Archive for March, 2008

ceaaconf-2008_3.jpgCredit to Abubakar Jalloh in the Cornell Daily Sun:

“Green is becoming everyone’s favorite color … green power, green building, green chemistry …”

Such was the comment made by Dr. Jeff Tester ’66, professor of chemical engineering at MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, at the 25th Annual College of Engineering Alumni Association Conference held at the Statler Hotel this weekend. 300 people participated in the event whose theme was “Sustainable Energy Systems: Investing in Our Future.”

The event constituted a series of talks given by prominent figures, who have dedicated their time offering working solutions that are economically viable and environmentally friendly.

According to Tim Dougherty ’88, assistant dean of alumni affairs and development for the College of Engineering, 40 percent of the 300 people who registered for the conference were students, another 40 percent were comprised of alumni and the rest included faculty and staff.

“This is by far the most interesting topic in 25 years,” said Dougherty, especially in that the conference is not one-sided; rather it aims at “working on a better mix of choices.”

Friday afternoon was marked with concurrent sessions at the Beck Center in the Statler Hall. Flexible as it was, some presentations that went on earlier in the morning were repeated in the afternoon for those who missed them. Among those repeated talks were Dr. Michael Graetzel’s presentation on “Power from the sun; molecular photovoltaic cells mimic photosynthesis.”



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bilde.jpgCredit to Linda Stout in the Ithaca Journal:

ENFIELD — Meghan Murphy figures she’s one of the only people she knows who’s happy to see petroleum diesel jump in price. She’s a member of Ithaca Biodiesel, a cooperative that turns old French fry oil into fuel. “It makes it easier for us to compete in the market,” she said.

She said petroleum diesel and gas were previously artificially low-priced because taxpayers subsidized infrastructure like fuel pipelines.

“There’s no infrastructure like that for biodiesel,” Murphy said. “These companies have huge advantages.”

The operation in Ithaca is still tiny, making about 100 gallons of biodiesel for those who pay a $25 lifetime membership.

But it’s a start, she said. Biodiesel manufacturing from waste oil potentially helps the local economy keep the money local in comparison to petroleum fuel, where only 2 percent, she said, is made locally. For instance, the money the cooperative spends goes to Bishop’s, a local hardware store, or into the pocket of the local welder working on the manufacturing equipment.

Murphy said that creating biodiesel from used restaurant oil keeps waste oil out of sewers and landfills, which she said accounts for 40 percent of sewer backups.

Diesel prices are up because of the relatively low value of the dollar and supply and demand, said Clayton Boyce, vice president of public affairs for the American Trucking Association.

In addition, he said, “Speculators are betting the dollar will continue to weaken in the future, and they’re buying with the hope of selling at a higher price in the future.”

Truckers are trying to improve fuel efficiency, he said.


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pg-1-biofuels-by-aw_thumbnail.jpgCredit to Wendy Wang in the Cornell Daily Sun

As corn becomes an increasingly popular ethanol source, the spotlight falls on the biofuels field as its researchers study how to convert crops like switchgrass and woody plants into energy. This is evident at Riley-Robb Hall, where the east wing is being converted into a new biofuels research laboratory. Prof. Larry Walker, biological and environmental engineering, is spearheading the large-scale project, slated for completion next January.

Walker received a $10 million grant from Empire State Development Cor­poration, with $6 million going towards the east wing renovation and the other $4 million to equip the new laboratory with incubators, fermentors and other machinery necessary to allow Cornell to convert cellulosic material, like switchgrass and other perennial grasses, into ethanol,from start to finish.

“We can do what we call pretreatment of the materials to make this material more amenable to enzymatic biodegradation,” said Walker. “We have the capability of generating the enzymes needed to convert the biomass into fermentable sugars. We will then have the capability of taking the fermentable sugars to ethanol, butanol and other biofuels.”

Walker emphasized the importance of ethanol as one of the few renewable energy sources that can directly replace gasoline and the fact that by 2025, about 80 percent of ethanol production will come not from corn, but from cellulose materials, those primarily studied at the current biofuels lab on campus.


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Credit to Emily Cohn in the Cornell Daily Sun:

Yesterday at noon marked the end of a 40-hour fast for a group of local activists, including Fil Eden ’10, Carlos Rymer ’09, Stephanie Knight ’09 and Molly Bryson ’10, who participated in the event organized to advocate for local hotel workers’ rights. About 30 Ithaca residents gathered outside of the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Ithaca for the end of the fast, which coincided with the release of a settlement from the National Labor Relations Board regarding files charged against the hotel in defense of workers’ rights.

The settlement, released yesterday by the NLRB, upheld the charges of unfair labor practices filed by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center against the Hilton, which accused the hotel of violating federal labor law by disregarding workers’ freedom of association.

The charges were filed on behalf of Michelle Lopez, who was fired from her job as a housekeeper for the Hilton after advocating for the formation of a union. According to Pete Meyers, co-founder of the TCWC, which helped organize the fast, the hotel’s management threatened to fire workers who discussed Lopez’s dismissal.


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Credit to Wendy Wang in the Cornell Daily Sun

McMansions may be eye-pleasing at first glance, but to an architect they can become design and sustainability eyesores. In an effort to steer green-conscious Ithaca citizens away from such quick-fix housing solutions for building comfortable homes, local architects Ernie Bayles and Megan Nedzinski gave a talk last night at the First Unitarian Church on architectural design with a focus on sustainability to an audience of about 30. This seminar was the fourth in the Green Building Seminar Series created by the Ithaca Green Building Alliance.

Bayles began the seminar with an overview of the idea of sustainability, admitting that “green” houses often fall under the stereotype of a grass and brick cottage that looks environmentally conscious but is hardly comfortable. Instead, he defined the actual concept of sustainable design as a “functional, durable, healthy for occupants, energy-efficient and designed to work with exterior environment and location to optimize comfort and utility.”

Most importantly, he emphasized the importance of remodeling current residential homes in carefully laid out plans.

“Building quality smaller spaces can enrich life more than larger ones. One of the most sustainable things we can do is to build less,” he said.

However, he did admit that “design takes a lot of work, which needs to be done by a team of people: the designer, owner and builder. Somebody has to come to the table with some ideas of sustainable goals.”


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