Archives for category: Environment

The city of Davis in California prides itself with having invented bike lanes in the 1960s.  Toda, the University of California – Davis is ranked the 8th “greenest” college in the U.S. by Sierra magazine (1).  It is proud to be home to several LEED Certified buildings, three of which have received LEED Platinum Certification, particularly the Robert Mondavi Institute’s brewery, wine, and food science laboratory which was the first facility ever to earn LEED Platinum (1).  It is also home to the nation’s largest net-zero community, the UC Davis West Village, which opened to residents in Autumn 2011.  In addition to its net-zero energy use, the mixed-use facility was developed with the following core principles in mind:

  • Housing Availability
  • Environmental Responsiveness
  • Quality of Place

Though it is not clear that the West Village development is LEED Certified, the development does addresses many aspects of LEED Certification, as discussed in the following sections.


West Village is located on outer edge of the UC Davis campus and is connected to the center of campus via bike paths, bike lanes, and by Unitrans, UCD’s public bus system, which is free to students.  West Village is also a mixed-use facility providing residents both retail, dining, and recreational services.  Streets have been designed in a traditional grid pattern.  Use of the bike lanes and the bus system will be encouraged by prohibiting West Village residents from purchasing campus parking permits (2).

Energy Use

The West Village development incorporates “aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site renewable energy generation” to meet the development’s energy needs (3).  West Village Energy use is projected to be 50% below the recommended California standards.

To achieve this reduction, several techniques have been applied.  Walls are constructed with 2×6 studs rather than 2×4 studs to allow for more insulation (4).  Windows are shaded on both the interior and exterior to block direct sunlight in this cooling dominated climate.  Windows are provide daylight and lights are on sensors to minimize use (2).  Windows and patio doors open to allow for air flow in this breezy area.  Ceiling fans are installed in main living spaces to aid in air circulation.  Lighting is high efficiency and appliances are energy star rated (2).


Exterior building features, such as solar-reflective roofing and radiant barrier roof sheathing, not only reduce building energy use but also decrease the heat island effect for this development (3).

“A programmable, high-efficiency heat pump heating and cooling system” is used to meet the actual heating and cooling requirements of the buildings.  Heat pumps have a relatively high efficiency compared to traditional furnaces and air conditioners.  To meet the electricity demand of West Village, a 4 MW solar photovoltaic system is planned for the development.  Davis may also be part of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), a district famous for its proactive use of alternative energy.

Water Efficiency

Water use facilities have been built with water saving toilets (1.28 gpf) and low-flow fixtures (1.5 gpm) that use air rather than water to generate greater water pressure (2).  Landscaping also incorporates drought resistant plants (3).

Indoor Air Quality

Use of low VOC paint and interior finishes (2).

Materials and Resources

Use of flooring material with 50% recycled content and “Ecoquartz ™ kitchen countertops made from recycled quartz” (2).

Innovative Research and Waste Management

“UC Davis is now nearing completion of a technical feasibility study for using a biodigester, employing technology developed by UC Davis Professor Ruihong Zhang, to turn campus food, animal and plant waste into energy. The feed stock has been lab tested for the gas and energy it produces; live testing at the biodigester prototype on campus is expected be under way in late 2011. (3)”

Residential unit features (5)

A. Solar panels cover much of the roofs and uncovered areas are light in color to reflect heat.

B. Radiant barrier roof sheathing keeps inside temperature consistent.

C. Upgraded insulation provides greater protection than industry standard insulation.

D. Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. VOCs are poisonous chemicals that can cause disease and air pollution.

E. Low-flow faucets

F. Low-flow toilets

G. Ceiling fans

H. Oversized windows for natural light

I.Energy Star appliances

J. Floor material 50 percent recycled

K.Eco-quartz countertops

L. Low-VOC finish on cabinets

Works Cited

1. UC Davis Dateline. UC Davis News and Information. [Online] 8 19, 2011. [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

2. UC Davis. West Village Living. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

3. —. Energy. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 18, 2012.]

4. —. Press-Kit Backgrounder. West Village. [Online] [Cited: 3 19, 2012.]



The German city of Munich powers its metro, trams and all its households with renewables. The key starting point, says deputy-mayor and Green Party member Hep Monatzeder, is that Munich’s energy provider Stadtwerke München (SWM) is owned by the city.

You say that for a city to be green you need a municipal society. What does that mean?
In 2007 we created the Munich Alliance for Climate Protection and invited politicians, economists, owners of small and large companies, NGOs and citizens to volunteer initiatives for 30 climate protection projects. One third of those projects are working now, another third are in the planning stages.

Can you give some examples?
One is solar panels over parking spaces, with the possibility for e-mobility points to chargeelectric cars. Then we have a project to privilege electric transport bikes for deliveries into the city so companies don’t use trucks.

A very ambitious project is to transform the heat generated by big companies, in their IT server centers for example, into air conditioning via heat exchangers. We have the biggest district heating system in Europe covering about 80 percent of Munich. We want to try and have a district cooling system too.

What are your ultimate goals for a sustainable Munich?
Our ambition is to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Our biggest problem is the traffic: 30-35 percent of CO2 emissions come from private cars. Our goal is to bring up the bicycle traffic to at least 15-20 percent of daily journeys. It was just six percent when I started as deputy mayor in 1996.

In the 1990s, we got 3.6 percent of energy from renewables. Now it is about 33 percent, enough to supply all of our 800,000 private households. So I am optimistic that we will reach our goal that by 2025 all customers in the city will be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.

What is the mix of renewables in Munich now?
Besides wind power, the main renewable energy is hydropower. We have for example a very modern system and you can’t see it, which is very important for the look of the city. We have put it under the surface in the Isar River and other rivers in the city.

Also very important is geothermal energy; we want to build a new quarter for 20,000 inhabitants and this will be managed by geothermal power, solar power and a district heating system.

How much are you spending on renewables?
We want to spend nine billion euros between 2008 and 2025, 500 million euros per year.

Hep Monatzeder, Deputy-Mayor of Munich: “I am optimistic that we will reach our goal that by 2025 all customers in the city will be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.” (Source: James Tulloch)

How important is city ownership of the energy company Stadtwerke München (SWM)?
That is a very important precondition. During the 1990s we stood firm against the wave of liberalisation. Other municipalities sold their energy companies but we kept it 100 percent owned by the community.

That means we decide how to reduce energy use. When our utility company tried to invest in a coal power plant we said no. So they invested in hydro, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal.

In my experience private energy companies have to look to their shareholders and their shareholders want to see money and therefore they will not try to get experience with new systems. But now they are forced to invest in renewable energy because the framework changed in Germany. The energy suppliers have to quit nuclear power. 

Can Germany phase out nuclear power by 2018 and decarbonize at the same time?
I think we can do it, although if we had started with all of Germany using the Munich system we would be in a much better position. But I think we are good enough at technological innovation.

What energy efficiency measures have you introduced?
We have a law that if you build a new house you can only use certain kinds of energy. And we really force companies to accept our ecological criteria; we give them an offer and if they don’t accept they will not get a building site.

And if we renovate old municipal buildings we are committed to doing so to an energy-efficiency standard 30 percent stricter than the German federal standard.

For example, I am living in a building constructed in 1901. We renovated the house and the cost for our energy came down 28 percent. You always have to promote these examples; people have to feel it in their pocket.

What have you done to tackle the traffic?
We offer park and ride services and we have created parking management and blue zone schemes.

Parking management means you have to pay more per hour for parking the further you travel into the city. The blue zone concept means you can keep a car in the city center for only one or two hours. The effect is that traffic necessary for the economy, such as deliveries, works but commuter traffic is discouraged.

We built a lot of cycling infrastructure and we did a big public relations campaign—that was very important. We put young people on bikes and said biking is fun, good for your health, and good for your pocket.

What have been the results?
In the middle of town traffic has come down in the last 10 years and the bike traffic has risen. Nowadays 68 percent of daily journeys are by bike, by foot, or by public transport.

Now we are having a big discussion about whether to reserve lanes on the road for cyclists. We have started some pilot projects counting cars and found that it is possible in some places to close one lane to cars and reserve it for cyclists. We would like to do more of that in the future.

What advice would you give to any other city government?

Show your people that they can have a good life when we bring CO2 emissions down, and create common green areas like parks for that good life. The social aspect of a green city is very important.


Here is an interesting read pointed out by Kevin Kibet from our EEB class (Thanks ! ) . It is a very interesting article which emphasizes on how avoiding fossil fuels could pave the way to solve three major problems that humanity is facing right now .. air pollution mortality, global warming and energy security. Please read at your leisure and feel good about doing your degree in RCL !!

Watch this video from the Post Carbon Institute, an organization leading the transition into a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world.

Original Video  >>


Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity crises that define the 21st century. We envision a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Post Carbon Institute has four primary goals:

  • Build awareness and understanding. Our aim is to help people face reality, understand the true nature of the crises at hand, and take thoughtful, confident action.
  • Foster collaboration. To successfully navigate the transition at hand will take unprecedented cooperation. Too often, efforts take place in isolated silos. Our goal is support true collaboration that sees both the causes and solutions to these crises as interconnected.
  • Integrate knowledge. Individual approaches and responses in one area can sometimes exacerbate other problems or escalate an overall crisis. Post Carbon Institute takes a whole systems approach to ensure that solutions amplify, rather than cancel out, one another.
  • Inspire action. The sheer enormity of the challenge at hand and the uncertainty of times ahead can lead to fear, hopelessness, or paralysis. We offer people and communities concrete, practical, and replicable actions to build resilience and manage the transition.

Visit the Post Carbon Institute  >>

You can access the full IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation here.


Earth Day is the perfect time to celebrate the positive steps that some states are taking to preserve the environment. This year, the theme for Earth Day is “A Billion Acts of Green.” The idea highlights the fact that many small acts can make a significant difference to the environment.

Last year, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the environmental issues facing the each state. In observance of Earth Day, the rankings have been updated to reflect the most recent data.

24/7 Wall St. examined energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies. The most recent information, issued in 2009 and 2010, was used for all states. Thousands of data points were collected to determine the most and least “green” states.

Below are the ten greenest states in the 24/7 Wall St. ranking, based on environmental problems and how effectively these problems are addressed.

10. Colorado

Population: 5,024,748 (22nd)
GDP: $252.6 Billion (19th)
Toxic Waste: 41,532 Tons (19th)
Carbon Footprint: 98.1 Million Metric Tons (27th)
Alternative Energy: 10.0% (14th)

Colorado benefits in ranking from above-average pollution scores, scoring sixth best for birth-defect inducing toxins and carcinogenic chemicals released into waterways. Colorado also ranks 12th in particle pollution. The “Centennial State” has very good policy scores, ranking seventh for energy saving targets, according to ACEEE’s assesment. More than 6% of Colorado’s total energy output is from alternative resources, the eighth best rating in the country.

9. Oregon

Population: 3,825,657 (27th)
GDP: $165.6 Billion (26th)
Toxic Waste: 61,876 Tons (23rd)
Carbon Footprint: 43.5 Million Metric Tons (10th)
Alternative Energy: 63.4% (3rd)

Oregon ranks in the middle third for all of our pollution metrics, including 29th in EPA toxic waste violations and 33rd in toxic exposure, according to the RSEI index. On the other hand, Oregon does exceptionally well both in policy and alternative energy. In the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s list of state energy-saving programs, Oregon has the second-most, behind only California. The state also produces the second-most hydroelectric energy, and the eighth most non-hydroelectric alternative energy, mostly from state wind farms.

8. Idaho

Population: 1,545,801 (39th)
GDP: $54 Billion (42nd)
Toxic Waste: 4,808 Tons (9th)
Carbon Footprint: 16.2 Million Metric Tons (4th)
Alternative Energy: 84.5% (1st)

Idaho generates the greatest relative amount of renewable energy in the country, with 84.5% of all energy coming from alternative sources. “The Gem State” also ranks fifth for producing geothermal energy thanks to its unique terrain, and sixth for conventional hydroelectric power, thanks to the Snake River Plain and the state’s smaller rivers. Furthermore, the state has the fourth lowest rate of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. This is largely the result of the state’s extensive use of renewable energy.

7. Montana

Population: 974,989 (44th)
GDP: $35 Billion (48th)
Toxic Waste: 37,758 Tons (17th)
Carbon Footprint: 37.7 Million Metric Tons (9th)
Alternative Energy: 36.5% (6th)

Montana is unofficially nicknamed “Big Sky Country.” It is understandable that residents would be proud of their air, as it is tied for the lowest rate of ozone particulates in the nation, according to the American Lung Association. The state also ranks well in many other categories. It ranks seventh for total energy used, however this is largely the result of the state’s relatively low population density, the third lowest in the country.

6. South Dakota

Population: 812,383 (46th)
GDP: $38.3 Billion (46th)
Toxic Waste: 1,214 Tons (2nd)
Carbon Footprint: 13.7 Million Metric Tons (3rd)
Alternative Energy: 44.3% (5th)

South Dakota has the fifth-lowest population in the country and, along with that, its pollution is relatively low. The home of Mount Rushmore has only had 14 EPA violations since 2000, far and away the fewest in the nation. It also generated roughly 1,200 tons of hazardous waste last year, which is the second-lowest amount in the country, behind only Hawaii. South Dakota only produced 13.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the third-lowest in the country. South Dakota is above average – but not stellar – in terms of public policy, but it does rank fourth in the state utility alternative energy savings with a target of 10% by 2015.

5. Hawaii

Population: 1,295,178 (42nd)
GDP: $66.4 Billion (38th)
Toxic Waste: 987 Tons (1st)
Carbon Footprint: 24.1 Million Metric Tons (8th)
Alternative Energy: 7.6% (19th)

Since nearly 25% of Hawaii’s gross state product comes from tourism, the state is quite concerned about the environment. Hawaii produces the least amount of toxic waste and received the highest score for two air quality measurements: the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators toxic exposure rank and the American Lung Association’s ozone pollution index. The state also ranks sixth in energy saving programs and policies.

4. Nevada

Population: 2,643,085 (35th)
GDP: $126.5 Billion (31st)
Toxic Waste: 11,143 Tons (10th)
Carbon Footprint: 41.6 Million Metric Tons (12th)
Alternative Energy: 9.4% (16th)

Nevada has the lowest level of water pollution in the country because the generally arid state has very little fresh water to dump toxins into. The “Silver State” scores well in alternative energy production, with the second-highest production of solar photovoltaic and geothermal energy. Despite its low pollution levels and alternative energy scores, the state is only above average in policy initiatives.

3. New Hampshire

Population: 1,324,575 (40th)
GDP: $59.4 Billion (41st)
Toxic Waste: 4,538 Tons (8th)
Carbon Footprint: 19 Million Metric Tons (6th)
Alternative Energy: 12.3% (11th)

New Hampshire has extremely low pollution. The state has the fourth lowest level of harmful particle pollution in the country, according to the American Lung Association, and ranks fifth best with regards to toxic exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators model. New Hampshire has the fourth lowest level of developmental toxins released into its waterways, the fifth lowest level of releases of reproductive toxins and the fifth lowest level of cancer-causing chemicals released.

2. Maine

Population: 1,318,301 (41st)
GDP: $51.2 Billion (43rd)
Toxic Waste: 3,687 Tons (6th)
Carbon Footprint: 19.9 Million Metric Tons (7th)
Alternative Energy: 49.8% (4th)

Almost half of the electricity generated by Maine comes from renewable sources. The state has the largest percentage of its total energy produced coming from non-hydroelectric renewable sources, a total of 23.7%. Since the state has the highest percentage of timberland in the country, it is not surprising that a large portion of its energy comes from wood and wood waste.

1. Vermont

Population: 621,760 (49th)
GDP: $25.4 Billion (50th)
Toxic Waste: 1,536 Tons (3rd)
Carbon Footprint: 6.4 Million Metric Tons (1st)
Alternative Energy: 28.1% (7th)

Vermont has the second smallest population and the lowest GDP in the country. As a result, it produces less pollution than most states. The state releases the fewest carcinogenic toxins and has the smallest carbon footprint in the country. Vermont’s success as a green state isn’t limited to pollution, however: the “Green Mountain State” ranks in the top 15 in 20 out of 28 ranked categories. Vermont has a number of policies to promote efficiency, alternative energy, and reduce pollution, and so far it has succeeded better than any other state.

Original Article  >>

While Earth Day was an important time to highlight issues surrounding our environment, pollution impacts our world on every single day of the year.

Last year, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the environmental issues facing each state. In observance of Earth Day, the rankings were updated to reflect the most recent data.

24/7 Wall St. examined energy consumption, pollution problems and state energy policies. The most recent information, issued in 2009 and 2010, was used for all states. Thousands of data points were collected to determine the most and least “green” states.

Below are the ten least green states in the 24/7 Wall St. ranking, based on environmental problems and how effectively these problems are addressed.

10. Illinois

Population: 12,910,409 (5th)
GDP: $630.3 Billion (5th)
Toxic Waste: 1.04 Million Tons (43rd)
Carbon Footprint: 242 Million Metric Tons (45th)
Alternative Energy: 1.6% (47th)

Illinois uses the third greatest amount of energy out of all the states. Unfortunately, only 1.6% of this energy comes from renewable sources. This is the fourth worst percentage in the country. The state, with its heavy manufacturing industry, also received the fourth worst toxic exposure score by the EPA. The state does have the seventh highest score for solar energy policy, however.

9. Missouri

Population: 5,987,580 (18th)
GDP: $239.7 Billion (22nd)
Toxic Waste: 238 Thousand Tons (33rd)
Carbon Footprint: 140 Million Metric Tons (36th)
Alternative Energy: 2.5% (38th)

The nature of 24/7’s ranking is such that a state might redeem itself for a shortcoming in one category by exceeding in another. If the state doesn’t produce substantial alternative energy, it may be because its size doesn’t allow for much production, and this would be balanced to a certain extent by low pollution levels. Missouri is a perfect example of a state which falls flat in every statistical category. Out of 28 ranked metrics, the “Show Me State” breaks the upper 25 only five times, with 16th in air particle score being its highest ranking. The state ranks 37th in policy initiatives and 48th in non-hydroelectric alternative energy.

8. Kentucky

Population: 4,314,113 (26th)
GDP: $156.5 Billion (28th)
Toxic Waste: 132 Thousand Tons (29th)
Carbon Footprint: 156 Million Metric Tons (39th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Kentucky performs poorly in most categories on this list. It ranks 43rd for releasing cancer-causing chemicals, 44th for releasing developmental toxins, and 41st for releasing reproductive toxins. The state also ranks 39th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

7. Texas

Population: 24,782,302 (2nd)
GDP: $1.14 Trillion (2nd)
Toxic Waste: 13.4 Million Tons (50th)
Carbon Footprint: 184 Million Metric Tons (50th)
Alternative Energy: 4.6% (28th)

While Texas does well in some areas, such as producing the greatest amount of wind energy in the country, it performs poorly in several pollution categories. Much of this is due to the high rates of industry in the state. Texas ranks absolute last for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, having produced over 670 million metric tons of CO2 in a single year. The second highest amount is produced by California, however that state produced just under 400 million metric tons, a significantly smaller amount. Among Texas’ other poor rankings are 50th for the EPA’s toxic exposure score, 47th for total toxic chemicals released into waterways, 46th for cancer-causing chemicals released, 45th for developmental toxins released, and 49th for reproductive toxins released. The state also produces the greatest amount of hazardous waste, generating 13,461,911 tons in one year. This is over three times the amount produced by the second worst-offending state, Georgia, which generates 4,024,468 tons.

6. Pennsylvania

Population: 12,604,767 (6th)
GDP: $554.3 Billion (6th)
Toxic Waste: 290 Thousand Tons (36th)
Carbon Footprint: 274 Million Metric Tons (48th)
Alternative Energy: 2.4% (Tied for 39th)

Unlike many of its northeastern neighbors, Pennsylvania ranks very poorly on our list. This, of course, is due in large part to the state’s expansive and polluting industry. The “Keystone State” ranks 48th in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 49th for particulates in the air, and 49th for toxic exposure. The state’s pollution habits are, unfortunately, not very surprising, since it is well-known for its coal, steel, and natural gas industries.

5. New Jersey

Population: 8,707,739 (11th)
GDP: $482.9 Billion (7th)
Toxic Waste: 555 Thousand Tons (39th)
Carbon Footprint: 134 Million Metric Tons (34th)
Alternative Energy: 1.5% (48th)

The only reason most would be surprised about seeing New Jersey here in our ranking is that it isn’t dead last. The Garden State is not known for being green, a reputation that is based in truth. The state ranks 45th in air particle pollution and 46th in ozone pollution. New Jersey actually scores quite well in energy conservation and alternative energy policy, however these policies haven’t translated into results. As a percent of energy generated that is alternative, the state ranks third-to-last.

4. Louisiana

Population: 4,492,076 (25th)
GDP: $208.3 Billion (24th)
Toxic Waste: 3.8 Million Tons (48th)
Carbon Footprint: 194 Million Metric Tons (43rd)
Alternative Energy: 4.1% (30th)

Louisiana is another poor performer. It is 46th in energy-saving policies and programs and has the sixth-smallest alternative energy budget. The state rates horribly in water pollution, falling into the bottom five for releasing carcinogenic toxins, total water pollution, and chemicals which can cause birth defects. Louisiana also produces the third-most toxic waste each year – roughly 3.8 million tons.

3. West Virginia

Population: 1,819,777 (37th)
GDP: $63.3 Billion (39th)
Toxic Waste: 92 Thousand Tons (26th)
Carbon Footprint: 116 Million Metric Tons (32nd)
Alternative Energy: 1.8% (46th)

West Virginia stands out at the bottom of our list as having a surprisingly low level of energy consumption. Thirty-eight states use more energy each year than the “Mountain State,” including Iowa, which is in the top ten on our list. This fact makes West Virginia’s horrible performance much more impressive. Only twice does the state break the top 25 in any category, and it ranks in the bottom ten percent in many categories, including alternative energy, policy, air pollution, water pollution, and carbon footprint. The best thing state residents can lay claim to is generating three-quarters of a million megawatt hours of wind energy annually, the 19th best amount for this category.

2. Indiana

Population: 6,423,113 (16th)
GDP: $262.6 Billion (16th)
Toxic Waste: 778 Thousand Tons (41st)
Carbon Footprint: 230 Million Metric Tons (44th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied For Last)

Indiana’s main source of power production is coal. In fact, Indiana is home to the country’s largest coal power plant, the Gibson Generating Station. As a result, the state is tied with Ohio for having the lowest percent usage of renewable energy sources in the United States, with a mere 0.7%. Additionally, the state has some issues with pollution. It releases the greatest amount of toxic chemicals into waterways, releasing over 27 million pounds in one year. The second greatest amount, from Virgina, was significantly less at just over 18 million pounds.

1. Ohio

Population: 11,542,645 (7th)
GDP: $471.2 Billion (8th)
Toxic Waste: 1.3 Million Tons (45th)
Carbon Footprint: 267 Million Metric Tons (47th)
Alternative Energy: 0.7% (Tied for Last)

Ohio ranks fifth in energy consumption, and very little of this demand is met by alternative energy. Only 0.7% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, the worst rate in the country. The majority of the state’s energy comes from coal. Along with this tendency comes a long and poor record of pollution. The state ranks 47th for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, 46th for toxic exposure, 47th for developmental toxins released, and 47th for reproductive toxins released. Additionally, the state ranks second worst, just behind Florida, for hazardous waste violations since 2000, as reported by the nonprofit group OMB Watch. Ohio may not rank dead last in an extreme number of subcategories, however its overall extremely poor showing causes it to be ranked as the least environmentally friendly state on our list.

Original Article  >>


About this talk

How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.

About Michael Pawlyn

Michael Pawlyn takes cues from nature to make new, sustainable architectural environments. Full bio and more links

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Offshore drilling typically refers to the discovery and development of oil and gas resources which lie underwater. Most commonly, the term is used to describe oil extraction off the coasts of continents, though the term can also apply to drilling in lakes and inland seas. Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, especially in the Arctic or close to the shore. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate. The off shore moratorium in the US (as a result of the BP spill) ended in October 2010. The Obama administration has decided to allow 13 companies to resume deepwater drilling without additional environmental scrutiny. The decision comes after the administration said it would require strict reviews for new drilling in the Gulf. Others, such as the arctic Shell project, are still blocked by related concerns. The Department of the Interior apparently gave those companies the go-ahead because they were in the middle of previously approved projects when the Gulf spill occurred.

Around 1891, the first submerged oil wells were drilled from platforms built on piles in the fresh waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio. Around 1896, the first submerged oil wells in salt water were drilled in the portion of the Summerland field extending under the Santa Barbara Channel in California. The wells were drilled from piers extending from land out into the channel.

There are risks in off shore drilling. No one can deny that. However, the drilling supplies numerous local jobs and adds to the available natural gas and oil supplies. Until there is no future need due to renewable sources being developed the world will need these products.

Assessing only the impact of halting deep water drilling, an internal July 2010 memo from Michael Bromwich, director of the bureau of Ocean Energy, to Salazar estimated that the six month moratorium impact would result in over 23,000 jobs lost.

The 13 companies allowed to resume drilling are: ATP Oil & Gas; BHP Billiton Petroleum; Chevron USA; Cobalt International Energy; ENI U.S. Operating Co. Inc.; Hess Corp.; Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp.; Marathon Oil Co.; Murphy Exploration & Production-USA; Noble Energy Inc.; Shell Offshore; Statoil USA; and Walter Oil & Gas Corp.

Not all drilling has been resumed. Sometimes there is vehement local opposition even if the drilling permit has been approved. Alaska Native and conservation groups have succeeded in challenging clean air permits granted to Shell Oil to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Numerous groups alleged that Shell’s permits granted by the Environmental Protection Agency would allow the company to emit tons of pollutants into the Arctic environment from a drill ship and support vessels.

The federal Environmental Appeals Board reviewed the permits and last week found that the EPA’s analysis of the impact of nitrogen dioxide emissions from the ships on Alaska Native communities was too limited and would have to be redone.

Original Article  >>

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Pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, was the stuff of heartbreak for many a gold miner. Mimicking the look of the precious gold they were after, Pyrite was considered  essentially worthless.  But for the solar energy industry, Pyrite just may turn into a pot of gold.

Researchers at the University of California Irvine are working towards using the plentiful mineral to create a solar receptive film at a cost far lower than that of using rare earth minerals.

“With alternative energy and climate change issues, we’re always in a race against time,” said lead researcher Matt Law. “With some insight and a little bit of luck, we could find a good solution with something that’s now disposed of as useless garbage.”

Commercial solar cells require expensive and possibly toxic materials such as cadmium telluride and silicon as the core of a solar cell, and often those materials come from China. Alternatively, pyrite is cheap and ubiquitous.

The concept isn’t new. German researchers laid the foundation for using pyrite as a solar receptor back in the 1980′s and 90′s. There wasn’t too much interest then, and financing for continued research was hard to find.

And further research is needed if there is any real chance of pyrite rolling out as a commercial substitute for cadmium or silicon. One major challenge is pyrite has a low voltage potential due to microscopic pits in the mineral’s surface that “trap” electrons and reduce conductivity.

As with many a potential solution to our unsustainable energy economy, getting it out of the lab and into commercial use is “a lot more difficult than people seem to think,” says Shyam Mehta, a solar industry analyst with GTM Research.

But the current research is about meeting that challange:

“Our goal is to use modern tools, new synthetic approaches, mathematical models, and a multi-disciplinary research team to fix pyrite’s low voltage,” Law said.

Currently, the research is founded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s solar initiative.

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