Published on August 10th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan6
Cleantech Breakfast Platter (Corporate Billionaires Fail, Tesla Model S Crash Test…)
I’m changing up the cleantech breakfast platter a bit (we’ll see how long this lasts — you all know how my appetite changes). I’m going back to including a little excerpt from each story under the title. Hope that’s useful. I’m also focusing more on what I’d consider the “best of the best” — not just the headlines I like but the stories I really think are worth a read. Hope that helps to keep from overwhelming people. Here’s this weekend’s cleantech breakfast platter (if you’re good, I may also give you breakfast tomorrow… we’ll see) — as always, links to our own stories on these subjects (MUST READ) are on the subheadings below:
When you ride a bike in a city, you need a good bell. This should go without saying, but I’m still surprised by how many cyclists I meet here in New York that don’t use a bell. (UPDATE: Apparently bells are legally required here in NY. I had no idea!) Sadly, many of the bell options I’ve seen are either too complicated and can become dysfunctional if they are slightly bumped or are too quiet or too awkward to use during a ride.
During my short trip to Denmark last month, I spent a good amount of time on a heavy, black cruiser bike rented from my hotel, exploring the city of Copenhagen and surrounds in search of lessons in bike culture, infrastructure, and policy that I could bring back home to the states. Some of my most productive time, however, was spent out of the saddle sitting at sidewalk cafés, talking to designers, planners, and policy wonks. Also, I spent loads of time drinking copious amounts of beer and/or coffee, and watching the beautiful people pedal by — most of them on “granny bikes” like mine.
I spent an entire afternoon at one café with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co. Colville-Andersen makes a living as a provocateur and a preacher, spreading the gospel of biking to cities around the world. He makes a strong case that we should take our streets back from the traffic engineers, and instead design them with people in mind. He also says Americans need to take bicycling back from the bike tribes — the hipsters, speedsters, and bike messengers — and make them as ordinary as the black granny bikes on Copenhagen’s streets.
[Note from Zach: that focus mentioned at the end was exactly the focus of my master's thesis and my follow-up work as director of a freedom-of-choice-in-transportation organization in Virginia -- I think it's pretty darn important!]
What is it about crashes and destruction that so fascinates us human beings? That brings up all sorts of philosophical questions, like why do we create if we always end up destroying said creations? Are humans builders, or wreckers by nature? Or are we both? Such questions we will leave to philosophy majors as we enjoy two minutes of Tesla Model S crash tests. You’re welcome.
The Tesla Model S received 5 out of 5 stars in every single one of the NHTSA’s crash tests. This includes front impact, side impact, and rollover accidents, a recent addition to the testing procedure that is especially destructive. The Model S passed all of these tests with flying colors.
Despite being skeptical of hybrid technology at first, major automakers are really starting to dig into the potential of dual-drivetrain vehicles. While Mazda still doesn’t sell a hybrid vehicle, it has joined forces with Clemson University to build the Deep Orange 3 concept car. What makes this concept so cool is its ability to switch between front, rear, and all-wheel drive.
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $19-million New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program to encourage the purchase of battery-electric commercial trucks as well as other energy-efficient transportation, including hybrid and CNG (compressed natural gas) trucks. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) estimates that this program could encourage the purchase or retrofit of up to 1,000 low-emission trucks in areas of the state with the poorest air quality.
The truck voucher program will include two voucher funds: $9 million for battery-electric truck vouchers offered in 30 counties around the state that did not meet federal clean air standards, primarily downstate New York, the Capital Region and Western New York; and a $10-million alternative fuels voucher fund for New York City, which also includes compressed natural gas, hybrid-electric vehicles and retrofitting diesel engines with emission control devices.
As many people have pointed out, solar panels aren’t like household appliances, they are more like financial investments. So, the key point many people want to know is, what’s my solar ROI (return on investment). The report summarized in the story above shows the average solar ROI for states across the US, which is pretty cool and interesting. Preceding the infographic shared above is also some expert commentary.
Wind + Solar + Geothermal
How A Powerful Group Of Corporations Quietly Tried To Roll Back Clean Energy Standards, And Failed Miserably
This year ALEC decided to prioritize the dismantling of states’ renewable energy standards and targets across the country. Their record? 0 for 13. In the states where ALEC and its members sought to repeal or weaken renewable energy standards or targets, not a single bill passed in 2013.
ALEC was joined in this effort by the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science and known for launching a billboard campaign that linked people who care about global warming to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, murderer Charles Manson, and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
ALEC and the Heartland Institute also recruited a host of other conservative organizations and wealthy donors into the fight against renewable energy, such as Art Pope, the John Locke Foundation, Grover Norquist, the American Conservative Union, and Americans for Tax Reform. Even with that considerable conservative firepower battling renewable energy, renewable energy won.
Halfway between the island state of Tasmania and mainland Australia, in the heart of the Bass Strait, is rugged, windswept King Island. With a population of just under 2,000 and an area of just over 400 square miles, tiny King Island is becoming a big leader in electricity generation, demonstrating that a high-renewables future is possible.
King Island, and especially greater Tasmania, face many challenges due to climate change including water availability, flooding of coastal settlements, a rise of bushfires, and decreased agriculture and aquaculture industries. Although Australia’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is small—and Tasmania’s even smaller, thanks in part to large amounts of hydro—the island has a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
In the smart home of the future, an integrated system will allow your cell phone or tablet to control your security system, lighting, heating, and possibly even your sound system while you are away. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel however, these systems already exist! But can these systems continue to thrive in a time where there is a growing push to reduce energy consumption? Intuitively, one more electrical system would increase the amount of energy consumed and increase a home’s energy bill. However, the reverse is actually true. Not only will these systems and phone apps continue to exist; they will flourish.
When people talk about “climate impacts,” the images that usually come to mind are broiling heat waves, drought-parched creek beds, dangerous storm surges, the slowly-but-surely rising sea. These things can seem distant and unlikely to affect most people’s day-to-day lives, but there is growing evidence that the reality of climate change will strike close to home.
[Linked above] is a list of things of things that will be negatively affected by climate change that may not immediately come to mind when someone says “the greenhouse effect.”
A new study by the University of Texas at Arlington has found higher concentrations of heavy metals in ground water near natural gas wells.
Associate Professor Kevin Schug of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry became interested in fracking when the University of Texas at Arlington leased some land for natural gas drilling. His team used ground water records from 1988-1998 to establish the historical baseline for the Barnett Shale in North Texas.
The study found that arsenic, strontium, selenium, and barium were more concentrated near the gas wells and were higher than the historical baseline. Some of the levels exceeded EPA limits for drinking water.
Not everyone wants to talk about waste, but it’s a pretty damn important topic! Last week our Ecopreneurist Priti Ambini moderated a panel discussion with two entrepreneurs who are disrupting the way we think about waste. The discussion happened last week, but lucky you! There is a YouTube video [at the link above] that shares their Google Hangout!