MorphToons: July 2015

I bowed to Bugs Bunny’s 75th birthday, dove into Oculus’ VR hole, and more, before absconding for Canada. Worth it.

Happy 75th Birthday, Bugs Bunny! Here’s 7.5 Times You Changed Cartoons Forever

Whether he’s the destabilizing force of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes’ glory days, or more centered in contemporary reboots that can’t measure up, Bugs Bunny remains a towering cartoon influence.

Monday marks the immortal character’s 75th birthday, so to speak: Although Bugs evolved from previous incarnations in form and style, Tex Avery’s Wild Hare premiered on July 27, 1940, marking the first time The Rabbit uttered his lasting catchphrase, “What up, Doc?”

And while the argument where the resilient, respected trickster truly begins and ends is definitively subjective, there is never a bad anniversary for memorializing our favorite cartoons in which Bugs takes over the frame. Here are 7.5 times that Bugs Bunny transformed animation culture and industry.


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MorphToons: June 2015

Going with my Geek the Beatles flow, I kicked off my first month as Cartoon Brew’s associate editor with an exclusive on the late, great John Lennon.

John Lennon Sketchbook Makes Official Online Debut

Created six years after John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, Yoko Ono and Oscar-winning animator and historian John Canemaker’s cartoon short John Lennon Sketchbook has finally appeared on YouTube. Executive produced by Ono and designed, directed, and animated by Canemaker, it is a poignant peek into the fertile mind of a Beatle whose prodigious talents extended well past creating immortal music.

“It was created from original drawings by John Lennon and a soundtrack that I also edited together, consisting of snatches of conversation between John and Yoko and song excerpts,” Canemaker told me. “It is the first time a large general public has seen it (on YouTube).”


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Did I mention that I was an associate editor for Cartoon Brew?

New Orleans Fights For Solar

Louisiana has a choice to make on solar.

With budget holes to fill, does it want to slash the state’s paltry $57 million solar subsidies and 3,600 jobs? Or would it rather stop giving excessive annual tax breaks to local oil and gas power players which number in the hundreds of millions of dollars, ultimately blowing well past a cool billion in a couple of years?

It’s embarrassing to be asked to do that math at this late stage of global warming, no doubt helped along by Louisiana’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary of soiling the Gulf coast. It gets even harder once you calculate that Louisiana boasts some of the most polluted waterways in the U.S., while New Orleans rarely fails to make annual “Most Polluted Cities in America” lists.

One imagines these sobering tragedies recently inspired the New Orleans City Council to unanimously adopt a policy resolution (PDF) in support of a “robust local solar industry.” Noting during the adoption that Environment America had named New Orleans one of the United States’ “Top 10 Solar Cities” — for a change — resolution co-sponsor and council-member Susan Guidry explained that she looked forward to the famed port metropolis eventually becoming number one. And there’s no popular reason that New Orleans can’t do exactly that, according to Gulf States Renewable Energy Association president Jeff Cantin, who noted after the resolution that 87 percent of Louisianans want more solar, not less.


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Why is U.S. Energy Efficiency Stalling?

Why are more Americans relaxing energy efficiency? Maybe because they’re too comfortable setting their sights too low.

The venerable polltakers quizzed over 2,000 Americans for a week in February and found less of them are turning off lights, replacing appliances, going low-watt and taking shorter showers than in years past. They still constitute a majority over those who do no such things — 75 percent this year versus 79 percent last year and 82 percent in 2012 — but it is nevertheless a “diminishing” one.

Filtered by gender, women beat men in reducing hot water 46 percent to 33 percent, while men have taken more pains to seal inefficient floor gaps and buy smart TVs. Variations also occurred regionally, notably in the drought-ridden West, which installed way more low-flow showerheads than their less parched American compatriots in the East, Midwest and South. Yet still all of the Americans that Harris polled “would appear to have their wires crossed,” because 62 percent considered themselves literate in energy and efficiency, despite the fact that a paltry 11 percent of them have actually conducted an energy audit or evaluation.


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The Next Jobs Boom: Energy Storage

Unleashing the solar power industry has helped added jobs to the American economy at 10 times the national average. The energy storage wave will do the same.

JuiceBox Energy recently inaugurated a storage installation class for its 8.6 kWh system (pictured at left), job-training Northern Californian installers on lithium-ion batteries, multiple PV configurations and a “hands-on” site design. Earlier that month, Juicebox installed its first solar battery system in a California home, financed through the property-assessed-clean-energy program (PACE).


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EnergySage Expands Its Online Solar Marketplace

Partially kickstarted by an incubator fund from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, online solar marketplace pioneer EnergySage recently secured $1.5 million in private funding, on the heels of a fiscal year that tripled its revenue and registrations. Not bad for a renewable energy upstart.

The new round of seed funding, which brings the Boston-based comparison shopper’s overall haul to $4 million, comes from Launchpad Venture Group, which adds its Gail Greenwald to EnergySage’s board of directors. That should be enough to expand its online solar marketplace beyond the 30 states in which it now has a footprint by the end of this year.


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The State of UK Solar

Is the U.K.’s solar market heating up? You bet your Union, Jack.

At least, for now.

Strong public support for solar is lighting up Britain. Even its conservative MPs are on board, despite the fact that Britain’s increasingly right-wing government scrapped all renewable obligation support for solar farms over 5 megawatts on April 1, according to the U.K.’s Solar Power Portal. The Portal also noted that the government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has since 2012 routinely and comprehensively tracked public opinion on solar, and nearly always found that about 80 percent of its constituents are in favor of it. “The latest wave shows that 81% of Brits support the rollout of solar,” it added.

You can add those obvious numbers to a new report from Colorado’s IHS Inc., which spotted an “unprecedented solar boom” in the U.K., thanks to 110 PV projects with a combined capacity of 1.6 gigawatts that were completed in the first quarter of 2015 alone. Sure, they were hurriedly built before the government’s aforementioned renewable obligation support program expired; “in fact, some of these projects received their permits as late as early February of this year,” explained IHS senior analyst Josefin Berg.

But despite the government’s purported disdain for renewable energy, Berg does not expect the solar market in Britain to cool off, and chances are that overwhelming public support won’t let it. Thanks to its desperate flurry, the U.K. installed more solar capacity than any other European nation last year.


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California’s Ambitious Clean Energy Goals

The Golden State is setting renewable energy’s gold standard: California governor Jerry Brown’s clean energy goals will create billions in savings and slash millions in carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s the major takeaway from Berkeley-based Strategen Consulting’s exhaustive report Impact Analysis: Governor Brown’s 2030 Energy Goals (PDF) — although one doesn’t really need consultants to arrive at the bigger picture. Right now, California’s largest export happens to be airplanes, while its richest corporation, by exports, is the mammoth oil company Chevron. So it’s little surprise that throwing major political and legislative support at the cleantech industry will dramatically reverse those fossilized fortunes, and downsize California’s prodigious emissions, while creating an international standard that any country can follow.

This is not to say that Strategen’s hard numbers, for what they are worth, are not welcome.


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Deutsche Bank: Solar is a Boom with No Bust

Solar is too big to fail, said Deustche Bank. Sooner than later, it will likely take over electricity markets worldwide.

Four years ago, markets once “heavily dependent on coal for electricity generation” enjoyed a 7:1 advantage over solar, explained Deutsche Bank’s exhaustive report Crossing the Chasm: Solar Grid Parity in a Low Oil Price Era (PDF). With the concurrent cratering of oil prices and solar costs, that ratio could approach 1:1 within two years. Crossing the Chasm predicts solar costs will shave off another 40 percent by 2017, thanks to the much more sensible financing of PV deployment and pooling of assets in yieldcos — like, say, the one between First Solar and SunPower, which Deustche Bank analyst Vishal Shah called “the best strategy” for both companies.


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