Monday, August 31, 2009

Thousands call for Turing apology

Alan Turing is said to be the founder of computer science

Thousands of people have signed a Downing Street petition calling for a posthumous government apology to World War II code breaker Alan Turing.

Writer Ian McEwan has just backed the campaign, which already has the support of scientist Richard Dawkins.

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted under the gross indecency act after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man. Two years later he killed himself.

The petition was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming.

He is seeking an apology for the way the young mathematician was treated after his conviction. He has also written to the Queen to ask for a posthumous knighthood to be awarded to the British mathematician.

Alan Turing was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment" and his security privileges were removed, meaning he could not continue work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

"This added insult and humiliation ultimately drove him to suicide," said gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who also backs the campaign. "With Turing's death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds. A government apology and posthumous pardon are long overdue." …

Thousands call for Turing apology

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Are climate change deniers like creationists?

Nice post from Christian Science Monitor:

The ancestors of chimpanzees diverged from those of humans about 6 million years ago, making them humanity's closest living relatives. (NEWSCOM / FILE)
By Eoin O'Carroll

Looks like it’s time to bring back Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan: The US Chamber of Commerce wants to subject the science of climate change to a “Scopes monkey trial.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the world’s largest business lobby is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a public hearing to defend its endangerment finding, which determined that greenhouse gases are pollutants that pose a threat to public health and welfare and can therefore be regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

The Times describes what the Chamber has in mind:

Chamber officials say it would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” — complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

“It would be evolution versus creationism,” said William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. “It would be the science of climate change on trial.”

In a press release, the advocacy group Republicans for Environmental Protection bristled at the Chamber’s apparent swipe at creationists, and what the group called “a cynical attempt to pit science against religion.”

“The Scopes trial is a false comparison. Regardless of what one believes about the earth’s origins, the facts about the global carbon cycle do not change. Excess carbon is stored away in coal and oil deposits. By burning large quantities of coal and oil, we release that excess carbon back into the atmosphere, upsetting the natural balance,” said David Jenkins, the group’s vice president for government and political affairs. “The chamber’s efforts are both imprudent and impious.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Jenkins penned an article titled “God’s Climate Plan” [PDF], which argues that Christians should be concerned about climate change.

If the Chamber is indeed taking a shot at creationism, they’re probably alienating many core supporters. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, some 60 percent of Republicans believe that humans were created “as is” within the last 10,000 years, compared with 38 percent of Democrats. This belief is soundly refuted by the overwhelming empirical evidence that shows that humans evolved over millions of years. ...
Are climate change deniers like creationists?

New Amazonian reserve saves over a million acres in Peru

On August 27th Peru's Ministry of the Environment approved the creation of the Matses National Reserve to protect the region's biodiversity, ensure its natural resources, and preserve the home of the Matses indigenous peoples (known as the Mayorunas in Brazil). The park is 1,039,390 acres (or 420,626 hectares) of lowland Amazonian rainforest in eastern Peru. The park is the culmination of over a decade of work by the local non-profit CEDIA (the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) funded in part by the Worldland Trust. …

New Amazonian reserve saves over a million acres in Peru

Friday, August 28, 2009

URGENT- Your Comments Needed to Help Marlin & Bluefin Tuna by Aug. 31st

Bluefins and blue marlin need your help. Public comment period ends Monday.

The highest level of marlin bycatch in the U.S. is taken by U.S. pelagic longline vessels in the Gulf of Mexico targeting yellowfin tuna. According to NOAA observer data, the bycatch of documented discarded billfish in the Gulf in 2007 and 2008 included 1031 billfish caught, with 400 dead discards, 589 live releases, 36 lost, and 7 unknown condition.

And the only offshore Atlantic species in worse shape than marlin is the North Atlantic bluefin tuna. Yet this summer, the National Marine Fisheries Management Service (NMFS) issued a notice that they may allow longliners in the Gulf of Mexico to take even more bluefin where they are spawning, catch even more swordfish and encourage more longline effort into the marlin spawning season.

“Directed” fishing for bluefins or marlin while targeting swordfish and yellowfin tuna is illegal. But longliners are allowed to keep up to three bluefins as “bycatch,” and the fish are worth so much on the market they are incentivized to set out miles and miles of baited hooks in the bluefin’s only known spawning aggregation in the Western Atlantic, the gyres off the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico. ...

A broad coalition of fishing and conservation groups see this threat as an opportunity to judo-flip longline industry pressure on NMFS into a ban of pelagic longlining in the Gulf of Mexico, at least during bluefin spawning season (February through May), and marlin spawning season, which occurs in the late spring and summer months. ...

Public comment on the proposed bluefin and swordfish rule changes ends Monday, August 31. Bluefin, marlin and the many types of bycatch including sea turtles need your support. Please send NMFS a strong, two-fold message: 1, You demand an extension of the public comment period so that you have adequate time to make detailed comments; 2, You oppose increases in allowable bluefin bycatch; and 3, You want to see the spawning areas of bluefin tuna and marlin closed to longlining. ...

You can copy the attached letter (scroll down) and modify it as you see fit and email it to the NMFS, USFWS and also to your Congressmen and Senators. It is time they realize that the recreational billfishing community, which also fishes for tunas in the Gulf, is one that needs to be counted and its economic impact and voluntary conservation ethic appreciated. ...

Margo Schulze-Haugen, Chief
NMFS Office of Highly Migratory Species

Rosemarie GnamChief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Last Chance for the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna?

Single molecule's stunning image

Researchers have imaged single molecules in unprecedented detail, showing the chemical bonds that hold them together.

Pentacene molecule image. Even the bonds to the hydrogen atoms at the pentacene's periphery can be seen. (IBM) 

The detailed chemical structure of a single molecule has been imaged for the first time, say researchers.

The physical shape of single carbon nanotubes has been outlined before, using similar techniques - but the new method even shows up chemical bonds.

Understanding structure on this scale could help in the design of many things on the molecular scale, particularly electronics or even drugs.

The IBM researchers report their findings in the journal Science.

It is the same group that in July reported the feat of measuring the charge on a single atom. …

Single molecule's stunning image

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Yet another major poll finds ‘broad support’ for clean energy and climate bill

From Climate Progress:

Washington Post-ABC News Poll

My key takeaway from the new ABC-WashPost pollA lot of people understand energy prices are going up if we do nothing. In fact, 36% of 1001 voters polled believe “the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy” won’t make much of a difference on energy costs and 16% it will decrease them.  And this in spite of relentless negative messaging to the contrary from the disinformers.

Many Americans understand the “do nothing” energy tax, since they saw that annual energy costs under President Bush jumped over $1000 (see here).  Americans understand that our rising dependence on oil and our inaction on climate change are untenable.  And they really, really believe in clean energy and understand that oil companies and Republicans have been blocking action for a long time.

The Post piece on the poll, “On Energy, Obama Finds Broad Support” has a great quote:

“Something definitely has to be done,” said Marian Eldridge, a former legal secretary from East Windsor, N.J., who participated in the survey. “Anything’s worth a try at this point.” She said she tries to “ignore the politics; you get discouraged.” But she said that higher energy costs were “inevitable” and that “we’re too dependent on other countries.” …

Yet another major poll finds “broad support” for clean energy and climate bill: “Support for the plan among independents has increased slightly.”

Plastics patch found across 1,700 miles of Pacific

A ghost net floats in the Pacific Ocean, August 11, 2009. Ocean scientists recently back from a voyage to the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' said on Thursday they had found plastic debris strewn across a 1,700-mile long stretch of open sea. REUTERS / J. Leichter / Scripps Institution of Oceanography / Handout 

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ocean scientists recently back from a voyage to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" said on Thursday they had found plastic debris strewn across a 1,700-mile (2,700-km) long stretch of open sea.

The research team from the three-week Seaplex expedition said more work remains to be done to determine the full extent of the trash vortex, how it affects marine life and how it might safely be removed from the ocean.

Cleanup will be difficult because the "vast majority of things we saw were small, about the size of your thumbnail or smaller," Miriam Goldstein, the expedition's chief scientist, told reporters at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

"We found a lot of particles that were about the size of the animals that are living out there, so that would certainly present a challenge to removing those particles," she said.

The 172-foot (52-meter) research vessel New Horizon returned to shore last Friday from a trip to the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, a giant eddy-like expanse of sea about midway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

Debris winds up concentrated there by circular, clockwise ocean currents that form an oblong-shaped "convergence zone."

"Our human footprint is now apparent in even one of the most remote places on the planet," said Doug Woodring, director of Project Kaisei, which co-sponsored the Seaplex study. …

Plastics patch found across 1,700 miles of Pacific

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Shard: Vertical city will tower over London

 the shard, london, london bridge station, skyscraper, natural ventilation, public transport, train station

Construction has begun on the Shard, a skyscraper that will be the tallest building in Western Europe and will provide amazing views of London. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (who was also responsible for the California Academy of Sciences), the Shard was inspired by towering church spires and the masts of ships that once anchored on the Thames. The new mixed-use development is located in the heart of London Bridge Quarter and will sit adjacent to the London Bridge Station, one of the busiest train stations in London. …

The Shard: Vertical City Will Tower Over London

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Launch for amphibian 'life raft'

 Dendrobates azureus - R.A.Mittermeier

By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Conservationists have launched a new initiative aimed at safeguarding the world's amphibians from extinction.

The Amphibian Survival Alliance will bring together existing projects and organisations, improving co-ordination, scientific research and fund-raising.

About a third of amphibian species are threatened with extinctions.

A two-day summit held last week in London identified the two main threats as destruction of habitat and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.

"The world's amphibians are facing an uphill battle for survival," said James Collins, co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) co-ordinated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"By far the worst threats are infectious disease and habitat destruction, so the Alliance will focus on these issues first." ...

"If we want to stop the amphibian extinction crisis, we have to protect the areas where amphibians are threatened by habitat destruction," said Claude Gascon, the Amphibian Specialist Group's other co-chair.

"One of the reasons amphibians are in such dire straits is because many species are only found in single sites and are therefore much more susceptible to habitat loss." …

Launch for amphibian 'life raft'

Crazy green-energy ideas that just might work

So far these are mostly concepts, but we may be using them in the future

Snakes in a wave. Courtesy of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

By John Roach, contributor

Fields of windmills spinning in the breeze and deserts covered with solar panels are familiar options for renewable energy. But they are far from the only technologies under consideration. Click the "Next" arrow above to check out six other green energy ideas that are so wacky they just might work. …

Crazy green-energy ideas that just might work

Islay to be entirely powered by tides

Exclusive: ScottishPower is to build turbines in the Sound of Islay that will generate enough electricity for the island's 3,500 inhabitants – and its famous distilleries

Philip Maxwell, chairman of the Islay Energy Trust, by the Sound of Islay where the ScottishPower turbines will be sited. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/Murdo MacLeod

By Tim Webb

ScottishPower is planning a tidal energy project that will supply all the electricity for one of Scotland's most famous islands, the Guardian can reveal.

The company is close to signing a supply contract with Diageo, the drinks group, to provide electricity from the project to eight distilleries and maltings on Islay – including the makers of the renowned Laphroaig and Lagavulin whiskies.

The 10MW tidal project, one of the world's largest, will provide enough electricity for Islay's 3,500 inhabitants for 23 hours a day.

ScottishPower will submit a planning application in the next couple of months and expects the ten 30-metre underwater turbines to be operational in 2011. The turbines will cost about £50m to install.

The tidal waters in the Sound of Islay, the channel dividing Islay from the Jura, move at up to three metres a second. …

Islay to be entirely powered by tides

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Revealed: 5 "grassroots" groups funded by Dirty Energy


Photo via Kentucky Coal

If a band of coal and oil execs decided to spread the message about the evils of climate bill—how it would force them to close refineries and coal plants, cause miners to lose their jobs, and "cripple our economy"—who would pay attention? If they showed up to anti-climate bill rallies--in limos, perhaps—to talk about how the climate bill was going to cost them 23 cents a day to kick start an attempt to avert global disaster, would anyone care? 'Course not. That's why these dirty energy execs have rounded up 'regular folks' (like their employees) to spread the message for them. They've organized a slew of fake 'citizen groups' whose aim is to appear like they're just a band of riled up everyday people who firmly believe the climate bill will destroy everything they hold dear.

These following groups are nothing but fronts whipped up by big oil and coal to protect their interests…

Revealed: 5 "Grassroots" Groups Funded by Dirty Energy

Monday, August 24, 2009

Carbon negative hemp walls are 7x stronger than concrete

 sustainable design, green design, hemcrete, building materials, concrete, green building, architecture, carbon negative concrete, tradical

Buildings account for thirty-eight percent of the CO2 emissions in the U.S., according to the U.S. Green Building Council, and demand for carbon neutral and/or zero footprint buildings is at an all-time high. Now there is a new building material that is not just carbon neutral, but is actually carbon negative. Developed by U.K.-based Lhoist Group, Tradical® Hemcrete® is a concrete substitute made from hemp, lime and water. What makes it carbon negative? There is more CO2 locked-up in the process of growing and harvesting of the hemp than is released in the production of the lime binder. Of course the equation is more complicated than that, but Hemcrete® is still an amazing new technology that could change the building industry. …

Carbon Negative Hemp Walls are 7x Stronger than Concrete

Low-carb diets linked to atherosclerosis and impaired blood vessel growth

(Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) Even as low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets have proven successful at helping individuals to rapidly lose weight, little is known about the diets' long-term effects on vascular health. Now, a study led by a scientific team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds a significant increase in atherosclerosis in mice that were fed a low-carb diet. …

Low-carb diets linked to atherosclerosis and impaired blood vessel growth

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Ex-Enron speechwriter starts new anti-climate action group

Will we never be rid of these Enron apparatchiks?

enron climate group image

 Image via AEA

Add another name onto the growing list of dubious groups rising to combat the effort for clean energy reform: the American Energy Alliance. It's touring the country with the tired 'nonpartisan' message that passing the climate bill would cripple the economy. But this one's got an exceptionally sleazy pedigree--it was founded by a think tank run by Robert Bradley, who's the ex-speechwriter for Enron. …

Ex-Enron Speechwriter Starts New Anti-Climate Action Group

Sunday, August 23, 2009

E. O. Wilson: We must save the living environment

Saving Earth's biodiversity will take nothing less than an IPCC for species, says the world's leading biologist and ant guru

Let's talk Wilson's Law (Image: Jim Harrison / <a href="">PloS (PDF) </a>) 

By Roger Highfield

What's this idea all about?

It sounds immodest but I call it Wilson's law. It says that if you save the living environment, you will automatically save the physical environment. But if you only try to save the physical environment, you will lose them both. That is a defensible law.

So we need a major rethink?

When we talk about the world going green, the media and the public think of pollution or fresh-water shortage. They understand, and want to do something. But that is the physical world; concern for the living environment has been slow to take off, as Julia Marton-Lefèvre, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will agree. We are not making the headway we should be in preventing the destruction of ecosystems and species. I have written book after book arguing that if we don't start caring about holding onto them, we will have big problems - some unforeseeable. Most Americans have only the vaguest notion about any of that, even though they can talk intelligently about climate change. Yet when it comes to the living world they are in danger of losing something they scarcely understand. …

E. O. Wilson: We must save the living environment

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Iraq War veterans unite to fight for climate bill


Image via Operation Free

With the oil industry pushing its "Energy Citizen" rallies into the national spotlight, a group of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come together to fight the pro-oil thrust. They've formed a coalition called Operation Free. Their message? That it's time for Americans to free themselves from dependence on fossil fuels -- especially foreign oil. And it's time to pass a climate bill.

The Operation Free website describes their missions as thus:

We're a coalition of leading Veterans and national security organizations who recognize that climate change is a major threat, and support fast, bold action. It is time for Americans to rise to the challenge, and we're taking on the fight. …

Iraq War Veterans Unite to Fight for Climate Bill

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watching stem cells repair the human brain

There is no known cure for neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But new hope, in the form of stem cells created from the patient's own bone marrow, can be found ― and literally seen ― in laboratories at Tel Aviv University.

Dr. Yoram Cohen of TAU's School of Chemistry has recently proven the viability of these innovative stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, using in-vivo MRI. Dr. Cohen has been able to track their progress within the brain, and initial studies indicate they can identify unhealthy or damaged tissues, migrate to them, and potentially repair or halt cell degeneration. His findings have been reported in the journal Stem Cells.

"By monitoring the motion of these cells, you get information about how viable they are, and how they can benefit the tissue," he explains. "We have been able to prove that these stem cells travel within the brain, and only travel where they are needed. They read the chemical signalling of the tissue, which indicate areas of stress. And then they go and try to repair the situation."

To test the capabilities of this innovative new stem cells, Dr. Cohen created a study to track the activity of the live cells within the brain using the in-vivo MRI at the Strauss Centre for Computational Neuro-Imaging. Watching the live, active cells has been central to establishing their viability as a therapy for neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Cohen and his team of researchers took magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles and used them to label the stem cells they tested. When injected into the brain, they could then be identified as clear black dots on an MRI picture. The stem cells were then injected into the brain of an animal that had an experimental model of Huntington's disease. These animals suffer from a similar neuropathology as the one seen in human Huntington's patients, and therefore serve as research tool for the disease.

On MRI, it was possible to watch the stem cells migrating towards the diseased area of the brain. "Cells that go toward a certain position that needs to be rescued are the best indirect proof that they are live and viable," explains Dr. Cohen. "If they can migrate towards the target, they are alive and can read chemical signalling."

This study is based on differentiated mesenchymal cells (MSC), which were discovered at Tel Aviv University. Bone marrow cells are transformed into NTFs-secreting stem cells, which can then be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases. This advance circumvents the ethical debate caused by the use of stem cells obtained from embryos. …

Watching stem cells repair the human brain

Ink found in Jurassic-era squid

The ink sac in the rock and the drawing Pic: British Geological Survey

Palaeontologists have drawn with ink extracted from a preserved fossilised squid uncovered during a dig in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

The fossil, thought to be 150 million years old, was found when a rock was cracked open, revealing the one-inch-long black ink sac.

A picture of the creature and its Latin name was drawn using its ink.

Dr Phil Wilby of the British Geological Survey said it was an ancient creature similar to the modern-day squid.

"The structure is similar to ink from a modern squid so we can write with it," he said. …

Ink found in Jurassic-era squid

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‘Energy Citizens’ and Big Oil’s Astroturf campaign against climate-change legislation

Big Oil’s attempt to “Town Hall” the Waxman-Markey ACES bill, taking a page from Big Pharma.

Yesterday the Public Citizen Texas team drove down to Houston to crash the American Petroleum Institute’s Energy Citizen event.  Billed as a “grassroots” rally against the cap and trade bill currently before Congress, this event was nothing more than a company picnic.

About 2500 energy employees were brought by charter bus to the Verizon Wireless Theater, a private location that could be easily secured to keep undesirables out.  David, Ryan, and Andy were all denied access, but stealthily dressed in Banana Republic and spectator pumps, I was able to blend in with the crowd and slip into the hot dog line.

Inside the theater it became evident quickly what a polished, professional event this was.  Right at the door you could pick up a bright yellow t-shirt with a clever slogan on it like “I’ll pass on $4 gas”, “I’m an Energy Citizen!”, and “Congress, Don’t Take Away My Job!”  The same lines could also be found on bumper stickers and the same kinds of cardboard signs you would wave at a football game. …

Houston’s Energy Citizens Company Picnic

Our intrepid friends at Public Citizen tried to attend the astroturf “Energy Citizens” rally yesterday in Houston.  We’re busy pulling together our bloggings and all the footage we shot, but keep checking back here for updates throughout the day.

We were not allowed in the meeting, as we did not work for an energy company, but we managed to sneak some great footage before being escorted out and being told to leave the premises.

We have:

Footage of the 34 busses used to bring people into the rally from different energy companies.

Normal Citizens who weren”t good enough to be “Energy Citizens”– people who weren’t allowed in the meeting, as this was for energy company employees only!  Interviews include lots of crazy conservative teabaggers who hate cap and trade (I understand why Public Citizen and Sierra Club might not be allowed in– why weren’t even they allowed?), nice ladies who were escorted out of the building because they dared to bring American flags to the rally (why does Big Oil hate America?), and lots of people angry at oil companies because they’re hiding this from the public.

“Energy Company Employees Say the Darndest Things” — watch as your friends in the oil and gas industry display ignorance as to the salient details of the ACES bill and spout misinformation about it, or, the people who do know a lot about the bill talk about how it’s a bad piece of legislation because of corporate giveaways to the coal industry!  Here’s one quick tidbit: …

Big Oil Astroturf rally in Houston more company picnic than grassroots campaign

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Australian solar-powered air conditioner up to 12 times more efficient

Federal grant to help achieve commercial launch by 2011

By Yvonne Chan in Hong Kong, BusinessGreen

An Australian company has said it is developing a solar-powered air conditioner that it claims is 12 times more energy efficient than conventional models.

Air Change, a Sydney-based maker of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, last month received an A$458,000 (US$377,800, £230,600) grant from the federal government to help put its solar-powered invention into commercial production by 2011.

The company says its Green Machine air con eliminates the need for compressors and ozone-depleting refrigerants. Instead of using an electrical compressor found in conventional models, Air Change's technology uses a solar-powered thermal compressor.

The compressor uses ejector cooling technology in which compressed air expands out of a jet that sucks refrigerant and air into a line. The jet then expels the air at a much cooler temperature. The refrigerant is recirculated and recompressed. Any form of refrigerant, including water, can be used.

Air Change said it has designed models for both homes and commercial buildings, and that The Green Machine can be installed in new properties and also be retrofitted into existing structures. …

Australian solar-powered air con uses sun to beat the heat

13th forged letter opposing climate legislation arrives for Rep. Perriello

This could get uglier than the healthcare astroturfing.

By Brian McNeill, Media General News Service
Published: August 19, 2009

A congressional investigation has turned up yet another fraudulent letter sent to U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, this one forged to appear as if it was sent by the Senior Center in Albemarle County in opposition to climate change legislation.

In response to the ongoing scandal, a watchdog group called Tuesday for new laws to crack down on such phony grassroots campaigns. A similar measure was defeated in 2007 in the Senate after pressure from lobbying firms in what has been called a “misinformation campaign.”

The latest forgery brings the total number of bogus letters sent to Perriello and two other congressmen to 13, representing a total of nine community groups in Charlottesville and in Pennsylvania.

All of the letters were sent by a Washington “grassroots” lobbying firm on behalf of a pro-coal advocacy group in mid-June and urged the congressmen to vote in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

“Dear Congressman Perriello,” the latest forged letter reads. “My organization, Senior Center Inc., represents seniors in your district. You are about to vote on important environmental legislation (the Waxman-Markey bill). We support making the environment cleaner, but the reason we are writing is that we are concerned about our electric bills. Many seniors, as you know, are on low fixed incomes. The cost to heat and cool our homes, run hot water and use other appliances is very important to those on a budget.”

The bogus letter was signed by “Peter M. Thompon [sic], Executive Director, Henry County Senior Services.”

The real-life Peter Thompson, executive director of the Senior Center Inc., said he is “outraged” that a lobbying firm would falsely appropriate the Senior Center’s logo and reputation in opposition to a bill before Congress. …

13th bogus letter sent to Perriello

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Absence of water: abandoned pools

Soho Marshall Pool, London (photo by Gigi Cifali)

By Claire O'Neill

At least in Washington, D.C., today feels like the swampiest, most oppressively hot day of the year. And in the impossible attempt to beat the heat, this collection of photos somehow seems appropriate: Gigi Cifali, London-based photographer, has a series depicting abandoned swimming pools that practically scoff at the idea of cooling off.

These photos are part of an ongoing series called "Absence of Water." Cifali, originally trained as a topographer in Naples, is interested in creating a historical archive of derelict public pools in the United Kingdom. These pools, first built in the late Victorian period, reached the height of popularity in the 1930s. But an increasing number have recently fallen into decay -- either because of diminishing civic funds or general lack of interest. …

Absence Of Water: Abandoned Pools

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Empty car parks in London to sprout vegetable plots

By Miranda Bryant

A London council is converting its disused spaces into areas for local people to grow produce in an attempt to make its food supply sustainable by 2050.

Hundreds of unused and abandoned spaces in Enfield are to be converted into fruit and vegetable plots in the hope of the area becoming "London's breadbasket".

Informal growing spaces around the borough, such as car parks, disused garages and empty spaces around blocks of flats, are to be converted into vegetable plots, while two of its rundown parks will become community orchards. The scheme is part of a borough-wide strategy announced today with the aim of reinvigorating food networks and improving sustainability.

"The potential Enfield has for helping to feed itself and London is huge," said council leader Mike Rye. "We have a great agricultural and market garden heritage to build on - in years to come Enfield could become known as the capital's breadbasket."

As part of the £50,000 council-funded scheme, up to 120 trees - including apple, pear, plum and hazelnut - will be planted across two sites.

Community groups will decide what they want to plant and whether they want to sell the produce or eat it themselves. …

Empty car parks to sprout vegetable plots

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Save our rainforest friends!

The Rainforest Friends ethical range of cuddly, super-large toys are our way of showing we care about the plight of endangered animals struggling to survive in the Rainforest today. With every Rainforest Friend toy sold, we’ll make a contribution on your behalf to the World Land Trust charity whose patron is Sir David Attenborough.

August 2009 — Lockhard Conservation Toys have created a loveable, ethical and educational range called Rainforest Friends. The super cuddly large toy collection is designed to raise awareness and funds for the plight of our much loved yet critically endangered species that live in the worlds most threatened habitats.

Every Rainforest Friend sold benefits the World Land Trust whose patron is Sir David Attenborough. The money raised helps protect our diminishing rainforests, to ensure a safe future for some of our best-loved animals. World Land Trust works with local people to purchase and protect their rainforest habitats. …

Rainforest Friends, loveable toys retail at £28.95 and are available at

Save Our Rainforest Friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wireless power standard almost here, named Qi (of all things)


We're not sure whether to chalk this up to the fact that every good brand name is already taken, or to some folks' delight in torturing us with obscure pronunciation -- but whatever the case may be, it looks like the Wireless Power Consortium have finally come up with a spec for Wireless Power, and for it they're using a name (and logo) probably dreamt up after repeat viewings of Big Trouble in Little China: Qi. …

The Qi standard applies to devices 5 watts and below, and members of the consortium include Duracell, National Semiconductor, Olympus, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, ST-Ericsson, and Shenzhen Sangfei Consumer Communications. …

Wireless power standard almost here, named Qi (of all things)

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Rep. Markey reveals 5 more forged astroturf letters

So this is how the coal industry is going to play it.

Via Think Progress:


Last month, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) announced a congressional investigation of the DC lobbying firm Bonner & Associates. The firm, which has a long history of astroturfing, was caught forging anti-clean energy reform letters — purportedly from groups representing women and people of color — to Congress. Coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy was eventually revealed to be Bonner’s client in the anti-clean energy campaign. Now, more forged letters have been uncovered.

Today, Markey revealed five new letters, and dozens more may be out there. According to a statement from Markey’s office, the faked letters came from “elderly services and senior centers” and were sent to Democratic Reps. Tom Periello (VA), Kathy Dahlkemper (PA), and Christopher Carney (PA): …

Rep. Markey reveals 5 more forged astroturf letters

Some algae biofuel news

Sustainable Green Technologies (SGT) a start-up company in Escondido, California announced today that it has discovered a highly effective and low cost way to massively increase algal oil production. Metabolic engineering research conducted at SGT over the past two years paid off when SGT scientists uncovered the elusive and long sought after “lipid trigger” in green algae. Usually algae store excess harvested solar energy in the form of starch and in smaller amounts as lipid droplets within their cells. But under certain ideal conditions, many microalgae appear to flip a switch to turn on massive production and storage of oils instead of starch. The true nature of this metabolic switch as well as the conditions which activate (or trigger) the switch remained elusive. Now SGT is able to activate the switch at will and to create “obese algae.” This breakthrough technology supports the U.S. Advanced Energy Initiative - which seeks to diversify the U.S. energy portfolio and to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

“We uncovered the algae oil lipid trigger almost by accident,” notes Dr. Elmar Schmid, SGT’s CSO. "We were looking for new and rational uses of a waste stream from our biohydrogen technology. We found the waste from our biohydrogen system sparked tremendous growth of our green algae, and more importantly, massively increased lipid production and storage within our algae. In other words, our algae became obese within one week! We now have a highly efficient, cost-effective way of producing large amounts of algae oils for biodiesel fuel production. On top of that, we can produce clean biohydrogen from the resulting biodiesel refinery waste!” exclaims Dr. Schmid. …

Calif. startup announces algae breakthrough

A Cambridge, Massachusetts-based start-up has emerged from stealth operations with a process that it says can produce transportation fuel from sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) without the need for growing biomass like corn, switchgrass or algae. Joule Biotechnologies, Inc. says it has achieved a bioengineering breakthrough that can harnesses sunlight to directly convert CO2 into liquid energy. Joule said its uses highly-engineered photosynthetic organisms in a process that requires no agriculture land or fresh water to produce 20,000 gallons of renewable ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre annually. The company revealed few details claiming the need to protect trade secrets at this point in time, but promised that its first product will be available in 2010. Joule's chief executive Bill Sims told the Wall Street Journal: "We're not a biofuel company, because biofuels are biomass-derived; our technology leverages a highly synthetic organism to create transportation fuels and chemicals. We don't have an intermediary that has to be grown or transported, it's a direct-to-product process."

Sustainable Business News

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Spokane Co. high-phosphate detergent ban working

Lake Spokane (Long Lake)


SPOKANE, Wash. -- A year after Spokane County became the only place in the country to ban phosphate-laden dishwashing detergents, new data shows the effort appears to be working.

Water coming into Spokane's sewage plant during the first 12 months of the ban had nearly 11 percent less phosphorus than the annual average the previous three years, the Spokesman-Review reported.

Mike Coster, the plant's operations superintendent, says the new law won't have much of an effect on water flowing from the plant into the river since treatment removes much of the phosphorous.

But it will have a bigger impact on homes on septic or drain field systems, where water and phosphorous filter back into groundwater, he said.

"Any phosphorus reduction you can see there is going to have benefit to the river," Coster said. "It's not the total answer, but it's one step."

Spokane County, along with Whatcom County, prohibits the sale of dishwasher detergents with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. That ban will extend to the rest of the state next July. …

Spokane Co. high-phosphate detergent ban working

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Vast majority of dollar bills in US capital bear cocaine traces

The US capital has the highest level of banknotes that have traces of cocaine

The largest study of banknotes has found that 95% of dollar bills in Washington DC bear traces of the illegal drug cocaine.

The figure for the US capital is up 20% over two years.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth tested notes from more than 30 cities worldwide.

They say the rise observed in the US may be due to increased drug use caused by higher stress levels linked to the global economic downturn.

Bank notes can pick up traces of cocaine directly from users snorting it through rolled up bills or when cash is stacked together. …

Vast majority of dollar bills in US capital bear cocaine traces

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Inhabitat’s top five ‘green’ buildings that defeat the point of being green

greenwashed buildings, greenwash architecture, greenwash green building, top 5 most ridiculous 'green' buildings, greenwashed buildings, green buildings that defeat the purpose of being green, green buildings that aren't 

It’s thrilling to see so many new constructions striving to be as eco-conscious as they possibly can, but beware. What looks green on the surface of things can belie another story entirely when you dig a little deeper. Here we reveal what we believe to be the most ridiculous cases of architectural greenwashing we’ve seen so far. …

Top Five ‘Green’ Buildings That Defeat The Point of Being Green

Regulators curb longline fishing in Gulf of Mexico to protect sea turtles

By ALLISON WINTER of Greenwire

Federal regulators voted last night to impose tough new restrictions on the commercial longline fishing fleet in the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to protect marine turtles.

The new fishery-management plan would close certain areas, restrict fishing to boats that have brought in large catches in the past and reduce the number of hooks that can be used during fishing trips.

Commercial fishing representatives said the changes would cut the longline fleet in half.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's approval of the closure last night in Alabama sends the plan to the National Marine Fisheries Service for a final OK.

Longliner fleets string miles of line with thousands of hooks. They catch about two-thirds of the commercial grouper served in restaurants and sold at seafood counters. The practice has come under fire in the past year since a federal report found it kills more protected loggerhead turtles than previously thought. The report estimated that longliners snared nearly 1,000 turtles between July 2006 and December 2008 -- well above the permitted rate of 114 per three years.

The council temporarily shut down the longline fishery earlier this summer, and environmental groups sued the federal government in an effort to force more stringent protections for turtles. A new federal report this week found that U.S. loggerhead populations are at risk of extinction.

Environmentalists called the new fishing restrictions a "victory" for the loggerhead.

"[The] vote is a signal from the council that it's possible to craft fisheries management plans to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles while maintaining viable commercial fisheries," Dave Allison, senior campaign director at Oceana, said in a statement. "While Oceana will continue to support additional protections for loggerheads, today's action constitutes a truly significant effort by the council." …

Regulators Curb Longline Fishing in Gulf of Mexico to Protect Sea Turtles

Obama administration takes legal action to uphold roadless rule

Proposed coalbed methane wellpad in a stand of old-growth ponderosa pine, HD Mountains Roadless Area of Colorado. (Photo by Mudspringcreek)

DENVER, Colorado, August 13, 2009 (ENS) - The Obama administration today appealed a Wyoming federal district court ruling that struck down the national roadless rule. The appeal will go to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued just a few days before the end of the Clinton administration, protected 58.5 million acres of America's pristine roadless national forest lands from new road building and timber harvesting.

The appeal filed today is a response to the 2008 ruling by a federal district court judge in Wyoming, who invalidated the roadless rule nationwide. Judge Clarence Brimmer issued a permanent injunction against the rule, saying it violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act.

Judge Brimmer's order already has been appealed by environmental groups. Now, the federal government, a defendant in the case brought by the State of Wyoming, is also appealing it.

The Wyoming case is the last gasp of a decade of litigation by conservation groups and states seeking either to protect or to harvest the roadless national forest lands.

Last week, in a lawsuit brought by 20 environmental groups and four states, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the original Clinton-era roadless rule across the country.

That decision overturned a Bush-era U.S. Forest Service rule that required governors to petition the federal government for protection of roadless areas on national forests in their states.

The 58.5 million acres originally protected under the roadless rule have now shrunk to 40 million acres. …

Obama Administration Takes Legal Action to Uphold Roadless Rule

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Friday, August 14, 2009

After years of decline, Cleveland aims to go green

Mark Seifert (L), and Lindsey Sacher (R), of the non-profit group East Side Organizing Project (ESOP), approach a home in the Cleveland, Ohio neighborhood of Slavic Village in this picture taken February 8, 2008. REUTERS / Nick Carey

By Nick Carey

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Orchards and vineyards may soon spring from the blight of thousands of abandoned buildings in Cleveland, a city struggling to rise from years of decline and home foreclosures.

Once a proud manufacturing powerhouse, Cleveland has lost nearly 10 percent of its population since 2000, the fastest drop of any U.S. city except for hurricane-hit New Orleans.

The city which was once America's fifth largest now ranks 41st in the U.S. Census with a population of 433,748.

"The first thing we must do is stabilize our housing market," said Jim Rokakis, treasurer of Cuyahoga County which includes greater Cleveland. "Then we'll need to work out what to do with all the vacant land we'll be left with."

The county has 36,000 abandoned homes that are a magnet for crime. As many as 18,000 must be demolished at a cost of several hundred million dollars. Proposals for the empty land include orchards and vineyards to help property prices recover, as few expect the city's population decline to reverse.

"This isn't a market for new housing," said Mark Seifert, executive director of local nonprofit the East Side Organizing Project. "And it certainly won't be in my lifetime." …

After years of decline, Cleveland aims to go green

Leaked memo: Oil lobby's ‘Energy Citizens’ Astroturf campaign exposed before launch

An internal memo obtained recently by Greenpeace USA details polluting interests’ plans to launch a nationwide Astroturf campaign attacking climate legislation at public events scheduled throughout the final weeks of recess before the Senate returns to debate the issue in September.
The email memo (download a PDF copy), which appears to come from the desk of American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard, asks API’s member companies to recruit employees, retirees, vendors and contractors to attend “Energy Citizen” rallies in key Congressional districts nationwide in the closing weeks of the August recess.  The campaign plan places a special focus on 21 states picked by API for having “a significant industry presence” or “assets on the ground.”

Taking a page from the playbook of Astroturf campaigners currently crashing health care town hall events across the country, API hopes to similarly sully productive communications between Congressmembers and their actual constituents at public events scheduled for the coming weeks.  Gerard states that API is ready to bus in company members and provide logistical support, and reveals that API has retained “a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups.” …

Leaked Memo - Oil Lobby's ‘Energy Citizens’ Astroturf Campaign Exposed Before Launch

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Amazing designs built with living trees

krubsack_chairHere’s an idea for environmentally friendly, carbon-absorbing architecture and design: structures and sculptures built with living trees.

A concept sometimes called arborsculpture, the idea is based on bending and sometimes grafting together young trees to form useful shapes and structures such as stools, tables, benches and even houses. One of the earliest known practitioners of the craft was an American named John Krubsack, who harvested his grown chair in 1914.  In some cultures, the idea goes even further, by centuries, back.

Today, a number of people and companies are promoting arborsculpture as a green way to create functional, carbon-sequestering items and homes. Among the designs created with living trees:


Tree stool

Briton Christopher Cattle calls his designs “grown furniture” and says, “Growing furniture isn’t going to save the planet, but it can show that it’s possible to create genuinely useful things without adding to the pollution that industry inevitably seems to produce.”


Tree hut

“Arbosculptor” Richard Reames not only creates a variety of  items using living trees, but has written two books on the subject, including Arborsculpture: Solutions for a Small Planet. Among the living structures he highlights on his Website, Arborsmith Studios, is a grown gazebo located in a park on Okinawa. …

Amazing designs built with living trees

Wild salmon return to the River Seine for the first time in almost a century

The Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral from the left bank, Paris, France, 2009 file pic. Pollution of the Seine hit salmon numbers after World War I.

Wild salmon are returning to the River Seine for the first time in almost a century, French scientists say.

Historically, Salmo salar - or Atlantic salmon - used to migrate up the Seine river for part of the year to spawn.

But increased pollution of the water and the building of dams after World War I saw their number dwindle.

By 1995, the salmon were gone, and only four species of fish braved the Seine's dirty waters, which washed up hundreds of tonnes of dead fish a year.

But a major clean-up project in the past 15 years - including the building of a water purification plant - has turned the tide for the river's marine life.

Now the Atlantic salmon - listed as an endangered species throughout Europe - is back, as attested by anglers who have netted sizeable specimens from the river in recent months. …

Cleaner Seine hosts salmon again

July sees big jump in fuel efficiency of new cars


WASHINGTON — Cars and light trucks sold in July got more miles per gallon than those sold in previous months, say researchers, who credit the Cash for Clunkers program.

The average mileage for new vehicles rose from 21.4 miles per gallon in June to 22.1 mpg in July. That may not sound like much, but it's the highest mileage researchers at the University of Michigan have seen since the Environmental Protection Agency reconfigured mileage estimates in October 2007. It's also the biggest one-month jump.

Study co-author Michael Sivak noted the improvement came even as gas prices fell and unemployment levels shrank somewhat. Normally, those factors lead to the purchase of more gas guzzlers. The higher mileage shows the effect of Cash for Clunkers, Sivak said, and he expects the jump to be even bigger when August figures come out. That's because the trade-in rebate program only got going late in July.

The clunkers program gives people trading in certain vehicles up to $4,500 if they increase their mileage by at least 5 to 10 mpg. …

July sees big jump in fuel efficiency of new cars

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Tacoma biomass plant starts churning power

A Tacoma plant that generates power by using wood waste products recovered from the paper pulping process has started generating commercial power.

According to plant owner Simpson Tacoma Kraft Co. LLC, the plant still produces liner board and paper pulp, but the 55-megawatt power generator, which cost $90 million to build, now generates renewable power that will be used in Sacramento, Calif. The wood waste products generate steam that spins a steam turbine to make the renewable power and power used at the mill. …

New Tacoma biomass plant starts churning power

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"Extinct" booby not so extinct, only wearing mask for disguise

masked booby photo 

 Photo via sly06

It's always good news to find out that an extinct species is actually still hanging around. That's just the case with the booby. Turns out, a species once thought extinct is actually still living - it's simply been wearing a mask and going under a different name. Tricky, tricky. …

"Extinct" Booby Not So Extinct, Only Wearing Mask for Disguise

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Zogby poll confirms that Americans want strong action on climate and energy

A new Zogby poll commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found that 71% of respondents supported the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill recently passed in the House of Representatives.  Only 19% of respondents said they were “strongly opposed” to the House bill, indicating that polluting industries and their front groups have failed in their grandiose efforts to convince the public that the House bill amounted to a sinister, hidden “energy tax”.

Fifty-four percent of respondents to the Zogby poll agree that the Senate needs to act immediately to pass legislation to fight global warming. "We need a new energy plan right now that invests in American, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, in order to create clean energy jobs, address global warming and reduce our dependency on foreign oil," the 54% agreed. …

Zogby Poll Confirms That Americans Want Strong Action on Climate and Energy

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BP signs multi-year development agreement with Martek Biosciences

algae photo 

 photo: Rosa y Dani via flickr

Another fossil fuel company investing in algae: BP has announced that it will be partnering with Martek Biosciences to work on advancing development of conversion of sugars into biodiesel, using Martek's "unique algae-based technologies and intellectual property."…

BP Gets Into Algae: Signs Multi-year Development Agreement with Martek Biosciences

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Greenpeace drops boulders in Swedish waters to protect marine life from bottom trawling 

Activists with Greenpeace have begun placing massive granite rocks in Swedish waters to prevent fishing boats from bottom trawling in sensitive areas.

The organization accuses the Swedish government of failing to protecting the areas of Fladen, Lilla Middlegrund, and Kattegat from bottom trawling, an invasive technique that drags nets along the sea bottom disrupting seabed communities. Sweden has said in the past that the areas in question require protection and they have been listed under Natura 2000, a network of protected areas in the EU.

"The Swedish government needs to fulfil its commitment to protect the area and put a permanent ban on fishing in Fladen and Lilla Middelgrund," said Isadora Wronski, Greenpeace ocean campaigner.

"Throughout Europe, marine protection only exists on paper. Our seas cannot wait any longer, their survival is at stake and politicians need to take action and implement laws that will protect the life of the seas today and for the future," Wronski added, defending Greenpeace’s controversial strategy. …

Greenpeace drops boulders in Swedish waters to protect marine life from bottom trawling

Carbon neutral cement firm ready to build on funding success

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, Tuesday 11 August 2009 at 00:15:00

Fresh from securing £1m in new funding, UK startup outlines plan to roll out CO2 absorbing cement

UK-based startup Novacem announced last week that it has raised £1m in new funding as it seeks to commercialise its carbon absorbing technique for manufacturing cement – a breakthrough that the company claimed could result in a negative carbon footprint for one of the world's most carbon intensive industries.

Currently, the annual production of more than 2.5 billion tonnes of Portland cement is responsible for five per cent of global CO2 emissions, and the sector's carbon footprint is expected to grow with demand for cement volumes expected to double by 2050.

However, Novacem claims that unlike Portland cement, each tonne of cement it produces absorbs three quarters of a tonne more CO2 over its life cycle than it emits.

The company said that its manufacturing process, which was developed based on research undertaken by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Imperial College London, utilises magnesium oxide and special mineral additives that work at lower temperatures than normal cement and ensure that it absorbs atmospheric CO2 as the cement hardens.

Stuart Evans, chairman of Novacem, said that the new investors would help the company expand its research team as it seeks to commercialise the product.

"We are assembling a world-class team and these funds will help us grow the team, complete an initial pilot plant before the end of 2009 and accelerate development and commercialisation," he said. …

Carbon neutral cement firm ready to build on funding success

Friday, August 7, 2009

Solar power towers have maker beaming

Two major California utilities sign on for projects

The 5-megawatt Sierra SunTower solar power plant in Lancaster will use 24,000 mirrors to produce enough power for more than 4,000 homes for Southern California Edison. (eSolar)

As California and the nation seek to make electricity without burning fossil fuels, a new entrant jumped on the grid yesterday by focusing sunlight from 24,000 mirrors on a pair of towers north of Los Angeles.

The 850-degree heat atop the 160-foot towers boiled water, and when the resulting steam spun a turbine on the ground, the plant built by Pasadena-based eSolar became the first commercial solar tower project in the United States.

By utility standards, the Sierra SunTower is small – enough to power about 4,000 homes at its peak 5-megawatt production.

But eSolar has deals in place to build larger plants, about 600 megawatts of peak power production in California and the Southwest, plus a gigawatt in India. To produce more power, each plant would have more towers, up to 16 for each steam turbine.

The company sells the equipment, other firms own the plants and sell the power.

Two of California's biggest utilities, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric, have signed deals to buy their power. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. has not. …

Solar power towers have maker beaming

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