Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Source: Peter Murray, Singularity Hub

Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town will be built from the ground up with the latest green technologies, including solar panel roofing, smart household appliances, and shared usage of electric cars and bicycles.

Panasonic has just partnered with eight other companies to build an eco-friendly town that uses the latest energy-saving and generating technologies. The houses populating the new town are expected to have virtually zero carbon emissions. It is Panasonic’s hope that the new city, expected to be completed by March 2014, will change the way cities are built in Japan and, eventually, across the world.

Unfortunately, it won’t.

I have no doubt the new city, to be named Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST), will be the greenest on Earth. But Panasonic should know that, in the end, the town will be more pipe dream than prototype. More helpful than creating a city with the latest in green technologies would be finding ways to incorporate those technologies in already existing city infrastructures. It’s a daunting task, and it’s an expensive task. Until we find cheap ways to replace shingles with solar panels, for example, we’re simply not going to do it.

That being said, you have to start somewhere.

Fujisawa SST will be built on a 47-acre vacant lot where a Panasonic factory once stood about 50 km west of Tokyo and will include aout 1,000 houses. Most of the technologies that will be on display at the town won’t be new, but their multi-layered incorporation will be.

By taking a ground up, green energy approach, Panasonic will be able to optimize the functionality and energy use of all the town’s equipment. Their energy management system will synergistically incorporate created energy, stored energy, and saved energy for maximal efficiency. The created energy will come from solar paneled roofing that will adorn all of the houses as well as public facilities. The energy harvested by the solar panels will then be stored in a new type of home-use lithium-ion storage battery that Panasonic developed itself. According to Panasonic the battery will be able to store enough electricity to power a house for a week. Efficient use of that energy will come from Panasonic’s ECO NAVI range of smart household appliances that sense their surroundings and adjust usage accordingly to reduce wasted electricity. The ECO NAVI refrigerator, for example, has four sensors: a door sensor to detect when it is open, an ambient light sensor that tracks the time of day the refrigerator is accessed, and ambient and interior heat sensors for optimal control of internal temperature. The refrigerator also learns the eating schedule of the household. In times of low access, such as during the workday or at night, it maintains a less cool temperature. Compared to conventional refrigerators, the ECO NAVI fridge reduces energy usage by up to 10 percent.

The developers aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the town by 70 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The layout of city blocks will be planned with the surrounding landscape in mind. A “green axis” of parks and vegetation will line the main roads and form wind paths. Solar panel design will be artistically rendered to blend with the town’s lush green landscape. And, of course, the car of choice for Fujisawa SST residents will run on electricity. Because they will require some electricity from an outside source when enough can’t be generated from solar energy within the town, the cars won’t be completely free of emission. But a city of electric cars well definitely minimize the carbon footprint compared to their gas-guzzling counterparts. Home garage and public facilities will be equipped to promote electrical vehicle ownership and sharing in Zipcar fashion. Currently under consideration is an alternative plan that does away with garages altogether. In their place would be sprawling yards and separate parking areas would hold the cars to be shared by the families in 10 to 20 homes. Electric bicycles will also be available for sharing among residents in an effort to further decrease the town’s carbon footprint.

In an effort to make Fujisawa SST both energy-efficient and safe, many of Fujisawa SST’s public spaces, such as parks, will have storage battery systems accessible by the public in the event of a catastrophe. Given Japan’s high risk of earthquakes, publicly available energy would be crucial in the event residential energy stores were destroyed.

Fujisawa SST’s optimally designed infrastructure will be connected by a power and information network, part of Panasonic’s comprehensive solutions. A Smart Energy Gateway system will connect the energy creation and storage devices as well as appliances on a single network for easy control at in-home displays. Field testing is currently underway for energy-saving technologies to be used in the town’s stores. Energy saving and storage equipment is being developed for efficient use of wind, light, heat and water. Check out the idyllic artistic renderings of the town in the computer-generated tour below.

Fujisawa SST’s timing couldn’t be better for Japan. March’s devastating earthquake knocked out one of Japan’s major sources of energy: the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Another plant, the Hamaoka plant near central Japan is also being shut down due to safety concerns, further pinching energy resources. To minimize energy demands, the Japanese government has urged its people to save as much as it can. Companies were asked to cut their electricity use by 15 percent. At home, people are being asked to maintain a room temperature of 28 degrees Celcius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), use fans rather than air conditioners and to not leave gadgets plugged in.

Spurred largely by the earthquake, Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, recently outlined a new future energy policy for his country. The policy calls for increased emphasis on solar and wind power. In addition the government plans to invest in future, as yet unrealized innovative technologies. In light of the country’s new green initiative, Panasonic is aggressively moving to position itself at the forefront of a market they expect to flourish in the coming years. The company acknowledges that if they stay exclusively in the business of audiovisual and white goods then their future growth will be limited. In the Fujisawa SST spirit of combining capabilities into a single multi-faceted toolset, Panasonic last year acquired Sanyo, one of Japan’s leading electronics companies. The acquisition turned Panasonic into Japan’s second largest electronics company after Hitachi, Ltd. The acquisition enabled Panasonic to develop the lithium-ion batteries planned to be used in the Fujisawa SST homes.

The Fujisawa SST project is a breath of fresh air in a world where efforts to go green are sadly limited. Unfortunately, the main impetus for a new city is the same reason green technologies are slow to take hold in old cities: it is much more feasible to incorporate green technologies into new infrastructures from the start than it is to retrofit old ones. For most buildings and houses, the cost of major remodeling with an already expensive technology is prohibitive. Panasonic’s “ground up” idea is a great one, but the world needs something better. I don’t think New York is going to be rebuilt anytime soon.

[image credit: Panasonic]

image: Fujisawa SST
video: Fujisawa SST


Source: Brandon Keim, Wired Science

Sea nettles at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (jimg944/Flickr).

That waste is useful is one of the animal kingdom’s cardinal principles. One creature’s discards are another’s dinner, and so continues the circle of life. But jellyfish, it would seem, bend the rule.

Their waste is generally inedible, food mostly for a few odd species of bacteria that live just long enough to emit a whiff of CO2, then sink. All that nutrition and energy vanishes with barely a trace.

During a jellyfish bloom, food webs may thus be plucked and rearranged, configured to feed jellies that in turn feed almost nothing. Whether this represents the future of Earth’s oceans depends on whom you ask, but it’s an interesting phenomenon in itself.

“Jellyfish are consuming more or less everything that’s present in the food web,” said Robert Condon, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science and co-author of a jellyfish-impact study published June 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “They’re eating a lot of the food web, and turning it into gelatinous biomass. They’re essentially stealing a lot of the energy, then putting it away.”

Condon and his co-authors are part of a research community whose attention has been recently transfixed by jellyfish, which evolved more than 500 million years ago and once dominated Earth’s oceans, but until the late 20th century were of largely esoteric scientific interest.

In the 1990s, however, jellyfish populations exploded in the Bering Sea, rising by a factor of 40 in less than a decade. Fishermen nicknamed one region the “Slime Bank.”

By the time those blooms subsided, fishermen in the Sea of Japan were accustomed to 500-million-strong swarms of refrigerator-sized, ship-sinking Nomura jellyfish, their numbers unprecedented in recent memory. In the Mediterranean, once-seasonal jellies became a year-round fact of life, again wreaking fisheries havoc.

The blooms became a matter of popular and scientific fascination. Some researchers talked of a “rise of slime,” interpreting the blooms as portents of a “gelatinous future” in which overfished, overpolluted and rapidly overheating marine ecosystems are overrun by algae and jellies.

Such grim assessments may prove correct, though Condon thinks it’s too soon to know. Long-term datasets are few (see sidebar), and these seemingly apocalyptic blooms may represent a mix of local disturbance and natural cycling, not a global tipping point into ooze. But whatever the case may be, studying jellyfish is a sensible thing to do.

“They’re a big unknown,” said Condon, and one of the biggest unknowns is this: At an ecological level, exactly what happens during a jellyfish bloom, anyway?

In what may be the most comprehensive jellyfish study to date, Condon’s group spent nearly four years gathering data from Chesapeake Bay on Mnemiopsis leidyi and Chrysaora quinquecirrha, two species that have caused trouble elsewhere and are considered representative of jellyfish habits worldwide.

The researchers counted them at sea, measured the nutrients in surrounding water, and calculated the composition of nearby bacterial communities. In the lab, they observed how bacteria in seawater reacted to jellyfish, and tracked chemicals flowing through their aquariums.

They found that jellyfish, like many other marine species, excrete organic compounds as bodily wastes and as slime that covers their bodies. But whereas the excretions of other species are consumed by bacteria that form important parts of oceanic food webs, jellyfish excretions nourish gammaproteobacteria, a class of microbes that little else in the ocean likes to eat, and that produces little of further biological use.

“Lots of marine creatures make this dissolved organic matter that bacteria use to live. But the point of this paper is that the organic matter produced by jellies doesn’t make it back up the food web,” said study co-author Deborah Steinberg, also a Virginia Institute of Marine Science biologist. “When jellies are around, they’re shunting this energy into a form that’s just not very usable. They’re just shunting energy away from the rest of the food web.”


Model of the water-column food web before and after jellyfish blooms. Courtesy PNAS

Under normal conditions, gammaproteobacteria are rare. During jellyfish blooms, they may become ubiquitous. And though many questions remain unanswered — perhaps jellyfish and gammaproteobacteria end up as food in the open ocean, beyond the confines of this study — the implications are stark. Given time and numbers, jellyfish might be able to suck an ecosystem dry, converting its bounty to short-lived bacteria.

Even if it’s too soon to say that all Earth’s oceans are returning to some ancient, jellyfish-dominated state, it’s clear that in some areas people have made it easier for jellies, said Steinberg. Overfishing and pollution leave gaps that jellies have spent half a billion years evolving to exploit.

“We’re a long ways from jellyfish taking over the world, but humans are changing food webs in the ocean by our activities,” Steinberg said. “It’s an experiment, a big experiment, and we don’t know yet what the outcome is going to be. We need to be careful.”

See Also:


Posted: April 25, 2011 in civilisation?, environment
Tags: ,

New Internationalist, April 2011

Giving Nature Its Own Rights Might Avert Future Oil Disasters

Hundreds of lawsuits have flowed from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, filed by citizens, states and the federal government. And someday, perhaps, the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems will also file suit.

Environmental philosophers and other people say that biological communities — ecosystems, habitats, species and populations — have a right to exist. They’re not just valuable because they’re someone’s property. Environmental lawyers say courts should recognize this right, and could allow people to represent nature as legal guardians or trustees.

Were nature’s rights recognized before the Deepwater Horizon wellhead blew, the destruction might have been avoided. In its aftermath, future disasters might at least be averted. If nothing else, pollution’s toll would be fully acknowledged in courts of law, not just public conscience.

“There is room in our legal system to expand the concept of guardianship,” said Patricia Siemen, executive director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. “The inlets and the marshes, the beaches that are damaged, species of birds that are threatened — each one may have its own guardian, with a right to speak for the interests of that being, and the legal authority to speak for that being.”

Legal recognition of ecological rights was originally proposed in 1972 by University of Southern California law professor Christopher Stone, who floated the idea as an academic exercise but became convinced of its justification. To Stone, arguments against the intrinsic rights of animals and ecosystems to exist were no more coherent than historical arguments against the rights of foreigners, children or women.

(Had Stone written a century earlier, he would have found a sympathetic ear in Charles Darwin, who in The Descent of Man wrote that humanity’s social impulses produced an ever-expanding circle of empathy. As mankind extended his regard “to the lower animals, so would the standard of his morality rise higher and higher.”)

‘The way our laws are constructed, anybody in the community can stand in the shoes of the river, so to speak.’

Stone’s landmark essay “Should Trees Have Standing?” (.pdf), was derided by some scholars. “Our brooks will babble in the courts / Seeking damages for torts,” chided one attorney. Others embraced it, including Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas. It became an environmental rallying point, and influenced legal activism in the decades to come.

In its modern form, natural rights are not usually framed in terms of individual creatures — though laws against cruelty to animals implicitly acknowledge their rights — but rather populations and ecosystems. In many ways, laws recognize those rights, too: The Endangered Species Act says that species have value. The Oil Pollution Act, which will guide the environmental assessment of Deepwater Horizon’s damage (.pdf) and ultimately determine what the U.S. government asks BP to pay for restoration, appoints various federal agencies as trustees of damaged Gulf habitats.

But there are important differences between the trusteeship sought by natural rights advocates and the trusteeship of the Oil Pollution Act. Under that law, only federal agencies can represent the Gulf of Mexico’s nature. Citizens and communities cannot. Meanwhile, the OPA’s trusteeship only kicks in after a disaster.

“Where natural rights would have the greatest influence in the context of oil and oil spills is before oil spills occur, when you’re trying to prevent damages from occurring,” said Kathryn Mengerink, director of the Environmental Law Institute’s Ocean Program.

A natural rights strategy for Gulf citizens can be found in statutes drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that’s worked with dozens of Pennsylvania communities trying to restrict natural gas drilling and sewage sludge dumping. The statues explicitly grant towns and cities — most notably, Pittsburgh — legal standing to enforce the rights of ecosystems and natural communities.

“The way that environmental laws work now, is that unless you experience direct harm, you don’t have legal standing,” said Mari Margil, the CELDF’s associate director. “The way our laws are constructed, anybody in the community can stand in the shoes of the river, so to speak.”

‘Nothing in the text of Article III [of the U.S. Constitution] explicitly limits the ability to bring a claim in federal court to humans.’

Similar statutes wouldn’t have allowed Gulf communities to stop deep-water oil drilling — indeed, many Gulf communities wouldn’t have wanted to stop it — but the statutes would have given the public a chance to participate in drafting drilling regulations. BP might not have been given a free pass.

“The guardian for fish, for seagrass, for whatever might be granted, can be at the table where those regulations are drafted,” said Siemen. “Obviously, it has to be someone with a conservation biology background, but they’d be there to give input.”

If Gulf communities became legal guardians for nature, they would also have recourse should the government’s estimate of Deepwater Horizon’s environmental damage prove low. This could happen if there’s political pressure to settle with BP, if the science becomes skewed by corporate or political pressures, or if some damages are simply overlooked.

The spill’s deep-sea effects in particular may be underestimated, with assessments focusing on wetlands, shallow-water fisheries and other ecosystems that are both commercially valuable and relatively easy to study, said Cynthia Sartou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network.

Under the Oil Protection Act, however, only state and federal government agencies can represent nature. People could hypothetically sue the federal government to do a better job, but it’s unlikely. “You are very limited in your right to sue. You are very limited in your right to even comment on what they do,” said Sartou.

“In a system of natural rights, it wouldn’t simply be the federal government who has the opportunity to support those rights,” said Mengerink. “It would be the public. If you don’t trust the government to do its job, this would be added support.”

Whether natural rights statutes will hold up in court remains to be seen. So far, judges have been inconsistent in their treatment of the idea, which has generally been advanced in connection to individual animals rather than ecosystems.

One promising sign came from the federal Ninth Circuit court’s 2004 decision in Cetacean Community v. Bush, in which the court had to decide whether “the world’s cetaceans have standing to bring suit in their own name” in challenging the Navy’s use of whale-harming sonar. The court ultimately ruled against recognizing the cetaceans’ standing, but wrote that “nothing in the text of Article III [of the U.S. Constitution] explicitly limits the ability to bring a claim in federal court to humans.”

But Siemen warned that laws alone aren’t enough. “For a natural rights movement to be successful, there has to be a huge shift in our consciousness,” she said. “If we adopt more environmental laws, and there hasn’t been a shift in the value system of humans toward caring and protecting, then those laws won’t be enforced.”

Images: 1) Striped dolphins swimming through oiled water (NOAA). 2) Community of creatures around a “cold seep” on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor (Derk Bergquist/Marine Resources Research Institute, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources).

See Also:

Brandon is a Wired Science reporter and freelance journalist. Based in Brooklyn, New York and Bangor, Maine, he’s fascinated with science, culture, history and nature.
Follow @9brandon on Twitter.


Apple has come in last place among a list of tech companies in the latest Greenpeace tech report How Dirty is Your Data? [PDF]. While Apple has made some pretty big strides over the last few years in trying to eliminate environmentally unfriendly chemicals from its products, Apple placed last in this list due to its heavy reliance on coal power at its data centers.

The report compares energy consumption and sources made by Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, IBM, Microsoft, HP, Akamai, Amazon and Yahoo. In it, Greenpeace points out that Apple’s new North Carolina data center, which is set to open this year and will supposedly be primarily used for cloud-based computing services, will triple Apple’s energy usage and use the same amount of energy as 80,000 US homes. Of that energy, 62 percent will be provided by coal (one of the dirtiest energy sources), and 32 percent of it will be provided by nuclear power.

This isn’t the first time Greenpeace has expressed concern over Apple’s energy footprint regarding cloud computing. In March of last year, Greenpeace also expressed concern about the North Carolina data center that runs on “dirty coal power.

By David Hill on Singularity Hub

Another chapter in the ongoing David-and-Goliath-esque saga between organic farmers and the Monsanto Company kicked off recently with a lawsuit filed in federal court. The suit, titled Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, is an effort by a group of family farms, seed businesses and organic growers associations to both protect themselves from being sued by Monsanto and undermine its patents on genetically modified or transgenic seeds. The Public Patent Foundation filed the suit on behalf of these farmers and organizations, which collectively represent over 270,000 members. While it may appear to be just another hopeless attempt by a small band of rebels against a powerful, unrelenting empire, this lawsuit has the potential to stop the bullying practices of the company and undermine its foundation permanently.

As many readers are probably aware, genetically modified food is highly prevalent in the States and an increasing amount of transgenic seed is being used in other countries, though regulatory issues remain. Since the genetics revolution of the 1970s, interest in using gene technology to produce better food has abounded, and an obvious way to accomplish this is to make plants more robust to environmental changes and pathogens, which would ultimately lead to better yields. Monsanto’s approach has been to develop technology that makes plants genetically resistant to herbicides, so that fields could be sprayed with the company’s herbicide, called RoundUp, without crop loss. The way Monsanto immunized plants was to incorporate genes from other organisms into the natural plant genomes, patent their technology and then sell the transgenic seeds to farmers.

So how could a seemingly great technological advance from a company that claims to stand behind farmers end up being voted as the Most Evil Corporation, according to a NaturalNews poll, and become the subjects of some eye opening documentaries like Food, Inc. and The Future of Food? Fundamentally, it boils down to three things:

1.       Monsanto aggressively defends their patents.

How aggressively? Put it this way…Monsanto puts the “agro” in agricultural patent law. What’s worse is that the genes themselves are patented. So let’s say farmer A is using Monsanto seed next to farmer B who is using seeds passed down through the family. If the wind blows the wrong way, a seed gets caught in the fur of field mice, shared equipment gets contaminated or any other possible way that a transgenic seed or a patented gene should happen to get from farmer A’s field into farmer B’s crops and then Monsanto finds out about it, odds are the company will sue farmer B for patent infringement.

2.       Monsanto has pushed its transgenic seed business hard.

The lawsuit claims that currently 85-90% of all soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola grown in the United States contain Monsanto’s patented genes, primarily marketed under the RoundUp Ready brand, and its global reach is extending. That’s right — we are all already consuming these genetically modified foods.

3.       Transgenic seeds and natural seeds cannot coexist…and Monsanto knows it.

Unlike a traditional manufacturer that must continually make product, plants derived from Monsanto’s transgenic seeds make more transgenic seeds as part of their reproduction. Successfully introducing transgenic seeds into crops permanently places the gene in the genome of the species. The lawsuit puts forth that organic canola became extinct after contamination from transgenic seed and warns that the future of many crops, including organic corn, soybean, cotton, sugar beet, and alfalfa, face the same fate. It is an impossibility for a company to have the scientific prowess to develop this kind of genetic technology and yet be ignorant of population genetics within an ecosystem. In other words, Monsanto merely has to bide its time before its patented genes have found their way into the agricultural systems of the world and then everyone will have to buy its products.

In light of these points, what on earth could this little lawsuit actually accomplish, especially when a group known as the Organic Elite, consisting of Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, effectively surrendered to Monsanto this past January?

It turns out a lot.

Thanks to a previous controversial lawsuit that went in Monsanto’s favor last year, an opportunity was given to the organic community and anyone else worried about preserving a transgenic-free food supply. The Supreme Court overturned a ruling from a San Francisco district court, which had said that the USDA had approved Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready alfalfa seed illegally and forbade sales until the USDA completed an investigation. However, in that same hearing, the Court also recognized that economic loss due to genetic contamination or gene flow now constitutes “environmental harm,” which is antithetical to patent protection. This means that a technology can only be protected by a patent if it can be shown to be beneficial to the well-being of society.

So if someone could come along and show that Monsanto’s seed technology were causing environmental harm, either economically or genetically, to individuals and/or society as a whole, then the patents might be nullified and therefore not enforceable.

Enter the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association.

As the plaintiff in this case, this association is seeking to protect the farmers from being sued, for sure, but what it really wants to accomplish is no less than hobbling Monsanto for good. If the patents can be rendered invalid, then not only will the Monsanto v. anyone-who-accidentally-uses-a-transgenic-seed lawsuits stop, but the anyone-who-cares-about-food v. Monsanto lawsuits are going to keep coming.

While the lawsuit brings up many issues and emotions about food and the future of society, its worthwhile taking a moment to reflect on the reality of what all of this means.

Without a shadow of a doubt, genetically modified foods were certain to become part of our future.  There are some people who like the idea of food that is completely naturally grown that is never tainted by anything, but frankly, that approach only worked when there was one percent of the human population of today. The bottom line is the world needs more food and businesses need the food industry to be profitable. The genetics revolution opened the door to bolstering the DNA of plants and animals that provide foodstuffs against harmful conditions and organisms to create nutrient-rich superfoods. It only makes sense that in due time foods would be genetically modified to meet the demands of everyone. But clearly that research needed to be done carefully while respecting nature, and the development of products should have been done with a significant amount of oversight.

farmers_marketIt may be too late for even organic food markets to protect consumers from Monsanto’s gene technology

The real problem that this lawsuit underscores is Monsanto has been cavalier in its business practices. The company has taken an irresponsible stand on the negative impact its technology could have on crops worldwide, instead choosing to focus on market penetration and profits. Science has only scratched the surface on the complex role between genetics, diet, and environment, so how in the world can a company claim that introducing a foreign gene into a seed’s DNA is going to be safe for everything and everyone, both now and in the distant future? They can’t, but the law doesn’t require them to and that’s a detrimental problem. The legal system needs to catch up with the realities of the Genetic Age and fast.

Companies are often given credit for making the world a better place, but certainly no company wants to go down as the one that tainted the food chain. Hopefully, this lawsuit can at least protect organic farmers, but just maybe it will finally put the agricultural giant in its place. Unfortunately, it may be too late for certain crops. We have to sober up to an unfortunate truth: thanks to the aggressive and ecologically-disastrous policies of Monsanto, we may be eating a Monsanto gene with every spoonful whether we want to or not.

[IMAGE: sxc, sxc]

[SOURCE: FastCompany, Grist, Monsantoblog, NaturalNews, Organic Seed Alliance, OSGATA, PubPat,

Genetically Modified Rice and Corn To Grow in China, then the World



The Genetically Modified Food You Eat



Future of Genetically Modified Rice/Corn in China May Be Both Certain and Delayed


Marijuana grown indoors has a huge carbon footprint reports Huffpost Green. And it’s of course not surprising …

Pot-smoking environmentalists take note: Grass might not be green. A new study reveals that indoor marijuana production carries a shockingly large carbon footprint.

GOOD reports that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Evan Mills, Ph.D., has released a surprising new independent report, “Energy up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production.” Mills reports that indoor Cannabis production uses 1% of the nation’s entire electricity consumption. This comes to energy expenditures of $5 billion per year.

While 1% may not seem like a lot, the report claims that smoking one single Cannabis joint is equivalent to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours. That Cannabis cigarette carries two pounds of CO2 emissions.

According to the report:

Each four-by-four-foot production module doubles the electricity use of an average U.S. home and triples that of an average California home. The added electricity use is equivalent to running about 30 refrigerators. Processed Cannabis results in 3000-times its weight in emissions. For off-grid production, it requires 70 gallons of diesel fuel to produce one indoor Cannabis plant, or 140 gallons with smaller, less-efficient gasoline generators.

Is this report ideal material for anti-drug activists? Not exactly. Mills is clear to write, “This study does not pass judgement on the merits of Cannabis cultivation” and he states that cannabis production is not intrinsically polluting, but rather currently engages in inefficient production. Mills proposes that energy use for indoor production could be dramatically reduced, with cost-effective efficiency improvements of up to 75%. He also suggests that by shifting cultivation use outdoors, certain aspects of energy consumption would be eliminated (although other environmental impacts might be imposed instead).

Fast Company finds this report to be further evidence that marijuana should be legalized. Writer Ariel Schwartz says, “Marijuana production needs to be legalized, so people will actually cast a critical eye on its energy usage. All the industry has to do is follow in the footsteps of the commercial agricultural industry, which has made strides in energy efficiency in recent years.”

Mills writes in his report that criminalization contributes to inefficient energy practices. Compared to electric grids, off-grid power production often produced more greenhouse-gas emissions. He also describes how long driving distances and odor suppression measures take away from ventilation efficiencies.

Ultimately, Mills concludes, “It is up to others to decide how to respond to the findings.” Whatever the response may be, indoor cannabis production must somehow reduce its carbon footprint.