Smart meters are providing California households with their hourly and daily energy use information for the first time. Consumers use less electricity, studies have shown, when they can see that data. But getting them to pay attention to energy in the first place may be the biggest hurdle.
The largest energy user in the United States is the U.S. Military. Its annual energy bill runs about $15 billion dollars a year, which is why the Department of Defense has developed a keen interest in finding other ways to meet its energy needs, including investing in alternative energy.
Coal produces nearly half the electricity in the U.S., but the mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide it emits also makes it one of the most controversial energy sources. For many environmental activists, coal represents an old, dirty source of power, but for coal-mining communities around the country, the story is different.
Coal generates half of all the electricity in the U.S. It’s also the biggest source of global-warming emissions and other air pollution. The coal industry says the answer is not to phase out coal, but instead to produce “clean coal.” Anne Glausser of QUEST Ohio reports on the difficult path for clean coal.
Half of the airborne mercury pollution in the US comes from coal-fired power plants. After years of study and debate, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to announce new limits on mercury from coal plants in November. Meanwhile, utilities are scrambling to meet other new federal regulations and industry groups are asking the government to slow down.
California is known for its "green" reputation, so it might be a surprise that residents in Southern California still depend on coal power when they turn on the lights.
Over the last 15 years, more than a billion dollars has been spent to protect Lake Tahoe's clear waters from runoff and erosion. Now, new threats to lake's clarity are emerging, just as restoration funding is drying up.
The Bay Area's vast Hetchy Hetchy system, "a dream in granite, concrete, and steel," is getting an overhaul. The system carries water 167 miles from Yosemite to Bay Area taps; pretty soon that voyage will include the Bay's first true tunnel.
One of the most ambitious wetland restoration projects in the country is underway in San Francisco Bay. Thousands of acres of those ponds are being restored for shorebirds and wildlife.
Every year, only 18-percent of all American electronic waste is recycled, according to the EPA. Hoping to cut down on the growing mountain of high-tech trash, two dozen states have passed laws that require the electronics industry to pay to set up recycling programs. But navigating this patchwork of legislation has been a challenge.
Companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Heinz ketchup have determined that plastic made from plants — not oil — makes sense both for the environment and for business. The growing demand has meant a boom in the bioplastic industry. Could this mean the end of the plastic bottle as we know it?
Here's one silver lining to a slow economy: High recycling rates. Americans are wasting far less, and recycling far more. Nowhere is the trend as strong as in California. As Amy Standen reports, this change is sending ripple effects throughout the economy.
Supercomputers are becoming increasingly vital to modeling complex scientific problems. As they get bigger, they're also becoming massive energy hogs, using as much power as small cities. Now, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab are hoping reduce that energy load through an unusual source: the technology in your cell phone.