Climate Alert: Secret Cold War Military Base Transmits A Warning To The World

ILULISSAT, GREENLAND. Most of Greenland is covered with this kind of ice today, but should it melt, ... [+] sea levels around the world could rise by 20 feet.

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It’s like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster: a secret Arctic military base has revealed clues indicating that the world is in danger. Except in this case, the warning comes from hard science fact.

Analyzing ice core samples taken in the 1960s from a base built under the Greenland ice by the U.S. Army, geologists have been alarmed to discover that the Greenland ice sheet, which contains enough water to cause sea levels to rise by 20 feet worldwide, could melt more rapidly than previously thought. Should the ice sheet be lost, many of the world’s largest cities could end up underwater. 

The findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show how preserved plants and fossils found within sediment from almost a mile beneath the ice indicate that the entire Greenland ice sheet vanished during a warm period in the last million years. With global temperatures today rising faster than at potentially any point in human history, the implications of the discovery are concerning.

“Our study shows that Greenland is much more sensitive to natural climate warming than we used to think,” said Andrew Christ, Gund Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Vermont (UVM) and lead author of the study. “We already know that humanity’s out-of-control warming of the planet hugely exceeds the natural rate.”

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The Big Texas Shootout: Where Did The Deep Freeze Money Go?

ERCOT logo

ERCOT

The shootout is a deeply revered piece of Texas mythology, even though the most famous shootout of all was in Arizona at the O.K. Corral. In fact, only half a dozen public disputes which were settled with the gun took place in Texas, but the myths endure and are cherished.

A shootout of another type has started in Texas — one which will last longer than any brief gunplay and will substitute legal briefs for bullets. This dispute is over the exorbitant charges for power generated during the mid-February deep freeze.

The first to draw was Brazos, the state’s oldest and largest electric power cooperative, which filed for bankruptcy. Some think it will be the first in a long column. Then Denton, the municipally owned utility, sued the Texas grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), contesting a $200-million electric charge during the winter storm.

On March 12, San Antonio’s CPS Energy, the largest municipally owned utility in Texas, drew a bead on ERCOT and fired off a number of heavy rounds in a complaint that pitted the otherwise progressive and low-key utility against ERCOT.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk Has A New Title: ‘Technoking’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Award 2020 in Berlin.

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Tesla doesn’t have a president, chief operating officer or chief technology officer, but the electric-car maker has added two roles other S&P 500 companies lack: a CEO who is also a “technoking” and a chief financial officer who will additionally be known as a “master of coin.”

The quirky titles were announced in an SEC filing early Monday. “Effective as of March 15, 2021, the titles of Elon Musk and Zach Kirkhorn have changed to Technoking of Tesla and Master of Coin, respectively. Elon and Zach will also maintain their respective positions as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.”

The company gave no explanation for the move in the filing, and Musk didn’t reference it on his Twitter account. The company, which has no media relations team, didn’t respond to a request for additional comment. 

The change appears to be the latest display of centibillionaire Musk’s idiosyncratic sense of humor, which in the past has included selling flamethrowers to raise funds for The Boring Co., building a medieval guard tower across from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, or selling red satin shorts to mock investors who lost money shorting Tesla shares. The Tesla cofounder has occasionally mocked the SEC in the past, which in 2018 fined him $20 million and forced him to give up his role as board chairman for falsely tweeting that he’d secured funds to take the company private. 

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk Has A New Title: ‘Technoking’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer Award 2020 in Berlin.

Getty Images

Tesla doesn’t have a president, chief operating officer or chief technology officer, but the electric-car maker has added two roles other S&P 500 companies lack: a CEO who is also a “technoking” and a chief financial officer who will additionally be known as a “master of coin.”

The quirky titles were announced in an SEC filing early Monday. “Effective as of March 15, 2021, the titles of Elon Musk and Zach Kirkhorn have changed to Technoking of Tesla and Master of Coin, respectively. Elon and Zach will also maintain their respective positions as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.”

The company gave no explanation for the move in the filing, and Musk didn’t reference it on his Twitter account. The company, which has no media relations team, didn’t respond to a request for additional comment. 

The change appears to be the latest display of centibillionaire Musk’s idiosyncratic sense of humor, which in the past has included selling flamethrowers to raise funds for The Boring Co., building a medieval guard tower across from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, or selling red satin shorts to mock investors who lost money shorting Tesla shares. The Tesla cofounder has occasionally mocked the SEC in the past, which in 2018 fined him $20 million and forced him to give up his role as board chairman for falsely tweeting that he’d secured funds to take the company private. 

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Delhi Aims To Become India's "EV Capital" As Key Reforms Gain Momentum

NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 18: Delhi Transport Commissioner Varsha Joshi (L), Minister of Transport ... [+] Kailash Gahlot (2L), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (C), IIT Madras professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala (2R) and Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi Vice-Chairperson Jasmine Shah (R) pose for a picture during the Stakeholder Consultation on Draft Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy 2018, organised by Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute, at NDMC Convention Centre, on December 18, 2018 in New Delhi, India. Concerned about the increasing level of air pollution, the Delhi Government on November 27 had released the draft "Electric Vehicle Policy 2018". Through the policy, the AAP government has planned to create a significant corpus of funds to incentivise every vehicle segment. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

For the past few years, India's capital, New Delhi, has been reported as one of the world's most polluted cities, with air pollution levels reaching nearly 40 times the World Health Organisation's limit. According to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, vehicular pollution coupled with road dust resuspension is the key driver behind the high pollution levels and is the major contributing source of PM10 and PM2.5 particles in winter. As part of their report to the Government of Delhi, the IIT Kanpur study recommended scaling up electric and hybrid vehicles to improve air quality and reduce pollution levels in the national capital region (NCR). In August 2020, the Government of Delhi incorporated the IIT Kanpur study recommendations along with key findings from The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) to introduce an electric vehicle (EV) policy that aims to reduce pollution levels, boost Delhi's economy, and generate skilled employment. In Delhi's EV policy, the government has set a target of registering 500,000 new EVs by 2024 through various financial incentives for EV purchase on top of the central government's existing income tax rebates. 

Jasmine Shah

Government of Delhi

Within Delhi's EV policy, the government has also put key financial incentives in place that will allow businesses operating freight transportation — a key pollutant source — to purchase EVs and reduce their carbon footprint. A recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) mentioned that Delhi's population and economic growth have given rise to goods and services, which has caused an increased demand for final-mile delivery transportation providers. Based on another study from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, these urban freight transportation providers (using both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles) account for 45% of the vehicular NOx pollution in Delhi and are the leading cause of respiratory ailments. As a result of these structural efforts, Delhi aims to become India's "EV Capital" and deliver sustainable economic growth. In an interview, Jasmine Shah, vice-chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission who led the development of the EV policy, provided insights into the government's electric vehicle strategy, the progress made since the rollout in August 2020 and the policy’s main objectives in improving quality of life for residents in Delhi.

EV policy developed through expert consultation to address core challenges 

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Delhi Aims To Become India's "EV Capital" As Key Reforms Gain Momentum

NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 18: Delhi Transport Commissioner Varsha Joshi (L), Minister of Transport ... [+] Kailash Gahlot (2L), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (C), IIT Madras professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala (2R) and Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi Vice-Chairperson Jasmine Shah (R) pose for a picture during the Stakeholder Consultation on Draft Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy 2018, organised by Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute, at NDMC Convention Centre, on December 18, 2018 in New Delhi, India. Concerned about the increasing level of air pollution, the Delhi Government on November 27 had released the draft "Electric Vehicle Policy 2018". Through the policy, the AAP government has planned to create a significant corpus of funds to incentivise every vehicle segment. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

For the past few years, India's capital, New Delhi, has been reported as one of the world's most polluted cities, with air pollution levels reaching nearly 40 times the World Health Organisation's limit. According to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, vehicular pollution coupled with road dust resuspension is the key driver behind the high pollution levels and is the major contributing source of PM10 and PM2.5 particles in winter. As part of their report to the Government of Delhi, the IIT Kanpur study recommended scaling up electric and hybrid vehicles to improve air quality and reduce pollution levels in the national capital region (NCR). In August 2020, the Government of Delhi incorporated the IIT Kanpur study recommendations along with key findings from The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) to introduce an electric vehicle (EV) policy that aims to reduce pollution levels, boost Delhi's economy, and generate skilled employment. In Delhi's EV policy, the government has set a target of registering 500,000 new EVs by 2024 through various financial incentives for EV purchase on top of the central government's existing income tax rebates. 

Jasmine Shah

Government of Delhi

Within Delhi's EV policy, the government has also put key financial incentives in place that will allow businesses operating freight transportation — a key pollutant source — to purchase EVs and reduce their carbon footprint. A recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) mentioned that Delhi's population and economic growth have given rise to goods and services, which has caused an increased demand for final-mile delivery transportation providers. Based on another study from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, these urban freight transportation providers (using both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles) account for 45% of the vehicular NOx pollution in Delhi and are the leading cause of respiratory ailments. As a result of these structural efforts, Delhi aims to become India's "EV Capital" and deliver sustainable economic growth. In an interview, Jasmine Shah, vice-chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission who led the development of the EV policy, provided insights into the government's electric vehicle strategy, the progress made since the rollout in August 2020 and the policy’s main objectives in improving quality of life for residents in Delhi.

EV policy developed through expert consultation to address core challenges 

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Synthetic Biology Company Amyris Swapped Biofuels For Personal Care, Its Stock Is Up 10-Fold Over The Past Year

Amyris CEO John Melo

Bloomberg Finance

When John Melo decided to leave BP 14 years ago to join synthetic biology company Amyris, it was set to be the next big thing in biofuels. But the idea only made sense with oil at $100 a barrel, and when those prices fell it didn’t pan out as he thought. “I had no grays, I had no scars, I was a bit naive,” recalls Melo, who was recruited to the CEO spot by venture capitalist John Doerr.

But Melo, who is 55 and an immigrant from the Azores, stuck it out and repositioned the Emeryville, California-based company. The move from biofuels to skincare, haircare, baby care and the like was not a straight path, but it offers a test case of how one company – and one CEO – pivoted a business that proved unworkable into one that could succeed.

“Fuels are the hardest thing to bioengineer for because of the cost,” Melo says. “By going after the hardest [thing] first we were able to push the technology and develop breakthroughs that no one has done.”

Today, Amyris’s big bets are in consumer products. It uses biosynthesis to create an alternative squalene, an oil made in the liver of sharks that’s used in moisturizers and other personal-care products. It launched its first consumer brand, Biossance, which offers a range of sustainable skincare products, in 2015. “The idea wasn’t to be a new brand,” Melo says. “We thought, ‘Let’s tell the consumer about it so they are more interested.’” Melo soon rolled out a follow-up brand called Pipette to target babies and moms.

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Marie Langer Took Charge Of Her Billionaire Family’s 3D Printing Firm Months Before Covid-19 Struck. Here’s How She Navigated The Downturn—And Her Plan For The Future

Marie Langer, CEO of EOS GmbH

Courtesy of EOS

For more than three years, Hans Langer, founder of Germany’s EOS Group and the world’s first 3D-printing billionaire, had worked with his two adult children on a succession plan. In the fall of 2019, Marie Langer, a psychologist who is 34, took over as chief executive of the group’s largest operating business, EOS GmbH, which makes printers for metals and polymers. It was terrible timing: The Covid-19 pandemic hit that winter, and EOS’ sales, like that of many manufacturing companies, tumbled. By year-end, EOS Group’s revenue had fallen more than 20%, to around $325 million.

“I was quite new in the role,” Marie Langer told Forbes in a recent video call. “After half a year, I learned what ‘crisis management’ means.”

The goal, she says, was to stabilize the business, which is based in the town of Krailing on the outskirts of Munich, during the economic uncertainty without having to do widespread layoffs, while setting it up for future growth. In that, she succeeded. Already, she says, monthly orders have turned back up in a sign that the worst is over. In the last quarter of 2020, for example, orders surpassed $120 million, including the company’s single biggest order for 3D metal printers from a U.S. aerospace company.

EOS set up its first pilot factory last year, which is now producing 3D-printed eyeglasses. It’s also in the final stages of development of a new polymer 3D printer system that uses up to 1 million lasers for faster, more tailored production that could replace injection molding in some applications. The result: This year, the group expects revenue of some $385 million.

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How China’s Solar Industry Is Set Up To Be The New Green OPEC

Are you ready to go from dependence on foreign oil to dependence on China for solar panels?

getty

That’s right. China is preparing to be the world’s Green OPEC. Who’s ready to challenge them on that?

As the West kicks fossil fuels to the curb, it is turning to only two sources of energy to generate electricity: wind and solar. Wind is still a European business, but that will change. Solar used to be a European business. It used to also be an American one. Now it’s a Chinese industry. Of the top 10 solar companies in the world, 8 are Chinese. None are European (Norway’s REC Group used to be there, but it’s now owned by ChemChina). One is American — First Solar FSLR of Ohio. They also manufacture in Asia, though their technology is different than most so a lot of their supply chain is local.

“One of the biggest mistakes the West has done on green policies to cut CO2 emissions and trying to reduce dependence on oil and gas producing nations is that the transition to renewable energy puts the West at the mercy of China,” says David Zaikin, an energy industry consultant and founder of Key Elements Group in London.

The Biden Administration wants to reduce fossil fuel use and the President has said on his campaign trail that he was aiming to have upwards of 500 million solar panels installed nationwide. Where will they be made?

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Newcastle To Build Back Better By Designing Cars Out, Pedestrianizing More Of City Center

There are plans for Grey Street to go greener.

Newcastle City Council

In the 1960s, Newcastle City Council leader T. Dan Smith planned for the city to become the Brasilia of the North, dominated by the automobile. An urban freeway—the Central Motorway—was cut through the beautiful city, with soil from the workings piled up on the green lung of the Town Moor. Citizens were told the spoil would be made into a ski slope.

But Smith’s promise of a “city free and beautiful” fell short: the ski slope never materialized (it was grassed over), a bunch of adjoining freeways never got built, and he was jailed for conspiracy and corruption.

Smith’s hopes for Newcastle to become a car city is now seen by some to have been more of a nightmare than a dream, and, over the last 20 or so years, automobiles have been steadily removed by design from much of the central business district.

Northumberland Street—which, in the new plan, will be further enhanced with greenery—is Newcastle’s main shopping street, pedestrianized in the 1990s. Before this, it was the busy A1 Great North Road between London and Edinburgh.

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The Top Three Energy Stories For 2021: Texas, California, And Oil

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: President Joe Biden holds a meeting on cancer with Vice President Kamala ... [+] Harris and other lawmakers in the Oval Office at the White House on March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

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Texas

Let me start with the elephant in the room: the recent Texas energy crisis.

To be sure, ALL energy sources had their problems.

With natural gas accounting for 45-50% of the state’s actual power generation, pipelines froze and Texas’ gas production dropped 45% during the week.

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Here's What We Know About Democrats' 'Big' And 'Green' Multi-Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Plan

Less than one week after the passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Democrats are pivoting to work on what's likely to be an even larger clean-energy package that could pump $4 trillion into the nation's infrastructure and be revealed as early as May.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meets with reporters before a vote to pass the $1.9 ... [+] trillion pandemic relief package in February.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Speaking to ABC's This Week on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the bill can "hopefully" be crafted on a bipartisan basis–unlike the latest stimulus package, which passed with no Republican support–given its focus on infrastructure like roads, bridges and water supply systems. 

To that end, Pelosi on Friday called on Democratic committee chairs in Congress to begin crafting a "big, bold and transformational infrastructure package" with their Republican counterparts, adding that she hopes a bipartisan "spirit will prevail" to address critical needs in energy, broadband, education, housing and utilities while creating jobs "in every zip code."

Details on the package thus far have been vague (and Pelosi on Friday dodged a question asking for a specific timeline), but in a Saturday note to clients, Goldman Sachs said the legislation should increase spending and tax incentives for traditional and green infrastructure by at least $2 trillion, with Biden likely to preview the plan when he addresses a joint session of Congress in April.

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Lordstown Motors Stung By Short Seller’s Accusations Electric Truckmaker Misled Investors

A version of Lordstown Motors' electric Endurance Beta pickup, modified to race in Baja California, Mexico, in April 2021.

Lordstown Motors

Lordstown Motors, an Ohio-based electric truck maker, is the latest startup targeted by short seller Hindenburg Research which accuses the company of misleading investors by exaggerating demand for its Endurance pickup and ability to build it. Shares of the Nasdaq-listed company dropped 17% on Friday.

Hindenburg, which last year targeted hydrogen fuel cell truckmaker Nikola for exaggerations by founder Trevor Milton, said its review of Lordstown’s claim to have 100,000 pre-orders for its $52,500 Endurance electric truck are “largely fictitious and used as a prop to raise capital and confer legitimacy,” citing conversations with ex-Lordstown employees, businesses and a review of documents. Lordstown also isn’t likely to meet goals of beginning production by September or producing battery packs for its vehicles in-house and hasn’t completed validation testing required by the U.S. government, the report said. 

“Despite claims that Lordstown will be producing vehicles by September, a former employee explained how the company is experiencing delays and making `drastic’ design modifications, putting them an estimated 3-4 years away from production,” Hindenburg said. “Despite claims that battery packs would be manufactured in-house, we were told that the equipment is months away from arriving, let alone being put into a production environment. In the meantime, we were told that battery packs are being put together by hand.”

The Lordstown, Ohio-based company, about 40 miles east of Akron, didn’t immediately provide a detailed response. “We will be sharing a full and thorough statement in the coming days, and when we do we will absolutely be refuting the Hindenburg Research report,” it said in an emailed statement.

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America Trails In Global Race For Rare Earth Elements

U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning stealth fighter flies over the San Francisco Bay in ... [+] San Francisco, California on October 13, 2019. Each fighter purportedly requires nearly 900 lbs of rare earth elements. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

The global competition for critical minerals is heating up and the US isn’t winning. Among these critical minerals is a subset known as rare earth elements (REEs) which are vital to everything from the energy transition to national defense. On March 4th Tesla TSLA announced its partnership with a nickel mine in New Caledonia. The announcement comes amidst emerging rumors that China will impose export limits on rare earths metals. What’s the connection?

While they aren’t considered rare earth elements themselves, nickel, lithium and cobalt are critical to EV production. They work in tandem with rare earth elements to make today’s electric vehicles run efficiently. Electric vehicles use from 100-150% more of these vital metals and REEs than cars with internal combustion engines.

What’s more, these materials are essential for technologies from wind turbines to cell phones to fighter jets – America’s advanced F-35 fighter needs 417 kg of rare earths to operate, according to a Congressional Research report. All the minerals mentioned are included in the Department of Energy’s list of 35 critical minerals which are essential to the economy and national security.

In spite of the minerals’ ubiquitous role in modern technology, their production is astonishingly concentrated. China leads in every link of the world’s REE supply chain – from production to refining – in addition to having a firm foothold in the supply of critical nickel, lithium and cobalt. Government policy to capture the global market share, abundant supplies, low-cost labor, and lax environmental laws are behind China’s massive lead in the industry.

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Is The U.S.-Germany Relationship At Risk? What This Means For China And Russia

Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy and Europe’s most powerful nation, seems to be pulling away from its close partnership with the U.S., warns this segment of What’s Ahead.

This is good news for China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia and bad news for the free world. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is obstinately opting to become even more dependent on Russian natural gas instead of making the U.S. a substantial supplier, even though Putin has never hesitated to use this resource for political purposes.

Germany has been reluctant to rehabilitate its shabby armed services. Pressure by the Trump administration got the Merkel government to beef up its military spending, but Berlin may backslide absent heavy-duty Biden administration urgings.

Ominously, Germany has been standoffish in the growing conflict between Beijing and Washington, including the transfer of strategic technologies. 

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How China Aims To Beat The U.S., Europe At ‘Net Zero’ Carbon

A woman snaps a picture of a model of the Hualong One nuclear power reactor at the '2020 China ... [+] International Nuclear Power Industry and Equipment Exhibition' in October 2020 in Yantai, China. (Photo by Tang Ke/VCG via Getty Images)

VCG via Getty Images

China’s government wrapped up the annual “Two Sessions” political meetings in Beijing on Thursday and – taking a cue from the U.S. and Europe – climate change was top of mind.

What does it mean? It means China is gearing up to invest in clean power technologies (think EV batteries and solar panels) and will add more zero-carbon, zero-emissions energy to its grid. Nuclear stood front and center during Premier Li Keqiang’s 2021 Government Work Report delivered at the start of the week long meeting.

“We are going to increase nuclear and make sure it is safe,” he said.

Li’s boss, Xi Jinping, had paved the way for this in September when he said that the world’s worst polluter (though India may have them beat on any given day) is going “zero carbon” by 2060 in its energy grid.

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Tough new rules aim to make electrical goods last longer

Tougher rules are being introduced to make appliances such as fridges, washing machines and TVs cheaper to run and last longer, the government has said.

New legislation aims to tackle “premature obsolescence” in electrical goods – short lifespans built into appliances by manufacturers so that customers have to buy new ones sooner – and make them more energy efficient.

Eco-homes become hot property in UK's zero-carbon ‘paradigm shift’

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The rules include a legal requirement on manufacturers to make spare parts available to consumers, which aims to extend the lifespan of products by up to 10 years and cut carbon emissions from the manufacture of new goods.

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The Recycling Renaissance: How These Forbes Under 30s Plan To Transform Plastic Waste Into Detroit’s Greatest Asset

Though members of the Forbes Under 30 community won’t be able to physically convene in Detroit this year, they did gather remotely last weekend for Forbes’ first-ever virtual hackathon. The event kicked off a monthlong initiative, the Forbes Under 30 Detroit Hackathon: Accelerating Change, in partnership with the City of Detroit, Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans and Major League Hacking.

The hackathon focused on creating more equitable and sustainable supply chains in Detroit across four categories: plastic waste, food deserts, auto manufacturing and healthcare. After two days of intensive research, the recycling team landed on a novel concept: turning plastic refuse into “bricks” that could be used to construct new homes, playgrounds and roads. 

Of the 350 million metric tons of plastic generated annually, less than 20% is recycled, the Under 30 team reports. That issue is intensifying in the U.S. now that China is no longer accepting recycling exports, which has dramatically increased the price of recycling.

“It started off thinking at a macro level,” says Robert Ervin, a member of the team who works at Quicken Loans. “After talking to a couple people, we refined our idea a lot more to say, ‘Okay, what can we do that’s actually cost effective?’ That’s when we really started looking at the block concept.”

Read the full executive summary here.

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Eco-homes become hot property in UK's zero-carbon ‘paradigm shift’

Instead of parking spaces, it’s flowerbeds and vegetable planters that line the car-free street of Solar Avenue in Leeds, where rows of 60 low-energy homes form a little oasis along a bend in the River Aire, a short walk from the city centre.

Built in a factory across the road, these terrace houses are made from super-airtight timber panels stuffed full of wood-fibre insulation, with triple-glazed windows and solar panels on the roof, each erected in less than a week. Using up to 10 times less energy than a conventional house, their heating demand is so low that they create excess electricity that is fed into a community grid and used to charge shared electric cars. There will soon be 1,000 such homes here, along with a combined primary school and care home, as well as a timber office building with yoga decks and a tennis court on the roof, together forming the pioneering Climate Innovation District.

A few years ago these houses would have been experimental one-offs. But a green-design campaign group has calculated there are as many as 30,000 low-carbon homes in the pipeline, an impressive turnaround in which the industry is leading the way, ahead of government regulation.

The Solar Avenue development backs on to the River Aire. Photograph: Citu

“The way we build housing in the UK hasn’t changed much since the Victorian era,” says Chris Thompson, the founder of Citu, the developer behind the Leeds project, which plans to build 500 low-energy homes a year. “It’s all driven by perceived risk. Anyone looking to build something has to answer to a funder, who’ll use valuers to ensure that what you’re proposing has a market.”

Shifting the mindset of such a risk-averse industry can seem like an insurmountable challenge, not helped by the government dragging its heels on policy changes. But now, after scrapping Labour’s zero-carbon homes target in 2015, the Conservative government has finally developed a future homes standard, which will mandate all new homes to be “zero-carbon-ready” – although not until 2025 at the earliest.

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Green homes grant will meet only tiny fraction of target in England

The government’s flagship green homes grant scheme will help just 8% of its target 600,000 households switch to renewable energy by the end of March, analysis reveals.

The £2bn for the scheme is being withdrawn at the end of next month. Analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit thinktank reveals that at the current rate it will issue vouchers to just 49,000 members of the public by that time.

This equates to an annual carbon saving of 26,000 tonnes, or 0.4% of UK residential sector emissions.

In 2021-22 the chancellor has said a far smaller amount – £320m – will be available for the green homes grant programme. At the current rate of approval that would mean 124,000 households would be given grants to make their homes more energy efficient and less carbon intensive by March 2022, 20% of the promised 600,000 households.

The green grants for England were promoted by Boris Johnson as a key plank in his 10-point plan for a green recovery. Forty per cent of UK emissions come from households, and the government promised the programme would help 600,000 householders cut energy bills and CO2 emissions while supporting 100,000 jobs.

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