Detroit, the Great American Experiment

I don’t know if anyone else caught a segment about Detroit on ABC News World News Tonight the end of last week. I caught it. It was short and fast, but yet I was excited by the quick glimpse of what I did see. It was about plans to clear the blight and rebuild Detroit. So I dug around more and found an article on about plans in the making for Detroit that’s being called the Great American Experiment and that it beats anything going on anywhere else in the country. It would include 1200 new businesses collectively.

Everyone in Michigan probably knows by now that there are plans to tear down the empty buildings in Detroit beginning with vacant homes. That’s quite a feat because Detroit in square miles is huge compared to its population, (900,000 down from 2 million at one time). Detroit is so big San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan could fit inside of it. Once they are gone the amount of empty acreage provides an unusual oppotunity for Detroit with endless possibilites, one of which is to become the country’s greenest city.

Watch the video.

The article on went on to talk about some of the plans for Detroit and all that bare acreage, “Detroit is particularly well suited to become a pioneer in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.” That’s where a businessman named John Hantz comes in. He has plans for Detroit that would include pods of farms around the city complete with lakes, 7 lakes. This isn’t your grandpa’s farm either. The urban farm would be the latest technology with the help of Michigan State University, and a futuristic wonder to behold. There would be nothing like it in the world. The local farms would provide clean jobs, and fresh produce to local markets and restaurants in a city currently devoid of decent super markets of any type. Imagine the restaurants that would accumulate around those lakes drawing more and more business and entertainment. People would be drawn to see it:

Detroit, the Great American Experiment

I believe Detroit will have its urban farming at some level, since there are already around 900 small gardens, (1/4 acre), strewn about. We know the will is there. To the extent Hantz wants to do it—we’ll see. Detroit demographer Kurt Metzger sees small communities connected by bike and walking paths with parks along the way. Detroit has a habit of getting embroiled in arguments whenever big developments are in the plans.

In any event there will be plenty of land to develop in the near future as progress to tear down 3,000 decrepit homes is set to start soon. Watch the whole ABC news segment about Detroit.


Powerful Investors Demand Climate Change Action Immediately

Today, a group of U.S., European, and Australian investors who “represent $13 trillion in assets, called for “a price on carbon emissions” and “well-designed carbon markets” to provide “a cost-effective way of achieving emissions reductions,” according to an article on ENS.

They cited the fact that “some 85 percent of the financial resources needed to cope with climate challenges must come from private sources. In effect, the battle over climate change will be won – or lost – in the hands of private investors.” But they also recanted that no one will put a foot forward without governments playing a role. Policies create a stable investment environment. Only policy can make clean energy cost-competitive with fossil fuel.

The investors claim they and others like them are ready to stoke clean energy investments if governments begin to implement strong policies and quickly. It seems they are encouraged by the fact that China, India, and the U.S. came to a verbal agreement in Copenhagen, but they want more and now. What is needed most from national and state legislatures is “transparency, longevity and certainty.” That would be a strong RPS as far as the states are concerned. Michigan doesn’t have one as yet thanks to our Republican Senate who trashed that effort at the last minute. It wasn’t even a strong RPS, but it was better than none at all.

These guys aren’t fooling around. As stated: “We underscore the importance of concluding a legally-binding agreement this year with comprehensive long-term measures for mitigation, forest protection, adaptation, finance, and technology transfer, including a global emission reduction target of 50-85% by 2050, consistent with estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

They are investors after all and they estimate that transforming to clean energy is completely doable.

In their statement, the investors observed that the costs of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are “both affordable and significantly lower than the costs of inaction.” [] The UNFCCC Secretariat estimates that more than $200 billion in total additional investment capital for mitigation is required each year by 2030 just to return greenhouse gases to their current levels by then.

The International Energy Agency estimates that additional investment of $10.5 trillion is needed globally in just the energy sector from 2010-2030 to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at around 450 parts per million, the investors noted.

This equates to roughly 0.1% of the total value of world financial assets and approximately 0.23% of the total value of debt and equity securities, so this is certainly an achievable level of investment – and one that would yield returns in terms of energy savings, energy security, reduced capital expenditures for pollution control, and avoided climate damages, they said. But it is also well above current investment levels.

So there you have it. People with deep pockets other than OIL/COAL/LUMBER that want to go green “yesterday.”

Read the article:


New Urbanism; the Most Important Green Trend for 2010

I happened across Original Green’s website and spotted an article “The Green Top 10 for 2010″ relative to issues about sustainability. The trends described come from Steve Mouzon, a new urbanist architect that see his predictions coming to fruition over the next decade. They are in New Year’s countdown mode starting with:

# 10 Offshoring Reversal

There will be more interest in not only buying American but buying local as fuel costs make shipping products thousands of miles less cost effective as producing it ourselves.

# 9 The Sustainability of Preservation

Saving a building is in essence saving the environment as one headline of this article
stated: “The greenest brick is the one that’s already in the wall.” There is a trend to develop a viable method to “factor in the true value of preservation, both within the U.S. Building Council and elsewhere, because how can we say that we’re being green if we keep throwing buildings away?”

Another headline here is that GE targets net zero energy homes by 2015. These homes will sport photovoltaic sources, and windto produce energy. There will be efficient lighting, and on demand appliances, a place for energy storage, water filtration systems, a heat pump water heater utilizing the geothermal heat pumps that also contribute energy to the home. All is controlled through a master energy manager control panel and monitored with a smart meter for the home’s input/output to a smart grid.

#8 Gizmo Green Gets Exposed

This trend stems from the realization that going green is expensive and what with the economy the way it is, greening up homes to lower utility costs probably won’t happen as quickly as returning to passive heating and cooling methods.

If you’ve kept up with my blogs, I’ve blogged more than once that even on the coldest days in the winter if the sun is out in full, I shut off my main heat, open my blinds to 12 ft. of southern exposed windows, as well as, my front door. The sun warms the entire front of my house! That’s passive heating. In the summer we utilize 2 overhead fans, awnings, and shades to keep cool without a/c. Block the sun, and you will usually block the heat. True passive cooling would only use natural breezes, but my overhead fans use far less power than a/c.

#7 The Meltdown Vacuum

Because the construction industry and all related industries took a hit during this economy, overdevelopment of strip malls and subdivisions has stopped. What the arrested economy and construction business really did was bolster the courage of do it yourself homeowners. The advent of more and more do it yourself cable shows for home improvement wannabes unleashed a grassroots construction industry that is expected to keep growing.

#6 A Return to Gardening

Gardening is a real no brainer for anyone who cooks every night and wants to be economical and healthy. Usually people who would have a garden are also people who eat crops du jour “of the day.” Whatever is ripe is what is eaten that evening. By eating seasonal crops and buying locally when weather doesn’t permit a garden, we get a greater variety of natural vitamins and minerals, and many times without the pesticide problem. It’s cheaper, healthier, and easier to have a garden no matter how small. Believe me, I hate paying $3 for a bunch of fresh basil for a recipe when in the summer… Home gardening looks to increase everywhere even in urban landscapes.

#5 The ReCoding of a City

This trend reverses urban sprawl where going just about anywhere, to a convenience store, or the doctor’s office requires riding in a vehicle. The zoning code that works to reverse urban sprawl and concentrate people in cityscapes again is called the “Smart Code.” As the article states: “2010 looks like it might be the year that’s the tipping point with cities choosing this very smart way to reverse the tide of sprawl and make green cities possible.”

#4 The Return of Durability

Another no-brainer for me. In this post-melt-down economy people will return to buying better and more durable products to avoid tossing and buying new again because they simply can’t afford it. The article says: “High consumption is unsustainable.” Could our bulging trash dumps be an indicator?

#3 The Emergence of the Live-Work

We will either be working from home via the Internet or walking to work because the office is in the neighborhood once again, at least close enough to get there without the use of a car.

#2 The Big Convergence

There are three major components that mark this era happening right now, “the Meltdown, Peak Oil, and Climate Change.” This economic downturn ruined people. It was truly an economic meltdown. We know that oil has indeed peaked in production and is a finite source that will not last forever. And finally, climate change reality may be taking a back seat to economic suffering now but the “convergence” of all three of these things has created quite a movement, and an opportunity to return to what Mouzon calls “a Golden Age… something that would have been impossible in our previous sprawling, over-consuming, debt-ridden condition.”

#1 The New City

This is the top trend. It’s really a return to the old urban neighborhood where you walked to work, shops, school, clinics, and church. Entertainment and restaurants are within easy reach too. The only twist is that the rooftops of urban buildings will more than likely sport solar panels and wind turbines while grass and trees replace tarry surfaces. And anywhere there is available space to contain earth material a garden will grow.

Read the whole article:


Hierarchy of Needs Explains Our Attitude Toward Climate Change

The bad weather we had last week wreaked havoc on my broadband signal. I could go online only so long and then nada. There were new things that came up that I was going to blog about first but since the Copenhagen climate summit has begun with a lot of controversy I figured I would write about it.

I watched Governor Schwarzenegger of California on Good Morning America reporting from the conference. He was asked about former Governor Palin’s comment that we should boycott the summit because it will hurt the economy. The reporter then stated that 7 out of 8 people in the U.S. want the economy fixed first before climate change is addressed.

The first thing I thought about was Maslow’s hierarchy of needs most people recall from psychology class. A big chunk of the U.S. population is currently stuck in the first two levels of this hierarchy that states needs like breathing, food, and water must be fulfilled before humans move on to concerns about safety/security, which is home/shelter, one’s health, and EMPLOYMENT.

Mind you Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the basis for his “Theory of Human Motivation.” At the moment we’re not motivated to help others because we’re busy looking to fulfill basic needs.  The 3rd tier is the need for personal friendship, family, and love, which still concerns self more than anything. It isn’t until the two upper tiers that we find that the self esteem and confidence gained through tackling the first 3 levels finally allows us to think of others. It encompasses both respect for others and respect FROM others. The top tier relates to morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, no prejudice, and acceptance of facts.’s_hierarchy_of_needs.

So it’s not surprising that 7 out of 8 people in the U.S. want the economy fixed first and foremost. Doing that would greatly scale down the journey to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy where we feel good enough in our own boots to help the world. Unfortunately, these same people fail to realize that one of the quickest ways to satisfy our basic needs and jump start our economy is to simultaneously tackle global warming, which would unleash green industry.

As governor Schwarzenegger stated, “The fastest growing economic sector in his state of California is green industry.” They have a 33% renewable energy goal that is driving it. Time Magazine devoted the cover of their Nov. 2nd issue to this fact. It was titled: Why California is Still America’s Future. Inside it stated that California is “still the cutting edge of the American future—economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally, and maybe politically. It’s the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions…an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech, and now clean tech.”

The New York Times this summer ran an article highlighting a Pew Charitable Trusts Study about the steady, fast growing “clean energy economy,” and that it’s poised for explosive growth.

Although the green sector may be poised for explosive growth, the fossil fuel industry is poised to stall that growth by throwing millions at congress in the coming year. In 2009 when global climate change and alternative energy took a back seat to job loss and health care, the fossil fuel industry still spent $120 million to weaken energy bills in their favor, and back skeptics. Their biggest fear is that the more green sector jobs created the more people realize a quick green economic fix  with the added bonus of cleaner air, water, and food. And the more the green sector grows the lower the costs of alternative energy. The opportunities are great and varied. As the New York Times stated: “Everyone from energy-efficiency consultants to wastewater plant operators” will be needed.

The green sector might do well to disavow itself from the global climate arena and stand on its own merits. In and of itself green industry should be viewed as competition for the fossil fuel industry, part of America’s free market system, and a vehicle for creating a plethora of jobs quickly. U.S. economic health hinges on our ability to constantly move forward, improve, and produce not only for greatest profit but with concern for citizen’s health.

The question posed to our citizenry should be, “Do you want green jobs now that will mean a secure future for all,  or continue with polluting industry and an uncertain future? Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy, the top levels deal with respect for others and from others.  The Copenhagen conference started out with controversy when developing nations walked out of talks due to disdain for countries like the U.S. who are simply not doing enough.  Americans are not thinking about “respect” for or from others, a shame since we do have a great opportunity at this time to cover all bases—create jobs and get back to work, become secure homeowners again, and be creative spontaneous innovators that garner respect from the world again because we have shown that same respect.

As for the skeptics, until they can explain

  • The massive iceberg floating past a drought stricken Australia
  • The complaints of almost ½ million people on the island nations of Kiribati and the Maldives that the sea is rising
  • The melting glaciers everywhere that are already causing water shortages in some countries



Algae the New Green Crude

Algae is promising as a 100% carbon neutral alternative to gas so much so it is being dubbed “Green Crude.” Its chemical composition is the same as gas. I wrote a blog about algae a year ago that it did indeed look like the way of the future. The future is here already. An algae fueled Prius (there is gasoline in the engine too) just crossed 3750 miles of America this month with fantastic mpg.

I saw the car on Good Morning America today and was happy to see how quickly algae is being adopted as a viable fuel. I recently wrote about the U.S. military’s testing algae as jet fuel but figured it would be a long while before we saw anything like this.

Many people know about algae, but so many more do not and will be totally surprised by it. I was recently shopping for a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and asked if the one I was test-driving could use biofuel, which is available for this model. The sales person said no that the biofuel business is pretty much dying out blah, blah, blah. I said corn for sure but what about algae? I got that look from him. Even I wondered why I blurted out that particular and peculiar type of fuel as an example. I hadn’t heard much about it lately except the blog about the military’s interest in it. But then algae as fuel appeared on a segment of Good Morning America today.

According to GMA’s website, “Josh Tickell is the creator of the Veggie Van Organization and director of “Fuel,” which was honored as best documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.” He also created the “Algaeus,” the Prius that just crossed America on green crude. With very little modification, “he added a nickel metal hydride battery and a plug [],” the Algaeus got 147 miles per gallon in the city, and 52 mpg with a mix of algae and gas. The biggest thing is that the car only refueled 6 times during the 10-day trip. The Algaeus is capable of running on approximately 25 gallons of gas coast to coast.

So where do we get all this algae? Algae growth occurs naturally in bogs and swamps. Uh um, we could be tapping the methane emitted there too. There are also algae farms already in business. Sapphire Farms in New Mexico is one of them. Check out their website: People have asked me about green investments. Look around. If we unleash new technology instead of stifling it there will be plenty of new investment opportunities, more jobs, more avenues to explore, like algae farms. Who knew?


Labor Unions Celebrate Earth Week

The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, business, environmental, and community leaders are working to jump-start a clean energy revolution. They know that it will produce millions of jobs and help the economy. Apollo Alliance claims the Apollo Space program as its inspiration to “promote investments in energy efficiency, clean power, mass transit, next-generation vehicles, and emerging technology, as well as in education and training. Working together, we will reduce carbon emissions and oil imports, spur domestic job growth, and position America to thrive in the 21st century economy.”

That’s a real “we can” attitude. Among Apollo Alliance’s partners “focused on generating green collar jobs” are the nation’s union halls. The union program is called Earth Week in the Union Halls. It launched Saturday, April 18th with the goal of creating support from unions on a national level for clean energy investments and green collar job training.

The weeklong event of the participating 70 union halls nationwide will host the movie “The Greening of Southie” that I blogged about recently with video of the trailer. The DVD documents the trials of renovating an old Boston building into a green Boston building by union construction crews.

The Apollo Alliance website has quite a long article titled “How to Find a Green Job” that states:

The New Apollo Program is a comprehensive economic investment strategy to build America’s 21st century clean energy economy and dramatically cut energy bills for families and businesses. It will generate and invest $500 billion over the next ten years and create more than five million high quality green-collar jobs. It will accelerate the development of the nation’s vast clean energy resources and move us toward energy security, climate stability, and economic prosperity. And it will transform America into the global leader of the new green economy.

I’m impressed. And I know there are at least two big-time alliances like Apollo working toward the same goal. The article goes on to say that Americans are at a crossroads. Do we keep going with our outdated fossil fuel ideas that will ultimately come to an end some time in the future while putting us at greater and greater risk for severe climate conditions, or do we seize this time as an opportunity for change for the better. We will be healthier as a result of the earth becoming a healthier place. It’s really up to us.

We’re not doing so well now anyway. People are looking for new jobs and are willing to relocate. Many have little to nothing left because of the economic crunch while others have been victims of devastation from increasingly violent weather conditions already. Still others are looking ahead for their children’s health and well-being. What better time to change? And that’s what America decided in the last election. We just need to move forward and keep moving forward—no looking back.

The Apollo article and website might be helpful for many. There is much more to read at:


Survey of Professional Investors Reveals Optimism for Green Investments


Progressive Investor, a monthly newsletter for green investors/analysts, did a survey that showed green investors hanging onto their mutual funds and ETFs (exchange traded funds), and buying more since the beginning of the year despite the massive withdrawal of other U.S. mutual funds at 10 times the norm. A survey of institutional investors representing over $1 trillion in assets, found that 49% are “more likely” or “much more likely” to increase their exposure to clean energy now than they were a year ago. Another 46% said their intentions haven’t changed, and just 5% said they’re “less likely” or “much less likely” to invest more in clean energy.


An article on ENS website about the survey stated: In 2008, many green mutual funds, ETFs and individual stocks sunk 50-80%, while the Dow shed about 40%. But green investors can also expect their portfolios to rise higher than the overall market as it recovers.

While the Dow is up 21% from its low in early March, CLEAN TECH INDEXES are up 30%. Green building stocks are up 11.6% in the past two weeks, exceeding the 7.9% increase registered by the S&P 500 and NASDAQ.


The article highlighted the info from Progressive Investor. I would say that anyone serious about investing should subscribe to this newsletter.  It has some interesting information like identifying 2009 green investment trends, and green stocks that should outperform in 2009 such as:


Solar: First Solar (FSLR), SunPower (SPWR)
Wind: Vestas (VWS.CO), Gamesa (GAM.MC)

Geothermal: Ormat (ORA), WaterFurnace (WFI.TO)
Smart Grid: IBM (IBM), Itron (ITRI), EnerNoc (ENOC)
Energy Efficient Buildings: Owens Corning (OC), Baldor Electric (BEZ), ICF International (ICFI)
Water: TetraTech (TTEK), Northwest Pipe (NWPX)


For more interesting information goto:


For Progressive Investor:







The Need for Crude May Disappear Within a Decade

Professor Rose Ann Cattolico of the University of Washington began her study of algae back when the other fuel crisis hit in 1973. Only unlike those that eventually gave up the search for alternative fuels Cattolico continued on for more than 30 years.

The results of her tenacity may help the entire world shed their need for crude in a very short period. For the U.S. it may happen within a decade. Her studies are so promising that according to an article on UW News website, “Allied Minds, an investment company that works with universities to commercialize early-stage technology, invested in the University of Washington biology professor’s work, forming a startup company called AXI.”

What Prof. Cattolico basically did was create an entire database of different types of algae. Different algaes produce lipids, or oil, as a result of photosynthesis. All algaes are different so that one type of algae may produce oil that is perfect for two stroke engines, another for home fuel, and another for jet or car fuel. There are so many forms of algae that genetic engineering is unnecessary.

Cattolico stated, “Algae grow rapidly and do not require the use of productive farmland. Algae also can use various nutritional sources, including wastewater.” What a boon to be able to use wastewater to feed the algae. If it works in anyway like biodigestion, the effluent and/or any solids leftover are pure fertilizer.

According to Erick Rabins of AXI, “Entire infrastructures, from specialized growing facilities to processing plants, will have to be created. [] The most optimistic assessment that I’ve heard is that it could be six to eight years before there’s something that’s useable, but the tools and techniques to make it possible are being created right now.” he said.

The professor emphasizes what many environmentalists have been saying all along: “What we need is a Manhattan Project for fuel. If we can get a Manhattan Project for fuel, it won’t take 25 years.”


Shell Oil to Invest Big in New Energy

Marvin Odum, the new president of Shell Oil, the second largest oil company, said that Shell would be investing big in alternative energy todayon ABC news. How big is big? More than their reported net profits of $27 billion. Incredible. I did a blog that did the math for the percentages that have been offered up by the top 5 oil companies in the recent past. It didn’t amount to a hill-of-beans compared to net profits.

But Shell is stepping up to the plate with the largest investment in alternative energy so far by the oil industry. Odum said it was historic. I would say so. Shell will invest $35 to $36 billion dollars yet in 2008.

Yesssss!With this mindset,and example, we may just clean up yet.


DTE Venture Fund to Invest Billions in Alternative Energy

I can’t believe it, but for whatever reason, DTE is going green. They are poised to invest billions in alternative energy for Michigan and from what I gathered of the Detroit Free Press article in yesterday’s Sunday paper, it is to help jumpstart Michigan’s economy. Actually, it said it was: “boosting the state’s efforts to become a leader in this rapidly growing market.” It can’t be talking about our senate’s recent efforts. It looks more like this is another example of the market driving environmentalism. The company couldn’t have made a more timely decision.

The article went on to say that DTE would invest $3 billion dollars over the next 6-7 years. This hinges on the state passing the mandate to insure 10% of Michigan’s electricity comes from renewable sources. The article reiterated that there are major differences between the senate and house energy bills, and that unless these differences are resolved, Michigan will continue to lose out on environmental jobs.

DTE recognizes the potential for job growth, reduction in global warming, and energy independence by going green. The company is taking up the slack on wind power in Michigan that the latest round of energy bills through the senate seemed to dismiss. The “bulk of DTE’s multibillion-dollar investments will be in wind power.” The wind farms will be in the thumb region, the western side of the state, as well as, the possibility of a wind farm in Huron County.

DTE said it has begun to make multimillion dollar investments into its venture capital fund for alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuels, but also new technologies and solutions, power storage, and companies that produce equipment like meters that monitor electricity use.This venture fund, formed in 1995,has not been active for the past few years, and is one of the few corporate venture funds available in the state “focused on alternative energy.”

Recently, Ihappened to find a 1997 congressional presentation by many companies, including DTE, andfrom many states relative to alternative energy innovation. DTE presented some pretty advanced technology way back then. I’ve followed one of their investments, a company that produces hydrogen fuel cell extractors. It’sreallyadvanced technology.

What I find interesting is that these absolutely wonderful alternative ideas for energy presented to our federal congress back in the mid to late 90’s that were either ready to be developed further, marketed, and/or sold, just got shelved for years during the Bush administration. It looks like a big “Green Thumb” kept wraps on new technology entering the general public milieu even though the Texas ranch uses geothermal energy, and I wouldn’t doubt Cheney’s digs are eco friendly too. DTE just admitted their alternative energy venture fund has been on hold. It was obviously waiting on politics and/or the market.

I wonder if this new push to go green by DTE has anything to do with a federal judge vacating the “Clean Air Mercury Rule” as just another way to move pollution around, while demanding that the EPA set new standards for mercury emissions in less than 2 years? That ruling has a direct impact on coal fired plants. That’s for sure. Or is DTE keen enough to see the writing on the wall that a new environmental economy will lure more money and investment into Michigan, a good thing for all business, and in which case DTE is doing what our congress should be doing. Or is another monopoly forming because the possibility exists that any home can get solar panels, or a wind turbine, or a bio-digester for methane gas production, or all three, and provide energy for itself in the future. That paints a pretty scary picture for big utility companies and great incentive to go green first.