February 26, 2009

Green is good...as long as it's cheap

Green products might not be recession-proof after all.

Market research firm Mintel noted that premium-priced green products might be relocating to the bottom supermarket shelves as people's priorities are now changing because of the current economy.

According to their recent US consumer survey data,over half of respondents (54%) said they would buy more green products but the products are too expensive. Mintel said there is a hesitance towards buying green based on price.

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Bio-funding slumps in Europe

Bad news for green chemistry and industrial biotechnology proponents in Europe. According to this article from ICIS Chemical Business, Europe is losing ground when it comes to bio-refinery R&D and infrastructure because of decreasing funding and resources.

The opposite is happening in the US where the former Bush administration drove large funding for biofuels R&D, and the Obama administration is expected to increase target output for biofuels.

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February 25, 2009

The green spirit might be willing but...

It seems the current economic recession has curtailed the desire for several planned plastic bag bans or tax, according to this article from the New York Times.

The mayor in Portland, Oregon, decided this month to discard his proposal of taxing plastic bags citing the current economic strain faced by people, while another proposal in Virginia also stalled amid resistance from retail groups and bag makers.

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ADM starts drilling

Agribusiness major Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is not looking for oil in this case (although they could hope!) but instead is starting its carbon storage project with its partner Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium.

According to this article from Herald & Review (via SoyaTech website), workers fo rthe project have started constructing a well that will reach more than 6,500 feet underground.

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Ethanol rejoice! Genomatica develops bio-MEK

The green chemistry field is on fire this week! (I mean this figuratively so need to call the Environmental Protection Agency)

After Segetis' news on their full-speed plant operation in Minneapolis last Monday, another start-up firm Genomatica announced today that they have developed biobased methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), an industrial solvent, using sugar and water - and maybe a catalyst and some organisms to go along with it.

Genomatica hopes this new process will help the ailing ethanol industry as the biobased MEK can be produced in existing ethanol manufacturing facilities with minimal additional investments.

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February 24, 2009

BP pays $180m for clean air violations

The US Department of Justice has fined BP Products North America almost $180 million for violating EPA's Clean Air Act regulations at its Texas City, Texas refinery.

BP agreed to the settlement and will spend more than $161m on pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring and improved management practices on its petroleum refining operations. EPA said these actions will reduce emissions of benzene and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by approximately 6,000 pounds annually.

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February 23, 2009

Segetis green operation at full speed

Just my luck that a lot of green chemical news are happening today when the blog looks ugly.

It seems that ex-Cargill folks are expanding left and right within the green chemistry field as newbie company Segetis just announced today the full-startup of its operations in Minneapolis. I've mentioned before that Segetis' CEO Jim Stoppert previously headed Cargill's Industrial Bioproducts unit.

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Recycling not a problem for bioplastics

Bioplastic manufacturer NatureWorks says automated systems currently used in plastic recycling has the capability to 100% sort out bioplastic bottles from other petroleum-based plastic bottles.
"This finding is significant because it demonstrates that there is no technological barrier to recycling bottles made from plants instead of oil," according to NatureWorks.

For the past two years, NatureWorks says it has surveyed equipment manufacturers such as Titech, Unisensor, and MSS, that have systems with the potential to sort biopolymers from such other plastics as PET (polyethylene terepthalate), HDPE (high density polyethylene), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and PS (polystyrene).

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Weekly News Roundup

The ICIS blog gods are on vacation and so the green blog is still in a bit of a mess. Pls. bear with me for a few more days as I wait and rant and pray for a new and improved green blog to emerge.

For now, here's this week's news roundup:

Bioplastic acquired
Swedish bioplastic company Tenova Bioplastics AB has been acquired by packaging company Billerud. Tenova AB will be consolidated within the Billerud Group as of 1 February 2009.

Intellectual property sold

Cincinnati-based technology company AdvanceBio Systems LLC has acquired exclusive intellectual property rights to provide pre-treatment equipment and systems on a turnkey basis to the next-generation cellulosic ethanol and renewable chemicals industries. AdvanceBio provides consulting services and technology to companies that are developing new projects in the biofuels industry and biochemical sector.

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February 19, 2009

ICIS BLOG UNDER CONSTRUCTION

The green blogger has been very bad tinkering with the ICIS green blog system and now has to pay the price. While waiting for ICIS blog gods to fix it, posts will continue but please bear the blog's messed up look. Sorry folks!

-Doris

Mitsubishi breaks own solar cell record

Truthfully, I have no idea on some of the technical jargons behind this press statement from Mitsubishi Electric but it seems important enough to warrant its own post.

According to the company, it was able to develop multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells with the world's highest conversion efficiency rate of 18.9%...

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E-waste dumping in Nigeria

Here's another interesting development from our Greenpeace friends in the UK.

According to the group, a 3-year investigation from their researchers found that certain electronic wastes (such as an unfixable TV with a tracking device) are illegally dumped to Nigeria instead of supposedly being recycled to (in this case) the Hampshire County Council.

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February 18, 2009

Greenpeace presents: CoalFinger

Here is why the coal industry in the Western world is losing their battle over environmental groups.

Videos such as the one below from Greenpeace are spreading the dirtiness of coal across the web using animated graphics. If the coal industry wants to put out the message of being clean and green, they should spend their money making cartoons. Of course that will elicit various response of them greenwashing...

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Green chem product teasers

Yesterday's Green Chemistry round table hosted by Elevance was very productive in terms of getting information. I will tell you more in details next week of what some of the panelists have to say about the future of green chemistry, its challenges, potential and how it can help the US economy.


Unfortunately, I have a deadline to catch working on a green building article for ICIS Chemical Business this week, and so here for now are some juicy teasers gathered from the event.

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February 17, 2009

Coal in trouble?

The green blogger is in Bolingbrook, IL, right now to cover Elevance's renewable chemistry round table and the opening of their new facility. Fortunately, she's a little bit early so has the time to blog a bit about the current coal situation.

According to New York Times, 83 coal plants in the US have either been voluntarily withdrawn or have been denied permits by state regulators because of the prospect of regulating carbon dioxide emissions concerns and its associated high costs. The article noted that roughly 600 coal-fired power plants in the US are responsible for one-third of the country's total carbon emissions.

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February 16, 2009

Financial folks turn to trash

Several ex-Wall Street bankers turned their financial wizardry into creating green shoes for a good cause, according to this Reuters report.

After being laid off because of the Wall Street collapse, partners Stephen Chen, Iris Chau, and Alastair Onglingswan founded GreenSoulShoes, where local artisans in Southeast Asia make their shoes using recycled scrap tires materials. For each pair of shoes sold, the founders said a pair will be donated to kids from all over the third-world nations. The company's goal is to shoe 1 million kids in 5 years.

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Money in butterfly's wings

Scientists from China and Japan discovered that butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar collectors, which can lead to a design of a more efficient dye-sensitized solar cells.


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Weekly News Roundup

I will be in Illinois on Tuesday attending Elevance's renewable chemistry round table as well as the opening of their new Bolingbrook facility. The round table panelists include Robert Grubbs of the California Institute of Technology, John Warner of Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, David Long of Environmental Sustainability Solutions, Andrew Gilicinski of Clorox Company, Bryce Lee of Alternative Energy Group, and Elevance's CEO K'Lynne Johnson.

That should be interesting and I'll let you know how it goes. For now, here are this week's green news:

Elevance's compostable wax

Elevance Renewable Sciences says certain of its NatureWax™ vegetable wax products, when blended with paraffin, have met universally accepted compost specifications. Elevance collaborated with The International Group, Inc. (IGI) to sponsor the testing.

Big renewable energy user
Dow Corning will purchase more than 14,000 megawatt hours of wind generated renewable energy through Consumers Energy's Green Generation program, making the company one of the largest private purchasers of renewable energy in the State of Michigan.

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February 13, 2009

Samsung's new solar touch screen phone

Samsung seems to be leading the next generation high-tech mobile gadget with its new solar-powered full-touch screen phone "Blue Earth."

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February 12, 2009

Chemistry: The alternative energizers

I just finished an alternative energy article featuring chemical companies that contribute on making clean energy technologies more affordable. Companies included in my interviews were Dow Chemical, Rohm and Haas, Air Products, Evonik, and Dow Corning.

Here are some of what they said regarding chemistry and alternative energy:
"While energy is crucial to the chemical industry, the business of chemistry is essential to reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Chemistry makes possible energy-saving products including building insulation, lightweight vehicle parts, thin-film solar panels and wind turbines." - Rich Wells, Dow Chemical.

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Wind farm UFO attack

Excitement was in the air last month in the sleepy town of Lincolnshire, UK, after a mangled 65 ft. wind turbine blade was discovered. Several local folks blamed it on a UFO attack when some reportedly have seen strange, bright lights near the wind farm vicinity.

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February 11, 2009

How corn plastic is made?

Here's a very nice video from Discovery Channel's "How Stuff Works" (love the show!) featuring corn-based plastic and how it is made. Bioplastic producer Cereplast is featured in this show. (Pls. bear the few seconds advertising).




Alternative fuel interest highest ever

Yesterday, I attended a press conference hosted by BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) on the launch of a biofuel study conducted by Sandia National Laboratory and General Motors.

In the study, Sandia reported that it is feasible to produce 90bn gallon/year cellulosic ethanol by 2030 to replace one-third of US gasoline demand, which is around 60bn gallons/year. No need to diversify land to grow corn crops; projected capital expenditures of about $250bn will be almost the same as that of future petroleum-related investments of similar magnitude; and infrastructure issues are workable, according to Sandia.

All of those optimistic conclusions of course have to depend on technology advancement of cellulosic ethanol as well as policy incentives. I guess optimism is really badly needed in the ethanol market these days what with the successive news of bankruptcy, plant closing, delayed projects, divestments and slowing R&D (because of tight financing).

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February 9, 2009

Adult biz gone green

Who says the adult novelty industry is not environment-friendly??

Dreamscapes, an adult business company, said that they are setting "good example" for businesses across the board by getting green certification from the Institute for Green Business Certification (IGBC) Inc. - making them "an environmentally conscious organization" starting January 31, 2009.

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Green products are recession-proof

A recent survey commissioned by certification firm Green Seal and advertising/PR agency EnviroMedia Social Marketing reported that four out five people they surveyed are still buying green products and services despite the current recession.

Half of the 1,000 people surveyed are said to be buying just as many green products now as before the economic downturn, while 19 percent say they are buying more green products.

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Are you eating mercury?

The group Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reported that nearly one-third of 55 popular brand name food and beverage products such as Quaker, Hershey's, Krafts and Smuckers, are said to contain traces of mercury. IATP said this is because of mercury-contaminated high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in most of these products.

On average, Americans are said to consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, said IATP, as HFCS is used in many processed foods such as in sweetened beverages, breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments.

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Weekly news roundup

This week, I'm working on a biobutanol article for ICIS Chemical Business so stay tune for snippets of information as I dig deep into this hush-hush (as far as BP and DuPont are concerned) market development.

For now here are this week's news roundup:

SiGNa's new center
SiGNa Chemistry opened its new Alternative Energy Research Center in Davis, California, to support the company's Hydrogen Generator Beta program, which will begin in second quarter 2009. The program will use SiGNa’s technology to create a unique hydrogen storage alternative for general industrial hydrogen, and portable fuel cell applications.

3M's Renewables division
3M has formed its new Renewable Energy Division focusing on Energy Generation and Energy Management. The products within the new division will include products currently sold to the industry, new-to-the-world products invented for the renewable energy market, and products adapted from existing technologies.

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February 6, 2009

Agriculture developments

The green blogger is very sick (101.5 F fever) and so she leaves you for today with recent developments from the US Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS).

One interesting development is the use of the native Southwestern shrub guayule not only as a natural latex but its leftovers called bagasse can also be feedstock for ethanol, bio-oil or syngas manufacture. I wrote an article about guayule and other interesting plant-based alternative chemical feedstock that you can access in this link from ICIS Chemical Business.

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February 5, 2009

Natural cosmetics healthy despite recession

A new report from consulting firm Kline & Company said that the US natural personal care market will still have healthy growth this year despite the economic downturn.

The market last year was up 19% at over $2bn in sales at the manufacturers' level, according to Kline. Although it is not certain if consumers will still be willing to pay premium for natural and organic products given the current economic condition, Kline noted that major marketers are in good position to compete because of their stronger supply chain negotiating advantage and well-developed distribution channels.

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February 4, 2009

US and China top wind race

The US has become number one in installing wind power bypassing Germany last year, according to a recent report from the Global Wind Energy Council based in Belgium. China, meanwhile, has doubled its total capacity for the fourth straight time.

Global wind energy capacity last year was said to have grown by 28.8% reaching a total global installations of more than 120.8 gigawatt. Over 27 gW of new wind power generation capacity came online in 2008, 36% more than in 2007, according to GWEC.

The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was said to be worth around EUR 36.5bn ($47.5bn). Here are the stats!

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New soy group established

There might be a soy war going on but all soy-loving/producing groups in the US are still working together to help their industry overcome the current economic hardship.

The United Soybean Board (USB), the American Soybean Association (ASA), the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and six other state soybean checkoff boards recently formed the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), which will comprehensively examine some of the major transportation issues impacting soybean farmers and find ways for them to save on transportation costs.
“With all the railroad infrastructure and intermodal developments taking place in Ohio, it is important for OSC to be represented on the STC board,” said Patrick Knoff, an OSC and STC board member. “The goals of this organization will benefit all of agriculture. It is my hope that the projects STC is investing in will help level the playing field for agriculture when compared to other industries.”

Like the corn industry, the soybean industry is becoming an important feedstock source for the biobased chemicals/products market. According to the USB, 28 new soy-based products in the areas of plastics, inks, coatings, adhesives and solvents were launched last year.

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Chemical rules in kids products cause panic

The incoming anti-toxic chemical rules in children's products, which will become effective February 10, is causing several protests this week especially in NYC.

The rules are part of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) which was passed last year as a result of the massive recalls of toys and other consumer good products tainted with lead and other supposed toxic chemicals.

For lead content and pthalate limit rules, manufacturers and importers are required to issue testing and certification that newly manufactured or imported childrens products for 12 years old and under comply with the requirements.

The problem, according to several manufacturers, retailers and small business owners, is that existing inventory products that have not been tested or certified on their lead or pthalate content should no longer be sold or distributed. Products can include toys, garments, kids' furniture, jewelry, accessories and even books.

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February 3, 2009

Green chemicals of the month

2009 started with a lot of new green chemical offerings ranging from the cleaning industry, to automobile and construction. Here are some of the selected ones mostly in the plastic arena.

Hint: If you want your newly launched green chemicals/technology to be included in my monthly list, pls. email the press release to me at doris.de.guzman@icis.com

1. Nissan's eco-paint - Nissan Motor Co. launched in Japan its environment-friendly, water-based paints for aftermarket application under the "PITWORK" brand. The paint is said to contain half the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared with conventional paints in the marketplace.

2. NatureWorks new bioplastic - NatureWorks LLC introduced its Ingeo™ 3251D, a new and improved injection molding grade of Ingeo™ biopolymer. The new Ingeo™ grade is designed specifically for the consumer goods segments such as electronics, cosmetics, housewares, toys and custom molding.

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February 2, 2009

Perfluorinated chemicals may reduce fertility

Thanks to my colleague Lara McNamee for sharing this article about a study on perfluorinated chemicals and their effects on women's fertility.

According to research scientists from University of California's Department of Epidemiology, exposure to perfluorinated chemicals such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoate) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) - which are widely used in many consumer products and industrial processes because of their heat resistance and ability to repel water and oil- can lead to increase in infertility for women.

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Green Informex

There had been a lot of green news from the InformexUSA tradeshow that colleagues from ICIS filed last week.

According to the director of Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, John Warner, education barriers are preventing chemists from gaining the know-how to produce safer chemicals despite increasing demand for environment-friendly products and compounds.

Most of the attention given to chemistry is said to be negative thus giving the industry a bad reputation for students. Warner said the industry has done a very bad sales job which lessened the industry's efforts in attracting the brightest students.

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Weekly News Roundup

The green blogger was trying to multitask: writing this post, watching the Superbowl, and eating popcorn. She failed.

The Steelers won and the blogger lost her office pool bet. Oh well...Here is this week's news roundup:

DSM joins green roundtable

DSM Pharmaceutical Products joined the Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable of the American Chemical Society as an associate member. The roundtable promotes sustainable manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) by integrating the principles of green chemistry and engineering into drug discovery and manufacturing.

Waste recycling tech

Catalyx, Inc. successfully piloted its patent-pending Two-Way Osmosis system for recycling of difficult to treat, high biochemical oxygen demand and high chemical oxygen demand carpet dyeing wastewater. Catalyx's eventual goal is to design a system which can utilize the membrane for desalination of seawater.

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