Why Electric Driving is an Affordable Reality in Britain

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Ford, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler have announced that they are joining their knowledge, technology and resources to create the world’s first mass-produced, affordable fuel cell car. The big three have set themselves a deadline of 2017 to have the model and its technology up to scratch and ready for the market.

This news brings with it the proof that the auto industry are finally becoming more environmentally aware, working with governments and scientists to create a green driving experience that doesn’t have its revolution lodged firmly in a space-age future.

Fuel cell cars work by replacing petrol with hydrogen. The fuel cells convert the chemical energy produced from combining hydrogen and oxygen in the engine to electrical energy to power the motor. You may be surprised to learn that fuel cell cars are not a new concept. In fact, the first fuel cell car came about in 1959. Unfortunately, due to the cost of developing the technology, fuel cell cars have never really become much more than a distant ideal…

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Solar in the Community – Creating a Greener Britain

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Grey skies, wind, rain and no sign of the sun. That’s the British Winter, most of the Autumn, much of the Spring, and a good deal of the Summer too! But, regardless of the climate, there is clearly enough sunshine for solar energy to thrive, and in recent years the UK has witnessed an unprecedented […]

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Understanding the Implications of Biofuels Doesn’t Require a Biology Degree

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Following years of extensive research and product trials, biofuels are today considered a viable fuel source for vehicles. Proponents of these alternative fuels tout their sustainability, ability to lower carbon emission levels and comparable (if not superior) vehicular performance — though some major oil companies have been slow to embrace the movement.

Here’s a look at some of the major renewable fuel alternatives, including a few many consumers may not be aware of….

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Notes from Iowa: The Downside to Biofuels

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Fully 58 percent of Iowa’s 2010 corn crop was used to make ethanol. So, it is not just “surplus” corn that is going into ethanol, as is claimed by the ethanol industry. Even the livestock industry does not believe the ethanol industry’s claim that this much corn going for ethanol does not affect prices. That is why the livestock commodity groups for hogs, cattle and poultry are all lobbying against ethanol subsidies in Washington, D.C.

A recent Iowa State University analysis indicated that ethanol subsidies are no longer needed to keep the ethanol industry profitable. It’s time to end the $0.45 per gallon ethanol subsidy, which cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion in 2010….

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Enviro-Log – Cleaner Burning with Recycled Waxed Cardboard Logs

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Have you ever wondered what happens to the waxed cardboard boxes that vegetables are transported in? Most of the time, they’re dumped in landfills. But that’s changing, as they are now being reclaimed and turned into Enviro-Logs, clean-burning logs for your fireplace, campfire, or woodstove. Today, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Ross McRoy, the founder of Enviro-Log, to find out his take on why Enviro-Log is a better choice as an alternative to wood. It’s too hot in Iowa to light a fire this month, so we aren’t able to review Enviro-Log for its quality of fire or length of burn — we’ll get to that in a month or two, when the nights cool down….

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Sustainability – A Personal Journey… by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D.

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When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.

The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.

Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.

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Striving for Sustainable Design

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Eco-friendly, or “green,” design options are better for everyone involved, from the builders and painters to the people who use the completed structure. The new norm is sustainable design, and “green is the new black” in building and decorating homes, offices, and other buildings.

The primary purpose of sustainable design, according to Wikipedia, is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.” Sustainable design includes green building materials, paint/stain, flooring, counter tops, furniture, hardware/fixtures, lighting, and even decorative accents.

It may sound easy, then, to choose sustainable products and materials when you are building, renovating, or improving a home. Yet, there’s still much to learn in this relatively new field, and the importance of doing things right is overwhelmingly obvious. After all, the more resources we use right now without acknowledging the necessity of sustainability, the less we will have to work with later….

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Investment Options in the Greentech Industry

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In my last two posts, I wrote about how attractive stocks in the Green sector have become for investors and how to prevent investment fraud from spoiling a Greentech investing experience. Now it’s time to discuss an investment strategy and where to invest precious capital.

Perhaps we can learn from one of the world’s richest men and most renowned investors. Warren Buffett once wrote that to invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information. What is needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. Our goal now is to design our own “intellectual framework.” …

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Is It Time to Invest in the Green Revolution?

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You have been a consistent supporter of today’s Green Revolution. You employ the latest conservation techniques in your home, you buy the best organic foods for your family, and you support products from companies that have earned a great reputation for protecting the planet. But, have you considered investing your precious nest egg where your mind is, in the emerging “Greentech” industry?

Green companies are no longer just a bunch of startups and emerging growth companies, implying high risk and showing very little revenue for their efforts. Quite to the contrary, there were several companies in the Green sector that outperformed the S&P 500’s gain of 28.8% for 2009, and quite a few others with multiples of that figure greater than the five fingers on your right hand. Mutual and index funds were not immune to this success either, as interest gathered for this “non-traditional” area of investment….

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Small Footprints – Cruising with the Claytons

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When Rick and Linda Lacy Clayton decided four years ago to retire on a sailboat, they didn’t do it with the intention of becoming environmentalists. But what they’ve learned since is that their very survival — and their finances — depend on their ability to sustain themselves with minimal fuel, power, and water.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the Claytons to learn how the experience of living on their sailboat, Sojourner, has changed their daily habits and taught them to keep a small (wet) footprint. The Claytons hail from Dallas, Texas, where Rick retired as a policeman, then spent eight years as a truck driver, and Linda retired from a career in marketing….

BPGL: What a life you have! How did you decide to live on a sailboat?

RICK: We both had some experience sailing. The first vacation after we got married, we chartered a sailboat down in the British Virgin Islands for a week — the two of us on a 35-foot boat. Of course, I knew I was going to love it. On the way back, Linda said, “How soon can we sell everything, buy a boat, and take off?” …

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Fee and Dividend – A Better Plan to Reduce CO2

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For many years, the words global warming meant little to me. I was quick to dismiss climate change as a hoax or a natural phenomenon and continue to live as I always have. Then, one day, I heard someone on the radio ask, “Whether it’s man-made or a natural occurrence, shouldn’t we be doing something about it?” This comment stuck in my mind, and through a number of events, my thinking slowly changed….

One bill in Congress to address climate change uses a cap-and-trade approach. Cap and trade sets a carbon cap for utilities, transportation, and manufacturing. While this sounds like a great way to limit carbon emissions, the details are dicey to say the least. Businesses will have no true financial incentive to decrease reliance on fossil fuels, the amount of carbon allowed is still a mystery, and — even if it works — it won’t be fast enough. We need something more transparent and effective, and we need it now.

Citizens Climate Lobby and a number of other climate-oriented organizations came up with a solution: the Fee and Dividend plan. Under this proposed legislation, an escalating carbon fee will be imposed on fossil fuels at their point of entry into the economy, whether it be at mines, wells, or ports. This fee will raise the price of fossil fuels and make clean energy technology more competitive.

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Notes from Canada: Nuclear – Power or Folly?

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I just watched “My Nuclear Neighbour: The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki, a documentary about building a plant to generate nuclear power in the rural community of Peace River, Alberta. The key point never raised is that wind and solar power will generate more electricity for the same investment in dollars with none of the same investment in angst and risk, a point that Obama also recently missed.

I know that the organisations that most strongly oppose nuclear power in Ontario and Saskatchewan make the same point: investment in new nuclear facility is not wise according to traditional economic theory, even without mention of the long-term effect on widespread earthly ecology or human health….

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Hallowell Acadia Is Revolutionizing the Heating Industry

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How do you heat and cool your home? Do you have both a furnace and an air conditioner? What if you could install a single, highly efficient, and environmentally sound system to handle both heating and cooling?

The Acadia, designed and built by Hallowell International, is a revolutionary, next-generation, air-source heat pump — the first that functions efficiently in cold climates down to -30˚F. Even residents of Canada and New England can enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures year ’round without the use of fossil fuels.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Duane Hallowell, president and co-founder of Hallowell International, to learn about the latest innovation in heat pumps….

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SPG Solar – Bill O’Reilly and Me

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I did not set out to pick a fight with Bill O’Reilly. As a new edition of the old saying goes: Don’t pick fights with people who use power by the gigawatt.

But let this be said: O’Reilly drew First Blood.

It happened just a few hours after the Irvine (California) Unified School District selected my company, SPG Solar, to install solar energy at 21 of its campuses. The new energy system will save the district $17 million over 20 years; will generate about half the energy the schools need; and best of all for this cash-strapped district: It all comes at no cost….

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Francis Thicke on Renewable Energy Resources

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In the first part of our conversation with Francis Thicke, Ph.D., candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the 2010 election, we discussed the use of perennial crops as biofuels, using a process called pyrolysis. In this part of our discussion, Thicke talks about increasing biodiversity and farm-based power generation.

Thicke and his wife are organic dairy farmers who live near Fairfield, Iowa. Thicke is a respected agricultural scientist, who has testified twice before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C….
THICKE: I would like to see wind energy development become more targeted toward systems that profit farmers, landowners, and rural communities. Currently, we have quite a few large wind farms in Iowa. One study shows we now have the capacity to produce about 15% of our electrical energy needs with wind in Iowa. It is very good that we have developed so much wind power capacity, but we should look at how ownership of wind energy production is structured, and who profits from it….

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Francis Thicke on Biofuels, Biodiversity, and Erosion

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Francis Thicke is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man. He is also an accomplished scientist and an award-winning organic farmer. Thicke’s list of credentials is impressive, including selection by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as a Policy Fellow in their Food and Society program, work as the National Program Leader for soil science for the USDA-Extension Service, and a current seat on the board of directors of the Organic Farming Research Foundation….

Thicke (pronounced TICKee) is also a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Thicke to learn about his vision for improving agriculture in Iowa….

BPGL: Why did you decide to run for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture?

THICKE: I see a lot of challenges coming down the road for agriculture in Iowa, as well as opportunities. I think we need new vision and new leadership to meet those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

One challenge is escalating energy costs….

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Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guide to the Energy Crisis

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Being an environmentalist means I have to choose from a million aspects of concern, direction, and interest. Planet Earth is facing a flood of problems, too many for one writer to assimilate, even for one magazine. For me, there is too little time to read about all the daily assaults on our planet, let alone verify the data in print; seek out authorities on the subject; interview them; type, edit, and post their points of view.

Being a journalist, as well, compounds the problem. Now, it is just as important to seek the opposing opinions and compare conflicting scientific data. Every topic has many angles, often many points of view, and frequently, two polar-opposite conclusions.

The fact that I try to keep an open mind on these issues is exactly why I like this book. The writers, Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, have tried to present both sides of every energy issue, or at least, remain neutral in their presentation. The book gives “just the facts,” not opinions, and provides extensive end notes for the reader to verify all sources. …

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I-Renew Executive Director Announces Renewable Energy Workshops and Tour

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Mike Carberry, Executive Director of Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew), has only been on the job four months, but he’s already hosted the organization’s state-wide, annual conference and is planning four significant renewable energy events before the end of the year….

“I read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, about five years ago, and realized that what I was doing wasn’t enough. Even though I had been an environmental volunteer and an environmental and political activist, I wasn’t doing enough to change the world,” Carberry says. “I was starting to think about legacy and what would be on my tombstone — that I was a great antique dealer? a nice guy? a spiffy dresser?” He chuckles, but then gets serious. “I wanted to know, Could I do something that would effect change in the world and turn my passion into a vocation? That’s when I decided that I would make a change to something that I thought was really important.” …

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My 5: David Blume, Executive Director, International Institute for Ecological Agriculture

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Agriculture, Biofuels, Blog, Books, Front Page, My 5, Organic

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked David Blume, Founder and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and a frequent speaker at ecological, sustainability and agricultural conferences throughout the Americas, “What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?” Here are his responses.

BLUME:
* Stop buying oil. Replace oil with ethanol. Ethanol is a clean burning, high octane fuel that sells for around $1.80 a gallon. You don’t even have to pay more to do the right thing.

* Only buy organic products. Vote with your dollars to send the message that you’re not going to continue doing business as usual…

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From Swamp to Gas Pump – Cattails Take on New Role

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Cattails are among nature’s most primitive species. They were here when dinosaurs ruled. They kept baby Moses from floating down the Nile to a premature death. They’re ubiquitous, found in ditches the world over. Grown in clean water, they’re edible. Grown in wastewater, they remove pollutants from the sewage so it can be safely returned to the natural water cycle. In the process, cattails absorb the atmosphere’s increasingly abundant carbon dioxide to fuel photosynthesis, producing sugars and starches that can be converted easily, cleanly, and cheaply into alcohol used for biofuel.

Biofuels solve the same problems that petroleum fuel creates. Plants use the carbon dioxide they remove from the environment to grow. Harvested and converted to alcohol, they return that same energy when used as fuel. This is why corn has garnered a lot of attention as a source of biofuel. But corn-for-ethanol is problematic. Land devoted to growing fuel is land that can’t be devoted to growing food. And, unless it’s grown organically, corn is fertilized with materials that pollute our groundwater and contribute to global warming. Gas-powered tractors harvest it; gas-powered vehicles truck it to market. All this for a fuel source that yields – depending on which study you consult — 75 to 200 gallons per acre? There’s got to be a better way…

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