Verizon turns to national lab for energy efficiency

Telecom companies have known for some time that their industry’s carbon footprint will grown and that presents an opportunity. Verizon announced on Wednesday it will turn to a national lab for help to come up with marketable energy saving technologies.

Today in Cleantech

This morning brings lots of energy news from Japan, a country on the forefront of the energy challenges facing the world at large. Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor complex disaster has forced the island nation to confront its energy future in ways that are shaking the country. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, facing withering criticism of his government’s handling of the disaster, has agreed to step down — but not before he oversees passage of an energy law that would set lucrative rates for renewable energy to boost clean power development. This proposal is facing criticism from the nuclear power-friendly opposition party, however, which says it could boost power bills sky-high — a similar concern facing utilities in the U.S. and Europe. Japanese clean energy has its champions, including billionaire Masayoshi Son, Japan’s richest man, who has proposed building massive solar projects — but the sketchy proposal would require him to gain access the country’s transmission system in ways that could shake up the country’s centralized utility system. In the meantime, pressing short-term power problems remain. Tuesday saw Japan planning to restart the first nuclear reactor of all those closed after the March earthquake and tsunami. While the country is stricken with nuclear fears, it also faces critical power shortages this summer unless it ramps up its shuttered nuclear power capacity.

Top 10 Countries Using IT to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Deploying information technology is supposed to be able to reduce 15 percent of global carbon emissions by 2020 through things like creating smarter grids, buildings and transportation. But some governments are doing better than others at supporting the use of IT to build low-carbon infrastructure.

Today in Cleantech

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program has been put on hold — not by wealthy polluters or right-wing ideologues, but by a judge upholding a lawsuit saying the law doesn’t go far enough. In a decision well-forecast by a March ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith on Friday enjoined the California Air Resources Board from moving forward with its carbon cap-and-trade system set to start in January 2012. Created by AB32, the law that seeks to return the state to its 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2020, the cap-and-trade program would have been a landmark for the U.S. in setting terms and prices for carbon trading. But in holding up a lawsuit from environmental and advocacy groups, Goldsmith found the state hadn’t looked at all available alternatives, such as carbon taxes or outright bans on emissions, that could work better to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, those alternatives are politically unfeasible, making it unclear just how the plaintiffs in the case expect their argument to lead to a better outcome for the people they represent in low-income areas disproportionately affected by local sources of pollution. The state has said it will appeal the ruling, which doesn’t effect other aspects of AB32, such as the state’s renewable portfolio standard calling for one-third renewable energy by 2020, or its low-carbon fuel standard for in-state vehicles.

Today in Cleantech

Happy New Year, everyone — welcome to a new year of efforts to obstruct policy progress on the greentech front. The state of Texas has kicked off 2011 with a fresh set of court actions seeking to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its rules regulating carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act in the state. Reuters reports that the state is seeking to be exempted from a host of rules for permitting large-scale emitters such as power plants, refineries and factories that went into effect as of Sunday, Jan. 2 (PDF). Texas’ petition is part of Gov. Rick Perry’s long-running battle against federal environmental enforcement in the state, but it could also be seen as an opening salvo against EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, which are being opposed by a host of industry groups. Given the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the greentech industry can likely expect to see similar battles against federal tax incentives for renewable energy projects, as a recent Wall Street Journal article inveighing against “green pork” indicates.

Today in Cleantech

Not only was Earth Hour a bit of a downer from a social media perspective, but it turns out that my one and only tweet that evening generated 0.02 grams of C02. Not a huge amount, mind you, but it adds up when you consider that 50 million tweets are sent on an average day. At least Raffi Krikorian, the developer for Twitter’s Platform Team who gave us this insight, can take comfort in the fact that each Google search query generates 0.2 grams of CO2. Also consider that Google handles an estimated 3 billion searches per day. I’ll let you do the math.

Today in Cleantech

eBay could probably get a pass on environmental issues considering that much of its business is generated by folks giving new life to their old stuff. For instance, logging onto eBay to buy a used smartphone “saves 94% of the carbon associated with going to the mall and buying a new one,” according to Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay Green Team. But that’s not enough. The company is going further by not only slashing its own corporate emissions, but also by building an online community (currently with  125,000 members) that is helping the online giant green up its act with some good old crowdsourcing.