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Sun Savings: A Powerful New Idea Energizes Homes & Solar Industry

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Author: the Inkslinger

Everybody wants a rooftop solar system. But nobody wants to pay for one. What would you do if you didn’t have to?

That’s the idea behind a new strategy being put to the test by the solar power industry, and it could be the breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for.

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High On Hydrogen, But How Do We Get Our Fix?

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Author: the Inkslinger

As far as fuels are concerned, hydrogen is just about perfect. When combined with oxygen in a fuel cell, just three things come out: electricity, water, and heat. That’s it. No carbon dioxide. No particulates. No worries about sinking public health or rising sea levels. It’s the fuel you can bring home to meet your parents.

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Does "Daylight Savings" Really Mean "Energy Spending?"

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Author: the Inkslinger

In what will be a welcome shock to our winter-weary systems up here in Vermont, Sunday marks the shift to Daylight Savings Time (DST), the day our clocks "spring forward" to offer an extra hour of what in these parts is much-appreciated sunshine.

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This Moment On Earth

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Author: the Inkslinger

The day’s dawned bright and sharp here in the hinterlands of Vermont. In cloudless skies, winter’s own thin brand of blue telegraphs all we need to know. That the cold just beyond window etched in swirls of frost is deep and unmovable. And indeed the thermometer reads just 6° at morning’s first glance. It’s shiver-inducing fragment of briefest knowledge magnified by hard-edged north country sunlight rising frigid and unforgiving over the gleaming snowpack. A fine morning day to stoke the fire, uncork the informational bottle, and see what news of this moment on Earth pours out.

Let’s begin on the open seas where a coming U.N. report finds the world’s fast-growing shipping fleet is responsible for about 4.5% of global CO2 emissions, a figure that could rise 30% by 2030 because of zooming rates of international trade. It appears that when transportation-related environmental costs are factored in, goods from overseas aren’t so cheap after all. In fact, container ship ports have been identified as one of the biggest sources of pollution in the U.S. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s two largest, have recognized the problem and are taking steps like requiring all ships to shut-down their on-board power systems when docked and banning vessels built before 1989, the year pollution-controls became standard gear on freighters. This is the sort of stuff regular folk like us never think too much about, but it’s good to know someone is. For our part, the lesson here is that the farther away something was made, the more CO2 its shipping generated. As always, sourcing whatever we can as locally as possible is hugely important where the climate crisis is concerned. Buy local!

News like that is why I like this:

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Coal Gets Burned

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Author: the Inkslinger

In Tuesday’s post about Staples terminating a relationship with an environmentally suspect paper supplier, Jeffrey noted that “the potential cost (to business) of failing to be responsible or transparent… can be high indeed.”

Apparently some of the biggest financial firms agree. A couple of days ago, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley announced that they’ve developed a new set of standards by which investors can assess the regulatory and financial risks of coal-related projects. The firms hope that these so-called Carbon Principles will become a framework that the entire investment community can use to encourage “responsible” coal development, which is probably one of the larger oxymorons you’ll encounter today. As GreenBiz notes, the new standards don’t forbid investment in coal-burning schemes, but they do place them under additional scrutiny. They’re also voluntary, which means any bank is quite free to ignore them as Bank of America, perhaps the largest financer of coal plants, seems so to be doing judging by its conspicuous absence from the proceedings so far.

So while this is not exactly another nail in coal’s coffin, it’s certainly another hammer blow or two on those nails already there. It sends the clearest message yet to the investment community that there’s a growing risk in projects that generate carbon dioxide and that, as Jeffrey says, the potential costs of failing to be responsible can be high. Clearly the landscape is changing and clearly climate crisis concerns are (finally) penetrating the halls of financial power.

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Bye-Bye Biofuels?

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Author: the Inkslinger

Biofuels took a big hit yesterday with the release of two studies that clearly show they release more CO2 than conventional fuels once their entire life-cycle is taken into account.

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‘Round and ‘Round We Spin

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Author: the Inkslinger

If news falls in the forest and no one is there to report it on the Inspired Protagonist, does it make a sound? Oh my, yes, my green philosopher children. It’s been roaring for weeks while I’ve been elsewhere. In fact, so much worth mentioning has been piling up in my digital in-box that I briefly considered tossing the whole thing into my virtual trashcan and starting over. Seemed easy than trying to wade through it all. But that’s a bit of a cheat and the losers would be you, dear reader. So I’m biting the informational bullet, sifting through it, and aiming to play catch-up over the next few days. Here goes…

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Where to Gas Up?

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It’s hard to feel that there’s a good choice to make when it comes time to filling up your tank. And even those of us with hybrids sooner or later need to make the stop. (I just bought Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, and while I’m still angry at Toyota for fighting against higher mileage standards in California, given where we live and the other options available, it seemed like the best choice – though it did take me almost three months of research to decide.)

In the current issue of Fast Company, there is the most complete research most complete research I’ve seen to help you decide which oil company is the cleanest and greenest.

“Fast Company turned to the sustainability experts at HIP Investor, Inc. and the Social Venture Technology Group, both based in San Francisco, for help. These firms have together developed an exclusive methodology they call HIP™?Human Impact + Profit?for measuring the environmental and social impacts of business. They rate companies based on their management practices (including setting sustainability goals, and if and how managers are held accountable for those goals), as well as their human impact (such as human rights, greenhouse-gas emissions, and investment in renewable-energy sources).”

Despite all their recent problems, BP comes out in first place followed by Chevron, then Shell, Marathon and Conoco.

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Technorama-lama-ding-dong

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Author: the Inkslinger

At this point, I think you really have to bet on technology. By which I mean how we’re going to deal with the climate crisis. It’s not at all clear to me that we (by which I mean humanity) are going to summon the will and the courage and the passion to engage in the kind of behavioral constraints needed to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050, which is pretty much what the science guys tell us we have to do to in order to avert what I’ll politely refer to as a bit of planetary unpleasantness.

Certainly personal behavior is going to be a key part of the equation and certainly even simple changes in the decisions we make and the way we live can and will have an important impact, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough. The way the world is set up now, for example, I’m fairly sure I can’t drive my car 80% less than I do now, which is already relatively rarely. And I don’t see the kind of cultural and infrastructure changes coming anytime soon that would allow me to do it. So I’m figuring I’ve got to count on technology, on clever humans with opposable thumbs and big brains to imagine, invent, create, and use tricks of the material world to give me the equivalent of driving 80% less without my actually having to do it.

Which brings us to today’s edition of what’s going down around town (and by town I mean this big village called Earth). Because while I’ve been sitting here not driving, clever humans have been busy working on encouraging things…

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What Wisdom & Leadership Look Like

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Author: the Inkslinger

Just in case you’ve forgotten during the last seven years of intellectual, moral, and spriritual darkness…

Watch it and hope. Share it and rally.

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