Vice President Al Gore has released new figures showing that the conversion of farmland and other open space to development more than doubled in recent years. The Vice President said the Administration will seek a significant increase in funding for voluntary programs to preserve farms threatened by sprawl.
The new figures, contained in the USDA's 1997 National Resources Inventory, show that nationally nearly 16 million acres of forest, cropland, and open space were converted to urban and other uses from 1992 to 1997. States most greatly affected include California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
In too many states, efforts to curb sprawl have been ineffective and spending on new roads has continued at high levels, according to a new report recently released by the Sierra Club.
The report ranks each state by its programs to manage growth, including efforts in open space protection, land use planning, transportation planning, and community revitalization. "Poorly planned development is threatening our environment, our health, and our quality of life," according to the Sierra Club.
"The good news is that suburban sprawl is not inevitable," writes Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "We are not doomed to a future of traffic congestion, air pollution, overcrowded schools, abandoned city centers, and lost open space and farm land. America does not have to be known as a nation of parking lots, subdivisions and strip malls."
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will see how much green power people might buy by selling it in a specific test market for one year, beginning in the spring of 2000. Ten of the 159 local power companies that distribute TVA power will make up the test-market area. The program will gauge consumer interest in purchasing energy produced from solar, wind, and landfill gas.
A survey conducted for TVA showed strong public support for this new initiative. A solid 84 percent of 1,400 Tennessee Valley residents polled by phone said green power should be an option for all power users, even if they might choose not to buy the power themselves.
For more details on TVA’s green power program or to fill out and send an online form indicating a desire to purchase green power from TVA, visit http://www.tva.gov/greenpower/howcan.htm. To find out more about the survey indicating a public desire for green power, visit http://www.tva.gov/greenpower/whowants.htm.
The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), a non-profit organization devoted to promoting customer confidence in environmentally preferable electricity choices, has launched the first independent accreditation initiative for utility green pricing programs. It is designed to recognize and accredit best practice utility programs which offer qualified green electricity options to their customers.
CRS is administering the initiative and is offering accreditation to utilities that provide green choice options to their customers in markets where consumers cannot yet choose their retail electricity provider. To receive accreditation, utilities have to meet stringent standards for consumer and environmental protection in addition to using renewable energy resources. Accredited utilities also must undergo an annual, independent verification documenting that they delivered promised green power to their customers.
For more information on the accreditation initiative and its standards, visit http://www.resource-solutions.org or contact the Center for Resource Solutions, Presidio Building 49, P.O. Box 29512, San Francisco, CA 94129. Phone: (415) 561-2100.
A new analysis finds that traffic congestion is getting worse in major American metropolitan areas because of sprawl and its impact on driving habits. Using new data from the Texas Transportation Institute, the companion analysis by the Surface Transportation Policy Project finds that neither population growth nor too few roads are to blame for the rise in traffic jams.
"This analysis shows just why drivers have felt so besieged by ever-increasing traffic. Sprawl is making just about everyone drive farther and more often, and that fills up the roads." said Roy Kienitz, Executive Director of STPP.
While the population in all 68 metro areas studied grew by 22 million since 1982, the increase in driving has crowded the roads with the equivalent of 70 million more drivers. For example, in Washington DC, a population increase of 765,000 feels like an increase of more than 2 million on the roadways, because residents are driving 77 percent more.
Sixty-nine percent of the increase in driving from 1983 to 1990 was due to factors influenced by sprawl, such as longer car trips and a switch to driving from walking or transit. Population growth itself was only responsible for 13 percent of the growth in driving.
The report, Why Are the Roads So Congested? A Companion Analysis of the Texas Transportation Institute’s Data on Metropolitan Congestion, was released by the Surface Transportation Policy Project. The Project is a nationwide network of more than 250 organizations, including planners, community development organizations, and advocacy groups, devoted to improving the nation’s transportation system.
STPP’s full analysis is available at http://www.transact.org. The Texas Transportation Institute provided STPP with early access to its data. To view the Texas Transportation Institute’s new report, please go to http://mobility.tamu.edu.
Florida, which gets about 95 percent of its drinking water from groundwater, has initiated a project to encourage developers to build on fifteen previously toxic-contaminated sites.
The state’s biggest lure allows developers to take a tax credit for 35 percent of their clean-up costs. In addition there are job bonus refunds of up to $25,000, or $2,500 per full- or part-time job created.
For more information, click here.
Spectrolab, Inc. and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory have constructed a photovoltaic solar cell that converts 32.3 percent of the sunlight that hits it into electricity. The new solar cell could double the power output of photovoltaic applications in operation today
"The potential cost reductions are consistent with prices paid by utility companies for renewable energy sources such as silicon solar cells, wind generation and geothermal. No other family of solar cells offers the same opportunity to achieve such high performance," said Dr. David Lillington, vice president for solid-state products at Spectrolab.
The high conversion efficiency was achieved by combining three layers of photovoltaic materials into a single solar cell. This "multijunction" cell performed most efficiently when it received sunlight concentrated to 50 times normal.
For more details, click here.
The Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has announced a plan to purchase green power -- electricity generated from non-polluting renewable resources including solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal -- from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
"LAWA intends to set the standard in the airport industry as being a friend to the environment," explained Interim Executive Director Lydia H. Kennard. "Our hope is to encourage other airports and businesses to follow suit."
LAWA will initially buy enough green power to provide 10 percent of the electricity consumed at the Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports. The goal is to increase 50 percent by 2010 and to 100 percent by 2015.
For more details, click here.
Wind energy's enormous potential is dramatically underscored by a new study that finds that it could create 1.7 million jobs by the year 2020.
The study, entitled Wind Force 10 , was commissioned from the international wind energy consulting firm BTM Consult by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the Danish Forum for Energy and Development, and the environmental group Greenpeace.
Wind Force 10 envisions the installation of 1.2 million megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity worldwide by 2020 (one MW supplies about as much electricity as 250 average American homes use). At that level of development, wind would produce more electricity than the entire continent of Europe consumes today. In the process, 1.7 million jobs would be created and global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading greenhouse gas, would be reduced by more than 10 billion metric tons.
The report calls on governments to establish firm targets for wind development, remove regulatory barriers, end subsidies to nuclear power and fossil fuels, and introduce a range of legally-enforced mechanisms to promote wind energy.
Wind has been the fastest-growing energy technology worldwide during the 1990s, expanding at an average rate of 22% annually during the decade and 40% annually over the past six years.
Highlights of Wind Force 10 include:
• 1.2 million MW of wind capacity would generate about 3 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity yearly, or more than the total 1996 electric generation of China, Asia, and Latin America combined.
• 3 trillion kWh also exceeds the current generation of the world's nuclear power plants, which produced 2.3 trillion kWh in 1998.
• The world's total wind potential is 53 trillion kWh, or more than 17 times the Wind Force 10 goal.
• The cost of wind energy is projected to decline from 4.7 cents/kWh today to below 3 cents/kWh by 2013 and 2.5 cents/kWh by 2020.
For more details, visit http://www.awea.org/news/news991005st.html
The U.S. Department of Energy has begin developing basic designs and manufacturing processes for a new generation of ultra-low-cost 21st century solid state fuel cells.
Most fuel cells have the characteristics of a battery -- they are made up of electrodes separated by a liquid electrolyte. The solid oxide fuel cell, however, is an all-solid-state design with both electrodes and electrolyte manufactured from ceramic materials.
The goal of the project is to reduce the cost of fuel cells by as much as half. The new fuel cells will be modular and designed to use multiple types of fuels while emitting virtually no pollutants.
"Fuel cells can offer a true breakthrough in 21st century power generation – combining high power generating efficiencies with superior environmental performance," explained Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "The major technical challenge is cost, and while we have made excellent progress in reducing costs, we see the potential for even more dramatic reductions by developing new designs and manufacturing methods."
Fuel cells are one of the cleanest and most efficient ways to generate electricity. Fuel cells generate electricity from hydrogen, which can be extracted from a variety of fuels, and oxygen from the air. Because they rely on an electrochemical reaction, rather than combustion, fuel cells emit essentially none of the pollutants associated with typical power plants.
For more detailed information, click here.
The insurance industry can save millions of dollars in property claims resulting from natural disasters by adopting solar and other renewable energy technologies when planning for nature's fury, according to a new report issued by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The report, Solar Technology and the Insurance Industry: Issues and Applications, discusses the impact of natural catastrophes on the insurance industry, the effect of power outages on businesses and people, and the risks of portable power generators. It provides examples of photovoltaic technology uses for disaster mitigation, response and recovery.
"Catastrophes are now part of everyday life," the report explains. "They impact every region of the United States, are increasing in terms of frequency and severity, and result in significant property damage and economic losses. Fifty percent of all property losses over the last 40 years have occurred since 1990, and 21 of the 24 largest insured weather-related disasters have also occurred in the last decade."
For more information, visit http://www.nrel.gov/surviving_disaster.
A new program launched by the California Energy Commission will demonstrate Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) throughout the state. NEVs are designed for neighborhood errands and non-highway commutes, or for use in controlled locations such as college campuses. The program is providing up to $400,000 for NEV demonstration programs.
Studies have shown that 75 percent of all travel in California is done in a single occupant vehicle for trips of less than 25 miles a day. NEVs can be an efficient, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vehicles.
The new Dow Jones Sustainability Group World Index, launched by the Dow Jones Company and the Switzerland-based SAM Sustainability Group, will rank some of the leading companies in the energy, automobile and consumer goods industries on sustainability issues.
For more details, click here.
An international symposium, to be held February 25th and 26th in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will introduce, review, and critically examine design options and planning procedures for ensuring water-sensitive development.
For more information, visit http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/conferences/watersymp.
The Greenprints 2000 conference and trade show, to be held February 6th through 8th in Atlanta, will focus on green building, renewable energy, sustainable development, and livable communities. It is being sponsored by the Southface Energy Institute.
According to the Institute, "it will bring together theorists, practitioners, planners and those with mud on their boots from all over the Southeast to share the latest ideas in design and construction for a sustainable future."
The conference will include speakers covering topics on building sciences, construction and technology, and community planning and design. The trade show will feature the latest energy and resource efficient products and technologies.
For more information, click here.
Building Energy 2000: Buildings, People and the Planet, a conference on renewable technologies and sustainable design strategies, will be held March 15-18 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
The conference will focus on solutions to the global climate challenge which promote economic growth. According to its sponsors, "Building Energy 2000 will offer the media, architects, engineers, builders, contractors, policy makers, business people, utility executives, insurers, investors, educators, students and concerned citizens a forum for bringing sustainable building and renewable energy closer to popular acceptance."
For more information, click here.
The 11th Global Warming International Conference and Expo, to be held April 25th through 28th in Boston, will review compliance with the Kyoto Conference Agreement. It will, according to event sponsors, allow participants to meet with colleagues at the forefront of scientific research and policy as well as network with colleagues working on global warming mitigation worldwide.
For more details, visit http://GlobalWarming.net/gw11c.html.
The National Green Building Conference, to be held April 6th through 8th in Denver, will focus on resource-efficient construction for the mainstream homebuilder, environmentalists and developers. It will include tracks on building, planning, developing and financing a green-built home.
For more information, visit http://www.nahbrc.org/gbcon/GB2000Info.htm.
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