Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rust Belt Chic: Biofuels Diaspora

I'm telling you. Pittsburgh needs an energy blog. I've got a backlog of blog fodder from stories published just this morning. The Christian Science Monitor catches up with Pittsburgh-based GTECH:

Talk about multitasking — sunflowers planted on previously blighted vacant lots are providing not just beauty, but it’s hoped that they will also be able to remove contaminants from the soil and provide green jobs, plus – as a bonus – the seeds can be harvested and turned into environmentally friendly biofuel.

That’s a pretty big order even for such a large plant. But projects planting sunflowers in vacant lots are already under way in New Orleans and Pittsburgh. And expansion to Cleveland may be next.

So far, the nonprofit group that’s behind all this, GTECH, has partnered with a number of organizations – including Carnegie Mellon University. Their goals: reclaim vacant land, empower communities, and translate ideas into action.

GTECH is helping Greater Pittsburgh garner national attention (as well as global) for green innovation. Whether its Braddock Mayor John Fetterman testifying before the Senate Environmental and Public Works committee or news about an alternative energy business incubator in Warren, Ohio; the region is benefiting from a public relations coup.

A bit more about "Mr. Fetterman Goes To Washington":

Four Cabinet secretaries and a governor testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works committee on cap and trade environmental legislation Tuesday. The hearing room was packed with media and political spectators hoping to catch a glimpse and a quote from the political heavyweights. But to an average American, the most recognizable face in the room may have belonged to a small-town mayor.

While Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson work on the new environmental law from offices in Washington, Mayor John Fetterman, of Braddock, Pa., has become the striking face for a national campaign in support of cap and trade.

I'm at a bar in Denver (Falling Rock, if you must know) chatting with an alumnus from Youngstown State University. I was wearing a Defend Youngstown t-shirt so we could find each other at our agreed upon rendezvous point. A stranger approaches me and starts talking about Fetterman, thinking the shirt is a reference to the mayor of Braddock. I'm not sure how the iconography on the shirt invoked Fetterman, but the point is that the "striking face", the face of the New Rust Belt, is making a huge impact and starting conversations across the country.

Rust Belt Chic has arrived.

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