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A Splash of Green for the Rust Belt

Peter S. Goodman, New York Times
… From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel.

This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks. In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers.

Amid a presidential election campaign now dominated by economic concerns, wind turbines and solar panels seem as ubiquitous in campaign advertisements as the American flag.

No one believes that renewable energy can fully replace what has been lost on the American factory floor, where people with no college education have traditionally been able to finance middle-class lives. Many at Maytag earned $20 an hour in addition to health benefits. Mr. Versendaal now earns about $13 an hour.

Still, it’s a beginning in a sector of the economy that has been marked by wrenching endings, potentially a second chance for factory workers accustomed to layoffs and diminished aspirations.
(1 November 2008)

Green-collar army recruits for the solar boom

Ben Cubby and Stephanie Peatling, Sydney Morning Herald
LEAH CALLON-BUTLER gave up a career in fashion last year to become a solar panel saleswoman, joining a surge towards green jobs predicted by the Federal Government.

Modelling done by Treasury on the cost of climate change found there would be an explosion in “green-collar” work with the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, with renewable power industries like solar and wind expected to be 30 times their current size by the middle of the century.

Ms Callon-Butler, a sales executive with the Sydney solar hot-water company Endless Solar, intends to stick around for the expected boom. The company has installed 5000 rooftop solar hot water systems in five years, using technology developed at the University of NSW, and it is looking for more staff.

“Renewable energy is not something I knew a lot about before I started, but you do get really passionate about it,” said Ms Callon-Butler, who will complete an undergraduate communications degree next week. “I’m not exactly sure how things will change for me when I finish the degree, but I definitely want to stay in the sustainability industry.”
(31 October 2008)

COM-BAT spy plane takes to the skies via Guardian
In this season of specters and spooks, what could be scarier than a steel-winged robotic spy plane shaped like a bat? The aptly named COM-BAT is a six-inch surveillance device that is powered by solar, wind, and vibrations.

The concept was conceived by the US military as a means to gather real-time data for soldiers, and the army has awarded the University of Michigan College of Engineering a five year $10m grant to develop it.
(3 November 2008)

New Research Suggests LED Lighting May Put A Serious Wrinkle in Big-Bucks Botox Biz

Bill Paul, Energy Tech Stocks
New research from Germany on light emitting diodes (LEDs) could have a big impact on, of all things, the multi-billion-dollar Botox industry. It also is an indication that the impact of new energy technologies will be felt far beyond the energy industry itself.

As reported last month in an American Chemical Society publication, the researchers found that people who underwent several weeks of treatment under LED lights experienced a reduction in skin wrinkles similar to that which occurs in people who have expensive Botox treatments. As noted by the web site Science Daily, the German researchers found that applying LED lighting daily for several weeks resulted in “rejuvenated skin, reduced wrinkle levels, juvenile complexion and lasting resilience.”

Previously known as an extremely energy-efficient form of lighting, this new research indicates a health benefit from LEDs that presumably could cause even more rapid growth for LED lighting products, sales from which are already forecast to hit $3 billion within three to five years compared with $600 million in 2008.

The impact on the Botox business could be even greater.
(4 November 2008)

The ethics of ethanol

Meredith Niles, grist

A few weeks ago I was in Mozambique for a conference that brought together NGOs, small-scale farmers, agricultural associations, and local media to discuss the impact of biofuel production in southern Africa. While the United States and other Western countries mandate ethanol quotas to supposedly reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, many farmers in Africa are questioning the reasons and implications for such programs. As the only American at the conference, I was continually asked about the real reasons behind America’s ethanol push and the truth about biofuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Most strikingly they wondered if the United States had considered trying to reduce its overall consumption of oil rather than simply trying to replace it with something else.

(29 October 2008)