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The Race for Solar

Building Integrated Photovoltaics Slash Energy Costs in Abu Dhabi

April 29th 2013

solar power plant

Finally the Middle East is attuned to the numerous benefits of solar energy, and large scale Photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are popping up all over the region. There’s Shams 1 outside of Abu Dhabi, the largest CSP plant in the world, Egypt’s hybrid CSP plant, Kuraymat, and most recently, Masdar inaugurated the largest PV plant in Africa, which is now generating a whopping 10 percent of Mauritania’s energy supply.

But small scale solar is catching on less quickly. In addition to being prohibitively expensive for most people, the government offers very little incentive for residents of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to coat their roofs with costly solar modules. It’s a shame, because a new study shows that affixing Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) to windows in Abu Dhabi could slash energy costs by as much as 33.5 percent. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Indonesia Braces for Rising Fuel Costs

April 28th 2013

Gas prices

 Indonesian authorities are expected to slash fuel subsidies next month by 44 percent, sending fuel costs soaring. Economists say the subsidies are a costly expense that increases Indonesia’s reliance on foreign oil imports. But they remain politically popular and politicians are worried about a public backlash.

Rising gasoline costs are bemoaned across the globe and particularly in Indonesia - a nation heavily dependent on subsidized fuel.

For decades, fuel subsidies have been politically volatile. The government planned to cut the fuel subsidy last year, but balked in the face of national uproar. This year, the proposed cuts - the first in five years - no longer hinge on a parliament vote. On his official Twitter account, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono admits it will be the toughest decision of his presidency. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar PV Demand Rises Sixfold in the Middle East and Africa

April 27th 2013

Solar Panels

Proponents of environmental reform (renewable energy, greener economy) are racing against the forces of environmental destruction (fossil fuel industry, global warming), while the rest of us wait to see which will reach the finish line first.

In the Middle East and Africa (MEA), fossil fuels are way ahead. Many countries, South Africa in particular, rely too much on coal, while others like Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi have played a crucial role in our oil addiction. But there may be hope. Leading analysts for the photovoltaic industry, NPD Solarbuzz recently reported that PV demand in the MEA has soared in the last year with an astounding 625 percent increase. 

Solarbuzz outlines how the PV industry is taking off in the Middle East and Africa in their annual Middle East and Africa PV Market Report. This year they have zeroed in on three countries that are taking the largest strides, all of which we found surprising. Whereas MEA only accounted for 0.5 percent of the world’s PV demand in 2012, according to PV Magazine, by 2017, the region’s share of global PV solar generation is expected to climb to six percent. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Possible Breakthrough Towards Cost-Efficient E-Car Batteries

April 26th 2013

Plug-in Vehicle

Lithium-sulphur batteries have all it takes to replace lithium-ion batteries as the technology of choice for energy storage in electric vehicles. They are much more powerful and cost-effective than all known lithium-ion variants.

So far however, the lithium-sulphur batters suffers from a significant drawback: Its operating lifetime falls short of what is needed for serial vehicles. This however could change now: Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Radiation Technology (IWS) in Dresden have developed a new battery design that promises to multiply the number of charging cycles by a factor of seven.

"So far, this battery type hardly exceeded 200 charging cycles", explains Holger Althues, head of the department for Chemical Surface Technology at Fraunhofer IWS. "Through a specific combination of anode and cathode material we could increase the lifetime of lithium-sulphur button cells to 1400 cycles". Read more ..

The Race for Solar

European Solar Module Prices Rise

April 25th 2013

Solar Array

Reflecting a major shift in the global solar market after four years of severe erosion, prices for photovoltaic (PV) modules in the key European market are rising due to number of factors, including the newly restored balance between supply and demand.

The average selling price (ASP) for Chinese crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules shipped to the European Union increased by 4 percent in March, the first monthly rise since January 2009, according to the IHS iSuppli PV Module Price Tracker. Prices are set to rise by another 1 percent in April and by an average of 4 percent during the next three months.

“For years, solar module manufacturers have contended with profit-killing market conditions characterized by oversupply and rapidly falling prices,” said Glenn Gu, senior analyst at IHS. “Now, with clear signs that the balance between supply and demand is correcting, prices have stopped their decline and have begun to rise. This is mostly good news, because sales are increasing from Asia, causing worldwide demand to catch up with supply. On the other hand, prices also are rising because of antidumping legislation in the European Union, which is negatively impacting sales for Chinese suppliers.” Read more ..

The Race for Alternate Energy

KTH Develops World's First Water-Activated Charging Device for Mobile Phones

April 24th 2013

Smart phone

The world’s first water-activated charging device developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm claims to be able to use ordinary water to extend  life for devices of up to 3 W.

Based on micro fuel cell technology, the MyFC PowerTrekk device now means that a power source for your mobile phone can now be as close as the nearest tap or stream. Anders Lundblad, KTH researcher and founder of MyFC, said that the device can be powered by fresh or seawater. The water need not be completely clean.

“Our invention has great potential to accelerate social development in emerging markets,” Lundblad says. “There are large areas that lack electricity, while mobile phones fulfil more and more vital functions, such as access to weather information or electronic payment.”

A USB connector attaches the compact PowerTrekk charger to the device. When plain water is poured onto a small disposable metal disc inside the unit, hydrogen gas is released and combines with oxygen to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. The resulting charge is enough to power an iPhone to between 25 and 100 per cent of its battery capacity. Read more ..

The Environment on Edge

Court Backs EPA Veto of Mountaintop Mining Project

April 23rd 2013

coal mine

A federal appeals court has upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to scuttle a previously issued permit for a big mountaintop removal coal mining project in West Virginia.

Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturns a lower court ruling that found the EPA had overstepped its bounds in yanking a mining company’s right to put waste into two streams and their tributaries.

It’s the latest — but not the last — chapter in the political and legal battle over the agency’s 2011 veto of the Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal Inc.’s Spruce No. 1 mine, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted in 2007.

The EPA’s 2011 action enraged Republicans and some coal-country Democrats who called the permit veto evidence of an agency run amuck, while green groups cheered the veto as a blow against mountaintop mining, a practice they call environmentally disastrous. Several lawmakers have pushed bills to strip the environmental agency’s power to “retroactively” veto the Corps's Clean Water Act permits that allow companies to dispose of mining wastes in Appalachian streams. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Strategic Gas

April 22nd 2013

LNG Tanker

The liquid natural gas facility at Cove Point, Maryland​—​a seven-tank complex on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay​—​has borne witness to the up and downs, the good times and the bad, of the American natural gas market. Built in the 1970s to handle liquid natural gas (LNG) imports from abroad, the plant was mothballed within two years as deregulation of the domestic gas market boosted supplies and lowered gas prices at home.

That’s where things stood for much of the next 20 years. Supplies of natural gas more than kept up with demand, and gas prices in the 1990s bounced around between $1.60 and $2.30 per million British thermal units (Btu).

But at the turn of the century, as ready supplies of natural gas peaked and demand grew, natural gas prices climbed appreciably higher, reaching $10 per million Btu over the winter of 2000–2001, and spiking to well over $14 in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Reflecting the conventional wisdom of the day, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate’s Energy Committee in the summer of 2003 that “tight natural gas markets have been a long time in coming, and distant futures prices suggest that we are not apt to return to earlier periods of relative abundance and low prices anytime soon.” Around the same time, a new energy company bought the Cove Point plant and spent over a billion dollars to upgrade the facility in the expectation that LNG imports would start flowing from abroad to address the supply shortage in the United States. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Fracked Gas Far More Climate-Friendly Than Coal

April 21st 2013

coal fired power plant

Natural gas produced in the northeast's booming Marcellus shale region leads to far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal, a competing source of electric power, according to a new study by Exxon Mobil’s research arm.

“We conclude that substantial [greenhouse gas] reductions and freshwater savings may result from the replacement of coal-fired power generation with gas-fired power generation,” states the study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The findings will bolster natural gas advocates’ contention that increasing use of gas – which has been growing as a power source at coal’s expense – is an important way to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The role of gas in climate change has been the subject of debate in recent years as production, enabled by the technique called hydraulic fracturing, has boomed. Read more ..

Energy Politics

Guarding the Energy Department

April 20th 2013

Nuclear Bomb MK17

Last year, the Energy Department disclosed that guard forces at two key nuclear facilities had cheated on tests meant to assess their capability to respond to terrorist threats. One facility, located in Tennessee and known as Y-12, is the principal storage location for highly-enriched uranium used in nuclear warheads, and the other, located in Texas and known as Pantex, is the main storage site where the warheads themselves are assembled and taken apart.

Now it appears that the culture of fudging test results extends to the guard force protecting the department’s top officials in Washington. A new report by the department’s inspector general claims the small unit assigned to keep the Energy Secretary and his top deputies out of harms’ way scored well on tests of their response times and tactical skills partly because examiners gave them advance notice of exams and drilled them on the correct answers, and partly because they automatically got passing grades on sections they did not complete.


The Race for Solar

India Emerges as New Frontier for Solar Power Developers

April 19th 2013

Solar panels

India’s emergence as a new frontier for solar power has turned it into a key market for solar power developers. Plummeting prices and a push by the government have made solar energy a viable option in the sun-drenched country.

Thousands of blinking, photovoltaic solar panels sprawled in a barren, arid region in the western state of Gujarat have been lighting up homes for nearly a year. Asia’s largest solar energy park, near Charanka village, was established last April by more than a dozen international companies to produce 214 megawatts of power daily.

Since then, more solar parks have come on line in a country that produced virtually no solar energy three years ago. Amit Kumar at the The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi says rapidly falling prices for solar energy have made it commercially viable to harness the power of the sun. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Congress Gets Poor Grade on Offshore Drilling Safety

April 17th 2013

Gulf oil spill

Actions by the Obama administration and oil-and-gas companies have improved offshore drilling safety since the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but congressional gridlock still poses a threat, according to ex-members of a federal panel that investigated the incident.

Congress’ failure to adopt budgets and offset automatic spending cuts known as sequestration has dinted funding for offshore drilling programs, a report card released Wednesday by Oil Spill Commission Action (OSCA) said.

“This could well be expensive to both the companies, which may well have to wait longer to obtain needed permits, and to the nation if reduced resources diminish the quality and care of the government’s oversight activities,” the seven-member group said. OSCA’s members were once part of the now-defunct National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill and Offshore Drilling, an independent White House panel. They formed their group to keep tabs on federal implementation of their 2011 suggestions. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Sun Power to Purify Polutted Water

April 16th 2013

the sun

The latest water-tech idea out of Israel is a solar device that provides clear drinking water with no need for infrastructure or electricity. Thousands of years ago, sailors would spread seawater in flat beds aboard ship to let the sun evaporate it to separate out the salt. The same principle is behind a modern Israeli technology that relies on sun power to distill clean water for drinking and agriculture.

“About 97 percent of the world’s water is saltwater or polluted water,” says Shimmy Zimels, CEO of Jerusalem-based SunDwater. That is why some 750 million people in 45 countries need to drill expensive wells, buy bottled water or even use contaminated water despite the huge health risks.

SunDwater’s solar-powered distiller, about to hit the market, is targeted at these populations — particularly in Africa, South America and parts of Asia. It’s a “green,” low-cost, low-maintenance system that converts dirty or salty water into potable water without any need for infrastructure or an external energy source. The water is pumped into the unit, which is outfitted with a four-square-meter (43-square-foot) round photovoltaic dish that concentrates the sunbeams for fast evaporation. The water vapor flows into a cylinder where it gets condensed back into freshwater. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Better Batteries from Waste Sulfur

April 15th 2013


A new chemical process can transform waste sulfur into a lightweight plastic that may improve batteries for electric cars, reports a University of Arizona-led team. The new plastic has other potential uses, including optical uses.

The team has successfully used the new plastic to make lithium-sulfur batteries. "We've developed a new, simple and useful chemical process to convert sulfur into a useful plastic," lead researcher Jeffrey Pyun said.

Next-generation lithium-sulfur, or Li-S, batteries will be better for electric and hybrid cars and for military uses because they are more efficient, lighter and cheaper than those currently used, said Pyun, a UA associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. The new plastic has great promise as something that can be produced easily and inexpensively on an industrial scale, he said. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Israeli Tamar Gas Edges Closer to Turkish Supply

April 13th 2013


US energy firm Noble Energy, which is the largest operating partner in Israel’s Tamar Gas Field, has stated that the company has already started to work on possibly launching an energy project between Turkey and Israel, according to Today’s Zalman. The two regional powers have recently moved to normalize ties after a falling out over the deaths of nine Turkish nationals during a routine raid on a flotilla in 2010. Company CEO Charles Davidson said in a statement that the possibility is being  discussed by the company to pipe the newly discovered Israeli gas to Turkey. “We are targeting two-fold growth in the upcoming five years. We are planning to double our production as well as our reserves and cash flow,” Davidson said recently while visiting to Israel.

The Tamar platform was designed to process up to 1.2 bcf/d of natural gas; Noble estimates that peak production will hover around 1 bcf/d. The subsea wells connect to the platform by 150-km (93-mi) long flowlines supplied by Aker Solutions, which also delivered subsea control equipment and an MEG reclamation unit for the project. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Violence on Rise in Iraq's Oil-Rich Kirkuk Area

April 11th 2013

Arab Oil Derick

Over the past year, hostilities have flared between Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region and the central government. Attacks and bombings have increased in the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which both governments claim as their own. With tensions showing no sign of abating, many fear the violence will only get worse.

Four months ago, Tuz Khormatu, a sleepy town 80 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk, became the new frontline between Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region and the central government. Political tensions over oil rights have flared in this disputed area, which is as rich in fossil fuels as it is in diversity. Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians claim Kirkuk as their own. Colonel Ismael Rasoul Mustafa - who is in charge of this outpost - has been a Kurdish guerrilla since 1986 when he fought for Kurdish independence from Iraq's Ba'ath regime. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Will Israel’s Natural Gas Tap Flow to Turkey?

April 10th 2013

Gas Well Israel

The discovery and development of large natural gas deposits by Israel in the eastern Mediterranean by local and foreign energy companies such as Delek Energy and Noble Energy  has become a game changer for Israel. Up to now, Israel has had to import most of its energy supplies which became problematic following the frequent attacks against the gas line bringing natural gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan. This alone caused Israel to shift its energy attention offshore;  and upon reaching large natural gas deposits in the Tamar undersea gas fields, Israel began constructing an undersea pipeline to bring the gas ashore.

The recent completion of this undersea gas pipeline resulted in this much needed energy source finally reaching the Israeli mainland. This event was hailed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who said: “this is an important day for Israel’s economy. We are making an important step for independence in the field of energy”. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Keystone XL: Fear White House Decision is 'Many Months' Away

April 9th 2013

Keystone Pipeline

A top official with TransCanada Corp., the developer of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, said a White House decision on the project appears to be “many more months down the road.” Alex Pourbaix, a top TransCanada official, made the comment in testimony for Wednesday’s House hearing on legislation that would approve the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline.

Pourbaix expresses support for the GOP-led bill, which some conservative Democrats are co-sponsoring. He noted that the State Department’s latest environmental study is currently receiving comment, and that when it’s finalized, several more steps will follow.

Here’s his assessment, in testimony to a House Energy and Commerce Committee subpanel, of what follows the study: [T]he Department is expected to re-initiate the National Interest review with an as-yet undefined time frame. That is followed by the issuance of a Record of Decision and a National Interest Determination. At that point, a number of agencies (many of whom have been participants in the ongoing reviews since 2008) will have the opportunity to comment on the issuance of a Presidential Permit. If no agency objects within 15 days, the State Department is free to issue a Permit. If there is an objection, it is addressed through interagency consultation. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

India Wants Access to Natural Gas Produced in America

April 8th 2013

Click to select Image

India is urging the United States to green-light natural gas exports to the energy-thirsty nation of 1.2 billion people, arguing it would be an economic benefit to both nations.

Nirupama Rao, India’s ambassador to the U.S., makes the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that arrives as the U.S. Energy Department weighs an array of industry export applications.

“For the U.S. it would help create thousands of jobs and an expanded revenue stream for the federal government. For India, it would provide a steady, reliable supply of clean energy that will help reduce our crude oil imports from the Middle East and provide reliable energy to a greater share of our population,” Rao writes.

Proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to nations that lack formal free-trade deals with the U.S. (including India) face extra vetting by regulators. Rao argues the case for exports is strong.

“For both countries, which are committed to environmental sustainability, increasing the use and transport of LNG globally will help put into greater use one of the cleanest energy sources in the world,” her column states. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Fracking Could Lead to Big Profits for Some Companies

April 7th 2013


The increased use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, to extract natural gas and oil in many parts of the United States, has dramatically increased the nation's energy supply, but also raised concerns about such issues as water pollution. Private companies are now rushing into the relatively new market for recycling drill site water.

A machine, developed by a company called "OriginOil," removes sludge from water that came from an oil drilling site - with a process originally developed for extracting algae. “Petroleum is nothing but old algae, so essentially what we are doing is taking the organics out and leaving the clean water,” explained company CEO Riggs Eckelberry.

OriginOil has used its demonstration equipment in its home state of California to retrieve petroleum from water a driller had already processed. “They gave it to us, thinking it was already clean; we brought out that gunky stuff and they saw dollar signs,” added Eckelberry. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Estimates Raised on Tamar Gas Field Output

April 6th 2013

Gas Well Israel

One of the groups developing Israel’s Tamar gas field has raised the gross resource estimate of the field’s natural gas reserves. Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. says that they are raising the estimate from 9 trillion cubic feet (TCF) to 10 TCF, on the basis of development drilling and continued reservoir analysis and modeling.

Noble Energy added that all five of Tamar’s five subsea wells are now producing gas at rates totaling approximately 300 million cubic feet per day. This combined with the gas flow from the Mari-B well at Yam Tethys, is almost 500 million cubic feet per day, which will rise to an average of 700 million cubic feet per day through the rest of the year. The Tamar field is designed to deliver natural gas rates up to 1 billion cubic feet per day, and will likely reach this maximum capacity during the peak summer demand in the third quarter this year.  Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

US Carbon Emissions Drop as Gas Displaces Coal

April 5th 2013

coal fired power plant

A switch from coal to natural gas in electricity production helped drive down energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 to their lowest level since 1994, the federal Energy Information Administration said Friday.

The carbon emissions have fallen every year since 2007, with the exception of 2010, according to the agency.

Various forms of energy production and use — including power plants, refineries and tailpipes — create the vast majority of U.S. carbon emissions that are linked to global warming. The biggest drop in 2012 came from declining use of coal, a fuel facing fierce competition from low natural gas prices, according to the EIA, which is the Energy Department’s independent statistical arm. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Israel’s Navy Seeks $760 Million Gas Field Defense Force

April 3rd 2013

Israeli Sub

Israel’s navy is scrambling to assemble a force of new warships worth $760 million to protect the country’s natural gas fields in the Mediterranean as the production from the first field discovered in 2009 went onstream this past weekend, reports UPI. The navy wants 2-4 patrol-class vessels as well as unmanned aerial vehicles to detect threats such a suicide frogmen and anti-ship missiles.

Due to defense budget cuts Israel is hoping that the U.S. will foot some of the bill, a plausible expectation considering that an American company–Houston’s Noble Energy — is operating the gas fields. According to UPI, the navy wants four 1,200-ton, long-endurance warships equipped with defensive missile systems to intercept anti-ship missiles, possessed by Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, aimed at production platforms. Naval officials say the Defense Ministry has been in touch with several foreign shipbuilders, but no decision has been made on contracts. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Signs of Oil Rush Dominate Texas Town

April 3rd 2013

oil pump

The United States is in the midst of another energy production boom and, by 2020, could be producing more oil than global leader Saudi Arabia. One place that knows all about the impact an oil rush can have is the tiny East Texas city of Kilgore.

More than eight decades after oil was discovered there, pumps are still lifting Texas crude out of the ground. The pumps are everywhere, making their constant thump and rattle impossible to escape. Kilgore’s been through several cycles of energy boom and bust in the years since. The lessons learned are preserved in the city’s East Texas Oil Museum.

“We were less than 400 in population according to the census of 1930,” said Joe White, the museum’s director. "Literally overnight, after the Crimm well came in on 28 December, 1930, at 22,000 barrels a day, the population swelled to over 10,000 and things have never been the same again.” In fact, things quickly got out of hand in Kilgore. The Texas Rangers had to be called in to restore order. They had no place to keep prisoners, so a local church building was pressed into service as a temporary jail. Read more ..

The Race for Energy

A Shift in Thinking on Regional Energy Use in Northern States

April 3rd 2013

Much has been made of the increasing energy demands of the warmest regions of the U.S., but cooling down actually requires less energy than heating up, says a University of Michigan researcher. "The traditional discussion of climatology and energy demand concentrates on the energy demands for cooling in hot climates," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "However, the focus should be paid to the opposite end of the scale, as well. In the U.S., living in Buffalo, Chicago and Milwaukee is more energy-demanding, and thus less sustainable from this point of view, than living in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Tampa."

In a new study comparing climate control in Miami (the warmest large metropolitan area in the U.S.) and Minneapolis (the coldest), Sivak found that heating the Twin Cities area is about three-and-a-half times more energy-demanding than cooling Florida's largest urban area. Read more ..

The Race for Ethanol

Corn for Ethanol May be Killing the Great Lakes with Algae

April 2nd 2013

Ocean scene

The largest harmful algae bloom in Lake Erie's recorded history likely was caused by the confluence of changing farming practices and weather conditions that are expected to become more common in the future due to climate change.

Rather than an isolated, one-time occurrence, Lake Erie's monumental 2011 algae bloom was more likely a harbinger of things to come, according to University of Michigan researchers and colleagues from eight other institutions.

The interdisciplinary team explored factors that may have contributed to the event and analyzed the likelihood of future massive blooms in the lake. "Intense spring rainstorms were a major contributing factor, and such storms are part of a long-term trend for this region that is projected to get worse in the future due to climate change," said aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia, director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, and professor of natural resources and environment, and civil and environmental engineering. "On top of that we have agricultural practices that provide the key nutrients that fuel large-scale blooms." Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Israeli Natural Gas Starts Flowing--and Earlier than Expected

April 1st 2013

Gas Well Israel

After years of planning and investment, Israel received the first flows from its Tamar gas field, an offshore site that promises to aid the Israeli economy and create a measure of energy independence.

The first flows from Tamar came ashore on Saturday, in the middle of the Passover holiday. Experts estimate that the Tamar reservoir, along with other recently discovered gas fields, could supply Israel with natural gas for the next 25 to 30 years. The gas fields might also allow Israel to act as a gas exporter, creating political leverage in the Middle East with countries like Jordan and Turkey that are desperate for new gas resources. Revenues from the gas fields are expected to total $123 billion over the next 25 years. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

EPA's Low-Sulfur Gasoline Rules Fuel Fight with GOP Over Prices

March 31st 2013


The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled draft rules on auto emissions and low-sulfur gasoline designed to curb smog-forming, soot and toxic pollution, drawing attacks from Republicans who allege the mandate will increase consumer costs.

The agency estimates that by 2030 the rules will annually avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children and other gains, totaling between $8 billion and $23 billion in yearly health-related benefits.

Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe cast the rules, which have faced considerable delays, as a boost to the auto industry and public health that won't hurt consumers. The agency estimates the rule will increase pump prices by less than a penny per gallon.

“The Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to reinvigorate the auto industry and ensure that the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, more efficient and saving drivers money at the pump and these common-sense cleaner fuels and cars standards are another example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way,” he said in a statement. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Shell to Shut Down Major Pipeline in Nigeria

March 30th 2013

Oil Pipes2

Shell Nigeria, one of the largest oil companies in the Niger Delta, is planning to shut down one of the most important pipelines in the country because of 'unprecedented' levels of oil theft this year.  Observers say repairing the damaged pipeline will not fix the problem.

Shutting down a 150,000 barrel a day oil pipeline is a big deal but Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria says it has no choice. It says it has to shut down the Nembe Creek Trunkline, a major oil export pipe, to repair holes drilled by oil thieves.  Shell declined to say when it expects the pipeline to re-open.

Security forces say they are successfully combating oil thieves but Shell says sabotage has increased dramatically this year. Joseph Adheke, an oil worker, says people are buying, selling and transporting illegal oil in plain sight on the Niger Delta creeks. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar-Powered Plane to Soar Over US

March 29th 2013

airport crowd

Solar Impulse - a solar-powered Swiss plane - will take to the skies over the United States later this year, flying from the west coast to the east coast, without a drop of fuel.

The mission's two pilots, who are also the co-founders of Solar Impulse, told reporters at Moffett Air Field in California that the plan is to fly to New York in five legs, landing in major airports in each of the destinations along the way.  The solar-powered trip will last from May until July, with stops of a week or so in each location.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard says one of the goals is to demonstrate the power of innovation. "Showing that with solar power, with clean technologies, with energy efficiency, with ultra-light materials, we can bring a lot of solutions to the problems of sustainability," said Piccard. He added that the aim is to protect the environment, "but also to create jobs, to make profit for corporations, to sustain growth, thanks to this technological innovation."  Read more ..

The Edge of Climate Change

'Waste Heat May Economize CO2 Capture

March 28th 2013

coal fired power plant

In some of the first results from a federally funded initiative to find new ways of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired power plants, Rice University scientists have found that CO2 can be removed more economically using "waste" heat -- low-grade steam that cannot be used to produce electricity. The find is significant because capturing CO2 with conventional technology is an energy-intensive process that can consume as much as one-quarter of the high-pressure steam that plants use to produce electricity.

"This is just the first step in our effort to better engineer a process for capturing CO2 from flue gas at power plants," said George Hirasaki, the lead researcher of Rice's CO2-capture research team. The researchers hope to reduce the costs of CO2 capture by creating an integrated reaction column that uses waste heat, engineered materials and optimized components. Hirasaki's team was one of 16 chosen by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2011 to develop innovative techniques for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

US and China Waste Billions on Solar Panel Race

March 26th 2013

Solar panels

What happens when China and the United States clash in a subsidy-fueled solar panel arms race? The world gets a lot more solar panels than anyone wants to buy, manufacturers go bankrupt, and taxpayers get stuck with the tab.

Will the recent bankruptcy of subsidized Chinese solar giant Suntech Power cause the Obama administration to tone down its argument that we need to match China's solar policy?

"As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we," President Obama said in his 2013 State of the Union. This is a typical refrain in Obama's industrial policy.

In a 2010 address at Georgetown calling for more green energy subsidies, Obama said "the countries that lead the 21st-century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st-century global economy. I want America to be that nation. I want America to win the future."

John Kerry, now Obama's secretary of state, has sounded the same note for years, saying in 2011: "[W]e should be thinking about competing with China to win the next energy revolution. Why? Because the race is on to put the right policies in place so hundreds of thousands of new, good-paying renewable energy jobs will be created here, and not in China." Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Smart Phone Can Reduce Household Appliance Energy by 19%

March 26th 2013


An EnergyLife app smartphone application developed through BeAware, a EU funded project, LED by the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), in Finland aims to bring gaming dimensions to energy awareness to reduce power consumption. The app has helped householders in Finland, Sweden and Italy reduce their electricity consumption by up to 19%.

Householders do not always know how much energy they consume. To help improve their awareness, the EnergyLife app was developed through BeAware, an EU funded project, LED by the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), in Finland.

As part of the project, consumers in test groups had their home appliances fitted with wireless sensors. This enabled real-time information on power consumption to be delivered via the mobile app. The app is designed like a game to entice consumer to treat energy saving as a fun activity. By reading tips, completing quizzes and reducing their electricity usage they were able to collect scores and progress through higher levels in the game. Read more ..

The Race for BioFuel

Microalgae Could be a Profitable Source of Biodiesel

March 25th 2013


Researchers at the UAB's Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), have analysed the potential of different species of microalgae for producing biodiesel, comparing their growth, production of biomass and the quantity of lipids per cell (essential for obtaining fuel).

Their study shows that one type of marine algae that has received little attention till now - dinoflagellate microalgae - is highly suitable for cultivation with the aim of producing biodiesel.

The scientists carried out the whole production process in exterior cultures, in natural conditions, without artificial light or temperature control, in cultivation conditions with low energy costs and subject to seasonal fluctuations. Detailed analysis of all costs over 4 years gives promising results: microalgae cultures are close to producing biodiesel profitably even in uncontrolled environmental conditions. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Lebanese “Green Loan” Funded Solar Irrigation System Breaks Ground

March 24th 2013

Solar Cells

When Fadi Jamaleddine decided to install a solar array on his farm in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, he wasn’t thinking of the environment or global warming. He was simply tired of spending $50,000 a year on electricity for what is a hobby organic farm for the corporate lawyer. And while he could afford the upfront $76,000 to pay for an off-grid solar-powered irrigation system, he took out a green loan just to demonstrate to others that it is possible to do so.

Patrick Ardahalin from a local renewable energy company called Eco-Friendly helped Jamaleddine import and install his 64 panel solar array that is used to irrigate the 120,000 square meter farm located near Mansoura Village.

The panels were brought in from Germany since Lebanon currently doesn’t have a manufacturing facility for high efficiency photovoltaic panels. Since installing solar panels is prohibitively expensive for the average person, two years ago Lebanon’s central bank set up a system that would enable ordinary people to take out “green loans” for projects that promote renewable energy generation and other sustainable initiatives. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Keystone XL Picks Up Senate Backing

March 23rd 2013

Keystone Pipeline

The Senate on Friday voted 62-37 to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in an amendment to Senate budget. Sen. John Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) amendment was largely symbolic, but served as a clear statement that the Senate backs the pipeline.

"It puts the Senate on record in support of the Keystone pipeline project. And that's just appropriate," Hoeven said. "The Department of State has done four environmental impact statements over the last five years — four — and said there are no significant environmental impacts. And it's time that we in the Senate stepped up with the American people."

All Republicans voted in favor. The Democrats who supported the measure were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Mark Warner (Va.). Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Suntech, World's Biggest Solar Panels Maker Goes Bankrupt

March 22nd 2013

Solar Panels

Chinese manufacturer Suntech Power, the world’s largest producer of solar panels in 2011, suffered from plummeting prices and announced that its main operating subsidiary had been pushed into bankruptcy by eight Chinese banks, reports The New York Times.

Suntech saw its production soar year after year on heavy investment, as Western investors bought up its New York-traded shares and its international debt issues. Part of a massive Chinese government effort to dominate renewable energy industries, Suntech grew to 10,000 employees in its hometown of Wuxi and even set up a small factory in Arizona to do further assembly of panels there.

But a 10-fold expansion of overall Chinese solar panel manufacturing capacity from 2008 to 2012 produced a three-quarters drop in solar panel prices, undermining the economics of the business. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Japan Mines Seabed “Fire Ice” – The World’s Most Dangerous Source of Energy?

March 21st 2013

Gas well fire

Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, a Japanese state-owned prospecting company says it has successfully extracted methane gas from an undersea methane hydrate deposit in the Nankai trench south of Japan’s main island of Honshu. This marks the first successful extraction of methane from such deep sea deposits. The team expects their pilot rig could extract up to 10,000 cubic meters of methane gas per day. Deep sea methane hydrates could supply Japan’s energy needs for 100 years.

For a resource-poor country still recovering from the aftermath of the March 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, this sounds almost too good to be true. But methane hydrate mining carries unique risks which could make this one of the most dangerous sources of energy. Methane hydrates are also called methane clathrates. They consist of molecules of methane (CH4) trapped in a crystalline cage of water (H2O) molecules.  The substance somewhat resembles water ice but it forms only under the extremely high pressures and cold temperatures of the deep ocean floor and, unlike water ice, methane hydrate ice is flammable and prone to explosive sublimation. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Flexible Battery Functions Stretched up to 300 Percent of Original Size

March 19th 2013


Northwestern University's Yonggang Huang and the University of Illinois' John A. Rogers have demonstrated what they claim to be the first stretchable lithium-ion battery. The unit remains operational, powering a commercial LED, even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.

"We start with a lot of battery components side by side in a very small space, and we connect them with tightly packed, long wavy lines," said Huang, one of the researchers who published the findings in the online journal Nature Communications. "These wires provide the flexibility. When we stretch the battery, the wavy interconnecting lines unfurl, much like yarn unspooling. And we can stretch the device a great deal and still have a working battery." Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

Feds Lock Down Nuclear Stockpile

March 18th 2013

Nuclear waste overseas

Federal regulators are tightening security for the country’s most potent nuclear materials. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will publish a final rule on Tuesday that beefs up the protections for category 1 and category 2 nuclear materials to prevent them from being stolen.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ranks nuclear materials on a scale from one to five based on their toxicity to individuals. Categories 1 and 2 are the most harmful, the guidelines say, and could cause “permanent injury or death” if handled incorrectly for “more than a few minutes.”

Weighing in at 366 pages, the new regulations enhance precautions for the transport and handling of the most dangerous nuclear chemicals. The rules call for stronger background checks and the use of tracking devices to track the movement of materials. Read more ..

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