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[1THING] Blog: Archive for June, 2013

[ Biofuels at a Crossroads Forum Probes Key Climate Change Question ]

When President Obama unveiled his long-awaited climate change strategy this week, he never mentioned biofuels. (See “Obama Unveils Climate Strategy.”) But with nearly a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions due to burning petroleum for transportation, a key and controversial question is what role plant-based alternatives can play in cutting the nation’s carbon emissions.

As part of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative, we brought together two dozen experts from industry, academia, and environmental organizations to discuss whether biofuel can be a sustainable part of a cleaner energy future. (See in-depth coverage at Biofuels at a Crossroads, and vote and comment here: The Big Energy Question: Are Biofuels Worth the Investment?“) The forum Wednesday at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C. headquarters was timely, not just because the group convened the day after the President’s long-awaited climate speech.

It also came at a time that U.S. biofuels policy is under fire, as petroleum refiners are leading an effort to roll back the mandate (the Renewable Fuel Standard) that gradually increasing volumes of biofuels be blended into the U.S. transportation fuel mix.

Thanks to that policy begun in 2005, ethanol made from corn now makes up about 10 percent of U.S. gasoline consumption by volume; it’s one of the reasons that U.S. gasoline demand has fallen 6 percent from its peak in 2007. But it’s not clear that today’s biofuels can (or should) grow further.

For one thing, the vast majority of vehicles on U.S. highways today were not designed by automakers to run on a high volume of ethanol, even though the technology for flexible fuel vehicles is well-known and inexpensive. Most of the autos sold in Brazil are flex fuel, which has helped that nation do more than any other to give motorists a choice of fuel beyond gasoline. (See related, “Brazil Ethanol Looks to Sweeten More Gas Tanks.”)

But then there are the far thornier issues of food, water, and land. More than 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is going to make ethanol and ethanol by-products (About one-third of each bushel dry-processed for ethanol is turned into livestock feed product.) Since most of the U.S. corn crop is rain-fed, drought is a risk, and the irrigation required is heavy in some areas. (See related, “Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035,” and “Drought Withers U.S. Corn Crop, Heats Debate on Ethanol.”) Even more difficult is the indirect land impact issue: whether the increasing use of grain for fuel has prompted other nations to destroy valuable rainforest ecosystems for agriculture to make up for lost U.S. exports.

Any effort to undo the U.S. mandate on biofuels, however, would affect more than corn ethanol. It would also unravel the incentives that were meant to spur the development of more environmentally friendly alternative biofuels made from feedstocks like waste, grasses, and wood chips. (See related: “Beyond Ethanol: Drop-In Biofuels Squeeze Gasoline From Plants.”) Although cellulosic biofuel has not come on line as quickly as hoped, the first plants are opening, with thermo-chemical and biotechnology processes showing promise. Yet the industry’s future is precarious due to lack of capital and lenders willing to take a risk on the technology.

That’s why we brought together some of the leading thinkers on this complex issue for our forum, Big Energy Question: Biofuels at a Crossroads. You can read some of their comments and see photo coverage of the forum above.

What do you think about biofuels? Vote and comment here: The Big Energy Question: Are Biofuels Worth the Investment?

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[ Global Renewable Energy On Track to Soon Eclipse Natural Gas, Nuclear ]

Renewable power sources are increasingly cost-competitive, and demand for them is growing globally.

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[ Global Renewable Energy On Track to Soon Eclipse Natural Gas, Nuclear ]

Renewable power sources are increasingly cost-competitive, and demand for them is growing globally.

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[ Help ATX Urban Farms… ]

ATX Urban FamersAustin’s urban farms could use your help.  The City of Austin is changing the Urban Farm Code and they need your support to ensure that they can continue to produce fresh, nutritious food for all Austinites.  You can signup as a supporter here!

Why are urban farms important?

  • Austin Urban Farms use only organic methods to maintain and produce crops and proteins, eliminating all synthetics and chemicals. The resulting food is safe, fresh and nutritious.
  • Austin Urban Farms are good stewards of the land, collecting rainwater and protecting the soil.  The farms recycle, reuse and adapt materials to new uses.
  • Austin Urban Farms care about our community. The farms’ hold regular markets, host school field trips, farm tours, supper clubs and fundraisers; all of which provide safe, healthy and educational community gathering points.
  • Austin Urban Farms bring dollars to Austin through agritourism.  Visitors that come from out of town to see the farms subsequently spend money on hotels, rental cars, sightseeing, personal purchases, restaurants and bar visits.

What can you do to help?

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[ Obama Unveils Climate Change Strategy: End of Line for U.S. Coal Power ]

President Obama announced his long-awaited climate change policy: more clean energy, wasting less energy, and the first ever limits on carbon pollution from coal plants.

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[ Obama Unveils Climate Change Strategy: End of Line for U.S. Coal Power ]

President Obama announced his long-awaited climate change policy: more clean energy, wasting less energy, and the first ever limits on carbon pollution from coal plants.

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[ Sunday July 21st… ]

National Ice Cream MonthIt’s National Ice Cream Day! In fact July is National Ice Cream Month, which works for me.  A month to celebrate  one of my favorite sweet treats to eat!   It certainly is HOT enough in ATX for some ICE CREAM!  Here’s how the day/month got started.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90 percent of the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The International Ice Cream Association (IICA) encourages retailers and consumers to celebrate July as National Ice Cream Month. In 2013, National Ice Cream Day will be Sunday, July 21.

The U.S. ice cream industry generated total revenues of $10 billion in 2010, with take-home ice cream sales representing the largest section of the market, generating revenues of $6.8 billion or 67.7 percent of the market’s overall value. (Source: MarketLine, an Informa business)  (More 411 on Ice Cream)

 

Here are some Go Green Ice Cream ideas/recipes/treats :

 

*Coolhaus Ice Cream ATX.. YUMMY Go Green Ice Cream!

 

Go Green Banana Ice Cream

1 can organic coconut milk
1 1/3 cup rice milk (or nut milk)
2 1/2 frozen bananas
4 pitted dates soaked in water
1 T. vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into the Vitamix (or blender) and blend until warm and smooth. Turn on your ice cream machine and pour in the mix. Serve with small slices of banana for an extra yummy taste.

Click here  for some eco-friendly ice cream choices.. Ben & Jerry’s is included! YUMMY!

Click here for a 5 minute almond milk ice cream & chocolate sauce! NICE!

 

 

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[ Beyond Ethanol: Drop-In Biofuels Squeeze Gasoline From Plants ]

The first commercial cellulosic biofuel plant aims to turn Mississippi wood chips into diesel fuel and gasoline that are chemically identical to petroleum products. Can homegrown “drop-in” biofuels transform transportation?

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[ Beyond Ethanol: Drop-In Biofuels Squeeze Gasoline From Plants ]

The first commercial cellulosic biofuel plant aims to turn Mississippi wood chips into diesel fuel and gasoline that are chemically identical to petroleum products. Can homegrown “drop-in” biofuels transform transportation?

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[ Green Quiz: Presidents on Pollution ]

Green Quiz: Presidents on Pollution

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President Obama gave a landmark speech on climate change on June 25, 2013. Several decades ago, another president gave a speech ushering in the new Clean Air Act. Who was it?

 
A. Lyndon B. Johnson
B. Richard Nixon
C. Gerald Ford
D. Jimmy Carter 

Be one of the first three responders to email the correct answer to info@earthshare.org and you’ll win a green prize from EarthShare.

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