Monday, January 9, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Murdoch Media Practically Campaigned against Australia Carbon Price

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 04:32 AM PST


This post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

I was struck by a recent analysis from Daily Climate showing a substantial drop in the number of stories covering climate change in 2011. In spite of the dramatic increase in extreme weather events and the white-knuckled political tension around government investments in energy, there was still a 20% drop in coverage of climate-related issues last year.

One of the exceptions to that drop, however, was Australia. News outlets like the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the Sydney Morning Herald saw a 60% increase and a 21% increase respectively. Australia was a particularly important country to watch in 2011 because of the dramatic political battle that unfolded over a comprehensive climate bill.

But experience in that country illustrates a hole in analysis that simply tracks the quantity of articles — it ignores the quality of those stories.

recent report from the Australian Center for Independent Journalism attempts to fill in that hole. The researchers looked at climate policy stories in 10 major newspapers from February of 2011 through July of 2011 and tracked how positive or negative those stories were, who was quoted, and what kid of language was used. The results were overwhelmingly negative. Here are some highlights:

  • Overall, negative coverage of the Gillard government's carbon policy across ten newspapers outweighed positive coverage across ten Australian newspapers by 73% to 27%. (Note: After neutral items were discounted).
  • After neutral items were discounted, negative coverage (82%) across News Ltd newspapers far outweighed positive (18%) articles. This indicates a very strong stance against the carbon policy adopted by the company that controls most Australian metropolitan newspapers, and the only general national daily. [Note: This is an organization owned by Rupert Murdoch.]
  • Headlines were less balanced than the actual content of articles. Neutral articles were more likely to be headlined negative (41%) than positive (19%).

In an interview with Climate Progress at the Durban climate talks, Christine Milne, the Deputy Leader of Australia's Green Party, lamented the domination of negative stories in Murdoch publications:

"The Murdoch press is a very big problem in Australia. It owns 70% of the print media and has run a massive campaign against the climate science and against the climate pricing policy that we've delivered in Australia. And it will continue to do so in the hope that the opposition is elected and the whole thing is repealed. This is a critical time in Australian politics and for the climate."

Remarkably, even though the Green Party provided the political catalyst for getting a climate bill considered in the first place, members of the party only received 5% of quotes in stories on the issue.

When journalists reached out to the business community, which sector got the most quotes? By far, sources directly or indirectly representing the fossil fuel industry, "often without any critique or second source":

(The researchers also factored the aluminum and steel industries into these figures.)

The range of findings show a clear political bias against the carbon pricing policy moving through parliament in 2011:

  • The claims by many single sources about the likely impact of the carbon policy were not tested against the views of other sources. Only 42% of the rest of the articles included
    more than two sources.
  • Fossil fuel lobby and other big business sources opposed to the policy were very strongly represented, often without any critique or second source.
  • Business sources (23%) receive more coverage than all Australian civil society sources together including unions, NGOS, think tanks, activists, members of the public, religious spokespeople, scientists and academics (17%).
  • Business sources quoted 4 or more times over the 6-month period were quoted being negative towards the policy in almost 80% of occasions. Many Australian readers wouldhave been left with the impression that the nearly the entire business community wasopposed to the carbon price policy. In fact this was far from the truth.
  • Academics and scientists were also poorly represented.
  • Over half the articles only used the word 'tax' (51%), 11% used 'price' and another 39% referred to both. Once again there are differences between Fairfax and News Ltd.'s metropolitan newspapers.

Let me take my last statement back: These findings show far more than a simple "bias." They show a stunningly blatant attempt to stop a price on carbon. One wonders how political leaders were ever able to pass a climate bill at all.

"Some of Australia's leading newspapers have been so negative in their reporting of the Gillard government's carbon policy it's fair to say they've campaigned against it rather than covered it," reads the primer for the report.  The top six newspapers most negative about the Australian government's proposed carbon policy are all owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Tracking the raw number of stories focused on climate is an important task. But this kind of qualitative analysis gives us a much fuller picture of how the content of those articles influence the actual story itself.

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Solar Trade Dispute: Jigar Shah Response

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 04:25 AM PST


solar energy trade dispute

Last week, I posted letters from Jigar Shah (President of Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy) and a response from Hari Chandra Polavarapu (Managing Director of Solar/Cleantech Research at AURIGA USA LLC). As an update, here’s a response to Hari from Jigar:

I want to thank Hari Chandra Polavarapu, the Managing Director of Solar/Cleantech Research at AURIGA USA LLC, who wrote a post to educate me.

Hari, I write to you not from one trading desk, but representing the 1,000 or more rooftops where I have deployed solar.

I write to you representing more than 97 percent of the U.S. solar industry. These are the people who have not only visited factories where solar panels are manufactured, but who have actually worked in those factories, and many more who have worked assembling, installing, and maintaining solar systems.

At a trading desk, one is managing portfolios, trading prices of commodities like solar panels and more. You may even be concerned about the cost of silicon chips used in computing (but we are not complaining about the low cost of silicon chips
manufactured outside the U.S. in this dialogue).

Every day, we, the actual people who work in the solar industry, are interested in growing the deployment of solar, particularly at a cost that creates grid parity, location by location. More importantly, we are interested in preserving and growing
the 100,000 American jobs in the industry, which, according to the 2011 National Solar Jobs Census published by the Solar Foundation, grew 6.8 percent between 2010 and 2011 — nearly ten times higher than the national average employment rate
of 0.7 percent.

Real jobs. Real people. Using real tools.

By the way — on the theoretical stuff, many of your colleagues disagree with you and might provide you with a bit of insight and education. See below:

Photon Consulting: "Overall, trade restrictions between the U.S. and China will destroy value in the global PV sector. Equally important, imposition of artificially higher prices for solar consumers would undoubtedly slow the adoption of solar
power in key markets such as the US."

Jefferies: "The U.S. solar industry, already suffering from a lack of financing, will experience higher module prices and lower demand if countervailing duties are imposed as early as March 2012."

Axiom: "There is simply more supply than there is demand,” Johnson said. “It’s very simple economics.” And it’s not the Chinese’s fault, Johnson said: “You can’t complain because a guy is beating you,” Johnson said.

AEI Research: "Higher module prices are likely to lower the excess return, putting solar energy at risk of losing years of economic potential as a result."

SEMI: "This case could lead to significant price increases that could have a significant deleterious impact on SEMI members, many of whom are upstream providers of high-value-added equipment and materials. It will also impact
downstream service providers, such as installers, where a majority of solar industry jobs are concentrated.”

Solar installer image via shutterstock

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Light Bulb Wars Wither in Winter, Could Spring Back in Fall

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 03:00 AM PST

House Republicans war on energy efficient light bulbsLast year, House Republicans waged a Star Wars-worthy battle to stop a federal law that sets new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, but it seems they have little to show for all that Sturm und Drang. Lighting manufacturers have stated that they intend to abide by the law and adhere to the new standard required as of January 1, even though the House pushed through legislation that delays funding for enforcement. However, given that several Republican candidates for the presidential nomination have made a signature issue out of light bulb efficiency, it’s possible that the whole matter could be revived later this year, just in time to become a hot issue in the 2012 elections.

Lighting Industry Innovates to Meet New Standards

The new energy efficiency standards are being phased in under the terms of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Conventional incandescent light bulb technology is about 130 years old and cannot meet the new efficiency standards, so for the past several years lighting manufacturers have pumped millions into developing new high-efficiency fluorescent and LED (light emitting diode) technology for household use. They have also introduced some new gimmicks to bump up the efficiency of incandescent bulbs. Either way, the new bulbs cost more up front than conventional ones but they last far longer and they save money on electricity bills, and major retailers have been quick to stock the more efficient light bulbs.

Damn the Legislative Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!

In response to the delaying legislation, the Association of Electrical and Medical Equipment Manufacturers, which claims to represent more than 95 percent of the U.S. lighting industry, asserted that its members are "committed to and supportive of the lighting standards established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007." The American Lighting Association has also stated its support for the 2007 law, along with a message of broader support for climate change action and energy security, noting that "the provisions in this law are intended to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions and enable the United States to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

Stakeholders Align with Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Both of the above organizations are members of The LUMEN Coalition, which along with lighting manufacturers includes consumer groups and other stakeholders that assembled in support of the 2007 law. Another LUMEN member, the Alliance to Save Energy, issued a statement through its president Kateri Callahan, who said:

"Congress is voting to prohibit the Department of Energy from spending money to enforce a law that it 'put on the books' in 2007, namely technology-neutral, light bulb efficiency standards that can save Americans money and energy."

The government/industry stakeholder organization the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy also weighed in with a comment from executive director Steven Nadel, who wrote that "fortunately, the law is still in effect and U.S. manufacturers have indicated they will follow the law, even if it is not enforced."

Light Bulbs as a Campaign Issue

The delaying legislation runs out on September 30, which means that the debate over light bulbs could recharge just ahead of the November elections. However, so far its impact on individual candidates for the Republican nomination has been a mixed bag.

Championing the cause of 19th century lighting technology did nothing for Michele Bachmann, who dropped out of the race after faring poorly in the Iowa caucuses. Another vociferous old-tech supporter, Texas Governor Rick Perry, failed to attract Iowa voters, and support for old bulbs did not shield Newt Gingrich against the avalanche of negative advertising he faced in that contest.

Only Ron Paul has been holding his own, though he did not attract as many votes in Iowa as Rick Santorum, who has been experiencing something of a surge in advance of the New Hampshire primary. However, Santorum is best known for his non-embrace of contraceptive technology, not any failure to embrace new lighting technology, so it is unlikely that the light bulb issue has been a factor in his polling numbers.

As for apparent front-runner Mitt Romney, he has kept his distance from the whole thing, though his official position on energy policy indicates support for a strong government role in developing new technologies – for now, that is.

Image credit, Darth Vader: Some rights reserved by Brett Jordan.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.



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Tiny Biofuel Cell Turns Insects into OH MY GOD RUN FOR YOUR LIVES

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 02:20 AM PST

While biofuel stories often fill me with gimlet-eyed suspicion, I've now and then said to myself: if only we could mount lasers on insects and then somehow power those lasers with electricity generated from their own blood, THAT would be a biofuel application I can get behind.

Well, consider me behind it because now it almost exists. They haven't gotten to the lasers yet (and probably won't, because the laser idea is my pipe dream), but researchers at Case Western Reserve have developed a tiny bug-implantable biofuel cell that uses enzymes to convert the chemical energy in insect blood-sugars into electricity. The electricity can be used to power electronics, like sensors, to turn bugs into spies or first-responders, or to hold all of humanity hostage for a ransom of ONE MEEELLION DOLLARS.

For those who'd like to know something about how it's done rather than just bask in the glorious dystopian implications, I'll dirty my fingers with a three-sentence summary:

The system uses two enzymes: The first breaks a sugar, trehalose, into two simpler sugars. The second oxidizes them, which releases electrons. Max power density was close to 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts and max current density was ~450 microamps per square centimeter, if that means anything to you.

This is good news for me because it annoys me when a bug buzzes around my head and it's got a dirty combustion engine on it.

Now, when our technology turns against us and a weaponized grub army destroys us all, at least their emissions will be low.

This is still lab bench technology, so who knows what will ultimately become of it. I hope that the researchers can adapt their reaction so that I can run my laptop off my fat.

P.S. for those baffled by what the bug in the pic is saying, I commend you for not having spent the last decade mindlessly surfing the web, and also read this.

Image via nickwheeleroz

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2011: The Year Renewables Overtook Nuclear in the US

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 12:26 AM PST

Grand Coulee Dam

2011 was, it’s generally agreed, a crappy year. There were tornados in the US, flooding in Asia, an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, and financial turmoil in Europe. Even the Arab Spring, which we’ve all been so excited about, has yet to produce any definitively democratic governments.

But here’s a statistic to feel a bit warmer about: 2011 was the year renewable energy overtook nuclear energy in the US.

You might recall the milestone was first reported back in July, when the Energy Information Administration released figures for power generation in the first three months of the year. They showed that renewable sources were providing around 12% of the US’ energy production. Nuclear was only providing 2%.

But the first three months of 2011 were a bad time for nuclear, what with the first partial meltdown of a reactor in a quarter-century and all. The question was whether, once emergency safety reviews had been carried out worldwide and the nuclear industry got back to business as usual, nuclear would overtake renewables again.

Well, now we know: it didn’t. The EIA has just released updated figures that cover the first nine months of 2011. Sure enough, nuclear staged a post-Fukushima comeback, accounting for 10.62% of the US’ energy mix. But that’s still down from 2010′s figure of 11.3%. Renewables, on the other hand, held strong at 12%, up from 10.9% in 2010.

As Good’s Sarah Laskow reports, when you focus on electricity generation, in particular, renewables’ progress is even more impressive.

When you look at the electricity sector alone, renewables shine even brighter. Nuclear's share of electricity generation dropped by 2.8 percent compared to the first nine months of 2010, while coal's share dropped by 4.2 percent. In the same period, renewables' share of electricity generation grew almost 25 percent.

One Nation under a Dam

This is all down to wind and solar, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, by far, the biggest renewable contributor to the US’ energy supply is hydropower, thanks to mega-dams like the Grand Coulee, pictured above. All in all, hydropower accounts for 4.35% of US energy supply. Next comes biomass at 3.15%, biofuels at 2.57%, and then wind, with just 1.45%. Solar? just 0.15%, half as much as geothermal energy.

The good news, though, is that solar and wind are both increasing rapidly, as CleanEdge points out. The amount of electricity produced by solar power was 46.5% higher in the first nine months of 2011 than the equivalent period in 2010; for wind the figure was 27.1%.

Can wind and solar continue this breakneck growth? Lascow is optimistic:

Renewable energy is thriving now, and its share of power generation should continue to grow over the coming decades. For the foreseeable future, that trend might require support from the government: If Congress decides to keep rolling back subsidies, the solar and wind industry worry that growth could stall out. But private financiers are starting to realize that solar installations are strong investments that deliver steady, predictable profits, and the solar industry is starting to envision a time when its momentum won't depend on the whims of Washington.

Whether or not you support nuclear power, everyone should be pleased to see renewable energy growing in the US, bringing not just clean power but jobs with it. Hopefully we’ll see a trend of continued growth when the first figures for 2012 come out in July this year.

Source: Energy Information Administration | Via: CleanEdge / Good

Picture: WikiMedia Commons

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No More Renting — the Peugeot iOn Can Be Bought Outright

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 12:19 AM PST

For those of you who are EV lovers, maybe even Peugeot lovers, and live in Europe, we’ve got some good news for you!

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SportsArt Fitness: Harnessing Human Energy for Electricity (VIDEO)

Posted: 09 Jan 2012 12:13 AM PST


energy harvesting exercise equipment

SportsArt Fitness, a designer and manufacturer of fitness equipment with many “green” credentials, is going beyond self-generating elliptical trainers that require no electricity to operate. It is now offering its “Green System.” The Green System is a suite of specially-engineered exercise machines coupled with a power inverter which promise to harness the human energy that typically dissipates as wasted heat into the atmospheres of gyms around the country.

The suite, or “pod,” can include up to 10 special fitness machines (either elliptical, recumbent cycle, or upright cycle). These machines were designed to maximize power output with a special resistance system, according to Courtney Kerr, east coast sales rep for SportsArt. The pod is attached to a power inverter the size of a stereo receiver, and will use power generated by exercising bodies and feed it back to the power grid immediately as usable energy. The company chose to bypass battery storage because, in its words, this is more efficient and less harmful to the environment. The inverter requires a 208-240 VAC power supply. Facilities will require an electrician to install and wire the Green System to the grid.

Each pod of products can generate up to a maximum of 2000 watt-hours per hour of full use, which is a heck of a lot. Reaching that golden goal would mean ten human bodies working out with Olympian effort for a full hour. But, 2,000 watt-hours can run, say, a flat screen (27″) TV that consumes 120 watts for 17 hours. Lots of TV and rocking bodies? Sounds like a great pay-off to me, and very easy to operate: users simply need to start exercising.

Buying “green” machines also provides exercise facilities with a great avenue for green marketing. Add to that the assurance that the product is sustainably produced; the company’s factory in Taiwan was designed with a reduction in environmental impact in mind, and has been ISO-9001/9002 certified for years.

Watch the Green System in Action:

The company estimates that if the club or gym replaces all ellipticals and cycles with the Green System, it should have a savings of $3000 a year on its electric bill. Of course, this depends on each club’s capacity and popularity.

SportsArt’s site offers a green calculator to help potential customers figure out their savings. It assumes energy production based on a 10-unit pod at maximum production, and a U.S. average cost of electricity to be $.116 per kwh. Just two pods, with a total of 20 machines and two inverters and with about 10 hours of use per day, saves about $4.46 per day, and works out to about $1693.60 in annual savings. Still, the successful generation of  electricity boils down to this: go-getting gym goers.

What’s in it for the Gym Addicts?

The average person would probably love to be a part of generating sustainable electricity, but not everyone works out like the hounds of hell are on their tails. Gyms using the Green System can coax their members into working out to their maximum potential every session with a little friendly competition and the promise of rewards points. The Green System partnered with EcoFit to integrate the Green System with EcoFit’s Networking System & Display. The intuitive digital media display ups the power generation game by showing users how much electricity they are producing in the gym, and includes a points accumulation system.

The system tracks how much electricity is generated by each user. Runners, joggers, and cyclists can compete and access their personal workout data with their email serving as their ID. These points can be redeemed at the gym, or wherever the fitness facility is housed (hospital, college, etc…). The gym at the Hotel Grand Pacific in British Columbia will be awarding an eager gym-goer with discounts on rooms in February. ECOFit also includes iPhone apps and claims to be fully integrated with social media — so gym goers can share their results on Facebook and Twitter as they sweat.

Image credit: SportsArt Fitness

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1,000,000 MW by 2050 is China’s Long Range Wind Plan (What is Ours?)

Posted: 08 Jan 2012 07:51 PM PST

By contrast with the US domestic hostage crisis where our Republican kidnappers barely permit our government to keep the lights on each week, the Chinese government issues updated renewable energy plans every five years, and these plans go into detail, for four decades; up to 2050, and setting the target for 2020, 2030 and so on.

Not only has China been making the long-range plans normally considered one of the benefits of a democratically elected government in an industrialized nation, but while we have dithered, China is now scaling up those ambitions exponentially. China added so much wind so fast that last year it became the world leader.

Now it plans 200 GW by 2020, and 1,000 GW by 2050. To get an idea of the vast scale-up of this level of ambition, look at what China was timidly planning in 2007, based on little experience with wind, in its previous five-year plan.

“Given current policies” China said, back in 2007, “China's installed capacity of wind energy could reach 50 GW by 2020, accounting for about 4% of the total installed generation capacity.”

As of December, 2010, China then had installed 25 GW of wind – and planned to raise its sights from 50 to 150 GW by 2020.

A year later in December 2011, with 42 GW of wind installed, China had become the world leader in wind power, overtaking the US, which had overtaken Germany several years previously.

Now The National Energy Administration of China has just released new plans to revise upward once more its 2020 target, first set at 50 GW, to 200 GW, 400 GW by 2030 and 1,000 GW (1,000,000 MW) by 2050.

Given that most American voters would like to see us invest in renewable energy responsibly and rapidly to stave off the worst disaster of catastrophic climate change that every other nation can see barreling down on us, and that it is we who are in a democracy, not China, what keeps us from being able to have sensible government like this?

China is not any smarter than us. Their rapid scale-up of renewables has not been smooth and easy. Just like here, some Chinese renewable companies are going bankrupt, as others become the winners in a rapidly evolving innovative new energy economy. Transmission difficulties are making it hard to get so much power on the grid so fast.

But for China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) that oversees renewable policy, that doesn’t mean giving up. "Given the situation, it is urgent for us to work out and implement classified and inter-provincial programs for timely ingesting of wind power," said Wang Zhongying, research fellow at the NDRC’s Center for Renewable Energy Development at the Energy Research Institute.

America certainly dealt with the scale-up needed to go to war after Pearl Harbor. We are threatened with much, much worse than Pearl Harbor, from destabilizing our climate, as any scientist will tell you (and for thousands of years). Really. What is it going to take?

Frankly, it is going to take voters. Only 37% of eligible voters voted in the last midterms. You could call your two Senators, and your Representative and let them know your wishes, for starters. Congress has a switchboard (202) 224-3121. And then vote – not just in presidential elections – but every two years.

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