Clean Coal My Ass

First off, sorry for the language, but I am just so darn tired of seeing this misinformation on the TV, the radio and now even on MY website. Yea that’s right, i just saw and ad for clean coal on MY website and I was shocked. I have written a few articles about how dirty coal is here and here and to see an ad for clean coal on my website is nauseating. For the record I did go into my Google Adwords site filter and filtered out the offending website shown in the picture. I will not even mention their website name because I don’t want Google crawling my site and wrongfully thinking I am promoting them and increase their link ranking.

Anyway I just found a very interesting article over at EcoGeek where the exact same thing happened to Hank. He wrote a nice little letter to the U.S. Coal Lobby stating the simple facts straight from the heart. If you have a minute it is well wort the read and I couldn’t say it better myself, so I will just let his letter speak for us as well.

Another Earth Day, How Did We Do This Year?

Well here we are at another Earth Day and quite frankly a lot has changed since last year. It seems that this “green thing,” which many opponents said was a fad, now looks like a full blown movement. Even in the midsts of a recession green buildings, homes and products are hot items and people are willing to pay a premium for them. Considering that the popular belief was that if government forced us to be green, it would hurt the economy, well it seems that the economy was broken already and perhaps the “green thing” is what is going to get us out of this recession.

A year ago, there was only a little TV/media coverage on green issues, but now almost every TV show, news cast or magazine has something about green in it. Granted a lot of this is green-wash, which is the basically faking green to improve public perception of a company or product. However, it is still nice to see so many people being educated about environmental issues.

On the global warming front, there are still a few nay sayers who are actively trying to debunk Global warming with junk science (or no science at all for that matter), but this group is shrinking slowly but surely. Even president Bush and top scientist from major oil companies are admitting that things need to change, even though they are not actively doing anything.

All in all we have seen a lot of accomplishments this year and the future does look bright. I hope each and every one of you will seriously consider doing something for the earth today. Step out of your comfort zone and commit to doing something that you previously have not done and stick with it. We cannot depend on governments to fix the problem that we are in, we must fix this ourselves, so do whatever you can to reduce your consumption, reduce your energy usage and reduce your waste/pollution.

Have a happy earth day!

Clean Energy Tax Credits Bill Passes The Senate

After the 88-8 vote in the senate last Thursday, I am pleased to announce that we are one step closer to getting all of those fantastic renewable energy tax credits extended for 8 years. Considering that the last 3 attempts to get these tax credits extended have failed, I for one am a happy camper. Now, the bill will go to the house where it will face much scrutiny due to the fact that this bill has not identified a source of funding. The last three failed attempts suggested removing tax breaks for Big Oil and diverting those monies to finance the renewable energy incentives, but our special interest serving senators apparently did not like that idea.

Senator Cantwell and her co-sponsor, John Ensign, have argued that since the incentives would stimulate the economy, Congress should approve them without offsets. We will see what happens when this bill gets to the house, but chances are this argument will not sway them.

Here are some of the details of the proposed bill:
extend the investment tax credit for commercial solar power installations for 8 years
extend the residential solar investment tax credit for one year and remove the current $2000 credit cap
remove the exemption on utilities for claiming these tax credits
allow the tax credit to offset alternative minimum tax
extend incentives for energy efficiency improvements

For more information see the Solar Nation Writeup


Green LEED Buildings Getting Top Dollar And High Occupancy

The U.S Green Building Council has a green building rating system called LEED which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  As a LEED accredited professional (LEED AP) I am always spreading the word about the benefits of building green and attempting to achieve LEED certification. The reason I favor LEED over just “building green,” is because LEED is a fully comprehensive sustainable building rating system which covers every area of sustainability in the built environment. LEED is not just about choosing recycled products or slapping some solar panels on the roof, it is about designing and constructing sustainable buildings in a fashion that minimizes its effect on the environment as a whole.

Unfortunately many individuals do not see the value in achieving LEED certification and believe that the added cost does not justify the means. Even many architects think that LEED is just an added expense, of which the only result is a fancy plaque to hang on the wall. Nothing could be further from the truth, not only is LEED a ranking system that forces building to meet a minimum environmental standard, but it also contributes to the owners pocket book as well. LEED certified buildings are currently receiving federal subsidies which offset the cost of the required energy system commissioning and processing fees. In my opinion this makes the entire LEED process well worth it, but many are still not convinced… until now.

Needless to say, after reading the recent findings from the CoStar Study, I see no reason why anyone would not want to attempt LEED certification. At least one thing is for sure, LEED will be a much easier sell from here on out.

The CoStar study analyzed about 1,300 Energy Star and LEED certified commercial buildings representing approximately 351 million square feet. The green buildings were compared to the non-green buildings of similar size, location, class, tenancy, and year built characteristics to deduce the economic case for green buildings. Compared to non-green buildings, LEED buildings command a remarkable $171 more per square foot, while Energy Star buildings are selling for an average of $61 more per square foot. The study also shows that Energy star buildings are achieving an additional $2.38 per square foot for rent premiums, while LEED buildings command rent premiums of $11.24 more per square foot.Not only that, but the occupancy rates are higher in both as well. In particular, Energy Star buildings have seen 3.6% higher occupancy rates, while LEED buildings are seeing 3.8% higher occupancy rates. These results are solid indicators of the future of the built environment and should pretty much silence the “initial cost” debate.

I believe Andrew Florance, president and CEO of CoStar, summed up the study results best when he said,“The information we’ve discovered is very compelling. Green buildings are clearly achieving higher rents and higher occupancy, they have lower operating costs, and they’re achieving higher sale prices.”
This combined with the fact that the supply is no where near catching up with the demand for green buildings, we should continue to see these types of numbers for quite a while. Also, LEED certification is becoming a component of class A buildings, which means that non LEED buildings will begin falling into class B status, reducing their overall value. In other words, if you are building today, without LEED, you are building in obsolescence.


Yet Another Bottled Water Ban - This Time Seattle

According to a recent story in The Seattle Times, it looks like the city of Seattle will be following San Fransisco’s lead by no longer purchasing any bottled water for city employees.

Now, of course the city cannot stop employees from bringing their own bottled water, but why would they need to, Seattle has one of the best municipal water supplies in the country. Not only that, but at a fraction of a penny for each gallon of city tap water, it is a steal compared to $8 per gallon of store bought bottled water. Officials believe that the city will save over $58,000 per year by no longer buying bottled water.

In my opinion this is a great step and I hope all American cities will begin doing this. I have always said that tap water is just fine and if you live somewhere where are worried about your tap water, then buy a good water filtration system and be done with it. A one time investment in a good water filter will cost less than continually buying bottled water on a weekly basis. Not only that, but as pointed out in the executive order signed by Mayor Nickels of Seattle, over 17 million barrels of oil are used to create plastic bottles for U.S. bottled water consumers. That is not to mention the energy used to bottle, package and ship these awful things across the U.S. and the fact that only one in every ten bottles are even recycled.

Earth Hour 2008 Is Comming

Coming up towards the end of this month is something called “Earth Hour.” What started as a regional event that took place in Australia last year how now become a global phenomena. Countries and cities from all across the globe are joining together to turn off their lights in unison for one hour.

Earth Hour is not just about cutting back your emissions for one hour. It’s about taking a stand and thinking ahead about what you, your neighbors and your city can do to help to stop global warming. This is an entirely volunteer thing and no one is required to do this, but I urge you, on March 29, 2008 at 8pm central time, join us and turn off your lights for one hour.

not only can you turn your lights off for one hour, but go ahead and make a pledge to do something, anything around your home to save electricity and money. If you are not sure what to do, check out our “Stop Global Warming” page to see all of the different things you can do to make a difference.

Microchips Provide Heat For Nearby Homes

At IBM’s Zurich lab in Switzerland, engineers are working out a new cooling system to harness all of the wasted heat energy produced by the millions of microchips in data centers to heat nearby homes. In most cases, microchips and processors are cooled by either blowing air across the chip itself or attaching a heatsink to the chip and blowing air across the heatsink. Some computer enthusiast (like me) use water cooling techniques where a continuous flow of water is run though a water block which is attached to the microprocessor. The turbulence inside the water block keeps it cool enough to see increased speeds in the actual microprocessor, however the excess heat that is transfered to the water is dissipated into the air via a radiator and fans.

Swedish scientist saw this heat byproduct as an opportunity to provide useful energy to help neighboring residences. By creating a special “microfluidic” heat sink, IBM can harness enough heat from one small data center to heat over 70 homes. The microfluidic heat sink creates a layer of constantly flowing water very close to the electronic microprocessor by using a network of increasingly fine holes through which water flows. IBM calls this a vascular microfluidic architecture; see image. The new heatsink is schedules to be announced at the CeBIT exhibition in Germany this week.

Via: New Scientist

Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency Tax Credits Are Back On The Table

If you have not been keeping up with congress and whats been going on with our current energy bills and tax incentives, here is a little refresher course:
Back in 2006 a fantastic bill was passed that authorized many different tax incentives which rewarded individuals and businesses for using energy efficient products, renewable energy and hybrid vehicles. These tax incentives have been responsible for huge decreases in the price of solar and wind technologies, bringing us closer and closer to grid parity. But, in January of 2008, in the most recent energy bill, all of these major tax incentives were stripped out of the bill and left to expire in December of 2008. The main reason that these provisions were stripped out of the last energy bill is because the bill was attempting to drastically cut current tax breaks available to major oil and gas companies. This was the fail point for the entire bill which caused it to be reconfigured (subtracting all of the good stuff) and then passed through as an energy bill (with total disregard for alternative energy).

Now, there is a new bill (H.R. 5351, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008) on the table which would not only extend all of the “set to expire” tax credits, but would improve almost all of them. Some of the major provisions included are extensions and increases to, the residential energy-efficient property credit, the solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit, renewable energy production tax credit and many more.

This bill, unlike the last one is not proposing to “cut” tax breaks for major oil producers, instead it is proposing a freeze on the current law section 199 benefits, at 6% for oil and natural gas production income. Section 199 which would otherwise increase to 9% by 2010, would simply stop at its current rate and save approximately $13.57 million over a ten year period. The bill also proposes a clarification to an existing tax code which would eliminate the potential for major oil and gas companies to manipulate their extraction income in order to achieve beneficial results under U.S. foreign tax credit rules. This small clarification would raise approximately $4.08 billion over ten years, and would more than cover the proposed renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

The incentives in this bill will help architects, engineers, developers, home builders and home owners make their properties more energy efficient. They will help lower energy costs, and they help improve the environment. However, unless Congress acts now to extend them, we may loose them. So, we urge you to take a few minutes and write, call or email your local congressmen and ask them to support the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, H.R. 5351.

World’s Most Efficient Rotary Air Engine

The Di Pietro rotary air engine is, according to researchers, the most efficient air engine on earth. This rotary piston design from Engineair Pty Ltd out of Australia, has managed to reduce the friction inside this motor to zero. Yep thats right I said zero as in zero,  zilch, nada. Now in order to achieve this zero friction, it takes 1 PSI of air pressure to form the air pocket that is needed to create a thin air cushion which stops the friction.

Beyond that 1 PSI, the motor speed and torque is governed by the amount of pressure of air that goes into the motor. This allows instant torque at zero rotations per minute (RPMs), which can be precisely controlled to either give the motor an instant start or soft start.

This revolutionary motor was first envisioned in 1997 by Mr Angelo Di Pietro and the company, Engineair Pty Ltd, first opened its doors in September of 2000. Engineair spent its first 2 years prototyping and testing and gradually increasing the efficiency of their motor to what it is today. Currently Engineair is in the process of commercializing its technology and developing joint ventures to see this technology used in a variety of different applications.

Burning Coal Is Even Worse Than We Thought

After reading a very interesting article over at Scientific American, I quickly realized that the coal fired process to produce electricity for over 50% of the US is even worse for the environment than I thought.

Coal combustion is the biggest polluter in the US and is responsible for the largest amounts of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The coal industries’ toxic emissions are responsible for over 30,000 deaths due to health related problems. You thought that was bad, now it has been discovered that fly ash, the waste product of the coal industry, is more radioactive than the waste from a nuclear facility.

Scientist discovered that coal has small trace amounts of radioactive materials, which in its natural form, is not a big deal. However, when the coal is burned, all of those radioactive elements are not burned, but concentrated into the fly ash. The scientist believe that the amount of radioactivity is nothing to get alarmed about, except for the people who live close to the coal facilities. Unfortunately, these are the individuals who are truly affected by the fly ash as it makes its way into the water and food sources for those neighboring cities.

I believe that this recent development should make us push even harder for alternative forms of electricity. The Scientific American article was obviously pushing for nuclear energy although I am not totally sold on nuclear as the costs (material and capital) are way to high making it not very feasible. I still believe that solar is the answer to our energy problems in America, with the most recent price drops, solar is now cheaper than coal, so what are we waiting for?