• Nest Learning Thermostat: Shiny Toy or Serious Tool?

    It looks a bit like a hockey puck, but it's designed to keep your home warm in the winter, while cooling it in the summer. But while it is indeed slick, it's a lot smarter than a hockey puck; so smart, in fact that it can learn. I'm talking, of course, of the Nest Learning Thermostat. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change and population growth making US water problems worse

    Climate change and population growth in the United States will make having enough fresh water more challenging in the coming years, an expert on water shortages said on Wednesday. "In 1985-1986 there were historical (water level) highs and now in less than 25 years we are at historical lows. Those sorts of swings are very scary," said Robert Glennon, speaking at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference in Erie, Pennsylvania. Glennon, a professor at Arizona State University and the author of "Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It," said that that according to climate experts, shorter, warmer winters mean less ice and greater exposure to the air, leading eventually to more water evaporation. "We think about water like the air -- infinite and inexhaustible but it is very finite and very exhaustible," Glennon said. "When you have a shorter ice season you have great exposure to the air and more evaporation. As temperatures go up it is very troubling," Glennon said. "The cycles are going to become more acute which is very troubling." >> Read the Full Article
  • Water use growing twice as fast as population!

    Like oil in the 20th century, water could well be the essential commodity on which the 21st century will turn. Human beings have depended on access to water since the earliest days of civilization, but with 7 billion people on the planet as of October 31, exponentially expanding urbanization and development are driving demand like never before. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, said Kirsty Jenkinson of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. Water use is predicted to increase by 50 percent between 2007 and 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed ones, with much of the increased use in the poorest countries with more and more people moving from rural areas to cities, Jenkinson said in a telephone interview. >> Read the Full Article
  • California approves carbon market rules

    California regulators on Thursday approved final regulations for a carbon market that is one of the biggest U.S. responses to climate change. The state believes the market for greenhouse gases, which starts in 2013, will let it address global warming in a low-cost way and become the center of alternative energy industries, like solar, although some businesses fear higher energy prices. The most populous U.S. state is moving ahead with the plan years after federal regulators rejected a similar idea for the nation, partly on concerns of the effect on businesses. The California Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to adopt the market regulations, which officials said are critical to the state's goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about a 22 percent reduction from forecasted business-as-usual output. Power companies and factories will be able to trade a gradually decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the so-called cap-and-trade plan, which counts on market forces leading companies to find the cheapest way to cut emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Japanese team wins Australian solar car race

    A team from Japan won a world solar car race through Australia's outback on Thursday, after battling more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) of remote highways, dodging kangaroos and other wildlife and avoiding a bushfire. Race officials said the team from Tokai University, near Tokyo, finished the race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide at about noon on Thursday. The teams set off on Sunday. The Nuon Solar Car Team from the Netherlands came second, while a U.S. team from the University of Michigan finished third. Nuon's driver Javier Sint Jago said he had to avoid a bushfire, wallabies, cattle, sheep and lizards on his marathon drive, although the biggest challenge was to fight the strong winds which buffeted his 140 kg (300 lb) vehicle. "It was pretty rough. The side winds were 50 to 60 km an hour (30-40 mph), and can easily push you off the side," he said. "It was just so much concentration." Thirty-seven cars from 21 countries started off in Darwin, heading south and using only the power generated by the sun in the 11th running of the annual race. >> Read the Full Article
  • Commentary: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill To Weaken EPA Clean Air Rules

    Two bills are currently working they way through the U.S. Congress in an attempt to stay activation of new air pollution regulations propagated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, namely additions to the NESHAP, Cement MACT, and Boiler MACT standards scheduled to take effect in the next few months. The new regulations will require most facilities to install updated dust collection systems to meet more stringent emissions levels. The pair of bills, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, are part of a larger effort by conservatives to curtail the so-called "aggressive" agenda of the EPA. Several different EPA rule sets are covered by the bill, but the main three are the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), Boiler MACTs (Maximum Available Control Technology), and Cement MACTs which covers emissions from the manufacture of cement. The standards are either new, or updates to existing EPA regulations. The EPA NESHAPs cover the six basic air pollutants the EPA regulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter e.g. dusts smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), lead, and ozone. These rules were recently revised to include stricter limits. >> Read the Full Article
  • Prius Plug-in Versus Volt: Which Costs Less to Drive?

    Now that Toyota’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been officially announced, we can begin the comparisons with the other plug-in electric vehicle with an extended driving range, the Chevrolet Volt. The underlying question is which is more important to consumers: electric driving range, or total vehicle fuel efficiency? >> Read the Full Article
  • Cities Can’t Combat Climate Change Alone

    By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and are responsible for 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. It will be cities, not individual states or governments, who will need to employ effective urban planning, implement eco-friendly ordinances, reduce emissions, and plan for the coming effects of climate change. In Life in the Big City: Unlocking Smart Development (SXSW Eco), the discussion centered around the premise that cities, centers of global economic activity and innovation, have the greatest power to impact climate change. But can they do it alone? >> Read the Full Article
  • GM to produce all-electric Chevy Spark

    General Motors Co confirmed it will make its first all-electric vehicle, a version of the Chevrolet Spark minicar that will debut in 2013 and take aim at Nissan Motor Co Ltd's Leaf. "Chevrolet will produce an all-electric version of the Spark minicar for selected U.S. and global markets, including California," Jim Federico, Chevy's global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles, said at the company's Detroit headquarters on Wednesday. Electric cars have been slow to catch on. In the U.S. market, demand has been held back by the lack of models to choose from, skimpy infrastructure for charging the vehicles, high sticker prices, and low gasoline prices compared with other industrialized nations. News of the electric Spark continues GM's push to seize the mantle of "greenest automaker in the world" from Toyota Motor Corp, which makes the popular Prius hybrid car. GM, like other major automakers, also needs more fuel-efficient cars as the industry pushes toward more stringent U.S. requirements that will be in place by 2025. >> Read the Full Article
  • Eight Amazing Things About Solar Panels That Could Change the World

    Green energy is one of the most rapidly expanding industries in the world right now due to so many people looking to do their part to help save the planet. With so much focus on solving global warming and reducing air pollution, smarter and cleaner forms of energy are being looked at very closely by scientists and consumers. There are several cool facts about solar power that can change the world. >> Read the Full Article