I heard an interesting story on KUT this morning about pollution in Pasadena, TX. I remember as a child thinking that Pasadena must be one of the worst places on Earth; we would cover our noses and shut all of the A/C vents in the car when driving through. I didn’t realize until I heard the story this morning that they actually have an alarm that goes off when they release big batches of benzene into the air so that you know when to hide your kids and close all your windows.

I was going to say something about this being like regulation-free China, but apparently Chinese coal companies have much cleaner facilities in China than in America:

Three months later, union workers and tribal members flew to Taiwan for a 2004 stockholders meeting of Continental Carbon’s parent company. The union protested with a hunger strike. Ponca tribal official Dan Jones returned from Taiwan with stunning photographs of the company’s carbon black plant there.

“It’s beautiful. It’s clean. They have gardens throughout the whole thing,” Jones recalls. “There’s no fugitive emissions at all.”

MIT amps up solar cells

MIT is developing a new solar cell technology that results in a tenfold increase in power conversion, takes up less space, and can be added to existing solar panels.

Photo caption:

Organic solar concentrators collect and focus different colors of sunlight. Solar cells can be attached to the edges of the plates. By collecting light over their full surface and concentrating it at their edges, these devices reduce the required area of solar cells and consequently, the cost of solar power. Stacking multiple concentrators allows the optimization of solar cells at each wavelength, increasing the overall power output.

Obama and Ethanol

Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol – NYTimes.com

Not long after arriving in the Senate, Mr. Obama himself briefly provoked a controversy by flying at subsidized rates on corporate airplanes, including twice on jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which is the nation’s largest ethanol producer and is based in his home state.

No big surprise he won Iowa. E85 as a solution to our fuel crisis is a red herring. If Obama hasn’t heard this yet, it’s because he has corn-money stuffed in his hears. If he’s elected, keep an eye on his energy policy to see if he’s making good decisions free from political influence. Our food prices and environment depend on E85 getting shot down, as it should.

Sustainable energy in African villages

Nairobi businessman bringing sustainable energy to unpowered villages – Boing Boing Gadgets

Solar is, in Africa as in the west, mostly impractical. But wind, like sunlight, is “everywhere,” providing a natural, inexhaustible supply of energy. Among the most interesting of CraftSkills’ installations is the one at Chifiri, which uses a turbine’s power to run a pump, which filters 422 liters of water an hour from a brackish pond that is the only source of water for 500 villagers.

This is just the kind of business growth that needs to be encouraged in developing areas. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities – the clean drinking water alone will do a great deal to improve health conditions and increase a village’s abillity to move from survival mode to production and growth – not to mention that electricity could be made available. When wealthier nations decide to support developing ones, these are the kinds of projects to support. Is there a foundation for supporting sustainable energy projects out there? It would be cool if there is.