Over 9,000 citations in one day in NYC for driving while using a cell phone

key2safedrivingThe issue of driving while talking on a cell phone has two distinct sides, and no matter which side of that issue you are on, if you spend much time in a car you see this every day.  We’ve all heard the stories of fatal car accidents caused by drivers on cell phones. Studies have indicated that talking on a phone while driving impacts the driver’s reaction time in a manner similar to intoxication.
Many major cities in the U.S. ban driving while talking, although most of those allow the use of headsets or other hands-free solutions.  Personally I think it’s the lack of concentration on driving due to the phone conversation as much as holding a handset, so I’m not sure that headsets make that much difference.  My own city of Houston has ordinances that ban the use of phones while driving in school zones which seems like a good thing.
New York City recently had a one-day clamp-down on driving while using a phone and issued over 9,000 citations to drivers talking on phones.  That number is amazing even for a large city like NYC, and it indicates the law is not impacting the practice enough.  Another statistic that I find amazing is that over 195,000 citations were issued in NYC in 2008. That plainly shows that the $120 fine is not a big deterrent to those who talk and drive. Maybe it’s time to force the use of gadgets that prevent phone calls in cars?  These are typically designed for teen drivers but they’re not the only ones doing all the texting or talking.
(via cellular-news)

10 Cleantech Predictions for 2009

We know there’s been an end-of-the-year rush of top 10 green stories across the blogosphere, including ours — victories, disappointments, and most popular stories. But what better time than the last day of the year to look back at 2008 and make some predictions for 2009, when it will be the more cost-effective cleantech sectors — energy efficiency, green buildings, green IT — that move ahead, while the more capital intensive sectors — biofuels, solar — face tighter times.

1) U.S. Federal Policy On Climate Change Will Move Slowly: With the election of Barack Obama, the U.S. is making a clear shift in its climate change fighting stance. Obama has already chosen a variety of cabinet members that strongly support clean power, biofuels and energy efficiency, including Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, and Carol Browner as Climate Czar. Obama has also made significant efforts to talk about green jobs as part of the stimulus plan, but the global recession will lead to a pullback in federal funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency in 2009. Don’t get impatient, federal moves take time.

2) Oil Prices Will Stay Low For Much of the Year, Potentially Climbing in Q4 of 2009: With oil prices offering a contrarian indicator for alternative energy, where they go next year is important. While the consensus is mixed, many see oil prices fluctuating around $50 for much of 2009 and potentially creeping up closer to the end. (Though it’s hard to predict oil prices when they do things like crash from $145 a barrel this summer) But $50 is too cheap to be drive the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles, so the price of oil could effectively slow the progress of the electrification of our cars.
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SolarWorld CEO: Solar Module Prices to Slide More Than 10% by 2010

SolarWorld AG’s photovoltaic solar module prices will decline more than 10 percent during the next two years, tightening a squeeze on the German manufacturer’s profit margins. That’s the forecast revealed in an interview with SolarWorld (s SWV) CEO Frank Asbeck set to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Reuters reports.

Asbeck, who led an out-of-the-blue bid for assets of German automaker (and GM (s GM) subsidiary) Opel last month, isn’t the only solar exec expecting slashed prices next year. Earlier this month, the chief executive of rival Suntech (s STP), Zhengrong Shi, said he expects oversupply and top-to-bottom cost cuts to help drive the company’s prices down 20-30 percent compared with the third quarter of this year. Shi added that the sector as a whole could slash prices by half as soon as 2013.
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Daily Sprout

Gas on the Cheap: Retailers in Missouri have slashed fuel prices by selling gas without ethanol, the grain-based alcohol that many states require as a gas add-in to reduce air pollution. — Reuters
Environmental Investing: Some of the world’s biggest pension funds and foundations in are redirecting investment to companies that minimize environmental harm. Why haven’t institutional investors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations pension fund come on board? — New York Times
Solar-Motive: Shares of the photovoltaics company SolarWorld plummeted on news of a planned bid to take over GM’s Opel, but the company stands by its vision of turning automaking green without Detroit. — NYT’s Green, Inc.
Green Stimulus in China: China’s economic stimulus plan reveals a commitment to efficiency and environmental improvements, suggesting the global economic downturn could help the U.S. and China tackle climate change. — Guardian Environment Network
Farm-Car Coalition: Ethanol makers are making the most of Detroit’s troubles, calling for Big Three execs to demonstrate their commitment to biofuels. A mighty coalition of lawmakers from car-producing and farm states could be on the horizon. — Dow Jones Newswires

SolarWorld Bidding for…Opel?

kadett-1smallCan a solar company run a carmaker? And do we really want to find out? Well, Germany’s SolarWorld announced today that it wants to take the plunge into the auto industry with a bid for Adam Opel, the well-known German brand and a subsidiary of struggling General Motors (s GM) since 1929. But analysts are very skeptical, and GM has flat-out denied the possibility.
“It’s pure speculation,” Geri Lama, a spokeswoman for GM, told us. “Opel is not for sale.”
SolarWorld, which makes solar modules for residences as well as large-scale solar plants, believes it can get Opel to go green, turning the automaker into a producer of more energy-efficient and low-emission vehicles.
SolarWorld said it’s planning to offer €250 million ($313.5 million) in cash, plus another €750 million in bank credit lines. But the company has put some high demands on the deal, saying that the credit lines are conditional on getting German government guarantees, and that a core prerequisite is the complete separation of Opel from GM, as well as compensation payments for all of Opel’s German jobs, totaling €1 billion. It’s not clear from SolarWorld’s statement whether GM is expected to cough up that compensation cash, or if it would come from the government.
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