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The Race for Coal

Calculating the True Cost of a Ton of Mountaintop Coal

September 11th 2013

coal mine

To meet current U.S. coal demand through surface mining, an area of the Central Appalachians the size of Washington, D.C., would need to be mined every 81 days. That's about 68 square miles -- or roughly an area equal to 10 city blocks mined every hour.

A one-year supply of coal would require converting about 310 square miles of the region's mountains into surface mines, according to a new analysis by scientists at Duke University, Kent State University and the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies.

Creating 310 square miles of mountaintop mine would pollute about 2,300 kilometers of Appalachian streams and cause the loss of carbon sequestration by trees and soils equal to the greenhouse gases produced in a year by 33,600 average U.S. single-family homes, the study found. Read more ..


The Race for BioDiesel

Coffee Grounds: a Promising Energy Resource For the Future

September 10th 2013

coffee

For many of us, it’s the fuel that wakes us up and gets us started on our day. Now, University of Cincinnati researchers are discovering that an ingredient in our old coffee grounds might someday serve as a cheaper, cleaner fuel for our cars, furnaces and other energy sources.

Liu and fellow researchers used a three-pronged approach to converting waste coffee grounds into energy sources including biodiesel and activated carbon by:

   Extracting oil from the waste.
   Drying the waste coffee grounds after oil removal to filter impurities in biodiesel production.
   Burning what was left as an alternative energy source for electricity, similar to using biomass.

The researchers launched the project in 2010, gathering waste coffee grounds in a five-gallon bucket from a Starbucks store on UC’s campus. After collection, they removed the oil from the waste coffee grounds and converted triglycerides (oil) into biodiesel and the byproduct, glycerin. The coffee grounds were then dried and used to purify the biodiesel they derived from the waste coffee grounds. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

SIWA Oasis Near Libya to Get Solar from the Gulf

September 9th 2013

Solar panels

For outsiders, SIWA oasis in Egypt is a wonderful place to visit precisely because “civilization” has been so slow to arrive there. But for locals, the gift of a new 20MW solar energy plant will be received like a mountain of gold.

Just 30 miles east of the border of Libya, the oasis is remote, but its curious earth architecture, productive olive groves, and vibrant cottage goods – not to mention the nicest, friendliest people you could ever wish to meet – makes it a fairly popular destination among tourists intrepid enough to visit Egypt.

But as Dr. Richard Leakey once told me, living among the Cliffs of Dover is hardly as romantic as visiting; in other words, life is not always so easy in this corner of Egypt, which has access to only the most rudimentary goods and services, and a lot of people still rely on unhealthy sources of energy to maintain their a basic standard of life.

The United Arab Emirates has promised to build a 20MW solar energy plant, according to Egypt Independent. Such a plant can produce 7,000 hours of clean energy per year, which would benefit a large percentage of the population of roughly 23,000-25,000 residents. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Keystone Pipeline Foe Steyer Launches $1 Million Ad Push

September 8th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

Billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer is launching a four-part, $1 million ad buy that attacks the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

The former hedge fund chief’s first ad, slated to run during today’s political talk shows, alleges Keystone wouldn’t help the U.S. because the oil would be  “refined and loaded on ships to be sold overseas to countries like China.”

“Foreign countries will get more access to more oil to make more products to sell back to us, undercutting our economy and our workers,” the ad states. The Obama administration is weighing whether to grant a cross-border permit for TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline, which would bring oil from Canadian oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refiners.

Keystone pipeline supporters have pushed back against activists’ allegations that Keystone would largely be an export pipeline, either for crude it carries or refined products made with it. They also say that Keystone would benefit the economy even if some products refined with the oil it carries are exported. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

Microbial Teamwork Makes for Better Biofuel from Waste Plant Material

September 7th 2013

Click to select Image

A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline's properties better than ethanol. University of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.

"We're hoping that biofuels made in such an efficient way can eventually replace current petroleum-based fuels," said Xiaoxia "Nina" Lin, assistant professor of chemical engineering and leader of the research.

Gallon for gallon, isobutanol gives off 82 percent of the heat energy gasoline provides when burned, compared to ethanol's 67 percent. Ethanol also has a tendency to absorb water, corroding pipelines and damaging engines, but isobutanol doesn't mix easily with water. While ethanol serves as a mixer in the gasoline infrastructure today, many researchers argue that isobutanol could be a replacement. Read more ..


China on Edge

China's Xi Seeks Central Asian Ties For Energy, Security

September 7th 2013

Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping is working to build economic and political links with Beijing's neighbors in Central Asia this month with visits to four of the region's five former Soviet republics.

It is Xi's first tour of Central Asia since he was sworn in as president in March. His stops in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan bookend a visit to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg later this week.

The final stop on Xi's Central Asia tour is Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, where he plans to attend a September 13 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – a group that comprises Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as China and Russia. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

New Connection between Stacked Solar Cells Can Handle Energy of 70,000 Suns

September 6th 2013

Solar Panels

North Carolina State University researchers have come up with a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, which should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices and reduce the cost of solar energy production. The new connections can allow these cells to operate at solar concentrations of 70,000 suns worth of energy without losing much voltage as “wasted energy” or heat.

The discovery means solar cell manufacturers can create stacked solar cells that can handle high-intensity solar energies without losing voltage at the connecting junctions, potentially improving conversion efficiency.

Stacked solar cells consist of  several solar cells that are stacked on top of one another. Stacked cells are currently the most efficient cells on the market, converting up to 45 percent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Nova Lumos Solar Electricity in a Box is Cheaper than Kerosene

September 5th 2013

the sun

Nova Lumos, a new clean tech startup from Israel, has devised a mobile-based solar energy program for developing countries that produces clean electricity for less than it costs to purchase kerosene.

While1.5 billion people lack access to electricity, according to Nova Lumos, mobile phones have penetrated almost every corner of the globe. And in Africa especially, it has become common practice to conduct all kinds of business through cell phones.

Quite like M-pesa, a mobile-based money transfer service that is used in even the most remote parts of Kenya, Nova Lumos will provide solar energy on a pay-as-you go basis.

Users simply have to commit to a downpayment of $20-30 and they will receive a self install solar panel and storage unit that is activated after daily or weekly payments have been made. After five years, once the unit is paid off, it is theirs to keep. “Our goal is to ‘democratize’ electricity by making solar energy affordable and accessible to all,” writes Nova Lumos. ”Over the years, mobile operators have expanded from voice to data, to mobile banking and mobile commerce. Mobile utility could be the next natural step.”  Read more ..


The Race for Wind

Interior Dept. Touts Offshore Wind Auction, Promises More

September 4th 2013

Wind Turbine

The Obama administration said it's pleased with the start of its push to develop wind off the nation’s coasts after an auction for a tract of ocean near Virginia netted $1.6 million on Wednesday.

Virginia Electric and Power Co. — a subsidiary of Dominion Virginia Power — outbid Apex Virginia Offshore Wind for the 112,799-acre Atlantic Ocean plot 23.5 miles from Virginia’s shore, the Interior Department said.

“This year’s second offshore wind lease sale is another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and demonstrates continued momentum behind a robust renewable energy portfolio that will help to keep our nation competitive and expand domestic energy production while cutting carbon pollution,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) downplayed the fact that the auction attracted only two bidders. The agency’s first offshore lease sale, on July 31, drew interest from three firms.

BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau said in a media call that “companies are recognizing” the potential benefits of offshore wind power. Those projects have historically run into financing and regulatory hurdles large enough to make projects unviable. As a result, there currently are no offshore wind turbines operating in the United States. But the technology is coming along — and so is interest in offshore wind, Beaudreau asserted.

Wednesday’s auction comes on the heels of a 164,750-acre lease off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island that brought in $3.8 million. Beaudreau also noted the Obama administration has plans to initiate more auctions this year and in 2014 off the coasts of New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. Read more ..


Japan After Fukushima

Japan Government to Deal with Fukushima Nuclear Leaks

September 3rd 2013

Fukushima plant worker

Japan's government says it will take the lead in trying to stem the leaks of highly radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The nuclear reactors were crippled by a huge tsunami generated by a devastating earthquake two and a half years ago.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is vowing to spend whatever is needed to contain the ongoing disaster at the destroyed Fukushima reactors on the Pacific coast in the northeastern part of the country.

Abe took steps on Tuesday after repeated leaks of highly toxic water at the site indicated that the plant's operator has not been able to sufficiently manage the cleanup. An aerial view shows the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its contaminated water storage tanks

The Japanese prime minister said it can no longer be left to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to handle the problems resulting from the contaminated water leaks. “Instead of the ad hoc approaches that have been taken in the past, we put together a basic policy today that will offer a fundamental solution to the problem of contaminated water," he said. "The government needs to resolve the problem by standing at the forefront.” Read more ..


Alternative Energy Edge

Anaerobic Digester is Powering Up Michigan State University

September 2nd 2013

An anaerobic digester that will re-use waste from Michigan State University’s farms and dining halls and create energy for several buildings on the south end of campus is now open for business. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last month at the East Lansing campus, marking the start of operations. An anaerobic digester is a sealed tank, deprived of oxygen, in which organic waste is degraded at an elevated temperature. This allows the waste material to decompose quickly and produce methane that can be captured and used as bio-gas fuel.

“This system is the largest on a college campus in the United States,” said Dana Kirk, a specialist from MSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering who is overseeing the project. “It’s the largest in volume and in energy output.” The digester will utilize about 17,000 tons of organic waste to generate 2.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. “Only about 20 percent of the energy we produce is being used to sustain the process,” Kirk said. “The other 80 percent is available for other uses on campus.” Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen

Hydrogen Fuel From Sunlight

September 1st 2013

Hydrogen fueling

In the search for clean, green sustainable energy sources to meet human needs for generations to come, perhaps no technology matches the ultimate potential of artificial photosynthesis. Bionic leaves that could produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges.

A major step toward meeting at least one of these challenges has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). “We’ve developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light,” says Gary Moore, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator for JCAP. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

New Nanoparticles Make Solar Cells Cheaper To Manufacture

September 1st 2013

Sunrise or Sunset

University of Alberta researchers have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells.

The U of A discovery, several years in the making, is an important step forward in making solar power more accessible to parts of the world that are off the traditional electricity grid or face high power costs, such as the Canadian North, said researcher Jillian Buriak, a chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, based on the U of A campus.

Buriak and her team have designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. Both materials are more plentiful than scarce materials such as cadmium and free from manufacturing restrictions imposed on lead-based nanoparticles. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Booming Oil Production Boosted GDP Estimate

August 31st 2013

Oil Barrels

Two of President Obama’s top economic advisers are crediting increasing petroleum production with the rosier estimate for second quarter economic performance announced this week.

“This is yet another reminder that the President’s focus on increasing America’s energy independence is not just a critical national security strategy, it is also part of an economic plan to create jobs, expand growth and cut the trade deficit,” Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

The United States petroleum trade deficit hit a record low in June as booming domestic oil production displaced imports and exports of refined petroleum products increased. That played a significant role in revising U.S. gross domestic product growth in the second quarter to 2.5, up from 1.7 percent, said Furman and Sperling. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

EV Fast-charging Stations to Reach 200,000 by 2020

August 29th 2013

Electric car Israel

Fast-charging technologies are driving the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) recharging market, with the cumulative number of stations established worldwide expanding by a factor of more than 100 times from 2012 to 2020, according to a new report from IHS Automotive, part of IHS Inc. Total fast-charging stations for EVs are set to reach 199,000 locations globally in 2020, up from just 1,800 in 2012. The number of these stations, meanwhile, is anticipated to rise more than threefold in 2013 to 5,900 and then nearly triple to 15,200 in 2014. Overall growth will continue at a rapid pace through 2020.

Hooked up to a fast-charging system, which offers a high-voltage DC charge instead of a slower AC charge, a vehicle can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes. This could be a major step toward EVs becoming generally equivalent to ICE vehicles when it comes to refuelling. Read more ..


After Fukushima

Tepco Must Plan for 132 Olympic Pools of Fukushima Water

August 28th 2013

Fukushima nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has accumulated the largest pool of radioactive water in the history of nuclear accidents. The utility must now decide what to do with it: dump in the ocean, evaporate into the air, or both. The more than 330,000 metric tons of water with varying levels of toxicity is stored in pits, basements and hundreds of tanks at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant. The government said this week it will take a bigger role in staunching the toxic outflow that’s grown to 40 times the volume accumulated in the atomic disaster at Three Mile Island in the U.S.

Processing and disposing of the water, enough to fill a very large crude oil tanker or 132 Olympic-size swimming pools, will be one of the most challenging engineering tasks of our generation, former nuclear engineer Michael Friedlander said. Tokyo Electric has chopped down forest to add more water tanks at the site 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

France Leads Europe in E-cars

August 27th 2013

Ford Focus electric

By far the most battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) within Europe are sold in France - probably a result of financial incentives granted by the French government. Though the largest country market for cars, Germany only ranks third - after Norway.


In 2012, French customers bought 9314 electric cars - more than twice as many as the second player, Norway. In the Scandinavian country, 4007 e-cars were sold. The reason for the relatively high demand in Norway with just about 5 million inhabitants: Huge hydroelectric power capacities make energy cheap. In Germany, only 3254 electric vehicles were sold though the country counts about 80 million inhabitants and claims to be the largest automotive market in Europe. These figures were provided by Munich Expo, organizer of the eCarTec fair for electric driving. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

Biofuel Group Intensifies Attacks Against Big Oil

August 26th 2013

Grown from Biofuel

The corn-ethanol group Growth Energy is taking aim at the oil industry in a new multimillion dollar national TV advertising campaign, the group announced Monday. The push portrays the oil industry as using its clout to prevent biofuels from entering the marketplace. It’s the latest in a series of escalating attacks between biofuel and oil industry trade groups.

“While Big Oil may be one of the largest and well-funded industries on the planet – they are not entitled to use their influence to control Congress to maintain unbridled control over the transportation fuels marketplace,” Growth Energy said in a statement. The advertising effort will last several weeks, Growth Energy spokesman Michael Lewan told The Hill. It will broadcast nationally on FOX, CNN, MSNBC and RFD-TV, as well as in some local markets. It’s another example of the growing animosity between the biofuel and oil industries. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Lawmakers Summon Nuclear Chief to Testify About Wast Site

August 25th 2013

Nuclear Waste

Legislators in the House want the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to answer questions about the agency’s efforts to decide whether or not to approve the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada.

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the heads of the Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy, asked Allison Macfarlane on Friday to appear before the subcommittee at a hearing in September.

They want her to answer questions about the status of the NRC’s review of the dump site, which a federal appeals court last week ordered it to resume.
“Our country has invested 30 years and $15 billion in determining whether Yucca Mountain would be a safe repository,” they wrote in a letter to the NRC. “The NRC is this nation’s nuclear safety regulator and its reputation for independence and objectivity rests on its transparency in this matter. As such, NRC’s objective, scientific findings regarding the safety of Yucca Mountain would provide the public an independent, authoritative assessment of this important project.” Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Dishwasher-Sized Fuel Cells Designed To Be Ten-Fold Cheaper

August 23rd 2013

Fuel Cell-Dishwasher

Maryland-based start-up Redox Power Systems struck a partnership deal with researchers at the University of Maryland to commercialize a potentially game-changing distributed generation technology, with plans to bring to market a fuel cell that is about one-tenth the size and one-tenth the cost of currently commercial fuel cells by 2014.

The breakthrough solid oxide fuel cell technology is the brainchild of Eric Wachsman, the director of the University of Maryland’s Energy Research Center.

Redox says that it will provide safe, efficient, reliable, uninterrupted power, on–site and optionally off the grid, at a price competitive with current energy sources.

“Every business or home should be able to safely generate its own energy,” said Warren Citrin, CEO and director of Redox. “We currently rely upon a vulnerable electrical grid. The best way to decrease that vulnerability is through distributed energy, that is, by making your own energy on-site. We are building systems to do that, with an emphasis on efficiency and affordability. These should be common appliances. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Middle East Solar Manufacturing Boom Imminent Say Industry Experts

August 22nd 2013

Solar Panels

Energy industry experts are predicting a new solar manufacturing boom next year after an extended slump, and they claim that the Middle East is ranked among the top three leading markets in the industry.

After China went on a massive photovoltaic-making binge, their generic panels flooded the global market, prices plunged, and many businesses in the United States and Europe could not compete.They consequently lost a lot of money, got mad, and walloped solar manufacturers with tariffs.

That malarkey seems to have settled itself, solar manufacturers are bouncing back, and the Middle East, Africa and South America are expected to grow the fastest, Colorado-based industry research group, IHS inc. predicted in a recent report.

Of course, these nations have further to climb so it’s no great revelation that their growth will outpace more established solar markets, but at least there appears to be a strong consensus in the Middle East, Africa and South America that anyone who bets on coal or gas now will land up on the wrong side of natural history. Read more ..


Japan After Fukushima

Fukushima Plant Faces One Crisis After Another

August 21st 2013

Fukushima nuke plant

More than two years after suffering a nuclear disaster, Japan is stuck in damage-control mode. The embattled operator of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns after it was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, is scrambling amid new revelations that hundreds of tons of contaminated water have leaked from a steel storage tank and into the ground.

As it fights to contain the leak and address the possibility that hundreds of similar tanks could also leak and contribute to contamination reaching the nearby Pacific Ocean, numerous other challenges loom.

One is how to prevent the seepage of contaminated water into the groundwater. Another is the highly dangerous task of removing spent fuel rods from one of the plant's damaged reactor buildings. And then there is the issue of what to do with the radioactive water that has been stored.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is currently injecting water into damaged reactors to keep them cool and pumping out contaminated water. But Komei Hosokawa, professor of environmental sociology at Kyoto Seika University in Japan, says that international assistance will be needed to deal with the mounting issues. Read more ..


The Race for Wind

Remote Sensing Replaces Meteorological Towers in Growing Wind Power Market

August 21st 2013

London Array

Meteorological towers will increasingly give way in the coming years to remote sensing devices, such as sound detection and ranging (sodar) and light detection and ranging (lidar) systems forecasts market analyst, Navigant Research.

The wind power market currently provides almost three percent of global electricity production and as the wind power industry matures, wind forecasting technologies such as meteorological towers are becoming critical in order to integrate greater amounts of variable wind energy into the grid.  Meteorological towers, or met towers, the predominant solution at present, serve a range of forecasting needs.  

“As wind turbines grow in size, met towers are no longer cost-effective, and the value proposition for using met towers alone is rapidly vanishing,” explained Feng Zhao, managing consultant with Navigant Research.  “Additionally, pressure from grid operators demanding more accurate power scheduling from wind farm operators and the challenges of lowering the cost of offshore wind energy are making remote sensing devices increasingly attractive.” Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Nuclear Facilities as Vulnerable as Ever to Terrorist Threats

August 20th 2013

Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear facilities throughout the United States continue to provide inadequate security measures against possible terrorist attacks and threats, especially unauthorized access to -- and removal of --weapons-grade material as well as measures to prevent acts of sabotage that can cause devastating and catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdowns, according to a report released Monday by a Washington, D.C., watchdog group that investigates and exposes government corruption and malfeasance.

According to Judicial Watch's "Corruption Chronicles," the costly and divisive 9/11 Commission revealed years ago that the al-Qaeda terrorists who hijacked the commercial airliners considered crashing at least one of the planes into a nuclear power plant in the New York metropolitan area. "The report explains that Mohamed Atta, who piloted one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center considered targeting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New York,” states Monday's disturbing release. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Third Consecutive IEEE Cherry Award for NREL

August 19th 2013

Solar panels

Keith Emery always had amazing computer programming skills, but he lacked that special gift for creating solar cells. So, 30 years ago he switched to something more in his wheelhouse — characterizing and measuring the efficiency of solar cells and modules.

He succeeded so well, building a world-class testing facility at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that he was recently given the annual William R. Cherry Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) — one of the most coveted awards in the world of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.

Emery is the third consecutive Cherry Award winner from NREL. In 2011, Jerry Olson, who developed the multi-junction solar cell, won the award. Last year, Sarah Kurtz, who helped Olson develop the multi-junction cell and is now a global leader in solar module reliability, won the award. And three other NREL scientists have won the Cherry Award in earlier years — Paul Rappaport (1980), Larry Kazmerski (1993), and Tim Coutts (2005). Emery says the cross-fertilization at NREL, with great scientists inspiring greatness in others, is the reason there have been so many Cherry Award winners at the lab — and is certainly the reason he won his. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

New Flow Battery Could Enable Cheaper, More Efficient Energy Storage

August 18th 2013

Battery-recycle

MIT researchers have engineered a new rechargeable flow battery that doesn't rely on expensive membranes to generate and store electricity. The device, they say, may one day enable cheaper, large-scale energy storage.

The palm-sized prototype generates three times as much power per square centimeter as other membraneless systems -- a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than that of many lithium-ion batteries and other commercial and experimental energy-storage systems.

The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Keystone XL Could Harm Parks, Wildlife

August 17th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

The Interior Department said the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline could have a negative impact on natural resources, wildlife and national parks. Interior said Keystone builder TransCanada Corp. must better assess the Canada-to-Texas pipeline’s impact on noise and lighting.

“Scientific studies demonstrate that light pollution and noise can adversely affect natural and cultural resources, wildlife, and visitor experiences,” Willie R. Taylor, director of Interior’s office of environmental policy, said in a comment posted this week on the State Department’s website.

The April 29 comment was one of the 1.2 million Foggy Bottom is reviewing regarding its Keystone draft environmental impact statement. The department is reviewing the pipeline because TransCanada needs a cross-border permit to finish the northern leg. Interior’s comment focused on the impact Keystone would have on national parks and public lands the department oversees. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Solar Panels Return to White House

August 15th 2013

Whitehouse

The White House is making good on a late 2010 pledge to put up solar panels. “The White House has begun installing American-made solar panels on the first family’s residence as a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building,” a White House official said.

The installation drew cheers from an environmental group that in 2010 called for panels to return to the White House after the Reagan administration removed a Carter-era solar panel installation. “Better late than never — in truth, no one should ever have taken down the panels Jimmy Carter put on the roof way back in 1979,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.

“But it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun,” he said. The new solar energy panels are part of broader energy-related changes to the first family’s residence. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Libyan Oil Output Cut in Half by Strikes, Disruption

August 14th 2013

Arab Oil Derick

The Libyan oil industry is in the midst of its worst crisis since the 2011 civil war because of lawlessness and strikes at major petroleum facilities.

In the latest disruption, security guards re-imposed a strike they called off over the weekend, forcing the closure of Libya’s two main crude oil export terminals. Operations had resumed on Sunday at the ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf after a two-week stoppage. The two ports have a combined export capacity of around 600,000 barrels per day.

The work stoppage came just hours after gunmen wounded a guard and ransacked an oil service center Sunday evening in the eastern oasis town of Awjila. Libyan officials said they believe the attack was linked to competition between militia groups over oilfield contracts and the placement of their members in the newly created national Petroleum Facilities Guard, a force under the direct authority of the Defense Ministry, but made up largely of former militia members who have often fought among themselves.  Read more ..


The Race for Cool

Advantix Air-Con Empire Built on Ice and Salt

August 11th 2013

Glacier

The Israeli inventors took their ice-skating rink technology and put it into efficient air-conditioning systems used by businesses across the world.

When three Israeli brothers back from vacation decided to start a recreational ice-skating business in Israel, they came up against the obvious challenges of making ice float in the Middle East: heat, humidity and high energy bills.

Taking a slab of Dead Sea salt and inspired by the way the lowest place on earth sucks up water from the atmosphere, a new cooling idea was born.

Dan, Tom and Mordechai Forkosh, with their father and uncle, eventually went on to build 22 slush-free ice rinks in Israel and Europe using their patented energy-saving approach. And since 2010, their company Advantix has been applying the same basic approach — using salt and a heat pump — to take a bite out of the industrial air-conditioning systems market around the world. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuels

Powering Buildings With Bioreactor Algae Skin Facades

August 10th 2013

algae

A five-story apartment building in Hamburg, Germany gets its juice from its algae skin.  It’s an example of the kind of architectural innovation that could readily transplant to the Middle East.  So why is partnership between designers, investors and government largely absent in this region?

The continuing drought of global investment requires innovative approaches to project underwriting.  The most successful strategies involve collectives of stakeholders each with a  unique interest in a common project. Singularly, none would back the initiative, but in combination with others, sufficient momentum is created to realize the scheme.  There’s power in unusual partnerships, but let’s get back to the building.

The Bio Intelligent Quotient House (BIQ) was designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects to demonstrate the use algae as an alternative to other renewables for heating and cooling large buildings. BIQ, which contains fifteen apartments, is the first building in the world to be powered exclusively by algae. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Israel's Zero Gas Game

August 8th 2013

When natural gas was first discovered off of Israel’s coast, analysts and pundits, myself included, identified the finds as a “geopolitical game changer.” Some even went as far as to refer to Israel as an emerging energy superpower – a Qatar in the making.  The country’s vibrant society was euphoric and consumed with speculation about how the windfall of natural gas revenues would be used and how natural gas exports to Asia, Europe and even to neighboring Turkey and Jordan might improve Israel’s strategic posture. Such discussions were not meritless. The natural gas discoveries, nearly 900 billion cubic meters, were among the world’s recent largest, and the involvement of a competent Houston-based company, Noble Energy, in the recovery process instilled confidence in the prospects of turning Israel into a non-trivial part of the global natural gas landscape. After six decades of total dependency on foreign sources of energy Israel was suddenly not only on the cusp of an era of energy self-sufficiency but also well on its way to becoming a net energy exporter and the proud owner of natural gas revenues and a  derived $100 billion sovereign wealth fund. This vision is drifting further away by the day. Israel has made all the right moves to squander its gas bonanza and scare off foreign investors to a point that the celebrated gas discoveries might turn into a huge missed opportunity.  Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Fracking a Threat to the Saudis

August 7th 2013

Saudi Oil

A Saudi prince has warned that his oil-reliant nation is under threat because of fracking technology being developed elsewhere around the world. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the Gulf Arab kingdom needed to reduce its reliance on crude oil and diversify its revenues. His warning comes as rising shale energy supplies in the United States cut global demand for Saudi oil.

In an open letter to his country's oil minister Ali al Naimi and other government heads, published on Sunday via his Twitter account, Prince Alwaleed said demand for oil from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member states was "in continuous decline". Read more ..


The Race for Solar

UAE & Saudi Seek Whopping $1 Billion for Solar

August 6th 2013

solar power plant

Two of the top four oil-producing OPEC members, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have joined forces in a push to secure $1 billion in funding for Middle East solar-power, Bloomberg reports.

The joint goal to build solar energy plants with a combined generation of 1,000 MW capacity should result in power for up to 200,000 homes, writes Bloomberg.

This project is not related to either the UAE’s other solar energy developments, including the impressive Shams 1 CSP plant, or Saudi’s ambitious intention to spend up to $100 billion to lift itself out of the ranks as one of the less solarized Middle Eastern nations. Instead, the Kingdom and Emirate are seeking grants and loans to help finance the project, which will bring solar power as far afield as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. And it can’t happen a second too soon. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Cobalt Replacements Make Solar Cells More Sustainable

August 5th 2013

Test Tubes

Researchers at the University of Basel have replaced the rare element iodine in copper-based dye-sensitized solar cells by the more abundant element cobalt to take a step forward in the development of environmentally friendly energy production.


Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) transform light to electricity. The cells consist of a Semiconductor on which a dye is anchored. The colored complex absorbs light and through an electron transfer process produces electrical current. Electrolytes act as electron transport agents inside the DSCs.

Usually, iodine and iodide serve as an electrolyte. Chemists at the University of Basel have now been able to successfully replace the usual iodine-based electron transport system in copper-based DSCs by a cobalt compound. Tests showed no loss in performance. Read more ..


The Race for Personal Transit

Toyota Tests Winglet E-Scooter

August 1st 2013

Winglet-E-Scooter2

The Segway PT, a scooter with two side-by-side wheels, has gained significant awareness. Now it looks like it gets competition from the Far East: Toyota is testing a very similar electric vehicle.

In an extensive field trial in the Tsukuba Mobility Robot Experimental Zone, Toyota currently tests prototypes of its "Winglet" scooter. Employees of Japan's National Institute for Applied Labour sciences and Technologies as well as local administration staff utilize the Winglet for their daily way to work. They explore how the two-wheeled battery-operated scooter harmonizes with pedestrians and other traffic participants. Besides on safety, the tester take a close look on comfort and functionality with respect to the demand for sustainable mobility.

Announced for the first time already in August 2008 the Winglet is designed as a safe and simple transport means. It is driven by a locally emission-free electric motor; the driver stands on a footboard. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stop Your Engines: Americans are Driving Less

July 31st 2013

Traffic Jam

Miles driven by U.S. motorists in light-duty vehicles are down about 5 percent since its peak in 2006, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Following up his recent research that showed that the number of registered vehicles reached a maximum five years ago, Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute analyzed recent trends in distances driven by cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans in the U.S. from 1984 to 2011. He also examined rates per person, per licensed driver , per household and per registered vehicle.

Sivak found that Americans drove 2.647 trillion miles in 2011 (the latest year available), down from a high of 2.773 trillion miles in 2006. In 1984, the distance driven by light vehicles stood at 1.559 trillion miles.

His study also showed that the distance-driven rates per person, per licensed driver and per household have all dropped 9 percent since 2004, while the rate per registered vehicle is down 5 percent during that time. Read more ..


The Race for Geothermal

Kenya's Geothermal Industry Grows

July 30th 2013

Nesjavellr Geothermal Power plant

With Kenya's proximity to the Great Rift, once a hotbed of volcanic activity, the country is the biggest producer of geothermal energy on the continent. Currently 13 percent of the national grid is powered by this renewable energy, but untapped geothermal fields have the potential to cover all of Kenya's power needs, and then some.

Near the Kenyan town of Naivasha, Isaac Kirimi treks up a steaming hillside. Kirimi is a drilling superintendent with KenGen, Kenya’s leading power company.

“This is like a live volcano! You can easily convince someone you’re in hell,” he said. The rocks underfoot are still soft. He looks for a small bushy plant known as geothermal grass, which thrives in high ground temperatures.

“It is normally used by scientists to give them an indication of where there is potential for geothermal resources,” said Kirimi. "A scientist is like a wild person. You are imagining things and now trying to transfer that imagination. And try to convince someone to invest in that is not very easy." Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Obama Rebuked for Keystone Claims

July 29th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

President Obama’s dismissal of the job benefits from the Keystone XL pipeline drew a furious rebuke on Monday from supporters of the project who accused him of ignoring his own State Department.

Republican lawmakers and industry groups said the president is making baseless claims about the proposed pipeline that have already been disproven by members of the administration.

“A president disparaging private-sector jobs while backstage at a jobs rally is beyond belief. The president’s own State Department reported that Keystone would support upwards of 40,000 jobs. In this economy, any source of private job creation should be welcomed with open arms,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement.

The pipeline’s boosters challenged Obama’s remark that Keystone would create only 2,000 construction jobs, pointing him to State’s finding in a draft review that the project would actually generate 42,100 direct and indirect jobs during the initial two-year assembly phase. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

Battle Brews Over Obama Renewable Energy Plan

July 28th 2013

Obama Electric Car

America’s deserts are stark, quiet places, where isolation and the elements have long kept development at bay. To outsiders, these arid expanses may not seem like prized land.

But they are poised to play a key role — and perhaps, to serve as a battleground — in President Obama's plan to double U.S. electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020. To help ramp up that amount of clean energy, the White House has urged approval of an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands.

Estimates vary on exactly how many households would be served by the expansion, but the Obama administration says the 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms and 11 geothermal plants it has approved on federal lands so far will provide enough juice to power 4.4 million homes. Read more ..



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