Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sun, Stone and Stimulus

I just finished reading a good article over in the MarketBeat section of the Wall Street Journal. If you have the time it is worth reading.
A number of strategists have put forth the theory that the beginning of a new presidential administration will spark a bit of a market rally, in part because it has happened in the past, and in part because of expectations for a stimulus package focused on infrastructure.
First Solar, a maker of solar panels and builder of solar power plants, is trading around $136, up 59% from its low in November, cutting its losses for the year to less than 50%. First Solar, a stock-market star in late 2007 and early 2008, is set to have another run in early 2009 because of gathering momentum, technicians say.

“The initial target would be the December 18 high around $149, about 13% from here,” said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “If it clears that first level, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if it goes up to the $180 level, its Nov. 14 high.”

Go Read It

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sneak Peek at Energy 2009

Forbes has a good article looking ahead at energy in 2009.
A year ago the worry was that oil demand would outstrip supply. Today, the Saudis alone have more than 3.5 million bpd of spare production capacity.

Tailwinds will soon give alternative energy a boost in the form of the energy policies and subsidies from the incoming Barack Obamaadministration

Obama's energy plan calls for the "responsible domestic production of oil and natural gas." Translation: He'll focus on maximizing existing energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf, revise the Bush administration's 2007-12 drilling plan and reinstate the executive order banning offshore drilling.

Get some nice stock ideas while you are there.

Go read it

Passive Houses the Alternative Energy Wave of the Future?

Are passive houses the alternative energy wave of the future? In these houses there are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.
Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.
The most interesting part of this revolution is that passive houses only cost about 5 to 7 percent more than conventional houses.

No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’


DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room — but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.

“You don’t think about temperature — the house just adjusts,” said Mr. Kaufmann, watching his 2-year-old daughter, dressed in a T-shirt, tuck into her sausage in the spacious living room, whose glass doors open to a patio. His new home uses about one-twentieth the heating energy of his parents’ home of roughly the same size, he said.

Architects in many countries, in attempts to meet new energy efficiency standards like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard in the United States, are designing homes with better insulation and high-efficiency appliances, as well as tapping into alternative sources of power, like solar panels and wind turbines.

The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.

And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.

Decades ago, attempts at creating sealed solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.

“The myth before was that to be warm you had to have heating. Our goal is to create a warm house without energy demand,” said Wolfgang Hasper, an engineer at the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt. “This is not about wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat down and putting up with drafts. It’s about being comfortable with less energy input, and we do this by recycling heating.”

There are now an estimated 15,000 passive houses around the world, the vast majority built in the past few years in German-speaking countries or Scandinavia.

The first passive home was built here in 1991 by Wolfgang Feist, a local physicist, but diffusion of the idea was slowed by language. The courses and literature were mostly in German, and even now the components are mass-produced only in this part of the world.

The industry is thriving in Germany, however — for example, schools in Frankfurt are built with the technique.

Moreover, its popularity is spreading. The European Commission is promoting passive-house building, and the European Parliament has proposed that new buildings meet passive-house standards by 2011.

The United States Army, long a presence in this part of Germany, is considering passive-house barracks.

“Awareness is skyrocketing; it’s hard for us to keep up with requests,” Mr. Hasper said.

Nabih Tahan, a California architect who worked in Austria for 11 years, is completing one of the first passive houses in the United States for his family in Berkeley. He heads a group of 70 Bay Area architects and engineers working to encourage wider acceptance of the standards. “This is a recipe for energy that makes sense to people,” Mr. Tahan said. “Why not reuse this heat you get for free?”

Ironically, however, when California inspectors were examining the Berkeley home to determine whether it met “green” building codes (it did), he could not get credit for the heat exchanger, a device that is still uncommon in the United States. “When you think about passive-house standards, you start looking at buildings in a different way,” he said.

Buildings that are certified hermetically sealed may sound suffocating. (To meet the standard, a building must pass a “blow test” showing that it loses minimal air under pressure.) In fact, passive houses have plenty of windows — though far more face south than north — and all can be opened.

Inside, a passive home does have a slightly different gestalt from conventional houses, just as an electric car drives differently from its gas-using cousin. There is a kind of spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature. The air from outside all goes through HEPA filters before entering the rooms. The cement floor of the basement isn’t cold. The walls and the air are basically the same temperature.

Look closer and there are technical differences: When the windows are swung open, you see their layers of glass and gas, as well as the elaborate seals around the edges. A small, grated duct near the ceiling in the living room brings in clean air. In the basement there is no furnace, but instead what looks like a giant Styrofoam cooler, containing the heat exchanger.

Passive houses need no human tinkering, but most architects put in a switch with three settings, which can be turned down for vacations, or up to circulate air for a party (though you can also just open the windows). “We’ve found it’s very important to people that they feel they can influence the system,” Mr. Hasper said.

The houses may be too radical for those who treasure an experience like drinking hot chocolate in a cold kitchen. But not for others. “I grew up in a great old house that was always 10 degrees too cold, so I knew I wanted to make something different,” said Georg W. Zielke, who built his first passive house here, for his family, in 2003 and now designs no other kinds of buildings.

In Germany the added construction costs of passive houses are modest and, because of their growing popularity and an ever larger array of attractive off-the-shelf components, are shrinking.

But the sophisticated windows and heat-exchange ventilation systems needed to make passive houses work properly are not readily available in the United States. So the construction of passive houses in the United States, at least initially, is likely to entail a higher price differential.

Moreover, the kinds of home construction popular in the United States are more difficult to adapt to the standard: residential buildings tend not to have built-in ventilation systems of any kind, and sliding windows are hard to seal.

Dr. Feist’s original passive house — a boxy white building with four apartments — looks like the science project that it was intended to be. But new passive houses come in many shapes and styles. The Passivhaus Institut, which he founded a decade ago, continues to conduct research, teaches architects, and tests homes to make sure they meet standards. It now has affiliates in Britain and the United States.

Still, there are challenges to broader adoption even in Europe.

Because a successful passive house requires the interplay of the building, the sun and the climate, architects need to be careful about site selection. Passive-house heating might not work in a shady valley in Switzerland, or on an urban street with no south-facing wall. Researchers are looking into whether the concept will work in warmer climates — where a heat exchanger could be used in reverse, to keep cool air in and warm air out.

And those who want passive-house mansions may be disappointed. Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat.

Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space. Mr. Hasper said people who wanted thousands of square feet per person should look for another design.

“Anyone who feels they need that much space to live,” he said, “well, that’s a different discussion.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming


This book boils it all down for you into easily understood, sometimes amusing explanations, and illustrations. This is your roadmap into understanding global warming and will turn you into authority on the subject.

The book covers the work of IPCC Working Groups One, Two, and Three. While the reports of these three groups are available online, each is well over 700 pages plus appendices. Mann and Kump have boiled down the essence into five parts, with mostly two-page articles full of colorful graphics, for a total of just over 200 pages of engaging science (A'ndrea Elyse Messer)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bakugan Battle Pack is #1 Hot Christmas Toy


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama’s “number 1 priority”

By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer whose books include Who Owns The Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. The views expressed are his own. –

By Peter Barnes

A few days before the election, Barack Obama told Time’s Joe Klein:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.

That’s exactly the right choice for numerous economic, geopolitical, and ecological reasons. By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

In facing this challenge, Obama will be constrained both by a gargantuan budget deficit and his campaign vow not to raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 a year. And because of the recession, he can’t suck buying power out of the economy. On the contrary, he needs to stimulate spending by consumers.

He also faces a tight international timetable: in December 2009, the nations of the world will assemble in Copenhagen to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. If Obama is to have any credibility in those negotiations, he must pass significant legislation before then.

How, then, can he fulfill his No. 1 priority?

There are many opinions about what should be part of a comprehensive energy policy, but the centerpiece nearly everyone agrees on — the great lever that will tip the whole economy toward clean energy — is a strong, descending cap on carbon emissions. If done correctly, such a cap will raise the price of polluting, spur innovation and conservation, and shift billions of dollars of private investment into new technologies for the next 40 years. But designing the cap correctly is critical; a half-baked, loophole-ridden and overly complex system will do more harm than good. The devil is in the details — and, of course, in the politics.

The most critical details involve where to place the cap and what to do with the permits the cap will create. The simplest and most effective place to put the cap is upstream — that is, on the small number of companies that bring carbon into the economy. An upstream cap could be administered without monitoring smokestacks, without a large bureaucracy, and without favoring some companies over others. It would work for the obvious reason that, if carbon doesn’t come into the economy, it can’t go out.

The declining number of permits that would be issued under the cap should then be auctioned rather than given away free — all polluters would pay, and there would be no politically chosen winners or windfall profits. Fortunately, Obama pledged during the campaign to do just this. But that leads to another crucial detail: what to do with the auction revenue, which over time will total trillions of dollars?

There are two possibilities: spend the money on a variety of energy-related programs, or give the money back to the people. While there’s broad agreement that some public spending is necessary to solve the climate crisis, it’s by no means clear that permit revenues should be used for that purpose. The reason is that permit revenues, though initially paid by energy companies, are ultimately paid by consumers in the form of higher energy prices. They are, in effect, a sales tax on carbon — a tax that will fall on millions of Americans earning under $250,000 a year, and that will rise as the cap tightens.

Obama’s best choice is to fund energy-related programs from other sources (including long-term debt) and return all the carbon revenue to the people. This can be done through yearly tax credits, or better yet through monthly cash dividends wired like Social Security payments to people’s bank accounts or debit cards. The advantage of cash dividends is that they’d tangibly and frequently remind people that higher carbon prices are coming back to them — and help them pay mortgages and other bills that fall due on a monthly basis. The whole system might then be called “cap-and-dividend” or “cap and cash back.”

Like Social Security benefits, carbon dividends would be taxed as ordinary income; the government would then recoup about 25 percent of the revenue and could use that money as it sees fit. More importantly, ordinary families would get the lion’s share of the auction revenue, and get it in a way that rewards conservation. Since everyone would get the same amount back, those who use the most carbon would lose and those who use the least would gain — their dividends would exceed what they pay in higher prices. Low-income families in particular would gain because they use less energy than others and would pay little or no taxes on their dividends. In addition, the overall economy would benefit from this periodic replenishment of consumer demand.

The most persuasive argument for cap-and-dividend, though, isn’t economic but political. As the presidential campaign revealed, energy prices are an explosive issue. A carbon cap will raise fuel prices not just once, but for years to come. The potential for backlash — for frenzied cries of “Drill, baby, drill!” — is never-ending. If America is to reduce carbon emissions to the level scientists say is necessary, it’s crucial that families’ pocketbooks be protected for the duration. Cap-and-dividend does this by permanently linking dividends to carbon prices. As carbon prices rise, so — automatically — do dividends. If voters scream about rising fuel prices, as they surely will, politicians can truthfully say, “How you fare is up to you. If you guzzle, you lose; if you conserve, you gain.”

Moreover, for a carbon cap to endure, it must have broad bipartisan support. A revenue-neutral cap is far more likely to garner Republican support than one that’s linked to a large increase in government spending. Consider, for example, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who supports a declining cap on carbon but not a spending bill that earmarks trillions of dollars over 40 years. Though it’s not glaringly evident, there are more Republicans like him. This doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t spend public money on energy; it means he should separate such spending from the cap.

The ultimate reason for paying equal dividends from carbon revenue may be this: it fits Obama’s vision of how government ought to work. In this vision, the government’s job is to serve ordinary people, not special interests. It is to be fair and transparent. And it is to unite rather than divide us, to move us from a “you’re on your own” society to one in which “we’re all in this together.”

Cap-and-dividend fits this vision perfectly. It curbs carbon emissions in a way that’s simple to understand and administer, favors no special interests, and provides a degree of security to all. It treats all Americans as co-owners of the air and allocates trillions of dollars in a completely transparent way. It would be a signature Obama policy, one that sets the tone for his whole administration and remains as memorably linked to him as Social Security is to Roosevelt.

Urgent regulation needed for nanomaterials: experts

"...having analyzed the potential health and environmental impacts which flow from the properties of nanomaterials, we concluded that there is a plausible case for concern about some (but not all) classes of nanomaterials," the Royal Commission experts from the scientific, legal, business and medical communities wrote in a British government-funded report.

Urgent regulation needed for nanomaterials: experts

LONDON (Reuters) - More testing and regulation of nanomaterials used in an increasingly number of everyday products is urgently needed, experts said on Wednesday.

"...having analyzed the potential health and environmental impacts which flow from the properties of nanomaterials, we concluded that there is a plausible case for concern about some (but not all) classes of nanomaterials," the Royal Commission experts from the scientific, legal, business and medical communities wrote in a British government-funded report.

In particular the report cited tiny soccer-ball shaped carbon molecules called buckyballs that may have potential uses ranging from novel drug-delivery system to fuel cells, as well as carbon nanotubes and nanosilver.

Recent studies have found buckyballs -- short for buckministerfullerenes -- may threaten health by building up fat and have linked carbon nanotubes to potential lung cancer risk.

"We are very conscious of the extent to which knowledge about the potential health and environmental impacts of nanomaterials lags significantly behind the pace of innovation, although this could change as new scientific information arises," the study said.

Nanotechnology, the design and manipulation of materials thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, has been hailed as a way to make strong, lightweight materials, better cosmetics and even tastier food.

Major corporations and start-ups across almost every industry invest in nanotechnology, which found its way into $147 billion worth of products in 2007, according to Lux Research.

But scientists are only just starting to look at the impact such tiny objects might have, and the British report warned existing regulations may not be able to keep up with technology.

"We are also concerned that more sophisticated later generation nanoproducts will raise issues which cannot be dealt with by treating them as chemicals or mixtures of chemicals," John Lawton, an ecologist, who chaired the report, said in a statement.

The report, to which the government must reply, also determined that there were not grounds for a blanket ban or moratorium on nanomaterials.

Specifically, it also called on the government to recognize a "degree of ignorance and uncertainty in this area" and lay out the time it will take to address these.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Louise Ireland and Maggie Fox)

Global investors urge action on climate change

"As institutional investors, we are concerned with the risks presented by climate change to the global economy and to our diversified portfolios," said Mike Taylor, chief executive of London Pensions Fund Authority. "We are ... urging world leaders to implement strong and effective policies to support us in allocating capital toward low carbon investments."

Global investors urge action on climate change

Global institutional investors holding more than $6 trillion in assets pushed policymakers Tuesday to quickly hash out a binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean technology.

More than 130 big investors, including London Pensions Fund Authority, want countries to agree to reduce the climate- warming emissions by 50 percent to 80 percent by 2050.

Those numbers are in line with global warming policy favored by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who supports an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by mid-century.

The investors also want policymakers to set long and medium term emission reduction targets for developed countries and to provide for an expanded and more liquid global carbon market.

Already big U.S. investors, such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System, with $185.6 billion of assets under management, have been calling for legislation to promote new and existing clean technologies.

They have also called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force publicly traded companies to disclose climate-related risks along with other factors that affect their business.

"As institutional investors, we are concerned with the risks presented by climate change to the global economy and to our diversified portfolios," said Mike Taylor, chief executive of London Pensions Fund Authority. "We are ... urging world leaders to implement strong and effective policies to support us in allocating capital toward low carbon investments."

The group of global investors want countries to sign on to a new binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol climate pact, which set binding targets for industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Union is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and increase the share of wind, solar, hydro, wave power and biofuels in their energy mix by the same date.

The United States is alone among major industrialized countries in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, but is participating in discussions to craft a follow-up global agreement.

"It is time to put an agreement in place where the United States is involved," said Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups working on climate change issues.

The global group of investors is hoping its voice is heard ahead of a December climate change convention in Poland.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Andre Grenon)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mossberg Video: Buying a Decent Computer on the Cheap

Are you in the market for a computer? Walt Mossberg shares some tips on finding a decent computer during these tough economic times. You might want to bookmark this article for the day when your computer goes adios. Also discusses Apple versus PC. Not surprising, says if its PC stay away from Vista. Some good stuff and cheap like he says.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ill Wind: FPL Cites Bad Third-Quarter Breezes

How long before there is futures contract on wind? This news might make Boone Pickens a bit nervous.

Follow the links and read more.
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FPL Energy, the biggest U.S. renewable-energy operator, said wind conditions in the third quarter were the worst it has seen since starting a wind-power database in the early 1970s. Electricity generated by FPL’s wind farms—esecially in prime wind-power country like Texas and the Great Plains—came in well below the expected output. FPL’s Texas wind generation, for example, was just 72% of expected output in the quarter—and just 53% in September.

Granted, variable wind is just that. FPL enjoyed a better-than-average second quarter of wind, and for the year the company’s wind-power operations have generated 98% of the juice they expected.

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Using the Internet Promotes Memory and a Healthy Brain

Learning how to execute sophisticated searches on search engines like Google is good for your brain. Over the long haul it keeps your brain sharp and promotes brain health

I just finished reading an article about how using the Internet promotes memory and a healthy brain. This should be of great interest to the millions of baby boomers facing the possibility of Alzheimer's disease in their future. A Pew/Internet study showed that seventy five percent of Leading Boomers (age 51-59) use the Internet. The numbers are lower for Matures (age 60-69) at fifty four percent.

The brain study found that Internet savvy users that use search experienced greater brain activity. While there are no conclusive studies at this time, boomers should be thinking about ways to keep the brain healthy and memory sharp as they age. It appears the use of the Internet helps.

"This suggests that just searching on the Internet may train the brain -- that it may keep it active and healthy," said Small, whose research appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Energy Seed LED Lamp Concept Could Give New Meaning to Battery Recycling

For a more long-term approach to the problem though, there's always the option of using rechargeable batteries.
So your alkaline batteries can't power any of your gadgets anymore. In fact, they're so drained they can't even be used for the remote control. With the Energy Seed concept designed by South Korean Sung Woo Park, these old batteries are given a whole new purpose. Instead of being sent for recycling (or more realistically, being thrown away), they could be used to power LED street lamps.
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MDI's AIRpod Is a Minute Air-Powered Car

Want one for the trunk of your car?

airpod.JPGEurope-based company MDI Corporation already promised a six-seater compressed air-powered car for the US come 2010. Here's another vehicle from the brand, although it's far from the family-sized vehicle the US will get. The AIRpod is a minute car by MDI powered by compressed air that's slated for a Europe release on 2009. The vehicle can seat three (non-claustrophobic) people, with one forced to sit facing backwards (that someone would probably have to be immune to motion sickness).

The AIRpod has a maximum range of 130 miles (220 kilometers) and a top speed of 40 miles per hour (70 kph), making it suitable for city driving which is probably the company's aim in the first place. Using compressed air as a power source means huge amounts of air are compressed into a small tank that would have to be released slowly to move the car's pistons
, the AIRpod is expected to be really efficient and of course, since it runs on air instead of fossil fuels, it's also environmentally-friendly.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The North Wales Tidal Energy Project

The North Wales Tidal Energy Project
The North Wales Tidal Energy Project by Grimshaw employs a new form of technology to generate tidal energy using an offshore lagoon instead of a barrage. The lagoon would be constructed out of rock and boulders and would create 30 linear kilometres of new rocky shore. In contrast to barrage schemes this proposal would have a very positive environmental impact - boosting biodiversity and providing breeding grounds for birds. Above one of the turbine halls a pavilion was included in the design to provide space for a renewable energy exhibition centre with seminar rooms.

The Sahara Forest Project

Clever plan. Would cost.
The Sahara Forest Project

The Sahara Forest Project combines two proven technologies in a new way to create multiple benefits: producing large amounts of renewable energy, food and water as well as reversing desertification. A major element of the proposal is the Seawater Greenhouse - a brilliant invention that creates a cool growing environment in hot parts of the world and is a net producer of distilled water from seawater. The second technology, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) involves concentrating the sun's heat to create steam that drives conventional turbines, producing zero carbon electricity twice as efficiently as photovoltaics. The two technologoes have very promising synergies that make the economic case even more attractive.

Client - Seawater Greenhouse Limited

Architect - Exploration

Environmental Engineer - Max Fordham & Partners
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Measure Your Home Energy Use With The Spark Lamp

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Measure Your Home Energy Use With The Spark Lamp

September 7th, 2008 at 11:21 am
Measure Your Home Energy Use With The Spark Lamp

The Spark Lamp concept by Beverly Ng is an LED lamp that you can flip over during the day to recharge itself using solar power. It’s designed to educate the owner about their power consumption. The lamp sports integrated WiFi which wirelessly keeps track of you home’s power usage. When you turn the lamp on, it will change colors and flash to tell you what your home’s power consumption is.

It’s no accident that it looks like a houseplant as a metaphor for how plants are powered by sunlight through photosynthesis. The Spark Lamp was created in reaction to the Swedish’s government response to the energy crisis. In Sweden, future homes will have smart meters that will give real-time feedback to homeowners on the internet. But data on a website is not all that engaging so the Spark lamp was developed to enhance the experience.

Via SlipperyBrick

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When will Congress act to promote alternative energy?

They talk a good game, but the tax credits needed to boost the industry in a massive way are being held up. If and when Congress gets serious about removing our dependence on foreign oil we'll know it...they'll extend the tax credits that are set to expire this year.

This would not only be a major shot in the arm for the industry, but for our entire economy as well!!!
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Our politicians like to talk a good game about helping wean us off our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, but they won't let something like that get in the way of good partisanship.

T. Boone Pickens has been expending a lot of energy boosting the "Pickens Plan" to invest in natural gas and wind power. He might get more mileage if he devoted some of that time to persuading Congress to extend the tax credits that have helped fuel growth in the alternative energy field. If the credits are allowed to expire at the end of the year, the wind and solar industries may end up being as limp as a ship's sails on becalmed seas.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Experts Confirm Open Water Circling Arctic

There have been some breathless headlines in the last few days about the North Pole’s being an “island” for the first time in 125,000 years.

[UPDATE 9/6: The National Ice Center on Friday said that a navigable passage has opened through sea ice along the entire Russian Arctic coast, although the center added that patches of dangerous thick ice still pepper the area. In a statement, the center said: "This is the first recorded occurrence of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route both being open at the same time." The full statement is below in the comment string. Here's an animation loop of the retreating sea ice.]

Sea ice maps
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New “Green” Designation Available for Realtors

Take the three day course and become a green specialist.
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A new tool is now available for investors looking to buy a so-called “green” building, a property that has environmentally-friendly features like energy and water efficiency and that produces minimal pollution and waste. A new program instituted by the National Association of Realtors(R) has begun certifying brokers as green specialists. Brokers can earn the designation from NAR’s Green Resource Council by taking three days of courses or completing the program online at their own pace.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Woman turns pizza oven into solar, wins awards (iJet)


Nicole Kuepper has a dream. She wants to bring power and light to the 2 billion people in the world who lack electricity. She envisions enabling people to "read at night, keep informed about the world through radio and television and refrigerate life-saving vaccines".
"What started off as a brainstorming session has resulted in the iJET cell concept that uses low-cost and low-temperature processes, such as ink-jet printing and pizza ovens, to manufacture solar cells."
The 23 year old PhD student won two Australian Museum Eureka Prizes - the nation's top science awards.

Nicole Kuepper

The processes she developed for the iJET solar cell don't require the very expensive clean rooms and high-temperature ovens of traditional solar panel manufacturing plants, but rather pizza ovens, nail polish and inkjet printers, making them accessible to developing countries.

While it could take five years to commercialise the patented technology, providing renewable energy to homes in some of the least developed countries would enable people to "read at night, keep informed about the world through radio and television and refrigerate life-saving vaccines". And it would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms Kuepper said that the solar cells should be of high enough quality to be used anywhere in the world.

More Information

Nicole has a Eureka moment - twice

Global Warming - Ink Jet to the Rescue

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wind Energy Bumps into Power Grid's Limits

There seems to be a consistent problem with new energy sources getting to the final distribution point. Now with the new solar craze, I have to wonder...what is the solution?

The Energy Challenge

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

Read Full article here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monitoring the Planetary Emergencies

The identification of Planetary Emergencies and their categorisation into
fifteen main groups

To date the World Federation of Scientists has established the following
Permanent Monitoring Panels and Working Groups:

  • Biotechnology

  • Brain and Behaviour

  • Climatology

  • Defence Against Cosmic Objects

  • Desertification

  • Energy:

  • Floods and Extreme Weather Events

  • Information Security:

  • Limits of Development

  • Missile Proliferation

  • Mother & Child

  • Pollution

  • Motivations for Terrorism

  • Mitigation of Terrorist Acts

  • Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy

  • Water
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    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Ring Road: What Happens to China’s Environment After the Olympics?

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    This Sunday, the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics will bring an end to the 2008 Games—and to the sudden spotlight on China’s environmental somersaults during the “green” olympics.

    Back to work, you (AP)
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    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Zookeeper feeds baby squirrel in Bulgaria

    I know its off track but I couldn't' resist.
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    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Water Desalination: Freshwater from the Sea

    “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” So lamented Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ancient mariner 210 years ago. Today’s scientific advances in water desalination promise to edit that script into “and every drop to drink,” dramatically increasing our ability to transform sea water into fresh water and quench the thirst of 1.2 billion people facing shortages of water.

    Did You Know?

  • Ocean water contains about 35,000 parts per million of salt. Fresh water contains less than 1,000 parts per million.

  • The first scientific paper on desalting was published by Arab chemists in the eighth century.

  • Desalination/distillation is one of mankind's earliest forms of water treatment. In ancient times, many civilizations used this process on their ships to convert sea water into drinking water.

  • Today, desalination plants are used to convert sea water to drinking water on ships and in many arid regions of the world, and to treat water in other areas that is fouled by natural and unnatural contaminants.

  • The largest inland desalination plant in the world, the El Paso-Fort Bliss desalination plant, has a design capacity of approximately 27.5 MGD (30,800 acre-feet).

  • The average cost to produce 1 acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater ranges from approximately $800 to about $1,400.

  • The size of each reverse osmosis membrane pore used in the desalination
    process is about 1/100,000th the size of one human hair.

  • Listen to the Podcast

  • Thursday, August 14, 2008

    'beer goggles'

    clipped from

    Strangers really do look sexier when you drink booze, science confirms

    For the first time, scientists have proven that "beer goggles" are real — other people really do look more attractive to us if we have been drinking.

    Surprisingly, the beer goggles effect was not limited to just the opposite sex among the ostensibly straight volunteers recruited for the study — they also rated people from their own sex as more attractive.

    After 15 minutes, the volunteers were shown photos of 40 other college students from both sexes. Both men and women who drank booze found these faces more attractive, "a roughly 10 percent increase in ratings of attractiveness," said researcher Marcus Munafo, an experimental psychologist at the University of Bristol in England.

    "Everyone knows about beer goggles," Munafo said. "But some of our results suggest that there's more going on than we might have thought."

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    Solar Panels by the Square Mile in California


    Matthew Wald has just written a news article showing the power of a guaranteed market to bring about large-scale construction of energy technologies that currently cannot compete with the status quo. Two photovoltaic power plants, in essence, are going to be built in California, covering a total of 12.5 square miles and amounting to 800 megawatts of generating capacity (although remember that the peak is only hit for a small portion of the day).

    Two California companies said Thursday that they would each build solar power plants that were 10 times bigger than the largest now in service, creating the first true utility-scale use of a technology now mostly confined to rooftop supplements to conventional power supplies.

    Photovoltaics eventually would need to be as cheap as paint or roof shingles to begin to make a serious dent in coal burning, many experts say.
    solar thermal plants
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    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    The Answer To The Energy Problem

    The change has taken Denmark nearly two decades to implement, but the most critical step was the introduction of smart- or net-metering, which required utilities to buy back electricity from consumers at 85% of the price. Denmark's success has convinced a growing number of policymakers and energy executives to follow suit.
    clipped from

    Before John McCain and Barack Obama say another word about America's energy future, maybe they should go to Denmark.

    Denmark has done what other countries only dream of doing: achieved energy independence.

    How'd they do it? Distributed energy.

    Unlike traditional "centralized" systems, distributed energy relies on small power-generating technologies like solar panels or ultra-efficient natural-gas turbines built near the point of energy consumption to supplement or displace grid-distributed electricity.

    Consumers can not only draw power from the grid, but can feed power into it as well. For instance, homes equipped with solar-power panels could feed unused electricity back into the grid, adding to the total available supply.

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