Biofuel Powered Rocket Reaches Speed of Sound

Biofuels for airplanes are desperately needed. Every time an airplane flies carbon dioxide is emitted. According to Greenpeace UK, flying is ten times worse than traveling by train in terms of impact to the environment. A "significant proportion" of a plane's carbon dioxide emissions is at altitude, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization's Air Transport Bureau.

A biofueled rocket launched this summer in the Mohave Desert reached 20,000 feet and Mach 1, the speed of sound. The biofuel that powered the rocket is Jet Propellant-8 (JP-8), developed and produced by a team of scientists from the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC). The fuel was made from canola and soybean oils. The rocket was built by Flometrics, Inc. of San Diego, California.

"This is a unique opportunity for the EERC's renewable fuel," said EERC director Gerald Groenwold.

Carsten Heide, associate director of the EERC said, "We demonstrated that this fuel is a flying fuel, and is 100% renewable and burns clean. It would open up the possibility to run 100% renewable, clean planes."

"The demonstration worked very well, and were are pleased with the fuel. In fact, it performed better than expected," said Steve Harrington, President of Flometrics.

Polish Health Clinic Becomes Energy Efficient

A health clinic in Poland enacts energy efficiency measures.

Small Island Nations Want Deeper Emissions Reductions

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) criticized reductions set by G8 and Major Economies Forum (developing countries) in Italy as too weak to protect small island nations from effects of climate change.

G8 nations and Major Economies Forum agreed to a 16 percent reduction by 2020, and to cap temperatures at 3.6 degrees Fahreinheit (two degrees Celsius) above 18th century levels.

AOSIS nations want a 45 reduction by 2020, an 85 percent reduction by 2050, and temperatures capped at 2.7 degrees Fahreinheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).

“Two degrees of temperature rise is still unacceptable, because it exceeds safe thresholds necessary for the protection and survival of small islands,” according to Dessima Williams, Grenada’s U.N. ambassador and head of AOSIS.

“Given the decades-long time lags between accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and changes in average temperatures, a mere temperature goal is insufficient,” Williams said. “Targets need to be specific, measurable, quantifiable and defined by reference to the 1990 baseline emissions agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol.”

“It is a cruel irony that without adequate global commitments, the countries contributing least to global warming will be the ones most affected by its consequences,” Williams added.

Last September the representatives of four Pacific island nations (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau) called on developed countries to take specific action on climate change. Kiribati’s President Anote Tong said his country had to create a “long-term merit-based relocation strategy,” because there is the real the possibility that all 100,000 people in Kiribati might have to be relocated.

“This strategy involves the upskilling of our people to make them competitive and marketable at international labour markets,” Tong said.

President Litokwa Tomeing of the Marshall Islands, said, “ If wars have been waged to protect the rights of people to live in freedom, and to safeguard their security, why will they not be waged to protect our right to survive from the onslaught of climate change?”

President Emanuel Mori of Micronesia said, “Already, many islands have experienced inundations of their taro patches and other food crops by saltwater, resulting in decreasing production and crop destruction.”

Vice President Elias Camsek Chin of Palau characterized climate change as a security issue “which has gone unaddressed.” “In the meantime, we cannot wait,” Chin said.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon criticized the two-degree target as “not sufficient.” “Much more needs to be done if governments are to seal the deal on a new climate agreement in December in Copenhagen.”

“The countries represented at L'Aquila are responsible for more than 80 per cent of global emissions, and that is why they bear special responsibility for finding a solution to the political impasse,” Ban said. “If they fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again.”

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Sulfur Dioxide Emissions Decreased Last Year

When it comes to the environment, any good news is welcomed. Thankfully, there is a bit of good news these days when it comes to sulfur dioxide emissions (SOx). During the first half of 2008, SOx emissions from U.S. power plants dropped c24 percent, according to Genscape, who attributes the reduction to the electricity industry preparing for stricter regulations next year. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions decreased five percent in May and eleven percent in June, mainly because of the recession.

"The industry is clearly going through a dress rehearsal for the implementation of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in 2010, and judging by allowance prices as well as the fundamental data, it is a stellar performance," Genscape said. “Most of the decline in sulfur emissions is not due to the recession or even to the switch from high-sulfur coal to lower sulfur grades and to gas. It makes sense to start cutting emissions early if the equipment is in place… The challenge for producers is to maintain discipline even as the economy recovers.”

Industrial emissions elevate levels of sulfur dioxide, which are then absorbed into plants and soils, captured below and within clouds, and then cause acid rain. According to Greg Lawrence, a water scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, acid rain and climate change are “closely associated.” Lawrence believes acid rain need to be studied with climate change.

Even low concentrations of sulfur dioxide can harm plants and trees and reduce crop productivity. Higher levels, and especially the acidic deposits from acid rain, will adversely affect both land and water ecosystems,” according to Australia’s National Pollutant Inventory.

Senate Democrats Push for a Climate Change Bill

On June 25, the House passed the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act by a 219 to 212 vote. ACES calls for a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. Yesterday, Senate Democrats in Senate began to push a Senate the climate change bill.

The House bill (ACES) calls for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels, and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. It would create a cap-and-trade program which would require U.S. industries to purchase emissions permits.

Some environmental groups criticized ACES. Greenpeace called it a piece of legislation “already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March and has become severely worse.” Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director, issued the following statement about the House bill:

“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”

Friends of the Earth (FOE) criticized ACES because it would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s current authority to reduce GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. FOE called the cap-and-trade system ACES would create “flawed,” and stated that it would “undermine investment in technology development.”

FOE also criticized ACES for lacking “significant penalties for corporations that violate it,” unlike the Clean Air Act. If the cap-and-trade system experiences problems, “the EPA will not be allowed to step into the breach.”

David Hamilton of the Sierra Club questioned the effectiveness of ACES cap-and-trade system, but hoped that environmental groups would be successful in pushing for a better Senate bill. "Do, at some point, we try to bank what the politics allows?" Hamilton said. "Our judgment in this case is that we're going to keep trying with the bill" in the Senate.

Frank O’Donnell of the Clean Air Watch said “We’re saying it sure as heck ought to get better in the Senate, or it’s going to be a sorry day.”

Democratic House members who voted for the bill expressed their objections to it. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) said, in a statement, ACES “might make the problem worse.” He listed aspects of the bill he thinks are problematic:

  1. Overall targets are too weak.
  2. The offsets undercut the emission reductions.
  3. It delays significant emissions reductions.
  4. EPA’s authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded.
  5. Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  6. Dirty Coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.
  7. The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is triple the amount of money for basic research and development in the bill.
  8. Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis.
  9. It is regressive. Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests.
  10. The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is not an improvement. The 15% RES standard would be achieved even if we failed to act.
  11. Dirty energy options qualify as “renewable.”
  12. It undermines our bargaining position in international negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond.
  13. International assistance is much less than demanded by developing countries.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) issued a statement saying he couldn't support the bill as written because “it is too weak to greatly spur new technologies and green jobs.”

What is a Lifestyle Media Company?

A new approach to consumers is needed, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) where consumers are helped to “maximize their limited time and attention to create a rich, personalized, and social media environment.” PWC calls the approach lifestyle media.

PWC published a report about lifestyle media in 2006. The report listed two components which a company needs to achieve the goal of lifestyle media: new content distribution models that put consumers in control, and scalable data about what consumers are watching, doing, and creating. Companies that take the lifestyle media approach “will become viable consumer gateways,” according to the report.

Examples of lifestyle media companies

A few months ago I searched for aluminum reusable water bottles, and discovered the company, Gaiam. Calling itself a “lifestyle media company,” Gaiam sells more than just aluminum water bottle, but fitness wear and equipment, DVDs, books, bedding, and home d├ęcor. Its media titles are sold in Target, Whole Foods Market and Best Buy

Founded in 1988, the Boulder, Colorado based company took its name from a fusion of the word Gaia (which means mother earth) and I am. Seven years ago it coined the term Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS). The acronym, LOHAS is now commonly used by everything from Business Week to environmental websites.

Gaiam’s business model has three “concentric circles” which include content (information), offerings (products), and channels (communicate with customers). Its code of ethics is the following:

  • Say what we mean and stand for what is right.
  • Be honest and trustworthy in all of our activities, relationships and communications.
  • Foster an atmosphere in which fair employment practices extend to every member of the Gaiam community.
  • To ensure that we treat one another with dignity and respect, appreciating the diversity and uniqueness of all of our members.
  • Strive to create a safe and supportive workplace, promote healthy lifestyles, foster and encourage personal development, and protect the environment and all living things.
  • Through leadership at all levels, sustain a culture where ethical conduct is recognized, valued and exemplified by all employees.
  • Understand and obey the applicable laws and regulations governing our business conduct in all of the jurisdictions in which we operate.

Gaiam also maintains a blog on its website, called Stream of Consciousness. The blog contains articles about mind-body fitness, health and wellness, green living, and personal growth.

Scripps Networks launched HGTV in 1994, and currently has other televisions networks, including Food, DIY, Fine Living, and Great American Country (GAC). The company also publishes books and magazines, and maintains websites.

Scripps Networks has the following core values:

  1. Diversity
  2. Clarity in communication
  3. Integrity
  4. Compassion/support
  5. Work/life balance
  6. Openness
  7. Humor

Obama Gives Thumbs Up to Clean Energy

Yesterday, President Obama talked about creating a "clean energy economy," and touted the American Climate and Energy Security (ACES) Act, passed lastFriday by the House. ACES will create a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by auctioning offsets.

Watch the following video of Obama's press conference: