Monthly Archives: September 2008
Natural, organic, eco-friendly, local, recycled, energy efficient – it all sounds good and green, but is it really sustainable? And even if it is, why should I buy it? Kaisu Christie from Ikko spoke at our September 22nd meeting about how to choose sustainable products and services, and what value add they can provide. Kaisu is a Director of the online retailer, Ikko Pty Ltd, which applies their own tight criteria for all the products and services that they supply.
What is claimed to be the world’s first commercial wave power project opened off the coast of Portugal this week. The €9 million ($16 million) Aguçadoura project is the first of a series experimental wave energy projects by the Ondas de Portugal consortium. The main partners in the consortium are Australia’s Babcock and Brown, with 46%, and Britain’s Pelamis Wave Power, which has a 23% share. Aguçadoura will generate power using three Pelamis wave energy converters – semi-submerged structures made up of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints – located about five kilometres off the coast. The second phase of … Continue Reading
A “sustainable chemical” company called Genomatica has developed a way to use sugar and genetically engineered bacteria to produce a common industrial chemical that is usually produced using petroleum. The chemical, 1,4 Butanediol (BDO), is used as an additive to textiles, in high performance polymers for products such as car bumpers and in moisturisers and glue removers. It is also used as a recreational drug and, once ingested, turns into GBH, the so-called "date rape" drug. The annual global market for the product is about $4 billion. By using sugar from sugar cane as a feedstock, industrial chemical companies can … Continue Reading
Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment is putting money in Sapphire Energy, which plans to make second generation biofuels out of algae. The company announced that it has raised more than $100 million from investors. The San Diego-based company hopes to make commercial amounts of the fuel in three to five years for a cost of $50 to $80 per barrel. Sapphire selects and genetically modifies algae to maximize their internal production of lipids, or fats and then squeezes that from algae. It says the oil can be used in refineries like normal crude. Jason Pyle, Sapphire’s chief executive, said that The … Continue Reading
General Electric and Google have announced that they will collaborate to develop smart-grid technologies with a particular focus on plug-in hybrid vehicles and enhanced, "hot rock" geothermal systems. Smart-grid technology lets utilities more efficiently manage electricity on the grid while smart meters and displays in homes and businesses allow consumers better understand and control home energy use. The deal combines each company’s strengths: GE will make the hardware — from turbines to metering switches, and Google will make the software. For example, electric cars will require more power generation capacity, which GE will provide, and the intelligence needed by the … Continue Reading
France has introduced a "picnic tax" on non-recyclable throwaway plates and cutlery to encourage consumers to buy more eco-friendly products. The tax is the first stage of a programme which will eventually apply to nineteen categories of goods including fridges, washing machines, televisions, batteries, wooden furniture and packaging. The scheme will be revenue neutral because the money raised from the taxes will be used to give tax breaks to environmentally friendly goods. A similar "bonus-malus" system for cars, under which an extra tax is imposed on the most heavily polluting vehicles while less polluting ones get a tax break, has … Continue Reading
James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies have published a study showing that the rise in carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels can be kept below dangerous levels as long as emissions from coal are phased out globally within the next few decades. Professor Hansen is head of the Goddard Institute and is well known for his research in climatology which raised awareness of the global warming issue in the 1980s. Previously published research shows that a dangerous level of global warming will occur if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeds a concentration of about 450 … Continue Reading
Funding for a high-speed rail line that will go from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes will be decided this November, when a $9.95 billion bond measure for the train is voted on. The 1,250 kilomentre bullet train system is expected to eventually carry up to 100 million passengers a year at speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour. The train’s expected usage of 3,350 GWh a year will be generated using renewable energy and will produce no greenhouse gas emissions.
Yamaha and Honda, the two world’s two largest motorbike manufacturers, have both announced that they will soon be manufacturing electric motorcycles that perform on a par with current 50cc bikes. Yamaha aims to launch electric motorcycles with a range of 100 km on a single charge by 2010. Honda will launch an electric motorcycle that can do 50 km on a charge in 2011. The manufacturers’ announcements came in response to an expression of interest by the Japanese Post Office in replacing its fleet of 90,000 bikes with electric models.
A year or two ago, the fossil fuel industry was adamant that renewable energy sources could never provide baseload electric power. Although most experts now admit hat this is not the case, the claim that renewables cannot supply baseload is still sometimes made and needs to be examined. Baseload is the minimum level of power supply that utilities provide to the grid at all times. In Australia, it is usually provided by coal-fired power stations which cannot be started or stopped quickly. Elsewhere, nuclear or other fossil fuels are used. Baseload is usually about 35 to 40% of the maximum … Continue Reading