Showing posts with label mercury free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mercury free. Show all posts

Monday, February 2, 2009

Iowa's green energy policy struggle

The presence of prairie winds and rich soil makes Iowa literally fertile ground for developing alternative energy sources from wind turbines and biofuels.

Iowa invested $6m in wind turbine manufacturing

But the landscape is also a reminder that achieving energy independence is a formidable challenge and making an agricultural economy green is not easy.

Farm workers cannot take subways to work, farmers have to drive long distances into the fields to sow and harvest their crops and to deliver them to markets.

Farm animals themselves, not to put too fine a point on it, produce methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - that is trapped in the atmosphere.

Those challenges have not stopped the state setting itself ambitious goals.

Energy pioneers

The Iowa Climate Change Advisory Panel recently wrote a report for Governor Chet Culver setting out how the state can reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030.

The state has set up an Office of Energy Independence - surely the perfect place, I thought, to test how easy it will be for President Obama to achieve energy independence for the whole of America.

There are plenty of energy pioneers to be found in Iowa.

I feel like I'm doing something more than just building a washing machine, I'm building something for everyone to capitalise on

Crugar Tuttle
Wind turbine factory worker

Roger Neuberger, a farmer, lives near Clear Lake in the north-west part of the State - where the wind blows hardest.

He gets money from an energy company each year for making room for two wind turbines on his land.

Mr Neuberger has promised the energy company that he will not publicly reveal how much he is being paid, but other farmers have let it be known that, depending on when their contracts were signed, they can receive somewhere between $2,000 (£1,400) and $4,000 per turbine every year for the next 30 years.

Mr Neuberger is very happy, if rather modest about his role at the new frontier.

Asked if he felt like a pioneer, he replied: "Yeah, I suppose so."

"There were a number of farmers who didn't want to do this because they didn't understand - they were concerned how they were going to be treated. We've been treated wonderful. I couldn't ask for anything better."

Foreign oil

Iowa hopes that wind energy will deliver more than just electricity - and that investment in wind technology will help to transform towns depressed by unemployment.

Towns like Newton, which is just to the east of the capital, Des Moines.

Nearly 2,000 people lost their jobs in Newton when the town's biggest employer, Whirlpool, shut its doors in 2007.

Is ethanol really a clean alternative to fossil fuels?
Hundreds of those same workers, who once made washing machine parts, now make blades for wind turbines at the TPI factory.

But the jobs did not come cheap.

The state gave the manufacturer $6m in subsidies and tax breaks - in return the company promised to hire 500 people.

Larry Crady worked at Whirlpool for 23 years, making coin-operated laundry machines.

"It just wows you when you see a blade open and close," Larry says. "When you pull that blade out of the mould it's exciting, I feel like I'm doing something more than just building a washing machine, I'm building something for everyone to capitalise on."

Mr Crady's sense of wonder is understandable - the plant certainly has the "wow" factor.

The turbine blades are as long as a 747 jet and the factory is longer than an aircraft carrier.

It is fitting, then, that - according to the plant's manager - so many of those that work there feel that making the blades is as much about national security as it is about electricity.

"A lot of us in this company and in wind energy have a sense of calling to this," Crugar Tuttle says. "I think in the interview process it comes out with a lot of our veterans that this is about weaning us off foreign oil."

But wind energy is a long way from delivering independence for Iowa any time soon.

It provides just 8% of Iowa's energy needs.

If it is to go any way towards making the rest of the country energy independent, a distribution grid would be needed.


President Obama has promised to invest $150bn in renewable energy over the next 10 years.

He hopes to increase dramatically the contribution that wind, solar and other renewable sources can make to the country's energy supply.

According to current projections, renewables will still be providing only 8% of the country's energy supply 20 years from now.

Certainly, energy independence will not be possible without replacing the foreign petrol used in cars.

We need sources of power that are constant and don't rely on things like whether the wind's blowing or the sun's shining

Phil Wyse
Iowa state representative

Many Iowans think the solution is biofuels (as do most presidential candidates - albeit only while they are campaigning in the crucial Iowa caucuses).

Refineries across the state produce 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year - enough to replace 10% of the petrol in America's cars.

But biofuels are controversial.

A UN report says they drive up the price of food.

And is ethanol really clean?

We visited POET's ethanol plant in Hanlontown in the northern part of Iowa.

The plant, like most in the state, is powered by fossil fuels.

I spoke to POET's Vice President for Project Development, Larry Ward.

He insists that despite the use of natural gas in the production of ethanol, it is a good bargain.

"There's a tremendous net gain from an energy standpoint. Using natural gas to produce ethanol you have a gain - for every unit of energy you put into the plant you get two units of energy out."

The trouble is, many of Iowa's ethanol refineries use coal - the dirtiest fuel of all.

It is one of the reasons why Iowa will soon be building another coal-fired power plant.

More than half of all the electricity produced by the new plant is expected to be used to fuel the state's ethanol refineries.

King coal

Another problem is that Iowa gets very cold in winter.

How many Americans would risk living in a place where January temperatures hover around -18F, if they had to rely on sun or wind power for heat?

What happens when the sun goes down and the wind dies?

That is why, despite the push for ethanol and wind power, coal is still king when it comes to powering Iowa.

It currently provides 85% of the state's energy needs.

Phil Wyse, a state representative for 22 years, believes Iowa and America need nuclear power.

"We need sources of power that are constant and don't rely on things like whether the wind's blowing or the sun's shining," he says.

"Alternative to coal? Nuclear more in the mix."

Despite all the wind energy and ethanol Iowa strives to produce, carbon emissions are still growing here - and they are 1% higher than the average for the whole of the US.

Iowa may have much to show the rest of America about green energy - including how hard it will be to make America energy independent.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


(NaturalNews) Xerox subsidiary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has developed a type of paper that, combined with a special printer, can print documents that erase themselves after a day so that the paper can be reused.

Xerox says that 25 percent of all documents get recycled the same day they are printed, and that 44.5 percent are intended only for a single viewing. Using the new printer and paper for one-shot documents like daily menus, work summaries and office memos could vastly reduce paper and energy use, the company said.

"Think of the Google map you printed to get here," PARC Area Manager Eric Shrader said at a product demonstration. "Thirty years ago, we said the future was paperless."

"Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content," said Paul Smith, manager of Xerox's new materials design and synthesis lab.

The new paper is coated with a chemical that turns dark upon exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In order to create a document, the printer simply bombards the paper with UV radiation in the appropriate places.

While the "ink" will eventually fade on its own, after 16 to 24 hours, the printer can also be used to erase a page and print something new. Tests by Xerox found that if it was not torn or crumpled, a single piece of paper could be put through the print-and-erase cycle hundreds of times.

According to Shrader, it takes 204,000 joules of energy to create a new piece of paper and 114,000 to recycle one. Printing onto a normal sheet of paper uses about 2,000 joules.

It takes only 100 joules to print one page of the special erasable paper. If the printer also has to erase the prior image, printing uses about 1,000 joules of energy.

The erasable paper and ink are available in a variety of colors. Xerox expects to take the new product commercial within the next few years.

Monday, July 28, 2008

An “Apple” a Day, Keeps Emissions at Bay

by Thomas Ward

If it hasn’t been made apparent by now that I am somewhat of a “computer geek” (see “Go, Go, Green Gadgets” and “Geeks Can Be Green, Too“). However, I have always found myself wondering just how “green” some of these computer companies really are. With this in mind, I began researching different computer companies and their environmental habits. First on my list, came Apple Computers. According to their Web site:

Apple takes pride in its history of innovation and thoughtful design. But technological leadership goes beyond what’s in the box. How we impact the environment is also important to us, and environmental considerations are an integral part of Apple’s business practices. From the earliest stages of product design through manufacturing, use, and recycling, we take care to keep our activities and our products environmentally sound.

At first glance, it would seem as though Apple was doing what is known as “greenwashing”, or claiming that a product is environmentally friendly (even if the production process is not). After taking a look at their A Greener Apple Web site, however, one will notice the many environmental actions that Apple has taken over the last few years. According to their site:

Apple became the first company in the computer industry to completely eliminate CRTs. The effect has been stunning — our first CRT-based iMac contained 484 grams of lead; our current third-generation LCD-based iMac contains less than 1 gram of lead.

As you may or may not know, lead is contained in most older cathode-ray tube computer monitors (the large, bulky kind). What you may not know, however, is that lead, is a poisonous metal that can damage nerve connections and cause blood and brain disorders. By eliminating lead from their products, Apple has been keeping this poisonous element out of or landfills and out of our homes.

What really impresses me, however, is the future plans that Apple has to further reduce their impact on the environment. Their products already meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances restrictions on cadmium, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants, and they have plans to completely eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays by the end of 2008. In addition, Apple plans to eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays.

In addition to the large number of chemicals Apple has eliminated from their products through the years, they have also implemented a recycling program for e-waste. According to the Web site:

Apple started recycling in 1994 and today we operate recycling programs in countries where more than 82% of all Macs and iPods are sold. By the end of this year, that figure will increase to 93%.

The best part of Apple’s recycling program is that none of the e-waste that is collected by Apple goes overseas for disposal. All of the waste that is collected is processed here in the United States, which cuts down on transportation costs, and lowers the company’s overall carbon footprint, making them an environmental leader in the computer industry.

I do not own an Apple computer, but I am highly impressed by even the small steps that Apple Computers have taken to make our planet a little greener. From designing their products under the requirements of programs such as Energy Star, to placing an emphasis on energy efficiency, Apple has set a good example that all computer companies should follow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five companies make the GRADE

Market analysis firm IDC (Framingham, Massachusetts) has awarded a new electronic recycling certification to five companies. Dell (Round Rock, Texas), Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, California), IBM (Armonk, New York), Intechra (Jackson, Mississippi) and Redemtech (Columbus, Ohio) are the first companies in the world to receive IDC’s Green Recycling and Asset Disposal for the Enterprise certification, after scoring a 75 percent or higher on a multi-faceted testing system that evaluated companies’ on-site services, logistics, environmental certifications or pledges, landfill or disposal policies, data security practices and other metrics.
"The certification has been in development for four years and it required an understanding of what the market was requiring on the supply side and what was acceptable on the end-user side," explains IDC research manager David Daoud. "Traditionally, there has not been any standard in the industry … no particular body looking at what the requirements ought to be for asset management. Companies have not had a way to report back to their customers on how products are being recycled."
IDC has reviewed 25 companies in all, and hinted that more recipients of the new GRADE certification could be announced in the future. "My suspicion is that we will see more companies become certified, but they will be much smaller companies," says Daoud. Other firms on the list of 25 companies initially reviewed are continuing to consult with IDC over how to make the improvements necessary to achieve certification. Additionally, IDC expects the requirements for the GRADE certification to grow over time.
For more information on IDC and the GRADE certification, attend David Daoud’s presentation at E-Scrap 2008, September 17-18 in Glendale, Arizona.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Replacement Hybrid Battery Costs Plummet

When someone on the EcoModder forums asks about buying a used hybrid, there is usually a flurry of excitement coupled with cautions about the age of the car and the price of a new battery pack. Ecomodders, usually being budget-minded folks, are very wary of the seemingly astronomical price of battery replacement.

In the early part of this decade, some of the biggest worries about hybrids were how could the batteries possibly last, when would they finally give out, and how much would it cost to have them replaced. These days, concerns about batteries have largely faded out of the minds of new car buyers. Honda and Toyota have both had hybrids on the market for about a decade now, and there are no ominous junkyards filled with dead hybrids.

To underline the reliability of modern battery-electric hybrids, Honda says that out of over 100,000 hybrids on the road currently, only 200 have needed out-of-warranty battery replacement. Toyota, on the other hand, has only needed to replace 0.003 percent of its hybrid batteries out of warranty on the second generation Prius. Granted, these cars still aren’t all that old, and the batteries will likely fail eventually, but it seems that they are living up to manufacturers’ promises that they will last the life of a car.

Necessity aside, Honda and Toyota have both announced drastic cuts to the cost of replacement batteries for their hybrids. It will now cost just under $2,000 to have new batteries installed in you Honda Insight, and just under $2,500 for your Accord hybrid. These are about $1,000 reductions in the cost. Toyota, on the other hand, has dropped prices from ~$5,500 to $3,000, but that doesn’t include the installation, so the real cost is likely a bit more.

So, buyers of used hybrids, never fear! It’s unlikely that your batteries will fail prematurely, and even if they do, replacements are getting cheaper.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Geo-Engineering for a Tailor-Made Planet

Written by Michelle Bennett

Geo-Engineering is “the deliberate modification of Earth’s environment on a large scale “to suit human needs and promote habitability”‘ (via Wikipedia). Until recently it was the stuff of science fiction, a god-like power regulated to unseen aliens or super-futuristic societies. Occasionally planetary catastrophe also ensued.

Yet with climate change and global warming sparking alarm across the globe, some scientists have started to explore the possibility of altering the natural environment on a global scale. Several strategies are outlined below:

There are other proposed methods, of course, so consider these as an introduction only. It’s important to note that geo-engineering scientists do not propose this as solutions to global warming, but as emergency measures to avert large-scale human suffering. The only reason it has been suggested that we consider implementing these strategies in the near future is because, in the view of Dr. Paul Crutzen, “there is little reason to be optimistic.” He was referring to current international political efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Of course there is controversy and plenty of people who disagree with implementing geo-engineering. Scientifically, there’s the problem of data; we simply don’t know enough about these huge natural systems to safely manipulate them. There’s also the consequences we are certain about: in most cases, the benefits and detrimental effects will be unevenly distributed across the planet. While one part of the world prospers under cooler climes, another would have their problems compounded.

Who can make that decision? What are the ethics? What would be the social, economic, and cultural implications of upheaval, conflict, and/or refugees in the areas that benefit? Even if we do manage to (partially) improve the weather, the social impact across the globe could negate the benefits. Geo-engineering (but not necessarily geo-engineers) assumes that humans being can and should manipulate the planet to improve their lot, but many people have pointed out that we must still change our habits and lifestyles regardless. Whether we attempt geo-engineering or not, we must still invest in renewable resources.

Geo-engineers propose this as an “emergency only” measure, but in my opinion, using it with even the best intentions could set a dangerous precedent. Global warming is an unintended form of geo-engineering; is it wise to fight fire with fire? Is it ethical to combat one “evil” with something slightly “less evil”? Could any nation, organization, or individual with enough money hijack the globe by using, or threatening to use, geo-engineering against the populous?

Technology will play a critical role in combating and adapting to climate change, but at some point we will have to limit ourselves. Where should we draw the line, and who will decide? Many critics of geo-engineering agree that we should spend our energy and resources on a solution to the problem, not just to treat the symptoms. There is no fast or simple fix; if we intend to live well for the long haul, we’ll just have to adapt to the limitation of our planet - or expand onto another.

What do you think? Take part in a discussion on our Green Options forum
(Tropical Storm Nargis courtesy of NASA)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Medical Records: Good or Bad

Here are two stories covering the good and bad of personal health records (phr). While the idea of having all your medical records in one place sounds good on paper, I am unconvinced that it is worth the loss of privacy it comes with. It isn't the fear of the system being hacked as much as the number of people who will have access to it.

For the system to be of any value every doctors office, laboratory, clinic, and hospital in America will have access. That means every health care worker has access and no system with that many people can be secured.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is a Plane Boarding Pass a Threat?

We have looked at the stub from the boarding pass and wondered what to do with it. You most likely have found two or three in the seat pocket from the seats prior holders. But is the information dangerous?

Alone no, but it gives enough insight into you to get everything an identity thief needs. They get your name, a good idea of your home town and some recent travel information. The thief uses these bits of information to get more form unsuspecting customer service reps.

Always shred everything with your name or any other personally identifying information.

Read More.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Sahara

Sahara made slow transition from green to desert

A picture taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Terra satelliteon shows dust blowing northward out of the Sahara Desert and over the Mediterranean Sea. The Sahara became the world's biggest hot desert some 2,700 years ago after a very slow fade from green, according to a new study which clashes with the theory that desertification came abruptly.

The Sahara became the world's biggest hot desert some 2,700 years ago after a very slow fade from green, according to a new study which clashes with the theory that desertification came abruptly.

Six thousand years ago, the massive arid region dominating northern Africa was quite green, a patchwork of trees and savannas as well as many sparkling lakes.

The region, larger than Australia, also was inhabited, according to the European-US-Canadian team of scientists behind a study in Science dated May 9.

Most of the physical elements that could tell the tale of the Sahara's geographic evolution have been lost. The scientists studied layers of sediment in one of the largest remaining Sahara lakes, Yoa, in a remote spot in northern Chad, which took them back through six millennia of climate history.

They looked at sediments, did soil tests and reviewed biological indicators such as plant and tree pollen and spores that were present before the desert encroached. They also studied the remains of aquatic microorganisms.

Their findings contradicted previous modeling that indicated a rapid collapse of vegetation in the region in a sudden end to the African Humid Period, about 5,500 years ago, said Stefan Kropelin, a geologist at the Prehistoric Archaeology Institute of the University of Cologne who took part in the new study.

In 2000, a study by Peter de Menocal of Columbia University of sediments in the west of Mauritania found a sudden increase in wind-carried dust blown off the Sahara region, suggesting swift climate change.

But data from Lake Yoa shows the opposite, and the transition to desert took its time, said Kropelin. He said he believed de Menocal's data were not wrong but misinterpreted.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Greenest laptop ever?

New Mac greenest laptop ever?

Apple (Cupertino, California) Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs recently unveiled the new MacBook Air, the company's entry into the ultra-light laptop computer niche market. The new computer features an all-aluminum case, which Jobs noted is one of the most recyclable materials on the market, and the company's first mercury-free display device made with arsenic-free glass. The MacBook Air has primarily bromide- and PVC-free circuit boards, and the packaging is 56-percent smaller than current MacBook models. The new laptop computer also meets Energy Star 4.0 standards and has attained a Silver EPEAT rating. Greenpeace (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), however, is not so impressed. "Apple is getting greener, but not green enough," Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace's toxics campaign, told Wired magazine (San Francisco). "The Macbook Air has less toxic PVC plastic and less toxic BFRs; but, it could have zero, and that would make Apple an eco-leader," he added.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles