This is such a cool idea that I just had to come at it, even though I’m a few months behind on the original announcement. In September, 2009, a new car aptly named the “Algaeus” completed it’s cross country tour successfully and refueled the idea that algae might bring natural solutions to our high tech problems after all. The algae fueled car traveled 3,750 miles across the country, spreading the word of new possibilities. After it completed it’s tour, it then joined the “Green Energy Bus”, the Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL team for a college tour to further spread the green word. The “Green Energy Bus” is a retrofit interactive classroom that shows students just how the new concept works.

The Algaeus is the brainchild of Sapphire Energy, the leader in algae-based renewable fuel, who joined with the team behind the award winning film FUEL, to complete the first cross-country car tour powered by a blend of algae-based gasoline in an unmodified engine. It took a total of 10 days after starting in San Fransisco and making it’s way to New York City, to which it arrived on September 18. The Algaeus presents a tantalizing peek into a very likely future which excites me. Sapphire Energy provides the fuel for the extraordinary car, containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude and extracted through Sapphire’s proprietary process. However, there really is nothing extraordinary about the car in reality. It could be your car, the way things are hopefully going to turn out!

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Everywhere you look these days you see someone going “green”. Car makers are developing solar powered cars, people are practicing water conservation and recycling services are common place in many states. Everyone seems eager to do their part. But it is true that some cities are moving faster than others and there are areas where recycling is still not offered and people everywhere who haven’t even thought about it. But the cities and peoples who have gone above and beyond in “going green” deserve some recognition.

In my search online to discover which cities rate highest, I saw that everyone from Treehugger to MSN, from Mother Nature Network to Move have done a rating of their own, based on available data. What I did was obtain data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Green Building Council and the National Geographic Society’s “Green Guide” to compile my own. These findings are varied in some ways but overall pretty consistant. You will see each of these cities somewhere on everyone’s list. My list is based on everyone’s research of each cities’ resource conservation, waste emissions, public transportation use, recycling habits, number of eco friendly buildings and overall green space offered to determine which one goes where on the scale of 1 to 10. However, you could not go wrong by moving to any one of these lovely places, as they are definitely way ahead of the rest of us.

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Perhaps you have heard about these and how they are a part of the solution to global warming. And perhaps you have also heard that Desert Hills Dairy Biodigester has begun plans and acquired land to construct the very first biodigester in the State of Nevada at Desert Hills Dairy in Wabuska, near Yerington, Nevada. But what the heck is it? And how can it help?

Biodigesters capture methane from dairy cattle to generate clean electrical energy! I know this sounds amazing but the problem created by cattle poop on meat and dairy farms is outrageous and dangerous and must be mitigated. You are aware, I am sure, that cattle poop is sold as manure for gardening and makes a wonderful fertilizer. Now, take the step mentally, from the energy and heat created by fertilizer to the energy required to make electricity. It’s really that simple.

The methane captured by the biodigester is enough to create a highly nutritious and non toxic liquid fertilizer, a high quality mulch by product that generates enough power to run both the digester and the dairy. This mitigates an enormous amount of the methane generated on the dairy and takes that much CO2 out of the atmosphere. Now, if we can just get them running on every farm and cattle ranch in the country.

According to the CEO of DHDB, Dr. Micheal Ganz, “Desert Hills is the largest and best managed dairy in Northern Nevada. We will use proven digester technology developed by GHD, Inc. in Wisconsin to obtain maximum yields from this installation.” Quote obtained online from Reuters.

Studies have proven that the methan produced from dairy cattle, in particular, has a greenhouse warming effect 21 times carbon dioxide. It has been established that a herd of 10,000 cows can produce as much as a billion cubic feet of methane annually. This information comes from studies performed at the University of Texas and from statistics compiled by the Midwest Rural Energy Council.

“At a time when the Nevada dairy industry has been severely damaged by the recession, income from a biodigester can make the difference between economic profitability and failure,” Dr. Ganz added, according to Reuters.

This is all well and good and I am very pleased with the ingenuity and effort that went into this device. American business will find a way as long as there is money and good will in it. However, if the climate bill gets passed as it is right now, this won’t make much difference. They’ll end up using the offsets from the diary farms to mitigate carbon creation at other locations, including China and India. As good as the biodigester is and I give kudos to those folk that invented it and are trying to use it, it will have nada impact on this mess if we don’t make everybody use it and not allow trade offs. Keep the pressure on. Write your congressman or woman and let them know how you feel.

Note: DHDB (Desert Hills Dairy Biodigester) is a subsidiary of Carbon Bank Ireland, LLC.

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Earlier this month, President Barack Obama ordered our Government to lead by example on climate change matters, to cut consumption of fuel and improve water use efficiency. I think this is a first, however, those of you who know otherwise are welcome to comment and give examples. But I think this is a much needed push on the part of our President in bringing conservation back into the mindset of America. We call ourselves conservatives and then we consume and trash like drunken sailors. It’s time to walk the walk.

In his demand, he wanted federal departments to cut their fuel consumption by 30% and to improve their water use efficiency by 26%. This appears to be an immediate goal with a 90 day limit for the development of an overall plan for long term targets. In fact, he requires all federal agencies to set firm 2020 targets to cut their greenhouse gas emissions within that 90 day window. As much as you hear the pigs squealing, this is very liberal and tolerant and allows them to squirm off with their usual wheeling and dealing and I am not sure it will make a whit of difference. It seems all that many Americans care about is who is sleeping with whom but damn if they care if the baby goes out with the bathwater. I apologize but a lot of people piss me off. Barack Obama pisses me off. The time has long passed for people to wake up and smell the coffee and still they keep dreaming. Who out there smells it? The world is on fire, fools.

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The big news on the climate front is the bill released by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) last month. It is disappointing to many environmentalists and activists but they are now saying it may be as ambitious as we can hope for given the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on Congress. I am really not happy with it because it just won’t make a significant impact on our increasingly unstable climate. I consider that a disaster.

I guess this bill is a bit better, though, than the 1427 pages of garbage that Waxman and Markey pushed through the House in June. This is known as the American Clean Air and Security Act and both Waxman and Markey are Democrats. It was a complex bill that was hard to read and understand but it essentially had the fingerprints of agribusiness and oil industry lobbyists all over it. This bill by Kerry and Box is a leaner, cleaner bill with a few less fingerprints but it still doesn’t get past environmentalists and climate scientists who actually care.

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Now, here’s the thing. I’ve always wondered if the solutions to all these problems might be simple. After all, that’s the way it works in my own life; I spend endless hours and energy running through mazes and jumping through hoops only to discover that the solution was down a straight and simple path. Perhaps this is what we are doing to ourselves in the matter of planetary warming. Perhaps there is a lot of money in making it complicated. And be it not me who would deny people work and income. Yet, I can’t help but think about something I heard.

The sad part about our abilities to move ahead on this problem is the global economic crisis, which has taken precedence. The cost of proposed green initiatives is becoming a huge factor as world governments consider drafting environmental policies. This shift in priorities was evident in the last round of U.N. climate talks in Poland. After a full two weeks of negotiation, it looked as if participants were no closer to consensus on the terms of the treaty that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol. The current treaty, created in 1992, requires most developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions. But, currently, overall cost is one of the main reasons for this persistent stalemate on emissions caps.

But there was one interesting solution presented. The IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued a report that notes that if governments worked to exploit the natural capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide and deliberately aimed to increase the carbon sink that forests create, as much as 40 to 50% of human carbon emissions could be offset. I think this is fantastic and should be done like now. Please refer to my previous post on carbon sinks. Still, to my mind, the even more astounding fact is that this extraordinary possibility has been largely ignored.

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As of today, now playing in a theatre near you, is a film with a fascinating new look at the oil industry and it’s dark side. CRUDE, the film, tells a shocking story that Chevron, the 5th largest company on this planet, does not want the world to know. Like, The Cove, another documentary about the uglier side of industry, this one is a bombshell that should awaken everyone who sees it to the environmental tragedies that are ongoing here on Earth and the battle to save our planet.

Three years in the making by acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), CRUDE chronicles the epic legal battle to hold Chevron accountable for its systematic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon. If you are not aware of the disaster, it was an environmental tragedy experts call the “Amazon Chernobyl,” and believe is the worst case of oil-related contamination on Earth. I have had my own firsthand experience with the self absorbed and mostly indifferent oil industry in my own life; we had a property that was contaminated by big oil and basically lost our fight. I know how hard it is to battle these powerful people.

But here’s the story on this current battle. While drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1990, Texaco, which is now called Chevron, deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor. The company selfishly resorted to substandard practices that were obsolete in order to increase its profit margin by a mere $3 per barrel of crude. Of course, the local people and ecosystems paid the price instead, and at a much higher price than $3.00. In fact, many have paid with their lives and their livelihoods. But, good for them, they have been fighting back and this is where the film comes in.

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I know I’ve talked a lot about arctic melt on this blog but the information just keeps rushing in and I can’t ignore it. I guess just saying it’s a problem may be all that I should invest my time in but I am beginning to think I have to say it over and over again because there are so many people just ignoring this. Scientists are the source of this information, I didn’t get it from a novel. And new research is showing even more alarming information: they have found that some 10 cubic km of ice has already been lost from 1500 glaciers over the past nine years. Now, that’s what I call a fast melt.

So predictions have been revamped and they are now saying that the Swiss glaciers should be gone by the end of the century. That is Swiss glaciers. When we talk about the Swiss glaciers we are talking about a practical continent, a vast area of land. I mean, 1500 is a substantial sum of these peaks and 10 cubic kilometers is equal to about 6.2 square miles. Another study, based on a sample of only 30 of these glaciers indicates that these peaks are now losing a full meter of thickness every single year. A meter is equal to a little over 3 feet.

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The state of Ohio has approximately 6,000 schools. In a historic move earlier this year, the state introduced legislation whereby 25% of the these schools would be required to install rooftop solar panels. This is a concerted effort by the state legislature to reduce main grid electricity consumption and also to stimulate the state’s “green” economy by creating new jobs. The state currently only has around 50 schools with grid connect solar power systems installed.

Under this ambitious new plan, financiers would pay for and install the solar panels and then benefit from a 35% federal tax credit. As a win-win deal, the school districts would then use the money they would save on electricity to pay back the difference to these investors over a 30 year period. This makes the Ohio plan unique among other initiatives. It also makes is immediately doable and sustainable over the long haul. In Germany, for instance, investors are allowed to rent space on school roofs and other public buildings to install grid connecting solar power arrays. Germany has a generous gross feed in tariff program that makes such arrangements lucrative for both the schools and the investors.

In comparisons, the most generous initiative in the world seems to be in Australia under the governments’ NSSP (National Solar Schools Program). This is a program that allows grants up to $50,000.00 for just about every school in the country to install a grid connect solar power system. If campuses want to team up for grants, they can share in funding of up to $100,000.00 for this purpose. In Australia, as of January 2009, over 3800 schools have registered for NSSP.

I think it’s awesome that so many countries are thinking the same way and doing it so creatively. The idea of greening public buildings is an excellent one and is one of the best facets of President Obamas green power plan. In all, schools are excellent candidates for mini-solar farms because they enjoy exclusive roof space and the entire school is self-contained, like an office building. The schools not only benefit from reduced power costs by installing systems, but also demonstrate good environmental stewardship through decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and setting an excellent example to the wider community. Having a solar power system on campus also provides opportunities for a hands-on renewable energy educational experience for students. And what an excellent example for our learning institutions to set.

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This is what I have read around the net. That a much respected scientist at NASA has declared that Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. This scientist is Jim Hansen, who is known to be a leading expert in the climate and has been looked to here in Florida many times over during our weather calamities, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Hey, this assessment is pretty bleak and I admit it startled me. This man, Hansen, is not known for being in the pockets of anyone in particular, especially not any biofuel company nor is he known to be friends with Al Gore.. or any Democrat that I know of. So this, I can safely say, is not some crazy conspiracy or business scheme. But I just not kidding when I say that he has warned that only urgent action by the new President could halt the devastating climate change that now threatens Earth. And he puts the window at four lousy years, meaning that action will have to be taken within Obama’s first administration to be effective. No waiting around, pals. No dragging them disbelieving feet.

According to Hansen (and other scientists like him), soaring carbon emissions are already melting the ice caps and threatening to trigger global flooding, widespread species extinctions and major disruptions of weather patterns in the near future. “We cannot afford to put off change any longer,” warns Hansen. “We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”

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