What You Need to Know in Cleantech and Sustainability

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Lessons from the Deep: If the unstoppable hose at the bottom of the Gulf has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know much about the ocean. Don’t know how to stop a leak, don’t know whether deepwater oil floats or sinks — and know even less than we thought about the oceans’ role in global warming. This week Yale Environment 360 reported that the last Ice Age may have ended when a giant belch of carbon dioxide erupted from seabed. Add similar revelations about the world’s bajillions of microbes, and it seems we know almost nothing at all.

Forests Get Breathing Room: Indonesia’s government agreed to halt the cutting of its rainforests for two years in exchange for $1 billion in ransom. Norway made the offer because Indonesia holds hostage some of the largest remaining rainforests; what’s left around the world might keep more CO2 from the atmosphere than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined.

Deforestation = Poor U.S. Farmers? Meanwhile, a report made a persuasive argument that deforestation in the tropics leads to economic ruin for U.S. foresters and farmers. By rapidly clearing land, tropical nations flood the market and undercut Americans’ prices for soybeans, beef, timber, vegetable oil, among others.

GM Retreats from Indian Rival: General Motors pulled out of a partnership with REVA, an Indian electric car company in India, after REVA was acquired by the Indian conglomerate of Mahindra & Mahindra, a major Indian manufacturer that has set its sights on the United States.

Nissan and Zipcar Grow: Nissan broke ground on its battery factory in Smyrna, Tennessee and said it will make 200,000 electric batteries a year. Zipcar announced plans for a $75 million IPO to fuel its own growth in car sharing, despite competition from rental companies like Hertz and Enterprise.

That’s a Lot of Plug Points: Matter Network’s own John Gartner made headlines with his estimate that in five years, the world will need 4.7 million new charge points for electric cars. A few days later a coalition announced that 4,600 would be installed in nine U.S. cities by Coulomb Technologies and bankrolled with $37 million in government funds. Too bad China provides far more stimulus than the American government does.

Tough to Be a Small Fish: As the big boys jostled, HybridCars pointed out how smaller electric-car companies like Fisker, Coda, Aptera and Tesla have no margin for error as they try to compete.

Veni, Vidi, Veggie: In the New York Review of Books, Michael Pollan took a look at five books that collectively point to a tying together of what’s loosely known as the “food movement” — urban agriculture, farmland preservation, food labeling, the organic movement, to name a few — into something more than the sum of their parts.

No Free Ride for Factory Farms: The EPA announced that factory farms — exposed in Pollan’s own book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” — would be identified and their animal waste’s impact on waterways measured. As a result, thousands of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, are likely to face new regulations.

Innovations of the Week: Cornell students figure out how to harness electricity from small wind; scientists grow BPA-free plastic from the atmospheric scourge of CO2.

Article by David Ferris appearing courtesy Matter Network.

photo: Rakka

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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