The Freedom Prizes are more about innovation than invention. Sponsored by the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit, and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the prizes reward groups who make the best use of current technologies to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
The motivation behind the prize is not so much saving the environment as saving the United States from the hazards of dependence on foreign oil, and also from the health effects of pollution. But the outcome is the same: fewer greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. The idea is to encourage people to use the energy-saving tools already at their disposal.
The prize totals more than $4 million, broken up into increments of $500,000 to $1 million each, awarded to the best ideas in five different areas: community, industry, government, military and schools. In each of the categories, the winners are those who devise and put into effect plans that cut back on fossil fuels in a way that can be implemented widely.
These programs might be things like using alternative energy to heat schools, greening automotive fleets or offering rebates on homeowners' association fees to people who use 10 percent less electricity per month. The competition began officially in 2008, and the foundation plans to begin distributing prize money some time in 2009.
Up next: Who can go the farthest and the fastest on the least?