Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars

December 12, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s administration has made overtures about sending American astronauts back to the Moon . Yesterday, he signed Space Policy Directive 1, calling for a United States-led program with private sector partners to do just that, and then send humans to Mars . Harrison Schmitt, the most recent living human to walk on Earth’s satellite, was present at the signing, which happened 45 years to the minute after he landed on the Moon. Space Policy Directive 1 says the NASA administrator should “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The policy halts NASA’s current work to send astronauts to an asteroid . Related: Mike Pence says America will send humans back to the moon Trump said, “The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972…This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints – we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.” In their statement on the directive, the White House said Trump is refocusing the space program on feasible goals. They also said the country isn’t the accepted leader in human space exploration any longer, but “should be a leader in space.” The White House aims to send astronauts to space aboard American-made rockets in upcoming years, and said American companies will provide rockets and engines to the Pentagon for national security payloads. The policy was inspired by a unanimous recommendation from the National Space Council , which the White House says Trump revived after 24 years. Vice President Mike Pence chairs the council. Via NASA and The White House Images via NASA/Aubrey Gemignani and NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr

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Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars

Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments

December 6, 2017 by  
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United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that two more national monuments in the West be reduced in size. The recommendation to shrink Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon and California and Gold Butte in Nevada comes shortly after the Trump Administration’s decision to remove millions of acres from two national monuments in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Zinke also stated that President Trump should change the boundaries of two oceanic monuments, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine in the Pacific Ocean. Rolling back Obama Administration policies and achievements, including the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument, is apparently a high priority for the Trump Administration. However, these expansive plans have already been met with fierce opposition and legal challenges, casting doubt on when, if ever, these reductions will occur. In a recent call with reporters, Zinke announced his policy recommendations. The Secretary also pushed back against a claim made by outdoor retailer Patagonia that Trump “stole” the land set aside for the national monuments , saying that Patagonia’s message was “nefarious, false and a lie.” “You mean Patagonia made in China ?,” said Zinke. “This is an example of a special interest. I think it is shameful and appalling that they would blatantly lie in order to get money in their coffers.” Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump Administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” Bears Ears , one of the monuments set to be shrunk, was established by President Barack Obama with the support of five American Indian tribes for whom the site has spiritual significance. The tribes are now mounting a legal challenge to what conservation groups have called the largest elimination of protected land in American history. If President Trump accepts Zinke’s recommendations and also attempts to shrink Gold Butte and Cascade-Siskiyou, he will have added a new front in a legal war that will likely drag on for years, perhaps into a new administration. Via The Guardian Images via Bureau of Land Management and Chris Nichols

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Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking two more national monuments

Trump’s first big brawl with China may center on solar panels

December 1, 2017 by  
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The Trump Administration has signaled its intention to take a significantly tougher approach to trade with China, where most of the world’s solar panels are produced. This stance follows President Trump’s campaign promise to protect American jobs from being outsourced to another country. Due to increasing international competition in the solar industry, at least a dozen solar companies have closed factories in the United States . In response to Chinese domination of the global solar market, the United States had already raised tariffs on solar panels produced in China during the Obama Administration , prompting Chinese solar companies to relocate production to nearby Southeast Asian countries. Now, the Trump Administration may authorize tariffs on all solar panel imports into the United States, potentially raising costs to American consumers of solar power. China’s solar industry has undergone an extraordinary transformation over the past decade. Though its contribution to the global solar industry was once relatively insignificant, China now produces more than two-thirds of the world’s solar panels. This economy of scale has enabled the global prices for solar panels to drop by ninety percent, positively contributing to the world’s shift away from fossil fuels and towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The current conflict in which the Trump Administration seeks to escalate pits American consumers and solar installation companies, which have benefited from cheaper solar panels, and American solar panel producers, which seek to even the playing field with China’s solar industry. Related: Solar record-breaking China aims for 50GW installed in 2017 American manufacturers contend that Chinese solar panel production benefits unfairly from state subsidies and low-cost loans backed by government-run banks. These manufacturers “are technically insolvent, but they still get capital,” said Mark Widmar, the chief executive of Phoenix-based First Solar, according to the New York Times . Interfering on behalf of American solar panel manufacturers is not without its risks. If the Trump Administration successfully implements a more expansive tariff system, which could happen as soon as January 2018, it raises the likelihood of retaliation from China and the potential for a broader trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Via the New York Times Images via The White House and Depositphotos

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Trump’s first big brawl with China may center on solar panels

Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you thought Microsoft’s awesome treehouse offices were the ultimate step in the tech giant’s efforts to make its employees a top priority, think again. The tech giant just announced that it will be razing its 500-acre Redmond campus in order to construct a sustainable Microsoft mini city, complete with 18 new buildings, a two-acre open plaza , retail space, jogging and walking trails, two soccer fields, a cricket field, and its own light rail station. According to the company, the expansive campus, which will be divided into “team neighborhoods”, will be focused on providing a “more open and less formal” working environment. Inside, the spaces will be filled with social hubs and light-filled offices, but the new layout will be primarily focused on providing plenty of outdoor and recreational space for the employees. Once complete, the campus will have 18 new buildings, offering workspace for the 47,000 employees that currently work on site, as well as extra room for an additional 8,000 people. The Redmond campus is already a Zero Waste Certified campus, but will be renovated with increased waste-reduction initiatives . Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air As part of the green transportation focus, all of the cars will be parked in an underground parking lot, so that above ground, the employees can travel by foot, bike or, eventually, by a light rail system scheduled for completion in 2023. As part of the green transportation focus, a new foot and bike bridge will be built over the WA-520 in order to connect both sides of its campus. This will connect with a planned Redmond Technology Transit Station where the Link Light Rail is expected to arrive in 2023. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project will run approximately $150m, and expects the rebuild to create 2,500 construction and development jobs.”We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact,” explained Smith in the announcement. + Microsoft blog Via ZD Net Images via Microsoft

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Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

November 29, 2017 by  
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A recently formed Florida-based company was granted a $30 million contract to provide vital supplies to Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria , only to have the contract cancelled by FEMA after Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for urgent repairs. While no payments were ever made to the company, the botched contract resulted in four weeks of inactivity, between when the contract was given and when it was cancelled, while Puerto Ricans went without the vital supplies they need to rebuild. This failure comes amidst a period of heavy rainstorms, during which emergency tarps would have been very helpful in protecting people — many of whom remain homeless in Puerto Rico. It is not known how thoroughly FEMA vetted Bronze Star before granting the contract, but there are certainly warning signs regarding the company’s seriousness. Formed in August 2017, Bronze Star had never delivered supplies or been awarded a government contract before. The company, founded by two brothers, was listed at an address in a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida . Kayon Jones, co-founder of Bronze Star, claims that, prior to accepting the contract, manufacturers had promised him that tarps would be ready and fit for usage. Related: Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico Jones also claims that the difficulty in acquiring the tarps was due to their being manufactured in Houston, Texas , which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones in an interview with the Associated Press . Although more than half a dozen other businesses bid for the contract, FEMA has not disclosed details as to why the deal was ultimately granted to Bronze Star. Via Associated Press Images via United States Department of Agriculture (1)

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$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

Cloud lamp erupts into a frenzied lightning storm every time Donald Trump tweets

November 15, 2017 by  
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French artist Parse/Error has created an ingenious lamp that erupts into a miniature lightning storm whenever Donald Trump tweets. The lamp is connected to Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and it reacts in real time to his infamous “tweet storms” with flashes of light and rolling clouds. In its normal state, La Political Lamp is a simple light fixture filled with calming clouds . However, once connected to Trump’s account – or any account for that matter – each tweet precipitates a series of flashing lightning bolts, converting the lamp into a raging mini storm. Related: Dazzling Storm Cloud of Light Born from Ordinary Pot Scrubbers According to the artist, the lamp symbolizes the current rise of intolerance throughout the world when it comes to political leaders : “The choice of setting the Political Lamp to follow the tweets of Donald Trump is explained by the fact that he perfectly embodies a dangerous era. A world where the words of one man, released without reflection and with spontaneity on a global social network, can endanger the fate of millions by spreading the ghost of nuclear war on the planet.” + Political Lamp Via Notcot

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Cloud lamp erupts into a frenzied lightning storm every time Donald Trump tweets

Why Trump’s nominee to lead NASA is terrifying choice for the planet

November 6, 2017 by  
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In an administration that has been defined by its disdain for scientific concensus and even basic facts , it should come as no surprise that Jim Bridenstine, former Republican Congressman and President Trump’s nominee to lead NASA , has no scientific background. During a recent Senate confirmation hearing , Bridenstine claimed that while humans are contributing to climate change, there is no way of knowing to what extent – a statement that goes against scientific consensus. Bridenstine has aggressively denied climate science in the past , has gone so far as to introduce legislation that would eliminate Earth science from NASA’s mission statement, and seems poised to ignore scientific evidence even if appointed to lead what is perhaps the most iconic institution of engineering and science in American government . During his Senate hearing, Bridenstine was questioned by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who took issue with Bridenstine’s failure to acknowledge current science. In response to a question on the factors that contribute to climate change, Bridenstine responded that “it’s going to depend on a lot of factors and we’re still learning more about that every day. In some years you could say absolutely, in other years, during sun cycles and other things, there are other contributing factors that would have maybe more of an impact.” Bridenstine’s statement revealed his failure to understand climate change , which is measured over decades, not in year-to-year variations. The most recent IPCC report concluded that there is a 95% chance that humans are mainly responsible for the changing climate. Even a report from the Trump Administration reached the same conclusion. Related: The isolated Pacific graveyard where spaceships go to die In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) offered his endorsement of Bridenstine in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel . “Jim Bridenstine has a firsthand perspective on the need to better understand our Earth and the behavior of the atmosphere,” Perlmutter wrote. “He has a keen awareness of the important Earth science missions NASA is undertaking and wants to continue to advance our understanding of the planet.” Although Bridenstine has pledged to keep NASA “apolitical,” his previous career as a Republican congressman seems likely to haunt his tenure at NASA, if he is confirmed. “I believe you’re going to get confirmed,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Bridenstine during his confirmation hearing. “But, I would say to my Democratic friends on this committee, that if the confirmation ends up going down to a party-line vote, I think that would be deeply unfortunate for NASA and for the space community .” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1) , lead image via Wikimedia

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1967 Volkswagen Camper transformed into ‘Back to the Future’ time machine

November 6, 2017 by  
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As Marty would say, “that’s heavy”. Velocity Motors gave this 1967 VW camper a Back to the Future -inspired renovation that would make Doc Brown proud. Complete with Delorean-esque gull-wing doors and even a Flux Capacitor, the vintage van is currently on sale for $89,995. The exterior of the renovated camper is painted a sleek, muted grey. However, once the gull-wing doors swing upwards, there’s no denying the personality behind the custom makeover. In the front seat, drivers will enjoy a nice wide windshield as they program the working Flux Capacitor to go back to the future on a moment’s notice. No word if the Capacitor needs a boost from a lighting bolt to jolt the car into action. Related: Iconic VW Camper van to be revived as a battery-electric vehicle The revamped VW camper ‘s interior goes full throttle on its cinematic homage. A bright yellow and orange retro scheme was used throughout. The side doors open up into the passenger area, complete with comfy sofas and retro chairs – perfect for watching the Back to the Future movies on the large flat screen. The vintage van has just over 50,000 miles and is currently on sale by Nashville-based Velocity Motors for $89,995. + Velocity Motorcars Via My Modern Met Images via Velocity Motorcars

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1967 Volkswagen Camper transformed into ‘Back to the Future’ time machine

Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

September 15, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump doesn’t usually mention solar power , unless it’s talk of covering his beloved border wall in solar panels . But his Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a huge investment in concentrated solar power (CSP). Recently, the solar industry  reached the 2020 SunShot Initiative utility-scale solar cost goal, so the DOE is now looking into new priorities for investment. The DOE recently issued a press release stating they’ll invest up to $82 million in research: $62 million for CSP and $20 million in power electronics technologies, focusing on new technologies now that the average price for utility-scale solar is now six cents per kilowatt-hour. The MIT Technology Review suggested DOE officials think CSP could enhance grid stability more in the long term since CSP plants can store some power as heat, allowing them to keep producing electricity when there’s no sunshine. Related: Dubai to build the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant But the energy CSP plants generate has been costlier than photovoltaics . And according to the MIT Technology Review, some people are suspicious the DOE may move to weaken support for photovoltaics. The Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal slashed funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by almost 70 percent. That’s the same office that manages the SunShot Initiative. The DOE also announced a $50 million funding opportunity for large-scale pilot fossil fuel projects in late August. But CSP’s ability to store power is a strong advantage. Energy policy researcher David Victor of the University of California, San Diego did say investing in CSP makes sense, telling MIT Technology Review, “My general impression is that we have relatively over-invested in photovoltaics and under-invested in [concentrated solar].” Dan Reicher, executive director at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, told MIT Technology Review, “[Concentrated solar power] today hasn’t been able to compete with photovoltaics, but there are some promising research areas. Given the climate challenge, we need to put eggs in many, many zero-carbon baskets.” Via MIT Technology Review and the Department of Energy Images via Bureau of Land Management on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

Trump waives dozens of environmental laws to speed construction of his wall

August 3, 2017 by  
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An anonymous official revealed two weeks ago that Trump intends to decimate the “crown jewel” of the national refuge system in order to build his border wall. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it would disregard dozens of environmental rules in order to rush construction, which could start as soon as January. Workers have already been on site to prepare for building. The government is allowed to waive environmental requirements in order to build infrastructure, including skirting the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. In order to avoid dealing with private land owners, Trump’s wall is slated to start in the Santa Ana refuge, and while building in any refuge would be awful for the environment, the Sant Ana refuge is particularly devastating because it is home to the endangered ocelot, jaguar and jaguarondi. It is also one of the most cherished bird refuges in the US. “The lower Rio Grande is a national treasure for birds,” said Michael J. Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy . Related: “Crown jewel” wildlife refuge to be decimated as Trump starts building border wall Funding for the wall has already been approved by the House and now it is heading to the Senate for approval. It includes a provision for rebuilding the wall in San Diego, which was built just a decade ago. “Replacing the San Diego border wall only a decade after it was built shows that the border wall has always been stupid, ineffective and incredibly expensive,” Brian Segee, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said. “Trump’s border wall would compound this travesty by dividing and destroying more communities, wildlife and wild places.” Meanwhile, one of the most incredible bird watching refuges in the US stands to be split in half by the wall unless the Senate is convinced to kill funding. Via Grist Images via Flickr , Wikimedia and Wikimedia

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