Haber-Bosch synthesis, a worthy addition to the growing genre of histories about scientific processes. Finally, the author presents a cautionary tale about the misuse of science in modern times: how two brilliant innovators helped create the explosives, poison gas and synthetic fuels that enabled despots in a small nation to wage two catastrophic wars.

The Alchemy of Air is a quick, easy read, aimed at a general -- i.e., impatient -- audience, there is material here for twice as big a book.

Read full review by Guy Gugliotta, a former Washington Post science reporter.

Update to post:
Often in history the story is the glory over the real discovery. I did not mean to dis Fritz Haber when quoting this article...

I do apologize to Tom for not including that in the piece.

WasteCap WI News - Reuse it or lose it!

Headlines from WI - WasteCap
This innovative, industry-leading program resulted in more than 23 million pounds of material recovered for use in 2007, diverting it from disposal in a landfill. To read more, visit American Recycler
U.S. EPA, partners kick off green building design challenge / Contest to reward designs that save resources, costs
In the third year of the Lifecycle Building Challenge competition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and partners are inviting the nation’s architects, product developers, educators, environmental leaders, and students to submit innovative designs that minimize waste, reuse materials, and cut greenhouse gas emissions. eas generated by the contest help jumpstart the building industry toward diverting the more than 100 million tons of building-related construction and demolition debris sent each year to landfills in the United States. This free, Web-based competition supports an on-line library of competition entries and green building resources. To learn more, visit
EPA Site
Making Recycling an American Success Story in Challenging Economic Times
Across America, thousands of communities and businesses are raising awareness at special events and throughout local and national media to drive home the importance of recycling. This year, the day coincides with the election of a new President who has made clear his commitment to recycling and energy conservation. However, President-elect Obama and the new Congress must fulfill that commitment in the face of daunting economic challenges. Recycling is not immune from recession forces - lower tax revenues for city services, a difficult investment climate for recycling infrastructure, and declines in commodity markets and prices for those very materials we most recycle - aluminum and steel, paper, plastic, and glass. But there are reasons for optimism. As a nation we recycle about 34 percent of our municipal solid waste. This does not count the millions of tons recovered from used automobiles and appliances, construction and demolition sites, and myriad industrial wastes. These are good numbers, and we can and will do better. To read more about how and why we can do better with recycling, visit Newswire/Forbes
LEED 2009 to Take Effect Next Year
Green building buffs, take note: the US Green Building Council announced earlier this week that LEED 2009 has been approved and will go into effect next year. LEED's newest incarnation incorporates regional credits — extra points identified as priorities in a project's environmental zone. It also has undergone a re-weighting of credits to reflect energy efficiency and climate change as priorities. To read more, visit
About: WasteCap Wisconsin and its clients have diverted 294,925,997 pounds of construction and demolition waste from landfills, which is 53.1 pounds per person in Wisconsin. The equivalent of 93,756 trees have been saved by recycling wood and cardboard.  WasteCap Wisconsin's archives  

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person - Dave Barry


Dec 17, 2008

Carbon Markets - What's In It for the Poor?

While (VIA-EcoEarth) Stephen Leahy goes into  a lengthy part on how Climate experts meeting in Poznan, Poland, promise to create a new pot of carbon-credit gold for the rural poor as guardians of rural lands and forests through biological sequestration of carbon in plants, trees and soils.
The talks in Poznan seemed to be more about trade and money for private enterprise than about reducing emissions or helping the poor, Lovera told Tierramérica from that Polish city.
"There is an aggressive promotion of market mechanisms as the only way to solve the climate crisis," he said.
It is also doubtful that a carbon finance system can compete with the profits that can be made converting forests into soybean fields or palm oil plantations, according to Lovera.
"Strong policy decisions by national governments to protect forests are what is needed not complex market mechanisms," he said.
Kjørven agreed that complexity must be avoided, but he stressed that "it is even harder to see how halting deforestation can be done without creating market-governing rules that can shift investments in favor of conservation and sustainable practices."
"We must include forests in our strategies to deal with climate change. If we do not, we could face a nightmare scenario, a positive feedback loop, in which emissions from deforestation and degradation feed global warming, which in turn accelerates forest loss," Seymour said.
The lack of land tenure for the rural poor in many parts of the world would be a major block to accessing carbon finance, acknowledges Kjørven.
The precarity of land rights in the new era of global carbon finance will deprive the poor of potential revenues and "inevitably lead to exploitation, loss of livelihoods, further marginalisation and a plethora of other social and environmental damages," he warns.
There are no guarantees the poor will benefit under such as system, and the reality could be quite the opposite, says Miguel Lovera, chairperson of the Global Forest Coalition, an international non-governmental organisation headquartered in Paraguay.

Interview: Santa Admits Causing Global Warming

In a report due to be released this Thursday in San Francisco, NASA scientists will reveal satellite imagery indicating that over 2 trillion tons of polar land ice World Santa Claus Congress 2008 by Maltesenhas melted since 2003, we contacted the most famous polar resident to get his reaction.

In the following exclusive pre-Christmas interview, Inspired Economist investigative reporter Ramsay Mameesh, asks Santa Claus about his role in causing global warming and the dangers it poses for his business.  As well as China’s effect on North Pole Industries’ toy market share.  And how the economic downturn is impacting toy production.

Ramsay Mameesh:  Santa Claus, thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with the Inspired Economist, I know you’re a busy man so close to Christmas.  I think everyone is familiar with who you are, so to save time I’ll skip the usual introduction, and get straight to questions.   Do you feel any sense of responsibility for our current climate crisis?

Santa Claus: Ho, Ho, Ho.  I see you’re still upset about not getting the Tonka Truck Fire Engine that one Christmas!

RM: Yeah, something like that.  But seriously, don’t you think the culture of consumption that you personally promote, is directly responsible for melting polar ice-caps?  I mean, you may be driving yourself out of business, doesn’t that concern you?

Santa Claus: Yes, we are very concerned about climate change, and that’s why I have appointed a special committee of Elves to explore solutions.  One of the Elf’s suggestions is that we begin using Reindeer poop, to power our facilities, instead of coal.   It’s sort of a nasty Catch-22, North Pole Industries is a toy manufacturer, and if we don’t produce  toys we’re out of business.  On the other hand, over consumption is causing climate change, and endangering our manufacturing facilities.  I want to assure you, and all the good boys and girls, that as CEO of North Pole Industries we will find creative solutions.  Christmas will continue.

RM:  That’s good to know, I’m sure children around the world, will be relieved to hear that Christmas will continue.  However, you did not answer my question, are you willing to admit for the record that you played a key role in causing global warming?

Read more of this story »

Obama: "Under my plan, electricity costs will necessarily skyrocket"

When President-elect Barack Obama discusses his cap-and-trade policy at least he acknowledges “electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket.”

Obama admittedly recognizes his cap-and-trade plan artificially distorts the market and thus raises prices significantly. But does he understand the true extent of these costs?

This isn’t a knock on Obama. Sen... (just a heart felt message) John McCain would have readily signed a cap-and-trade bill if he were elected president. Also I would not question Obamas plan if I did not have several better options for his staff.

But he wasn’t and Obama was. Some members of Congress have backed off a cap-and-trade plan because of the economic damage it would inflict. It’s time to realize this isn’t good policy. Not now. Not ever.

What about the costs?
A recent Analysis calculated the costs of global warming legislation in the U.S. alone and the cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion. Single-year losses exceed $600 billion in 2029, more than $5,000 per household. Annual job losses exceed 800,000 for several years. That’s a scary price to pay for what little benefits we receive.

TRUTH - no one wants to admit

Why 'Cap and Trades' are bad for Environment & Economy...

HAASE - Are these people suggesting conservation and energy reduction? This is the only plausible solution lowering "carbon use"

Regardless of anything else... without conservation and reduction nearly all carbon storage or control options will ultimately fail.

It makes all focus and efforts in these sectors implausible.

Ironically, if we fix the "true" causes of what produces "toxic" emissions we also reduce green house gas emissions beyond anyone's "Gullible Warming Models".

Daily, toxic chemicals (true pollution) and particulates kill thousands. Our daily output of toxic chemicals is making "everlasting" marks on our DNA and every natural plant and organism. It is beyond me why this is not enough of a problem without skewing science, media and public perception into believing false sources. The truth is "inconvenient" enough.

Global warming, Carbon dioxide, polar bears? The focus on these being "primary problems" is the root cause of the real problem. It has diverted now trillion$ into a future of "hydrogen dreams" that have nothing to do with actually fixing a problem just shifting capital and resource markets to create a facade of "power"... Most of this money is now gone to fight our real problems.

We can stop this "carbon pollution" cycle anytime we want to by living "within our means with what we have" (Sustainability) but, it will be very difficult to stop the toxic cycle we have created that will take thousands of years to dissipate (if ever).

Sustainability - As a society we have no idea what this means, none.

We need everyone to change their mentality to focus on "what kills us, kills our environment"... it is that simple.

We are running out of fresh water, clean air and top soil and will reach "peak biosphere" if we continue to ignore it.

During the holidays more than ever we need to think about what truly makes a difference in improving the world.

Christopher Haase
While we are "sweating the small things we can not change" our future is dissolving before our very eyes.

U.S. Driving Decreases for the Twelfth Straight Month

FROM: EERE People in the United States drove 3.5% fewer miles in October 2008 than they did in October 2007, making October the twelfth consecutive month of year-to-year declines in U.S. vehicle miles travelled, marking the largest ever continuous decline in U.S. driving. October alone saw a year-to-year drop of 8.9 billion vehicle miles, which is the largest October decline since 1971... many were motivated by high gasoline prices,
Travel within the United States is expected to drop even more this holiday season, according to HNTB. The company's most recent nationwide survey found that 45% of U.S. residents plan to stay home for the holidays. Of those that do travel more than 50 miles, 75% expect to drive, while only 17% plan to fly, 4% will take the train, and 2% will travel by bus, all of which suggests that the shift to mass transit is greater for work commuters than for people taking vacations.
See the press releases from the DOT and HNTB.

Dec 16, 2008

Art of GreenWashing - Dispelled by EPA & Obama

Cutting back is easy enough when energy and oil prices are sky-high. But as Obama said on a recent CBS News 60 Minutes program, our memories are short.
"This has been our pattern: We go from shock to trance. Oil prices go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity, and then the prices go back down and suddenly we act like it's not important and we start filling up our SUVs again." As a result, Obama added, "We never make any progress."
"People buy on emotion, and they justify with the facts," says Maria Vargas, a director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.
But what works? One effective tactic: fear of death. Social marketers give themselves high marks for getting people to stop smoking. But energy is different. As social marketer Merrill Shugoll of Shugoll Research explains, Big Oil is not the same as Big Tobacco. People need energy, she says -- they don't need cigarettes.
"Fear doesn't always work," Shugoll says. Clear, consistent information about where energy comes from and how its use affects the environment is what people need more of, she notes.
Instead, they say they need something more fundamental to motivate people. So efficiency boosters are turning to social marketers to find out how to change energy consumption habits. Social marketing is the use of public media to get people to make the right choices for society.
Social marketers say there are some things to avoid when you're trying to make people change their energy appetites. A big one is the idea of sacrifice. President Jimmy Carter tried that when he put on a sweater and told Americans to turn down the thermostat. It didn't work.

Laurus Energy boasts cheapest, cleanest power in America

From venturebeat. A new company called Laurus Energy, which recently received $9 million in backing from a Silicon Valley venture firm, claims it has found the cheapest way to deliver clean power in North America. The Houston-based company says its energy is even better than natural gas as a source, because the gas is generated with a superior method that no one else is using in North America: Underground coal gasification (also here syngasrefiner).

Laurus accesses coal that lies farther underground than the 100-meter-or-less depth that conventional coal mining technology can access. And by accessing such deep coal seams, Laurus can use a technique of drawing gas from the coal in a way that is cleaner than natural gas — basically, by adding to it the carbon-free hydrogen and methane.

“This is lowest cost, cleanest power source in North America,” says Erik Straser, partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, who led the investment into company.

The company owns exclusive rights to the technology for use in North America. So far the technology has been used by government energy agencies in countries in South Africa and Uzbekistan. Ergo Exergy is the company that owns the technology and licenses it out to different global operators. It was founded by Michael Blinderman, who also co-founded Laurus. Simon Maev is another co-founder at Laurus.

Laurus uses a process very similar to smoking a cigar. Just as a cigar has pores that lets you draw in smoke from one end to the other through layers of tobacco leaves, Laurus also uses cigar-like pores, only on a much larger scale: It drills holes in coal deposits, and sucks gas through those holes and across a distance of up to several football fields. Once the gas reaches the surface, the carbon dioxide (CO2) is siphoned off, and sold to oil recovery companies wanting it for their own processes. The rest of the gas, which has significant doses of methane and hydrogen, goes to fuel a power plant. That gas is cleaner than natural gas. And its use is much cheaper because Laurus’ process avoids spending the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build a standard surface gasifier. (You can see a demo of the process here; click where it says “play next.“)

Laurus’ power will be about 75 percent cheaper than the lowest cost solar alternatives, and about half as expensive as natural gas, Straser says.

The technology is also useful because it exploits coal, which is the nation’s largest energy resource. Laurus targets the coal seams that are between 200 and 1,500 meters below the ground, an area that is un-minable. Other, conventional sources of power, such as oil and natural gas have become much less plentiful in recent years.

Read more about this tech VIA the "BigGav" and Oil Drum... (Discussed since 2005)



Why big three fell... a decade behind

China's first plug-in hybrid, BYD's F3DM, goes on sale today
On Monday, the upstart company best known for making cellphone batteries will begin selling its F3DM -- China's first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle. You can buy the car NOW for around $20,000 in China and make its way to U.S. shores in 2011 with its electric vehicles. While GM plans to introduce its electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, in 2010 with G.M. claiming the costly battery will prevent it from turning a profit on the vehicle for several years....
BYD got into the car market in 2003, and the F3DM is a modified version of its gas-powered F3 model. The DM in the name stands for dual-mode, reflecting its ability to operate in both full-electric and gas-electric hybrid modes. The electric mode has a range of 60 miles on a single charge.
Among those betting on BYD is Warren E. Buffett, who in September bought a 9.9% stake for $230 million. The billioniare investor apparently was impressed with BYD's green technology and Wang's record as a manager.

Dec 15, 2008

What will become of consumer protection?

The era of 'rock star' advocacy is over.
The woman largely responsible for vehicle air bags, Joan Claybrook, who announced last week that she's stepping down as president of Public Citizen after 27 years at the helm of the consumer watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader.  No successor at Public Citizen has been named.
The consumer movement is at a crossroads. After becoming a force in the 1960s with Nader's rise to prominence, it has since struggled to connect with the media and public.
"In many ways, there's less of a movement now," Claybrook acknowledged. "Now there are specific advocates for specific issues.
NADER -  There's so much clutter in the media marketplace, so much noise from competing interests that it's increasingly difficult for a nonprofit group to get its message across, much less stir up sufficient outrage to catalyze political action. "We used to put out press releases and they'd be on the evening news," he said. "Now you can't even get them on cable."
"The indications are very bad," Nader, 74, said of the future. "We all thought the Internet would give us a resurgence. The big hope was that you could band people together quickly and cheaply, but it hasn't worked out."
For his part, Nader makes no effort to hide his frustration. "It's been very difficult holding back the hordes of corporatism," he said. "It's become more defensive than offensive, just trying to save what's been achieved."
They aren't easy acts to follow. "Nobody will ever be a rock star again like Ralph Nader," said U.S. PIRG's Mierzwinski, 55.
The Internet has yet to live up to its potential as an engine for consumer protection, but it still can.
Ultimately, it's up to us -- consumers -- to demand accountability for unsafe products and stronger regulation of businesses, and to remain engaged with the legislative process.
This movement was always about one thing -- you. Isn't that worth fighting for?
Read full from David Lazarus' LAtimes  Consumer movement at a crossroads

Stupid Celebrity "How to Save the Planet" Quotes

Here is why?

Jennifer Aniston: “I take a three-minute shower. I even—brush my teeth while in the shower.”
(Source: We know that she was trying to get the idea of water conservation across here, but technically you don't really need any water to brush your teeth...

Sheryl Crow: “I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting—only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required" (Source:

Mischa Barton: "Pretty people aren't as accepted as other people. It comes with all these stigmas."

The heck with saving the whales, look at what beautiful celebrities have to live with each and every day of their lives!

Read them all at treehugger

Dec 12, 2008

Biopact - You will be missed

Biopact, a site that has provided exceptional coverage of bioenergy and related issues for the past five years, today announced it will no longer be updating its web site. The founders, who are moving on to pursue other noble projects, have graciously directed the site's readers to mongabay. While our sites differ in focus and perspective, we share a similar philosophy and Mongabay will do its best to carry on Biopact's legacy.

Peak Home Innovation - 1906

History  of the Thermo-Con House
Thomas Edison unveils prototype housing using lightweight "foam concrete"
Frank Lloyd Wright designs the first of several homes using pre-cast "textile" concrete blocks
New York City's Museum of Modern Art mounts an exhibit titled "International Style," showcasing avant-garde industrial design and architectural functionalism in the U.S. and Europe
United States enters World War II
Thermo-Con House construction completed
Korean War begins
Thermo-Con House placed on Virginia Landmarks Register
Renovation of Thermo-Con House
The innovative initiatives pursued at Fort Belvoir during the post-war period were also illustrated in its residential architecture. In 1948, the well-known architectural firm of Albert Kahn & Associates designed the Thermo-Con House. This house form was intended to provide a prototype for low-cost, mass-produced housing. The construction of the house employed an innovative technique that used chemically-treated concrete that rose from its foundation like bread rising in a pan. Another major residential project during the 1970s was the McRee Barracks, a complex of mid-rise buildings constructed in 1975 to house 1,200 single enlisted men.
Read more about Fort Belvoir

U.S. Says It Will Cut GHG At Least 50% By 2050

Spoiler alert 'After the peak of oil (2020)  and cheap coal (2040) we hit the target by default'
Read full from environmentalleader

"Beware of those who say we've hit the bottom." - Nouriel Roubini...


Dec 10, 2008

New Reports Indicate China's Water and Soil May Be Too Far Gone to Support a Growing Economy

Two new reports – one from the Chinese government, the other based on criteria developed by the United Nations – should be enough to scare every government, economist and investor in the world about the future of the Chinese economy, currently the one global bright spot.
The underlying question raised by these reports is this: How can a nation’s economy grow when its soil is rapidly eroding and its water is rapidly becoming so polluted that it isn’t just unsafe to drink. It’s even unsafe for fishing, farming and factory use.
In short, how can a nation’s economy grow when its ecosystems appear on the verge of collapse?
As reported late last month by Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, “A three-year investigation reveals almost 40% of China’s territory, or 3,569,200 square kilometers of land, suffers from soil erosion.” Reuters news agency put it this way: “Over a third of China’s land is being scoured by serious erosion that is putting crops and water supply at risk, a nationwide three-year survey has found.” The survey reportedly was carried out by China’s bio-environment security research team.
Separately, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper ran a story late last month headlined, “Yellow River too polluted to drink.” Datelined Shanghai, the story began: “The Yellow River, which provides drinking water to millions of people in northern China, is now so badly polluted that 85% of it is unsafe for drinking. China’s heavy industries have tipped so much waste into the river that enormous stretches of it, amounting to over a third of its entire length, cannot be used at all anymore, either for drinking, fishing, farming or even factory use, according to criteria used by the United Nations Environmental Program.”
These are stunning statistics that literally stab at the heart of the world’s biggest, most populous country and the nation whose economy is desperately being counted on by a recession-savaged world.
But as much as the credit crisis has undermined economic growth elsewhere, an environmental crisis looks increasingly likely to do the same to China’s economy. Everything you need to know about Beijing’s continuing failure to come to grips with its eco-crisis can be found in a quote deep in the Telegraph story from a spokesman for the Yellow River Conservation Committee. “I wish that a harmony could be achieved between development, utilization and protection of the river someday.”
China’s water and soil woes appear to have now reached the point at which food and water shortages leading to a health crisis could be possible at any moment, leading in turn to a reduction in GDP at the exact wrong time.

Ec0-Nomics... imagine we have no money to protect our greatest investments

While I do not often talk "eco-nomics" the threat has become as much as a national health issue as cancer and as much of a environmental issue as global warming.
If you are concerned as much as I am about understanding our current economic problem then the site quoted below may be a good resource.
Without a nations "economic health" there is NO money for environmental, health or safety... to be more clear, all the the efforts you (EHS professionals) have worked on for decades to protect our nations resources will be for nothing. Imagine a nation where half our companies can no longer afford to protect workers, the public or their environment... it's easy if you try. 
The good news is that our environmental and energy solutions can also be our economic salvation IF done correctly... 
From:The Automatic Earth
...warning of millions of lay-offs to come in the US economy.  Still, looking around the financial world today I can't escape the feeling that it will all get much worse than even I thought, and that Europe can't escape a fate much worse than it thinks is in store.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) issued a report on global lending and bond issuance that says both are down 70-80%, with bonds in Euros dropping 94%. This means companies can't borrow from banks, nor can they expect to raise capital in the bond markets. The result should be obvious: tons of companies, from small to large, will inevitably have to declare bankruptcy. This is true in the US, in Europe, in Japan, and the bankruptcy and job loss wave will spread from there to the rest of the planet, in a self-reinforcing manner, feeding off itself.

And I may be naive, but I would truly expect governments to prepare for this wave.
However, I see no such action anywhere. Which I think will have very dire consequences, with millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic, and in markets worldwide, with no chance of finding work, and no hope of receiving government -financial- support: there'll be too many of them. All this will put enormous pressure on individual countries and their political systems.

Moody’s predicts corporate -bond- defaults to rise almost 4-fold in the US, and 10-fold in European markets. These are companies that will have to lay off people simply because they have no way of paying for inventory. This starts to look like the 1930's, when the labor was there, and so were the resources, but the financial markets made it impossible for both to come together.

We should have taken care of basic human needs, by taking them out of profit markets. But we haven't, and so supermarket shelves will be as empty as electronics stores, though both serve entirely different needs and demands. Governments, meanwhile, use what money they can get to prop up an insolvent financial system, whereas their prime concern should be to feed and clothe their citizens, and make sure they have shelter and clean water.
If you know of a government that is looking at these issues today, I’d like to know about it.

There is a $40 plus trillion in notional payments vs. a recovery rate in single digits... , it's end of the line, no hyper-inflation, a giant default wave, more morose attempts to save banks that should have been thrown out the window years go, and no money to take care of the millions of desperate citizens roaming the streets.

Banking and investing as we've known it won't be back for at least decades. The upcoming round of bank failures, which will leave very few, if any, standing, cannot be prevented. A lot of the suffering among ordinary people can, if only through using the current bail-out funds to make sure every American and European can get at least their basic needs fulfilled . But no politician anywhere is even looking at this reality, and the citizenry has been kept in the dark. It makes the implosion of entire societies an easily predictable fact. 
If you can stomach it read full from The Automatic Earth
Bottom line we are Half way to the Great Depression in two months when it took the 30's two years..

The real* U.S. unemployment is 12.2%, up 1.1% since last month and 4.1% in the last 12 months, or a rise of 50% (!) with a million layoffs a month coming: guardian

*This, 12.2% is the “non-adjusted” number, is the actual unemployment rate as reported before the BLS (government )  

Toxic chemicals found in three-quarters of soft plastic toys in Canada.

Despite a decade-old voluntary ban in North America, Health Canada tests found three-quarters of soft plastic toys and items for young children for sale in Canada contained toxic chemical additives known to cause reproductive harm in children.

Phthalates, used to soften plastic toys, were present at elevated levels in the department's sampling of 54 of 72 products for children ages three and under made of the widely used plastic known as polyvinyl chloride. They included toys that are likely to be mouthed, like bath toys, and items designed for infants to help in feeding and sleeping.

The levels ranged from 0.2 to 39.9 per cent by weight of the polyvinyl chloride in the products.

Read full from

G.M. destine to fail over and over again

G.M. "can not make money even with great ideas and huge handouts..."
While VW and Toyota have made gross margins on the greenest cars in the world G.M. has stated the Chevy Volt will cost GM $750 milllion...
Stating that: it's really expensive to develop a hybrid, electric car or extended-range electric car.
But what the U.S. has to understand is that American tax dollars have "already given billions" of 'green' dollars to the U.S. auto industry over the last three decades in the form of grants and incentives to 'develop hybrid, electric, hydrogen or extended-range cars.'
Then what did we give VW and Toyota to actually make money doing it? A market.
Why you consider giving billions more until you can see a future of even slight 'green' progress in this industry?
Seriously three decades, billions in research, where's the progress... where?
Image: The Beast

Dec 8, 2008

A simple, inexpensive way to save 28,000 lives per year

The New Yorker is running a piece by Atul Gawande that starts by describing the everyday miracles that can be achieved in a modern medical intensive care unit, and ends by making a case for a simple and inexpensive way to save 28,000 lives per year in US ICUs, at a one-time cost of a few million dollars. This medical miracle is the checklist. Gawande details how modern medicine has spiraled into complexity beyond any person's ability to track — and nowhere more so than in the ICU.
"A decade ago, Israeli scientists published a study in which engineers observed patient care in ICUs for twenty-four-hour stretches. They found that the average patient required a hundred and seventy-eight individual actions per day, ranging from administering a drug to suctioning the lungs, and every one of them posed risks. Remarkably, the nurses and doctors were observed to make an error in just one per cent of these actions — but that still amounted to an average of two errors a day with every patient. Intensive care succeeds only when we hold the odds of doing harm low enough for the odds of doing good to prevail. This is hard."
The article goes on to profile a doctor named Peter Pronovost, who has extensively studied the ability of the simplest of complexity tamers — the checklist — to save lives in the ICU setting. Pronovost oversaw the introduction of checklists in the ICUs in hospitals across Michigan, and the result was a thousand lives saved in a year. That would translate to 28,000 per year if scaled nationwide, and Pronovost estimates the cost of doing that at $3 million.

Wisconsin boasts most manure-to-energy projects

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: When it comes to generating renewable energy, Wisconsin lacks the high winds of the Great Plains and the steady sunlight of Arizona, but it has one abundant resource few others can match - cow power. Although renewable energy makes up only a fraction of the state's total energy mix, one area that's growing fast is systems that convert cow manure into electricity and heat. At the Crave Brothers dairy farm and cheese factory in Waterloo, the farm's anaerobic digester - its cow ...

Dec 6, 2008

We have not moved in - 108 Years Later...

Around 1900, Thomas Edison Worked on an Electric, Plug In, Car - 108 Years Later: We're Still Dealing with the Same Problems
Around 1900 there were electric taxis operating in New York, and other cities. After Thomas Edison's laboratory burned down, he was never able to advance his electric car program. He was already an old man.
Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nicola Tesla, were the genius inventors who brought electricity into a world lit by fire. Thomas Edison had an unbelievable work ethic. He tested a few thousand filaments for his light bulb, until he finally arrived at the right one. He famously said, "invention was 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration." When Thomas Edison wasn't working on electricity, he invented the phonograph, and motion pictures. a child, Nicola Tesla dreamed of one day harnessing the power of Niagara Falls. Nicola Tesla achieved his dream, when he, and George Westinghouse were able to convert the power of Niagara Falls into electricity, and to send that electricity into Buffalo NY. They accomplished this fete in1896, just 17 years after Thomas Edison perfected his electric light bulb.
These gentlemen, would be spinning electrons, in their graves, if they knew that, with all of our computers, and technology, we can't develop a cheap electric, plug in car. They galloped over the technology hurdles, of their day, leaving clouds of dust behind them.
Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, and Westinghouse, were entrepreneur inventors who gambled their fortunes and reputations on their inventions. The Chevrolet Volt will be the product of over paid, bureaucratic, executives. I wish Bob Lutz well, and hope, and pray, that the Chevrolet Volt is a winner. GM is hoping the Chevy Volt will help stave off bankruptcy. The silver haired fox might have one last, great victory, in him.
When it comes to GM's new plug in, electric car, the Chevy Volt, it appears that GM might not have the burning desire, to produce a market winner.
The highly awaited Chevy Volt, which is supposed to cost $40,000.00, is priced too high for the average consumer. The Chevy Volt will cost about double the price of the popular Toyota Prius Hybrid, which lists for about $22,000. It appears that GM might be planning a market failure, at least until they can produce and sell enough Volts to lower the cost.
What makes me doubt that Lutz has the prerequisite, fire in the belly, that all of history's famous inventors had, is that he recently said, "global warming is a crock of shit." Are you detecting a lack of urgency?
Bob Lutz might be one of the most admired and experienced executives in the car industry. At 76 he's also one of the oldest. Lutz seems wed to the past. His collection of classic cars rivals Jay Leno's. No matter what happens to GM, Bob Lutz's 6.9 million dollar salary will leave him a wealthy man.
The high cost of the Chevy Volt has to do with the batteries. Around 1900 Thomas Edison developed a reliable automotive battery. Around the same time he planned production of an electric car. Then as now, the major problem with the electric car, was producing a reliable, cheap, light weight, battery. Thomas Edison envisioned, widely available charging stations that would recharge the electric car's batteries.

One in Three Toys on Shelf Found To Be Toxic

According to a recent study released by researchers for the Michigan-based Ecology Center, one in three toys tested was found to contain toxic chemicals such as lead, flame retardants and arsenic.

It turns out that researchers tested more than 1,500 popular toys for lead, cadmium, arsenic, PVC and other harmful chemicals and said they found that one-third of the toys contain "medium" or "high" levels of chemicals of concern, which are not bad for the environment from a manufacturing standpoint, they're also terrible for the health of little ones.

Wondering whether or not that gift you were about to purchase made the list? Click through to find out.

The group said it selected toys and children's products that attempted to represent a cross section of the most popular items used by U.S. children, and researchers bought the toys at chain stores including Target, Kmart, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, TJ Maxx, and Wal-Mart, as well as drug stores, dollar stores, on-line retailers and independent toy stores as well.

And as promised, if you'd like to ascertain whether or not that shiny new toy your child's been asking for made the list there's an easily searchable database located on their website,, where you can get the complete low down before you wrap it up and put it under the tree.

HealthyToys Database Cuts Through Confusion for Consumers Everywhere

Dec 5, 2008

Much awesome - Google Energy Design Plug-in From DOE

The Energy Design Plugin was created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Designed to integrate seamlessly with the SketchUp environment, the plugin allows you to use the standard SketchUp tools to create and edit EnergyPlus zones and surfaces. You can explore your EnergyPlus input files by using all of the native SketchUp 3D capabilities to view the geometry from any vantage point, apply different rendering styles, and perform accurate shadowing studies. The plugin allows you to mix EnergyPlus simulation content with decorative content such as background images, landscaping, people, and architectural finish details—all within the same SketchUp model.

The plugin adds the building energy simulation capabilities of EnergyPlus to the SketchUp environment. You can launch an EnergyPlus simulation of the model you are working on and view the results without leaving SketchUp.

Highlights of the beta version of the Energy Design Plugin include:

  • The ability to create and edit EnergyPlus zones and surfaces
  • The ability to launch EnergyPlus and view the results without leaving SketchUp

This plugin is compatible with both the Free and the Pro versions of Google SketchUp 6. It is not compatible with SketchUp 5. EnergyPlus must be installed on your computer for full access to all of the plugin functionality. However, EnergyPlus can be installed after the plugin.

In order to download your copy of the Energy Design Plugin, you must fill out the registration form. After your registration is complete, you will be able to download the installation file on the last page. An e-mail containing your installation password will be sent to you within 24 hours.

Register for the Energy Design Plugin.


Everyone cutting power and WSJ thinks 'Something weird is going on'

If we use less energy, it's reported as bad news ?
The Wall Street Journal-  Industry concerned drop goes beyond downshift in the nation's economy 
An unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.
Numbers trickling in from several large utilities show shrinking power use by households and businesses in pockets across the country. Utilities long have counted on sales growth of 1 percent to 2 percent annually in the U.S., and they created complex operating and expansion plans to meet the needs of a growing population.
The data are early and incomplete, but if the trend persists, it could ripple through companies' earnings and compel major changes in the way utilities run their businesses. Utilities are expected to invest $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion by 2030 to modernize their electric systems and meet future needs, according to an industry-funded study by the Brattle Group.
However, if electricity demand is flat or even declining, utilities must make significant adjustments to their investment plans or run the risk of building too much capacity. That could end up burdening customers and shareholders with needless expenses.
...Xcel Energy, says his company saw home-energy use drop 3 percent in the period from August through September, "the first time in 40 years I've seen a decline in sales" to homes.
Duke's third-quarter electricity sales were down 5.9 percent in the Midwest from the year earlier, including a 9 percent drop among residential customers. At its utilities operating in the Carolinas, sales were down 4.3 percent for the three-month period ending Sept. 30 from a year earlier.
American Electric Power Co., which owns utilities operating in 11 states, saw total electricity consumption drop 3.3 percent in the same period from the prior year. Among residential customers, the drop was 7.2 percent. However, milder weather played a role.
Some believe the drop heralds a broader change for the industry. Rogers of Duke Energy says that even in places "where prices were flat to declining," his company saw lower consumption. "Something fundamental is going on," he says.
Michael Morris, chief executive of AEP, one of the country's largest utilities, says he thinks the industry should be wary about breaking ground on expensive new projects. "The message is: Be cautious about what you build because you may not have the demand" to justify the expense, he says.

Dec 4, 2008

Toronto is now the largest municipality in the world to ban bottled water.

TORONTO - to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on all municipal premises from City Hall to golf courses by 2011.
Stuart Green, spokesman for Toronto Mayor David Miller, said the plastic-water-bottle ban, along with other measures, is all part of the city's plan to divert 70 per cent of Toronto's waste from the dump by 2010.
He added in conjunction with the plastic-water-bottle ban on municipal premises the city would upgrade drinking fountains to ensure Torontonians access to clean as safe drinking water.
Council also agreed Tuesday to a series of packaging-reduction bylaws.
They include:
- A five-cent charge for every plastic bag customers use from a grocery or retail store starting in June;
- A ban on biodegradable and compostable plastic bags.
- A ban on retail bags with rope handles or metal grommets by the end of next year.
- A request the retailers also provide shoppers with alternatives to having the pay for a plastic bag, whether by providing cardboard boxes or paper sacks for shoppers.
According to the Polaris Institute 17 municipalities from 5 provinces have banned the bottle, while another 45 municipalities are planning restrictions on bottled water.

Dec 2, 2008

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Report Details Potential of Combined Heat and Power

EERE NEWS - Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has released Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future, a new report highlighting Combined Heat and Power (CHP) as a realistic solution to enhance national energy efficiency, ensure environmental quality, promote economic growth, and foster a robust energy infrastructure. The report provides an in-depth discussion of current opportunities and challenges to more widespread national CHP deployment, and sets the stage for future policy dialogue aimed at promoting this clean energy solution.

Global Warming Wooohoo for shipping?

'I didn't see one cube of ice'
"Looks like it's going to be more shipping or ships travelling, with the ice clearing up north of this area," Kamookak said.