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Author Archive

Don Shelby: Climate Experts to Ratchet Up Language

by June 2, 2011

In his most recent article for MinnPost, Don Shelby describes a meeting he had with three climate science thought leaders about communicating their scientific findings to the public more effectively.  He describes a current message shift that many of them will undertake when fielding questions from reporters about global warming.

The example Shelby gives is when a reporter asks a climate scientist if current weather phenomena are due to global warming.  Rather than the typical, “no single event can be contributed to global warming,” the response will shift to, “no single event can be attributed to global warming, but we told you this was going to happen.”  The former statement has the potential to reinforce complacency by those who are skeptical of global warming or its predicted impacts.  Those supporting this new strategy, as Shelby explains, are hoping that adding a twist will reduce or eliminate some of this fodder for complacency.

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Phillips Looks To Brighten The Market For LEDs

by May 18, 2011

EnduraLED A21

EnduraLED A21

Philips is looking to change the game for LED lights, which have traditionally offered long term savings at a high initial cost (as much as $50 and up).  However, as far as brightness, LED bulbs just have not yet been able live up to their incandescent cousins (only being able to emit light equivalent to that of a 60-watt incandescent).

Phillips recently announced,as shared in this NYT post, that later this year, it will market a new LED lamp, the EnduraLED A21, that will retail for about $40 and emit equivalent light as a 75-watt incandescent.

Through new technologies in retail items, such as these light bulbs, it is important for people to know the information surrounding them, such as the initial cost of a new kind of technology and the potential for savings in both money and energy use—just the kind of information that Dialogue Earth aims to deliver.

I’d also like to note that there are programs that offer incentives to subsidize the cost associated with changing over to more efficient lighting, such as the Commercial Lighting Program, offered by Xcel energy through a joint effort with the Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment.

It is conceivable one day, that our Pulse tool will be able to be used for viewing public sentiment across important topics similar to the question of whether people are preferring traditional incandescent light bulbs, or if they like the idea of switching to LED lights and why.

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Debates Around Offshore Drilling and Oil Subsidies Heats Up, Is There One Right Answer?

by May 17, 2011

High gas prices infographic 350.org via Good.is

High gas prices infographic 350.org via Good.is

With Congress’ recent vote against [52-48] on increasing oil company taxes and a bill to rapidly expand offshore drilling, the oil-fueled bipartisan spirit is yet again filling the air. I happened upon these brewing debates after seeing an intriguing infographic on GOOD Environment, which they take from the advocacy group 350.org.

At Dialogue Earth, we believe in finding a way to cut through the polarizing rhetoric, for example by seeking areas of agreement in the relationship between offshore drilling and gas prices, and moving forward from there.  This way, we will become a trustworthy source of factual information, divorced of the special interests and biases that may affect other sources.

By promoting this infographic, 350.org helps to illustrate the complexity of a piece of the U.S. energy system.  It shows many different aspects that must be taken into consideration when making decisions that end up potentially shifting the foci of where our energy comes from and also, our energy security.

Ultimately, an important goal for Dialogue Earth is to facilitate the creation and connection of a wide range of broadly endorsed, non advocacy information.

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Los Angeles Hosts First Pipeline-Fed Hydrogen Fueling Station In The US

by May 12, 2011

A Toyota Highlander hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle at the opening of the hydrogen filling station in Torrance, Calif. (NY Times)

A Toyota Highlander hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle at the opening of the hydrogen filling station in Torrance, Calif. (NY Times)

A recent post for TechCrunch by Lora Kolodny highlights the opening of the first US pipeline-fed hydrogen station last Tuesday.  The station is located in Southern California, just adjacent to the Toyota sales and marketing building in Torrance.

Because of the inherent complexity of mobile energy, this topic is of interest to Dialogue Earth.  We are working to provide quality, non-advocacy information to help understand complicated issues related to the environment.  A discussion about hydrogen vehicles raises the issue of greenhouse gas, and indirectly, carbon footprints.  It is important to understand the energy inputs and emissions resulting from all energy sources, including those billed as green.

For a taste of the challenge, my research suggests that most industrial hydrogen, including the hydrogen produced at the plants in Wilmington and Carson, is made through the reformation of hydrocarbons — a process that is purported to increase the energy yield from hydrocarbons to a yield of 80%. Air products claims that this increase in yield is “equivalent to avoiding more than 10 new refineries between 1976 and 2006 along with related carbon footprint during Hydrogen production their construction and operation.”

But how do fuel cells stack up against battery electric vehicles? Or vehicles that use other alternative fuels, such as hybrids?  There are a lot of facts out there, disseminated from all sorts of voices.

This is one niche that Dialogue Earth works to fill. Not by providing people with what they should do, but rather providing people with trustworthy content packed with facts, devoid of special interests, that inform people and assist them in making their own decisions.

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Oil Companies’ Profits to Increase Greatly This Year; People’s Energy-Related Questions to Follow Suit.

by May 5, 2011

The rapid increase in oil prices should equate to the oil industry having its best year since 2008, as reported by Chris Kahn for AP (via ABC). Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhilips are expected to report a combined $18.2 billion in first quarter earnings — a 40% increase from last year and just shy of the $20.2 billion that they earned in the first three months of 2008.

An increase in consumption, the constriction of supply (e.g., Libya’s reserve access is currently limited), and also a weaker US dollar are all speculated to contribute to an increase in oil prices.

While some stand to benefit from the rise in oil prices (shareholders), businesses and consumers will feel the hurt as gasoline prices inflate. Increases in gas prices tend to have ripple effects, increasing the prices of transportation and any good or service that is reliant on transportation — bread, toiletries, DVD players, air plane tickets, etc.

The broad societal effect of an increase in oil prices is precisely what makes this issue of interest to Dialogue Earth.  This will undoubtedly augment expressed sentiment related to energy across social media platforms, such as Twitter. (more…)

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US to Expand Seeding of Biomass, Yet Another Reason For Increasing Public Understanding

by May 2, 2011

In her most recent post (NYT), Elisabeth Rosenthal outlines recent efforts by the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy to provide seed funding to fledgling businesses in the biomass fuel industry.

Discussions of biofuels have been in the news a lot in recent years. In the U.S., that has primarily focused on creating ethanol from corn, or biodiesel from soybeans, although many companies are working on second-generation strategies for creating liquid fuels. While biomass is commonly used for heat (think firewood), Rosenthal’s post points out that large-scale use of chopped up plant material (biomass) to create electricity and heat is not widespread. Interestingly, Brazilian ethanol derived from sugarcane is often argued to have an attractive energy balance because the left over plant material is used to fuel the energy-hungry distillation process. (more…)

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Warming up, turning sour, losing breath: A Call for Dialogue

by May 2, 2011

In a recent blog post at Discover Magazine, Warming up, turning sour, losing breath, Carl Zimmer outlines some of the threats to the ocean and it’s related ecosystems posed by an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He discusses the concept of a “triple whammy” put forth by environmental scientist Nicolas Gruber, who posited that three separate trends will equate to an impact greater than the sum of the parts: increased ocean warming, increased ocean acidification, and decreasing oxygen dissolved in the ocean.

Thus, it is of the utmost importance to have a clear dialogue that is backed by reliable, factual information, so that the situation can be properly assessed and we can move forward constructively to a solution. (more…)

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So, Why Energy?? — The Rationale Behind Choosing Energy For Our Media Challenge

by April 19, 2011

For our upcoming, yearlong Media Challenge, we at Dialogue Earth wanted to choose a topic that is both of importance to our collective future and that is consistently on people’s minds.

Energy was a topic that fit very well with these considerations.

Through its varying forms, energy is a topic that most people think about and must make important decisions about on a daily basis. Whether strategizing about what day of the week you should fill up your gas tank — and if you should fill up all the way, for that matter — or remembering to turn off your lights in an unoccupied room to save money on that monthly electric bill. (more…)

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The Energy Challenge Series – Our First Concept Phase

by March 15, 2011

dialogue-earth-energy-promo-imageThrough our trials, we have found that it is best while administering our video production contests through Tongal to start out with a concept phase.  By starting the contests in this way, it gives us more opportunity to give feedback and a little bit more quality control as opposed to just allowing the producer contestants to create videos based on their interpretations of our instructions.

Also by allowing for the concept phase, we can involve the best storywriters within the creative community, many of whom do not have the resources to produce videos.  This increases overall participation, seeds our project with great concepts, and plays towards the collaborative spirit of our crowdsourcing endeavor.

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The Gulf Oil Disaster: a peek at the nature of its media coverage

by February 25, 2011

When the Deepwater Horizon wellhead blew out on April 20th this past spring, as with what happens in most catastrophic events, the media went into frenzy.  What followed was a continuous feed of news stories about the Gulf disaster for a little longer than three months. These stories not only described what had happened, but also speculated as to what should happen, made measures of accountability, debated on restorative and retributive justice and described the potential impacts on economic markets and environmental systems as a direct or secondary effect of the spill.

Articles were written from a few varying perspectives: the heartfelt human interest stories, which pushed to convey empathy by humanizing the events; stories told on the basis of markets, externalities, profit and loss; pieces highlighting the corresponding actions of heads of government and policy makers, and stories illustrating the threats that the disaster posed to ecological systems and also populations reliant on these systems.

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Our First Tongal Contest: Story Concepts For Ocean Acidification

by February 12, 2011

Although all of the story concepts were not used in the list of final winning videos for our Ocean Acidification video contest, there were seven stories that were interesting enough to be good building blocks for creative video producers.  And, even though the first place video used the first place story, we’d like to believe that the selection was mutually exclusive, depending more on story execution and production quality over which story was used.

When we started the contest, we set out to find five creative stories that had broad appeal in reaching both sides of the aisle that didn’t just preach to the choir.  In the end, we actually felt that seven of the sixty-four­ entries were good enough to be presented to the next stage of the contest; so we exercised our option to pay additional monies for the two extra stories.  In comparison to the amount of money a company can expect to pay a production/ advertising firm for just one storyboard, we felt that we got a great deal on our final seven. (more…)

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