Saturday, February 28, 2009

Big box of trouble: Dealing with the coming plague of empty superstores

The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, is a renovated Kmart

When Circuit City announced last month that it was going out of business, everyone’s concern was naturally with the 34,000 employees that got laid off. Less noted has been the fate of the chain’s 1,500 big box stores scattered across the U.S. and Canada. The company, whose locations average about 25,000 square feet, was an anchor tenant in many malls and shopping centers. With numerous other big retailers teetering, not only are the prospects for filling Circuit City’s spaces gloomy, there will likely be a rash of follow-on closings among neighboring stores. And many analysts think the national retail shakeout is still in its early stages.

The problem of retail vacancies on this scale is so new that it hasn’t really been studied yet. Perhaps the only authority on the subject of empty big box stores is Oberlin College professor and artist Julia Christensen. She has spent the last seven years traveling around the country seeking out and documenting cases of communities reclaiming abandoned big boxes and putting them to a socially productive use–for instance, as museums, libraries, rec centers, and schools. She wrote about it all in her recently published book Big Box Reuse (MIT Press). A few days ago, we got her thoughts on how towns and cities can make beneficial use of these vacant structures and turn a hole in the local fabric into a community asset.

Studying big box reuse is such a timely and fascinating project. How did you get started?
I began the project because I grew up in a small historic town in central Kentucky called Bardstown. It’s very well preserved with over 300 buildings in the national registry of historic places–and meanwhile Wal-Mart has expanded twice there involving three sites in town. The company’s original store, abandoned so they could build a larger structure on the other side of town, remained vacant for about ten years. Eventually the town needed a new courthouse building and they decided to build on that lot. Doing so really changed the civic structure of the town. It was very intriguing. …

Big Box of Trouble: Dealing with the Coming Plague of Empty Superstores

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LEGO Turing Machine

LEGO Turing Machine [Greg Laden's Blog]

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Philippines dealers to cut reef fish exports

This World Wildlife Fund (WWF) handout shows a Filipino worker preparing freshly caught live coral trout for transport to Hong Kong. Live fish traders in the Philippines have accepted a quota plan designed to cut the coral trout catch and prevent a collapse of the reef fish industry, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.(AFP/WWF-HO/File)AFP - Live fish traders in the Philippines have accepted a quota plan designed to cut the coral trout catch and prevent a collapse of the reef fish industry, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.

WWF: Philippines dealers to cut reef fish exports (AFP)

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Scientists meet to save Lascaux cave from fungus

This July 25, 2008 file photo shows part of Lascaux famed cave drawings in southwest France. Geologists, biologists and other scientists convened in Paris Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 for a conference on how to stop the spread of fungus stains, aggravated by global warming, that threaten France's famed Lascaux cave drawings. (AP Photo/Pierre Andrieu, Pool)AP - Geologists, biologists and other scientists convened Thursday in Paris to discuss how to stop the spread of fungus stains — aggravated by global warming — that threaten France's prehistoric Lascaux cave drawings.

Scientists meet to save Lascaux cave from fungus (AP)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

After the crash, Iceland's women lead the rescue

Iceland's prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. Photograph AP Photo/Brynjar Gauti Photograph: Brynjar Gauti/AP 

"We have five core feminine values. First, risk awareness: we will not invest in things we don't understand. Second, profit with principles - we like a wider definition so it is not just economic profit, but a positive social and environmental impact. Third, emotional capital. When we invest, we do an emotional due diligence - or check on the company - we look at the people, at whether the corporate culture is an asset or a liability. Fourth, straight talking. We believe the language of finance should be accessible, and not part of the alienating nature of banking culture. Fifth, independence. We would like to see women increasingly financially independent, because with that comes the greatest freedom to be who you want to be, but also unbiased advice." …

After the crash, Iceland's women lead the rescue

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The Coen brothers do “clean coal”

This so kicks ass:

Sony exhibiting hybrid fuel cell batteries in Tokyo


If you’re in Tokyo tomorrow, make sure to check out Sony’s exhibit at the FC EXPO 2009. The company will display the newest version of its hybrid fuel cell, which contains a Li-on battery and a methanol fuel cell.

Read more of this story »

Sony Exhibiting Hybrid Fuel Cell Batteries in Tokyo

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

10 new technologies that could change the world

From Greenbang:


With so many new technological developments announced every day, which ones show the most promise for society’s future? The editors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review have announced the 10 they believe have the greatest potential.

Released annually, this year’s Technology Review 10″ will be highlighted at the 2 - 3 March EmTech India conference in New Delhi.

So let’s hear the top 10 already, you say? OK, here they are:

  • Liquid battery - MIT chemist Donald Sadoway’s liquid battery could “store enough electricity to allow cities to run on solar power at night”;
  • Traveling-wave reactor - In development by Intellectural Ventures, such a reactor would run on depleted uranium and could make nuclear power both safer and less costly;
  • Paper diagnostic test - Easy-to-use, paper-based medical tests could make it quicker and cheaper to diagnose diseases in developing countries;
  • Biological machines - These include devices such as the wirelessly controlled beetle developed by Michel Maharbiz at the University of California, Berkeley. Such machines could be used for either search-and-rescue or surveillance missions;
  • $100 genome - A nanofluidic chip developed by BioNanomatrix founder Han Cao could dramatically reduce the cost of genome sequencing, making it easier for doctors to administer genetically-specific medical treatment and quickly identify new viruses;
  • Racetrack memory - A new type of data storage that uses magnetic nanowires, racetrack memory could replace existing computer memory technologies and enable a new generation of cheap and tiny portable devices;
  • HashCache - Developed by Princeton University’s Vivek Pai, this new method for storing Web content could make Internet access both faster and more affordable;
  • Intelligent software assistant - In development by Siri, such virtual personal-assistant software could help users interact more effectively with Web services;
  • Software-defined networking - Stanford’s Nick McKeown has created a standard called OpenFlow that enables one-click testing of new networking technologies without interrupting normal service;
  • Nanopiezotronics - Georgia Tech’s Zhong Lin Wang is developing piezoelectric nanowires that can generate electricity from tiny environmental vibrations. Such devices could act as miniature sensors of be used to power implanted medical devices.

10 new technologies that could change the world

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U.S. Interior scraps Bush research oil shale leases

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Bush administration plan for more research, development and demonstration oil shale leases will be scrapped because the proposal is flawed and royalties to the government are too low, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Wednesday.

U.S. Interior scraps Bush research oil shale leases

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Saturday: Earth Hour 2009

Earth Hour 2009

On 28 March 2009 millions of people around the globe will unite for one hour and switch off their lights to show that they care about our living planet.

Cities already listed to participate in Earth Hour 2009 include Cape Town, Chicago, Copenhagen, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Nashville, Oslo, Rome, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto, and Warsaw.

On this special night, the world will witness some of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet dim the lights in support of decisive action on climate change. Icons switching off include the world’s tallest hotel building in Dubai - the Burj Dubai, the tallest free-standing structure in the Americas - the CN Tower in Toronto, Moscow's Federation Tower and in Rome - Quirinale - the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

Auckland's Sky Tower - the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere will go dark, joined by Australia’s iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House and across in Cape Town, South Africa, the iconic Table Mountain will mark Earth Hour by turning off its flood lights.

Earth Hour 2009

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Graph of the Day: Oil production decline rates

From The Oil Drum:

Oil field decline rates, from IEA data

This post offers a kind of reverse engineering of what numbers could be behind the long and detailed IEA decline analysis in their last report (2008 IEA WEO). A tentative decline structure for the post-peak Super-Giant and Giants oilfields is offered as well as a possible scenario for future production. The conclusions are:

  1. It seems that the yearly decline rate of the post-peak resource base may accelerate  to 10% until 2011 and then stabilize back toward 4.35%. This acceleration is due to the rapid decline rates for Large and Small oil fields (around 10%). Coincidentally, this value is the total decline rate value implicitly used by the IEA in their final forecast (see discussion here).
  2. 83.0% of the 2007 conventional oil resource base (69.8 mbpd in 2007) is coming from post-peak fields.
  3. The contribution from Super-Giants, Giants may have reached a broad plateau around 41 mbpd.
  4. Production may slide rapidly over 3-4 years past 2009 due to a short bust in decline of the resource base then reach a gentler decline regime past 2012.  …

Analysis of Decline Rates

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Animation: spread of space debris within a few hours after fragmentation


Animation: spread of space debris within a few hours after fragmentation - Animation

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MIT group increases global warming projections

Report: High odds of warming over 5°C (9°F) if no action

Warming possibilities for "no policy" and policy scenarios between 1990 and 2100. Size of pie slice indicates the likelihood of a given amount of warming under the different scenarios. Graphics courtesy MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

New research from MIT scientists shows that in the absence of stringent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, 21st century climate change may be far more significant than some previous climate assessments had indicated.

The new findings, released this month by MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, showed significantly increased odds that by the end of the century warming would be on the high end of the scale for a so-called "no policy scenario" as compared with similar studies completed just six years ago. The main culprits: the cycling of heat and carbon dioxide in the climate system are now better understood and projections of future greenhouse gas emissions have increased.

The results also showed that even if nations were to act quickly to reduce emissions, it is more likely that warming would be greater than previous studies had shown. However, the increase in projected temperatures under the "policy scenario" was not as large as for the no policy scenario. …

Artificial trees could function as solar-wind harvester


SolarBotanic is a company which researches and specializes in an emerging tech dubbed biomimicry -- which seeks to mimic nature, and use nature-inspired methods to solve human problems. SolarBotanic is focusing on energy production, and, to that end, they've developed what they call Energy Harvesting Trees. The trees aren't "real," (they're just modeled on real ones); these are composed of Nanoleafs, which use nanotechnology designed to capture the "sun's energy in photovoltaic and thermovoltaic cells, then convert the radiation into electricity." They also have stems and twigs which house nano-piezovoltaic material which act as generators producing electricity from movement or kinetic energy caused by wind or rain. The company has several patents on the technology already, and are currently seeking partners for funding and development. We don't really have any details about what these fake trees look like -- but Thom Yorke's probably going to write a song about them.

Continue reading Artificial trees could function as solar-wind harvester

Artificial trees could function as solar-wind harvester

‘Revolutionary’ solar tech ready for prime time


International Automated Systems Inc. (IAS) says it will be providing Renewable Energy Development Corporation (REDCO) with its cutting-edge solar panels and new bladeless turbine for utility-scale solar projects.

A third-party analysis for REDCO found that IAS’s technology is not only commercially viable for such projects, but could outperform more conventional solar energy systems.

IAS said the analysis demonstrated that its technology has a higher overall annual efficiency — nearly 24 percent — than either photovoltaic or traditional concentrated solar power systems. In fact, it said its solar thermal power plant “needs to convert only 5 percent of the gross annual solar energy hitting its panels to electricity in order to compete with the lowest priced solar technology available today.”

“After careful analysis of their technology and of the independent reviews conducted verifying their projections, I believe that the IAS technology is unique, revolutionary and ready for commercial application,” said Ryan Davies, president and CEO of REDCO. “I believe that the IAS turbine combined with their solar panels and heat exchanger will produce reliable solar energy at a fraction of the cost of traditional solar.”

‘Revolutionary’ solar tech ready for prime time

California’s PG&E announces 500 MW solar initiative


California utility PG&E has been a reluctant investor in renewable energy — until now. The utility announced yesterday a five-year plan to produce 500 MW of solar energy from a collection of midsize projects located in Northern and Central California. That’s enough power for 150,000 homes and 1.3 percent of PG&E’s electrical demands.. The solar panels will be mounted on rooftops and utility poles.

Read more of this story »

California’s PG&E Announces 500 MW Solar Initiative

Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashes

Well, this is unfortunate.

The mission was to have been Nasa's first dedicated CO2 mapper (Nasa)

Nasa's first dedicated mission to measure carbon dioxide from space has failed following a rocket malfunction.

Officials said the fairing - the part of the rocket which covers the satellite on top of the launcher - did not separate properly.

Data indicates the spacecraft crashed into the ocean near Antarctica.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was intended to help pinpoint the key locations on our planet's surface where CO2 is being emitted and absorbed.

Nasa officials confirmed the loss of the satellite at a press conference held at 1300 GMT.  

John Brunschwyler, from Orbital Sciences Corporation, the rocket's manufacturer, told journalists: "Our whole team, at a very personal level, is very disappointed in the events of this morning."

He added: "The fairing has considerable weight relative to the portion of the vehicle that's flying. So when it separates off, you get a jump in acceleration. We did not have that jump in acceleration.

"As a direct result of carrying that extra weight, we could not make orbit."

Failure hits Nasa's 'CO2 hunter'

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Orbiting NASA observatory to map, monitor CO2

NASA readied the launch early Tuesday of a satellite that will produce the first complete map of the Earth's human and natural sources of carbon dioxide, CO2, the gas most closely linked to climate change.(NASA)AFP - NASA readied the launch early Tuesday of a satellite that will produce the first complete map of the Earth's human and natural sources of carbon dioxide, CO2, the gas most closely linked to climate change.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, was scheduled to be launched at 0951 GMT (1:51 am) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on board the Taurus XL rocket built by Orbital Science Corp., NASA said in a statement posted Monday on its website.

It would be the first time NASA has used a Taurus rocket.

NASA said the observatory would map the geographic distribution of CO2 sources and study their changes over time.

The measurements will be integrated with those from ground observation stations and other satellites to get a fuller picture of the processes that regulate CO2 and its role in Earth's climate and carbon cycles, according to the space agency.

The data gathered by the OCO satellite will help scientists project increases in CO2 with greater precision, thereby enabling them to more accurately forecast changes in climate.

Orbiting NASA observatory to map, monitor CO2 (AFP)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taking a break

I’ll be in the woods, recharging my batteries. Next post on Monday.

Vashon Island, WA

Mafia blows rivals away, muscles into wind power industry


Police in southern Italy have this week launched a major crackdown on mafia activities, following serious allegations of corruption over the awarding of building contracts for a Sicilian wind farm.

According to organized crime investigators, government officials were lavished with bribes, including luxury cars and cash, in an effort to ensure the contract, worth hundreds of thousands of Euros, was awarded to Mafia-backed businesses.

Read more of this story »

Mafia Blows Rivals Away, Muscles Into Wind Power Industry

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Graph of the Day: Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production, 2004-2008

From The Oil Drum:

Non-OPEC crude oil production 12 month rolling average from January 2004 to November 2008.

There you have it, folks. Crude oil production in non-OPEC nations peaked in 2004. It’s all downhill from here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Worst threat to oil supplies? Rust, warns Simmons


Peak oil guru Matthew Simmons — featured in a fascinating recent Forbes piece titled, “Crude Cassandra” — isn’t changing his tune in the face of collapsing oil prices. In fact, he warns that today’s low price per barrel creates two serious financial challenges for the oil industry: underwriting ongoing exploration and combating the continuous threat of rust to its infrastructure.

As aging oil platforms, drilling rigs and pipelines keep rusting, Simmons says, they’ll need to be replaced if the crude is to keep flowing. How many new ones are needed? $100 trillion (US) worth, he says.

That, Forbes notes, is equal to the oil industry’s total revenues over the past seven decades.

Have a nice day.

Worst threat to oil supplies? Rust, warns Simmons

Monday, February 16, 2009

The new “Black Gold”: biofuel from sewage

Sewage - The Next Big Feedstock for Biofuel?

We’re already harvesting methane from sewage and spreading treated sewage solids on farms and open space, so it’s not a stretch to imagine running our cars on biofuel from sewage, too.  Specifically, running our cars on sewage grease.  An enormous amount of grease enters our sewer systems - about  495 million gallons annually in the U.S. alone.  Most of it gets captured and collected at sewage treatment plants.  So what’s stopping us - the ick factor aside - from siphoning off this readily available and potentially valuable biofuel feedstock?

Read more of this story »

The New “Black Gold”: Biofuel from Sewage

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Oil exec: Global production has peaked


Global oil production is at or near its peak, and will likely never exceed 89 million barrels per day, according to the CEO of French energy company Total.

The Financial Times today reported that Christophe de Margerie has adjusted downward his most recent forecast for oil production in 2015, largely because of the global economic meltdown and the dramatic plunge in oil prices over the past seven months.

While oil consumption is not expected to increase this year — a first — the current glut of supplies isn’t likely to last for long, de Margerie said. While future demand might grow, consumption in coming years will be limited by increasingly restricted supplies.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, world oil consumption is expected to drop by 1.2 million barrels per day in 2009, then rebound by a similar amount next year.

Oil exec: Global production has peaked

Indian experts find bacteria that fixes CO2

This is potentially huge:   

by Rajiv Mani

Sadhana_RayuluALLAHABAD: In a major breakthrough that could help in the fight against global warming, a team of five Indian scientists from four institutes of the country have discovered a naturally occurring bacteria which converts carbon dioxide (CO2) into a compound found in limestone and chalk.

When used as an enzyme — biomolecules that speed up a chemical reaction — the bacteria has been found to transform CO2 into calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which can fetch minerals of economic value, said Dr Anjana Sharma from the biosciences department of RD University, Jabalpur, who was part of the Rs 98.6 lakh project sponsored by the department of biotechnology (DBT) under the Union science and technology ministry.


"The enzyme can be put to work in any situation, like in a chamber fitted inside a factory chimney through which CO2 would pass before being emitted into the atmosphere, and it would convert the greenhouse gas into calcium carbonate,’’ Dr Sadhana Rayalu, the project coordinator who is from the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, told TOI on phone from Nagpur.

This potentially means that the bacteria — extracted from a number of places including brick kilns in Satna, Madhya Pradesh — can be used to take out CO2 from its sources of emission itself.


"Interestingly, it is nature that has come to the rescue of the human race from harmful effects of global warming. Investigators of the team have discovered as many as seven such micro-organisms that have the tendency to convert carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate at different natural locations,’’ said Sharma, who was on a visit to Allahabad.

Indian experts find bacteria to beat global heat

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hansen: Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them.

The government is expected to give the go-ahead to the coal-burning Kingsnorth power plant. Here, one of the world's foremost climate experts launches an excoriating attack on Britain's long love affair with the most polluting fossil fuel of all

by James Hansen

A year ago, I wrote to Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and other leaders. The reason is this - coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet.

The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As the tundra melts, methane, a strong greenhouse gas, is released, causing more warming. As species are exterminated by shifting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse, destroying more species.

The public, buffeted by weather fluctuations and economic turmoil, has little time to analyse decadal changes. How can people be expected to evaluate and filter out advice emanating from those pushing special interests? How can people distinguish between top-notch science and pseudo-science?

Those who lead us have no excuse - they are elected to guide, to protect the public and its best interests. They have at their disposal the best scientific organisations in the world, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. Only in the past few years did the science crystallise, revealing the urgency. Our planet is in peril. If we do not change course, we'll hand our children a situation that is out of their control. One ecological collapse will lead to another, in amplifying feedbacks.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas, have increased this to 385 ppm; it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.  …

Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them

Massive effort underway to save endangered seeds

A farmer stands in a wheat field in Lincoln, Nebraska, May 5, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Farmers and plant breeders around the globe are planting thousands of endangered seeds as part of an effort to save 100,000 varieties of food crops from extinction.

In many cases, only a handful of seeds remain from rare varieties of barley, rice and wheat whose history can be traced back to the Neolithic era, said Carey Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, who is speaking on Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

"If we don't do the job right, they are gone," he said in an interview.

The effort, which Fowler thinks is the biggest biological rescue effort ever undertaken, is aimed at rescuing seeds stored under less-than-optimal conditions in underfunded seed banks as well as those threatened by human and natural disasters.

The rescuers hope to preserve seed samples that might provide genetic traits needed to fight disease or address climate change. 

Massive effort underway to save endangered seeds

IME: Kyoto Protocol ‘a near total failure’

By Sarah Mukherjee, BBC environment correspondent

Our climate is changing so unless we adapt, we are likely to face a difficult future: Institution of Mechanical Engineers report

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers report says we have to accept the world could change dramatically.

It also says we should start planning our major infrastructure now to accommodate more extreme weather events and sea level rises.

While not against attempts to reduce emissions, the report's authors say we should be realistic about what can be achieved with this approach.

"The new agreement's most basic premise will be to try and limit the negative man-made effects on our climate system for future generations.

"In other words, the agreement will aim to reduce global CO2 emissions by mitigation.

"However, the existing Kyoto Protocol has, to date, been a near total failure, with emissions levels continuing to rise substantially."

Sea level rises could be seven metres in the UK by 2250, which, unchecked, could inundate much of London, East Anglia and other coastal areas.

We may have to accept, they say, that we will need to abandon some parts of the country, and spend significant amounts of money defending others.


The report's authors say that while they support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are "realistic enough to recognise that global CO2 emissions are not reducing and our climate is changing so unless we adapt, we are likely to face a difficult future."

A new report says treaties aimed at reducing CO2 emissions are useless

Climate models predicted Australian bushfires

Bushfire dwarfs a fire-truck at Labertouche, near Pakenham, east of Melbourne. Picture: Alex Coppel  

AUSTRALIA may have just had a horrifying preview of what climate change has in store for its people. Even early warning couldn't stop last weekend's bush fires in Victoria claiming 170 lives and over 700 homes.

Climate models based on figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict more frequent - and more extreme - fires for southern Australia over the next few decades. Yet the role of climate change in recent fires has been downplayed, suggests John Handmer of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Certainly, last weekend's fires were unprecedented: "We had a record heatwave, the worse fire danger index on record, during a record-breaking drought," says Handmer. The fire danger index takes into account both temperature and humidity. Over 50 is extreme; on Saturday, the index is believed to have been 5 to 6 times higher.

The level of devastation raises questions about whether Australia should, like other fire-prone places such as southern California, evacuate its people rather than let them stay.

The fires also have worrying implications for drought-stricken Melbourne's water supply. For the first time in 70 years, fires encroached on the city's water catchment areas. As new trees grow, this could ultimately reduce the water run-off from the forest by up to 30 per cent, says Mark Adams at the University of Sydney.

Climate models predicted Australian bushfires

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Al Gore calls on all scientists to fight against global warming

Al Gore poses with his NobelPrize

Speaking to a packed audience at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science currently underway in Chicago, former US vice president Al Gore called on all scientists to help fight against global warming, and for every scientist to use his or position of respect and trust among fellow citizens and neigbors to raise awareness of the problem the world is facing.

"This is no time to sit back," he said. "We as a species must make a decision..... Continuing on our present course will threaten human civilization."

Gore ascribed the problem we are facing today to "our absurd overdependence on carbon-based fuel."

Gore got a standing ovation from the scientists present.

Al Gore calls on all scientists to fight against global warming

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Biofuels boom could fuel rainforest destruction, Stanford researcher warns

Palm oil plantation in Tawau, Sabah3  Palm oil plantation in Tawau, Sabah3

Farmers across the tropics might raze forests to plant biofuel crops, according to new research by Holly Gibbs, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment.

"If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks," she warned.

Policies favoring biofuel crop production may inadvertently contribute to, not slow, the process of climate change, Gibbs said. Such an environmental disaster could be "just around the corner without more thoughtful energy policies that consider potential ripple effects on tropical forests," she added.

Gibbs' predictions are based on her new study, in which she analyzed detailed satellite images collected between 1980 and 2000. The study is the first to do such a detailed characterization of the pathways of agricultural expansion throughout the entire tropical region. Gibbs hopes that this new knowledge will contribute to making prudent decisions about future biofuel policies and subsidies.

Biofuels boom could fuel rainforest destruction, Stanford researcher warns

Task force recommends halting Maryland oyster harvest

Report calls for helping watermen learn to cultivate bivalves

Workers cull through oysters that were grown on floating nets. (Baltimore Sun file photo by Glenn Fawcett / December 19, 2007)

By Timothy B. Wheeler

A high-profile state task force is recommending that Maryland stop spending millions of dollars to plant oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries only to let watermen harvest them.

The 21-member Oyster Advisory Commission says the state should stop paying for such "managed reserves" over the next several years and instead help watermen learn how to raise oysters at their own expense for sale to restaurants and seafood businesses.

"I just don't think the public is going to be willing to pay very much longer for a couple hundred guys to make some of their income harvesting oysters," William Eichbaum, chairman of the advisory commission and a vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, said yesterday.

The commission's report, to be presented in Annapolis next week, calls for Maryland to expand its efforts to rebuild the bay's disease-ravaged oyster population by restoring lost reefs and planting millions of bushels of hatchery-reared oysters. But the panel says oysters planted on the bottom at public expense ought to be left there to help clean up the bay and to improve chances that some will develop resistance to disease.

State Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin welcomed the commission's report Thursday, calling it "a great framework ... to direct a new course for oyster restoration." He said the O'Malley administration already is acting on some of the recommendations and would study the others.

Oysters filter nutrients and sediment from the water - the pollutants most responsible for the bay's degraded condition. In the late 1800s, when commercial harvests topped 10 million bushels a year, the bivalves were so abundant that scientists estimate they could filter all the bay's water in less than a week.

But overfishing, loss of reefs on which oysters can grow and a pair of diseases, MSX and Dermo, have reduced the bay's population to just 1 percent of historic levels. Harvests in recent years have fallen below 100,000 bushels, despite a replanting effort that has put hundreds of millions of hatchery-reared oysters in the bay.

Task force recommends halting the harvest of state's oyster reserves

Climate change likely to be more devastating than experts predicted, warns top IPCC scientist

Christopher Field, PhD

(Stanford University) Without decisive action, global warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than predicted, says Stanford scientist Chris Field, a leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Field warns that higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and melt the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gas that could raise temperatures even more -- a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control.

Climate change likely to be more devastating than experts predicted, warns top IPCC scientist

Friday, February 13, 2009

Samsung’s Blue Earth solar phone is ultra-green

AXP0HNMCAECZ87RCA4XUJPICAI34WK4CASFWTKLCAT3S9TICAQDYB0GCAPF5UOBCA2VLT3ICAY3Q37FCADSMT4KCAWX31TNCAF1V5QCCA2AXWKGCA6MOOLQCA3BOXXACA30O205CA1NK7T2CAQZ3R10CAGVF37F  I have a few friends (who shall remain nameless) who are often unreachable because they don't charge their phones when they should. These same friends should look into the new Samsung Blue Earth, which is to be unveiled in a couple days at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The phone is green, despite its blue color, and it's not just the integrated solar panels that make it so. The Blue Earth is made of recycled plastic, features a pedometer, and even software that reaffirms just how much you're helping the planet by using it. If Al Gore had one of these mobile devices in hand, it would likely explode.

Besides being handy and eco-friendly, the phone appears to be gorgeous. The solar panels reside on the back, and the front is a full touch screen. Despite the new technologies, it should fit nicely in your pocket. We should know more about pricing and availability next week.

Another group that might find this phone attractive would be those crazy outdoorsy types: campers, hunters, fish enthusiasts, and other sportsmen could extend their trips into the wilderness while remaining in contact with the outside world in case of emergencies. We'd like to see other phones with practical solar panels just for this.

Samsung's Blue Earth solar phone is ultra-green - CNET News

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Dubai developing world’s first rotating, energy-efficient building

Dubai has plans to build the world’s first rotating building with independently moving floors. What’s more, plans call for it to be completely energy independent. The self-powered Dynamic Tower will have revolving floors, with each one powered by wind turbines located in between the floor. This will lead to the building looking radically different every time you look at it (sort of like a constantly evolving Dali architecture).

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Dubai Developing World’s First Rotating, Energy-Efficient Building

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New shock absorber harvests energy from bumps in the road


ScienceDaily (Feb. 13, 2009) — A team of MIT undergraduate students has invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smoothes the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. The students hope to initially find customers among companies that operate large fleets of heavy vehicles. They have already drawn interest from the U.S. military and several truck manufacturers.

Senior Shakeel Avadhany and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. The company that produces Humvees for the army, and is currently working on development of the next-generation version of the all-purpose vehicle, is interested enough to have loaned them a vehicle for testing purposes.

The project came about because "we wanted to figure out where energy is being wasted in a vehicle," senior Zack Anderson explains. Some hybrid cars already do a good job of recovering the energy from braking, so the team looked elsewhere, and quickly homed in on the suspension.

They began by renting a variety of different car models, outfitting the suspension with sensors to determine the energy potential, and driving around with a laptop computer recording the sensor data. Their tests showed "a significant amount of energy" was being wasted in conventional suspension systems, Anderson says, "especially for heavy vehicles."

New Shock Absorber Harvests Energy From Bumps In The Road, Increases Fuel Economy

2009 ‘pivotal year’ for carbon sequestration


This year promises to be a critical one for the nascent carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) industry, according to a new study from Emerging Energy Research (EER).

The study, “Global Carbon Sequestration Markets & Strategies, 2009 - 2030,” notes that more than 120 carbon sequestration projects are currently under way around the globe, with most of them located in western Europe, the US, western Canada and Australia. Funding for large-scale demonstration projects has already topped $25 billion (US), and that figure is expected to grow as governments enact economic stimulus packages, the EER said.

While CCS technology could help reduce carbon emissions while enabling society to tap the world’s coal resources, the industry still faces many hurdles, the study says. These include high costs, long-term liability and uncertainty over future climate policies.

“While sequestration solutions have been demonstrated on a trial basis, carbon sequestration’s commercial viability on a broad scale is still uncertain,” said Alex Klein, EER’s research director.

2009 ‘pivotal year’ for carbon sequestration

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hydrogen fuel recipe ‘like Prometheus stealing fire’


A group of US researchers say they’ve developed a “one-pot” process for generating hydrogen fuel from cellulosic plant waste, water and a cocktail of enzymes.

The “recipe” produces hydrogen gas that’s pure enough to power a fuel cell, says the team of scientists from Virginia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Georgia.

The novel process combines 14 enzymes and one coenzyme with non-food-based plant waste and 32-degree C water. The result: hydrogen production as fast as that yielded by natural hydrogen fermentation and an output of chemical energy that’s actually greater than the chemical energy stored in the plant-based sugars themselves. The combination, the research team says, produces the highest reported hydrogen yield yet from cellulosic materials.

“In addition to converting the chemical energy from the sugar, the process also converts the low-temperature thermal energy into high-quality hydrogen energy — like Prometheus stealing fire,” said Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. “If a small fraction — 2 or 3 percent — of yearly biomass production were used for sugar-to-hydrogen fuel cells for transportation, we could reach (global) transportation fuel independence.”

Hydrogen fuel recipe ‘like Prometheus stealing fire’

A beehive of satellites

Satellites encircling the earth (Image Credit: European Space Agency)

The launch of the first artificial satellite by the then Soviet Union in 1957 marked the beginning of the utilization of space for science and commercial activity. During the Cold War, space was a prime area of competition between the Soviet Union and the U.S.

In 1964 the first TV satellite was launched into a geostationary orbit to transmit the Olympic games from Tokyo. Later, Russian launch activities declined while other nations set up their own space programs. Thus, the number of objects in Earth orbit has increased steadily -- by 200 per year on average.

The debris objects shown in the images are an artist's impression based on actual density data. However, the debris objects are shown at an exaggerated size to make them visible at the scale shown.

A Beehive of Satellites

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Oil industry ready to work with Obama on global warming

Jeroen van der Veer, left, of Royal Dutch Shell, and Tony Hayward of BP at this week’s oil industry conference in Houston (Michael Stravato for The New York Times).


HOUSTON — Confronted with a sharp change of priorities in Washington, international oil executives are expressing an eagerness to work with President Obama to fashion new policies to tackle global warming.

At an industry conference here this week, the executives struck a conciliatory tone on how to limit the emissions that are contributing to climate change, with many of them sounding like budding conservationists as they stressed energy efficiency and the need to develop renewable fuels.

At the same time, they declared that the country would still need oil for a long time, and sought to persuade the new administration of the need for more drilling off the nation’s coasts.

On tackling global warming, a subject that has long divided the industry, some executives said they supported a tax on carbon, while others favored a trading system like the one adopted by Europe. Almost all of them seemed reconciled to the United States’ adopting some kind of climate policy, and said they were eager to work with the new administration to devise an effective energy strategy.

“President Obama comes to office with a strong commitment to tackle climate change,” said Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP. “Suddenly the challenges many of us have been wrestling with for a long time — the importance of energy security in providing economic security, and tackling the issue of climate change in a way that is commercially viable — are center stage.”

Oil Industry Ready to Work on Global Warming

UK co-op bans 8 pesticides to help bees

Plan Bee

by Rog Wood  

The Co-operative Group has become the first UK retailer to prohibit the use of a family of eight pesticides as part of a radical new 10-point plan to help reverse the worrying decline in the British honey bee population.

Launching Plan Bee, the Co-operative announced that it would expand its pesticide policy and temporarily prohibit the use of all eight of the neonicotinoid family of chemicals on its own-brand fresh produce.

These chemicals have been implicated in honey bee colony collapse and restricted elsewhere in Europe (although not as yet in the UK) as a precautionary measure.

Co-operative Food said it will engage with suppliers to eliminate use of the pesticides where possible and until such time as they are shown to be safe.

In addition, as part of its 10-point plan, the Co-operative will make available £150,000 for research into the decline of the honey bee, paying particular attention to UK farming practices, the impact of pesticides and the restricted gene pool bees are derived from.

In the spring of 2009, Co-operative Farms will begin a three-year research project aimed at identifying the optimal mix of wild flowers that can be sown (in field margins and on set-aside) to attract and support honey bees.

Co-op opts for Plan Bee to take sting out of declining population

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Europe's big lenders still backing green power

By Pete Harrison


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The credit crunch is starting  to make an impact on smaller European green energy projects, but cash-rich utilities and the bigger lending institutions will continue to get deals done, green power experts say.

"The main problem for the smaller developers is the short-term freeze on lending," said Christian Kjaer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), adding that the credit crunch could lead to consolidation in the sector.

"We may see some of the smaller projects which have turbine delivery contracts but are struck by the banking liquidity freeze being taken over by the larger power companies," he said.

Many foreign-owned banks have withdrawn from funding renewable energy projects in Britain, said Richard Simon-Lewis, director of project finance for energy and utilities at Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets.

"A lot of deals are being done by clubs of banks," he added. "For the very big deals ... we are seeing the multilaterals, the likes of the European Investment Bank and potentially the government coming in to co-fund."

Juan Alario, who heads the EIB's energy lending team, said the bank was considering lending to a large number of big offshore wind projects in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, some worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

A ring of giant wind turbines connected by underwater cables is a central part of the European Commission's plan for bolstering energy security and curbing unreliable imports of fossil fuels.

Europe's big lenders still backing green power

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Major airlines say, ‘Regulate our carbon’


A new coalition of four major airlines says the next global treaty on climate change should take into the account greenhouse gas emissions of international aviation.

The Aviation Global Deal Group (AGDG) was formed by Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic and airport operator BAA.

“Aviation has a key part to play in reducing global emissions and for too long has been seen as part of the climate problem rather than part of the solution,” said Tony Tyler, Chief Executive of Cathay Pacific Airways. “We hope the work of our group will offer a practical industry-led solution that creates a level-playing field and appeal to policy-makers, environmental groups and businesses alike.”

The coalition said any framework adopted to regulate aviation emissions should be based on four principles: environmental integrity, a global approach toward policy measures, equal treatment for all airlines and equity among all countries.

Major airlines say, ‘Regulate our carbon’

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Engineers revolutionize nano-device fabrication using amorphous metals

Various parts (nano-molds, nano-wires, gears, membrane, scalpels, and tweezers) fabricated by molding metallic glass over wide range of length scales -- from 13 nm to several millimeters. (Credit: Kumar/Schroers(Yale)) 

Engineers have created a process that may revolutionize the manufacture of nano-devices from computer chips to biomedical sensors by exploiting a novel type of metal. The material can be molded like plastics to create features at the nanoscale and yet is more durable and stronger than silicon or steel.

Engineers Revolutionize Nano-device Fabrication Using Amorphous Metals

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California sees ‘world’s largest solar deal’


California is ground zero for what Southern California Edison (SCE) and BrightSource Energy say is the “world’s largest solar deal.”

Inked today, the contract between the two companies calls for the development of seven solar plants with a total capacity of 1,300 megawatts — enough to power almost 845,000 homes.

If the agreement wins the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, the first solar plant — a 100-megawatt facility in Ivanpah, California — could be up and running by 2013.

Under the proposal, BrightSource will install its proprietary Luz Power Tower 550 (LPT 550) solar-thermal energy system at each solar plant. The system uses thousands of small mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect light onto a tower-top boiler that produces steam. The steam then drives a conventional turbine to produce electricity.

All seven solar plants, once they go into operation, would yield an annual carbon emissions reduction of more than 2 million tonnes — as much as is generated by 335,000-plus cars.

California sees ‘world’s largest solar deal’

Five innovative green skyscraper designs

From Greenbang:


The global economic slowdown isn’t stopping some architectural designers from coming up with new and greener ideas for city living. Just take a look at the following innovative eco-skyscrapers:

California-based design firm Nectar proposes a skyscraper designed not for people but for trees. The CO2 Scraper (pictured above) could hold 200 to 400 large trees high in the air to absorb greenhouse gases, and would use wind power for most of its energy needs.

skyscrapers-the-sailCompleted last August, The Sail @ Marina Bay (at right) is the tallest residential high-rise building in Singapore, according to NBBC, the architecture firm that designed the structure. The building, expected to be recognised with Singapore’s Gold Standard of Sustainability, offers a mix of residences, restaurants and recreational facilities under two tall roofs.


Perkins Eastman has proposed two designs for the Kohinoor CTL competition in Mumbai, India. Both structures (one at left) include such features as rainwater harvesting and recycling, alternative energy sources, solar chimneys and facade plantings for air filtering.


Located in Nagoya, Japan, design firm Nikken Sekkai’s Mode-Gakuen Spiral Towers (at right) are designed to be more than earthquake-proof. They’re also built with double-glassed windows in which air flows between the two panes to reduce heating and cooling costs.

skyscraper-daniel-libeskindFinally, architect Daniel Libeskind has come up with a design for a 54-story residential tower (at left) in New York City. The structure would feature terraced gardens placed within cutout areas along the length of its facade.

Five innovative green skyscraper designs

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Rep. Forbes reintroduces the new Manhattan Project

Washington, D.C., Feb 6 - Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) announced today that he has reintroduced the New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence in the 111th Congress. The legislation, which would challenge the United States to reach 50% energy independence in ten years and 100% energy independence in 20 years, has been hailed as one of the most bold and innovative energy solutions before Congress.

“The economic challenges we face today are far greater than one simple solution can fix. Now more than ever there must be a collective resolve to answer some of the significant challenges we face as a nation. While gas prices have remained low over the past several months, we would be unwise to forget the need to solve America’s energy crisis and find solutions for energy independence. Additionally, the likelihood of gas prices skyrocketing again in the coming months will create even greater financial distress for American families,” said Forbes. “Solving our nation’s energy crisis is a critical step to creating lasting economic security for our nation and its families. The New Manhattan Project creates a bold initiative to move us in this direction of energy independence. I encourage the current Majority leadership to move quickly on this legislation to bring it to the House floor for consideration.”

The New Manhattan Project, H.R. 513, calls for the United States to achieve 50% energy independence in ten years and 100% energy independence in 20 years. To achieve these goals, the New Manhattan Project will bring together the scientists and researchers in the U.S. in a competitive format to reach one of seven energy goals. The project will award significant prizes to the first group, school, team, or company that reaches each goal as determined by a New Manhattan Project commission of scientists. Cash prizes to be awarded to the first person or entity to achieve each of the following goals:

  • Double CAFE standards to 70 MPG while keeping vehicles affordable
  • Cut home and business energy usage in half
  • Make solar power work at the same cost as coal
  • Make the production of biofuels cost-competitive with gasoline
  • Safely and cheaply store carbon emissions from coal-powered plants
  • Safely store or neutralize nuclear waste
  • Produce usable electricity from a nuclear fusion reaction

In addition, the bill sets aside funding for grants to individual researchers, groups, educational institutions or businesses to help share the cost of work toward achieving the goals.

The New Manhattan Project was originally introduced by Congressman Forbes in the 110th Congress as H.R. 6260. For more information on the New Manhattan Project, visit

Forbes Reintroduces the New Manhattan Project