Wednesday, March 30, 2011

China Is Winning The Clean Energy Race

You read that title correctly. China is winning, and no, I'm not defining winning the say way as Charlie Sheen.

Charlie Sheen... what a douche.
I won't bore you with the details (which you can find over at, but here is the important part of the story:
China's national action plan is helping the country use more hydro, wind, and solar power. The country has goals of 150 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2020 (it looks like they're going to meet this goal five years early) and 20 gigawatts of solar by 2020. For comparision, the U.S. currently has .6 gigawatts of solar and 33 gigawatts of wind.
It all comes down to national policy, and right now China has made it clear to investors that they want alternative energy as a large part of their infrastructure's future. America on the other hand is only in 3rd place, but is constantly sending mixed signals on how much investment they really want making it difficult for investors to jump on board.

The good news is that the industry in general is trending upwards, I just wish that America would quit playing games with my heart*.

*Sorry, couldn't resist a Backstreet Boys reference.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Post: Sustainable Development at the University Of St. Andrews

Connor Brownell is a freshman at The University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

You know that old proverb that some wise person in your life would tell you after failing to achieve something at first, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again?” Well I am fairly certain that my brother – the usual writer for this blog – has brought that phrase to a whole new level. After what has seemed to be 37 years of him harassing me to write for his blog, I finally accepted the challenge to write a post for Sustainabili-City.

So you’re probably intrigued by the fact that there is a new face on this blog to write articles and are wondering what I have to offer. Well frankly Colin and I are alike in many ways and… WHOA THERE, don’t give up and click out of the page. What I mean to say is he and I are strongly interested in sustainable development and the impact it has on our lives. We also have a superior appreciation for humor, so one could say it’s a privilege to read what occurs in our brilliant minds.

Now let’s cut the cute intro and get to the point. I believe that there is a crucial role for sustainability that sadly most people neglect to realize. The cause of this misjudgment is a current issue brings all types of people together to have mature and professional debates on whether sustainability is truly a threat to our planet*.

I can vouch to this since I am currently studying sustainable development at the University of St. Andrews. Four days a week at I go to a 9 a.m. lecture to learn about sustainable development. So far I have experienced many different incidents where there is a lot of skepticism towards sustainable development. My personal favourite is when we got into small groups and reflected about a current lecture. One of my fellow students took the time to talk about sustainable development and how he believed that it’s a waste of a major to study. Before you get all concerned, I didn’t do anything drastic or stupid at the time to vent my rage towards him. I looked at my WWCSD bracelet and focused my anger into thinking about how bi-winning I am.

What’s great about this blog is it enables people like you and me to share what we find and think about important issues that are affecting us or will in the near future. I plan on posting articles that reflect what I am experiencing here at St. Andrews or what I find elsewhere. There needs to be a thorough push to promote the education of sustainable development and what it entails. I hope to help ignite the spread of sustainable development education by writing here and sharing my thoughts. In the next couple of weeks I am going to be working on a behavior change assignment and what it takes to make people act in a more sustainable manner.

It’s been pretty interesting writing my first little blog post for Sustainabili-City. Next time I plan on having a more focused topic, so hopefully this wasn’t too long and hard for you to read**.

*A screaming competition is a closer statement but I like to give society the benefit of the doubt.

** Successful sexual joke.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Comics

I love Futurama's take on global warming. Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Future Is Now...(!)? Qatar's Vision Of An Artificial Cloud

I don't often report on highly speculative technological visions because there are about 500 floated onto the internet daily, but I had to make an exception for Qatar's Artificial Cloud being proposed for the 2022 World Cup.

I have recently become more and more interested in soccer (football), mainly because I have a brother going to school in the UK and I figured I should probably go ahead and pay attention to what is going on beyond this most recent World Cup (Team USA!).

Qatar winning the bid for the 2022 World Cup still stings because Chicago got robbed (I'm not biased or anything because I live in Chicago). With that said, a solar powered floating "cloud" could definitely make up for the hard feelings I am harboring:
Artificial cloud will move by remote control, made of 100 per cent light carbonic materials, fuelled by four solar-powered engines and it will fly high to protect direct and indirect sun rays to control temperatures at the open playgrounds.
Are you kidding me?!

Aside from the fact that I am 90% sure this technology does not exist yet and some pretty significant engineering and power transferring hurdles need to be solved, this would be awesome.

Just look at it. Hilariously awesome. I want to live on top of it.

Granted, if it got cloudy I suppose we would have to deal with a mechanical cloud massacring an entire stadium of soccer fans - but these are just details.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Don't) Blame Canada - Toronto's Bike Sharing Program

For those of you that have been steady readers since I first started this blog last year (there are about 150 of you from what I can tell… *internet high-five*), then you probably realize that I am somewhat obsessed with riding my bike even though it is a relatively crappy mountain bike that I treat like a road bike.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I am going to keep on punching away on bike-sharing topics. The most recent development comes from Toronto where they are starting a new bike sharing program as an extension of their public transportation system.

I love these programs because they address two topics which I think everyone needs to take seriously:

  • Carbon Emissions
  • Personal Health

Here is how Toronto’s program will work:
In order to rent bicycles through BIXI’s program, users are encouraged to subscribe to an annual membership, however, occasional users are also welcome and can take out bicycles using credit cards. Similar to bike-sharing programs around the world, BIXI’s annual members can rent bicycles for free for the first half-hour, with additional charges for extra time of usage.
Bike sharing is awesome because instead of one person owning a bike and parking it for an entire day where it isn’t used, multiple people can enjoy a whole system of bikes. This alleviates traffic, carbon emissions, and fat people - all things I would like to see resolved in the near future.

Either way, take a look at the full article, it is good stuff: Full Article

Monday, March 21, 2011

Samsung's Solar Powered Television

With all the negative events happening in Libya and Japan, I found it pretty difficult to motivate myself to write something witty and meaningful about topics related to sustainability. Because of that, I gave myself a little bit of a break to research some interesting topics for the blog, so this week will be full of new material.

That brings us to today’s topic: Solar Powered Television

When I first saw this on twitter I thought to myself, “Wow, a television that is solar powered. That would be cool if it weren’t for the fact that the sun is outside and most televisions are inside.”

I was swiftly put in my place when I read on to discover that the televisions themselves did not actually require the sun to power them, but just ambient light in a room - much like calculators that we have been enjoying for the better part of 2.5 decades.

Samsung has been working on a prototype that operates almost completely independent from electrical outlets:
The 46″ prototype TV, shown at CeBit in Germany, includes solar panels that produce energy from the ambient light in a room – because it was engineered to use very little energy, no additional power sources are needed. Another major breakthrough behind the concept is that the thin screen can display images and information while allowing objects behind it to be visible.
This is fairly exciting because this technology will have applications that go far beyond televisions. Laptops, cellphones, car windshield HUDs, and anything else with a screen could benefit from this technology. Screens have classically been some of the most power hungry applications out there (just ask any smartphone), and with this technology, that level of electricity needed to power these devices can been sharply reduced.

Obviously, because this is a prototype, it is most likely a few years away from release, and even then the technology will probably be expensive - but like most new television releases, this price will drop and become more widespread after a short while.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plastic Vs. Paper: A Gap In Logic

I've been doing a lot of reading about the pros and cons of both paper and plastic bags that you get at a grocery store, and the bottom line is they both suck.

Paper is bad because you are chopping down trees and it is more difficult to transport to end consumers, and plastic is bad because while it is less energy intensive to recycle, only 5% of plastic bags are ever turned in to be recycled, leaving 95% of the bags created to floats around the waste stream for 1000+ years.

One solution to this problem was to apply a bag tax on consumers in Washington, DC. This worked wonderfully for their situation because the money collected through these fees was turned around and used to clean up the Anacostia River. However, I realize that this isn't the solution for everywhere because you don't always have an environmental concern to apply the taxed money towards.

With that said, I still don't understand the gaps in logic displayed by some readers in the comments section of websites. Here is a truly inspired response from a person I will call Stubborn McAsshat:
"If a tax happens, I'll simply request paper...Additionally, I will probably visit grocery stores in other towns more frequently, get my stuff in the plastic bag and drive the bags to be recycled some time down the road."
Here is a person that knows that plastic bags are bad, but they are still so stubborn towards any form of a tax that they are willing to burn more gas just to avoid an additional plastic bag fee. Keep in mind that the tax they are referring to is a $0.05 fee for each plastic bag.

I truly do believe that incentive programs are the way to go so that you are rewarding consumers who use reusable bags instead of penalizing consumers with taxes, but when I see people acknowledge that their current habits are bad and still continue forward with them - it makes me angry.

But I digress! It is 60 Degrees outside and I'm going to ride my bike for the first time in forever!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Comics

I figured this comic was appropriate for the political climate that is developing around the EPA and the CAA. I probably won't comment again on it for a while, but this sums up my feelings on the matter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Comic: St. Paddy's Day Special

Well, since I missed Sunday's comic last week, I promised that I would post something on Saturday AND Sunday this week, so here we go!

There are few days I enjoy more than celebrating St. Paddy's Day in Chicago, but be safe out there!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

EPA Under Fire

Well, I suppose it is going to be impossible to avoid this topic, so why don't we dive into this whole EPA issue right now.

EPA: Evil Placebo Agency

Ammi' Right?! YEAH! Take THAT environmentalists! *High-fives a coal plant and skips away*

Recently, some Republicans in the House have decided to set their crosshairs directly on the EPA and their ability to adequately regulate GHG emissions. For those that are paying attention, it goes without saying that I think this is an absolutely terrible idea.

The following is a rundown of what the EPA will face, and I have bolded the things that are making my face melt off:
Republicans argue that the EPA’s plan to combat global warming is “bad economic policy” and could be the biggest threat to job creation the nation faces. The Houses spending bill proposes a 30% cut in the EPA’s budget, which would limit the agency’s ability to enact and enforce environmental protections in California and across the nation. [Editors Note: limit should read "break the agency's kneecaps"]
This is just another great example of private interests groups pressuring certain politicians to make bad long term decisions for short term gains. Sure, maybe some heavy polluting industries will be able to make a profit for a while, but a large part of the nation will never see this new influx of money and instead be subjected to dirtier air and a rapidly deteriorating global climate situation.

Also, by loosening up regulations on emissions, you are handicapping the adoption of cleaner technologies. Obviously I am against that, but the government should be as well. Every day I read an article about some other country investing in and advancing clean tech, a problem for America's desire to remain a leader in the global market place.

If you are like me and want to United States to advance its policies and not cut them off at the knees, I suggest you follow this link and voice your opinion: Contact Your Government

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Electric Vehicle Charging? There's An App For That.

First off, I am sorry that I missed Sunday Comics and Monday's post. I was sick and I probably would have just posted gibberish anyways seeing that I am the only writer for this blog, so it was probably for the best that I waited until today.

With that said, I am planning to have a post go out today (obviously), tomorrow, and then Friday - all of which will be followed by TWO comics over the weekend. I don't spoil you because I care, I just like the attention.

I've been looking for a way to weasel in a reference to the iPhone on this blog for a while now, but I haven't seen an opportunity until now.

There is a new addition to Apple's App Store that is promoting a sustainable lifestyle through EV Plug Sharing. It is called PlugShare, which has been released by California-based Xatori.
The New York Times screams:
“We want to break down that barrier in people’s minds about where it’s acceptable to charge,” said Armen Petrosian, Xatori’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “We think the infrastructure to charge is everywhere.”

Drivers can punch in their destination to see the availability of shared outlets as well as public charging stations along their route.
This is pretty cool because even if you don't own an electric car, you can still be part of the adoption movement of EV's by making your home available as a charging station. Why would you do that?


I started writing this article just so I could put this picture on the blog.
The way I see it, this is a great way to make some money off these EV suckers... I wish I could get one.

If you have a person that wants to plug into your charging station for an hour or so, this will cost you about 20 cents. Solution? Charge them a dollar.

This is Lemonade Stand 101. Granted, if you are running a Level 2 charging station, the 240 Volt AC you are distributing will be more expensive, but that is just when you scale your prices.

Are you going to become rich doing this? Probably not, but at least you are doing something to help inspire change. One of the biggest hurdles that EV's will face is the charging network that needs to be put in place.

However, Apps like this open up a world of possibility that isn't available with the traditional gasoline infrastructure, and this could end up being pretty cool if people embrace the technology.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Site News: 100 Posts!

Most people would celebrate their 100th post with a thoughtful article on this or that, but forget that noise. Instead, I will leave you with this animated picture from Peanuts.

Why? Because it is early and I am tired from my first week of work!

In any event, I just want to thank everyone for the warm reception this little blog has received. I would have never guessed that my rambling would attract 2000+ readers, but it has and I look forward to attracting more readers in the future.

Sidenote: If you play "I Whip My Hair Back & Forth" while watching that animated GIF, you'll notice that they perfectly sync up.

...Just kidding. That is a terrible song and I wouldn't put you through that mess.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicago's Infrastructure Project: Electric Vehicle Charging

A faithful reader emailed me this article late Monday evening, and my first reaction was to write up an article right then and there because the subject matter was very exciting...

...then a voice popped up in the back of my head:
BUT WAIT! If I write an article now, that means that I will have to write 4 articles this week to maintain the Monday/Wednesday/Friday structure you have laid out. The HORROR.
So now thanks to my never failing rational/procrastinating side, you are getting this article a bit later, but I promise it is still good!

Some very exciting things have been happening lately. No, not the fact that Charlie Sheen has turned his failed career into one of the most exciting one-line quote factories to ever exist (I'm Bi-Winning!).

Chicago is going to start investing deeply into an Electric Vehicle charging network. Exelon has partnered with the city in an effort to roll out 280 charging stations throughout the Chicagoland area, including two sections that will be equipped with solar power!
“ComEd is preparing now for what may be a large influx of PHEVs in the market and managing its impact on the grid,” Kerry Kelly-Guiliano, the Exelon spokesperson, said in an email, referring to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. “And they are putting in place the charging infrastructure to demonstrate that Chicago is plug-in ready.

The locations for the charging stations have yet to be determined, but Kelly-Guiliano said they would most likely be deployed at places like shopping malls, Chicago’s two airports, and rest stops along the Illinois Tollway in the city.
This is exciting news because one of the biggest hurdles to EV adoption will be the availability of charging stations to help curb range anxiety. By getting ahead of the curve, Chicago is making strides to show early adopters that their investments will be supported.

The one thing I wish this article did say was what types of charging stations they will be rolling out and what the charging time stats are projected to be for these "electric pumps," but I suppose that information will become available shortly.