Today in Cleantech

Let’s go to Washington D.C. this morning, where the Department of Energy is holding an annual summit for its ARPA-E program. The DARPA-modeled program has invested some $400 million into 121 projects representing the risky cutting edge of clean energy and green technology, and the Obama Administration is seeking $550 million more in the 2012 fiscal year budget. But with federal programs supporting green technology under attack on multiple fronts, it’s possible that the program’s budget could be drastically cut next year. Energy Secretary Steven Chu opened Tuesday’s summit with a keynote speech positioning ARPA-E as a critical part of the United States’ strategy to retain its technological lead against Europe and China in industries from solar and wind power and advanced battery technology to more energy-efficient buildings and power grid systems. That’s just a start to the list of technologies that are being worked on by companies and research institutions using ARPA-E funding, including a few startups that have recently raised additional private investment, such as Transphorm and Phononic Devices. Earth2Tech’s Katie Fehrenbacher is at the conference this morning — stay tuned for more updates.

A Continuing Discussion of the Unibody MacBook 13″ vs. PowerBook 12″

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Charles Moore wrote a great article about the unibody 13″ MacBook compared to the much-loved 12″ PowerBook. A friend of Charles argued that until the dimensions were nearly identical it could never be considered a replacement. Charles feels there’s a little more to it than that.

I think they’re both right (yes, life is good sitting on top of this fence).

I don’t disagree with Charles’ friend that width is a big factor, and here the new MacBook is much bigger than the 12.” However, I would suggest that depth is the more critical (for use on a table, airline tray table, etc.) and here the new model is only slightly bigger. Further, weight is a big factor and the two are pretty much identical.

So you need to consider just what you’re getting for those extra couple inches of width. It’s more than just a much bigger screen (in resolution, not just size). The larger case allows a larger thermal envelope so they can pack all that power in there. Remember that Apple (s aapl) could never get a G5 in a notebook no matter what. The G4 in the 12″ initially ran at 867MHz, less than the 17″ introduced the same day.

I’m just not convinced one must insist that every dimension be equal or smaller to be a true replacement. Given the near-equality of each dimension except width, and what you’re getting for that width — and its value — I’d say the 13″ kicks some serious butt. And I put my money where my text is, since I own one and love it.
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Obama Calls for Recovery With Energy-Efficient Public Buildings

As part of his Economic Recovery Plan that he hopes will create 2.5 million new jobs, President-elect Barack Obama is calling for an effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. In his weekly radio address, Obama announced a plan to seek energy-efficient upgrades for federal and public school buildings (see video below).

Obama provided few details on how the green building makeover would work — or how many jobs it could provide — but he said he would start by replacing old heating systems and installing energy-efficient lighting. “Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that,” he stated. He said he would unveil more about the plan in the coming weeks and push to have congress start working to get the plan approved in January.



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