Foreign Policy Blogs

Green Tech, Low Tech, Clean Tech, New Tech

I continue to be fascinated by the burgeoning of all sorts of new approaches to generating energy and saving energy.  I mentioned in my post from May 16 on the Large Cities Summit that George David, the CEO of United Technologies, had some fascinating things to say about using energy and the potential for radically reducing the amount of power we consume.  I also talked about the solar boat that’s just crossed the Atlantic in the post here.  I’ve touched on renewables any number of times.  It’s truly a brave new world.  So here are just a few tidbits that I wanted to share.

Geothermal at NY Airports and Ports – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey runs the three big New York airports:  JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.  The PA Chairman announced an initiative on May 17 that promised to “reduce global warming impacts of airports, ports by 80 percent.”  Nice.  How?

  • geothermal heating and cooling of buildings;
  • on-site power generation through the use of fuel cells;
  • use of renewable energy from wind and solar projects;
  • having planes use docking stations to power up at airports rather than idling their engines;
  • using electrified tugs and other alternative fuel rampside equipment;
  • using planes like the A380 to carry more passengers on flights that also are more environmentally efficient, and;
  • offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits.

Now I can tell you that when I was with the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation in New York City throughout most of the 1990’s, the Port Authority was one of our nightmares:  oil spills, leaking underground tanks, improper storage of hazardous material, etc.  They’ve come a long way, baby.

Solar Flashlights – In a great “NY Times” article, we learn that “close to two billion people around the world go without affordable access to light.”  Along comes Mark Bent and he comes up with an idea and spends $250,000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight.  Read all about it at his website, BoGo Light.  This couldn’t be a better story.  I guess it could if this program gets seriously funded.

Solar Cookers – There’s the even simpler technology of using the heat from the sun to cook food.  I talked about this in my post from May 12.  Sustainable development should mean deploying the best ideas that work easily and well and are cost-effective.  Solar cookers meet all those criteria.  This is a low-tech solution with enormous potential and should be funded commensurately.

See also this story from an excellent blog on African agriculture:  Kenyan fruit/ dryer earns Energy Globe Award 2007.

“Design for the Other 90%” – The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has an excellent exhibition on now (through September 23).  “Encompassing a broad set of modern social and economic concerns, these design innovations often support responsible, sustainable economic policy.”  The (not surprisingly) well-designed website has the whole range of fascinating and innovative concepts that are on display at the exhibition itself.

REEEP – On the policy front, check out the excellent work of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership.  They’re in business to “accelerate and expand the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems” and they’re operating all over the world.  This is exactly the sort of partnership of governments, business and NGOs that is really changing the face of things.

Wind Fins – Here’s a technology in development that promises to allow much smaller-scale deployment to exploit wind power.  To read more about this pilot, being developed in Montana, check out this article:  Wind Fins To Help Farmers Turn Breeze Into Cash.

Not incidentally, the source for this story, CarbonFree, has a great news service.  Subscribe and don’t wait for me to give you the heads up on these stories.

See How Your Car is Doing for MPG and if you can do better.  Check out this gadget at the Sierra Club’s website:  MPG calculator.

Urban Monitoring and Reduction of GHG – In the wake of the big climate summit held by the world’s biggest cities (see my coverage from May 14 to 18), Bill Gates and Bill Clinton announced an initiative to create ” new software will serve as a global standard for cities in their climate change accounting, mitigation and communications efforts.”  See more from Microsoft.

VC – See this article from “The Economist” about the looming war between the states (and cities) over who’s going to attract the most venture capital for clean tech.  This is a good war to be having if you have to have one.

Hydrogen – Also from “The Economist,” see this provocative little science story about hydrogen production by employing the tools of “synthetic biology.”

Since I’ve just flagged two “Economist” stories, it’d be only fair to highlight the fact that next week’s issue will contain a special report on the business of climate change.  The folks at this venerable publication have come a very long way in the past few years from skepticism to full-tilt embrace of the science and of the need for action.  Maybe they’re taking their cue from Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill whose quote I will now haul out for a third time on these pages:  “I never worry about action, but only inaction.”



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change