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The Race for Renewable Fuel

AAA: New Fuel Regulations Could Increase Gas Prices at the Pump

October 28th 2013

E15 fuel

New fuel regulations could drive up gas prices if they require car owners to use a “potentially damaging” type of gasoline that could hurt cars' engines, according to AAA.

The automobile club said in a statement on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency could cause gas prices to surge if it requires fuel refiners to blend a high percentage of ethanol in with conventional gas as part of the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS).

“There is a real opportunity to put motorists first in what has been a very contentious disagreement between various industries,” said AAA President Bob Darbelnet. “Gas and car maintenance costs are high enough as it is, and it would be a relief to know that the RFS will not cause significant problems for consumers next year.”

The fuel mandate, which is expected from the EPA in coming weeks, requires refiners to mix certain amounts of ethanol and other biofuels in with gasoline each year as a way to spur innovation in new fuel sources and reduce American dependence on foreign oil. Read more ..

The Race for Renewable Fuel

The Case Against Renewable Fuel Standard Subsidies

October 27th 2013

Grown from Biofuel

How did we reach the point where the government is promoting a dreadful fuel that gets worse fuel economy than gasoline or diesel, drives up food prices, damages car engines and has unintended environmental consequences?

The Renewable Fuel Standard has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with government-imposed mandates. It is causing more harm than good and should be scrapped.

For years, ethanol was promoted as a renewable, homegrown alternative to gasoline, a way to reduce tailpipe emissions and dependence on imported oil.

In 2007, as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, Congress adopted the RFS, requiring refiners to blend 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline by 2013 and up to 36 billion gallons by 2022. This mandate, however, has become completely unworkable and unnecessary. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Anti-Keystone XL Poster Campaign Hits Washington, D.C.

October 26th 2013

Keystone Protest

Anti-Keystone XL pipeline posters blasting Canada's oil sands and carbon pollution have cropped up on the streets of Washington, D.C.
The posters are a part of a two-month ad campaign by Canadian environmentalist Franke James. So far, three posters are up at bus stops along Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenue.

One poster shows a an eagle drenched in crude oil and tar perched on the U.S. Capitol in front of a red and white striped background. Words on the poster read, "No Keystone XL."

Another poster reads, "Do not talk about climate change -- it is against Canada's policy," with an image of Canada's parliament buildings dropped into the tar sands.

"Ironically, being told not to talk about climate change by Canada’s (Harper) government was the inspiration for my “Oh No Canada!” show in D.C," James said in an email to The Hill. "We need to talk about climate change, not look the other way and pretend it’s not happening." Three more posters will hit the streets on Oct. 29 and will run till the end of November. Read more ..

The Race for EV's

Volvo Unplugs Plug-In hybrids and E-Cars

October 25th 2013

Tesla roadster

Electromobility still lacks of acceptance, and one major reason for this is the lack of standards for the charging plug. Now it seems like a solution becomes realistic - through a technology that has its roots in consumer electronics. A common standard however is still years away.

Volvo has been a partner in a research project that has studied the possibilities of inductive charging for electric vehicles – and the results show that this technology for transferring energy via an electromagnetic field has a promising future. Inductive charging has the potential to make a vehicle independent of mechanical connector designs.

Inductive charging uses an electromagnetic field instead of a cord to transfer energy between two objects. An induction coil creates an alternating electromagnetic field from a charging base station. A second induction coil in the portable device picks up power from the electromagnetic field and converts it back into an electrical energy that charges the battery. This technology is common in electrical home appliances such as electrical toothbrushes but is not yet commercially available to charge electric cars. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Lobby Demands Congress Repeal Renewable Energy Standards Regulation

October 24th 2013

Oil Refinery

The oil and gas lobby says that the draft proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) biofuel regulation is not good enough.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, the American Petroleum Institute's (API) Bob Greco said Congress must repeal the renewable fuel standards mandate.

A leaked copy of the EPA's proposed fuel standards regulation for 2014 shows a shift in favor of the oil and gas industry, leaving many biofuel companies alarmed. According to the draft, the EPA plans to scale back its mandate for ethanol by roughly 3 billion gallons.

Where the EPA is requiring 13 billion gallons of ethanol be mixed into fuel, the API wants the total to be 12.9 billion gallons, Greco said. While acknowledging the numbers may not seem drastically different, Greco said, the oil industry needs "wiggle room." Consumers should have the option to choose ethanol-free gasoline, he added. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Global Energy Shifts Threaten To Leave Russia In The Lurch

October 22nd 2013

China Oil

A shiny new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal is set to open in the Polish port of Swinoujscie next year.

Three thousand kilometers to the east, Chinese President Xi Jinping leap-frogged across Central Asia in September signing billions of dollars' worth of energy deals with producing countries such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan -- as well as with the crucial transit country Kyrgyzstan.

These two developments at either end of an energy network that has been firmly anchored by Moscow for decades are sure signs of a shifting global energy environment that threatens the core of Russia's economic and geopolitical might.

The long-time business  model of Russian state energy companies like Gazprom and Rosneft -- which essentially boils down to dictating terms both to isolated energy producers in the Caspian region and to captive consumers in Europe -- is falling apart at both ends.

"There are a number of different shifts that are making the next 10 to 20 years in the global energy environment look very different from the last 10 to 20 years," says Alexandros Petersen, an adviser on European energy-security issues at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, who believes that major changes could be afoot for Russia Read more ..

The Race for LEDs

LED Bulbs Access Internet, Paving Way for Energy-Saving LiFi Technology

October 21st 2013

LED bulb

Chinese scientists have claimed that Wi-fi connectivity from a LED lightbulb (LiFi) is now a step closer. Li-fi promises to be a cheaper and more energy-efficient technology than existing wireless radio systems.

The general availability of LED bulbs and the omnipresence of lighting infrastructure offers major energy efficiency benefits. Although millions of WiFi base stations have been installed worldwide to boost signals most of the energy is consumed by their cooling systems.  The energy utilization rate of WiFi is as low as five percent.  Compared with base stations, the number of lightbulbs that can be used is practically limitless and more energy efficient.

The Chinese scientists claim that a LED lightbulb with embedded microchips can produce data rates as fast as 150 megabits per second, which is speedier than the average broadband connection in China. Read more ..

Oil Additiction

Diesel Exhaust Disrupts Bee's Sense of Smell

October 18th 2013


Air pollution is bad for people.  It has been linked to asthma, respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. Now comes word that it may also be harmful to bees.

A new study in the journal Scientific Reports finds that exposure to toxic emissions can affect the insect’s ability to recognize the odor of flowers. That is a big problem because bees - as they fly from flower to flower - pollinate about 70 percent of the world’s food crops. 

Researchers at Britain’s University of Southampton focused on honeybees, a managed species taken to pollinate farmers’ fields.  Each year, about one-third of their hives are wiped out by a mysterious disease called colony collapse disorder. Dirty air might play a role. The pollinator relies on its vision and acute sense of smell to do its job, says neurobiologist Tracey Newman, lead author of the study.

"Now, it’s faced with a sea of chemistry every time it goes out on a foraging expedition," said Newman. "So, what it has to do is it has to decipher and discern between those different chemicals to hone in on the plants that it knows are going to give it the best reward in terms of nectar and pollen."  Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Lobby Threatens Lawsuit Against the EPA

October 17th 2013

Sunoco Philadelphia refinery

The oil and gas lobby is threatening to sue the Obama administration if environmental regulators do not release a biofuel regulation by the end of November. The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Thursday sent a letter notifying the Environmental Protection Agency that it should prepare for a lawsuit if the final 2014 renewable fuel standard is not released on time.

The fuel standard calls for refiners to mix increasing amounts of biofuel in with conventional gasoline. It was developed as a way to wean the country off of foreign sources of oil and spur innovation in developing new fuel sources.

The oil and gas industry, however, claims that the demand has become overly stringent, and that it calls for refiners to produce a blend of gasoline that consumers don’t want and can't use. They have also complained that the EPA has consistently been late in finalizing the yearly standard. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

East Africa Oil Discoveries Breed Challenges

October 16th 2013

oil pump

Significant oil reserves have been discovered in Uganda and Kenya in recent years. However before Kenyans and Ugandans can benefit from the discoveries infrastructure challenges, political issues and special interests must be overcome say experts. 

In the last two years the Irish exploration company, Tullow Oil, confirmed reserves of 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil buried near the shores of Lake Albert in Uganda. Across Uganda’s border to the north, the company next discovered an estimated 300 million barrels in Kenya and is now exploring in southern Ethiopia, tracing a Great Rift hydrocarbon basin that promises economic transformation for some of the world’s poorest countries.

Tullow’s success has attracted major producers from around the world, including France’s Total, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (NCOOC), Exxon and Chevron. More major oil interests are expected soon, including Brazil. The industry is excited. “Now every potential hydrocarbon basin across East Africa is the subject of intense interest,” writes Bill Page in the annual Deloitte guide to oil and gas in East Africa. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Iran Floats Prospect Of Opening Energy Industry To West

October 15th 2013

Iranian oil tanker

In anticipation of a thaw, Iran is preparing to capitalize on improved relations with the West. And to win skeptics over to the idea that crippling economic sanctions targeting Iran should be dropped, Tehran is floating a huge incentive -- the prospect of giving Western investors access to the country's vast oil and gas reserves.

Western-friendly Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh has been sending signals that the new spirit of openness being displayed by Iranian officials could extend to Iran's energy market. In recent weeks, he has touted the competitive advantages of extracting oil and gas in Iran, and said contracts are being rewritten to allow for more foreign investment in the sector -- including to develop the massive South Pars field.

"We will do anything necessary to get back Iran's share in the oil market," Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the Iranian Oil Ministry's news agency, Shana, on October 1. "Contacts have been made [with foreign energy companies] to that effect and all of them are willing to return." Read more ..

Oil Addiction

US Vulnerable to Oil Price Shocks

October 14th 2013

Oil Refinery

As the U.S. strides toward becoming the world's leader in oil production, it may pay the price for America's heavy dependence on oil, according to a global energy security report issued Monday.

A surge in domestic oil production has helped the U.S. stabilize, but the country's fuel consumption is one of the highest in the new Oil Security Index — 1.7 gallons daily per person — leaving it vulnerable to fluctuating oil and gas prices.

The index, by Roubini Global Economics and Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), reveals that while the dependence of the U.S. economy on oil has fallen by 60 percent since the 1970s, America still consumes more oil than China, Japan and Russia combined.

"Heavy oil dependence still renders the country highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in the short-to-medium term, particularly as economic growth — and fuel demand — recovers," according to the assessment. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Teamwork Critical To Solar Decathlon Success

October 13th 2013

Do it yourself Solar

Homes of the future are being displayed in Irvine, California at the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon.  It's a biennial event in which 20 collegiate teams from around the world compete to build the most energy efficient solar-powered home that is also affordable and attractive.  One of the teams is representing the University of Southern California. As the minutes go by, the pressure builds.

In a home powered by the sun, Evyn Larson and her teammates, from the University of Southern California, are hosting a dinner party for their opponents.  This is one of 10 competitions in the Solar Decathlon.  From the food to the ambience, everything will be judged by members of other teams. While Larson and her teammates are in the kitchen, project manager Justin Kang is monitoring other parts of the house.  “It’s quite stressful to see numbers and screens every hour,” he said. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Forty Years of EV Efforts

October 12th 2013

Electric car Israel

Forty years ago, an Exxon executive named George Piercy led a small gang of oilmen into a Vienna hotel room. They were there to meet Sheikh Yamani, Saudi Arabia’s oil minster and negotiator for OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), which was demanding a 100 percent price hike in response to the Yom Kippur War. Long story short, Piercy said no. Yamani called his colleagues in Baghdad to deliver the news. Piercy asked what happened next. Yamani answered, famously, “Listen to the radio.”

We know what happened next: the first OPEC oil embargo, and with it gas rationing in the West. But something else happened then that we often forget: an aggressive international effort to develop electric cars and advanced batteries, an effort that led directly—if slowly—to the Tesla Model S’s and Chevy Volts on the road today.


Japan After Fukushima

Fukushima Radiation Leaks Raise Alarm About TEPCO

October 11th 2013

Fukushima plant worker

The owners of Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, TEPCO, have apologized after several workers at the site were accidentally doused with highly radioactive water this week. Authorities do not believe they were exposed to a health risk. But the accident is just the latest in a series that have called into question TEPCO’s ability to manage a clean-up operation that could last decades.

The leak occurred when a lock was mistakenly removed from a pressure hose, dousing several workers with radioactive water. Manager of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, Masayuki Ono, appeared in front of cameras Thursday to apologize. Ono said that six people have had their bodies irradiated and it was true that big mistakes like this continued to occur again and again. "It is therefore essential that we do something to stop this chain of events," he said. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

OPEC Production Falls in September

October 10th 2013

Saudi Oil

OPEC’s crude oil production fell below 30-million barrels a day in September. That’s the first time that’s happened in more than two years.

There are two main reasons for the drop in OPEC production. John Kingston of Platts says one is a temporary problem, while the other is ongoing and may be more troublesome.

“The temporary reason is that there was significant maintenance at some of the Iraqi operations in that month and that’s coming back. And we would expect Iraq production to get back toward its normal level. The one that’s been a lot more troubling – and it wasn’t new to September, though it seemed to pick up pace in September – are all the problems going on in Libya.” Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Water and Oil Do Mix: Great Discoveries and Prospects for Agriculture

October 9th 2013

Oil well

After years of desolation, Turkana has come alive with its colossal water reservoir and plenty of oil to boot.

Massive reservoirs of underground water and underground oil have been discovered in a remote part of Kenya – the Turkana region. Turkana is situated on the north-western part of Kenya and shares international borders with Ethiopia to the north, Uganda to the west and Sudan to the northwest. Pastoralism is the main subsistence and economic activity in the region. Crop production is practiced by agro-pastoralists mainly in the few pockets of arable land within flood plains and along riverine areas of Turkwel and Kerio.

Over the years, Turkana region has been synonymous with dearth, poor infrastructure, non-existence communication facilities, impassable roads, high illiteracy levels and wanton poverty. In fact, among the counties in Kenya, Turkana is ranked the poorest with ninety five people in every one hundred considered to be living below the poverty line. Read more ..

The Race for Renewable Fuel

Industry Sues EPA Over Renewable Fuel Standard

October 8th 2013

Pond Scum

The American Petroleum Institute filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging Obama administration regulations requiring biofuel to be mixed with conventional gas.

The suit, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, drew immediate criticism from the renewable fuels industry, which derided the action as “frivolous” and “slavish.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Renewable Fuel Standard in August, long after the agency’s statutory deadline in November of last year. The industry has repeatedly called the standards unworkable.

“EPA’s unrealistic ethanol mandates for 2013 are simply bad public policy,” said Harry Ng, American Petroleum Institute (API) vice president and general counsel. “EPA issued this year’s requirements nine months late and has once again mandated significantly more cellulosic ethanol than is available in the marketplace.” Read more ..

The Race for Renewable Energy

13 Arab Nations Get Energy Future Mapped in Helpful New Report

October 7th 2013

Wind farm Caen

There is a new report out underscoring the amount of renewable energy being developed in the Arab world with Morocco, Jordan and Egypt coming out as the big winners in the region. We report on the highlights.

The report released by the RCEEE (Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) in Cairo documents that there are currently 1.55 GW of large-scale renewable energy projects combined in the Arab world. It also highlights risks and potentials for investors.

The report fails to mention Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and says that uptake in green energy is falling short due to (no surprise) conflicts in the region.

The report developed by the center maps out the renewable energy future of its 13 member countries and states, including the nations of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine (not yet a nation), Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

3,000 Kilometer Solar Race Begins in Australia

October 6th 2013

Rub al Khali Saudi Empty Quarter

One of the most punishing races for solar-powered cars has started today in northern Australia.  The World Solar Challenge is a 3,000 kilometer trek through the Australia’s arid heart, from Darwin to Adelaide.  Thirty-nine cars made the finals, including teams from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The race through Australia’s central desert brings together the world's most efficient prototype solar cars.  The competition is, in effect, a giant research project to test the most modern technology in very harsh conditions.  The teams will have to negotiate the unrelenting desert heat in cramped cabins, often with limited ventilation. The only British entry, from Cambridge University, crashed during testing. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Sales of EV Chargers to Reach 4.3m Units Globally in 2022

October 4th 2013

Better Place EV charging

Global sales of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) will grow from around 442,000 units in 2013 to 4.3 million in 2022. So concluded a report released by market analyst Navigant Research.

“As the EVSE market has matured, some of its early challenges, such as a lack of compatibility of charging units with various PEV models, have dissipated,” said Lisa Jerram, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.  “Today there is increasing choice for consumers, including chargers with a wide range of power ratings, home chargers that are competing on price, public chargers with more options for payment and access, the first commercially available wireless charger, and an increasing number of high-speed DC chargers.” This market, however, is not without growing pains, according to the report entitled 'Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment'. 

The most notable challenges are related to the large number of players competing for what remains, for now, a relatively small market.  The industry still must devise an easy way for motorists to access public chargers hosted by a multitude of network operators, each of which often requires its own key card or access code.  At the same time, the industry has not yet figured out how to expand public charging without relying on government subsidies.

The report, “Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment”, analyzes the global EVSE market. The study provides an assessment of EV charging equipment, likely future market growth, and major market and technology trends.  Global market forecasts of EVSE unit sales, revenue, and related electricity demand, segmented by type and location of charging and world region, extend through 2022.  Forecasts for global PEV sales are included, as well.  The report also examines demand drivers related to EVSE and key industry players within the competitive landscape.  An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

The Race for Alternative Fuels

Perception of Biofuels as Carbon Neutral is Re-Assessed

October 3rd 2013

Click to select Image

Policymakers need to rethink the idea of promoting biofuels to protect the climate because the methods used to justify such policies are inherently flawed, according to a University of Michigan energy researcher.

In a new paper published online in the journal Climatic Change, John DeCicco takes on the widespread but scientifically simplistic perception that biofuels such as ethanol are inherently "carbon neutral," meaning that the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when the fuels are burned is fully balanced by the carbon dioxide uptake that occurs as the plants grow.

That view is misguided because the plants used to make biofuels—including corn, soybeans and sugarcane—are already pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, said DeCicco, a research professor at the U-M Energy Institute and a professor of practice at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

GOP Questions Need for Wind Farm Tax Credit

October 2nd 2013

Wind farm Cal

Republican lawmakers signaled opposition Wednesday to renewing a tax credit for wind farms, arguing it's time for the industry to stand on its own two feet.

Democrats and the wind industry say the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is critical to developing diverse sources of energy, but Republicans expressed skepticism that the break is still needed.

“We keep hearing that ‘we’re almost there’ or ‘just a little bit longer.’ But the facts state that wind power has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, and there’s this point of saying, when does wind take off on its own?” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Energy Policy.

An analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that a one-year extension of the tax credit would cost about $6.1 billion over 10 years. A five-year extension would cost about $18.5 billion. Democrats on the panel said that, that number paled in comparison to the billions in tax breaks and subsidies granted to the oil and gas industry each year. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Joshua Tree Light Pollution Dims BrightSource Energy’s 500MW Palen Solar Project

September 30th 2013

solar power plant

Slated for a site 36 miles west of Blythe, California, the 500MW Palen Solar Plant – a collaborative project between BrightSource Energy and Abengoa Solar – is meeting resistance from critics concerned about its light pollution.

BrightSource energy bought the Palen Solar Project when Solar Trust of America went bankrupt last year, My Desert reports. At the time, the project had received state, but not federal approval, and now both BrightSource Energy and partner Abengoa Solar are required to undergo a whole new round of permitting.

As part of this process, two meetings were scheduled to give the public an opportunity to express their reservations about the project. And this time (BrightSource is no stranger to obstacles in its multi decade pursuit to provide clean solar energy), it isn’t the desert tortoise causing a ruckus, but light pollution. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Advocates Applaud Sen Boxer's Transportation Funding Proposal

September 29th 2013

Traffic Jam

Transportation advocates are encouraged by a proposal this week from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to increase funding for road and infrastructure projects.

Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate committee that oversees transportation policy, said this week she is considering eliminating the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax in the next surface transportation appropriations bill in lieu of a wholesale tax on oil purchases.

The gas tax, currently paid at the pump by automobile drivers, has paid for road and transit projects since the 1930’s. However, with Americans driving less since the 2009 recession and cars now getting better gas mileage than ever, the gas tax is no longer bringing enough money into the Highway Trust Fund to keep up with the cost of transportation projects. AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said that makes Boxer’s proposal to sever the ties between the gas tax and transportation funding intriguing. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Interior Gets Ball Rolling on New Arctic Drilling Auction

September 26th 2013

Alaska oil drilling

The Interior Department is taking early steps toward deciding which Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast to auction in 2016 for oil drilling.

On Friday, Interior will publish a notice seeking nominations for areas in the Chukchi Sea ahead of a planned 2016 lease sale.

It’s a bureaucratic move in the politically contentious battles over drilling in the Arctic waters, an area oil companies covet and many environmentalists want off-limits.

Oil companies want access to what are thought to be huge oil deposits beneath the harsh Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska's coast. Environmentalists say development threatens endangered wildlife and that a spill would be tremendously hard to contain. A lease sale in the Beaufort Sea is planned in 2017. Interior says its leasing plan aims to strike a balance between resource access and protection. Read more ..

The Environment on Edge

Crackdown on Emissions for New Gas, Coal

September 25th 2013


The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The much-anticipated announcement brings the agency one step closer to fulfilling a key pillar of President Obama’s sweeping climate plan — cutting carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants.

Speaking before reporters at the National Press Club, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy touted the agency’s plan as “one of the most significant actions we can take” to protect public health and the environment from the dangers of climate change. “By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children,” McCarthy said.

Noting the “really long lifetimes” of power plants, McCarthy explained that “people are making decisions about these plants today, and that is why we need to act today.” The standards, the administrator added, would “ensure a clear path forward for a full energy mix.” Read more ..

The Race for Efficiency

New Steering Tech for Heavy Equipment Saves Fuel, Ups Efficiency

September 24th 2013

Rural Construction

Researchers at Purdue University have shown how to reduce fuel consumption while improving the efficiency of hydraulic steering systems in heavy construction equipment.

The new approach incorporates several innovations: It eliminates valves now needed to direct the flow of hydraulic fluid in steering systems and uses advanced algorithms and models to precisely control hydraulic pumps. New designs might also incorporate textured "microstructured" surfaces inside pumps to improve performance.

"Fuel consumption of heavy off-road equipment accounts for a significant portion of total global fuel usage, so improving efficiency is very important," said Monika Ivantysynova, Maha Fluid Power Systems Professor in Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering. "It's also important from a commercial business point of view because money saved on fuel improves a company's bottom line." Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Theft in Nigeria Has Worldwide Impact

September 22nd 2013

Nigeria Oil

In Nigeria, stolen crude oil flows out of the Niger Delta at breathtaking rates, landing in markets in Nigeria and around the world.  A new study by London-based think tank Chatham House says it is not just the Nigerian authorities that are to blame.

At a Niger Delta market Anna Arube sells black-market petrol from jerrycans for about 80 cents a liter.  She pays the police about $3 a month not to get arrested.  Even so, Arube says, the job is not without its dangers.

“They should be careful over this business that we are doing because there is risk, do you understand?” – asks Arube. The biggest risk is the flammable nature of her product, she says.  But there is very little risk of authorities clamping down.

Until 2009, militants in the Niger Delta battled the government and oil companies, saying they were fighting for the people’s right to the oil on their land.  Since then, the region has quieted, but oil theft and kidnapping are still rampant. 

Oil theft ‘deeply engrained’
A new Chatham House report says 100,000 barrels of oil are stolen daily from the Niger Delta, about five percent of the two million plus barrel per day output.  Some analysts put the total amount of stolen oil much higher, at 400,000 barrels a day. Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, says the problem is endemic. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuels

Algae Biofuel can Cut CO2 by 68 Percent

September 21st 2013

Pond Scum

Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in Bioresource Technology. The study, which is the first to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm, shows that the environmental and energy benefits of algae biofuel are at least on par, and likely better, than first generation biofuels.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.” Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar Packs for Peace-keepers, Festivals, and Eco-jocks Who Travel with the Sun

September 20th 2013

Rub al Khali Saudi Empty Quarter

Whether you travel alone or in packs, there is a new range of portable solar solutions by the Swiss company iLAND (said island) that will put crummy little solar panels on your backpack to shame: iLand has developed and now manufactures portable solar power packs for events with thousands and those small enough for one. One of their portable solar pack products can be thrown over your back and taken on a long trail to nowhere; another can serve your household as a silent backup generator.

iLand was recently commissioned to power up a massive 6-day desert marathon, the Marathon des Sables, for over 1100 runners plus 400 staff, reporters and spectators in Morocco’s Sahara Desert; they’ve seen sales increase in Japan post-tsunami as an alternate solar generator for locals; iLand gives solutions to NATO, the Red Cross, and soon the French Army; and for lone wolves everywhere who want to run, walk or be on the lone trail without leaving greenhouse gas behind. Read more ..

The Race for BioFuel

Algae-Derived Biofuel Reduces Life-Cycle CO2 Emissions by 50 Percent

September 20th 2013

Click to select Image

Algae-derived biofuel can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and is approaching a similar Energy Return on Investment (EROI) as conventional petroleum according to a new peer-reviewed paper published in Bioresource Technology. The study, which is the first to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm, shows that the environmental and energy benefits of algae biofuel are at least on par, and likely better, than first generation biofuels.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal,  executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.” Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Good News Bad News on Climate-Impacting Methane Leaks from Gas Wells

September 19th 2013

Fracking gas well

Adding fresh fuel to the debate over whether natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, a study released today found that methane emissions from natural gas drilling sites are about 10 percent lower than recent estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While natural gas power plants emit smaller quantities of greenhouse gases than coal-fired plants, the extraction and distribution of natural gas release large amounts of methane, creating uncertainty about the fuel's overall climate impact. Methane is 20 to 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

The long-awaited study, led by the University of Texas at Austin and published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), marked the first time methane emissions were collected directly onsite during well completion. A total of 27 completions were measured, revealing methane emissions significantly lower than the EPA's numbers. Emissions during later stages of production — from equipment leaks and pneumatic controllers such as valves — were much higher than expected. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Ecuador Pushes for Oil Development at Any Price

September 18th 2013

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Abandoning his previous conservation plan, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced on August 15 that he will allow oil drilling in the country’s Yasuní National Park. The park, located in the pristine Amazon rainforest, holds 20 percent of the country’s total oil reserves, estimated to be worth $18 billion. After the discovery of oil in the Yasuní National Park in 2007, Correa announced an initiative designed to assure that oil companies that could not drill in the area.

The plan, the Yasuní ITT Initiative, aimed to collect $3.6 billion from the international community over a period of 13 years as a payment to Ecuador for foregoing oil exploitation in the national park. This money was to be invested into Ecuador’s economy, driving growth and paying for social programs while avoiding the destructive consequences of drilling.

However, the collected funds only totaled $13 million, a small fraction of the amount requested. In abandoning the plan, Correa expressed regret, offering that “the world has failed us.” Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Study Finds Limited Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Fracking

September 16th 2013

Fracking gas well

A new study has concluded that the controversial natural gas development method known as fracking releases “significantly lower” emissions of the greenhouse gas methane thanks to pollution control equipment. The analysis from the University of Texas and the Environmental Defense Fund, which was supported by multiple oil-and-gas companies, found that leakage of the gas were 97 percent lower than 2011 estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency. The conclusion should provide a boon to proponents of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, which supporters say is a cleaner source of energy than coal.

“This study tackles one of the most hotly debated issues in environmental science and policy today,” said Mark Brownstein, an associate vice president with the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. “It shows that when producers use practices to capture or control emissions, such as green completions, methane can be dramatically reduced.” Read more ..

Oil Adddiction

Post-Qadhafi Libyan Oil at Risk

September 15th 2013

Oil Barrels

One year after the murder of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other foreign service members, Libya is fraying under the strain of numerous tensions. In addition to debilitating political problems and uncertain security, the country is suffering from an acute disruption in oil production and exports that has deprived it of irreplaceable revenue. This combination is potentially catastrophic, not just for Libya, but also for its neighbors.


Libya's current condition is the result of multiple dynamics, foremost of which is its almost complete lack of governance. For one thing, the General National Congress (GNC) is structurally flawed -- it was never intended to be a parliament and was only supposed to function as a constitutional assembly or, at best, the body that would appoint such an assembly. As a result, it is an institution without a clear purpose or set of responsibilities. Read more ..

The Race for Geothermal

World’s Biggest 100 MW Geothermal Plant Built by Israel’s Ormat in New Zealand

September 14th 2013


The New York Stock Exchange-traded company Ormat Technologies (NYSE:ORA) has built what’s being cited as the world’s largest geothermal plant. Geothermal plants tap into heat emitted by the earth’s core, turning this otherwise wasted heat into electricity. The 100 MW plant now online in New Zealand is being called the world’s largest: the Ngatamariki geothermal power plant cost $142 million USD to build ($12 million off target) and it is the biggest “singular binary power plant” ever constructed. 

Ormat says its energy converters are fed by a high temperature (380°F / 193°C) geothermal fluid. But until now only steam turbines or a hybrid combination using steam (and water) were in use. This new plant doesn’t use water, thereby keeping underground water reservoirs intact, and emissions low, the company reports. Read more ..

The Race for LEDs

Toward a Truly White Organic LED

September 14th 2013

LED bulb

By inserting platinum atoms into an organic semiconductor, University of Utah physicists were able to "tune" the plastic-like polymer to emit light of different colors – a step toward more efficient, less expensive and truly white organic LEDs for light bulbs of the future.

"These new, platinum-rich polymers hold promise for white organic light-emitting diodes and new kinds of more efficient solar cells," says University of Utah physicist Z. Valy Vardeny, who led a study of the polymers published online Friday, Sept. 13 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Certain existing white light bulbs use LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, and some phone displays use organic LEDs, or OLEDs. Neither are truly white LEDs, but instead use LEDs made of different materials that each emit a different color, then combine or convert those colors to create white light, Vardeny says.

In the new study, Vardeny and colleagues report how they inserted platinum metal atoms at different intervals along a chain-like organic polymer, and thus were able to adjust or tune the colors emitted. That is a step toward a truly white OLED generated by multiple colors from a single polymer. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Fights Boost Drive for Keystone

September 13th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) believes the conflict in Syria could increase the odds that the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved. “I believe it does,” he told The Dickinson Press in an interview.

“Right now, we’re determining how to respond in the Middle East, specifically Syria, and it shows, with the volatile situation there, how important it is that we can produce our own energy in North America and not have to get it from the Middle East,” Hoeven, a vocal pipeline backer, told the North Dakota paper Thursday.

Syria isn’t a major oil producer. But the civil war there and the prospect of U.S. strikes have riled oil markets over concerns of a widening conflict in the oil-rich region. Hoeven is pushing for a vote on a resolution that would express approval of Keystone, the pipeline that would bring oil from Canadian oil sands projects across the border en route to Gulf Coast refineries. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Wireless Power System Remotely Charges Multiple Consumer Devices

E-book readers

After over 6 years of development in stealth mode, Ossia which was founded in 2008, made its the first public announcement of a new wireless power technology dubbed Cota. The company received $3.2 million in funding and is currently raising a new round of venture capital. On stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt event held in San Francisco, Ossia CEO, Hatem Zeine showcased how the technology could remotely power consumer devices by automatically delivering targeted energy to multiple devices from as far away as 10m, without requiring line of sight. Operating in the WiFi frequency range and with a similar reach within the home, Cota could redefine power distribution, enabling users to charge or power a wide range of devices well beyond smartphones, to include remote controls, cameras, video game controllers, flashlights, smoke detectors and other battery-based applications. Read more ..

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