Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts

March 22, 2018 by  
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Congress has reached a deal on the $1.3 trillion budget for fiscal year 2018, an agreement that does not include the cuts to clean energy demanded by the Trump Administration. President Trump’s budget proposal would have cut funding from carbon capture and storage technology while increasing funding for new coal technologies. In this instance, Congress pushed back. For example, the omnibus spending bill increases funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by $2.3 billion rather than agreeing to the 66 percent funding cut for the office proposed by the Trump Administration. In what may be the last major legislation passed this year, Congress must pass the budget deal by midnight on Friday to avoid a third government shutdown in 2018. If the budget deal is enacted, the United States would likely achieve the 2015 goal set by President Obama of doubling research and development for clean energy within a decade. The bill also protects the EPA from Trump ‘s proposed 23 percent cut, maintaining funding for the agency at $8.1 billion. While funding for renewable energy is protected, Trump did manage to achieve a significant policy victory through the bill’s increased funding for DOE’s fossil energy arm to $727 million. This money will fund the development of low-carbon coal technologies. Related: USDA withdraws Obama-era animal welfare standards for organic meat, eggs and dairy The omnibus spending bill also includes a $868 million increase for DOE’s Office of Science , ignoring the Trump Administration’s proposed 15 percent cut. While those who support renewable energy and environmental protection have reason to celebrate, the current government is nonetheless limiting the potential of the clean energy industry. A large increase in funding for clean energy research and development is unlikely in the near future. However, Congress has found an agreeable equilibrium that ensures the quiet work of transforming the energy economy of the United States can continue, even though Donald Trump sits in the White House. Via Axios and the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts

Media lab built from recycled shipping containers pops up in half a day

March 22, 2018 by  
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Four recycled shipping containers have found a new lease on life as Bard College’s new media lab in upstate New York. Quick, affordable, and modern, MB Architecture’s speedy lab solution for the Bard College Department of Experimental Humanities has the added benefit of a folding glass door that blurs the boundary between indoors and out. Prefabricated offsite, the Bard College Media Lab was installed in just half a day and fully operational within a few weeks. Located in the middle of campus near a Frank Gehry concert hall, the 960-square-foot media lab cost slightly over $200,000 for prefabrication , delivery, and installation. The four shipping containers were stacked into a single blocky monolith with the exterior painted matte black. While the corrugated sides were retained—perhaps as a reminder of the building’s industrial past—large glazed panels punctuate the building to bring in views of the outdoors and create the illusion of spaciousness inside. Related: The Coolest Bar in Texas is Built With Seven Stacked Shipping Containers Flexibility was built into the design of the lab, which will be shared by different college departments. The first floor comprises multiple entrances, a bathroom, and a double-height meeting room that opens up to the quad through a large pivoting garage door. By opening up the interior to the outdoors, the room can be used as a stage for performances, concerts, and theatrical events. An office is located on the second floor. + MB Architecture Via ArchDaily Images © Matthew Carbone

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Media lab built from recycled shipping containers pops up in half a day

NASA is returning to the Moon – but they don’t know how

January 9, 2018 by  
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NASA is returning to the Moon . President Donald Trump signed a directive in December to “refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery” using the Moon as something of a first step before a mission to Mars . But not everyone is pleased with the idea – and the space agency doesn’t know how they’ll go back. How will NASA return to the Moon? When will they go? How much will it cost? These are questions that are as of yet unanswered. The Washington Post spoke with acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency would partner with other countries, but didn’t specify which ones. He also said the effort would be a public-private partnership, but didn’t name any companies. The Washington Post said he offered “no specifics about the architecture of a moon program;” he told them, “We have no idea yet.” Related: Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars The president’s yearly budget request to Congress could bring more details to light, according to Lightfoot. As for now many specifics are open to speculation – and the agency still doesn’t have a permanent administrator, just another top science position still unfilled in Trump’s administration, according to The Washington Post. Trump nominated United States Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican of Oklahoma, in September, but Florida’s two senators Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson criticized the choice. Some people say the top position in NASA – which has received bipartisan support for years – shouldn’t be handed to a politician. Other people expressed frustration the agency’s direction has been changed once again – the third time in this century. Former astronaut Scott Kelly told The Washington Post, “We’re always asked to change directions every time we get a new president, and that just causes you to do negative work, work that doesn’t matter. I just hope someday we’ll have a president that will say, ‘You know what, we’ll just leave NASA on the course they are on, and see what NASA can achieve if we untie their hands.” Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Dark highway underpass transformed into a brilliant tunnel of light

January 9, 2018 by  
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Design studio antyRAMA collective converted a dark underpass in the city of Katowice, Poland, into a colorful neon-lit sound installation. The music tunnel, illuminated by polychromatic LED lights , houses an inventive structure made from hanging PVC pipes that form the shape of a sound wave. The PVC pipes, hung from the ceiling of the underpass , are rocked by the strong breeze that passes through the tunnel and hit each other to create a variety of sound effects. Passersby have the opportunity to interact with the structure and put the hanging pipes in motion. Related: Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C. The installation consists of 2018 white PVC pipes suspended on different lengths of a steel wire rope attached to a net placed just under the ceiling. The composition of the tubes creates waves similar to the recording of sound waves and gets denser as it exits towards the Wojewódzka street. Twenty-three new points of colorful LED light have also been added, which effectively illuminate the area and create a unique ambiance. The project pays homage to the musical tradition of Katowice, which was named Creative City by UNESCO. Its interactive nature reflects the evolution of the city’s music which had for centuries connected people from different corners of the world and different cultures. + antyRAMA collective

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Dark highway underpass transformed into a brilliant tunnel of light

Hyundai unveils new Nexo fuel cell SUV with an impressive 370-mile range

January 9, 2018 by  
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Hyundai plans to introduce at least 18 new eco-friendly car models by 2025, starting with the Hyundai Nexo fuel cell vehicle that made its debut at CES in Las Vegas. The Nexo is Hyundai’s second fuel cell SUV following the Tucson FCEV , which has received a long list of upgrades that will make it more appealing and easier to live with. The Hyundai Nexo is based on an entirely new platform that’s not only lighter, but also allows for better packaging of the fuel cell components and the large battery pack . Compared to the old Tucson FCEV, the Nexo is larger in every dimension, with more interior space, but the new lighter platform and more powerful hydrogen fuel cell powertrain gives the Nexo better all around performance. Related: Hyundai’s first long-range EV arrives next year For starters, the Nexo is powered by a more powerful 120 kW electric motor and a larger 40 kW battery pack. The Nexo can reach 60 mph three seconds faster than the Tucson FCEV, but the best part is the driving range. The Nexo can travel up to 370 miles, compared to the Tucson with its 265-mile range, and can be fully refueled in five minutes – try that with an electric car . When the Nexo arrives in early 2018, it will also debut several new driver assist technologies that are new to the Hyundai brand. A new Blind-spot View Monitor takes the conventional blind spot monitor a step further with cameras that display the views on either side of the vehicle on the center mounted screen. The system uses wide angle surround view monitors on each side of the vehicle giving drivers a better view of what cannot be seen with a traditional rearview mirror. The new Lane Following Assist with Highway Driving Assist automatically adjusts the steering to keep the Nexo centered in its lane. The system works at speeds between 0-90 mph and on both highways and city streets. The Highway Driving Assist system uses sensors and map data to automatically adjust the vehicle’s speed. Lastly, the Nexo will arrive with a new Remote Smart Parking Assist system that will enable the vehicle to autonomously park or retrieve itself from a parking space with or without a driver in the car. + Hyundai All images ©Hyundai

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Hyundai unveils new Nexo fuel cell SUV with an impressive 370-mile range

Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

January 5, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration announced on Thursday that it will open nearly all United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This order marks a significant break from bipartisan precedent, which placed at least some restrictions on where the fossil fuel industry could drill offshore. As part of this move, California ‘s waters will be open to drilling for the first time in decades – along with more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the East Coast. The move by the Trump Administration reverses an order implemented by the Obama Administration which blocked oil and gas drilling in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the American offshore territory between state coastal waters and the deep ocean . Such a reversal would mark a serious blow to former President Obama’s environmental legacy and could put coastal states at risk of an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The expansion of oil and gas drilling has already met with bipartisan opposition. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott pushed back against the move, concerned on the effects that drilling might have on tourism. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” said Scott in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida ’s natural resources are protected.” Related: Scientists protest senator’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration Industry leaders have predictably applauded the move. “I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, according to the New York Times . “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.” If all profits from such drilling were directly distributed to taxpayers, perhaps Pyle’s position would resonate. Instead, offshore oil drilling under the current system involves socialized risk, with citizens paying the price when something goes wrong, and privatized gain, with industry profiting off of the public’s natural resources . Finalizing Trump’s plan could take up to a year and a half, during which time the order will be challenged in the courts and Congress . Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the fossil fuel industry takes advantage of these new opportunities in light of oil’s recent slump which has only recently ended and the major infrastructure investment required. All the while, the prospect of a future Democratic president reversing Trump’s order looms. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and The White House/Flickr

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This striking art studio was inspired by the movement of butterfly wings

January 5, 2018 by  
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New York-based firm Valerie Schweitzer Architects has created a funky backyard art studio inspired by the movement of butterfly wings. The 350-square-foot Butterfly Studio comprises multiple volumes that fit together at various angles. The studio is clad in a mix of stucco and reclaimed teak , interrupted by a series of long, narrow windows, giving the project a warm yet industrial character. The compact studio is a beautiful composition of glass, wood and steel. The angled volumes that make up the structure are topped with an expansive skylight of thermally-insulated glass. Allowing the optimal amount of natural light to enter the studio, the skylight all but eliminates the need for artificial lighting, even for an artist. Strategically placed windows provide cross ventilation that captures the breeze off nearby Long Island Sound. A sealed poured concrete flooring contains radiant heat piping, which also adds to the design’s energy efficiency. Related: Prefabricated garden retreat snaps together in less than a week The multi-faceted design was created to provide a strong sense of privacy for anyone working on the studio interior , but without being overly isolated. The windows provide light and a sense of openness on the interior, resulting in an optimal space for artistic production. + Valerie Schweitzer Architects Via v2com Newswire Photography by Tom Leighton

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This striking art studio was inspired by the movement of butterfly wings

Renewable energy could face tax problems in Republican compromise

December 19, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy advocates initially breathed a sigh of relief when the Republican tax bill reworked a provision that could have disrupted the industry’s $12 billion tax-equity market, Bloomberg reported . But a closer look reveals the bill includes what the publication described as “hidden pitfalls that could undercut its benefit.” Law firm Stoel Rives partner Greg Jenner told Bloomberg, “If Congress thought they were eliminating the trouble for renewables , they were wrong. It’s a question of how bad it will be.” Many solar and wind developers receive tax credits , and as they typically don’t have a big tax liability, third parties like insurance companies or banks will invest in their projects – basically in exchange for those credits, according to Bloomberg. The anxiety is over the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), a provision intended to close loopholes for companies including insurers and banks that remit money to affiliates overseas. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. American Council on Renewable Energy president Greg Wetstone said, “The BEAT program will make it harder to use the tax credits – even though it’s significantly improved from what we were presented with” in the Senate. The compromise would expand which companies face the BEAT tax, according to Bloomberg. And because companies won’t be sure if they are subject to a BEAT tax bill, they might not be willing to do a tax-equity deal with renewable energy developers. The compromise tax bill would let companies offset up to 80 percent of their foreign-transaction tax with renewable energy credits, per Bloomberg, but the 80 percent offset expires in 2025. Separately, there could be less demand for renewable energy tax credits if the overall corporate tax rate is trimmed down to 21 percent, according to Bloomberg. The publication said all these details mean there’s a lot of uncertainty in the $12 billion tax-equity market’s future. Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Trump signs bill that recognizes climate change as a threat to the US

December 14, 2017 by  
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This past Tuesday, President Trump signed a bill into law that formally recognizes climate change as a national security threat to the United States . While the president has long railed against climate change and advocated for fossil fuels, the Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress have taken a small but significant step towards formally recognizing climate change. Now that this stance has become codified law, the United States will be further pressured to act. The newly signed law is a hard-earned result of the bipartisan organizing done by the Climate Solutions Caucus. Established in February 2016, the caucus was founded by Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch and Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Currently, there are 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans who serve as members of the caucus. The climate change provision reached the president’s desk as an amendment to the must-pass, annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Republican leadership attempted to remove the provision from the bill, but were defeated when 46 Republican representatives defected and voted to uphold the provision. Related: Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars It requires the Pentagon to conduct a report on the specific vulnerabilities of American military assets to climate change over the next twenty years. In addition, the amendment formally recognizes what the scientific community  and the United States military has been saying for years. “Climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States,” reads the law, “and is impacting stability in areas of the world where the United States armed forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflicts exist.” Since Trump made national security a key plank of his campaign platform, he will be under further pressure to act. Whether the president chooses to do so remains doubtful. Via EcoWatch Images via The White House (1)

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Trump signs bill that recognizes climate change as a threat to the US

Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

December 14, 2017 by  
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Dramatic advances in lasers could get us closer to fusion energy . An international team of 11 scientists is pursuing what was once thought to be impossible, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW): fusion power with hydrogen-boron reactions. The researchers describe this in their recently published study as the ideal clean fusion process: the technique needs no radioactive fuel elements and doesn’t leave toxic radioactive waste. Could we be closer to better fusion energy? The world for decades has pursued igniting the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D) and tritium (T). But generated neutrons from DT fusion produce radioactive waste. The researchers in their paper suggest an alternative: fusing hydrogen with the boron isotope 11. And lasers could help make this hydrogen-boron fusion possible. Related: ‘We were blown away’ – researchers eliminate obstacle to fusion energy Instead of heating fuel to the Sun’s temperature with “massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber,” according to UNSW, scientists can reach hydrogen-boron fusion with rapid bursts from two powerful lasers. This process requires temperatures and densities 200 times hotter than the Sun’s core – but advances in laser technology may have reached the point where the two-laser approach actually could be viable. Study lead author Heinrich Hora of UNSW, who in the 1970s predicted it might be possible to fuse hydrogen and boron without needing thermal equilibrium, said in a statement, “I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies.” HB11 Energy , a spin-off company in Australia, holds the patents. Managing director Warren McKenzie said in a statement, “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf…If the next few years of research don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade.” The journal Laser and Particle Beams published the research online this week. Scientists at institutions in Israel, Spain, Germany, the United States, China, and Greece contributed. + HB11 Energy Via the University of New South Wales Images via Pixabay and HB11 Energy

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Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

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