Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

New Plywood Will Clean the Air Instead of Polluting It

Posted: 11 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST

Fraunhofer researchers develop new additive to eliminate formaldehyde emissions from plywood and particleboardResearchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research are hot on the trail of a new mineral-based formula that would enable plywood walls, cabinets, and other building elements to “eat” their own formaldehyde emissions. The breakthrough could help bring an end to indoor air quality issues, such as the health problems that beset survivors of Hurricane Katrina, who were housed in new trailer homes filled with fume-emitting composite wood products.

Formaldehyde and Composite Wood Products

Plywood, particle board and many other composite wood products pop up in everything from children’s toys to furniture, cabinetry and home building supplies. Without adequate ventilation these composite products can pollute indoor air and pose a serious health risk, due to the widespread use of formaldehyde-based resins and glues. New federal legislation has imposed tough formaldehyde emissions standards that must be met by January 1, 2013.

Pollution-Eating Composite Wood Products

The Fraunhofer researchers focused their efforts on zeolites, a group of porous minerals in the clay family. Zeolites have good adsorption qualities (technically speaking, adsorption is to adhere to a surface, in contrast to absorb, which refers to the dissolving of a fluid) and are commonly used in water purification systems and laundry detergents. The researchers, however, were dissatisfied with the adsorption efficiency of naturally occurring zeolites, and developed a synthetic variety.

A Kinder, Gentler Plywood

In addition to reducing formaldehyde emissions from wood products, the modified zeolites could potentially be used to reduce other kinds of pollutants commonly found in indoor air. If the research can be successfully commercialized, it would join a growing list of safer, more healthful wood adhesive alternatives including soy-based adhesives that can be used to make agricultural products such as edible feed barrels, in addition to domestic uses.

Image: Plywood toy by kaktuslampan on flickr.com.

Green Jobs Grew California’s Economy Most, Study Shows

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 05:01 PM PST

From 1995 to 2008, during a period of average total job growth of 13% in California, the green job sector jumped an astounding 36%!

(That is a spread of 23% better than the average growth at that time).

Green jobs were the only jobs growing faster than 13%. What that means is that the rest of the economy was doing much worse than 13% growth, in order for that to be the average, together with 23% growth in green jobs.

What’s more, both in good times and in bad, it was green jobs that were the driver of growth. Even as the recession started – when there was a slight drop in total jobs of 1% between 2007 and 2008 – green jobs still grew 5% in that time, or 6% better performance.

Whether it is 23% better in good times or 6% better than the average, that is an astounding difference, and it sends a clear message to anyone able to read data. When the economy picks up, it will clearly be the green job engine driving it. If the economy remains slow, the green energy sector is the only positive spark.

Among green jobs, most were in these four areas:
Energy generation
Energy efficiency
Water technologies
Environmental services
Most of the growth came in green transportation

In energy generation, solar provided 66% of the sector, growing 63%, but employment grew in every form of green energy in the state, from wind, and geothermal to ocean energy. Industrial production to support green energy grew, as well as the related consulting services needed.

Energy efficiency grew fastest in new tech green lighting products manufacturing start-ups and machinery to make them more efficient, gaining faster, relatively, than efficiency consulting jobs, while both expanded.

Among water technologies, developing cleanup technologies grew 68%, and conservation jobs grew 3.5 times. (Water is also an energy issue for California, because we use 20% of our energy just moving water around the state)

Environmental consulting brings 70% of the jobs in environmental services, and that has increased since 1995. Environmental safety and remediation jobs grew faster (now 10%) than jobs in pollution monitoring and controls.

But the biggest individual jump in all green jobs came in green transportation, which grew a startling 152%, and of that percentage; alternative fuel transport grew from a 40% share to a 48% share.

Taken all together, it is now green jobs that grow California’s economy, with 6% and 23% more growth than the economy as a whole. And California has the eighth largest economy in the world.

Look at these numbers and tell me how it is that California’s green energy legislation has been a “a job-killing agenda” that is bad for business in the state. The evidence simply does not back up such claims. Quite the opposite.

Full study: Next 10 (PDF)
Image: Oryzatech


NRDC Corrects 10 Common Misconceptions about California Cap-and-Trade (With Puppies!)

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 02:13 PM PST

(This is actually a guest post, as forwarded to me by the NRDC: I’ll just provide all the necessary illustrations. It is by Kristin Eberhard, the Legal Director of Western Energy and Climate Projects at the NRDC. We’ve written here (so many times!) about the virtues of cap and trade, so perhaps one more will finally get it through why it really is a good idea. Maybe cute puppy pictures will help, following the example of David Roberts of Grist, who thinks cap and trade is just too wonky for us to stay focused otherwise!)

Correcting 10 Common Misconceptions about California’s Cap-and-Trade Program
By Kristin Eberhard

In the aftermath of the California Air Resources Board's historic vote to adopt the nation's first-of-its kind program to cap global warming pollution across California's economy, understandably there are questions about what the program will accomplish and how it will get us there.  Below, I will attempt to clear up 10 common misconceptions about the program:

Q1:  Isn't cap-and-trade dead?

A:  For the moment, the federal government has stalled in its attempts to create a market to reduce global warming pollution. However, California and other states are moving forward with a plethora of clean energy policies. In California, one of these policies, accounting for about 20% of our global warming pollution reductions under AB 32, is cap-and-trade. This policy works in concert with other policies such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard and Clean Cars and Clean Fuels standards to ensure we reduce our pollution in the most cost-effective way possible.

Q2:  Why is California going it alone?

A:  California is leading the nation to join the global clean energy economy, but we are certainly not going it alone.  Twenty-two other states are also on the road of creating a clean energy economy through policies similar to California's.  California's program is also carefully designed to ensure it does not put businesses that are working to reduce their emissions at a competitive disadvantage relative to other jurisdictions.

Q3: How can California do anything to address a global problem?

A: By showing that smart clean energy policies work for both our environmental and economic health. Certainly, California's pioneering efforts alone are not enough to turn the tide on global climate change. But California has shown time and again that the economy and the environment go hand in hand – examples of successful policies include reducing air pollution, dramatically improving the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances, and demanding cleaner cars and trucks.  Many of these policies, once shown effective in California, were then adopted in some form at a federal level.  California can again show that protecting our health and environment and growing the economy are complimentary goals, thus igniting action on a larger scale.

Q4: But in the meantime isn't this going to kill jobs and hurt California's already struggling economy?

A:  Quite the opposite!  Clean energy is the fastest growing sector of California's economy, growing 10% since 2005. Clean energy policies like cap-and-trade send a steady signal to the market that California is the place to invest in innovative new businesses that bring jobs to the state. So far, that signal has been working: California annually attracts more clean-tech investment capital than the rest of North America combined and has brought in $11 billion since AB 32 passed in 2006, creating thousands of businesses and jobs in its wake. By placing a price on carbon, this newly adopted market will maintain California's competitive advantage in the global push for clean energy.

Q5:  Isn't cap-and-trade a big boondoggle for Chevron?  Why don't we just regulate them instead?

A: Cap-and-trade is regulation.  It is a market-based regulation, but it nonetheless requires reductions in pollution that we would not get otherwise.  In fact, cap-and-trade ensures a hard cap or limit on pollution where other policies (such as intensity standards or a carbon tax) do not guarantee that hard limit.  California's cap-and-trade program allows for flexibility in determining how to reduce pollution in the most cost-effective manner; it does not allow for flexibility in whether to reduce pollution at all.

Q6:  Isn't cap-and-trade a big boondoggle for Goldman Sachs?  How can we protect carbon markets from manipulation and fraud?

A.  Done right, market-based pollution trading schemes have been remarkably successful in lowering aggregate pollution levels at least cost (such as the 20 year old trading program to combat acid under the federal Clean Air Act).  California's regulators have incorporated lessons learned from other programs and have taken careful precaution to guard against the risk of market manipulation and fraud in the secondary market for carbon allowances.  Every entity that wishes to participate in allowance trading must first register with CARB, who will track every transaction (each compliance instrument will have a unique serial number).  The rules expressly prohibit manipulative behavior and afford regulators wide latitude to revoke the registration status of any market participant who is in violation.

Q7:  Why not give regulated entities more time to prepare?

A:  AB 32 passed in 2006, six years before the cap is set to take effect in 2012. Regulated entities have had years to assess their pollution reduction options and prepare themselves.  Even in 2012, the cap does not actually require any reductions that first year, offering facilities even more time to transition.  The cap then declines at a modest 2-3% per year, providing emitters a slow but steady incentive to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The sooner regulated entities start to invest in clean energy solutions the better.

Q8: Is California giving away all the carbon allowances for free?

A:  No. California is giving away significant allowances to start with in the industrial sector, but is auctioning allowances in the electricity and transportation sectors, which together make up the bulk of the program (see the "allowance distribution breakdown" graph from my December 16th post).  More importantly, regardless of the allowance distribution scheme, a cap-and-trade program creates incentives to reduce emissions below allowable levels by turning pollution reductions into a marketable asset.  This will help drive technological innovation and energy efficiency to speed our transition to a clean energy economy.

Q9: Can utilities use auction revenue to subsidize electricity rates and mute the carbon price signal?

A:  No. Electricity utilities are specifically prohibited from using allowances to simply reduce rates for their customers (contrary to some assertions).  They are allowed to offer rebates on the fixed portion of customers' bills, which will ensure low income utility customers do not experience any disproportionate impacts.  Utilities are also required to use the money to invest in programs that will further the purposes of AB 32, such as energy efficiency programs that both reduce pollution and help families and business save money on their energy bills.

Q10: Why don't we "cap and dividend" and use auction revenue to give everyone in California a check?

A:  While everyone likes getting a check in the mail, what we really need to do is build our clean energy economy through smart investments that can overcome market barriers to energy efficiency and low carbon alternatives.  Using auction revenue to make these smart investments will be reap greater, long-term rewards for all Californians. A booming clean energy economy will result in jobs and growth that will yield dividends far greater than a single check.

(What she said! Susan Kraemer)

Igloo Turns Sewage into Cold Cash

Posted: 10 Jan 2011 10:00 AM PST

new igloo shaped device helps rural communities save money on sewage treatmentA company called Wastewater Compliance Systems is marketing a new sewage treatment device shaped like an igloo that could help save budget-challenged rural communities millions of dollars in treatment costs.  The relatively inexpensive device, which was developed at the University of Utah, helps to extend the lifespan and efficiency of the open sewage lagoons that are still used in many areas.

Slow Paced Sewage Treatment

Modern sewage treatment plants are extremely expensive, highly mechanized, energy-gobbling affairs with precisely controlled environments that maximize the efficiency and speed of bacteria to break down sewage. Because of the cost, many small communities still rely on a more primitive method: open lagoons or ponds that hold sewage for a relatively long period of time, while the bacteria go to work more or less at their own pace.

A Low Cost Sewage Treatment Solution

In communities where discharge regulations are tightening and populations are growing, these lagoons are nearing the end of their usefulness. The solution offered by Wastewater Compliance is to dramatically increase the surface area of a lagoon at a relatively modest cost, which provides more room to accommodate more bacteria. The trick is to submerge groups of igloo-shaped structures in the lagoon.

The Poo-Gloo Igloo Shaped Sewage Treater

Each device, nicknamed the Poo-Gloo (marketed as the Bio-Dome), contains three additional domes nesting within in it. When submerged in a lagoon, it takes up 28 square feet but creates 2,800 square feet of surface upon which bacteria can grow. A ring of tubes at the base sends air bubbles up through the middle of each Bio-Dome, which helps to create an optimal environment for bacteria while limiting algae growth. So far, pilot testing has shown treatment rates comparable to mechanized processes.

Whither the Poo-Gloo

The company is optimistic that uses for the Bio-Dome go beyond municipal sewage treatment. Industrial or agricultural discharges are a possibility, or the devices could also be used at golf courses and other recreation areas. In that case, the energy efficient device also may have some potential in Re-Powering America’s Land, a program designed to reclaim brownfields and other classified sites for alternative energy and green jobs.

Image: Igloo by Nagyman on flickr.com.

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