Friday, September 9, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Toshiba Home Solar Power Modules Get 19.3% Conversion Efficiency

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 03:38 PM PDT

With so many different companies producing solar cells and solar arrays, it's a pretty competitive field. Toshiba's 22.6% conversion efficiency ranks near the top – in the lab. Toshiba has stated its results in the field, so to speak, are at 19.3% conversion efficiency, putting its Residential Solar Module 240W right at the top.

Toshiba's set-up uses American SunPower solar cells, with a rear contact monocrystalline system. To reduce the loss of reflected light, it uses coated glass, which increases the active area by approximately 3% for a 240W maximum output.

Because more power is generated over the same surface area, Toshiba's customers can either opt for a smaller array with the same power output or use the same surface area as their competitors to gather a stated 40% power increase over the course of a year.  Using the excess energy buyback program, energy costs can go way down.

My question is, when will they start sticking solar panels onto their nifty laptops?

Source: Kankyo Business


Energy Efficiency around the World (Infographic)

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:40 AM PDT

Here’s one more fun infographic for the weekend, this one from Well Home, and energy audit provider. It shows the widespread support for energy efficiency around the world, as well as some other interesting facts. Improving energy efficiency is one of the top things we can do to combat global warming, save money, and improve our quality of life. Hope we steam forward on this at a faster and faster clip. Here’s the infographic (CLICK TO ENLARGE):

energy efficiency infographic


Does Solar Really Work in My State? (Infographic)

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 06:32 AM PDT

Check out this super useful and interesting on solar power from 1BOG (yes, they used to own us). It provides interest information and quotes regarding solar in several states and also busts a few key solar power myths. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)


Major League Baseball Goes Green

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 02:30 AM PDT

MLB's Seattle Mariners are greening more than just their outfield grass.

Baseball has long been considered America's national pastime, but the efforts of one Major League Baseball team to reduce energy demand and the amount of garbage it sends to landfills could help make the sport one of America's greenest pastimes.

energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan visited the Seattle Mariners to find out how a novel sustainability program allows the team to recycle 82 percent of their trash, cut water use by 60 percent, save $1.2 million dollars in energy costs so far, and inspire their fans to become more environmentally friendly at home. You can watch the full segment by clicking the video below:

"I think that's part of the exciting thing about sports, the conversation of conserving and paying attention to the Earth," said Scott Jenkins, Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Seattle Mariners. "If you can do it through these iconic venues and these strong brands with teams, it's a great opportunity to leverage our brand to deliver that message and hopefully encourage others to conserve."

The centerpiece of this sustainability makeover is trash – or the lack of trash, more accurately. Every food-related item sold at the Mariners' Safeco Field is compostable. Cups are made from corn, utensils from potatoes, and Styrofoam containers replaced with recycled paper products. These products cost more than traditional plastic items, but the team makes up the difference by not having to hire crews to separate trash and through lower costs to haul waste to a compost facility compared to a landfill.

Nearly 10 tons of compostable trash is taken from Safeco Field after every game to Seattle's Cedar Grove composting facility. A special process separates any unwanted items, and then converts the material into rich mulch in about eight weeks – compared to a year for home composting.

Beyond recycling, the Mariners are also using efficiency upgrades to save considerable resources and money. The team invested $3 million in efficiency technologies for water and power use, but has recouped their investment through lower utility bills. Dual-flush toilets have cut water use 60 percent, fluorescent lights and motion sensors cut electricity demand in parking garages by 70 percent, and LED lights in stadium scoreboards have saved enough energy to power 100 homes for a full year. "Even in spite of rising utility rates, we continue to reduce our operating costs," said Jenkins.

The Mariners may lead the league in greening efforts, but they're not alone. The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of an extreme energy makeover for Fenway Park, baseball's oldest stadium, ahead of its 100th anniversary in 2012. The team has installed solar panels on Fenway's roof, converted to LED lighting, installed efficient lighting fixtures and motion-controlled sensors, runs all stadium lawn mowers on biodiesel, and switched to low-flow bathroom fixtures that save around 400,000 gallons of water a year.


Pres. Obama’s ‘American Jobs Act’: Focused, Forward Looking, Equitable & Fiscally Responsible

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 02:22 AM PDT

Photo credit:

With the proposal of the $447 billion ‘American Jobs Act’ to a joint session of Congress Thursday night, President Obama again demonstrated his ability to recognize and zoom in on the key issues and challenges facing the US today.

Job creation has become issue Number 1 on the political and public agenda, and with the ‘American Jobs Act,’ Pres. Obama and his administration have wasted no time in crafting a program that appears focused, forward looking, equitable and fiscally pragmatic.

Like it or not, America’s large corporations are as or more keen to invest in emerging economies, such as Brazil, China and India, than they are in developed economies, such as the US and EU. Governments in emerging market countries, such as China, play a much stronger, more active role in crafting nationalist and mercantile economic policies than does the US, providing advantageous financial support and incentives to companies in economic sectors they view as strategic and promising.

With the US economy threatened, and still overburdened, with a bad debt overhang that resulted from the massive misallocation of financial capital to housing and housing construction and a historic rescinding of banking regulations, the federal government was forced to step in and rescue banks, insurers, the major auto companies and other private sector businesses deemed too big to fail.

It’s that type of concentration of economic and market power, the tendency toward building monopolies and the dangerous skewing of income and wealth distribution that results, that continues to threaten and pervert US capitalism, innovation and economic opportunity. It’s also what government leaders since the founding of the nation repeatedly and vociferously warned against.

With emerging market countries growing fast, driving up demand for limited natural resources and putting ever greater pressures on the environment, in Thursday night’s speech President Obama rhetorically asked, “What's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?

"Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both."

Challenging members of Congress to put a halt to the “political circus,” the President stated the purpose of the ‘American Jobs Act’ simply and clearly: “to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.”

The proposed bill includes extending the payroll tax cut, which would continue putting more directly into the pockets of Americans; extending jobless benefits, keeping something of a social safety net in place; instituting a “returning heroes” hiring tax credit for unemployed veterans, a $4,000 tax credit to businesses hiring long-term unemployed workers, and $35 billion to keep laid-off teachers and emergency first responders on the job. In addition, some $100 billion would be spent on major school construction and infrastructure renovation.

Social & Fiscal Responsibility

Key in terms of fiscal responsibility and defending the Act from the slings and barbs of opponents, Pres. Obama proposed closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"Everything in this bill will be paid for," Obama stated boldly. "Everything."

With US society increasingly polarizing into a small class of super-rich, a small, struggling middle class, growing numbers in poverty and a large base of people struggling not to fall into poverty, Pres. Obama has his priorities straight.

No one enjoys paying taxes, but they’re the price that has to be paid for Americans to have the ability to enjoy and benefit from things like an affordable education, health and medical services, a healthy environment, a sustainable natural resource base and a socioeconomic safety net, as well as reliable and sufficient electrical power, transportation, telecommunications and infrastructure.

And when a young, well-known music mogul can pay $850,000 a week to charter one of the most expensive luxury yachts in the world to take his family on vacation, well, I figure paying a percent or few more in taxes won’t really hurt him or his family, or stifle business investment or job creation.

Now it’s up to Congress, the ‘loyal’ Republican opposition in particular, to smarten up, bury what’s become the transparent tactics of sowing confusion, division and dissent and get on fulfilling their responsibility to represent the broad public’s best interests.

Drag Racing in a Prius? Maybe With the G Sport

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 02:00 AM PDT

Toyota has already declared its intention to build a sports car version of the Prius — fun, sporty, and it looks good. This week, Toyota says that the technical specifications will be public within the year.

The sporty Prius, developed by Toyota's Motor Sports Division, is tagged as G SPORTS (or G's, for short). It's the third installment in the G SPORTS line. One member of the development team commented that the goal is to develop a car that will make people say, "That? That's a Prius? But it's so fast!" (For some perspective, the standard Prius takes over ten seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 – not sports-car quick, but it could be worse. A Corolla built about the same time takes about 8.)

The same research team member also felt that the G's Prius would attract buyers who hadn't ever thought about customizing or tuning their car but wanted to start. "We're seeing a lot of somewhat younger buyers, in their thirties," he said. "We want to stand behind the idea of actively enjoying your car. I think that when our customers realize how much fun they can have with customizing, they'll be really happy."

prius-g-1 prius-g-2 prius-g-3 prius-g-4 prius-g-6 prius-g-7 prius-g-11 prius-g-12 prius-g-5 prius-g-8 prius-g-9 prius-g-10

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President Obama’s Jobs Speech (Full Text & Video from White House + Commentary)

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 01:21 AM PDT

Below is the full text of Obama’s jobs speech last night, as provided by the White House, with key parts for CleanTechnica readers bolded, but first some overall comments:

  1. Obama doesn’t mention clean energy, energy efficiency, or the environment very much (as you can tell just by looking at the very few words I’ve bolded). Should he have? I’m not sure. He’s focused on clean energy a lot in the past, and he continued to show his support for it here in bits and pieces, but he talked more about topics the average person is familiar with right now — schools, roads, bridges, small businesses (in general) — which connects to people’s guts more. I think that is a plus in this time, when talking about jobs and the economy. Sadly, for the American public, to really connect with him, very simple language and ideas must be used. Focusing on what people see and touch every day (at the moment) not our clean energy future is okay from time to time, and probably even good at the moment. Making sure this bill gets passed quickly, or doing all he can to make sure of that, is the key focus here. (If he had used this tactic in the past, perhaps we would have an actual climate and clean energy bill now.)
  2. Obama does call out oil companies and other megacorporations who are not paying their fair share of taxes. Could have done so a little more, in my opinion, but good enough.
  3. Obama gets a little more critical of Congress and stalling of progress, but he doesn’t do a good enough job of spelling out who has been stalling, in my opinion. Sure, don’t shame someone too much if you want them to work with you, but the American public needs to know that Republican leadership has been holding this country hostage, and this was a good opportunity to show that.
  4. Obviously, Obama does a great job of repeatedly telling Congress to pass this bill. He does a great job of making it clear that the investments are being paid for. He does a great job of emphasizing that without government investment in infrastructure, schools, and innovation/development, this country never would have risen so high. Very general things that related to our current need to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency infrastructure, research, innovation, and development. Not spelled out as such, but expressed in a way that more of the general public would get it.
  5. Obama talked about how we can’t sacrifice the environment, our air and water — that these are the basics of a good quality of life. However, he didn’t spell put enough who threatens those. He mentions mercury — do most Americans know that it is the coal industry and Republican politicians fighting to NOT protect us from mercury? Do most Americans know anything about mercury other than that it is in thermometers? Also, Obama talks about the need to not sacrifice these things right after a horrible decision on smog standards – wish he would take his own advice and change course on that.
  6. Overall, powerful speech, clean speech, understandable by the American public, emphasizes key points repeatedly, puts the pressure on Congress (and, though not spelled out enough, Republicans) to pass the American Jobs Act now, tears into Congressional Republicans (though, a little to subtly, in my opinion) for not caring about the common Joe, and makes clear that this proposal is not going to raise our debt and is needed to grow our economy, create jobs, and make our country more livable.
  7. My favorite lines? This part, especially the point at the end:”Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies?  Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers?  Because we can't afford to do both.  Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?  Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?  (Applause.)  Right now, we can't afford to do both.This isn't political grandstanding.  This isn't class warfare.  This is simple math.  (Laughter.)  This is simple math.”

I’ll also note, the video below is great, spelling out more clearly, with visuals and facts, some of the points expressed. Here’s a screenshot of one such point on high-speed rail:

Average speed of trains from Beijing to Shanghai — 236 mph. From DC to Boston — 68 mph. Who is steaming ahead in cleantech? Who is steaming ahead in economically necessary infrastructure? (Pretty clear.)

I’ll also add just one more note, some good quotes/reflections from the president of the NRDC, Frances Beinecke:

President Obama has presented a real plan to get Americans back to work – unlike Republican leaders in Congress whose so-called jobs agenda would destroy our environmental and health safeguards.

We can put Americans back to work and still protect public health. To pretend that we must choose one or another is a false choice that needlessly puts workers and their families at risk.

The next step is to build on the president's plans by fully embracing clean energy jobs.

Well said. That’s what Obama’s speech could use just a little bit more of.

On to the speech (White House video and the text)…

7:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country.  We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that's made things worse.

This past week, reporters have been asking, "What will this speech mean for the President?  What will it mean for Congress?  How will it affect their polls, and the next election?"

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don't care about politics.  They have real-life concerns.  Many have spent months looking for work.  Others are doing their best just to scrape by — giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off.  They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share — where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in a while.  If you did the right thing, you could make it.  Anybody could make it in America.

For decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode.  They have seen the decks too often stacked against them.  And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.

The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities.  The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours.  The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.  (Applause.)  The question is — the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

Those of us here tonight can't solve all our nation's woes.  Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.  But we can help.  We can make a difference.  There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives.

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away.  It's called the American Jobs Act.  There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation.  Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans — including many who sit here tonight.  And everything in this bill will be paid for.  Everything.  (Applause.)

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple:  to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.  It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed.  (Applause.)  It will provide — it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business.  (Applause.)  It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.  You should pass this jobs plan right away.  (Applause.)

Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin.  And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven't.  So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for "job creators," this plan is for you.  (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill — pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers' wages.  Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year.  (Applause.)  If you have 50 employees — if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an $80,000 tax cut.  And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal.  Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that's in this plan.  You should pass it right away.  (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America.  Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country.  Our highways are clogged with traffic.  Our skies are the most congested in the world.  It's an outrage.

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us a economic superpower.  And now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?  At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?  (Applause.)

There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work.  There's a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.  A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.  And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating.  How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart?  This is America.  Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now.  (Applause.)

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools.  It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country.  It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures.  It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects all across the country.  And to make sure the money is properly spent, we're building on reforms we've already put in place.  No more earmarks.  No more boondoggles.  No more bridges to nowhere.  We're cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible.  And we'll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria:  how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it will do for the economy.  (Applause.)

This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat.  The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America's largest business organization and America's largest labor organization.  It's the kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.  You should pass it right away.  (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work.  These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher.  But while they're adding teachers in places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves.  It's unfair to our kids.  It undermines their future and ours.  And it has to stop.  Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.  (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America's veterans.  We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country.  The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.  (Applause.)

Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year.  And their parents — (applause) — their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job.  (Applause.)  We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work.  This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job.  The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year.  (Applause.)  If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy.  Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past.  And in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again — right away.  (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year.  Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket.  This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year.  If we allow that tax cut to expire — if we refuse to act — middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time.  We can't let that happen.  I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live.  Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.  (Applause.)

This is the American Jobs Act.  It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed.  It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class.  And here's the other thing I want the American people to know:  The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit.  It will be paid for.  And here's how.  (Applause.)

The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.  It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas.  Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act.  And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan — a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.  (Applause.)

This approach is basically the one I've been advocating for months.  In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I've already signed into law, it's a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.  (Applause.)  What's more, the spending cuts wouldn't happen so abruptly that they'd be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.

Now, I realize there are some in my party who don't think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns.  But here's the truth:  Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement.  And millions more will do so in the future.  They pay for this benefit during their working years.  They earn it.  But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program.  And if we don't gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be there when future retirees need it.  We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.  (Applause.)

I am also — I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it.  But here is what every American knows:  While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets.  Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary — an outrage he has asked us to fix.  (Laughter.)  We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share.  (Applause.)  And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.

I'll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington.  By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.  (Applause.)  Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists.  It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process.  But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are.  We have to ask ourselves, "What's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?"

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies?  Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers?  Because we can't afford to do both.  Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?  Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?  (Applause.)  Right now, we can't afford to do both.

This isn't political grandstanding.  This isn't class warfare.  This is simple math.  (Laughter.)  This is simple math.  These are real choices.  These are real choices that we've got to make.  And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose.  It's not even close.  And it's time for us to do what's right for our future.  (Applause.)

Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away.  But we can't stop there.  As I've argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future — an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security.  We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere.  If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.  (Applause.)

And this task of making America more competitive for the long haul, that's a job for all of us.  For government and for private companies.  For states and for local communities — and for every American citizen.  All of us will have to up our game.  All of us will have to change the way we do business.

My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own.  For example, if you're a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we're going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now.  (Applause.)  We're also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing startup companies from raising capital and going public.  And to help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent.  That's a step — (applause) — I know you guys must be for this, because that's a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.

So, some things we can do on our own.  Other steps will require congressional action.  Today you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That's the kind of action we need.  Now it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea -– while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition.  (Applause.)  If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.  (Applause.)  I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words:  "Made in America."  That's what we need to get done.  (Applause.)

And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America's businesses.  That's why I've brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.

Already, we've mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training.  Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges.  And we're going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America.  (Applause)  If we provide the right incentives, the right support — and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules — we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world.  That's how America can be number one again.  And that's how America will be number one again.  (Applause.)

Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy.  Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.  (Applause.)

Well, I agree that we can't afford wasteful spending, and I'll work with you, with Congress, to root it out.  And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.  (Applause.)  That's why I ordered a review of all government regulations.  So far, we've identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years.  (Applause.)  We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require.  Every rule should meet that common-sense test.  (Applause.)

But what we can't do — what I will not do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades.  (Applause.)  I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.  I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients.  I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy.  (Applause.)  We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.  America should be in a race to the top.  And I believe we can win that race.  (Applause.)

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody's money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they're on their own — that's not who we are.  That's not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists.  Yes, we are strong and self-reliant.  And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.

But there's always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we're all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union.  Founder of the Republican Party.  But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges.  (Applause.)  And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports?  What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges?  Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill.  Where would we be if they hadn't had that chance?  (Applause.)

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip?  What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?  (Applause.)  How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

No single individual built America on their own.  We built it together.  We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another.  And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.  (Applause.)

Every proposal I've laid out tonight is the kind that's been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past.  Every proposal I've laid out tonight will be paid for.  And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.

Now, I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan — or any jobs plan.  Already, we're seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth.  Already, the media has proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences.  And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.

But know this:  The next election is 14 months away.  And the people who sent us here — the people who hired us to work for them — they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months.  (Applause.)  Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day.  They need help, and they need it now.

I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose.  What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't been the search for a silver bullet.  It's been a commitment to stay at it — to be persistent — to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now.  You should pass it.  (Applause.)  And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.  (Applause.)  And I ask — I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice:  Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now.  Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option.  Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.

President Kennedy once said, "Our problems are man-made –- therefore they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants."

These are difficult years for our country.  But we are Americans.  We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been.  So let's meet the moment.  Let's get to work, and let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

7:43 P.M. EDT


It’s a Streetcar! It’s a Bus! It’s the Electric AutoTram!

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 11:58 PM PDT

The automotive industry needs to make a massive effort in order to maintain connectivity to the electric mobility phenomenon; electric cars are not only more expensive than their gasoline-burning counterparts (not taking externalities into account, such as the effect of burning fossil fuels on our health, environment, economy, and future livability of our planet), but they have a significantly shorter range and fuel is (for now) less readily available. Battery-powered vehicles can take hours to charge completely.

The EU has been offering incentives to auto makers for greener vehicles for some time, and buyers of electric and hybrid cars in many countries can expect some kind of tax credit. In Germany, the federal government is offering incentives to research institutions to develop practical electric vehicles. Their stated goal is to have a million EVs on the road in Germany by 2020 — a tiny fraction of the 42 million registered cars in the country today.

One of the results of this push towards greener transportation is the AutoTram. It has a perfectly normal steering wheel which remains totally untouched during its first test drive. Christoph Barz, scientist at the Dresdner Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI, steers the "AutoTram" with a joystick over a barricaded section of the ATP test track in Papenburg. The vehicle is built to look like a streetcar, but it doesn't drive on tracks. Instead, it handles more like a bus. The AutoTram is a rolling EV experiment, explains institute director Matthias Klingner.

The current focus of experimentation is the battery charge. The hours it can take to fully charge a battery just aren't there in the busy public transportation schedule; buses and trains drive nearly non-stop from morning until late at night. Even regenerative braking doesn't harvest enough energy to keep something as big as a bus going an entire working day.

To solve the range problem, the Dresdner researchers set up a new type of quick-charge station — one at each stop. A thirty-second stop to load and unload passengers is long enough to charge the AutoTram's batteries enough to make it one or two stops farther down the line.

A 30-meter long AutoTram variant will make test runs in Saxony starting in December. In order to ensure that the driver has good control over the vehicle, the researchers developed a multi-axle steering system. Without it, a wheeled vehicle of this size can't be controlled as precisely. Klingner explains that this helps the driver drive as if it were a perfectly normal bus.

The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute are also working on projects such as more efficient electric sport coupes and compact cars with a longer range than the current standard, in addition to the larger vehicles.

Source | Picture: Auto Motor Und Sport


House Republicans Widen Solyndra Probe, May Subpoena White House

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 11:42 PM PDT

A probe into Solyndra's bankruptcy may spread to the White House and other clean energy companies.

[Editor's note: In my opinion, this is just another witch hunt by the Republican Party geared at taking down any attempts to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. Solyndra was 3.4% of the U.S. government's clean energy portfolio.

Is every investment expected to work out? (No. These sorts of investments are risks. This is an inherent part of such investments. And in the case of solar, China is competing hard with us and doing much better in that competition now that a Tea Party House of Representatives and filibusting Senate are thwarting every attempt to give security and help to a young solar energy industry.)

Did the White House know Solyndra would be undercut by the Chinese and fail? (That's a pretty ridiculous question. If it did, why would it spend time highlighting and getting press coverage for this company? That would be nonsensical unless it were masochistic... and it's the Tea Party that wants to kill government, not the Democrats.)

Is the Republican Party really not engaging in this for political purposes and more than it would with fossil fuels? Come on! How did it respond to the BP oil spill, a real disaster?! By apologizing to BP and trying to protect BP from any scrutiny or request for compensation by those hurt by the spill! The Republican Party has a clear agenda -- make Obama look like a failure, protect the billions of dollars fossil fuel companies make every year, protect the rich from having to pay taxes (even if that means, as it must, hurting the middle class and the poor), and kill any attempt to transition the U.S. and the world to a new, clean energy economy. Anyway, here's energyNOW!'s coverage of the story:]

Controversy surrounding solar panel manufacturer Solyndra's recent bankruptcy filing just won't go away, and could imperil the White House. The company's federal stimulus loans are at the center of a widening investigation into clean-energy technology funding by House Republicans, and may lead to subpoenas of White House records. The full video is available below:

U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, recently told energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan that he may expand the initial investigation into loan guarantees Solyndra received from the U.S. Department of Energy to cover other clean energy companies. "We're trying to understand how this stimulus package of $60 billion dollars is going to work," said Stearns. "Is most of the money going to companies like Solyndra, or is it actually going into companies that will succeed in manufacturing and create jobs for this country?"

The House Energy Committee has already subpoenaed the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and Department of Energy for documents related to the Solyndra loan guarantee but is expanding its' search to the White House. "I think the President would find it in his best interest to cooperate and give us all the information so it does not appear to be a politically oriented decision," said Stearns. He also said the committee would issue subpoenas for documents related to the decision if President Obama blocks the request through executive privilege.

Even though many industry analysts have said the bankruptcy filing news is a byproduct of market forces, and Solyndra an acceptable contender for federal funding, Stearns feels the funding had political undertones. "It looks like the people involved in this were tied politically to the White House," he said.

DOE Supports Project to Cut Silicon Solar PV Wafer Costs 50%

Posted: 08 Sep 2011 10:54 PM PDT

Energy Secretary Steven Chu had a crowded slate Thursday as the DOE announced a series of clean energy financing initiatives aimed at spurring commercial development and job creation spanning solar power, offshore wind power, hydropower, geothermal power and electric vehicles (EV).

Aiming to drive down costs and make the US solar power industry more competitive, Secretary Chu finalized a conditional $150 million loan guarantee that will enable Lexington, Massachusetts’ 1366 Technologies to continue developing its multicrystalline Direct Wafer solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing project.

The Direct Wafer process holds the promise of producing approximately 700- to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of silicon-based wafers annually, reducing manufacturing costs by 50% and thereby significantly enhancing the competitiveness of a US company to compete globally against countries whose governments are aggressively supporting solar power industry development.

Phase I of the project is expected to create 70 permanent and 50 constructions jobs at the Lexington, Mass. project site. 1366 Technologies is evaluating potential locations for a second site at present., which management expects will result in creating hundreds more jobs.

"This project is a good example of how investments in American innovation can create jobs and make our manufacturing industry more competitive," said Secretary Chu. "This type of pioneering technology is needed to compete and thrive in the global race for solar manufacturing, a market worth billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs in the years ahead."

The Direct Wafer manufacturing process reduces four separate manufacturing steps into “a single, low-cost continuous process and greatly reduces silicon waster by forming individual wafers directly from a bath of molten silicon,” the DOE news release explains. Frozen inside the Direct Wafer furnace, a thin sheet of silicon is then removed and trimmed by laser to size.

The entire wafer production process is completed in just 25 seconds. Conventional batch processing methods require up to three days. The Direct Wafer process also reduces energy consumption by 90% while producing an industry-standard silicon wafer that can be used by multicrystalline solar power cell manufacturers.

A $4 million grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency and a $3 million grant from its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funded 1366′s original Direct Wafer development work.

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