L Prize: LED Bulb Competition

Philips Electronics LED bulb Source: Kimberly Janeway's blog at consumerreports.org

On the NPR show, Science Friday, it dedicated a whole show to the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes (L Prize) Competition and how Phillips Electronics is the first company to enter.  The guest speaker for this show was Jim Brodrick, Lighting Program Manager for the Building Technologies Program (with DOE).  Brodrick was very pleased to have Philips summit their bulb because he believes that this will spur other companies to enter. Continue reading

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US China Joint Statement on energy cooperation

Check out the full text of the U.S. China Joint Statement at CBS

The joint statement issued tonight from beijing has a remarkable number of agreements in it.  But I only want to discuss the implications of the climate and energy agreements.  (Well, first, I want to note that the Yuan isn’t budging yet, but a few barbs seem to have flown over recent US protectionism)

If we are to take this statement at its word, it suggests that the US is backing off its Bush era strategy of pitting US opposition to Kyoto  on the failure to include binding targets for China.  The nod to the Bali Action Plan, UNFCCC and even quoting the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” suggest that Obama is willing to play ball in a game where Annex I distinctions still rule.  The distinction is spelled out even more clearly in the terms “emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries”.

I am still skeptical that Obama’s concession/posturing will mean anything for the outcome of Copenhagen, or that it could possible endure the US domestic ratification process if it ever made it that far.  The statement stalls well short of promising that the emission reductions will be deep or putting a $$ on the adaptation and developing country assistance.  But the change in tone and lack of offense from Obama for US climate positions makes a convincing show that the President thinks the issue deserves some sacrifices.

Here is the excerpt directly speaking to climate change negotiations: Continue reading

Copenhagen posturing

Obama-meets-with-UN-SecretaryThe last round of negotiations prior to the Copenhagen Summit in Barcelona fizzled to a message of decreased expectations.  This has set the table for rapid political posturing from the US.  On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal quoted several key Senators, including climate bill sponsor Sen. Kerry, with various statements postponing the possibility of US domestic climate legislation until next year.  Thursday the Washington Post broke a story that the Obama administration is feeling out the possibility for interim agreements in lieu of a formal treaty in December.  This morning the first official news of President’s Asia trip is of an agreement with Japan that both countries will commit to decreasing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 with global reductions of 50% by mid century.  With China and India on schedule for later in the trip it is probable that climate will come up again, although balance of trade and Yuan/$ exchange is likely to dominate the conversation (for more on expected China content check out Robert Borosage on Huff Post).

It seems to this writer that Obama is guarding his international reputation more than setting a clear signal that the US is ready to engage in international climate agreements.  Continue reading

Metrobus in Mexico City Wins Harvard University Award for Sustainable Transit Project.

3053226323aa3240a9ffMexico City’s Metrobus project received the 2009 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership from Harvard University. Metrobus is a sustainable transit project in one of the world’s most populated and congested cities.

“Metrobus, which focuses on massive transport systems and better vehicle fuel efficiency, has shown to be a viable and economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gloria Grandolini, World Bank Director for Mexico. “Mexico is at the forefront when it comes to implementing this type of projects and once again demonstrates its willingness to improve the environment,” she added.

By introducing cleaner, more efficient buses, and convincing many commuters to leave their cars at home, Metrobus has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from Mexico City traffic by an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 tons a year. In addition, the project removed 800 polluting minibuses from the road and encouraged greater use of sidewalks and bicycles throughout the city.Metrob%C3%BAs_Set_Dominguez
The World Bank has supported Mexico’s efforts to attain a sustainable environment with loans totaling US$2.7 billion for the 2008-2009 period. The projects seek to integrate environmental considerations into public policies, in order to increase competitiveness and economic and social development while simultaneously protecting the environment. 

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Salty or Sweet? Harnessing the Sun for Desalination

Here is one for all of the science buffs! Two Canadian engineers recently unveiled a cheaper desalination method that harnesses the sun to power the desalination process, which in turn could lower the cost of desalination by almost 80%. This process requires a bit more ingenuity than the typical prototype, but if it does work as described then this might prove to be one of many answers used to solve the linger issue of water scarcity.

I will try to sum up their process as best I can (with the limited science and engineering knowledge that I have).  The engineers, Ben Sparrow and Joshua Zoshih, believe that they can create an ample amount of fresh water with less than 1 kWh of electricity. The only energy required is a very small amount (remember, less than 1 kWh) used to pump the water through the system, As described in The Economist, “Their process is fuelled by concentration gradients of salinity between different vessels of brine. These different salinities are brought about by evaporation.” Therefore, no other source of “paid” power is needed to produce this freshwater because the rest of the energy comes from natural sources (sun, air). See visual below for more information!

The article goes into more detail, and it is interesting to compare this system to the ones that are currently proposed by businesses such as G.E. It does appear that there are striking benefits to this system such as the performance of this process improves in arid regions (which are the regions that most need this type of technology), and it requires less pre-treatment and chemicals than traditional processes.

Perhaps there is more to this story than at first meets the eye? Admittedly, I have very little knowledge of desalination, but the proposed process seemed ingenious when I read about it. Perhaps there are many more of these ideas floating out there? I also am sure there are cons to this system. However, I will need to do a little more research to understand that side of the story a little better.

Mutually Assured Destruction Gives Way To Monetizing Atomic Derelicts

atlas thermonuclear warheadWe were utterly fascinated to read this article in the New York Times revealing that a full 50% of the nuclear fuel used in reactors in the United States comes from recycled nuclear bombs, primarily from Russia. Which pretty much explains why disarmament has been happening! And it has a nice swords-to-plowshares narrative, to boot.

Eventually, however, the available supply of decommissioned nuclear weapons will run out, and nuclear power plants will have to turn to much more expensive unenriched uranium ore from mines around the world. An MIT study estimates that there is enough ore in the ground to “fuel the development of 1000 reactors over the next half century and to maintain this level of development over a 40 year lifetime of this fleet,” although there are dipsutes over how efficiencies in ore extraction and recycling will affect long-term supply.

Does that take care of the problem, then? Continue reading

“Water is the new carbon”

Increasingly climate change scientists and policy makers are recognizing that water resources and availability will be the largest resource to be impacted by climate change. In a recent webcast published by the UN, several world water experts gather to discuss the difficulties ahead regarding water.

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"Water is the New Carbon"

These experts make a call to policy-makers to bring the focus back to water. There will be an estimated 30% decrease in water resource availability in years to come, according to Colin Chartres, the Director General of CGIAR’s International Water Management Institute. Decisions must be made regarding mitigation and adaptation mechanisms for the water sector. Colin Chartres suggests that climate mitigation is all about greenhouse gases, while adaptation is all about water.

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