Foreign Policy Blogs

Some Stories I've Been Saving

Sorry that I've been off the airwaves for a few days.  I think I got some sort of food poisoning at lunch on Friday.  It's not even safe being a vegetarian these days.  Plus I've had a few other irons in the fire which needed tending.

Anyway, here are some stories that I think have good bang for the buck:

Advanced Research – Cellulosic Ethanol , The DOE has awarded three major grants for research and development in the important area of cellulosic ethanol, the alternative to corn and wheat-based ethanol.  As you know, the explosion of production of the latter is causing major concerns about rising food prices.  (See Biofuels , "All that glisters is not gold" at my post here from May.)  Cellulosic has a lot of potential to reduce costs of production and to avoid inflated prices for staple foods.  Sources include cornstalks, wood chips and perennial native grasses so there's a lot with which to work.  The federal Oak Ridge Lab and Lawrence Berkeley Lab are two of the three centers where this research will play out.  The third is my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Here's the story from UW's perspective:  Major bioenergy initiative takes flight in Midwest.  There's a ton of good information here including some audio interviews.  For Wisconsin, there's a local angle because of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a "statewide effort focused on the development of fuel and energy resources from non-food sources in ways that promote regional economic growth in the context of good environmental stewardship." 

Renewable Energy for the Farm , The very informative now hosts a Renewable Energy Knowledge Center for farmers.  The web site is sponsored by Farmergy, a consulting service that partners with distributors and installers to create great energy savings for farmers.  This is good stewardship and good business.  The website has news, product reviews, a great Q&A section, and access to information about government grants. 

The Climate Crisis Game , The "Washington Post" ran a story a week or so ago about some Princeton professors who've created a game to solve the climate change crisis.  The story, What It Would Take to Put the Brakes on Global Warming, recounts how the professors first came up with their "wedge" approach to reducing warming.  Their paper, Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the next 50 Years with Current Technologies, has produced a lot of serious interest since it first came out three years ago.  Now they've produced a game that anyone can play.  Go here for the concepts and the game, including a Flash video introduction.  This will really get you thinking.

Not incidentally, the "Washington Post" has been providing some fantastic coverage on The Threat of Climate Change for some time now.

The Arab World and Solar , This is where one might simply say:  "Duhhhhh."  After all, what do North Africa and the Middle East have even more of than oil and natural gas?  The sun.  I wrote about some exciting initiatives on the Arabian Peninsula recently under Green Building +.  Well, the "Times of Malta" had a story recently:  Arab countries urge solar future.  Really bold projects are being envisioned here including "trans-Mediterranean High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines" that would connect Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) power plants to the European grid.  CSP plants derive their energy from arrays of curved mirrors reflecting solar radiation onto either absorber tubes or towers to heat liquid to power turbines to turn generators.  I talked about some of these sorts of plants while I was En Vacance in June.  (See under "Largest Solar Thermal Plant")  Oh yeah, and massive desalination plants are a component too.  The level of cooperation between the EU, and particularly Germany, and the Arab states is quite breathtaking , and hopeful.  See the Damascus Declaration for the official word on this.

I'm really not kidding , stop me if I've said this before , when I say that I feel as if I've stepped through some time and space portal into a whole new world of smart, brave and brilliant initiatives.  I keep seeing this stuff and continue to be blissfully amazed.

Party on, Earth.



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