GE Energy Financial Services and several other funders have invested $22 million in Project Frog, a San Francisco company that provides climate-sensitive design and fabrication of modular high-performance buildings ( Beacon Power, a Massachusetts company that received a $43 million federal loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy. The failure of the company, which develops energy storage systems, is likely to add to criticism of the federal government’s green energy initiatives (New York Times Green Blog). According to the Harcourt Brown & Carey blog, Sagewell, Inc., based in Boston, has developed the first mass-scale building envelope heat-loss imaging and analysis system.  Sagewell can image hundreds of properties per day (actual images are taken in the evening when people are more likely to be home) and their analysis can be used to rank order the heat loss of homes (and commercial buildings) so promoters of energy efficiency can market to the best candidates and motivate property owners to adopt energy efficiency. One of the stranger bills to be considered by Congress passed by a voice vote on Monday evening. Officially named the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, it essentially tells American airline carriers that it is illegal for them to participate in the European Union’s cap and trade system, which charges companies for producing emissions beyond their allotted limit (New York Times Green Blog).

Cap and Trade


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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photo credit: David Iliff, Wikimedia Commons

Cap and Trade (C&T) is also known as “pollution credits” or “emissions trading”. The basic premise of C&T is to provide a means for reaching mandatory pollution reduction targets in an incremental (and thus cost-saving) fashion. In a cap and trade system model, a regulatory entity (typically a governmental body) will assign a limit to the amount of pollution that certain high-impact industries can emit. High polluters can then essentially raise the ceiling on their allowable limits by engaging in a specialized market activity, i.e., buying shares or credits from those others who operate below their allowable limits. The regulatory limits are the “cap” and the market activity is the “trade”.

C&T activity is thus designed to reward those industries and companies that are aggressively exceeding their environmental performance goals, while charging a premium to those who do not stay within their assignations (because they have to purchase credits to make up for their overage). The idea is that purchasing pollution credits will literally buy time for polluters to clean up their act, and indeed a C&T program may include “caps” that step down over time to meet tighter standards.

While C&T is not limited to “greenhouse gas emissions” or carbon dioxide, the specialized trading done around these types of pollutants is one common example, and is referred to as a carbon market. Global carbon markets have taken off hugely among European and other nations that have signed the Kyoto Protocol (adopted in 1997, in force as of 2005) pledging targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Reactions to the Stalled U.S. Climate Bill


This edition of Friday links is dedicated to headlines about the stalling of Senate passage of a comprehensive U.S. climate bill.

The Economist provides a thorough overview of the situation and its implications for legislation, industry and legal tussles for years to come, here.

An article in Reuters puts the issue into its global context, here.

From the U.K. Guardian, Eric Pooley asks Where next for the wrecked U.S. climate bill?

And finally, the Huffington Post has a page dedicated to the climate bill, related photos and breaking coverage.

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