Tag Archives: innovation

Biomimicry – Janine M. Benyus

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Biomimicry

Innovation Inspired by Nature

Janine M. Benyus

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: August 11, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books

Seller: HarperCollins


This profound and accessible book details how science is studying nature’s best ideas to solve our toughest 21st-century problems. If chaos theory transformed our view of the universe, biomimicry is transforming our life on Earth. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature – taking advantage of evolution’s 3.8 billion years of R&D since the first bacteria. Biomimics study nature’s best ideas: photosynthesis, brain power, and shells – and adapt them for human use. They are revolutionising how we invent, compute, heal ourselves, harness energy, repair the environment, and feed the world. Science writer and lecturer Janine Benyus names and explains this phenomenon. She takes us into the lab and out in the field with cutting-edge researchers as they stir vats of proteins to unleash their computing power; analyse how electrons zipping around a leaf cell convert sunlight into fuel in trillionths of a second; discover miracle drugs by watching what chimps eat when they’re sick; study the hardy prairie as a model for low-maintenance agriculture; and more.

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Biomimicry – Janine M. Benyus

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The US Brings Up the Rear When it Comes to Reducing Carbon Emissions

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump just finished up his speech about pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, and it was garden variety Trump bluster. Other countries are playing us for a sucker. It’s already cost us ONE BILLION DOLLARS. It’s crippling the American economy. They’re all laughing at us. Etc. The usual.

I was more interested in what EPA chief Scott Pruitt had to say afterward. His remarks were a seemingly endless tribute to the amazing foresight and singular vision of Donald Trump. It was really over the top, although I don’t know how many people noticed it since Pruitt has a fairly bland speaking style. Here’s a taste:

Your decision today to exit the Paris accord reflects your unflinching commitment to put America first….fulfilling yet one more campaign promise….fortitude, courage, steadfastness….America finally has a leader who answers only to the people….fighting for the forgotten men and women across this country….champion of the hardworking citizens all across this land….historic restoration of American economic independence….it takes courage, it takes commitment to say no to the plaudits of men while doing right by the American people. You have that courage.

Mussolini could hardly ask for better. But there was a tiny bit of substance in Pruitt’s remarks. In particular, he said that America had reduced its carbon emissions by 18 percent between 2000 and 2014. That’s actually not right: emissions have gone down about 8 percent over that period. Pruitt must have been talking about per-capita emissions or something. He also said that carbon emissions were now lower than 2014 levels, and he actually got that part right. But take a look at what caused this decline:

Every time the economy goes into recession, carbon emissions decline. When the economy goes into a massive recession, carbon emission decline a lot. That explains most of the reduction, which happened between 2008 and 2012.

But there are other things at work too. More fuel-efficient cars. More solar and wind. Replacement of coal by natural gas. Less heavy manufacturing.

So was Pruitt right to say this was accomplished “not through government mandate, but through innovation and technology of the American private sector”? Not really. Fracking lowered the price of natural gas, and that was certainly a triumph of innovation. But that was about it. The decline of heavy manufacturing was mostly a result of globalization. The recession was the result of an unsustainable housing bubble. Cars got more fuel efficient largely because of tighter CAFE standards. Solar and wind were the beneficiaries of improving technology, but also various tax credits and incentives.

What about Pruitt’s claim that we “do it better than anyone in the world,” “the rest of the world does little,” and “other nations talk a good game” while we lead by action? Compared to other industrialized economies, this is just wrong. Here are reductions in carbon emissions since 1990 for a representative assortment of peer countries:

The only country we beat is Japan. All the rest have reduced their carbon emissions more than us. Of course, this only shows reductions in percentage terms. In absolute terms it’s even worse: the United States emits carbon at nearly double the level of Japan and three times the level of most European countries. The other countries started at lower levels and still managed to cut emissions more than we did.

On the bright side, we’ve done pretty well at reducing our carbon intensity. In 1990, it took 0.8 kg of carbon to produce a dollar of GDP. Today it takes only 0.3 kg:

Sadly for our egos, the other advanced countries have done even better than us. Despite our reliance on private enterprise, we remain one of the least efficient producers of goods and services among our peers.

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The US Brings Up the Rear When it Comes to Reducing Carbon Emissions

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The White House Is Looking Pretty Swampy These Days

Mother Jones

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Here’s a quick tour through the Donald Trump swamp today:

Jared Kushner, who has no evident qualification aside from being married to the boss’s daughter, has been named to head up a new White House Office of American Innovation, which will have “sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.” I guess that bringing peace to the Middle East wasn’t enough to keep Kushner busy.

Trump pal Carl Icahn is working on a plan to change the rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline. Icahn is also the majority stakeholder in CVR Energy, which would have saved more than $200 million last year under Icahn’s proposed change.

Rep. Devin Nunes, one of Trump’s most loyal spear carriers, announced last week that there “might” have been “incidental” surveillance of some folks “close” to Donald Trump. But where did his bombshell come from? It turns out that Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds. So his “source” is most likely the White House itself. Maybe even Trump himself. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has done something like this.

I guess that’s it for today. The day is young, though, so you never know.

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The White House Is Looking Pretty Swampy These Days

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Bad news: Low-carbon air travel isn’t very likely

Bad news: Low-carbon air travel isn’t very likely

By on 4 Mar 2016commentsShare

Propaganda, false narratives, mythical science, relentless money-grubbing — I’m not talking about American politics; I’m talking about the aviation industry.

Air travel is terrible for the environment. (It’s also pretty bad for your wallet, dignity, and general respect for other people, but that’s another story.) So it’s no wonder that news organizations, including this one, tend to clamber over ever new technological innovation that comes around, promising to deliver low- or no-emission airplanes. But according to a new study published in the journal Transportation Research Part D, the prospect of near-term sustainable aviation is a myth.

Here are the sobering facts, according to the study: There were about 3,700 commercial planes in use back in 1970, 9,200 by 1990, and 21,000 by 2010. By 2030, there could be up to 40,000, and by 2050, air travel could account for as much as 19 percent of total energy used for transportation, compared to 11 percent in 2006.

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Airplanes today are much more efficient — and safer — than the airplanes of Airplane!, sure, but not efficient enough to compensate for a more than quintupling of the fleet. And now, those emissions are only going to continue to rise, and, as the researchers note, “no international policy will in the foreseeable future address this situation.”

Fortunately, there’s a groundbreaking techno-fix just around the corner, waiting to usher in the clean airplane of the future, right? Wrong. According to these researchers, that airplane is a false hope that we’ve been clinging to for more than 20 years, and here’s how they found out:

First, the team compiled a list of 20 efficiency-boosting technologies hyped by the aviation industry between 1994 and 2013. These potential game-changers broke down into three broad categories: alternative fuels like hydrogen, algae, and this stuff that you’ve probably never heard of; new engines that could, for example, run on sunlight or electricity; and “airframe” improvements that would make planes lighter and more aerodynamic.

To assess how these techno-fixes played in the media, the researchers then searched the archives of major news publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, and The Guardian and found 1,532 articles mentioning said miracles of innovation. From there, they narrowed the results to 1,294 articles about the nine most popular technologies and then used a random sampling of 180 articles for close analysis.

And here’s what they found:

Most of the ‘solutions’ that have been presented over the past 20 years constitute technology myths. Specifically, it is possible to distinguish three types of myths, i.e. (i) myths that refer to abandoned technologies once seen as promising; (ii) myths that refer to emerging technology discourses, though generally overstating the realistic potential offered by these technologies (and some of these potentially representing dead ends as well); and (iii) myths that refer to solutions that are impossible for physical reasons; this latter type of myth exemplified by the notion of solar flight.

The danger here is that believing these myths gives us an excuse to not address the huge problem that is air travel in a time of climate change. As evidence of this, the researchers point to something that U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said in The Guardian in 2014: “If you look at the future of flight it is possible to imagine, with technological innovation, that we will have zero-carbon flight in the future.”

It’s also possible to imagine that we’ll one day be able to go through airport security without having TSA agents give us attitude for forgetting that laptops go in their own bins, belts come off, watches stay on, shoes come off — but don’t need a bin — boarding passes can be put away, baggy sweatshirts come off if you’ve got something on underneath, liquids are OK in small amounts but still go in a bin, and for the love of god EMPTY YOUR POCKETS.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen anytime soon.

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Check out some of the prettiest (and most depressing) climate change data out there

7 ways of looking at a climate

Check out some of the prettiest (and most depressing) climate change data out there

By on 24 Oct 2015commentsShare

Given ever-worsening hurricane news, the hottest September on record, and GOP obstructionism, it can be hard to get a handle on what’s even going on with our climate. There’s a lot of data out there — sometimes it can seem like too much — and a lot of it is unreliable. Climate data visualizations can help you sort through the noise to get at the signal.

Over at Climate Home, Megan Darby has compiled a veritable cornucopia of climate change data tools. It’s a stellar list, and if you’re looking for a deep data dive, you’d do well to check it out. But here at Grist we love data, too, and so we decided to put together our own compilation for your visualizing pleasure.

Without further ado, here are seven tools to help you hold a climate conversation without having to lean on the weather. (Unless, of course, you’re talking about NOAA’s Climate and Weather Toolkit, in which case you’ll really be talking about the weather.)

The 30,000-Foot ViewGlobal Top 10 Greenhouse Gas Emitters (World Resources Institute)

The World Resources Institute’s CAIT project is the classic starting spot for historical emissions data. One tool we’re particularly fond of is the global emissions profiler embedded above. It’s particularly useful if you’re trying to get a sense of scale. How much is a hundred million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, anyway? Scroll around the wheel — it’s about the same size as the entire Chilean economy. CAIT also hosts a domestic state-by-state comparison tool.

The Bare Bones: The Keeling Curve (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

In the world of climate data, there are technocrats and there are Luddites. The classic Keeling Curve is of the latter variety. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets to the root of the climate dilemma. The Mauna Loa Observatory started collecting atmospheric CO2 data in 1958, and the numbers have been climbing ever since. Wondering about that 350 ppm number people are always tossing around? We’re well past it.

The Metavisual: A World of Change (Google)

This is what we talk about when we talk about climate change. Google’s A World of Change tool allows people to get a handle on global search trends for environmental information. In addition to being rather pretty, the tool offers several crucial insights into the way different countries approach the idea of global warming. “We wanted to show how this big issue looks when viewed through the lens of Google search data,” Simon Rogers, data editor of Google News Lab told the Washington Post. “Google data is so big — there are over 3 billion searches a day — that our challenge was how to make those huge numbers meaningful.” You can decide whether or not they succeeded.

The Wonk’s Paradise: Energy Policy Simulator (Energy Innovation)

Energy Innovation

Climate Home also flagged this bad boy. Fresh off the press (the tool launched earlier this week), Energy Innovation’s Energy Policy Simulator lets you design your own U.S. energy policy suite and come to grips with the resulting emissions projections. What’s truly astounding about the simulator is the staggering degree of detail. “The desktop version allows even more policy options,” wrote POLITICO’s Eric Wolff in Morning Energy. “Considering that the web tool allows users to devote research money to reducing livestock flatulence, ME’s mind boggles at what would be more detailed.”

The Tree Hugger’s Terror: GFW Interactive Map (Global Forest Watch)

Global Forest Watch

Worried about deforestation? About land and resource rights? Carbon stocks and biodiversity? Global Forest Watch has got you covered. Earlier last month, the NGO reported that the Google-hosted tool helped pinpoint new hotspots of tree-cover loss. They’re constantly updating the data, so keep checking back for all your arboreal needs.

The Pretty One: Global Land Temperatures (Halftone)

Halftone

Halftone’s land temperature visualizer might not be the most practical tool in the world, but it’s divinely gorgeous. Visit the online version for all the beautiful, time-dependent, temperature-indicating Voronoi tessellations you could ever want.

The Doozy: Weather and Climate Toolkit (NOAA)

NOAA

And then there’s the tool for the hotshots. The big guns. Want the real deal? Access to more or less every climatic and meteorological variable under the sun? Then you want the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate and Weather Toolkit. Warning: It’s not for beginners. But you’re no beginner, are you? Check out this video introduction to the software.

That’s all for now, team. Let us know what we missed.

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7 climate change data tools and what they tell you

, Climate Home.

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Canada to say ‘no thanks’ to plastic microbeads in personal care products

Who ever thought this was a good idea? Originally posted here: Canada to say ‘no thanks’ to plastic microbeads in personal care products ; ; ;

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Canada to say ‘no thanks’ to plastic microbeads in personal care products

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Obama and the EPA’s Choice: American Jobs and Innovation, Or Oil Industry Profits?

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Obama and the EPA’s Choice: American Jobs and Innovation, Or Oil Industry Profits?

Posted 19 June 2015 in

National

The EPA recently issued a proposed rule that sides with oil companies and puts the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) at risk, putting hundreds of thousands of American jobs in jeopardy. Sign our petition to tell the President Obama and the EPA to stand up to Big Oil and support a strong RFS.

The post below was authored by Brent Erickson, an Executive Vice President at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a member of Fuels America. It is cross-posted from Medium. Released before the EPA released its proposed rule, it lays out the stakes for rural economies and our energy future if the EPA sides with the oil lobby.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) hold the future of the nation’s renewable fuels policy in their hands. The future of America’s energy security and economy will turn on the EPA’s decision in the coming weeks whether to maintain the foundation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) or give in to the oil industry’s construction of a “blend wall” when the agency proposes new rules for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 RFS obligations. The agency has a stark choice to make and two disparate options: either cave to the oil lobby and allow oil companies to maintain monopoly control of the motor fuel market or choose our rural economies and advance American innovation.

The RFS was enacted to stimulate investment in research, development and infrastructure for renewable fuel, particularly to produce advanced biofuels. The law gives the EPA responsibility for developing and implementing rules to ensure that there will be a market for all domestic renewable fuel produced up to the volumes prescribed in the statute. Back when Congress was considering the RFS, oil companies fought tooth and nail against a part of the bill that I call the “Consumer Choice Provision” (CCP). This provision directs the EPA to set annual Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) levels based on the renewable fuel industry’s ability to produce and supply biofuels. The oil lobby instead wanted a law that would have allowed the EPA to set RVO levels below those in the statute if the oil industry simply refused to invest in renewable fuel infrastructure. Essentially, this would have allowed the oil industry to control the way EPA calculates renewable fuel volumes under the RFS — and block competition in our motor fuel marketplace. Had Congress granted the oil lobby what it asked for, oil companies would have had a regulatory mechanism guaranteeing their monopoly at the pump forever, leaving America with more foreign oil imports, more pollution and spills, and more jobs and investment shipped overseas.

Instead, Congress designed the RFS to increase America’s energy security, lessen our dependence on foreign oil (which often comes from hostile regions), extend its commitment to America’s rural communities and green energy investors and innovators, and encourage infrastructure development. The RFS now supports more than 852,000 jobs across America. And thanks to the promise of the RFS, green energy investors have brought three commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities online, producing the world’s cleanest motor fuels from agricultural residue.

In the face of this challenge to their market monopoly, the oil industry has grown increasingly reluctant to comply with the RFS. More and more, oil companies have refused to invest in infrastructure for renewable fuel, despite their obligation to do so under the law. Instead, the oil industry has invested in a lobbying effort with hundreds of millions of dollars behind it, pressuring the EPA to thwart the spirit and intent of the RFS. Even oil interests from Saudi Arabia have entered the fight.

In 2013, the EPA caved to oil lobbyists and issued a proposed rule that tossed aside the Consumer Choice Provision, changing the rules on renewable fuel investors midstream and threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs. Just as the advanced biofuels industry was reaching a commercial stage where new biorefineries could be built at lower capital costs, the EPA’s proposed rule chilled investment in the industry. The Administration later took the disastrous proposal off the table, but much of the damage has already been done; since 2013, an estimated $13.7 billion of investment in advanced biofuels has been frozen. $13.7 billion.

When the EPA releases the proposed rules for 2014, 2015 and 2016 in the next week, it must choose between rural economies and American innovation on the one hand and oil company profits on the other. Oil companies are pouring millions into a lobbying effort to convince EPA to do what Congress refused to do nearly a decade ago: propose a rule that would set lower RVO levels based on the oil industry’s refusal to comply with the law.

It isn’t just the biofuels industry that should be worried. If the EPA allows the world’s cleanest motor fuels — a product of American labor, innovation, and investment — to be threatened, simply because the oil industry refuses to live up to its commitments under the law, what can we expect will happen to other clean energy and climate policies? The choice is clear: America’s rural economies or more imported oil from hostile foreign regions; 852,000 American jobs supported by the RFS, or more pollution and spills. Let’s hope that instead of protecting the oil industry’s monopoly and stranglehold on our gas prices, the EPA decides to choose rural economies and American green energy innovation.

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Obama and the EPA’s Choice: American Jobs and Innovation, Or Oil Industry Profits?

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Report: Repeal or “Reform” of the Renewable Fuel Standard Would Doom Advanced Biofuels

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Report: Repeal or “Reform” of the Renewable Fuel Standard Would Doom Advanced Biofuels

Posted 2 April 2015 in

National

After years of innovation and investment, the cellulosic biofuels industry is now deploying the lowest carbon, most innovative fuel in the world at commercial scale. A new report from Third Way details the promise and progress of this growing sector, and warns that attempts to repeal or “reform” the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could stifle innovation and threaten a potentially transformative industry.

Since its passage, the Renewable Fuel Standard has encouraged billions of dollars in R&D as well as additional investments into cellulosic biofuels, the next generation of clean, renewable fuel.

The widespread production of cellulosic biofuels, made from fibrous, non-edible plant material, would allow the U.S. to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, reduce its reliance on oil, and create new opportunities for growth in the agriculture and technology sectors.

While the federal government has aggressively encouraged the development of cellulosic biofuels for the past decade, this emerging sector has recently reached the cusp of success.

Key to this progress has been the existing corn ethanol industry. As the report notes, the corn ethanol industry has helped overcome the technological and economic challenges that have stifled many cellulosic projects. Efforts to alter the eligibility of corn-based biofuels for meeting the requirements of the RFS would be damaging to the emerging advanced biofuels sector. The report notes that:

“While proposals to gut only the corn section of the RFS may not be intended to endanger the development of cellulosic ethanol, this is exactly what would occur. Given the nuances of current fuel markets and how they interact with the RFS, these proposals will discourage cellulosic ethanol investment by companies with a large stake in corn ethanol — the very companies that are helping to commercialize this long-sought fuel.”

The Third Way report offers yet another example of how the RFS is a key part of building an energy policy that encourages innovation, creates jobs, and enhances our national security.

Read the full report.

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Report: Repeal or “Reform” of the Renewable Fuel Standard Would Doom Advanced Biofuels

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Renewable Fuels: Creating Jobs and Spurring Innovation

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Renewable Fuels: Creating Jobs and Spurring Innovation

Posted 3 February 2015 in

National

Since its passage in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has sparked innovation and investment in communities across the United States. More than just spurring growth in the traditional ethanol industry though, the RFS has also accelerated and encouraged the development of the next generation of clean, renewable fuel.

As an op-ed in Roll Call notes, at a time when overall foreign direct investment was falling in the United States, projects in the biofuels sector were attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from around the world. These investments were on the verge of launching a whole new era of economic growth for rural communities across the United States when the EPA threatened to change the way it administers the RFS.

Though the EPA has since delayed that decision, the uncertainty has led foreign investors to pause as they wait to see whether the Obama administration will recommit to a strong RFS.

The impact of this uncertainty has been immediate and damaging for this growing industry.

Despite the successful completion of a $500 million production facility in Kansas, Abengoa, a Spanish company, is no longer considering additional investments in cellulosic ethanol in the U.S.
After investing some $500 million in R&D and production in California, Nebraska, and North Carolina, Novozymes, a Danish biotech company, is not planning further investment in the U.S. advanced biofuels market.
After opening a cellulosic plant in Iowa with American partner POET, DSM, a Dutch company, now sees China as the best place to invest.

These projects show the promise and possibility of sustained commitment to cellulosic ethanol in the U.S. Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to stand up for a strong RFS.

It’s not too late to get the final rule right and to make sure the United States is the leader in producing the cleanest fuels in the world.

Read the Roll Call column.

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Renewable Fuels: Creating Jobs and Spurring Innovation

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Your Dog Might Be Jealous

How much is that green-eyed doggy in the window?

Excerpt from:

Your Dog Might Be Jealous

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