<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Green News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/green http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:37:35 -0700 Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:37:35 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Solar: Where the Jobs Are]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:42:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_energia_solar.jpg

Need a job?

Go up on the roof.

According to The Washington, DC-based Solar Foundation, the solar industry is about as hot as the sun powering it: Growing at a clip twenty times as fast as the rest of the US economy, putting 174,000 people now in the employ of solar companies.

The forecast is good, too. 2015 looks to be a good year to get a job in solar. According to The Foundation's Andrea Luecke, the jobs cover a wide diversity of backgrounds, and pay well: "The average is 22 dollars an hour," Luecke says, "and don't require a high degree of education. Companies want experience."

Meaning, if you can install, you've got a shot.

There is a catch, though. Part of the reason for all the jobs, and all the panels going up on houses, can be traced to government incentives. If those incentives go away (and they expire at the end of 2016), the industry will face, according to SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "Uncertainty. And it's hard to run a business when you're guessing about the future."

For now, if you need a job, no need to guess. Look to the sun.

Scott talks jobs and tech on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Getty Images for TakePart.org]]>
<![CDATA[Self-Driving Cars Rolling Close To Home]]> Wed, 14 May 2014 06:10:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/05-13-2014-driverless.jpg

They're not just for freeway driving anymore.

Those self-driving cars from Google are now roaming city streets, whirling through boulevards, and using technology to avoid obstacles in their path. 

Google let us roll around in the latest driverless vehicles, with Chris Urmson, director of the Self-Driving Car Project, who pointed out that, while new technology makes people nervous, "after five minutes, people will say, that's all it does? This will be common, once you get used to it."

Strangely, the self-driving update happened on the same day the authors of the book "Freakonomics," Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, released their own questions (from their newest book) about the driverless cars. For example: How many jobs will they eliminate? And will we "binge drink" because we won't have to drive?

Well, we asked. 

According to Alain Bertaud of NYU, some jobs will likely be lost, "especially, taxi drivers at airports," but not for some time -- after all, he says, self-driving cars will take awhile to catch on.

As for the drinking, Susan Shaheen, the Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley, says, "If someone wants to drink, this allows them to drink safely, without affecting other individuals."

Basically, Google is asking for patience as the cars gradually become part of our lives. Patience, and acceptance. They claim self-driving cars will be much safer, once we give the technology a chance.

Scott rolls on Twitter: @scottbudman 

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla To Launch New Bay Area Stores]]> Thu, 08 May 2014 19:10:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/05-06-2014-tesla-store.jpg

At this point, they're all over the Bay Area.

You simply can't cruise through a local city without spotting a Tesla (likely the Model S) out in the wild. It's becoming the luxury car of choice for the well-heeled, and now you'll have more chances to plop down close to six figures for one, if you're so inclined.

Tesla (TSLA) announced plans to officially open two new Bay Area stores this weekend, one in Corte Madera, and one in Walnut Creek.  

Teslas are, according to recent company earning reports, selling quickly, to the point where other car companies (BMW, Ford, etc) are now doing what they can to catch up.

Tesla stock is -- as I write -- above $200 a share, and Wall Street is eagerly watching for the company's latest earning report Wednesday afternoon.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Inside Apple's Server Farm]]> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 19:12:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ipad-release-store-stairs.jpg

Solar panels as far as the eye can see.

Giant boxes to process biogas fuel cells.

Welcome to the newest Apple facility.

Not a store with shiny devices, this is a data center in North Carolina that Apple gave us a chance to see. The company claims it will power the giant server farm with 100 percent renewable energy. That, given the huge energy demands of server centers these days, would be a feat.

There are estimates that close to two percent of all of our country's energy is spent on such farms to power devices that allow us to send photos, snapchats, and texts on a whim. With more devices, not to mention cars, powered by energy these days, the demands on our power grid look to increase by the day.

Apple says it can harness solar power, along with fuel cells from Silicon Valley's  Bloom Energy, to power its devices. Other companies, like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, use some solar power at their data centers. Apple wants to go 100% from renewable energy.

Says Lisa Jackson, who used to head the EPA, and now runs Apple's environmental efforts, "on sunny days, we can generate enough power to handle all our needs, and put extra power back on the grid."

It's an ambitious plan, that could eventually force other companies to follow suit. If that happens, all those powerful devices might sap a little less power from our grid.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Historic Photos of Air Pollution ]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 09:36:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/air-pollution-AP7004221649_7.jpg Click to see some fascinating images of air pollution throughout the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Oh, Man! 83% of Tesla Owners are Male]]> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:34:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tesla_models_car_red.jpg

We see a lot of Teslas on the roads here in Silicon Valley. They're everywhere.

And, if you peer into the windows, chances are very good that you'll see a man behind the wheel.

A new study from Edmunds.com (seen on MarketWatch in the Wall Street Journal) shows that, like Ram trucks, Aston Martins, and Lamborghinis, Teslas are overwhelmingly owned by men. 83 percent of Tesla owners, according to the study, are male.

Now, Teslas are without question status symbols. But don't women want them too? It's not a status that says "I'm a rock star," or, "I'm going to get a lot of women with this car," or, "I'm compensating for something..."

It seems to me that owning a Tesla says "I want to drive a cool luxury car that shows my wealth, and desire to drive without gas." 

Since when is that a dude thing?

Are there any women out there who want to disagree with the study? Are you looking to buy a Tesla? Let's hear it for Electric Ladyland .. at least, for 17 percent of us.

Scott is experienced on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Revolution 2.0: Getting Healthy Food Into Stores]]> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 19:14:28 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/vegetarian+school+lunch.jpg

If you have a child in school, chances are fairly good he or she has come in contact with Revolution Foods.

The company, headquartered in Oakland, has served some 75 million meals in school cafeterias since it was started by two former educators seven years ago.

All those school meals (and 1,000 jobs) later, Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey have a new target for their food: Stores. They're starting to hit Safeway, Whole Foods, and some others, with a massive runup due by the end of October.

The meals, known for being far healthier than a typical school lunch, are a hit in schools, and the two executives hope for similar success in stores. Their Oakland facilities are already bursting at the seams, and in an area known for bad news, this is a success story that looks to grow much bigger in the months and years to come.

Served with a dash of technology ("Social media is how we get feedback on what we do every day," says Richmond), Revolution Foods is aiming high, in a market dominated by established products  like Lunchables.  Can they continue to serve up success?

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

<![CDATA[Bee-Friendly Plants Actually Killing Them: Study]]> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 19:13:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bee_swarm_bees_generic_honey.jpg

Most of us worry about their stings, when the subject of bees comes up, but the buzz among researchers here in the Bay Area and abroad is the fact that their numbers are drastically dwindling.

A study released today by "Friends of the Earth" says that so-called "bee- friendly" plants, sold at local big box stores, are killing the insects with pesticides.

Terry Oxford is a San Francisco urban beekeeper who says that bees are in trouble and we have to do something about it now.

“I feel like most people don’t know that they pollinate up to 70 percent of our food. It’s interesting the types of food that they pollinate. It’s the sweetness of our life that we’re going to miss,” Oxford said.

Tim Brown is a part of the pesticide research institute and co-author of the study.

He says 13 samples of garden plants, purchased at top retailers like Home Depot and Orchard Supply in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C. and here in the Bay Area contained neuro-toxic pesticides known as neonics.

“The results of the study shows that about half of the composite samples we analyzed detected positive for these neotictinoids, which are potentially harmful toward bees,” Brown said. Researchers are blaming pesticides for the death of millions of bees all over the world potentially threatening the nation’s food supply.

“There is no more time. We have to make a stand now. Bees are in trouble,” Oxford said.

A spokesman for Home Depot told NBC Bay Area they haven’t reviewed the study yet.

"But we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population and will be reaching out to the study groups to learn more about their findings and methodology," Stephen Holmes said.

<![CDATA[Green Car Wash Sanitizes Without Soap]]> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 10:37:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/128401773.jpg A car wash in Arizona installed a water filtration tank allowing high levels of oxygen to sanitize the water they use to clean customers' cars — all without soap. An environmental engineer at Arizona State University is skeptical about the car wash's filtration system.]]> <![CDATA[Energy for Sale: Is It Worth It?]]> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 10:58:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000003170932_722x406_37270083593.jpg Door-to-door salesmen, telephone calls and direct mail, all trying to sell you electricity or natural gas. The pitches promise to save you money. They are called alternative energy suppliers. There have been more than 1,000 consumer complaints about them to Maryland and D.C. authorities so far this year, and we've been receiving emails asking whether these companies are real and are the deals worth it. CLICK HERE for a list of legitimate suppliers.]]> <![CDATA[Solar Impulse Airplane Leaves Texas, Bound for St. Louis]]> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 10:59:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0423solar1.JPG

 A solar-powered plane that spent more than a week in North Texas has departed on the third leg of its cross-country trip and will attempt to land in an inflatable hangar set up in the wake of last week's tornadoes.
The Solar Impulse took off early Monday from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport bound for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where a tornado had damaged several of the airport's buildings including the hangar reserved for the Solar Impulse. But postponing the flight, said Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, is not an option. Therefore, the two said in a release that they must take off Monday for a 21-hour flight, the longest flight to date, and will use its own "inflatable hangar" to park when it lands.

WATCH LIVE:      http://live.solarimpulse.com/
It's the first attempt by a solar plane capable of being airborne day and night without fuel to fly across the U.S.
The plane left Moffett Field in Mountain View on May 3 and landed the following day in Phoenix. The Solar Impulse departed Phoenix on May 22 and landed a day later in Texas.
The plane flies about 40 mph. The Texas to St. Louis leg is about 560 miles.
The end of the journey will be when the plane touches down at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Each flight leg normally takes 20 or so hours, with multiday stops in each city.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Embarcadero's Dying Palm Trees Leave Big Bills]]> Fri, 17 May 2013 06:34:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*123/palmtree1.jpg

When San Francisco’s quake-damaged Central Freeway met the wrath of the wrecking ball in the early nineties, it left a sprawling waterfront like a blank canvas. In the grand sprucing-up of the Embarcadero, the city lined the imposing roadway with more than 200 palm trees.

But now a disease is working its way through those trees, leaving many for dead and leaving San Francisco with a hefty replacement bill.

“The palm trees have something called Fusarium Wilt,” said S.F. Dept. Of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon. “Which is a highly contagious fungal disease that can ultimately kill the trees.”

The disease is a guaranteed death sentence. So far 26 of the Embarcadero’s 220 Canary Island palm trees are confirmed to have it.

Another 34 trees show symptoms of the disease. The city has replaced four of the trees with plans to replace another three before this summer’s America’s Cup Yacht Race. But like the trees themselves, the price tag is way up there.

“To replace these trees is about $35,000,” said Gordon. “That’s both to dig them up and to put in new palm trees.”

City arborists are trying and preserve the diseased trees as long as possible. Gordon said the disease is highly contagious and can even be spread to other Canary Island palm trees using the same saw blades used to prune them.

While the city is trying it’s best to preserve the trees, some think it should cull the diseased trees at a much quicker pace.

“It makes sense in our city to maintain our big trees,” said Doug Wildman of the Friends of the Urban Forest. “But again, you’re subjecting the ones that are healthy to this disease.” '

Wildman said the city should consider different palm trees as it moves forward with roadside development projects across the city. Already, Canary Island palm trees extend down upper Market Street.

“We can’t keep planting them,” said Wildman. “We need to look at different palms if we really want palms for those applications.”

Gordon said city tree crews are replacing the dying palm trees with Mexican Fan Palms which are less likely to be infected Fusarium Wilt.

The city faced controversy over the original decision to plant palm trees since they’re non-native. But in a city of transplants and immigrants, some said the sprawling foreigners, feel right at home. “They really have found a place on the waterfront,” said Gordon.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla Stock Soars After Big Earnings and Car Sales]]> Thu, 09 May 2013 09:55:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tesla_models_car_red.jpg

Tesla is for real.

If you had any doubts, just look to Wall Street this morning. Shares of Tesla Motors stock (TSLA) have soared about 25 percent so far this morning. Over the last couple of months, the share price has doubled, adding close to four billion dollars to its market value.

Even more impressively (at least for me, a non stock holder), look at your local roadways. Teslas are everywhere these days. They're outselling The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, despite the fact that the Model S is much more expensive. What was at first a trickle of Teslas in the wild has become a steady stream.

According to the company's latest earning report, Tesla sold 4,900 cars over the last three months, with sales expected to pick up even more steam in the month ahead. Net income for the quarter was $11.2 million dollars, sharply up from the $89.9 million dollar loss recorded the year before.

On top of all that, Consumer Reports just published a very favorable review, giving the Model S a 99 out of a possible 100 rating. Yowza. This from the magazine that couldn't bring itself to recommend the iPhone 5.

There are, of course, future roadblocks in the way for Tesla. But recently, at least, this company has done just about everything right, and it's being richly rewarded.

Scott, who test drove the Model S, is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Solar Impulse Leaves Moffett on Cross-Country Flight]]> Sat, 04 May 2013 15:26:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/175*120/167950753_8.jpg The Bay Area hosted the Solar Impulse team for a couple months.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[State-of-the-Art Green Workplace Provides Lunch, Games and Slides]]> Wed, 01 May 2013 12:13:33 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Slide_aweber.jpg AWeber Communications headquarters in Chalfont, Bucks County, Pa. isn't your average workplace as it features video games, a pool table and even slides. NBC10's Jesse Gary reports ahead of the ribbon cutting.
Click here for information on jobs

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Junkyard Trash Turns to Art]]> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 10:42:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/ben+in+trash.JPG With his castoff treasures rattling in the cart, Ben Cowden wheeled back toward his art studio in San Francisco's Recology Recycling Plant to continue work. Joe Rosato Jr. reports on a man who turns others trash into treasure. Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Turning Trash Into Treasure at Recycling Yard]]> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 19:50:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/ben+in+trash.JPG

Ben Cowden pushed a shopping cart toward a mound of garbage, mentally sifting through its heap of grimy contents. He dug into a pile, flipping an unrecognizable gizmo into his cart, smiling at the find.

With his castoff treasures rattling in the cart, he wheeled back toward his art studio in San Francisco's Recology Recycling Plant to continue work. "Really, the things I see the most coming through are televisions and microwaves," Cowden said. "And toilets for some reason -- a lot of toilets."

Cowden isn't interested in toilets or microwaves. But the motor from a copy machine, a bowling bowl, and an umbrella denuded of its fabric have all found their way into his mechanical art contraptions.

Back in the studio, he blows into the tip of what appears to be a black and red umbrella, launching it into a heaving motion reminiscent of breathing. In another device, the motor from a windshield wiper propels a pair of colorful paddles made from kite parts and plumbing pipe into a swimming motion.

"I'm surprised at the amount of perfect good things that come through," he said, gesturing toward a pile of miscellaneous items some might mistake for regular old garbage.

Cowden, along with fellow artist Ian Treasure, are the current artists in residence at the Recology plant.

In a tenure that began in February, the two artists are spending four months rummaging through the loads of trash, finding items to turn into art. The things they find inspire the art, they said.

"There's furniture, there's tools, there's sometimes money," said the appropriately named Treasure. "There's fixtures, fittings, woods -- virtually anything you can think of."

Among Treasure's mechanical pieces, was a motor-powered treadmill track striped to look like a road, with a small yellow taxi car running in place.

He called the piece, "Road to Nowhere." In another installation, Treasure was in the midst of installing motor-powered rulers on a dozen school desks that would slap the desks with a syncopated thwack.

"Like when I was in school when I was a kid," smiled Treasure. Somewhere, buried in the mounds of Recology's trash was an ecological message of some kind. 

"Not that you have to make artwork out of all your trash, but there is a different way to look at these things," said Cowden. "Just because you don't want it doesn't mean it's completely useless."

The artists will continue salvaging, tinkering and pondering uses for things, their manufacturers never imagined.

It will all culminate in an art show in Recology's studios starting May 17.

Perhaps, guests will recognize their broken umbrella, or a failed kite, or a semi-functioning telescope - never imagining how imperfect things can sometimes make perfect art.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Cemetery for Green-Friendly Burials]]> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 08:17:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/meadow.jpg A cemetery in Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, has become environmentally friendly for burials.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Investigative Unit at Yosemite National Park ]]> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 22:46:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/park+entrance.jpg The Investigative Unit’s Elyce Kirchner uncovers citations and arrests for drug related issues in Yosemite climbing over the past five years and compares those numbers to other popular national parks. This is a slideshow of the Investigative Unit's visit to Yosemite.

Photo Credit: Elyce Kirchner]]>
<![CDATA[Yosemite Welcomes Girl Who Returned Sticks]]> Mon, 22 Apr 2013 11:46:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/evieyosemite1_npsphoto_722.jpg A little girl's letter about accidentally taking two sticks from the national park captured the public's fancy. Young Evie recently returned in person to place the sticks "in nature."

Photo Credit: NPS Photo]]>
<![CDATA[Baxter Brewing Company Goes Green]]> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 11:49:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/baxter-brewing.jpg Luke Livingston, president and founder of Baxter Brewing Company, talks about ways in which he is expanding his business sustainably, with the help of John Rooks, president of The SOAP Group.]]> <![CDATA[CA Blows by Wind Energy Record During Storm]]> Tue, 09 Apr 2013 21:20:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PSwindturbines.jpg

Southern California's recent windstorm downed trees, knocked out power lines and fanned the flames of a wildfire, but it also set an energy record by spinning those towering white turbines in the desert.

A new high was recorded Sunday in the amount of electric power produced by wind turbines in the state, according to the independent nonprofit that runs about four-fifths of the state's power grid.

Wind gusts of more than 70 mph powered through the region beginning Saturday and lasting through Monday, with thousands losing power and drivers encountering poor visibility. Gusts were expected to continue in some areas late Tuesday into Wednesday.

The new record was set at 6:44 p.m. Sunday, when turbines spinning of the California Independent System Operator grid reported 4,196 megawatts of power produced.

That amount of power is enough to provide power to more than 3.1 million homes on average at once, according to data in a Cal ISO explainer.

On Friday, April 5, wind turbines had produced 4,095 megawatts of power, surpassing California's record of 3,944 megawatts, which had been set on March 3.

“With these impressive wind production levels, California is well positioned to meet the 33 percent by 2020 green power goal,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich, referring to a sustainable energy target set by California law.

Wind plants in California have a capacity of 5,899 megawatts on the Cal ISO grid, the organization said in a press release Monday, but not all of that capacity was available during the windstorm because of routine outages.

In the United States, California comes in second in wind power to Texas, where the state's peak production is more than twice that seen the Golden State's Sunday record.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sunnyvale Liquid Robotics Unveils Wave Glider]]> Mon, 08 Apr 2013 21:57:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/glider.JPG

They are tracking humpback whales, both by sounds and on giants screens inside the Sunnyvale headquarters of Liquid Robotics.

And they are doing it by collecting data from a solar powered device called a Wave Glider. The Wave Glider SV series is a powerful computer disguised as a surfboard that moves through the water unlike anything that's come before.

It's fast, super high tech and has solved a problem. "It's really hard to operate in the ocean. There are no extension cords there," said Liquid Robotics CEO Bill Vass.

Vass showed us how his newest machine can operate 100-percent on solar and wave power without any emissions. It's like a Tesla for the ocean.

"With this new platform, we add wave and sun to thrust for our ability to move in the ocean," Vass said.

And did we mention its power? The solar batteries that run inside the surfboard essentially make the board a floating data center.

"If you think about it, these are like powerful floating cell phones. They have the same chips as your iPhone, and the ability to collect, process, and send data from the high seas," Vass said.

The Wave Gliders will be used to track fish populations, find oil and secure borders. Bass says they will help bring big data to 70-percent of the globe - our bodies of water - with one goal in mind.

Vass said he wants to be able to begin to manage and protect the ocean like we do on land. "The reason we do it on land is because we have the data. The reason we don't in the sea is that we don't have the data," Vass said.

With Wave Glider, it's becoming a little easier and a lot cleaner to get that data now.

Photo Credit: Liquid Robotics]]>
<![CDATA[Air Quality Group: Spare the Air a Success]]> Fri, 05 Apr 2013 07:06:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/192*120/20081113085648SV14SMOG2.jpg

For five winter seasons and running, Bay Area residents have observed Spare the Air, curbing their wood- burning activities on select days to promote cleaner air.

Has it worked? The Bay Area Air Quality Management District reviewed pollution levels from the last few years and concluded that Spare the Air, along with other factors, has pushed particulate matter levels (known simply as ‘PM’) lower each year for the last several.

“What we’ve seen over time is a decrease in the peak levels of PM concentration in the winter time,” said Eric Stevenson, the group’s director of technical services, “and what we believe that’s caused by is the decrease in smoke that’s emitted from individuals’ fireplaces.” A closer look at the numbers reveals that average peak PM levels have indeed dropped the last few years, based on testing sites located throughout the Bay Area.

Some areas, like Livermore, Concord, Redwood City, Vallejo, Santa Rosa and Gilroy, demonstrated fairly significant drops. More urban cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose either saw small reductions or in Oakland’s case, a slight increase. For fuller context, however, it’s interesting to note that PM levels fell precipitously when measured over a broader time horizon.

The biggest drop occurred from 2000 to 2003, when total PM in the Bay Area shrank by 32 percent. Since that point in time, it’s fallen another 22 percent. “It’s really difficult to make definitive types of statements when there are a tremendous number of variables [involved],” added Stevenson, who said that the timing and frequency of storms, for example, can greatly skew the numbers in one direction or another. Nonetheless, he said after accounting for changes in weather, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is “pretty confident that the program has had a very large effect on getting us under national standards” for PM levels.

During the 2012-2013 season, there were a total of 10 Spare the Air days observed. We asked Berkeley professor and environmental engineer Robert Harley if a modestly-used program like Spare the Air could really sway pollution levels over a period of several years. Harley said he hadn’t looked at the data specifically, but believes “in the short-term, the best thing you can do is to ask people not to burn wood on those problematic nights,” calling the Spare the Air program well-targeted.

The longer-term effects, however, aren’t as clear. “It’s still helpful, but it has much less leverage on the annual average of particulate matter (PM), and it’s much more focused on the high winter episodes,” Harley said.

The professor has been conducting field research on gasoline and diesel emissions since the mid-1990s, and believes that higher fuel standards, better technology in the motor industry and more state controls over industrial practices has had a more obvious impact on pollution levels in the long-term.

“I can tell you for sure that the gasoline and diesel engine sources are going down over time,” Harley said.

Car and truck emissions, according to the BAAQMD’s own research, contribute about 32 percent of winter time pollutants. Wood-burning, by contrast, is around 28 percent, the single largest source. “If you look over a long time scale, over 10 or 20 years, there’s been a steady march downward,” Harley said.

“And that’s in a good direction, right? That’s progress in improving air quality.”

<![CDATA[Rare Bird's Nest Disturbed by Port Workers]]> Wed, 03 Apr 2013 19:58:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/osprey2.jpg

The federal government is investigating the Port of San Francisco.

For the birds, brother -- strictly for the birds.

A pair of rare raptors were nesting near Pier 80, on top of an 150-foot crane -- and their nest has been removed by workers, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The birds are ospreys, and this particular pair of nesting ospreys are the first birds of their feather to be seen in San Francisco -- ever, the newspaper reported. Ospreys were up until recently nearly extinct.

The ospreys had left for the winter, but before they could return, "port workers smashed their nest to bits last week," the Chronicle's Matier and Ross reported.

The workers may also have violated federal law: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act means no raptor's nest can be disturbed during mating season.

Federal officials are "looking into" the potential law breaking.

<![CDATA[Debate Over Rates Stalls SF Clean Power Plan]]> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 15:53:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WindTurbine1.jpeg

A key decision for CleanPowerSF -- a program wherein San Francisco utility customers would be provided an alternative to the PG&E monopoly -- has been delayed thanks to a debate over funding for future clean energy projects, according to reports.

Approved last year, CleanPowerSF will allow customers to purchase pricier, 100 percent renewable energy -- but the maximum rate for that energy has yet to be determined.

The local Public Utilities Commission was slated Monday to make a decision over the maximum rate but booted that choice down the road to April 23, the San Francisco Examiner reported, while environmentalists squabble over what large-scale renewable energy projects the program might fund.

Confusing? It's like this: participating utility customers will see an extra $10.24 to $29.78 per month on their bills beginning in October, when the program is scheduled to begin. That will pay for power purchased from Shell, the only company found to provide the renewable energy. That money, however, can then be used to build wind farms, solar farms -- in other worlds, to build the city's own renewable energy.

The PUC will create and present a build-out plan at its April 23 meeting, but program advocates warned that a hard-line stance from environmentalists could jeopardize the entire program.

<![CDATA[WHOLE WORLD Water Launch in San Francisco]]> Sat, 23 Mar 2013 13:18:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/164348188_8.jpg Whole World Water launches their campaign to spur global change by having spas & hotels filter and sell their own water and contribute 10-percent of proceeds to benefit clean & safe water programs around the world. Today nearly 1 billion people don’t have access to clean and safe water. The campaign designed to unite the Hospitality and Tourism Industry on a non-competitive platform to eradicate this issue.]]>