Bill may increase energy competitiveness

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Renewable energy companies could get some of the same tax and funding benefits that fossil fuel companies enjoy under a bill now before the U.S. Congress.

The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act would let renewable companies form businesses that are taxed as a partnership yet can be publicly traded as stock.

This means they could get more investment and pay less tax.

SAP takes environmental reporting to the cloud

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

German software giant SAP today announced two new products that will embrace the cloud to improve supply-chain management and regulatory compliance for manufacturers.

The news marks the latest attempt to make it easier for suppliers to provide data about their products, an increasingly difficult task as more corporations work to make their value chains more sustainable. Less than two weeks ago, EcoVadis and the Carbon Disclosure Project announced a partnership to help streamline the growing number of requests for supply-chain sustainability information.

US Mayors Support Extended Producer Responsibility for Mattresses

Read the full story in Construction & Demolition Recycling.

A consortium of U.S. mayors has publicly declared its support for extended producer responsibility (EPR) for mattresses, according to the Product Stewardship Institute Inc. (PSI), a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the health and environmental impacts of consumer products.

Biochar group releases results of sustainability survey

Read the full story in Canadian Biomass.

The International Biochar Initiative has released selected responses to a broad-based sustainability survey conducted in September of this year that asked for greatest potential benefit of using biochar, and to point out the most pressing needs for rapid commercialization and market penetration.

Three recent biochar research articles

Yi Cheng; Zu-cong Cai; Scott X. Chang; Jing Wang; Jin-bo Zhang (2012). “Wheat straw and its biochar have contrasting effects on inorganic N retention and N2O production in a cultivated Black Chernozem.” Biology and Fertility of Soils. 48(8), 941-948. DOI: 10.1007/s00374-012-0687-0

Abstract: A laboratory incubation experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of direct incorporation of either wheat straw or its biochar into a cultivated Chernozem on gross N transformations calculated by the 15N pool dilution technique and nitrous oxide (N2O) production rates. Incorporation of wheat straw stimulated gross NH 4 + (ammonium) and NO 3 (nitrate) immobilization rates by 302 and 95.2 %, respectively, suppressed gross nitrification rates by 32.2 %, and increased N2O production by 37.7 %. In contrast, the addition of a biochar produced from the wheat straw did not influence any of the above N cycling processes. Therefore, application of biochar could be a possible management strategy for long-term C sequestration (through soil storage of stable C contained in the biochar) in soils without increasing N2O production rates, but could not effectively immobilize NO 3 in the soil.

Mark J. Gronnow; Vitaliy L. Budarin; Ondřej Maše; Kyle N. Crombie; Peter A. Brownsort; Peter S. Shuttleworth;
Peter R. Hurst; James H. Clark (2012). “Torrefaction/biochar production by microwave and conventional slow pyrolysis – comparison of energy properties.” GCB Bioenergy Published online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.12021.

Abstract: The energy efficiency of torrefaction/pyrolysis of biomass to fuel/biochar was studied using conventional (slow) and microwave (low temperature) pyrolysis. Conventional pyrolysis is approximately three times as energy efficient as microwave pyrolysis, in terms of the energy required to process a unit of feedstock. However, this is more than compensated for by the higher energy content of the condensable and gaseous coproducts from microwave pyrolysis, as these can be utilized to generate the electricity required to drive the process. It is proposed that the most efficient method of torrefaction/biochar production is a combination of conventional heating with ‘catalytic’ amount of microwave irradiation.

D.N. Mulcahy; D.L. Mulcahy; D. Dietz (2012). “Biochar soil amendment increases tomato seedling resistance to drought in sandy soils.” Journal of Arid Environments 88,. 222-225. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2012.07.012.

Abstract: Expanding aridity threatens agriculture in much of the world. Small farms (less than two hectares) produce 90% of the food in Eastern and Southern Africa and provide 70% of employment for women in the Least Developed Countries. Aridity thus endangers both food production and the employment of women. One possible solution is the addition of biochar, a highly porous pryrolysed biomass which is well documented to help retain water and nutrients in soils. Most current literature, however, proposes quantities of biochar which are beyond reach of small farms. The purpose of this research was thus to develop a method which would allow small amounts of biochar to provide significant protection for plants in their most vulnerable stage, the seedling. The test species was the cultivated tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) because this is an important crop for subsistence farmers, and the seedlings are highly susceptible to drought. The results demonstrate that, in sandy substrates, 30% (v/v) biochar, concentrated in seedling root zones, significantly increases seedling resistance to wilting. Normal cooking can produce about 500 g of biochar a day and thus make possible increased wilting resistance for over 4000 tomato seedlings each year. This benefit is therefore within the reach of a demographic whose success is critically important to global sustainability.

Chicago Offers Model For Sustainable Urban Design

Read the full story at

Can the asphalt jungle be reengineered to help communities reduce pollution and conserve water?

The greening of a “street” may not sound like much, but a 1.5-mile stretch of road in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood is being lauded as the greenest street in America – as an example of how cities can use sustainable design principles to improve the urban ecosystem.

The street is the first to use an innovative new roadway material called photocatalytic cement. UV light is absorbed by the material – it keeps the surface clean and it removes nitrogen oxide from the surrounding air.

The streetscape also includes Chicago’s first permanent wind/solar powered pedestrian lights and LED light poles – just two of the features that helped reduce energy consumption associated with the redesign by 42%.

Goodbye cars: Reducing Microsoft’s carbon footprint

Read the full story in Sustainable Industries.

Getting people out of their cars is a huge part of how a company can reduce its environmental footprint. That’s why Microsoft introduced The Connector five years ago. The Connector is a shuttle service for Puget Sound-based Microsoft employees that now has 22 routes throughout metropolitan Seattle. The service allows our employees to find a dependable way to get to work that gets them out of traffic and out of their cars, while providing perks like a guaranteed seat and wi-fi to get work done during their commute.