How companies at CES are taking on climate change (or pretending to)

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

I can’t get it out of my head: A honkingly big Caterpillar sign that read, “JOIN US AS WE BUILD A BETTER WORLD.” The digital recruitment billboard at CES 2023 followed promos for an autonomous compactor and excavator, and proceeded another callout: “CHECK OUT OUR BIG AUTONOMOUS TRUCK.”

I did, and boy was it ever.

A “better world” could mean anything in corporate-speak, but in this case, the company is talking specifically about sustainability — and using aspirational language to distance itself from a fossil-fueled role in carving up the earth. Like Caterpillar, many of the exhibitors I saw as I walked the tech-show floor seemed to be rinsing their brands via earthly taglines, stock photos of crops and sunbeams, plastic trees and/or AstroTurf. I find this sort of thing especially distracting now that climate is my main beat, and that’s unfortunate, because there was still lots of intriguing climate (and adjacent) tech on display this year, tucked in among the vague evocations of nature.

USDA accepts applications for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

USDA is making $300 million available under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to expand renewable energy and support energy-efficiency projects for people living in rural America. This funding includes $250 million provided by the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic legislative package known as the Inflation Reduction Act. The application deadline is March 31, 2023.

USDA is seeking applications for Fiscal Year 2023 funding. Two significant changes to this additional funding include an increase in the maximum Federal grant share from 25% to 40% of total project cost and an increase of maximum grant amounts from $250,000 to $500,000 for energy efficiency projects and an increase from $500,000 to $1,000,000 for renewable energy systems. Projects in underserved areas are prioritized for funding under this notice.

Agricultural producers and rural small businesses are eligible applicants for loan guarantees and grants to develop renewable energy systems and to make energy efficiency improvements. State and local governments, federally-recognized tribes, land-grant colleges or universities or other institutions of higher education, rural electric cooperatives, public power entities, and Resource Conservation & Development Councils (as defined in 16 USC §3451) are eligible applicants for grants to conduct energy audits and provide development assistance.

To discuss potential projects and ask questions about the REAP program or the application process, contact your local USDA Rural Development State Energy Coordinator.

FTC seeks public comment on potential updates to its ‘Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims

The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it is seeking public comment on potential updates and changes to the Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Claims. The Commission’s Green Guides help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Commission seeks to update the guides based on increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products.

“Consumers are increasingly conscious of how the products they buy affect the environment, and depend on marketers’ environmental claims to be truthful,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “We look forward to this review process, and will make any updates necessary to ensure the Green Guides provide current, accurate information about consumer perception of environmental benefit claims. This will both help marketers make truthful claims and consumers find the products they seek.”

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and were revised in 1996, 1998, and 2012. They provide guidance on environmental marketing claims, including how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims to avoid deceiving consumers.

The FTC is requesting general comments on the continuing need for the guides, their economic impact, their effect on the accuracy of various environmental claims, and their interaction with other environmental marketing regulations. The Commission also seeks information on consumer perception evidence of environmental claims, including those not in the guides currently.

Specific issues on which the FTC expects to get many public comments include:

  • Carbon Offsets and Climate Change: The current Guides provide guidance on carbon offset and renewable energy claims. The Commission invites comments on whether the revised Guides should provide additional information on related claims and issues.
  • The Term “Recyclable:” Among other things, the FTC seeks comments on whether it should change the current threshold that guides marketers on when they can make unqualified recyclable claims, as well as whether the Guides should address in more detail claims for products that are collected (picked up curbside) by recycling programs but not ultimately recycled.
  • The Term “Recycled Content:” Comments are requested on whether unqualified claims about recycled content – particularly claims related to “pre-consumer” and “post industrial” content – are widely understood by consumers, as well as whether alternative methods of substantiating recycled content claims may be appropriate; and
  • The Need for Additional Guidance: The Commission also seeks comment on the need for additional guidance regarding claims such as “compostable,” “degradable,” ozone-friendly,” “organic,” and “sustainable, as well as those regarding energy use and energy efficiency.

list of recent cases brought relating to topics covered by the guides can be found on the FTC’s website.

The Commission vote approving the publication of a Federal Register notice announcing the opening of the public comment period was 4-0, with Chair Lina M. Khan issuing a separate statement. The notice has been published in the Federal Register and the FTC is accepting comments for 60 days. Information about how to submit comments can be found in the Federal Register notice.

Pinch of salt: Keep exploring alternatives to de-ice roads, sidewalks

Read the editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times.

While neither the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department, nor the Illinois Department of Transportation is expected to completely cut out road salt, there should be a continual push to reduce the amount used by experimenting with more environmentally friendly products.

Can zero-emission delivery zones cut traffic, pollution and greenhouse gases?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Support is increasing for zero-emission delivery zones, areas in which only zero-emission vehicles have unrestricted access, a scalable climate solution.

We’re not lion: The 2022 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are a good laugh

Read the full story from NPR.

From a salmon punching a bear in the face to a penguin that seems to have no head, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards announced its winners this year.

The organization fields thousands of submissions for each of its photo categories: creatures of the land, creatures of the air, creatures of the sea, a junior award for photographers 18 years old or under, an internet portfolio award, and a people’s choice award.

Leaky air ducts can undermine heat-pump performance. Aeroseal has a fix

Read the full story at Canary Media.

After decades of steady growth, a tech that seals air ducts from the inside out may be poised to take off, thanks to new heat-pump and efficiency incentives.

Twin Cities electric vehicle car-share program finds success after false start

Read the full story from Energy News Network.

A General Motors recall forced the Evie electric car-share service to suspend operations last fall. But after a February relaunch, the program is finding momentum, its supporters say.

Great Lakes platform aims to be a go-to source for waterway data

Read the full story at Centered.

Data is everywhere, and more is being collected as sensors and other Internet of Things devices become more common. The Great Lakes Observing System launched Seagull, a cloud-based platform, to give people in the Great Lakes region access to a plethora of real-time data about their surrounding waterways.

Seagull brings together data harvested from the region’s diverse sources into a unified, accessible platform. Some of the hundreds of sources include satellites, models, and sensor-equipped lake buoys. Seagull replaced GLOS’s legacy data portal that was not cloud-forward and had become outdated.

Renewables will overtake coal by Early 2025, energy agency says

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Worldwide, growth in renewable power capacity is set to double by 2027, adding as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the past two decades, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

Renewables are poised to overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation by early 2025, the report found, a pattern driven in large part by the global energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.