Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blueprint for building US wind supply chain released

 Wind turbines via BlueGreen Alliance

According to a report released on Monday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), BlueGreen Alliance and the United Steelworkers, the U.S. wind industry can create tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components if the U.S. passes long-term policies that create a stable market for the domestic wind energy supply chain.

Winds of Change: A Manufacturing Blueprint for the Wind Industry highlights growth for the American wind industry despite the absence of a long-term and stable market for wind energy, or policies to support wind’s manufacturing sector. While the growth in wind energy manufacturing has been steady — growing from 2,500 workers in 2004 to 18,500 in 2009 — tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components, such as towers, gearboxes, and bearings, could be created with policies that establish a long-term, stable market and support the manufacturing sector’s transition to the wind industry.

The report recommends passing Senator Sherrod Brown’s IMPACT Act, which creates a state-level revolving loan fund to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers retool for clean energy markets and adopt energy efficient manufacturing.

“This report represents a major alignment between our goals for energy independence and creating the clean energy jobs of the future,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “This ‘manufacturing blueprint’ is a critical step toward ensuring that we don’t replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on Chinese-made wind turbines."

The report follows a recent announcement by AWEA and USW on a “framework agreement” to accelerate the development and deployment of wind energy production in the U.S. The report recommends a federal Renewable Electricity Standard of 25 percent by 2025 with meaningful mid-term targets, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and policies specifically aimed at building the U.S. wind energy manufacturing sector. …

Blueprint for Building US Wind Supply Chain Released

Monday, June 28, 2010

Giant salmon will be first GM animal available for eating

Genetically modified salmon could be on supermarket shelves within a year. Photo: CHRIS WATT

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Published: 1:06PM BST 27 Jun 2010

A salmon that grows at twice the normal rate is set to be the first genetically modified (GM) animal available for human consumption.

Usually Atlantic salmon do not grow during the winter and take three years to fully mature.

But by implanting genetic material from an eel-like species called ocean pout that grows all year round, US scientists have managed to make the fish grow to full size in 18 months.

They hope that the sterile GM salmon can offer an efficient and safe way to breed salmon in fish farms, so that the wild fish can be left in the oceans.

US watchdog the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether the GM Atlantic salmon, called AquAdvantage, is safe to eat. The fish could be on supermarket shelves within a year.

But environmental campaigners question whether the GM material is safe for humans to consume and fear the sterile salmon will mutate in the wild and be able to breed.

At the moment only GM crops like corn or soy are available for human consumption. Also the Daily Telegraph revealed recently that most animal products available in supermarkets, like meat, eggs or dairy, are from livestock fed GM. …

Giant salmon will be first GM animal available for eating

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

An evangelical crusade to go green with God

The Gulf oil spill has prompted a lot of soul-searching. Michael Spooneybarger / AP

By NPR Staff

As the oil continues to spill in the Gulf of Mexico, what to do about off-shore drilling and the regulation of the oil industry is cause for debate in Congress and among coastal residents. Now add to this another dimension: religion.

The Southern Baptist Convention has used notably strong language to call on the government — and its own congregation — to work to prevent such a crisis again.

In a resolution, the Convention called on the government "to act determinatively and with undeterred resolve to end this crisis ... to ensure full corporate accountability for damages, clean-up and restoration ... and to ensure that government and private industry are not again caught without planning for such possibilities."

Dr. Russell Moore helped pass that resolution. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and preaches at Highview Baptist Church near Louisville, Ky. He tells NPR's Audie Cornish that calling on government to hold companies responsible for their actions isn't out of character for evangelicals.

"There's really nothing conservative — and certainly nothing evangelical — about a laissez-faire view of a lack of government regulation," Moore says, "because we, as Christians, believe in sin."

"That means if people are sinful, if all of us are sinful, then all of us have to have accountability — and that includes corporations." Moore says. "Simply trusting corporations to go about their business without polluting the water streams and without destroying ecosystems is really a naive and utopian view of human nature. It's not a Christian view of human nature." …

An Evangelical Crusade To Go Green With God

Monday, June 21, 2010

Northrop Grumman wins contract to build US Army's long-endurance hybrid airship

Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $517 million (=£350.6 million) agreement to develop up to three Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) systems for the U.S. Army.

MELBOURNE, Fla., BETHPAGE, N.Y., and LONDON, Jun 14, 2010 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- A new hybrid airship weapons system, just larger than the length of a football field, will take to the skies in just 18 months to provide an unblinking, persistent eye for more than three weeks at a time to aid U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan, according to Northrop Grumman Corporation officials.

The company today announced it has been awarded a $517 million (£350.6 million) agreement to develop up to three Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) systems for the U.S. Army. Northrop Grumman has designed a system with plug-and-play capability to readily integrate into the Army's existing common ground station command centers and ground troops in forward operating bases--the main objective to provide U.S. warfighters with persistent ISR capability to increase awareness of the ever changing battlefield.

"This opportunity leverages our longstanding leadership positions in developing innovative unmanned air vehicles, C4ISR weapon systems, and leading edge systems integration, and moves Northrop Grumman into this rapidly emerging market space of airships for the military and homeland defense arenas," said Gary Ervin, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector.

Under the agreement, awarded by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Northrop Grumman will design, develop and test a long-duration hybrid airship system within an 18-month time period, and then transport the asset to the Middle East for military assessment.

"It is critical that our warfighters are equipped with more enabling integrated ISR capability to tackle today's and tomorrow's conflicts," said Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman LEMV program manager. "Our offering supports the Army's Joint Military Utility Assessment that this disruptive innovation must meet the Army's objective of a persistent unblinking stare while providing increased operational utility to battlefield commanders. Part of our innovative offering includes open architecture design in the payload bay to allow sensor changes by service personnel in the field."

LEMV will sustain altitudes of 20,000 feet for a three-week period, and it will operate within national and international airspace. It will be forward-located to support extended geostationary operations from austere operating locations using beyond-line-of-sight command and control. …

Northrop Grumman Awarded $517 Million Agreement for U.S. Army Airship With Unblinking Eye

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Leakegate: A retraction


By Gavin Schmidt

Back in February, we commented on the fact-free IPCC-related media frenzy in the UK which involved plentiful confusion, the making up of quotes and misrepresenting the facts. Well, a number of people have pursued the newspapers concerned and Simon Lewis at least filed a complaint (pdf) with the relevant press oversight body. In response, the Sunday Times (UK) has today retracted a story by Jonathan Leake on a supposed ‘Amazongate’ and published the following apology:

…In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis’ concern at the IPCC’s use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view – rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public’s understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

Note that the Sunday Times has removed the original article from their website (though a copy is available here), and the retraction does not appear to have ever been posted online. Here is a scan of the print version just in case there is any doubt about its existence. (Update: the retraction has now appeared).

This follows on the heels of a German paper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, recently retracting a story on the ‘Africagate’ non-scandal, based on reporting from….. Jonathan Leake.

It is an open question as to what impact these retractions and apologies have, but just as with technical comments on nonsense articles appearing a year after the damage was done, setting the record straight is a important for those people who will be looking at this at a later date, and gives some hope that the media can be held (a little) accountable for what they publish.

Leakegate: A retraction

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Washington Post: As demand grows for locally raised meat, farmers turn to mobile slaughterhouses

"Under the Obama administration and the 2008 farm bill passed by Congress, the USDA is shifting attention to small and mid-size farms, encouraging organic and sustainable agriculture, and investing in projects to bring locally grown meat and produce to consumers.

"There is unbelievable consumer interest in local agriculture that we haven't seen in decades," said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. She is overseeing the agency's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program, designed to revive the processing, marketing and distribution networks that once made small farming viable but disintegrated in the last 30 years as U.S. agriculture went through a dramatic consolidation."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nokero debuts rugged, rainproof N100 solar light bulb for the developing world

Nokero solar light bulb. engadget.com

By Darren Murph  posted Jun 9th 2010 2:31PM

Oh, sure -- the world has plenty of those ritzy LED light bulbs to choose from, but how's about using the ultimate light source to create... even more light! That's exactly what Nokero is setting out to accomplish with its N100, which is being christened the "world's first" solar light bulb. Designed specifically for use in developing nations where continual electricity is a mere pipe dream, this bulb is housed in an ultra-rugged, rainproof enclosure that can provide around four hours of light when fully charged; if you leave it in the sun all day, it'll harness enough juice to provide illumination for around two hours. The unit itself is constructed from impact resistant plastic and includes a foursome of solar panels, five LEDs and a replaceable, nickel metal hydride battery that's said to last two years. The company informed us that these will run you around $15 if purchased one at a time, though the goal is to sell 'em in bulk for around $6 apiece and have them delivered to rural parts of India, Africa and possibly District 9. Go on and get schooled by heading past the break and clicking play. …

Nokero debuts rugged, rainproof N100 solar light bulb for developing worlds

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Free-market religion lost in oil spill

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talks to the media in front of a Brown Pelican mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast, Thursday, June 3, 2010. AP Photo / Charlie Riedel

May 31, 2010 | By Leonard Pitts

"There has never been a challenge that the American people, with as little interference as possible by the federal government, cannot handle."

— Bobby Jindal, March 24, 2009

That was then.

This is now: 11 people dead in an oil rig explosion, fragile marshlands damaged, perhaps irreparably, uncalculated millions (billions?) in lost revenue for the tourism and fishing industries, and a short attention span nation transfixed by a compelling image from a deep sea camera, brown gunk billowing out from a hole in the ocean floor, Things Getting Worse in real time.

And Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, off whose coast this tragedy is centered, is singing a new song, starkly at odds with what he said last year in a speech before the Republican faithful. Now he's BEGGING for federal "interference." He wants federal money, federal supplies, wants the feds to help create barrier islands to protect Louisiana wetlands from oil.

Not to pick on Jindal. He is but one prominent voice in a chorus of Gulf state officials who once preached the virtues of tiny government but have discovered, in the wake of this spreading disaster, the virtues of government that is robust enough, at a minimum, to help them out of a jam.

One hears pointed questions about President Barack Obama's engagement or lack thereof in the unfolding crisis. One hears accusations that the government was lax in its oversight duties and too cozy with the oil industry it was supposed to be regulating. One hears nothing about deregulation, about leaving the free market alone to do its magic.

You know what they say: it's all fun and games till somebody gets hurt. Well, the Gulf Coast is hurt, hurt in ways that may take years to fully assess, much less repair. And the sudden silence from the apostles of small government and free markets is telling.

The thing is, their argument is not fundamentally wrong. Who among us does not believe government is frequently bloated, inefficient and bound by preposterous rules? Who among us does not think it is often wasteful, hideously complex and redundantly redundant?

Yes, government is not perfect. Nor is it perfectible. As adults, we should understand that. Any bureaucracy serving 309 million people and representing their interests in a world of 6.8 billion people, is likely always to have flaws. Thus, fixing government, making it more streamlined and responsive, is and will always be an ongoing project. …

Free-market religion lost in oil spill

The legacy of 'drill, baby, drill'

Two women look on as contract workers clean oil globs from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill blanket a beach in Pensacola Beach, Florida June 4, 2010. REUTERS / Lee Celano

By Julian Zelizer, Special to CNN
June 1, 2010 9:53 a.m. EDT

Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- The impact of the oil spill in the Gulf Coast is starting to be made vivid by the steady flow of still images and video that capture this catastrophe. For example, Phillippe Cousteau, the grandson of Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, dove into the oil spill, wearing protective gear. He captured horrifying video images of what has been taking place beneath the sea.

A debate is already unfolding about whether President Obama has been effective in his response. Is this Obama's Katrina, as some commentators have asked? The president has come under fire, primarily from Republicans, but also from a growing number of environmental advocates, for being too slow to act.

Recent news reports have revealed the Obama administration has been as negligent in its oversight of drilling as the previous administration.

The debate over President Obama's performance will continue, and his success or failure at stopping the gusher will determine how much damage this disaster inflicts on his presidency.

But there is another, more significant, question that Democrats and Republicans in Congress must address -- and that is the policy origins of this disaster.

Indeed, one of the most important aspects of Katrina was not simply how President Bush did or did not handle the aftermath of the hurricane, but rather, how American politicians in both parties had allowed a once-vibrant city to decay so dramatically over the past decades. Many Americans were shocked to see the kind of devastating poverty in which so many New Orleans residents lived.

With the BP spill, the question revolves around deregulation. As with the financial meltdown in the fall 2008, the oil spill highlights the cost of weakening regulations -- in this case, those rules that had been adopted to safeguard the environment.

For over four decades, some conservatives and centrist Democrats have waged war on the environmental infrastructure that was put into place during the 1960s and 1970s (including under Republican President Nixon).

At first, President Reagan hoped to directly overturn as many environmental regulations as possible. He appointed James Watt as secretary of Interior and Anne Gorsuch as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, both of whom opposed many aspects of the environmental movement.

Yet Reagan's efforts to eliminate the regulatory apparatus largely failed. He ran up against an environmental movement that was far more powerful than he expected. His efforts against the regulations in fact stimulated the movement to become even more active.

The next strategy for his administration was to start weakening oversight, using administrative decisions to protect industry and undermine the quality of the agencies responsible for these programs. Watt and Gorsuch, for example, didn't fight against proposed budget cuts that would clearly strain the capacity of their employees and accepted cost-benefit analyses that favored industry.

Gorsuch boasted that under her leadership, the EPA reduced the size of the clean water regulations manual from six inches to half an inch The EPA didn't make sure that companies were complying with regulations such as requirements to use modern pollution control equipment.

This pattern continued under President George W. Bush. As the contributors of my forthcoming book, The Presidency of George W. Bush: The First Historical Assessment (Princeton University Press) have argued, Bush administration officials frequently rejected scientific expertise when making decisions and staffed bureaucratic positions with people who were not sympathetic to the goals of their own organization. …

The legacy of 'drill, baby, drill'

Friday, June 4, 2010

Using iPads to bridge communication gap with dolphins

Dolphin communicating with humans via iPad. via arstechnica.com

By Chris Foresman

Research scientist Jack Kassewitz has found that the iPad's touch-based interface is so intuitive that even some nonhuman species can use it. In this case, that species happens to be dolphins. Kassewitz is using iPads with custom-developed software to help facilitate two-way communication between humans and dolphins.

Kassewitz has worked for years studying the behavior and communication patterns of dolphins. Numerous studies on dolphin language show signs of advanced intelligence, and it is believed that the high-frequency sounds dolphins make underwater are capable of communicating information that is holographic in nature. Since humans don't communicate natively with holograms, Kassewitz is currently working on a project to build a symbolic language that dolphins and humans can use to communicate with one another.

Kassewitz searched for nearly two years to find a touchscreen device that dolphins could reliably activate with their rostrum (or beak), while still being powerful enough to record or play back the high frequency sounds associated with dolphin language and durable enough to work in underwater environments. He had originally settled on the Panasonic Toughbook, but recently began evaluating the iPad as an alternative. …

The first step in building that system of communication is a very simple game wherein a dolphin named Merlin is shown an object, such as a ball or a rubber duck. (Kassewitz told us that dolphins respond well to the color yellow.) Then Merlin has to point to an image of the object on the iPad's screen, selecting it with his rostrum.

"Games are a relatively simple way to build an understanding between two animals—humans included," Kassewitz told Ars. "Games require agreements to work, and agreements require some high-level thinking." Ultimately, Kassewitz will build a library of symbols that dolphins can recognize that form the basis of "a complete language interface between humans and dolphins." …

Using iPads to bridge communication gap with dolphins