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The Race fo EVs

Mini Electric Car Rentals can reduce Air Pollution

December 20th 2012

Tiny electric car

The Tel Aviv municipality in Israel is considering a plan to rent out small electric vehicles on a short term basis to cut down on air pollution, clear the roads and free up parking. Building on the success of its Tel-o-Fun bike sharing program and a similar launch in Paris, the city will send out an international tender for an operator some time during 2013. Director General of the municipality Menahem Leibe announced the plan at a recent budget meeting in the city.

The car in question “won’t go too fast; it will be small and easy to get around in,” Leibe said, according to Haaretz. “It’s urban, it’s not meant for a trip to Jerusalem.”

Although no concrete plans have been made, the city is toying with the idea of offering either small two seater vehicles like Renault’s Twizy or electric scooters that can be rented on a short term basis. Read more ..

The Race for LEDs

LEDs Shrink Airport Lighting Bill by 90 Percent

December 19th 2012

Runway lights

In the commercial segment, functional outdoor lighting represents a big junk of the operating costs. However, for operational and safety reasons, light is indispensable and in most cases cannot be reduced. For this reasons, the management of the Munich Airport Cargo Centers chose the replace their existing conventional lighting solution through LED Floodlights. At the siding of the spatially extended building the company installed a total of 26 floodlights with 93 watts each. They replace the same number of halogen-metal vapour lamps of which each one consumed 2 x 400 watts. Thus, the power consumption could be reduced by almost 90%. Since LED spotlights do create only very low scattering losses, the new LED system achieves the same illumination level than the one it replaces. Extrapolated to the energy consumption of an entire year, the electricity bill for the LED lighting is 7400 euros lower than before - per year. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Energy Storage Market to Reach $6.1 Billion by 2018

December 18th 2012


NanoMarkets has published a new report entitled: 'Batteries and Supercapacitors for the Smart Grid-2013' which claims the grid-storage market will reach $6.1 billion by 2018 making energy storage one of the fastest growing opportunities in the smart grid industry.

The report says that the default option for grid batteries today is lead-acid, accounting for more than 55% of revenues from grid batteries currently. By 2018, the share will decline to around 30% as new grid battery technologies become commercialized. The lead-acid battery will itself get an upgrade; carbon electrodes, promising a 4x performance improvement. In addition, the ultrabattery, with combination lead/carbon electrodes will compete for grid-storage markets. In 2018, lead-carbon batteries/ultrabatteries will generate around $300 million in revenues. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar-Cell Fibers Capabilities Woven Into Solar Fabrics

December 17th 2012

Solar Array

An international team of chemists, physicists and engineers, led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, has demonstrated for the first time, a silicon-based optical fiber with solar-cell capabilities that is scalable to many meters in length.  The research opens the door to the possibility of weaving together solar-cell silicon wires to create flexible, curved or twisted solar fabrics.

The team's new findings build on earlier work addressing the challenge of merging optical fibers with electronic chips, silicon-based integrated circuits that serve as the building blocks for most semiconductor electronic devices such as solar cells, computers and cellphones. Rather than merge a flat chip with a round optical fiber, the team found a way to build a new kind of optical fiber, with its own integrated electronic component, thereby bypassing the need to integrate fiber-optics with chips. To do this, they used high-pressure chemistry techniques to deposit semiconducting materials directly, layer by layer, into tiny holes in optical fibers. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Ultra-fast Computer Memory Made Massively More Energy-Efficient

December 16th 2012

Columbia Supercomputer NASA Advanced Supercomputing Facility

By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have made major improvements to an ultra-fast, high-capacity class of computer memory known as magnetoresistive random access memory, or MRAM.

The UCLA team's improved memory, which they call MeRAM for magnetoelectric random access memory, has great potential to be used in future memory chips for almost all electronic applications, including smart-phones, tablets, computers and microprocessors, as well as for data storage, like the solid-state disks used in computers and large data centers.

MeRAM's key advantage over existing technologies is that it combines extraordinary low energy with very high density, high-speed reading and writing times, and non-volatility — the ability to retain data when no power is applied, similar to hard disk drives and flash memory sticks, but MeRAM is much faster. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Alternative to Fullerenes Found for Organic Solar Cells

December 14th 2012

Research and Development Chemistry

Scientists at the University of Warwick have pinpointed an unappreciated property of fullerenes, namely the availability of additional electron accepting states, which could be replicated to create a new class of ‘fullerene mimics’.

The solar cell industry has been searching for an alternative to fullerenes for some time as they have many drawbacks as electronic acceptors, including a limited light adsorption and a high cost.  Going beyond fullerene derivatives would increase the possible blends that can be considered for organic solar cells.

The University of Warwick scientists, led by Professor Alessandro Troisi in the Department of Chemistry, have discovered that fullerene can accept electrons in a number of excited states, not just in its ground anionic state.  These extra states make the process of electron capture faster and improve the efficiency of the charge separation process. This particular property is not possessed by chance – it needs to be designed into a material and so any attempt to make a fullerene substitute needs to take this property into account. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Israel to Reap Huge Profits From Gas Discoveries--Underestimated Gains Worth Billions per Year

December 13th 2012

Gas well fire

Three important articles today highlight the huge gains Israel is expected to reap from natural gas discovered within the last few years.

The first, from Foreign Policy magazine, emphasizes the huge reserves of both gas and oil that Israel now possesses. Just a few years ago, Israel operated just one natural gas well in the north. Today, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas have been discovered off its coast, enough to power the Jewish state alone for the next 100 years. In addition, shale oil reserves have been discovered that make Israel the third largest reservoir of shale oil behind the United States and China.

Combined, Israel's oil and gas reserves would be about equal to Saudi Arabia's total energy reserves. Although the first drop of these presumed shale oil reserves has yet to be extracted, Canadian and Russian oil companies are falling over each other to offer their help in doing so.

Next, an industry expert quoted by Ha'aretz says the economic impact from Israel's recent discoveries has been hugely underestimated. Idan Azoulay, CEO of Epsilon Mutual Funds, says gas revenues will add an estimated NIS 12 billion to the Israeli economy in 2013 alone. Where Azoulay said his forecast differs from others is by taking into account gas production's indirect contribution to the economy through anticipated energy cost savings. Using gas to produce power cuts fuel costs by two-thirds compared with petroleum, he explained. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Paraguay Inks Oil Deal to Advance on Energy Independence

December 11th 2012

Paraguayan president Federico Franco and President Energy guys
Paraguayan President Federico Franco (l) and President Energy officials.

On December 5th, President Federico Franco of Paraguay began a two-day official visit to Miami, invited by local petrochemical companies that are planning to explore oil in the the Chaco region of the South American country.

In one of his interviews, Franco stated that Paraguay has the largest oil reserves in Latin America and is looking forward to receiving US investors to conduct further studies in the Chaco. One day before his departure, the president visited the city of Neuland (about 350 miles from capital city Asuncion) and with representatives of President Energy Company led the symbolic act of officially beginning the oil exploration in Chaco, in which President Energy is expected to invest $92 Million. Seismic exploration trucks have already undertaken tests and exploratory drilling is set to begin. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Jordan's Feed-in-Tariff for Renewable Energy is an Arab World First

December 10th 2012

Do it yourself Solar

Jordan is the first country in the Arab world to offer its residents an opportunity to earn money through feed-in-tariffs (FITs). The Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) announced last week that citizens of one of the world’s most fuel-deprived nations can sell energy generated with solar panels for 120 fils per kilowatt/hour (kw/h) and wind power for  85 fils per kw/h, The Jordan Times reports. Albeit seemingly insignificant, the move is expected to mitigate the dual problems of excess energy consumption and unfulfilled demand.

Instituting FITs for energy generated using renewable sources is the last in a series of measures taken by Jordan to bridge the gap between its energy demand and supply. “With rising international oil prices, the government has been looking for ways to reduce electricity demand and costs,” ERC Chief Commissioner Mohammad Hamid stated. We found that the best way to achieve both is by encouraging Jordanians to go solar.” Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Synthetic Fuels Could Eliminate Entire U.S. Need For Crude Oil Fueling a 'New Economy'

December 10th 2012

Traffic Jam

The United States could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton researchers has found. 

Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse emissions by as much as 50 percent in the next several decades using non-food crops to create liquid fuels, the researchers said. 

Synthetic fuels would be an easy fit for the transportation system because they could be used directly in automobile engines and are almost identical to fuels refined from crude oil. That sets them apart from currently available biofuels, such as ethanol, which have to be mixed with gas or require special engines.

In a series of scholarly articles over the past year, a team led by Christodoulos Floudas, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Princeton, evaluated scenarios in which the United States could power its vehicles with synthetic fuels rather than relying on oil. Floudas' team also analyzed the impact that synthetic fuel plants were likely to have on local areas and identified locations that would not overtax regional electric grids or water supplies. Read more ..

The Race for Smart Grid

Reducing Office Building Energy by 20 Percent Possible with New Controls

December 9th 2012

Minneapolis skyline

About 20 percent of the operational expenses in office buildings, schools and hospitals goes toward energy — HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and electricity. Usually a default temperature is set for all year round, and the HVAC system and lights stay on even in unused rooms. Now an Israeli company Beemtech aims to keep managers aware of how the space is being used in order to control the temperature and lighting more efficiently, and reduce costs dramatically, says CEO Nati Freiberg.

“Overall, our number one goal is to provide high energy savings for commercial buildings — non-residential schools, hospitals, you name it –– by nearly half. In lighting alone we have six strategies,” Frieberg syas. Beemtech’s smart sensor system, which requires very little rewiring, monitors in real time what spaces are being used and by how many people. Is it too bright or too hot in the room? If the HVAC is turned off in half the building, how will this affect the other side? Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Graphite plus Water may Equal Innovative Energy Storage Systems

December 8th 2012

graphene battery sheets

A combination of two ordinary materials – graphite and water – could produce energy storage systems that perform on par with lithium ion batteries, but recharge in a matter of seconds and have an almost indefinite lifespan.

Dr Dan Li, of the Monash University Department of Materials Engineering, and his research team have been working with a material called graphene, which could form the basis of the next generation of ultrafast energy storage systems.

“Once we can properly manipulate this material, your iPhone, for example, could charge in a few seconds, or possibly faster.” said Dr Li. Graphene is the result of breaking down graphite, a cheap, readily available material commonly used in pencils, into layers one atom thick. In this form, it has remarkable properties. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Gazprom Says South Stream Construction To Start, While EU Begs To Differ

December 7th 2012


Russia's Gazprom says construction will begin this week on the underwater section of its South Stream pipeline, which will carry natural gas beneath the Black Sea and into the European Union. But is this really the case?

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller announced last month that the final investment decision for the project had been reached. Miller is scheduled to attend a groundbreaking ceremony near the town of Anapa on Russia's Black Sea coast on December 7.

However, as Jonathan Stern, head of the Natural Gas Research Program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies notes, Gazprom hasn't yet ordered pipe or organized the lay barge for the pipeline and "cannot start laying the offshore section until 2014 [at the] earliest." Moreover, EU officials say a final route has yet to be submitted to Brussels and likely won't have final approval for at least another year.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger declined an invitation to attend the groundbreaking, citing previous commitments. Marlena Holzner, the spokeswoman for the EU energy commissioner, says this means that a final investment decision on South Stream -- a phase after all designs and studies have been completed and official approvals are in hand -- isn't even in sight. Read more ..

After the BP Spill

Injection of Chemicals Didn't Prevent Oil From Rising to Sea Surface--Study Suggests

December 7th 2012

Gulf oil spill

The 2010 blowout of the Macondo well in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the region's largest oil spill in U.S. history. As the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) incident unfolded, in an effort to prevent the oil from coming to the surface and reaching coastal and marsh ecosystems, chemical dispersants were injected at the wellhead. These powerful dispersants, typically used to break up oil slicks at the sea surface had never been used in such large quantities and over such a prolonged period of time in the deep ocean.

A new study is the first to examine the effects of the use of unprecedented quantities of synthetic dispersants on the distribution of an oil mass in the water column, based on a modeling approach. The team of researchers developed and tested models to show that the application of oil-dispersing chemicals had little effect on the oil surfacing in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

DNA Analysis of Microbes in a Fracking Site Yields Surprises

December 6th 2012

Fracking gas well

Researchers have made a genetic analysis of the microbes living deep inside a deposit of Marcellus Shale at a hydraulic fracturing—“fracking”—site, and uncovered some surprises. They expected to find many tough microbes suited to extreme environments, such as those that derive from archaea, a domain of single-celled species sometimes found in high-salt environments, volcanoes, or hot springs. Instead, they found very few genetic biomarkers for archaea, and many more for species that derive from bacteria.

They also found that the populations of microbes changed dramatically over a short period of time, as some species perished during the fracking operation and others became more abundant. One—an as-yet-unidentified bacterium—actually prospered, and eventually made up 90 percent of the microbial population in fluids taken from the fracked well. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

Climate Change Factors into Declining Wind Speeds in New England

December 6th 2012

Green Mtn wind farm

Oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island have analyzed long-term data from several anemometers in southern New England and found that average wind speeds have declined by about 15 percent at inland sites while speeds have remained steady at an offshore site.

Kelly Knorr, a graduate student at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, and Professor John Merrill reported the results of their research today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The researchers found that average wind speeds at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., declined from about 9 knots to 7.7 knots from 1975 to 2011 and from about 8.2 knots to 7 knots at New Bedford Regional Airport in Massachusetts from 1973 to 2011. A 25-year record of wind speeds at a buoy at the mouth of Buzzards Bay, Mass., shows that wind speeds there remained steady at about 15 knots during the period. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

The Future of Iraq and Iraqi Oil

December 6th 2012

Saudi Oil

The United States has a crucial role to play in defusing Baghdad's tension with the Iraqi Kurds and developing the country's longer-term oil policy -- two intertwined issues that are central to keeping Iraq united.

On November 26, Iraqi officials agreed to use coordinating committees to calm tension in the north between federal troops and local Kurdish peshmerga forces. The Baghdad crisis meeting -- attended by senior federal and Kurdish officials along with a U.S. Army lieutenant general representing the embassy -- was held in response to a November 16 clash in northern Iraq in which at least one person died. Although the incident followed Baghdad's establishment of a new military command in adjacent provinces, Kurdish oil policy is seen as the crux of the dispute.

Conflict between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds is not new. During Saddam Hussein's rule, ending this constant threat to national unity was one of Washington's goals for the 2003 invasion, and those Iraqis resisting Saddam shared this aim, especially Kurds and Shiite Arabs. Only after Saddam's overthrow did full Kurdish participation in government emerge -- for example, current Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is a Kurd. Read more ..

The Race for Natural Gas

Israel's Natural Gas Preferences

December 5th 2012

Israeli oil find

The announcement that Woodside Petroleum is buying a 30 percent share, valued up to $2.5 billion, in Israel's Leviathan natural gas field reflects growing awareness of the importance of new findings in the Eastern Mediterranean. The offshore field, discovered in 2010, is Israel's largest find so far, and most of its reserves will likely be used for export.

Woodside's background is in gas fields discovered off the coast of northwestern Australia, as well as in liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology, which enables the resource to be shipped by tanker across the globe. Woodside's ownership stake will come from the existing shareholders -- Noble Energy of Texas and Israel's Delek Group and Ratio Oil Exploration. Noble has been immensely successful in leading exploration drilling off Israel and Cyprus, but it lacks LNG credentials. As part of the deal, Woodside also becomes a strategic partner in the drilling process. Read more ..

The Race for Clean Coal

Bright Way to Convert Greenhouse Gas to Biofuel

December 5th 2012

Smog and Pollution3

Israel’s solar energy pioneer Prof. Jacob Karni isn’t a threat to Australia’s coal-burning industry. His aim, with the financial backing of an Australian firm, is simply to make the coal-burning industry less polluting by using energy collected from the sun.

Karni’s NewCO2Fuels is first testing its technology in Israel, where the team is building a solar reactor based on Karni’s 25-year career in solar energy research at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

“Brown coal is a good source of energy,” Karni says. “There are all kinds of coals, and much of the Australian brown coal is found on the surface, compared to the coal mines found deep in the ground. In Victoria, Australia, there is an enormous amount of brown coal on the surface, which is easy for mining companies to come in, scrape it from the surface and use it. These coal deposits are clean relative to many other coal mines, but still polluting the environment with carcinogenic or other toxic materials like sulfur oxide and ash.” Read more ..

After the BP Spill

BP Engulfed in Lawsuit Over 40-Day Texas Flare

December 5th 2012

BP Protest

By now images of the April 2010 Gulf oil spill are indelible: The rig engulfed in smoke, oil gushing into the ocean, beaches stained on the coast. These images defined the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history — and sealed BP PLC’s reputation as a corporate polluter.

But two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP was spewing a different kind of pollution — in a major case that has received far less attention.

This case involved dirtying the air around its refinery in Texas City. Throughout most of April and May of 2010, the Texas refinery belched massive amounts of pollutants — toxic chemicals including benzene, toluene and hydrogen sulfide — from a towering flare designed to burn only during emergencies. The single “emissions event,” as BP reported it to the state, triggered by an equipment breakdown, lasted 959 hours and 30 minutes — or 40 days .“The release went so long,” said Bruce Clawson, of Texas City’s emergency response division, which tracks such incidents. “We’ve never had a release go that long before.” Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Used Lead Batteries Exported to Mexico Raises Questions

December 5th 2012

Lead batteries dump

The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is seeking public comment on a report dealing with spent lead-acid battery exports and recycling within the three North American Free Trade Agreement member states. Authored by the CEC, a preliminary version of the study found that “important gaps” in Mexico’s regulatory framework as well as a lack of proper documentation of the trade paralleled a surge in U.S. exports of used lead-acid batteries to Mexico between 2004 and 2011.

In announcing the release of the draft report, the CEC said concerns exist that a big leap in U.S. exports of spent lead-acid battery to recyclers located south of the border, which were estimated to have shot up in volume from 449 to 526 percent during the seven-year period examined, represented “an effort to avoid the cost of stricter environmental and health protection laws prevalent in the United States.” Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Paraguay's Energy Independence Given Boost by Oil Prospects

December 5th 2012

oil pump

Paraguayan President Federico Franco is visiting Miami on December 5 where he will meet with oil company officials to discuss ongoing oil exploration in the arid Chaco region of the isolated South American country. Speaking to Spero News at a conference in Paraguay, Horacio Enciso, who writes for Economia Virtual – an online news site based in Asuncion – affirmed that the finding of significant petroleum deposits would be a game-changer for Paraguay. Currently, Paraguay imports oil that is refined at its government-controlled La Teja refinery.

La Teja is being converted in order to refine heavier crude now being supplied by Venezuela, a country with which Paraguay’s current government is increasingly at odds. Since Paraguay does not currently produce petroleum, a significant find in Chaco is hoped to lead to energy independence and lower rates for oil. According to a report by Paraguay’s official news agency, President Franco announced that by mid-2013 Paraguay will become an oil-producing country. Speaking at a forum last week in Asuncion, Franco told listeners, “Paraguay is a country that is full of opportunities,” adding “oil has been found in the Pirity basin that is of the best quality and in great quantity.” Read more ..

The Race for Biofuel

Biofuels Group Hits Back Against Criticism on High-Ethanol Fuel

December 4th 2012

E85 Pump

The chief lobbyist for a biofuels trade group defended a higher-blend ethanol fuel Monday as safe for car engines made in the model year 2001 or later. AAA last week raised concerns automakers would void warranties for consumers who fill up their tanks with E15, a fuel with a 15-percent ethanol concentration compared with the standard 10 percent.

But Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen said in a CNBC interview that E15 is “absolutely safe” to put in cars. “There is no evidence to suggest there are any problems with E15. E15 has been the most tested fuel in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” Dinneen said in a dueling interview with AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet. Many auto companies contend that fuels with a higher ethanol content are more corrosive, which they say leads to engine damage. AAA stirred the debate on E15 last week when it released a survey that showed 95 percent of adults are unaware of the fuel blend. Read more ..

The Race for Batteries

Harvard Receives Funding to Develop a New Type of Battery, Advance Renewable Technologies

December 4th 2012


A team led by engineers and chemists at Harvard University will use a one-year, $600,000 innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program to develop a new type of storage battery.The grant may be subject to renewal beyond a year, depending on performance. The award is part of a $130-million funding effort by ARPA-E through its “OPEN 2012” program, designed to support innovative renewable energy technologies.

Called a flow battery, the technology offers the prospect of cost-effective, grid-scale electrical energy storage based on eco-friendly small organic molecules. Because practical implementation is a core driver for the program, the researchers are collaborating with Sustainable Innovations, LLC, a commercial electrochemical system developer. Read more ..

The Automotive Edge

Renault Trucks Plans To Recover Energy From Exhaust Gases

December 3rd 2012

Diesel Exhaust

As part of its “All For Fuel Eco” initiative, Renault Trucks conducts research into technologies with the potential of generating further fuel savings. In particular, research is underway into recovering energy from the exhaust based on the Rankine cycle and adapted to long distance vehicles, which could reduce consumption by several percentage points. Renault Trucks says it is working on incorporating a system of recovering the energy contained in exhaust gases, known as the Rankine cycle, into long haul vehicles. This is designed to produce electricity to supply electrical components and auxiliary equipment on the vehicle, so as to cut fuel consumption by reducing the load on the alternator.

The system based on the Rankine cycle makes it possible to convert the thermal energy into electrical energy. The enthalpy of the vehicle's exhaust gases is recovered and then converted into electricity by a generator incorporated into the turbine. "Almost 30% of a vehicle's full tank of fuel is dissipated in the form of heat in the exhaust gases. This is a total waste" explains Dimitri Lortet, engine development project manager. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

EPA Slaps BP but Punishes the Pentagon

December 2nd 2012

military convoy

The Environmental Protection Agency imposed a new penalty for wrongdoing against the BP oil company on Nov. 28, but it may fall heavily on the Defense Department, an unflaggingly loyal client that has kept buying fuel from BP since the company’s errors caused its well to disgorge nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The agency’s order temporarily bars new contracting with the oil giant by all federal agencies, although it does not interrupt existing government contracts, including the many large ones it has with the military. It also leaves the door open for BP to prove that it has reformed itself enough to requalify for federal contracts at some point in the future.

But the Pentagon might find itself scrambling if the ban is prolonged, since BP has been the military’s principal single fuel supplier for years and collected billions of dollars for fuel used by U.S. forces in the Middle East and elsewhere, a practice that drew criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and others. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuel

Senate Passes Amendment Allowing Biofuel Refinary Construction

December 1st 2012

Grown from Biofuel

The Senate passed an amendment to the defense bill Thursday that would strike the prohibition on biofuel refinery construction. The amendment allows the Department of Defense to invest in refineries for “advanced” biofuels through a joint Agriculture, Energy and Navy Departments agreement.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) introduced amendment 3095, which passed on a 54-41 vote. She said the military’s reliance on oil subjects it to price shocks.

The federal government aids the development of advanced biofuels with $510 million of funding through the Defense Production Act. The act, which includes an industry match, aims to reduce the military’s dependence on foreign oil by strengthening the domestic fuel industry. Hagan said the Defense Production Act is essential for developing a domestic energy industry that could unchain the military from oil and make budgeting more predictable. Read more ..

Energy Politics

Green Groups Want Assurance Rice Will Dump Oil Sands Stocks

November 30th 2012

Environmentalists are pressing the White House to ensure that Susan Rice dumps shares in oil sands-related companies if she’s nominated for secretary of State. “The White House has gotten the message that people are very concerned about this,” said Jamie Henn, co-founder of the climate advocacy group 350.org.

Environmentalists are concerned over revelations that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and her husband could own up to $600,000 worth of stock in TransCanada Corp., the company seeking to build the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, which environmentalists oppose, is currently under State Department review.

A 2011 financial disclosure form that Rice filed earlier this year lists the holdings in TransCanada, and valuable shares in energy companies that are developing oil sands such as Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor.

“We have conveyed very clearly that a conflict of interest, such as a candidate for this position, holding stock in TransCanada or other tar sands companies is not acceptable,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

She said NRDC expects that the holdings would be dumped as part of compliance with ethics rules if Rice were to be tapped to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who intends to step down early in President Obama's second term. “We fully expect that Ambassador Rice would get rid of holdings in those companies should she come into that position,” she said.

The Race for Solar

Synthetic Molecule Stores Solar Energy To Provide Sustainable Energy System

November 29th 2012

Rub al Khali Saudi Empty Quarter

A system which is based on a synthetic molecule that is changed by sunlight and is able to store solar energy in chemical bonds has been developed by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and UC Berkeley. The molecule can be transported and stored for several years and then used to generate heat on demand. Many researchers believe that using the sun as the energy source offers the best opportunities for developing a sustainable energy system. One challenge in this area is to find efficient storage methods for saving the captured energy and transporting it to other locations.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have made progress in developing an ‘all-in-one’ system for the capture, storage and use of solar energy. The method is known as the thermochemical process. It attracted a lot of interest during the 1980s, but researchers at the time were unable to resolve the issue. Two years ago, a group of American researchers demonstrated that the method is theoretically possible. Chalmers researchers Kasper Moth-Poulsen and Karl Börjesson, working with researchers from UC Berkeley in California, have now progressed from theory to practical devices. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Solar Energy Funnel Offers New Way of Harnessing Photons

November 27th 2012

MIT engineers have proposed a new way of harnessing photons for electricity with a ‘solar energy funnel’ that has the potential for capturing a wider spectrum of solar energy.

The quest to harness a broader spectrum of sunlight’s energy to produce electricity has taken a new turn with the proposal of a ‘solar energy funnel’ that takes advantage of materials under elastic strain.

“We’re trying to use elastic strains to produce unprecedented properties,” said Ju Li, an MIT professor and corresponding author of a paper describing the new solar-funnel concept that was published this week in the journal Nature Photonics.

In this case, the ‘funnel’ is a metaphor: Electrons and their counterparts, holes — which are split off from atoms by the energy of photons — are driven to the center of the structure by electronic forces, not by gravity as in a household funnel. And yet, as it happens, the material actually does assume the shape of a funnel: It is a stretched sheet of vanishingly thin material, poked down at its center by a microscopic needle that indents the surface and produces a curved, funnel-like shape.

The pressure exerted by the needle imparts elastic strain, which increases toward the sheet’s center. The varying strain changes the atomic structure just enough to “tune” different sections to different wavelengths of light — including not just visible light, but also some of the invisible spectrum, which accounts for much of sunlight’s energy. Read more ..

The Race for BioMass

Saltwater Algae Viable for Biofuels Shown

November 27th 2012

algal aviation fuel biomass

The Algae Biomass Organization, the trade association for the U.S. algae industry today hailed the findings of a University of California at San Diego study that concludes, for the first time, that marine (saltwater) algae can be just as capable as freshwater algae in producing biofuels. The research is documented in a peer-reviewed paper published online in the current issue of the scientific journal Algal Research. "What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet," said Stephen Mayfield, Ph.D., a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project. Read more ..

The Race for Waste to Energy

China Creates Energy From Waste

November 26th 2012

Smokestack pollution

The Asian Development Bank says it has signed a loan agreement with a Chinese company for waste-to-energy projects to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural and municipal waste disposal. The ADB said in a statement Monday that four loans of up to $200 million will be provided to two units of China Everbright International Limited to install agricultural and municipal waste-to-energy capacity. The project aims to treat about 7,300 tons of waste a day, generating around 1,240 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year by 2016.  In addition, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be slashed by about 638,000 tons per year by 2018. The program will also provide additional income for farmers, who sell agricultural waste.
Hong Kong-based renewable energy developer, China Everbright International has signed the loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the agricultural and municipal waste to energy projects. According to the ADB the projects fit into China's ambitions of installing 8 GW of agricultural waste to energy capacity by 2015, and will reduce the environmental impact of agricultural and municipal waste disposal.

The Race for Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency Lobby Hunts For New Allies Among Republican Lawmakers

November 25th 2012


A top energy efficiency lobby is searching for new allies in the Republican Party after several friendly faces lost their reelection bids this year. Many centrist champions of energy efficiency legislation in the GOP were defeated in primaries or the general election, dealing a blow to the bipartisan clout of The Alliance to Save Energy. “I think there’s always a bit of consternation [about turnover],” said Rob Mosher, the group’s legislative director.

Among the Republican supporters of the group headed for the exits are Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Reps. Brian Bilbray (Calif.), Dan Lungren (Calif.), Charlie Bass (N.H.) and Nan Hayworth (N.Y.). Mosher identified several Republicans who sponsored energy efficiency bills this Congress who could take ownership over the issue. Reps. David McKinley (W. Va.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.) all have demonstrated interest in the topic, he said. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

Who’s Got the Wind Power in the Middle East?

November 24th 2012

Wind farm Caen

Wind power has taken a backseat to solar power across the Middle East and North Africa, but there are still some ambitious projects in wind power being undertaken across the region. Leading that charge is Egypt and Morocco, who have continued to push forward on alternative energy despite facing political turmoil in their respective countries. But don’t count out Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are all currently looking to develop wind energy.

Adapting a sophisticated climate model, researchers show that there is plenty of wind available to supply half to several times the world’s total energy needs within the next two decades. If the world is to shift to clean energy, electricity generated by the wind will play a major role, and there is more than enough wind for that, according to research from Stanford and the University of Delaware.

The Middle East North Africa region has been instrumental in the push for solar power, but wind projects are finally beginning to take form, or in development across what we call the MENA region. Two of the largest wind farms in the world are in the region, in Morocco and Egypt. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Storing Solar Energy in Rust

November 23rd 2012

rusted sub

Scientists at Technion, Israel’s institute of technology recently found a new way to store solar energy. Their method utilizes a substance that some of us are all too familiar with, iron oxide—otherwise known as rust. This research, titled “Resonant light trapping in ultrathin films for water,” was published in the November 11, 2012 issue of Nature Materials and may help solve the problem of solar energy storage by enabling a more efficient and direct conversion between solar energy and hydrogen.

I grew up in a region that was once known as the rust belt. Iron foundries, heavy industry and heavy cars were plentiful in the upper Midwestern US. Winters were icy so governments used salt to help make the roads safer. Unfortunately this also made automobiles rustier. Comedian Dave Barry once joked that American cars were made out of compressed rust. Salt-encrusted lumps of grey slush clung to the bottoms of cars and performed the alchemy of converting iron and gleaming steel into crumbling heaps of orange-red rust. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Troubled Battery Company got $1M from Energy Department the Day it Filed Chapter 11

November 22nd 2012

Toyota Prius PHEV

The Energy Department has supported A123 Systems, Inc., which produced batteries for electric vehicles, through thick and thin. The company received a $946,830 payment, part of a larger grant, on the day it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-October. The company revealed the Oct. 16 payment in a letter this week to Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Thune (R-S.D.), who have questioned federal financing for the company. The company won approval for $249 million in grant funding in 2009 but didn’t draw the whole thing. Reuters has more here, including Energy Department response.

From their story: In the letter, dated November 14, A123 said the October payment was the most recent disbursement it had received from the government, with an additional $115.8 million still outstanding on the grant. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Firm Ordered to Improve Safety Following Rig Explosion

November 21st 2012

offshore oil rig

The Interior Department reprimanded an oil firm for repeatedly violating safety rules following a Gulf of Mexico explosion that left one worker dead and another missing. Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) told Black Elk Energy that its offshore operations “must be improved immediately,” citing the firm’s previous safety violations in the Gulf of Mexico in its letter.

“Black Elk has repeatedly failed to operate in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations. BSEE has taken a number of enforcement actions, including issuing numerous Incidents of Non Compliance (INC’s), levying civil penalties and calling in the company’s senior leadership to review their performance and the ramifications of failing to improve,” BSEE Director James Watson said in a Wednesday statement. The company owns the oil production platform about 18 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., that exploded Friday. Black Elk has called off its search for the missing worker. Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

Administration Awards Grant to Speed Sales of Small Nuclear Reactors

November 20th 2012

Small Nuclear reactor

The Energy Department selected a grant recipient Tuesday for a class of small nuclear reactors that top U.S. energy officials say could revitalize the domestic industry.

Babcock & Wilcox landed part of a $452 million Energy grant that aims to speed commercialization of smaller, less capital-intensive nuclear reactors.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company will match the federal funds. The Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel, San Francisco-based construction and engineering firm also will partner in the public-private licensing agreement.

“The Obama administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future. Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a Tuesday statement. Read more ..

The Race for Hydrogen

Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Cell Phones and Other Mobile Devices

November 19th 2012


Rohm together with Kyoto-based Aquafairy and Kyoto University, has co-developed compact, lightweight, high-power hydrogen fuel cells designed to power smartphones and other portable devices.

These fuel cells overcome the drawbacks of dry cells, lithium-ion cells, and direct methanol fuel cells, significantly reducing weight and increasing output power while providing a higher level of safety, making it possible to provide power in places where AC power is not available or cannot be used. By succeeded in solidifying calcium hydride in a sheet configuration using proprietary technologies, Rohm and Aquafairy have been able to generate approximately 4.5 liters of hydrogen from a sheet less than 3cc in volume (measuring 38x38x2mm), providing a power output of 5Whr.


Oil Addiction

Interior to Probe Deadly Gulf Oil Platform Fire

November 18th 2012

offshore oil rig

The Interior Department has begun probing the explosion and fire on a Gulf of Mexico oil production platform Friday that killed one worker, while another remains missing.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search Saturday evening after more than 32 hours, the agency announced.  But Black Elk Energy, which owns the platform located about 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, is continuing to look for the second missing worker, according to press accounts. Divers hired by the company found the body of one of the two missing platform crew members Saturday.

“Divers will continue to search for the second missing worker,” Black Elk Energy CEO John Hoffman wrote in an email to the Associated Press and other outlets. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.” Four workers who were severely burned remained hospitalized Saturday night, AP reports. Read more ..

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