Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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BlueGreen Alliance Statement On Budget & Tax (“Fiscal Cliff”) Negotiations

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:12 PM PST

Here’s a statement from the BlueGreen Alliance on the ‘fiscal cliff’ action Congress & Obama need to take: 

BlueGreen Alliance Statement

Congress and the President face a stark choice in the policies being offered to address our current crises – a choice between austerity and shared prosperity. The bottom line: Austerity and budget cuts now will make our economic and environmental crises worse and lead to more misery for millions of people. Conversely, a program of shared prosperity, labor rights, environmental protection, and public investment, will lead to job creation, higher standards of living and an enhanced quality of life.

The advocates of austerity call for significant cuts to vital programs and public investments as a means to decrease the federal deficit. Practical experience and 70 years of history have proven that economic austerity and budget cuts in a period of high unemployment lead to more job loss and economic misery. This is what happened when budgets were balanced in the U.S. during the Great Depression and recently in Great Britain. It would be short sighted and immoral to deal with our economic problems by cutting important programs and placing undue burdens on the middle class. The impacts of such policies will reach far into the future. For example, we should not undercut the advancements we are finally making in clean energy – a sector that will be among the biggest job-creating and pollution-reducing industries of the future.

There is a clear alternative to austerity. Shared prosperity includes long term investments in our physical and human infrastructure that will increase good jobs, improve our environment, and create the conditions for a sustainable economy that will resolve concerns about the federal debt. Our own history shows that the policies of shared prosperity ended the Great Depression and provided the basis for the following three decades of economic prosperity while also paying off the largest federal debt ever incurred because of WWII.

In spite of the often one-sided rhetoric, we can drive programs of fairness and innovation, economic growth and environmental protection, job creation and climate change pollution reduction. We can do all of this while also addressing concerns about the federal debt. And we can achieve this without squeezing America's working class and our engines of innovation.

Our real challenge is to build a fair, sustainable economy for the 21st Century that puts America on a path toward both broad prosperity as well as economic and environmental sustainability. As the debate moves toward Congressional action and supposed "grand bargains," we believe that the following principles must be met to achieve the vision we have laid out:

No additional cuts. The cuts to federal programs demanded by House leadership have already gone too far in weakening the safety net and public safeguards and diminishing basic investments in domestic infrastructure and innovation.

Revenues. As a matter of belief that we owe future generations more opportunities for broad prosperity, lawmakers must be open minded about rescinding tax breaks for companies/industries and individuals that do not need them. These revenues should be used primarily to invest in America. 

Invest in America and Good Jobs. Our economy requires significant investments in the industries and infrastructure of the 21st century including clean energy, advanced transportation, broadband, education, water and healthcare. These investments will provide millions of jobs, protect our quality of life and help build a new foundation for a sustainable economy. We also need to ensure that these are good jobs by restoring workers' rights to collectively bargain, raising the minimum wage, and improving other workplace standards.

Democratic Reform. The only way to ensure that public policy is made in the public interest is to ensure that government – and elected officials – are accountable to all our citizens.

This requires basic reforms to guarantee that every citizen has the right and ability to vote and that private interests cannot dominate the electoral and legislative process.

We strongly advise lawmakers to abide by these principles. They will create the conditions and incentives needed to resolve our current economic crisis, improve the quality of life of all Americans, and provide the basis for such improvements for future generations. Succumbing to the faulty policies of austerity will exacerbate our economic and environmental crises – the two most serious generational challenges we currently face." 


The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy. Launched in 2006, the strategic partnership now brings together major U.S. labor unions and America’s most influential environmental organizations and unites more than 15 million members and supporters in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Visit

BlueGreen Alliance Statement On Budget & Tax (“Fiscal Cliff”) Negotiations was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Ottawa City Council Approves Light Rail Contract

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 01:30 PM PST


Canada’s capital got on board with a $2.1 billion light rail plan this week. A 12.5 kilometer, 13 station light rail system in Ottawa — to be called the Confederation Line — is expected to be fully-functional in 2018.

The unanimous vote comes after a 2006 light rail about-face. A $725 million light rail plan was in the works 7 years ago, but stalled out after losing political momentum.

Add Ottawa to 2012′s list of light and high-speed rail winners like Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: Planetizen  
Image: Stamp Printed by Canada via Shutterstock 

Ottawa City Council Approves Light Rail Contract was originally published on: CleanTechnica

LeBron James Bikes To Work

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 01:14 PM PST

NBA superstar LeBron James is doing his part to unclog Miami traffic by saddling up on a bicycle. James has been seen cycling to practice on a regularly basis (and even to some games) — perhaps he’s seen the evidence that biking is safer for young adults than driving.

James is no stranger to bikes. For years, Mr. Basketball has been behind annual charity bike rides in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The three-time MVP isn’t alone in his cycling passion, as teammates Mario Chalmers and Dwayne Wade have taken part in Miami Critical Mass, a city-wide bike event held the last Friday of every month where bikers take of the streets.

For copycats, it’s unclear what bike King James tools around town on, but it doesn’t look to be of the cardboard kind.

Source: Streetsblog
Image: LeBron James via Shutterstock

LeBron James Bikes To Work was originally published on: CleanTechnica

John Kerry’s Climate Change Statements Show Force & Nuance

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 12:23 PM PST

Even before the announcement was official, environmentalists welcomed the news that President Obama would nominate John Kerry to succeed Hilary Clinton as the next Secretary of State, and for good reason. While best known overall for foreign policy, Senator Kerry has a long record of forceful statements in support of climate action policies, and he has not been shy about calling attention to the worst outcomes of willfully ignoring climate science. What’s also interesting, though, is how Kerry’s climate change position highlights the interplay of political power and marginalization with climate science.

John Kerry will focus on climate change as Secretary of State

John Kerry on Climate Change

Kerry’s current U.S. Senate profile leaves no question about his position on climate science and consequent policies, especially regarding foreign affairs and national security. Under the heading “Climate Change and Energy Security,” you’ll find unequivocal statements like this:

“America’s contributions to global climate change and our oil dependence are endangering our national security, our economy and our environment.  But the global climate crisis is more than an urgent scientific imperative; it is also a tremendous economic opportunity to secure America's leadership in creating the low-carbon global economy and our future prosperity”

And this:

“Carbon pollution threatens to damage our children's health and radically and irreversibly alter our climate. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, and human displacement on a staggering scale. In an interconnected world, the instability that would trigger endangers all of us.”


Climate Change and Marginalization

Kerry’s current statements on climate change follow a long record of consistent statements going back through the years. In 2010, he warned of “a new element of chaos” in the already fragile lives of the world’s poorest populations. In 2009, he drew the connection between Himalayan glacier melt and international instability, and in a major address in 2008 he also argued that climate change was as dangerous a threat as nuclear weapons proliferation.

For a real window into Kerry’s thinking, though, you can go back to 2007 and look up a copy of the book he wrote with wife Theresa Heinz Kerry, This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future.

While raising alarms about the consequences of inaction, the book makes the case for optimism based on the successes that a few passionate, determined individuals can have in the face of overwhelming opposition.

In a article about the book, Kerry demonstrates his awareness of the opposition in terms of its effect on political power:

“As a society, we are sliding dangerously backwards in almost every sector of environmental concern…. Even caring about the environment has been marginalized in recent years by a calculated assault from special interests.”

A detailed review on Daily Kos also picks out this passage:

“We no longer have the luxury of engaging in a debate that does not lead to action. We must put an end—an immediate end—to any discussion other than the one that will lead us forward. We simply have no choice but to face the facts, regardless of how unsettling they are. This is not just an ‘environmental’ issue; it is a moral issue and a matter of life and death.”

In other words, Kerry brings to the Secretary of State position not only decades-long experience in operating at the top levels of political power and a passionate determination to support scientific knowledge, but also an acute sensibility of the power of ordinary individuals to determine their own fate.

Image (cropped): John Kerry by cliff1066â„¢

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

John Kerry’s Climate Change Statements Show Force & Nuance was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Is Your Fridge Eating Your Savings?

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 08:23 AM PST

Ranking of Top Refrigerator Brands by Energy Efficiency

While you probably only notice your fridge when it stops working or the freezer ices over, there’s a good chance that it is costing you considerably more than it should be. Looking at medium-sized fridges on the market (18 to 24in cubic ft of volume), the least efficient model can cost you over twice as much in electricity as the most efficient model. Approximately 10 million fridges will have been bought in 2012, with a potential to save 2.44 billion kWh in electricity annually by choosing the most efficient model. Over five years, this would lead to savings of $4.3 billion and 36.6 billion kWh, which is equivalent to removing 3.26 million average households from the grid.

What’s The Best Style Of Fridge?

A surprising find is that the style of fridge that you own (top or bottom freezer, side by side, or french door) has the biggest impact on how energy efficient it is. The key driver behind energy consumption is related to a fridge’s total volume, and more specifically, the volume of its freezer compartment. The freezer consumes considerably more electricity per cubic inch of volume. On average, top freezer models have a smaller freezer compartment than other styles and therefore are considerably more energy efficient. This suggests that not only should you make sure to buy the right size of fridge, but more importantly, one with an appropriately sized freezer compartment.

Does Age Matter?

Another important consideration is that fridges become increasingly less efficient as they age and the cooling system degrades. 5-year-old fridges consume 10% more energy, 10-year-old fridges consume 20% more energy, and fridges 15 years old or more consume at least 30% more energy. Imagine if you have not replaced your kitchen fridge in over a decade and you also have a spare fridge in the basement. You may be spending an additional $1000 in unnecessary electricity costs over the lifetime of each fridge.

Score My Fridge

While we realize that replacing the fridge is not at the top of your holiday shopping list, it is one of the few purchases that will actually save you money in the long run. To help you determine when is the right time to upgrade your fridge, we have released a “Score my Fridge” app ( that scores the energy efficiency of over 80,000 fridges dating all the way back to the 1980s. By plugging in the model number of a fridge, it is scored and compared versus all fridges currently on the market.

Enervee’s goal is to make you aware of the energy efficiency of all of your home appliances and electronics at the moment it really counts — when you are comparing products to make a purchase. For now, we have released our Enervee Score for TVs and Fridges, but we are working hard to soon cover the other major home appliances and electronics.

About the Author: Alex Katzman is head of business development at Enervee and has a decade of experience with strategic partnerships and enterprise software implementation in the smart grid and mobile/web sectors. He is well versed in global business, having spent four years of his career working abroad in the UK, Argentina, and South Korea. Alex holds an MBA from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor’s degree in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. When he’s not talking to potential partners about Enervee, Alex enjoys cooking Italian cuisine, glassblowing, and rock climbing.

Is Your Fridge Eating Your Savings? was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Empowerhouse — Beyond Awards, Real Homes For Real Folks

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:32 AM PST

What sets the Empowerhouse apart from the pack is that it is the first project in the Solar Decathlon’s history to have a life as real housing beyond the competition. The project was developed by the New School and Stevens Institute of Technology in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. (DC Habitat) and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

Solar Decathlon — Parsons-Stevens Empowerhouse

From the beginning, student designers planned to make this a real house and empower real families with sustainable design.

Reaching out to empower people with affordable green visions, Empowerhouse is a community-based approach to sustainable urban development showcasing the design of two affordable solar-powered homes and a neighborhood learning garden. Students from across The New School and Stevens Institute of Technology came together to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon and to bring the Empowerhouse beyond the National Mall, to the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Deanwood.

The first family will soon move into this home, which also deserves the accolades for being the first passive house in D.C., a recipient of a Mayor’s Sustainability Award, and winning the “Affordability” category during the recent competition. The home has been moved off the Mall and taken to the Deanwood neighborhood to its new resting place.

Empowerhouse Garden

Additional modules were brought in and assembled on the site to make the home a duplex equipped to provide housing for two families. Lakiya Culley, a Deanwood resident and single mother of three young children who works as a secretary for the U.S. Department of State, will move into the house in January.

From the very beginning, the Empowerhouse was planned to be more than just another interesting and green concept entry for the 2011 Solar Decathlon. Designed and built by a student group from Parsons The New School for DesignStevens Institute of Technology, and Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, the prefab home adheres to the principles of Passive House.

Empowerhouse Porch

Earlier in December, the student team from Parsons The New School for Design, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School celebrated the completion of the real-world Empowerhouse. Next year, a second family will move into the sustainable duplex in the Deanwood neighborhood, making it the most practical Solar Decathlon home built to date. 

Source: Inhabitat

Image Credits:

Empowerhouse — Beyond Awards, Real Homes For Real Folks was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Nissan Offering $9,775 Cash Back On Leafs

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:13 AM PST

It looks like Nissan is spreading some holiday love towards its EV customers this holiday season.

The Japanese auto manufacturer (via the financing department, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation) is offering a $9,775 cash back deal on the Nissan Leaf, according to Autoblog Green.

Image Credit: Nissan Leaf via Boykov/Shutterstock

The deal, which started in early December, ends when the updated 2013 model comes out at the Detroit North America International Auto Show this January.

However, the cash back offering is apparently restricted to lease deals.

Despite keeping under wraps what to expect with the newer Leaf models, it’s anticipated the new model will cost less and have "lower equipment levels."

While the new Tennessee Leaf factory will help to keep overall costs down for the electric vehicle, many challenges continue to affect the Leaf:

“The company was a bit humbled by the experience of talking up lofty goals and then seeing sales not quite hit that level, though Leaf sales did start to rise back again in November. The Leaf does cost more than other, similar-sized vehicles, even with federal tax credits and state incentives. Weak resale values haven’t helped any, either.

There is growing competition in the electric vehicle space. Several new models were brought to market this year (though, usually in only a handful of places, unlike the Leaf, which is available to a much larger portion of the population). And more models from a variety of auto manufacturers will be introduced in 2013.

But with the upward trend in Leaf sales last month, better times could be on the horizon for the new year.

Nissan Offering $9,775 Cash Back On Leafs was originally published on: CleanTechnica

25 Nuclear Power Plants Could Be Replaced By Geothermal In Japan

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 04:05 AM PST

Stefan Larus Stefansson, Iceland's ambassador to Japan, recently gave a lecture in Tokyo about the very high geothermal potential in Japan. He said that if Japan were to invest in fully realizing its geothermal potential, the country could replace 25 nuclear reactors.


He used his home country as an example of geothermal success because about two-thirds of the country’s energy comes from this renewable, stable source. Japan has the world’s third-highest geothermal potential but has not been pursuing its development nearly as much as it could be.

Ironically, it was the nation’s focus on nuclear power that caused this lack of attention for geothermal development. It isn’t as if Japan is missing the technical knowledge required for geothermal installations either. They actually make the turbines Iceland uses for its geothermal plants. As a percentage of total power, developing countries like Kenya and El Salvador have more geothermal power than Japan.

In the colder areas of Japan, where there is also good geothermal potential, residents typically heat their homes with kerosene. In Iceland, heat for
over 90% of the homes comes from geothermal sources. Switching to geothermal in Japan is technically feasible and the nation has the natural resources available to do so. It could generate clean energy, create jobs, and reduce carbon emissions in the process. Also, because it produces geothermal turbines, it could grow this production and become one of the world’s top exporters.

One concern with geothermal has been disruption of natural habitats when the site is located within a national park. A large hot springs in Iceland called the Blue Lagoon, however, has shown it is possible to have many visitors and retain respect for the environment. It has been reported Iceland has saved about $7.2 billion since 1970 by its use of geothermal power. One of its first geothermal pioneers was a farmer who used it to help run his farm beginning in 1908.

 Image Credit: 663highland, Wiki Commons

25 Nuclear Power Plants Could Be Replaced By Geothermal In Japan was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Car2go Carsharing Program Opens In London

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 03:55 AM PST

Car2go has opened up its first carsharing service in the UK, in London. (Note: it’s called a car club there.) The program will rent the Smart ForTwo cars for 35 pence (56 cents) a minute.


“The free-floating carsharing service is already in operation in the 17th city worldwide and prices in London will be a bit higher than other places: 35 pence (about 56 US cents) a minute,” AutoBlog Green writes.

Until the end of the year, you can register for free: online, at BOXPARK Shoreditch, or at Europcar stores within London. Doing so will get you a half hour of free driving time credits.

“Car2go says other cities and towns in Great Britain will get carsharing fleets soon. It’s no surprise that expansion is in the works, since the current rental rate is one every four seconds, Car2go says, averaged from all locations around the world. Details on how the system work can be found below.”

Image Credit: Car2Go

Car2go Carsharing Program Opens In London was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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