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News & Views Curation

August 31, 2007

Chillin' In Toronto

By using cold Lake Ontario water, 1960's era Toronto buildings now chill out on hot summer days. Cool

Spitzer 2x Greener

The Spitzer Administration announces two high performance initiatives: tax credits for green home building and projects managed by the State Dormitory Authority will have to meet LEED standards. 15x15?

Growing Clean Tech

What kind of public policy would stream venture capital into the clean tech industry? Look into it

London: C40 Champ

Up to 100 London government buildings will get energy efficiency make-overs. Ken's #1

Rolling Up Our Sleeves

The summer storm that wreaked havoc on the New York City subway system was not the first case of extreme weather literally stopping this city in its tracks. And climate change experts warn us that it won’t be the last. The first take away message from this soggy saga is that investments in new transportation and communication technologies are needed, and needed quickly, if New York is to withstand a world of rising sea levels and fiercer storms.

The second message is that what we pay for has to work as promised. Acting on these messages will entail input of enough funding for smart research and development to spur the output of green 21st Century goods, gadgets and services. Supporting the education and training needed to manufacture the goods and deliver services for operating essential municipal systems that will prove able to withstand a more climate-hostile world is another must.

At first blush, the Sallan Snapshots by Jennifer Becker and Sara Garretson that call for a new generation of green manufacturers in New York may seem far removed from the solution to the soggy saga, but, in fact they are right on point. They posit both the need and the opportunity for this city to diversify its economy by reinventing its old, dwindling manufacturing base as clean businesses with green products. In fact, the urgent needs of our aging infrastructure -- subways and sewers being just two of the notoriously old and vulnerable parts of what lies underfoot -- offer a real opportunity for supporting green collar economic development.

In 2006, a report by the Industrial and Technology Assistance Corporation and the New York Industrial Retention Network, “Manufacturing Green: Producing a Sustainable NYC” made three recommendations to the City. First, government should leverage its own purchasing power to stimulate local markets for green products. Second, the City should work with local academic institutions to assist local companies to design and incubate new products. Third, local zoning rules ought to preserve viable manufacturing-zoned land.

In May 2007, at a New York State Apollo Alliance Summit on "Good Jobs and Clean Energy" labor, business, environmental, education, and environmental justice groups met with City and State government representatives to put their heads together on a related clean energy issue menu. In general the recommendations of the reports and the summit meeting make a fine fit with designing and constructing the infrastructure systems that we need to face the impact of climate change.

These ideas are a fine fit, as well, with Mayor Bloomberg’s vision of New York in 2030 as a city with one million more residents, many of who will need good paying jobs because it’s an expensive place to live. While the Mayor offers a vision, ITAC and NYIRN offer suggestions about how many of these newer New Yorkers can earn a living and make things that are competitive in the greener global market.

In a similar vein, “Delivering on the Promise of New York”, a report prepared for Governor Spitzer that lays out a strategy for “growth and economic revitalization”, gives a nod to modernizing and greening the State’s stressed and aged infrastructure. Under the rubric of “cleantech”, an emerging sector of the economy “that produces goods and services which preserve natural resources as well as lower end-use costs”, which can encompass alternative energy and power, materials and green buildings as well as transportation. Cleantech solutions that also can be locally sourced must include creative ways to retain and divert rainwater away from subway tunnels and sewers such as green roofs and porous pavements. That way, the effects of any future sorry subway sagas can be mitigated while bringing more green economic development to New York.

Together, these and other clean technology proposals hold great potential for attracting both private and public investment on the supply side of an equation that can stimulate new research and develop clean industries and green collar jobs. “Delivering on the Promise of New York” is optimistic that the demand side of the cleantech equation will find a home in New York and it makes a good case for an essential government role in espousing public policy favorable to this kind of growth.

None of this means that New York City is likely to become home to large-scale heavy manufacturing. Still, even a post-industrial metropolis like New York can function only with a reliable infrastructure that incorporates up-to-date products and technologies. This fact points the way toward a mutually beneficial path that could knit together downstate and upstate green growth. By taking this path, our transportation sector, power supply system, and building stock would thrive with cleantech developments.

New York has to live with its venerable sewer system that combines domestic waste and rainwater and sends it to sewage treatment plants in dry weather and, directly into our waterways in wet weather. As noted above, green roofs, porous pavements and other means to soak up water should be installed to forestall the floods in our basements, sewers and subways and better manage the increased rainfall that New York can expect this century.

So too, our power system, built on an early 20th Century model of carbon based, centralized power production, is no longer the dominant model. Energy efficiency, demand reduction, distributed and alterative energy sources are all high on the 21st Century menu that will put us on a strict carbon diet. Design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of these products and systems would mean good jobs for New Yorkers. Nanotechnologies and computer-aided design can find many more places to set up shop than old-fashioned smokestack industries. [One caveat: research, development and cleantech products cannot replace the ongoing need for old-fashioned, labor-intensive maintenance of all infrastructure components.]

Before green and cleantech products make it to market, the research and development for new materials and new processes also should be encouraged to make its home here. Neither the City’s 2030 Plan nor the State’s economic development report provide any detail about the potential for downstate-upstate co-operation, but the latter correctly notes that there is a disconnect that leads to lost opportunities. This should be remedied; the need is clear and the demand is here because the infrastructure can never pick up and relocate. The Syracuse University Center of Excellence is one example of a new upstate-downstate incubator for an emerging strategic sector to develop, finance and market green, clean technologies. Here’s a good idea that’s in its infancy; let’s see if it thrives and delivers.

Both City and State are also committed to confronting climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Meeting or exceeding either the City’s 30x30 goal of cutting local carbon dioxide emissions 30% by the year 2030 or the State’s similar 15x15 target mean making hard choices and delivering on many promises that exist as little more than outlines at present. There are high hopes that these goals can be met and will have sustained public support. But, still, failure cannot be ruled out and one way to fail is through public programs that deliver financial benefits to selected recipients without ensuring that the recipients are delivering the goods.

Now that New York State’s major economic development agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, has sent out letters to 3,000 companies that failed to create the jobs or the investment projections that were promised in return for State benefits, a door is open to making sense of how well other public promises are being kept. As ESDC announced, “the notification represents the first time in the program’s history that Empire Zone certified companies will be officially informed of the state’s expectations that they make meaningful progress toward their goals in order to continue enjoying the program’s benefits.” This should lift the hearts of good government advocates everywhere as well as serve as a new benchmark for the bottom line in public policy. More jaded observers might shrug and say, “What took them so long?” But that’s another matter.

Let’s wrap up by returning to a constant Torchlight theme; government agencies have a responsibility to understand if their policies and regulations are meeting intended goals. New York State, New York City, and Babylon in Suffolk County have statutes that require or support energy efficient, high performance building. Other state jurisdictions may enact similar laws. From a climate change and environmental perspective we need to know how these buildings are performing. For example, Mayor Bloomberg’s 2030 Plan posits that direct energy consumption in buildings located in the five boroughs will have to be reduced by 16.7 million metric tons of CO2 in order to meet its emissions reduction goals and this will mean actually achieving significant energy efficiency improvements in both new and existing buildings.

So too, from an economic development policy perspective, we need to know if local businesses are producing goods and services that achieve the high-performance cleantech gains which cost-conscious and climate-oriented markets expect. Documenting these gains will provide positive signs of economic high performance for businesses and investors alike. Such positive signs will also inextricably link to the risks and opportunities created by climate change. Since getting it wrong, from the climate perspective is not an option, let’s find out if we’re taking the smartest steps for propelling New York up the ranks of global cleantech competitors.

Now is the time to roll up our sleeves, before we have to roll up our cuffs and pump out our basements.

August 30, 2007

Bad News For Wooly Mammoths

Increased GHG emissions might delay the next ice age. Feel better?

Call The Bucket Brigade

Scientists find that higher atmospheric CO2 levels lead to saturated soils because plants can't soak up the moisture. The result-more floods. Get ready

Design For Living

Green technologies are transforming home design. The are automated, integrated and hiding in plain sight. Look ahead

August 29, 2007

Through The Grist Mill 6

How would President Biden face the climate change challenge? Get the interview

Black Balloons

A powerful video that brings the climate crisis home. See it

A House Divided...

Long Island environmentalists deeply split over offshore windfarm. It's history

Can't Blame El Nino

Data analysis demonstrates that climate change, not El Nino caused soaring US temperatures. Check out 2006

Something For Nothing

The free allocation of European emissions allowances leads to annual profits of $27.14 billion for the utility industry. Expect more

August 28, 2007

I Object

Got a problem with coal or nuclear power? Here's someone who's got a problem with wind power. Read more

August 27, 2007

Tomorrow Starts Today-1

Grist Magazine asks smart people how to rebuild Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. See replies

Plugging In

The business press reports that GM might be producing up to 60,00 plug-in electric cars by 2010. Stay tuned

Portland Progress: 50x30

Portland Oregon is stepping up its sustainability commitments. A 50% solution

Still Saying No

Seeking Chinese climate change action was high on German Chancellor Merkel's list at a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese don't commit. Read more

Wind Power for NJ?

Nearly 80 wind turbines might be built off the Jersey shore. Or maybe not

August 25, 2007

Risky Times

In a climate changing world, the insurance climate must also change. Cover it

August 24, 2007

Making the Greens List

It's that time of year for ranking colleges. Here are the top 15 green ones - and not one's in NYC. Learn more

Tax McMansions

Rep. Dingell's climate bill could erase mortgage tax interest deductions on bigger houses. What a concept!

Leave The Dustbowl Behind

Despite a recalculation of four years in the 1930's as the hottest in US records, the hottest years on the planet were the 1990's. Clear now?

It Will Cost You

The UN's FCC says that escalating GHG emissions mean cuts will cost more. Go figure

August 23, 2007

LIPA Kills Wind Project

The Long Island Power Authority stops wind project, citing costs. Hmm


Six western states will cooperate to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions and cut them 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. Read more

Food V. Fuel?

A major agribusiness firm cautions that US renewable fuel legislation would "distort" food markets. Consume that

London Mayor Fights Water Plant

London's Ken Livingston seeks court action to block a desalinization plant. He favors fixing leaks in the water supply system. It certainly would be less energy-intensive. Bottoms up

Chicago Wins Again

Computer data centers are major energy sponges and Chicago leads the way on how to cut their carbon emissions. But energy costs are high Surprised?

August 22, 2007

Summer Reading

Energy efficiency investments pay off. Catch up with the latest studies. Click & link

The Bronx-Yes Thonx

Green affordable housing opens in the Bronx. Energy savings and lower utility bills on the way. Read more

Driver Education

Nissan is installing meters that show how much gas is being burned as cars accelerate. Be aware

LEED's A Best Buy

The campaign for high performance building gets a boost from the Best Buy chain. Buy in

Clean But Controversial

Friends and foes are lining up over the development of tide and wave power off the Pacific coast. Wade in

Plus Or Minos

With eco-tourism coming to Crete, home of the ancient Minoans, will green golf courses turn out to be sustainable for the island? Look into it

A Better Way To Bathe

If the Australian Labor Party wins upcoming elections, it pledges that water used at home will be heated by solar or geothermal power. A cleaner footprint!

August 21, 2007

Worse Than Corny

This LA Times editorial raises grave concerns about the ethanol mania.


New satellite data reveal that polar ice is melting even faster than IPCC scientists predicted just months ago. Dive in

August 20, 2007

Tory Green Tax

If elected, UK Conservatives would use green transportation taxes to balance other tax cuts. Shift right

Water, Water Anywhere?

With climate change, scientists predict more intense droughts and more intense floods. No joke

Shove Over Santa

Now that polar ice is melting and the race for arctic oil begins, who gets jurisdiction? No free gift

August 17, 2007

Is Europe In Hot Water?

Scientists now measure changes in Atlantic Ocean currents that link to European climate. Jump in

Heathrow Flight Protests

With air travel projected to increase 400% in 30 years, some say "stop flying". Read on

August 16, 2007

Decongesting London

Traffic in London is down by 20% and bike use is up by 43%. It's up to you NY

$354 Million Iffier

UPDATE 2: A NY legislator raises further challenges to congestion pricing. Look into it

Change is Bad

US auto makers rally against higher federal fuel standards. Really?

The Urban Model

With more than half the world's people living in cities, here's a new tool to maximize natural resources efficient urban development. Plan that

Clearer Climate Models

UK climate researchers can get a clearer picture by modeling the internal variability of climate systems. Understand it

August 15, 2007

High Performance-Low Cost

A university-community team from Madison WI builds green, affordable housing. Learn how

It's The Life-Cycle

Greek scientists discover the key to renewable energy efficiency. Analyze that

August 14, 2007

World Bank Bankrolls Carbon

Researchers find that the World Bank funds carbon intensive energy projects and ignores climate impacts. Follow the money

$354 Million If....

UPDATE: NYC will receive $354 million in federal transportation funds, most of it for enhanced mass transit, but only if Albany acts by March 2008 Stay tuned

Water Feud Heats Up

Although the EPA has given NYC another ten year waiver on filtering 90% of its drinking water, upstaters aren't happy and their suing. Why is that?

August 13, 2007

Renewables Lag

A confidential government report finds that England lags far behind in meeting its target of 20% renewable energy in 2020. How far behind?

Solar Sahara

Algeria has a plan for the world's first combined solar/natural gas plant that could tap the Sahara's vast solar potential. That's news

Rip Tide

The long-awaited tidal power project in NYC's East River has some growing pains. Turn, turn

Money, Honey

Last year the total federal research and development budget was just $137 billion. Should climate related technologies attract more dollars? Look into it

August 10, 2007

EU ETS Isn't Working

A new study finds that despite its ambitions, the EU ETS has been undermined by short-sighted decisions and the CO2 price is near collapse. Read it

Green Plates in Ontario

Ontario is set to issue green license plates with special privileges to fuel efficient vehicles. Move up

Through the Grist Mill 5

How would President Clinton face the climate change challenge? Get the interview

August 09, 2007

Cap & Trade & Tax

The latest on Congressman Dingell's evolving approach to a climate change law. Stay tuned

European Disunion

A survey of European views on carbon capture and storage strategies finds little agreement. Look into it

It's Elemental

What do we do about carbon? Watch the video

Weather or Climate

The weather is weird worldwide. Watch out

Neighborhood LEEDership

Major environmental innovators launch a pilot program to rate sustainable neighborhood design and development. Get situated

August 07, 2007

To The Editor

This pro-carbon tax letter-to-the-editor advocates using the revenue for income tax rebate. Pro or con?

Far From Yes

Survey finds NYC Council split on congestion pricing. Read on

What's An Urbine?

Urbines are big-city wind turbines that are incorporated into building design. London's getting one. Now you know

Tracking Tailpipe Emissions

Scientists have devised a laser device so drivers could know in real time how much CO2 is coming from their cars and apply this data to congestion pricing costs. Measure up

Educating The Consumer

Starting with 2010 models, cars and light trucks sold in NY will sport global warming index stickers. Be smart

August 06, 2007

Green Power Champs

Pepsico tops the EPA's list of US green power purchasers. Honor list

No Free Lunch

Here's a pitch for paying China to cut its carbon emissions. But what to do about the US? Take this in

Coming Soon: The Future

The fraying US infrastructure, increased demand on its electric supply, and a credit crunch create a conflict that must be faced. No blinking!

Ideas Matter

A brief history of US climate deniers. Who? What?

The "EcoJet" Is Coming

By 2015, at least one British airline pledges to have a fleet with half the CO2 emissions of current planes. But others say Stop flying

August 04, 2007

Taxi! Taxi!

3,000 London cabs pledge to green up their tailpipe gases while getting better mileage. That's fare

Carbon Sleuthing

Scientists may have solved the Case of the Missing Carbon Sink. It's elementary

August 03, 2007

Climate Momentum

Now's the time to plan for a post-Kyoto Protocol planet. Fast forward

Toyota-Profits Up, Greener Too

While investing in green engine technologies, Toyota's profits soar. That's efficient

VAT-New Climate Weapon?

France and Britain urge the EU to adopt a green consumption tax plan. No yes yet

Through The Grist Mill 4

How would President Dodd face the climate change challenge? Get the interview

August 02, 2007

Crain's Sees Green

By profiling a NYC green developer, Crain's spotlights the high performance building movement. Look into it

Dingel's Carbon Ambitions

Congressman Dingel stands by his call for a carbon tax. But is his call for a gasoline tax a poison pill? Consider that

Hypothesis: Renewable Energy Harms Habitats

Adding up the potential environmental harms of large-scale renewable energy production points to a disturbing future and a controversial solution. Read on

August 01, 2007

The Simple Life

New Yorkers, think globally, act locally. Drink your tap water! Ahh

So Sue Me

The European carbon emissions trading scheme is headed for court. Countries are suing for the right to pollute. Emit it!

Through the Grist Mill 3

How would President Kucinich face the climate change challenge? Get the interview