Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama Launches Climate Data Initiative

The White House has launched an initiative aimed at expanding the use of climate data nationwide, to help communities cope with the impacts of global warming, the Washington Post reports.

According to the paper, the effort includes making federal data more accessible through climate.data.gov and launching a design competition to demonstrate the extent to which Americans are vulnerable to coastal flooding. The administration also is releasing new federal map data to depict which parts of the nation’s infrastructure are vulnerable to climate change, and is enlisting Google, Esri and other private firms to distribute and store data.

Esri will work with the District and 11 other cities to create free maps and apps for state and local planning officials. The technology giant Google will donate 1,000 terabytes of cloud storage for climate data, along with 50 million hours of high-performance computing. Read more on the Washington Post website.

Photo: blogs.america.gov

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SAGA Q4 Newsletter Is Out

Every quarter some of the most compelling stories from the SAGA website are compiled into a newsletter and distributed widely to the full network of the Swedish American Green Alliance. To subscribe, send an email to saga[at]state.gov.

Click here to view or download a copy of the Q4 newsletter. 

This issue includes the following articles: 
- Swedish University Students Reach Climate Agreement
- Scientists Gather in Abisko in the Swedish Arctic
- Swedish Space Shower Recycles Water
- Renewable Energy Made up 100% of New Power in the United States
- IKEA Plugs In 3 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Texas
- NASA: Ozone Hole Is No Longer Expanding
- 150,000 Plug-In Cars on U.S. Roads
- Forbes Highlights Swedish Company Generating Electricity   from Tidal Currents
- Volvo Initiates Pilot Project with Self-Driving Cars
- Coal Power Plants Shutting Down in the United States

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

U.S. and Swedish Environment Think Tanks Rank No 1 and 2

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania has released its seventh annual ranking of the world's leading think tanks. U.S.-based World Resources Institute (WRI) ranks number one and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) ranks number two among environment think tanks.

The report is compiled with assistance from over 1,500 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world and ranks the top 150 global think tanks. Read the full report.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Coca-Cola Installs 1 Millionth HFC-Free Cooler

One of the HFC-free cooler models Coca-Cola is using for new equipment placements globally.Coca-Cola is announcing that it has installed its 1 millionth hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)-free cooler. This is part of the company’s effort to phase out the use of HFC refrigerant—a well-known contributor to climate change—in Coca-Cola dispensers, vending machines and coolers.

Coca-Cola has established a goal that all new cold-drink equipment will be HFC-free by 2015. According to a press release from Coca-Cola, achieving this goal will prevent the emission of more than 50 million metric tons of CO2 over 10 years, an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 10 million passenger vehicles. Read more.

Photo: The Coca-Cola Company.

Friday, February 7, 2014

White House Announces 7 Climate Hubs

Are you thinking about transitioning to organic? Learn how the USDA supports organic agriculture through standards, enforcement, certification, market information, funding, extension, and research.The Obama Administration is launching seven regional hubs in the United States to help farmers better respond to climate disasters. 

"America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners face a complex and ever-changing threat in the form of a changing and shifting climate. The past three years alone have brought some of the most severe and devastating floods, droughts and fires our nation has experienced in recent history," says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

In order to address the impacts of a changing and shifting climate, the White House is creating seven regional climate hubs that are meant to provide new and better tools to respond and prepare for the challenges of drought, heat stress, excessive moisture, longer growing seasons and changes in pest pressure.

Each Hub will focus on developing research and solutions tailored to the specific vulnerabilities of its region, such as drought-tolerant seed varieties, strategies to maintain soil health, and ways to monitor and respond to fires and pest outbreaks. Read more.

Photo: usda.gov

Monday, February 3, 2014

Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg Appointed UN Special Envoy for Climate Change

File:Michael R Bloomberg.jpgMichael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City, has been appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. In this role, Michael R. Bloomberg will assist the Secretary-General in his efforts to mobilize action among cities as part of a strategy to combat climate change.

As Special Envoy, Bloomberg will work with other mayors both to increase their climate change-related commitments and to encourage national governments to do the same. He will also help bring solutions to the 2014 Climate Summit that will be held in New York, September 2014.

As Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg spearheaded PlaNYC. Under this program, New York City has planted more than 800,000 new trees, implemented energy efficiency program for large buildings and instituted bus rapid transit lines as well as a major bike-sharing initiative. These efforts have reduced the city's carbon footprint by 19 percent since 2005. Read more.

Photo: Michael Bloomberg. Credit: Rubenstein.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Energy Highlights from the 2014 State of the Union

Clean energy and environmental sustainability featured prominently in President Barack Obama's 2014 State of the Union address.

From fuel efficiency and domestic energy independence to high-tech clean energy manufacturing and climate change, President Obama laid out a vision for policies that he hopes will create jobs and reduce the United States' carbon footprint.

Below is a clip from the U.S. Department of Energy highlighting the parts of the speech that zeroed in on clean energy and sustainability.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

U.S. Solar Industry Creates 50,000 New Jobs

Yesterday, the Solar Foundation released its National Solar Jobs Census 2013, which found that the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans as of November 2013. This figure includes the addition of 23,682 solar workers over the previous year, representing 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. During the period covered by the Census, solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment rate of 1.9 percent.

“According to the Solar Foundation, today there are more than 140,000 Americans employed up and down the U.S. solar supply chain and across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 50,000 new American jobs and employment has grown nearly 20 percent in the last year alone," says U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Read more.

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. energy.gov

Monday, January 27, 2014

U.S. and Swedish Companies Rank High on Sustainability

Corporate Knights just presented its latest ranking of the world's one hundred most sustainable companies during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In total, five Swedish and eighteen U.S. companies made the list.

U.S. companies include Biogen Idec (ranked number 2), Cisco Systems (11), Sigma-Aldrich (20), Life Technologies (21); Montsanto (37), Coca-Cola (43).

Scania is the highest ranked Swedish company (38), and the second highest in the automotive industry after BMW. Swedish companies also include Atlas Copco (46), Ericsson (55), HM (65) and Husqvarna (83). Full ranking.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Växjö's 'Green Record' Receives International Attention

News agency AFP is featuring a story on the City of Växjö's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the 1990s, before global warming was grabbing headlines, the Växjö city council announced plans to abandon fossil fuels by 2030 and to halve carbon emissions in less than two decades -- among a host of "green goals" that also encourage local farmers to go organic and everyone to reduce paper consumption and to use bicycles or public transport, AFP reports.

"Växjö's CO2 emissions are indeed almost half what they were in 1993 -- one of the lowest levels in Europe at 2.7 tonnes per person -- and almost half of Sweden's already low average. In the 1970s Växjö developed a district heating and power system -- pumping heat and hot water from a central boiler around the city [...] Today almost 90 percent of the city's 60,000 inhabitants get their heat and hot water from the plant, which also supplies about 40 percent of electricity needs." Read the full article.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

U.S. Diplomats in Sweden Turn to Geothermal Heating

The United States Embassy in Sweden is converting eight government owned properties to geothermal heating. Seven of these properties currently use electrical heat and one is heated by fuel oil.

The heat pump systems that will be installed in the properties range from 6 kilowatt (kW) to 10 kW and are expected to save the U.S. government $5,000-$5,500 per house on average in electricity and fuel oil costs while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Embassy in Sweden founded the League of Green Embassies in 2007. The League is today a global network of over ninety diplomatic missions formulating a common agenda for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation.

2013 Fourth Warmest Year Globally

According to new data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the year 2013 tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average and marks the 37th consecutive year (since 1976) that the annual temperature was above the long-term average.

Currently, the warmest year on record is 2010, which was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above average. To date, including 2013, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occured during the 21st century. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013. The global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.06°C (0.11°F) per decade since 1880 and at an average rate of 0.16°C (0.28°F) per decade since 1970. Read more.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Volvo Facility Achieves CO2 Neutrality

Volvo CE Braås facility achieves CO2 neutralityVolvo Construction Equipment’s site in Braås, Sweden becomes the company’s first carbon neutral premises to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

At the end of December 2013, Volvo Construction Equipment’s Braås facility completed its journey towards becoming carbon neutral. The 45,000 m2 site in southern Sweden, which specializes in the design and manufacture of articulated haulers, is now powered entirely by renewable energy sources – including wind, biomass and hydropower.

Braås’ first step towards carbon neutrality began in 1999, when it commissioned local energy supplier Växjö Energi AB to install a district heating plant, fuelled by wood chips, to provide central heating for its employees – and the town’s residents. Braås then joined a Volvo Group initiative in 2007 that saw it switch to green electricity (i.e. generated from renewable sources). Read more.

Photo: volvoce.com

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Polar Vortex, Explained in Two Minutes

Want to know more about the frigid blast of air that's been sweeping across the United States lately? Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has got answers for you.


European Demand for Recycled Plastics Means Good Business for Swedish Company Swerec

From: Advantage-Environment.com, Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

Tens of thousands of tons of plastic waste from Scandinavia ends up with Swerec in the forests of Småland for sorting and recycling. The plant in Lanna in Värnamo is considered one of the most modern in Europe where 10 tons of plastic is sorted per hour. “Our sorting machines, in a fraction of a second, determine the type of plastic, such as part of a discarded plastic bottle. The machines can handle much of the sorting work but the human eye and hands are also important,” says Jörgen Sabel, CEO of Swerec.


“The demand for recycled plastics in Sweden is still not very high, but in several countries in Europe and in the U.S. it is the opposite. In Sweden, Swerec processes approximately 65,000 of the 120,000 tonnes of plastic that are recycled and about 80 percent of that is exported. An example is the recycled plastic for use in flower pots made in the Netherlands,” says Sabel.

Although the market for recycled plastics in Sweden is still small – compared to many other countries in Europe – there are many companies that use recycled plastics in their products. In 2008, for example, Electrolux received the Recycling Industry Innovation Award for its UltraSilencer Green vacuum cleaner and now recycled plastics are used in all vacuum cleaners manufactured in Europe. Read more.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Luleå University of Technology Secures SEK 112 M for Advanced Biofuels Research

Photographer: Anna Thurfjell Luleå University of Technology (LTU) has secured funding for its renewable fuels program following a decision by the Swedish Energy Agency to grant LTU SEK 112 million (USD 17 million). The funds will be used to keep LTU's advanced biofuels research running and to operate the university's green fuels gasification plant.

"LTU Biosyngas Center is an open research center. New academic and industrial partners are welcome to use the facility for research that will help to reduce dependence on fossil raw materials and fuels", says Richard Gebart, professor at Luleå University of Technology.

The total budget for the program is SEK 158 million and will keep the program running until May 2016. Read more.

Photo: Richard Gebart, professor at Luleå University of Technology. Photographer: Anna Thurfjell. Luleå University of Technology.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 U.S. Climate Action Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Date: 01/02/2014 Description: 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (cover) - State Dept ImageOn January 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of State submitted the 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This report, which includes the First U.S. Biennial Report and Sixth U.S. National Communication to the UNFCCC, details actions the United States is taking domestically and internationally to mitigate, adapt to, and assist others in addressing climate change.

The 2014 U.S. Climate Action Report fulfills requirements under the UNFCCC for all Parties to report periodically on actions and progress in combating climate change. The last U.S. Climate Action Report submitted was in 2010. Over the course of 2014, UNFCCC Parties will provide their first biennial reports: developed countries are to provide theirs by January 1, 2014 and developing countries are to provide biennial update reports by the end of the year. Read more.

Arizona Plant to Turn Garbage into Energy

by: Guest writer Keith Patterson, freelance writer and designer for all things green. His work promotes responsible energy production and consumption.

A new waste facility in Glendale, Arizona, promises to be the first plant to use pyrolytic gasification, a process that transforms trash into energy. The plant, which will be located in the city's landfill, a few miles west of the University of Phoenix Stadium, is expected to begin operations in April once its built by Chicago-based Vieste.

Vieste will use technology purchased from The Hoskinson Group to cook trash at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), which is hot enough to dispose of waste, pathogens and pollutants. The trash moves into an oxygen-starved chamber which creates gas and steam that can be converted into energy.

Other than a small amount of natural gas to jumpstart the process, the company says the system is powered completely by garbage, making it a green technology. Through gasification, the facility should be able to process up to 800 tons of waste and generate up to 53 MW of energy per day.

But Vieste doesn't intend to start the pyrolytic gasification process right away. Until it finds clients to purchase its energy supply, it will simply work to sort recyclables at its facility.

Instead of hauling collected garbage to the Glendale landfill, about two-thirds of it will be diverted to the Vieste facility. The building, which will be as large as three full-size basketball courts, will have plenty of space to sort large recyclables and cardboard as well as screens to sift newspapers. Employees will sort through the garbage by hand to separate plastics and a magnet will pull out metals.


The remaining trash will be sent to the local landfill, but the facility, which will employ 40 to 50 people, is expected to salvage up to 26,000 tons of recyclable materials each year.

Currently the city of Glendale recycles 12,000 tons of materials each year—only the items that are placed in recycling bins. The new facility will not only allow Glendale to increase the amount of materials it recycles, it will also make the city money.

Vieste has entered into a 30-year contract with the city, agreeing to pay $100,000 per year to lease 6 acres at the landfill and will also pay a $476,000 management fee that will increase by 0.5 percent each year.

In return, Glendale has agreed to sell the recyclable materials collected by Vieste with a guarantee of bringing in almost 7 cents per pound.

Once the company has entered into contracts to sell its renewable energy, Vieste will begin producing electricity from the waste collected in Glendale. High-value recyclables, such as aluminum, will continue to be pulled from the piles of garbage, but less valuable materials, such as plastic or paper, will likely be used for energy production.

Environmental risk factors
While the pyrolytic gasification process promises to transform trash into a valuable energy treasure, not everyone is enthused about its environmental impact. Some believe that burning trash will degrade the area's air quality.

The plant obtained a permit from the Maricopa County Department of Air Quality that allows it to release 90 tons of carbon monoxide and 92 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. According to the county, a facility is only considered a major source of pollution if it emits more than 100 tons of any pollutant each year.

Additionally, some environmentalists believe the process will be an incentive for Glendale residents to create more trash. They believe that instead of placing the focus on reducing waste and separating recyclables, the plant might make some feel OK about throwing everything away.

Photo: A new waste facility in Glendale, Arizona promises to be the first plant to use pyrolytic gasification, a process that transforms trash into energy. Credit: Keith Patterson

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ford Concept Car Powered by Solar Panels on Vehicle Roof

cmax solarFord recently announced the C-MAX Solar Energi concept car, a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle that does not rely on the electric grid for fuel. Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.

The vehicle is a collaborative project between Ford, San Jose, SunPower and Georgia Institute of Technology. The C-MAX Solar Energi concept car debuts as Ford caps a record year of electrified vehicle sales. Ford expects to sell 85,000 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles for 2013 – the first full year its six new electrified vehicles were available in dealer showrooms. Read more.

Photo: corporate.ford.com

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Renewable Energy Made up 100% of New Power in the United States

According to numbers from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), all new power that was added in the United States in November came from renewable energy sources.

The statistics unveil that 14 new solar units, 8 biomass units, 4 wind mills, one geothermal and one hydro unit went online in November. At the same time no new fossil-fuel plants were added to the grid. Read more.

Photo: state.gov