Wind economics: How to find the devil in the details

May 24, 2017 by  
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Sponsored: Buying wind energy isn’t just a matter of signing up. There are a number of complex questions to ponder.

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Wind economics: How to find the devil in the details

Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

May 16, 2017 by  
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If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California , he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March , EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan. Related: Trump’s EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children 12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away. So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital. Via Grist and Kern Golden Empire Images via Wikimedia Commons and Austin Valley on Flickr

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Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

You’ll never guess why Trump wants to scrap the Energy Star Program

May 2, 2017 by  
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We’re all familiar with the little blue star label on home appliances that tells us how much electricity it will use. The EPA’s Energy Star program is about as uncontroversial as they come: it is a win for consumers and saves billions of dollars. But for some reason, Trump wants to toss the program out. Why would he want to do a thing like that? It probably has nothing to do with the low Energy Star ratings his properties have… right? Beyond rating appliances, Energy Star rates commercial buildings in a voluntary scoring system. Coincidentally, Trump’s properties tend to rate lower than other comparable buildings. In fact, 11 out of 15 of his skyscrapers in New York, San Francisco and Chicago rate low. The Mayfair Hotel, for instance, has a rating of 1. On a scale of 1 to 100. Related: Trump is switching off the EPA’s invaluable public data service This is all speculation, of course. The program does have some critics, but given all the other promises Trump  made on the campaign trail, this seems like an unnecessary fight to pick. Ditching Energy Star will undoubtably help Trump, because investors and tenants usually take note of a building’s efficiency when decide to invest. It’s all just par for the course in Trump’s White House: another day, another grift. via Daily Kos and NPR lead image via Flickr

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You’ll never guess why Trump wants to scrap the Energy Star Program

Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

March 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund program would have a “devastating impact” on New York State, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared at a rally at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn earlier this week. Joined by activists and lawmakers on Tuesday at what is widely considered to be the nation’s most polluted waterway, Schneiderman blasted the president’s calls to slash the agency’s funding by more than 30 percent, noting that the move would stymie the progress of cleaning up America’s most contaminated sites. “President Trump’s proposed budget cuts would have a devastating impact on New York—delaying and obstructing environmental projects around the state,” Schneiderman said. “Decades of hard work have helped clean up New York’s air, water, and environment. But President Trump’s budget threatens to unravel those gains and send us back to the bad old days of choking smog and rampant pollution.” Once a bustling cargo-transportation hub, the 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal is now a cesspool of raw sewage, carcinogenic sludge, and oil slicks. It floundered in political limbo for decades before the EPA designated the canal a Superfund site in 2010. Related: Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal gets Superfund status Dredging work was supposed to begin in earnest later this year, but Trump’s “blueprint” to bring the EPA’s budget to $5.7 billion—its lowest level in 40 years when adjusted for inflation—could grind the already glacial progress to a halt. Schneiderman says he isn’t above taking legal action against the White House, if necessary. “As we’ve made clear: if the Trump administration won’t meet its legal obligations to ensure basic access to a clean, safe, and healthy environment, we won’t hesitate to act to protect New Yorkers,” he said. + Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Via WNYC Photos by bobistraveling

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Trump’s cuts would have ‘devastating impact’ on NY, says NY Attorney General

EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

March 21, 2017 by  
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Spiky ETFE roofs  top this airy forest resort and spa in the historic region of Kurzeme, Latvia. 3GATTI Architecture Studio and OFL Architecture teamed up to design the Pinecones Resort using sustainable construction techniques and prefabrication , resulting in a fairytale-like woodland setting in harmony with its natural surroundings. The resort comprises cone-shaped units with inflatable roofs made from 100 percent recyclable ETFE that has a minimal carbon footprint . Lightweight and flexible, this material offers the possibility of creating dynamic building forms. The roofs will be inflated by a recyclable SPF sprayed eco foam with superior insulation and structural qualities. The laminated lightweight frames, made from locally-sourced wood, support the roof membrane and allows it to withstand snow loads. Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over The resort will focus on providing Blue Clay treatments based on organic and naturally abundant material. Different programs will be distributed across the site, with wooden bridges connecting the units housing winter tubs, saunas, therapy rooms and dining areas. In addition to the aforementioned sustainable features, the resort will also include a water filtration system, geothermal loops, and solar window technologies. + 3GATTI  + OFL Architecture Via Archdaily

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

March 1, 2017 by  
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In his first address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump failed to mention the clean energy jobs boom taking place across the United States. Instead of talking up the more than three million domestic jobs that have been created in solar, wind and other renewables, Trump touted the “tens of thousands of jobs” that construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines would create — adding that he directed the pipelines be made with American steel. Trump also boasted about ending an Obama-era coal mining rule that protects waterways from coal mining waste, telling Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill that the regulation “threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.” Trump also failed to mention climate change in his speech, an issue that the president has been ambivalent about at best, in denial about at worst. In perhaps an encouraging sign for the majority of Americans who support the US staying in the Paris climate deal , including Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the president didn’t talk about withdrawing from the landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions, instead discussing his withdrawing the US from the “job-killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership. Related: Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall Earlier in the day, Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back an Obama-era environmental regulation to protect American waterways. New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is also expected to undo major environmental rules on clean water, climate change and air pollution. So it is no surprise that many in the environmental community found it a bit hypocritical when during Trump’s address he pledged to “promote clean air and clear water.” Boosting the defense budget (at the expense of domestic programs) was a major talking point during the address. Trump said that he is sending Congress a budget that “rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” That isn’t good news for the environment as Trump is expected to ask Congress to  cut the EPA’s budget 24 percent, or nearly $2 billion. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties An area that could be a positive sign for the environmental community and clean energy industry is Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan . Saying that the time has come for a “new program of national rebuilding,” Trump said that he will be asking Congress to approve the massive infrastructure investment. Could new public works projects include green infrastructure? That remains to be seen, although Trump has said previously that he is a big fan of high-speed rail . At the end of his speech, Trump set a vision for what the country could achieve by the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. He looked back at the country’s 100th anniversary in 1876 when American inventors showed off their new technology such as Thomas Edison’s electric pen and an early attempt at electric light. But while Trump seems adamant about reviving 20th century energy sources such as coal, there is another electric revolution led by the revolutionaries of our time, including Elon Musk and his vision for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and battery storage. Will Trump embrace the clean energy future or be stuck in the dirty energy past? That is still an open question after his first address to Congress. + Transcript: President Trump’s First Address to Congress Images via KTBS

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Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

March 1, 2017 by  
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New images submitted to the City of Mountain View in January provide our best look at Google’s proposed 18.6-acre Charleston East campus – the first the technology giant is constructing from the ground up. The heart of the new space, according to plans drafted by the design teams of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio , is a two-story, 595,000-square-foot building. It’s topped by an expansive tent-like canopy that conjures up images of Bonnaroo rather than stuffy business meetings. The roof is studded with photovoltaics, plus other enhancements designed to regulate indoor climate, air quality, and sound. There will be plenty of breathing space, both within and without. The building will enclose “flexible building components” that can be reconfigured on a whim, as well as indoor and outdoor green spaces, populated by native, drought-tolerant flora, to bolster biodiversity. Google , in collaboration with city biologists, has made special considerations for the burrowing owl, once one of California’s most common birds but now a species in decline due to habitat loss. “No plants will be installed that would provide perches for raptors or hiding places for feral cats, both of which prey on the owls,” the plans read. “Grasses, forbs, and small shrubs that provide habitat for insects will be targeted to support owl foraging.” Related: New tent-like HQ plan emerges from the ashes of Google’s original vision Google’s proposal also includes a detailed “landscape narrative” featuring the so-called Green Loop, a “linearly connected canvas of trees” that bridges the Charleston Basin and the main Googleplex headquarters by way of Charleston Park. Could this make up for the planned removal of 160 trees, 100 of which have been designated heritage? We can hope. More than a place of business, Google’s new campus will apparently serve as a “destination for the local community.” Myriad small green hubs scattered throughout the site will house pedestrian walkways, and bike paths will abound in the small green hubs scattered throughout. An open plaza could host al fresco seating, food trucks, small stalls, perhaps a seniors’ tai chi class or two. “Quieter and more intimate” spaces will support collaboration and private conversation. Pulling all this together would hardly be a modest endeavor. If approved by the city, construction on Charleston East will span roughly two-and-a-half years. + City of Mountain View Via 9to5google

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Elon Musk wants to build an electric roller coaster at Tesla’s campus

March 1, 2017 by  
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Tesla is quickly becoming one of the coolest places to work. After an employee spoke out about working conditions in a Medium post, Elon Musk sent out an email detailing his vision for company fun – including free frozen yogurt stands and an electric pod car roller coaster . Tesla employee Jose Moran penned a post titled Time for Tesla to Listen earlier this month, calling out the electric car company for 60-70 hour work weeks and hourly wages lower than those earned by average automotive workers. He said many employees were exploring unionizing, and had contacted the labor union United Auto Workers (UAW). Moran said he believes in Tesla’s vision, but wants to make the company better. Related: Tesla just announced plans to build up to five Gigafactories In response, Musk sent out a company-wide email. He said he was distraught at the mention of the UAW, because in Musk’s view the union favors large car companies and doesn’t share Tesla’s mission. He also accused UAW of employing disingenuous tactics. Musk said Tesla awards employees shares and offers the opportunity to buy stock at lower prices than the public, in contrast to other car companies. Regarding work hours, Musk pointed to changes to reduce overtime hours such as the addition of a third shift. Of course, an average Tesla worker’s week is still slightly longer than 40 hours at 43 hours a week. He also looked ahead to changes that can be enacted when Tesla becomes profitable. When the Model 3 attains volume production, the company will host what Musk described as a really amazing party. But a fancy shindig isn’t all Tesla employees can look forward to; Musk said in the email, “There will also be little things that come along like free frozen yogurt stands scattered around the factory and my personal favorite: a Tesla electric pod car roller coaster (with an optional loop the loop route, of course!) that will allow fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus, dipping in and out of the factory and connecting all the parking lots. It’s going to get crazy good.” Via TechCrunch Images via Austin Kirk on Flickr and OnInnovation on Flickr

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Elon Musk wants to build an electric roller coaster at Tesla’s campus

EPA workers openly fight against potential Pruitt confirmation

February 17, 2017 by  
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With Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt ‘s installation as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head seeming more likely, current EPA employees have taken to their phones and the streets to resist his potential confirmation. They’ve contacted their senators and protested; one expert said he “can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this.” EPA scientists, policy experts, and environmental lawyers are openly opposing the confirmation of a man who’s sued the EPA 14 times – sometimes working with large fossil fuel companies – and can’t come up with even one EPA regulation he supports. The EPA’s union has sent emails and posted on social media exhorting members to take action. EPA employees in Chicago protested on the streets. Related: Scott Pruitt can’t name a single EPA regulation he approves of TechCrunch reported yesterday the EPA posted a snapshot of what their website looked like the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration after receiving numerous requests for the information. Two Democrat senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp , said they’ll vote for Pruitt, and only one Republican, Maine’s Susan Collins , said she’ll oppose him. EPA lawyer Nicole Cantello, who’s also the Chicago area union leader, told The New York Times, “It seems like Trump and Pruitt want a complete reversal of what EPA has done. I don’t know if there’s any other agency that’s been so reviled. So it’s in our interests to do this.” Should Pruitt be confirmed, it would be difficult to fire those workers who opposed him due to Civil Service protections, meaning there could be a lot of internal dissension against actions Pruitt aims to take, like dismantling the Clean Power Plan . Former EPA employee Judith Enck told The New York Times, “EPA staff are pretty careful. They’re risk-averse. If people are saying and doing things like this, it’s because they’re really concerned.” Via The New York Times Images via Lorie Shaull on Flickr and Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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