Kamal Meattle: How to grow your own fresh air

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Researcher Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air.

Carbon Trading to Raise Consumer Energy Prices

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original article WSJ

The cost of energy for consumers would be driven higher in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget by a carbon cap-and-trade system that is projected to raise about $80 billion a year starting in 2012.

The budget assumes the U.S. adopts the cap-and-trade system that would set limits on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that industries can emit, and allow companies to buy and sell rights to emit those gases. The budget assumes a starting price of $20 per ton for carbon emissions, an amount that Mr. Obama’s aides says is conservative and would likely rise.

The budget projects raising $645 billion from the auction of emissions credits between 2012, when the system kicks in, and 2019. Mr. Obama would use some of that money to pay for about $120 billion of spending on various low-carbon technologies over that time. The rest of the money — about $525 billion — would be retuned “to the people, especially vulnerable families, communities and businesses to help the transition to a clean energy economy,” according to Mr. Obama’s proposal.

The cap-and-trade system is a key part of Mr. Obama’s broader strategy to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide by roughly 80% from 2005 levels by 2050. To help achieve that goal, Mr. Obama wants to spend some of the money raised through the auction of emissions permits for research and development of low-carbon energy technologies, such as windmills, electric cars or more efficient power grids and buildings.

But some question the government’s ability to spend all that money wisely. It is also unclear whether lawmakers will be able to resist diverting money to causes that have little to do with fighting climate change, such as deficit reduction.

“Let’s just be honest and call it a carbon tax that will increase taxes on all Americans who drive a car, who have a job, who turn on a light switch, pure and simple,” said the Republican leader in the House, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.

A fundamental question is how the government will distribute the billions of dollars in revenue generated through a emissions trading system. Lawmakers from states dependent on coal and heavy manufacturing are expected to demand that more money go toward their constituents, since they will experience higher costs associated with the transition to low-carbon energy sources.

Mr. Obama’s aides say his plan would provide a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and $800 for working families. The credits would phase out between $150,000 and $200,000 for a married couple, and between $75,000 and $100,000 for an individual.

“This is going to change the distribution of wealth potentially for a century,” said Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

Mr. Obama’s budget also calls for new fees and taxes on oil companies that drill on federal lands, and for closing various tax credits that the industry currently qualifies for — a step the administration says would raise about $30 billion over a decade. Beginning in 2011, Mr. Obama would assess a new excise tax on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico to close what Mr. Obama’s aides say are loopholes that have give companies “excessive royalty relief.”

Oil-industry officials said Mr. Obama’s proposals would encourage the industry to shift production — and jobs — abroad. “With America in the midst of an economic recession, now is not the time to impose new taxes on the nation’s oil and natural gas industry,” Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a written statement.

David Keith: A surprising idea for “solving” climate change

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Environmental scientist David Keith proposes a cheap, effective, shocking means to address climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and heat?

Gas Zappers- solo show at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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Please come to Gas Zappers solo show at BAM/PFA! We are gonna debut the long anticipating Gas Zappers’s online game. I will be there on Oct 30 giving talk to Prof. Richard Rinehart‘s class.

October 22, 2008 – February 8, 2009

Gas Zappers, by artist Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, is an interactive online art game that tackles global warming. Hung is among the contemporary artists and educators who have adopted video games as a new platform for social debate and aesthetic experience by developing “serious games.” In Gas Zappers, the idiom of the video game is exploited to challenge and illuminate the simplistic notion of quick fixes to environmental issues.

Berkeley and the Bay Area have been at the center of the cultural debate around alternative energy sources and global warming, due in no small part to developments like the $500 million joint project between UC Berkeley and British Petroleum to develop alternative biofuels. Gas Zappers furthers this discourse in a serious game that is also at times fantastical and wry.

Like much of the artist’s work, Gas Zappers is visually frenetic and colorful, referencing numerous popular and political sources. The animation style of Gas Zappers reinforces and goes beyond the game’s subject of global warming, caricaturing the exasperating and vulgar noise of the political media engine itself. In adopting the artistic strategies of photomontage, political satire, humor, and surrealism, Hung is an artistic descendent of Dadaist John Heartfield, whose photomontages lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. Ken Johnson wrote for the New York Times, “Looking at Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung’s art is like peeking into the fever dream of an overworked political blogger. Mr. Hung, 31, is a fierce, funny and inventive political satirist.”

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung received a New Media Fellowship, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, to develop Gas Zappers. A video version of the work was shown in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. BAM/PFA’s exhibition, on view starting October 22 at bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/gaszappers and in the museum’s Bancroft Lobby, is the world premiere of the fully realized work, including the interactive game.

Richard Rinehart
Digital Media Director and Adjunct Curator

Chair of the IPCC urges pople to eat less meat

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Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, challenged our reliance on high meat consumption, showing how livestock production releases 18% of our global greenhouse gas emissions, can pollute water and soils, damages our health and often causes suffering to animals kept in factory farms.

He said, “One kilo of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car for every 250 kms”

Referring to the inefficiency of livestock production, he pointed out that: “A farmer can feed up to 30 persons throughout the year on one hectare with vegetables, fruits, cereals and vegetable fats. If the same area is used for the production of eggs, milk or meat the number of persons fed varies from five to ten.”

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A new process stores carbon dioxide in precast concrete.

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A Canadian company says that it has developed a way for makers of precast concrete products to take all the carbon-dioxide emissions from their factories, as well as neighboring industrial facilities, and store them in the products that they produce by exposing those products to carbon-dioxide-rich flue gases during the curing process. Industry experts say that the technology is unproven but holds great potential if it works.

Concrete accounts for more than 5 percent of human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions annually, mostly because cement, the active ingredient in concrete, is made by baking limestone and clay powders under intense heat that is generally produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Making finished concrete products–by mixing cement with water, sand, and gravel–creates additional emissions because heat and steam are often used to accelerate the curing process.

But Robert Niven, founder of Halifax-based Carbon Sense Solutions, says that his company’s process would actually allow precast concrete to store carbon dioxide. The company takes advantage of a natural process; carbon dioxide is already reabsorbed in concrete products over hundreds of years from natural chemical reactions. Freshly mixed concrete is exposed to a stream of carbon-dioxide-rich flue gas, rapidly speeding up the reactions between the gas and the calcium-containing minerals in cement (which represents about 10 to 15 percent of the concrete’s volume). The technology also virtually eliminates the need for heat or steam, saving energy and emissions.

Work is expected to begin on a pilot plant in the province of Nova Scotia this summer, with preliminary results expected by the end of the year. If it works and is widely adopted, it has the potential to sequester or avoid 20 percent of all cement-industry carbon-dioxide emissions, says Niven. “If the technology is commercialized as planned, it will revolutionize concrete manufacturing and mitigate hundreds of megatons of carbon dioxide each year, while providing manufacturers with a cheaper, greener, and superior product.” He adds that 60 tons of carbon dioxide could be stored as solid limestone–or calcium carbonate–within every 1,000 tons of concrete produced. Further, he claims that the end product is more durable, more resistant to shrinking and cracking, and less permeable to water.

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Honda makes first hydrogen cars

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Japanese car manufacturer Honda has begun the first commercial production of a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle.

The four-seater, called FCX Clarity, runs on hydrogen and electricity, and emits water vapour.

Honda claims the vehicle offers three times better fuel efficiency than a traditional, petrol-powered car.

Honda plans to produce 200 of the cars, which are initially available only to lease, over the next three years.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel-cell vehicles is the lack of hydrogen fuelling stations.

Original Article from BBC

The Price of Biofuels

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Technology Review has a great 3-part article about the economy downturn and science of the biofuels in U.S.A.

“Now ethanol producers are struggling, and many are losing money. The price of a bushel of corn rose to record highs during the year, exceeding $4.00 last winter before falling back to around $3.50 in the summer, then rebounding this fall to near $4.00 again. At the same time, ethanol prices plummeted as the market for the alternative fuel, which is still used mainly as an additive to gasoline, became saturated. In the face of these two trends, profit margins vanished.”

Australia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

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“Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in his first act after being sworn in this morning.

The ratification will come into force in 90 days.

“This is the first official act of the new Australian government, demonstrating my government’s commitment to tackling climate change,” Mr Rudd said in a statement.

Mr Rudd said the ratification was considered and approved by the first executive council meeting of the government this morning.

“The governor-general has granted his approval for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at my request,” he said.

Under United Nations guidelines, ratification comes into force 90 days after the instrument of ratification is received by the UN, making Australia a full member of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of March 2008.”

Original article via The West

RealCost

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aawhole.gifRealCosts is a Firefox plug-in that inserts emissions data into travel related e-commerce websites. The first version adds CO2 emissions information to airfare websites such as Orbitz.com, United.com, Delta.com, etc. Following versions will work with car directions, car rental, and shipping websites. Think of it like the nutritional information labeling on the back of food… except for emissions. RealCosts is developed by Michael Mandiberg.

Breathing Earth

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Breathing Earth is a map of the world showing a real-time simulation of the CO2 emissions level of every country in the world, as well as each countries birth and death rates.

Prime example beware of the carbon offset plan

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WTF? Dump 45 tonnes of iron dust into the sea to feed phytoplankton for “ecorestoration” then sell those “carbon credits” to hotels as a form of combating climate change?

Planktos Inc., which has offices in Vancouver and San Francisco, wants to set sail this month from Florida to dump more than 45 tonnes of iron dust into the sea near the Galapagos Islands.

The iron nutrients would stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which would then absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide — an experimental process Planktos compares to reforestation. Planktos Inc. says phytoplankton, seen in bright blue and green, would be increased if iron dust was dumped in the ocean, boosting carbon dioxide absorption.

A for-profit “ecorestoration” company, Planktos plans to sell carbon credits from this type of project to firms like Vancouver’s Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, which has agreed to buy 5,000 tonnes of carbon credits.

The firm launched its two-year “Voyage of Recovery” program in March, launching a public relations campaign in Washington, D.C., to promote its “green message of hope.”

original article via Free Republic

Seville Solar Thermal Tower powered 6,000 homes

Greenhouse Gas, Renewable Energy 1 Comment »
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This stunning Lord Of The Rings looking PS10 Solar Power Tower in Seville, Southern Spain, is Europe’s first commercial concentrating solar power plant. Upon completion in 2013, the plant will produce enough energy to power 180,000 homes, equivalent to the needs of the city of Seville without producing one particle of carbon emission.

From ENS:

“Known as PS10, the project produces electricity with 624 large movable mirrors called heliostats. Each of the mirrors has a surface measuring 120 square meters (1,290 square feet) that concentrates the Sun’s rays to the top of a 115 meter (377 foot) high tower where a solar receiver and a steam turbine are located. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity. PS10 is the first of a set of solar electric power generation plants to be constructed in the same area that will total more than 300 MW by 2013. Power generation will be accomplished using a variety of technologies.”

More related links:

Here’s an article from BBC. Inhabitat has a detailed report with more pics. Abengoa, the mother company of Solucar is creating a new U.S. subsidiary.

Australia’s EnviroMission that propose to build the Solar Tower Buronga (here’s an article on CNN Money), proposed to build a similar skyscraping solar tower in Texas.

Wikipedia articles on how Solar Thermal Energy and Solar Updraft Tower works.

DIY Photo Bio Reactor

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photobioreactor.jpg

What the hell is Photo Bio Reactor? It is an “artificial environment for photosynthetic organisms” that basically eats the CO2 from the air. And now you can build your own for $200:

I have wanted to do this a project for a long time and with earth day this year it kinda just fit timing wise. Its really a simple and quick build, yet getting the level up in bio-friendly-geek makes this all the more fun. Now I admit that I have a lacking of unquenchable aspirations to being a hugger of trees or a crusader of tofu and hemp. But I do believe in making changes so that the poor saps that come along after me might have the world a little less badly off for them. Let’s face it, we kind of effed up the whole earth thing… But in all seriousness, once we get a good strong colony established we will be doing some testing of the amount of carbon these can remove from our environment with a C02 PPM meter.

Here’s a video showing when the gadget is working:

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What if we make a gadget that not only absorb CO2 but also produce energy? Technology Review has an article about supplying the world’s energy need with light and water.

Southern ocean carbon sink weakened

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Original article via CSIRO Australia

Scientists have observed the first evidence that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, has weakened by about 15 per cent per decade since 1981.

Dr Paul Fraser, who leads research into atmospheric greenhouse gases at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, says the international team’s four-year study concludes that the weakening is due to human activities.

“The researchers found that the Southern Ocean is becoming less efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide due to an increase in wind strength over the Ocean, resulting from human-induced climate change,” Dr Fraser says.

“The increase in wind strength is due to a combination of higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and long-term ozone depletion in the stratosphere, which previous CSIRO research has shown intensifies storms over the Southern Ocean.”

The increased winds influence the processes of mixing and upwelling in the ocean, which in turn cause an increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, reducing the net absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean.

“Combined, the Earth’s land and ocean sinks absorb about half of all carbon dioxide emissions from human activities,” Dr Fraser says. “The Southern Ocean takes up 15 per cent of these emissions, hence a reduction in its efficiency will have serious implications for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over coming decades.”

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