Bug Based Bio Fuel

The start-up biofuels company LS9, of San Carlos, CA,
is using “synthetic biology” to engineer bacteria that can make hydrocarbons
for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.  Their goal is to create designer bugs that produce and excrete
hydrocarbons. LS9 Renewable Petroleum biofuel will be clean burning, carbon neutral,
and has the potential to provide for a large portion of our long term energy needs.

diverse agricultural feedstocks, these new fuels will be
compatible with current distribution and consumer infrastructure –
unlike ethanol. The production process is also much simpler than
producing conventional ethanol, and requires 65% less
energy: while ethanol needs
to be distilled at high temperatures, Renewable Petroleum gently floats
to the surface of the reaction vats in which it’s produced.

The company has $5 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, the
venture capital firm of Vinod
, founder of Sun Microsystems and passionate biofuel evangelizist.  LS9 CEO Noubar Afeyan cautions that no one can
tell the extent to which any biofuel will displace fossil fuels. "That is
a subject of great debate and great prognostication," he says. "The
opportunity is so large that I don’t have to believe in much more than a few
percentage points of market penetration for it to be worth our investment."

If all goes to plan, LS9 fuels may be available as early as 2011. 

Via: Technology Review

Pope Goes Solar

The Holy See will be adopting solar panels many of its buildings, in accordance with the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI who has "concern about conserving
the Earth’s resources". First in line is the Pope Paul VI auditorium, which seats 6,300 people.

"The roof of the Paul VI auditorium will be redone next year, with its cement panels replaced with photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity," engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna said.

The integrated PV cells will provide enough electrical power to provide illumination and temperature control for the auditorium. When not in use, excess power will be fed into the Vatican’s grid.

via Discovery.com

Volkswagen award given to Autoliv

Volkswagen Group Award 2007 was given to Autoliv Inc., a worldwide leader in automotive safety. Volkswagen’s CEO, Professor Dr. Martin Winterkorn presented the award to Autoliv and to 25 other suppliers that have “played a decisive role in research & development, product quality, logistics, environment or entrepreneurial performance”.

“Our thanks go to all representatives of the award winner suppliers, but in particular to all the associates in their plants that have made outstanding efforts,” said Professor Winterkorn at the award ceremony.

Autoliv received its award in recognition of entrepreneurial performance in product innovation, cost optimization and process improvement.

“We are honored and delighted to be recognized for our contributions to Volkswagen,” said Franz Xaver Weiss, Vice President and responsible for Autoliv’s global Volkswagen business. “This achievement is possible because of the hard work and dedication of all members of our Volkswagen team, as well as Autoliv’s other 42,000 associates globally who consistently strive to keep Autoliv in the worldwide leading position in automotive safety.”

Autoliv has partnered with the Volkswagen Group (Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley and Lamborghini) for more than 15 years, providing airbag and seatbelt products across a variety of platforms. “This award recognizes our commitment to supporting Volkswagen as a partner in quality, cost and development. I’m sure there will be new challenges also in the years to come, but I’m convinced that we will be able to manage them with success,” said Weiss

Autoliv has received a record number of 14 awards from customers for its achievements during 2006. In addition to this award from Volkswagen, the Company has received one award each from Honda and Hyundai-Kia, two awards from General Motors, four awards from Ford and five awards from Toyota.

Volkswagen to improve productivity

Volkswagen executive board member, Horst Neumann said yesterday that the German automaker plans to take further steps in improving productivity.

The company wants to increase car sales and plans to do more development and production itself rather than outsourcing activities to suppliers. Neumann said that Volkswagen plans to produce 27 vehicles per employee in 2007, up from 24 the previous year.

“A closer connection between development, purchasing and production is a major target,” said Neumann in a staff meeting at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg.

Neumann admitted that the utilization of the company’s plants has made a big step forward but there are still some challenges.

As part of a wide-ranging cost-cutting program, another 10,000 employees will go into early retirement by 2012, Neumann said. He also said that Volkswagen “urgently needs to find a connecting arrangement” for the time after the current early retirement program. The “international competitive pressure, especially for industrial workers, will remain extremely high,” Neumann noted.

According to earlier company statements, Volkswagen will cut 5,000 jobs between 2007 and 2009 as part of its overall restructuring effort, which includes cutting a total of 20,000 jobs. The job cuts will be done through early retirement and won’t require any layoffs.

In March, Neumann had said the program to cut 20,000 jobs could be completed in 2012 or 2013, adding that he doesn’t see any need for further cutbacks at the moment.

A labor deal signed in November 2004 rules out compulsory layoffs until the end of 2011.

Volkswagen’s headcount reduction follows similar moves by Western automakers such as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG. These car companies have announced plans to cut thousands of jobs to reduce costs and regain competitiveness despite high raw-material prices and the growing challenge from Asian rivals.

HP Gets Gold for Going Green

While Dell has received a fair amount of attention for their green work, HP has been taking steps of its own. HP just released the RP5700 desktop PC and achieved the EPEAT’s first Gold rating. EPEAT is a rating system run by the Green Electronics Council that evaluates the environmental impact of computers, notebooks and monitors. Think of it as LEED certification for computers.

So far 12 desktops have achieved Bronze, 70 have Silver and now HP has the only Gold. The Gold standard requires products to meet the minimum requirements and 75% of optional criteria. HP took the biggest initiatives in the areas of "reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials" and "Design for end of life", which includes eliminating use of PVC and other toxic materials and a minimum of 90% recyclability or reusability.

With the government backing the EPEAT, requiring 95% of government electronic purchase to be recognized under this system, hopefully consumers will follow suit and look for computers that are greener. More optimistically, I hope other manufacturers get jealous enough to start making some Gold standard computers themselves.

Via Inhabitat

Electric SUV Drives Cheap, Charges Quick

Travel 130 miles for $3 in an SUV? Yes you can… Altairnano has achieved it with an electric SUV presented directly to their shareholders. The company partnered with Phoenix Motorcars to create the SUV, called the Phoenix, using Altairnano’s batteries, which can recharge in as little as 10 minutes.

They plan to target fleet use first until recharging stations become more common. However they already are in talks with Pacific Gas & Electric to create a network of charge stations that would allow users to "top off batteries during a coffee stop." While at home, 220 volt outlets commonly used for clothes dryers or stoves allow a charge in around five hours.

We reported on Altairnano’s batteries being used in the ZAP-X and it looks like they are trying to get out vehicles of their own. Either way, lets get some of these on the road, or at least one for me to drive.

Video after the jump

Reno Gazette-Journal

Via: MetaEfficient

Precise Drifting: Cutting A Cucumber With A Knife Strapped On A Car

Crazy Japanese folks, they never seem to stop surprising us. In this TV Show a knife is attached to the hood of a car and the objective is for the driver to drift 180 degrees to cut a cucumber (…) in half -which he did with jaw dropping precision. However, we’re even more impressed with the guy in the shorts and the hand camera that’s standing right behind the cucumber. Damn lucky nothing went wrong and the driver managed to cut off the right “cucumber”…