Russia on Edge
|Martin Barillas||October 23rd 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Teymur Huseynov, pf the UK-based Exclusive Analysis firm, said that the “future of Russian oil is dependent on Greenfield projects and Western technology.” This was according to a report released by the political and economic forecasting firm on October 23.
Huseynov said, “At a meeting with President Putin, Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin reported that Russia's state-run oil major was planning to buy out 100% of BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP. As a result, BP will end up with $12.3 billion in cash and 19.75% of Rosneft stock, factoring in its already existing 1.25% of the company. Sechin also reported on current negotiations with TNK-BP's Russian shareholders (AAR), which is set to sell out of the company for about $28 billion.”
Huseynov continued, “Russia's new arctic fields are also now open for BP investments. There is consensus in the Kremlin that Russia needs to develop its offshore resources quickly in order to keep oil production levels from declining sharply. Despite the government’s efforts at economic diversification, the oil industry will continue to provide the majority of revenues for the Russian budget and be a critical factor in insuring the stability of the Putin system. We expect BP and Rosneft to sign a strategic agreement on the development of offshore acreage held by Rosneft in Russia." Read more ..
The Transportation Edge
|Todd Hollingshead||October 23rd 2012|
A team of BYU engineers has found that by listening to how a highway bridge sings in the rain they can determine serious flaws in the structure. Employing a method called impact-echo testing, professors Brian Mazzeo and Spencer Guthrie can diagnose the health of a bridge’s deck based on the acoustic footprint produced by a little bit of water. Specifically, the sound created when a droplet makes impact can reveal hidden dangers in the bridge. “There is a difference between water hitting intact structures and water hitting flawed structures,” Mazzeo said. “We can detect things you can’t see with a visual inspection; things happening within the bridge itself.”
The study presents a more efficient and cost-effective method to address the mounting safety concerns over bridge corrosion and aging across the U.S. and beyond. While impact-echo testing for bridges is nothing new to engineers, the BYU researchers are the first to use water droplets to produce acoustic responses. Current testing relies on solid objects such as hammers and chains. The idea is to detect delamination, or the separation of structural layers, in a concrete bridge deck. The most common method involves dragging a chain over a bridge and marking spots where dull, hollow sound is produced. However, this method can take hours to carry out for a single bridge and requires lane closures that come with additional complications. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Ramsey Cox||October 22nd 2012|
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) dared the Obama administration on Thursday to prove that its $2 billion in grants for electric vehicles led to the employment of “thousands of American workers.” Grassley’s comment came after one grant recipient, A123 Systems, filed for bankruptcy this week. A123 Systems made batteries for electric cars, an industry President Obama has touted as a successful government investment during his reelection campaign.
“I’ve asked the administration for a detailed break-down of the job numbers that justify the statement that thousands of American workers are employed as a result of federal grants for electric vehicles,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday. “The public deserves an accurate, current accounting of the numbers that justify the claim of jobs directly related to federal spending.” Grassley said the administration has told his staff it doesn’t have the number of jobs created from the grants.
“The administration says it’s awarded $2 billion in grants to 29 companies involved in the electrification of vehicles, leading to the employment of ‘thousands of American workers,’ ” Grassley said. “This comes after the administration, through the Department of Energy, told my staff it doesn’t verify or update job creation statistics provided by grant and loan recipients.” Read more ..
The Race for High Speed Rail
|Keith Laing||October 22nd 2012|
General Electric (GE) Co.'s transportation department is praising Amtrak for testing running trains at 110 miles per hour this week, saying that the increased speeds were made possible by its technology.
Amtrak ran a test train on a section of its tracks between Joliet and Normal, Ill., with Transportation Ray LaHood, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) among the passengers.
GE Transportation said the higher speeds on the Amtrak line, which will eventually run from Chicago to St. Louis, were made possible by its Incremental Train Control System (ITCS). "We are proud to help introduce the new 110 mph high-speed rail service in Illinois,’’ GE Transportation President Lorenzo Simonelli said in a statement. “GE has had a long and productive partnership with Amtrak, IDOT and FRA and we look forward to deploying this technology in other states to ensure safe, reliable, high-speed service. We are committed to providing the latest technology and products to high-speed rail programs worldwide as an essential part of sustainable infrastructure growth." Read more ..
|Sam Orez||October 22nd 2012|
The British oil company BP has agreed to sell its 50 percent stake in TNK-BP to Russia's Rosneft for $17.1 billion plus 12.84 percent of the shares in Rosneft. BP will use $4.8 billion of the money to purchase an additional 5.66 percent stake in Rosneft from the Russian government, bringing BP's total shares in the Russian firm to 18.5 percent. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was meeting with Rosneft head Igor Sechin when the deal was announced, said it was not only good news for the Russian energy sector but for "the entire [Russian] economy." Rosneft is also buying the other half of TNK-BP from the AAR consortium of Russian billionaires for $28 billion to become the world's largest publicly traded oil group.
Reuters reported: The first part of the Kremlin-backed agreement announced by Rosneft on Monday folds BP's half of TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil company, into Rosneft, in exchange for cash and Rosneft stock in an agreement worth about $27 billion including $12.3 billion of cash and the rest in stock. In stage two, AAR would get $28 billion in cash, but the two deals are independent of each other and the AAR deal is still subject to negotiations, Rosneft said. Read more ..
|James E. Rickman||October 21st 2012|
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, which were heavily damaged in March 2011 by a tsunami that followed a great earthquake.
In a paper in Physical Review Letters, researchers compared two methods for using cosmic-ray radiography to gather images of nuclear material within the core of a reactor similar to Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 1. The team found that Los Alamos’ scattering method for cosmic-ray radiography was far superior to the traditional transmission method for capturing high-resolution image data of potentially damaged nuclear material.
“Within weeks of the disastrous 2011 tsunami, Los Alamos’ Muon Radiography Team began investigating use of Los Alamos’ muon scattering method to determine whether it could be used to image the location of nuclear materials within the damaged reactors,” said Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos’ Subatomic Physics Group and lead author of the paper. “As people may recall from previous nuclear reactor accidents, being able to effectively locate damaged portions of a reactor core is a key to effective, efficient cleanup. Our paper shows that Los Alamos’ scattering method is a superior method for gaining high-quality images of core materials.” Read more ..
The Race for Wind
|Tafline Laylin||October 20th 2012|
Few things are as deadly as a hospital without power, but a new wind turbine is about to blow away one hospital’s fear of losing theirs. The largest of its kind in the Palestinian territories, Al Ahli Hospital provides care to 600,000 Palestinians living in the Hebron district. With 365 regular beds and a capacity for 500 patients in emergency situations, they can’t afford to lose the energy needed to keep people well.
So in 2009, a project was officially inaugurated to incorporate wind energy into the hospital’s generating mix, and the European Union agreed to fund 80 percent of it; now, following years of planning and mapping, a 700 kilowatt wind turbine is about to be installed. It is expected to start generating 40 percent of the hospital’s power by the end of 2012.
What kind of energy does Al Ahli Hospital currently use? “In exact figures, the hospital annual consumption of diesel is about 200,000 liters and when the project runs, half of this will be saved through renewable energy,” according to the EU Neighborhood Info Center (ENPI). Read more ..
The Race for Wind
|Zack Colman||October 20th 2012|
The uncertainty surrounding a wind industry tax credit decreased General Electric’s energy infrastructure revenues 5 percent in the third quarter as wind turbine sales dropped, the company said Friday. Overall, GE’s quarterly earnings rose 8 percent. And excluding wind and the impact of foreign-currency exchange, infrastructure orders would have increased 4 percent, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said during the firm’s quarterly earnings call. The 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour credit for wind power production that Immelt referenced in the call is scheduled to expire Dec. 31. GE’s performance reflected the wind industry’s concerns that letting the credit expire could reverse recent progress.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said the credit drove much of the industry’s third-quarter growth. Installations of new wind electricity capacity rose by 1,833 megawatts during the quarter, the industry group announced Thursday. Installed capacity has increased 40 percent through the quarter compared with 2011, it said. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Joseph Mayton||October 19th 2012|
Bahrain, a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf, has lagged behind other Gulf region countries in developing its clean energy sector. But the ministry of electricity and water affairs is looking to change all of that with the announcement of a new solar energy project in the capital, Manama. The hope is that the new project will be a watershed for the small Gulf Kingdom, an archipelago of 33 islands, to begin to establish alternative energy as a key driver of the country’s energy sector.
While still in its development stage, the project in the Awali Township aims to produce 5MW of power from the utility-scale photovoltaic solar facility. Minister of State for Electricity and Water Affairs Abdul Hussein Ali Mirza said in recent comments that “following a successful implementation of this pilot project, we expect other projects to follow in the near future. Through strategic alliances with technologically advanced partners, NOGA aims to diversify the energy supply sources that will help achieve the goals of Bahrain Vision 2030.” Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Laurie Balbo||October 19th 2012|
It’s about time: Regulations come into effect in April 2013 and make solar water heaters obligatory for every new residence (including apartments) sized 150 m2 or greater in Jordan where there is ample sun. Private houses sized a minimum of 250 m2 and office spaces sized a minimum 100 m2 must also comply. Finally Jordan’s rooftops and side yards will capitalize on the nearly 330 days of sunshine that they bask in every year, just as we’ve seen in Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel.
To help households make the solar switch, the Ministry of Energy and the Jordan River Foundation have teamed up to provide $1.8 million in loans to purchase and install all necessary equipment. In a related measure, Minister of Energy Alaa Batayneh confirmed that new regulations will allow citizens and businesses to sell surplus solar power back to the national grid. This kind of solar power will come from homes and businesses that set up solar voltaic panels as solar hot water heaters use thermal energy to heat water. They don’t create electricity. Read more ..
|Bernie DeGroat||October 19th 2012|
University of Michigan
As fuel economy of new vehicles improved 18 percent over the past five years, billions of gallons of gas and billions of pounds of emissions have been saved, University of Michigan researchers say.
Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute collected fuel data on 61 million new cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs sold in the U.S. since 2007—about a quarter of all light vehicles, both new and used, on U.S. roads today.
Using a recent estimate of the average annual distance driven in the U.S. (about 13,000 miles every year), the researchers found that new vehicles in the last five years saved about 6.1 billion gallons of fuel—equal to about two weeks' worth of gas consumption for all vehicles in the U.S. They also looked at the current monthly savings in fuel use for new vehicles and found that 293 million gallons of fuel were saved in September alone. Read more ..
The Edge of Architecture
|Karin Kloosterman||October 18th 2012|
An Arab-Israeli group is recycling traditional Arabic construction techniques for keeping a house cool in summer, warm in winter. In the unrelenting Middle East sun, one thing is very clear when you build a new home: it must work with the elements. Standing the test of time are traditional Arabic buildings that kept families and worshippers cool for centuries, long before air conditioning was invented.
A new “green” teaching and research center in the Israeli-Arab town of Sakhnin showcases some of the best traditional approaches to construction in the hope that it will inspire modern building practices. And on a less concrete level, the building is seen as a “green bridge” between the Arab and Jewish communities. The Union of the Mediterranean recently awarded it first prize in a competition on energy conservation. Read more ..
The Race for Wind
|Joseph Mayton||October 17th 2012|
Morocco’s renewable energy push received yet another boost last week with the installation of the first-ever wind-hydrogen system in Africa. Activists and industry experts are excited that the government is pushing forward on its continued promises to create clean energy for the North African country which aims to be 42 percent reliant on renewables by 2020. ”This is a great initiative and one that we all believe will be a huge success as it can help build on the issues of losing potential energy from renewable sources,” environmental technology consultant Ibrahim bin Abdullah, who has worked with the Moroccan government on wind and solar projects in recent years explained.
The installation by Sahara Wind at Al Akhawayn University, about 70 kilometers from Fes, consists of a wind farm with three turbines and is reportedly capable of generating green energy across the campus. The university said that the inaugural project aims to examine the issue of wind intermittency that leads to an excess power generation that could potentially be resolved. Read more ..
|B. Rose Huber||October 16th 2012|
Crude oil extraction could be improved significantly and accessible domestic oil reserves could be expanded with an economical CO2 thickener being developed by University of Pittsburgh engineers, thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Current oil-extraction methods across the United States involve oil being “pushed” from underground layers of porous sandstone or limestone reservoirs using a first-water-then-CO2 method known as the water-alternating-gas method. CO2—which is obtained from natural CO2 reservoirs and pipelined to oil reservoirs—is an ideal candidate for oil extraction given its ability to push and dissolve oil from underground layers of porous rock. However, its viscosity (or thickness) is too low to efficiently extract oil. As such, it tends to “finger” through the oil rather than sweep oil forward toward the production well. This process, “viscous fingering,” results in oil production companies recovering only a small fraction of the oil that’s in a field. Read more ..
|Nicolas Loris||October 15th 2012|
California’s nation-high gas prices are receiving national attention. The price of $4.67 per gallon, an increase of about 50 cents in the past week, is 86 cents higher than the national average.
Representative Henry Waxman (D–CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA) are quick to speculate about market manipulation and are calling for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the price spike. But markets are working, not manipulating. Several factors are contributing to higher prices in the Golden State, including supply disruptions, tight markets, and government-driven factors such as high state taxes and stringent boutique fuel requirements.
The 50-cent jump in prices is not a result of market manipulation but tight markets. If oil companies and refiners could price gouge and manipulate the market, why wouldn’t they do it all the time? Read more ..
|Sam Orez||October 15th 2012|
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
An experiment carried out on rodents exposed to fuel similar to that of the Prestige tanker oil spill – which took place nearly a decade ago – shows that inhalation of the fuel causes damage to genetic material. According to the study, led by the University of A Coruña, the results could be used in relation to people who carry out the industrial cleaning of coasts.
On 19 November, it will be ten years since the sinking of the Prestige, which caused one of Spain's largest ecological disasters. The oil spill reached the coasts of Galicia and the rest of the Cantabrian coast, right up to the Landes area of France and Portugal. Thousands of people aided in the cleaning of the contaminated beaches and were exposed to the fuel for prolonged periods.
In order to confirm the effects of such exposure on the health of human beings in this and other circumstances, a team of researchers from the University of A Coruña carried out an experiment using two different strains of rat and a respiratory chamber especially designed to create fuel exposure. For two hours a day, five days a week, the animals were exposed to a fuel similar in composition to that of the Prestige oil spill. Read more ..
The Race for Storage
|Matt Shipman||October 13th 2012|
Researchers from North Carolina State University have created flower-like structures out of germanium sulfide (GeS) – a semiconductor material – that have extremely thin petals with an enormous surface area. The GeS flower holds promise for next-generation energy storage devices and solar cells. The GeS "nanoflowers" have petals only 20-30 nanometers thick, and provide a large surface area in a small amount of space.
“Creating these GeS nanoflowers is exciting because it gives us a huge surface area in a small amount of space,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “This could significantly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, since the thinner structure with larger surface area can hold more lithium ions. By the same token, this GeS flower structure could lead to increased capacity for supercapacitors, which are also used for energy storage.” Read more ..
The Race for Fusion
|Hannah Hickey||October 13th 2012|
University of Washington
Researchers around the world are working on an efficient, reliable way to contain the plasma used in fusion reactors, potentially bringing down the cost of this promising but technically elusive energy source. A new finding from the University of Washington could help contain and stabilize the plasma using as little as 1 percent of the energy required by current methods.
“All of a sudden the current energy goes from being almost too much to almost negligible,” said lead author Thomas Jarboe, a UW professor of aeronautics and astronautics. He presents the findings this week at the International Atomic Energy Association’s 24th annual Fusion Energy Conference in San Diego. The new equipment looks like handles on a coffee mug – except they attach to a vessel containing a million-degree plasma that is literally too hot to handle.
Most people know about nuclear fission, the commercial type of nuclear power generated from splitting large atoms in two. Still under research is nuclear fusion, which smashes two small atoms together, releasing energy without requiring rare elements or generating radioactive waste.
Of course, there’s a catch – smashing the atoms together takes a lot of energy, and scientists are still working on a way to do it so you get out more energy than you put in. The sun is a powerful fusion reactor but we can’t recreate a full-scale sun on Earth. Read more ..
The Edge of Health
|Nathaniel Dunford||October 12th 2012|
American Thoracic Society
Exposure to ambient air pollution from traffic during infancy is associated with lung function deficits in children up to eight years of age, particularly among children sensitized to common allergens, according to a new study.
"Earlier studies have shown that children are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution and suggest that exposure early in life may be particularly harmful," said researcher Göran Pershagen, MD, PhD, professor at the Karolinska Institutet Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. "In our prospective birth cohort study in a large population of Swedish children, exposure to traffic-related air pollution during infancy was associated with decreases in lung function at age eight, with stronger effects indicated in boys, children with asthma and particularly in children sensitized to allergens."
The study included more than 1,900 children who were followed from birth through age eight with repeated questionnaires, spirometry and immunoglobulin E measurements. Outdoor concentrations of particulate matter from road traffic were estimated for residential, daycare and school addresses using dispersion modeling, a mathematical simulation of how air pollutants disperse in the atmosphere. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Paul Buckley||October 12th 2012|
University of Warwick researchers in collaboration with spin-out company Molecular Solar, have created an organic solar cell that generates a sufficiently high voltage to recharge a lithium-ion battery directly, without the need to connect multiple individual cells in series. The new solar technology development will enable portable electronic devices such as e-book readers to be re-charged on the move in low light levels and partial shading.
Modules of the high voltage cells perform well in different light conditions including partial shade making them well matched to consumer electronic devices such as e-book readers, cameras and some mobile phones. Organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells offer new opportunities thanks to the potential for cheap manufacture, lightweight, low profile photovoltaics compatible with flexible substrates, which means they are ideally matched to portable electronic device applications. The new OPV technology is a breakthrough as scientists have addressed the problem of low out-put voltage when the module is in low light levels or partial shading taking an important step towards rolling out cheap OPV cells in low-power portable electronics. The scientists, from the University’s Department of Chemistry, have demonstrated a cell with an open circuit voltage of more than 7 V which delivers maximum power at more than the 4.2 V needed to power a standard lithium ion battery. The scientists claim it is the first time these features have been demonstrated using ultra high voltage OPV cells. Read more ..
The Race for Alt Fuel
|Gal Luft||October 11th 2012|
The desire for self-sufficiency has always been a common trait of human society. After all, no one likes to be dependent upon others, especially for vital commodities and services. From a geopolitical perspective, this sentiment is arguably at its strongest when it comes to energy. The Arab Oil Embargo, Russia’s gas supply cutoffs to Europe and Venezuela’s and Iran’s threats to use the ‘oil weapon’ have all reinforced importing nations’ urge for energy self-sufficiency. No country is more preoccupied with this than the United States, where for the past four decades achieving energy self-sufficiency has been the mainstay of Washington’s energy policy.
The only difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the former emphasize supply side solutions (‘Drill Baby Drill’) whereas the latter call for an ‘oil diet’ that uses less oil through taxation or increased fuel economy standards. The result is that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that energy self-sufficiency will improve national security, alleviate the debt and budget crisis and yield lower and more stable gasoline prices. This worldview is based on myths and poor understanding of how the modern global energy market actually works. True energy security requires both uninterrupted energy supply and affordable prices. In today’s globalized world, energy self-sufficiency guarantees neither. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|Lusine Badalyan||October 11th 2012|
The recent debate on Georgia’s plans to sell a minority stake in its segment of the North–South gas pipeline, which supplies Russian natural gas to Armenia, is one piece of a larger energy policy puzzle in the South Caucasus region that sheds light on the importance of energy issues and their close interconnections with security dynamics in the region.
The plan to sell the Georgian segment of the North– South pipeline, which connects Mozdok, Tbilisi, and Yerevan, first arose in early 2006, because the poor condition of the pipeline required private investment for reconstruction. The Russian majority state-owned energy company Gazprom hurried to buy the segment. The deal almost had been concluded when the US offered $49.5 million to renovate the pipeline. In return for the US investment, the Georgian government agreed to ban the sale of the pipeline for 5 years, a period which expired in April 2011. In 2010, the issue again returned to the agenda. The Georgian Parliament passed a bill, which removed the pipeline from the list of strategic government-owned facilities and made a sale possible. The US raised no objections to the idea of privatization. Read more ..
The Race for Wind
|Zulima Palacio||October 11th 2012|
Wind power is key to efforts to produce clean, limitless energy and to slow global warming. It's one of the world's fastest-growing energy industries. But there is mounting evidence that expanding "wind farms" are taking a toll on airborne wildlife. Thousands of birds and bats are killed every year by collisions with the the wind towers and their giant blades. Environmental activists are taking the wind energy industry to court to find a solution.
Estimates by the Department of Energy indicate that in the United States alone, there will be more than 100,000 wind turbines by 2030. John Anderson is policy director at the American Wind Energy Association. “As time goes on, I think you will see wind replacing older plants that are being taken offline, but we are really capturing the new installation market," he said.
But wind energy developers, in California and West Virginia, are being sued by environmental groups. A growing number of groups contend that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are being killed every year by wind turbines, mostly at night when bats and migratory birds fly around mountain ridges where many wind farms are located. Kelly Fuller, with the American Bird Conservancy, said, “In 2009, an expert at the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated 440,000 birds were being killed by wind turbines a year. That was before we had more growth of the industry.” Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|Terrence Sterling||October 10th 2012|
From RT and agencies
Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom, has frozen two contracts for oil development in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Al-Luaibi.
Gazprom told Iraqi authorities in a letter that they suspended work on the deals with Kurdistan, the minister told International Oil Daily. However, the company’s spokeswoman declined to comment.
However, Russia’s oil major is still interested in Kurdistan crude, "Gazprom Neft is still working on these projects. The company keeps its interest in Kurdistan," a Gazprom Neft source told Reuters.
In August the company signed two production sharing contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government directly avoiding Iraqi Oil Ministry approval. Under the terms, Gazprom Neft would get a 40% share in the Garmian block and Canada’s WesternZagros will have another 40% share. The second project for Gazprom Neft is an 80% share in the Shakal block where the company will be the operator. The Kurdistan Regional Government will keep a 20% stake in both projects. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|Scott Bunch||October 10th 2012|
Engineering faculty and students at the University of Colorado Boulder have produced the first experimental results showing that atomically thin graphene membranes with tiny pores can effectively and efficiently separate gas molecules through size-selective sieving.
The findings are a significant step toward the realization of more energy-efficient membranes for natural gas production and for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plant exhaust pipes. Mechanical engineering professors Scott Bunch and John Pellegrino co-authored a paper in Nature Nanotechnology with graduate students Steven Koenig and Luda Wang detailing the experiments. Read more ..
The Race for Natural Gas
|Karin Kloosterman||October 9th 2012|
Israel’s Flow Industries makes an ‘air gun’ for clearing industrial blockages, and it may also provide a better way to extract shale oil.
Hydraulic fracturing – fracking — is one way to extract valuable shale oil and gases from deep underground by injecting a highly pressurized fluid into rock to pull out the fossil fuel. Those in favor of fracking say that it will help America become energy independent, while growing numbers against it are highly critical of the risks such as groundwater contamination, surface spills and even mini-earthquakes.
An established industrial plumbing company from Israel has a technology that may help bridge the divide between industry and environmentalism when it comes to the fracking debate. With a decade of sales and a clean and green track record in the industrial plumbing business, Flow Industries is looking to help make fracking greener and more efficient. Read more ..
|Ben Geman||October 9th 2012|
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is calling for removal of oil-and-gas industry tax breaks if subsidies for green energy are also eliminated. Upton’s comments, given at a Monday-night debate with Democratic challenger Mike O’Brien, arrive a week after Mitt Romney said billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks would likely be jettisoned under his proposal to lower the overall corporate tax rate.
“I’m for putting all of these on an even footing,” Upton said. “Let’s look at the oil and gas subsidies, let’s take them away. Let’s let them compete just like everyone else at the same level. We can do that with the tax code to take those special provisions away.”
The Kalamazoo Gazette reported Upton’s comments and provided audio of the remarks here.
Upton bashed the federal loan guarantee for the failed solar energy company Solyndra — the source of a lengthy Energy Committee probe — in arguing that aid for the oil and renewable energy industries alike should be removed. Read more ..
|Daniel Cloud||October 8th 2012|
For many years, it seemed as if the West’s real plan for dealing with the Iranian regime was to talk it to death. Occasionally, a new round of sanctions would be announced, but they were never really very serious sanctions. Sure, they angered their targets in Tehran, but not enough to stop them from doing anything they really wanted to do. The world was willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Any price, that is, except the only one which would have made a difference: interrupting the flow of Iranian oil.
The two sides disliked each other, but they were dependent on each other, so they attacked each other in relatively minor ways in public, while continuing to do business in private.
This latest round of sanctions, however, which included cutting Iran off from the global banking system, has been serious. Turkey has been forced to pay for Iranian oil by physically moving gold bars across the border in trucks, but most buyers have found it easier to simply buy their oil elsewhere. Over the course of the last year, Iranian oil exports have fallen by about 1.5 million barrels a day to under 1 million, less than half their previous level of roughly 2.5 million barrels a day. Read more ..
The 2012 Vote
|Zack Colman||October 8th 2012|
Companies that want to export coal to Asia could find roadblocks in their path if Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) becomes chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Exporters have identified five ports in Oregon and Washington from which to send coal to Asia. Nations in that region, which have rapidly expanding economies and loose environmental standards, are a coveted destination for coal producers as use of the fossil fuel drops in the United States.
But Wyden, who is expected to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) as committee chairman if Democrats retain the Senate, is skeptical about sending coal abroad. He has called for more rigorous environmental reviews of the process, which many say could hold up coal exports from the Pacific Northwest.
Wyden wants the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the cumulative environmental impact of mining and transporting coal, rather than the current plan of evaluating each proposal individually.
“Senator Wyden believes federal regulators need to take a close look at the economic and environmental impacts of these coal export proposals,” Keith Chu, Wyden’s spokesman, told The Hill. “Oregonians in Morrow and St. Helens and Coos Bay, as well as those in communities along the transportation routes, have a right to know how these developments will affect them, sooner rather than later.”
Much of that coal would come from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Wyden said he is concerned about the impact that concentrated activity could have, and also about coal dust settling in communities along the transportation route. Read more ..
|Blake Clayton||October 7th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
The oil crises of the 1970s taught Americans one of the iron laws of geoeconomics: that unrest in the Middle East can cause pain at the pump. But almost 40 years later, that law is blinding analysts to some of the most significant sources of market uncertainty -- which are right here at home. True, Iranian bellicosity and broader regional storm clouds are adding froth to oil prices. But even more striking is how much market-churning uncertainty is emanating from Washington and Brussels, rather than Caracas, Baghdad, or elsewhere in OPEC. The ambiguous economic trajectories and fluctuating policies of major energy-consumers like the United States, European Union, and China are proving at least as unsettling to oil prices as any decisions under the control of Middle Eastern officials.
Ask the leaders of OPEC what it's like to control the world oil market right now and they would probably laugh at your premise. Today's market jitters are largely beyond their control. The U.S. Federal Reserve's new open-ended commitment to expanding its balance sheet will likely push up the price of real assets like oil, even as White House chatter about dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) keeps the markets guessing about a sudden price collapse. Read more ..
Nigeria on Edge
|Heather Murdock||October 6th 2012|
Nigerian leaders have championed the revival of the nation’s rail lines for years. And with a recent boost in infrastructure funding, the leaders say new trains will create jobs and revitalize the economy. But some analysts say train projects are one of the Nigerian government’s biggest scams and they note that money for rail transportation in the past has disappeared.
This town is only about 30 kilometers outside of Abuja’s posh city center, but it feels like another country. A few generators rumble in the marketplace because city power hasn’t been on in weeks. Most stores are unlit, and shopkeepers say they have never had power in their homes. Osa sells bright purses and shoes in a store owned with her fiancé, Kenny. They’ve heard of the city’s latest rail plan, a project that’s expected to get 500,000 commuters from other parts of the Federal Capital Territory surrounding Abuja into the city center for work everyday by 2015. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
The Sun blazes down from a deep blue sky – and rooftop solar cells convert this solar energy into electricity. Not all of it, however: Around a quarter of the Sun’s spectrum is made up of infrared radiation which cannot be converted by standard solar cells – so this heat radiation is lost.
One way to overcome this is to use black silicon, a material that absorbs nearly all of the sunlight that hits it, including infrared radiation, and converts it into electricity. But how is this material produced?
“Black silicon is produced by irradiating standard silicon with femtosecond laser pulses under a sulfur containing atmosphere,” explains Dr. Stefan Kontermann, who heads the Research group “Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion“ within the Fraunhofer Project Group for Fiber Optical Sensor Systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI. “This structures the surface and integrates sulfur atoms into the silicon lattice, making the treated material appear black.” If manufacturers were to equip their solar cells with this black silicon, it would signifi cantly boost the cells’ efficiency by
enabling them to utilize the full Sun spectrum. Read more ..
The Race for EVs
|Karin Kloosterman||October 5th 2012|
Israel’s iconic CEO Shai Agassi has been fired from his position at the electric car company Better Place. He will be replaced by Evan Thornley, the current CEO of Better Place Australia. This news comes hot on the tracks of the company’s bold move to finally offer an attractive leasing/charge plan for its electric cars, and battery replacement service for long journies. Shareholders ousted Agassi according to local news reports. In press announcements the company prepared Better Place says that Agassi will continue as a Board member and shareholder in the company he founded.
“Five years ago, I followed my passion to make the world a better place and founded a company to materialize that vision. Very few people are blessed to see such a grand vision become a proven reality within a relatively short time frame,” said Agassi. “I am proud of the Better Place people and the team that I am leaving behind who will take this company to the next chapter.” Read more ..
Brazil on Edge
|Arnaud Koehl||October 5th 2012|
On July 27, a violent truck drivers’ strike occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, which eventually encompassed Brazil’s entire trucking industry. Among other issues, they were protesting the National Agency of Terrestrial Transports’ (ANTT) new highway safety regulations. On the same day, the agency issued measures concerning a significant 2.87 percent price increase in highway tolls. Both controversial decisions reflect not only a strained road infrastructure, but also an urgent need for profound structural improvement in the country’s highway system. The lack of coherence in the region’s trucking industry derives from deep-rooted inadequacies and a lack of government investment. Since 1980, Brazil has witnessed a steady decrease in its public transportation investment, now at only 0.7% of its 2010 GDP. The dearth of appropriate planning and a complex regulatory environment have only amplified this problem.
The operational failures of the Brazilian transportation system have had a detrimental effect on the country’s broader economy. Combined with other concerns including excessive taxes and bureaucracy, the obviously inadequate infrastructure is largely responsible for the colossal lack of competitiveness known as the “custo Brasil” (in English, the “Brazil cost”) that afflicts the country. Brazil’s freight haulage productivity especially suffers from the excessively complex logistics involved in disbursement. In 2007, transport costs represented a gargantuan 13 percent of Brazilian GDP, compared to the United States’ relatively efficient 7 percent. Thus, it costs an average of $1,240 USD to export a container of freight while the same task requires only $990 USD in the United States. This particularly damages the pre-eminent agrifood sector’s performance, therefore multiplying both external and internal prices. Read more ..
|Michael Levi||October 4th 2012|
Council on Foreign Relations
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions for January-May are down six percent from 2011 to 2012. Headlines have highlighted the fact that emissions from January-March hit a twenty year low. What explains the shift?
That question has been the subject of intense debate. John Hanger argues that 77 percent of that decline can be attributed to the shift from coal to gas. The folks over at CO2Scorecard, looking at January-March data, put that number at a more modest 21 percent. These are drastically different figures. What number should we believe?
Part of the discrepancy comes from looking at different time periods. January-March emissions were affected more by the warm winter than April-May ones were. That makes sense because January-March is part of the winter. April-May emissions were affected more by rock bottom natural gas prices than January-March ones were. That makes sense because it was April-May when rock bottom (i.e. sub-two-dollars wellhead) natural gas prices prevailed. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|Alison Hewitt||October 3rd 2012|
Take the time to enjoy a deep breath next weekend when the 405 freeway closes for Carmageddon II. If it's anything like last year, the air quality is about to get amazing.
In study findings announced Sept. 28, UCLA researchers report that they measured air pollutants during last year's Carmageddon (July 15) and found that when 10 miles of the 405 closed, air quality near the shuttered portion improved within minutes, reaching levels 83 percent better than on comparable weekends.
Because traffic dipped all over Southern California that weekend, air quality also improved 75 percent in parts of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica and an average of 25 percent regionally — from Ventura to Yucaipa, and Long Beach to Santa Clarita.
The study was led by two professors at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability: Yifang Zhu, who is also an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Suzanne Paulson, who is also a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. Read more ..
|Michael Bernstein||October 3rd 2012|
American Chemical Society
Scientists are describing what may be a "complete solution" to cleaning up oil spills — a superabsorbent material that sops up 40 times its own weight in oil and then can be shipped to an oil refinery and processed to recover the oil. Their article on the material appears in ACS' journal Energy & Fuels.
T. C. Mike Chung and Xuepei Yuan point out that current methods for coping with oil spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster are low-tech, decades-old and have many disadvantages. Corncobs, straw and other absorbents, for instance, can hold only about 5 times their own weight and pick up water, as well as oil. Those materials then become industrial waste that must be disposed of in special landfills or burned.
Their solution is a polymer material that transforms an oil spill into a soft, solid oil-containing gel. One pound of the material can recover about 5 gallons of crude oil. The gel is strong enough to be collected and transported. Then, it can be converted to a liquid and refined like regular crude oil. That oil would be worth $15 when crude oil sells for $100 a barrel. Read more ..
The Race for Geothermal
|Aisha Espey||October 3rd 2012|
Historically, most of Central America’s energy sector began as state-controlled entities that provided a diverse portfolio of domestically sourced energy. However, during the 1980s and 1990s the region began to adopt neoliberal reforms, leading to the privatization of the energy sector and a series of IMF-directed economic transitions, both Structural Adjustment Programs and “shock therapy.” These neoliberal reforms regrettably fostered a flawed privatization process that resulted in a nocuous regional oil-dependency and ineffective energy grid.
The inefficiency of Central America’s energy sector has had far-reaching consequences beyond dependency, including rolling blackouts, rationed electricity, and price spikes at the pump—all of which have social, economic, and political ramifications. During the global energy crisis of 2005, Central American leaders jointly affirmed a state of “maximum alert” in regards to their energy supply. This signified a need for change, and the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua have since vowed to increase the amount of renewable energy in their nations’ energy portfolios. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear
|Mareike Schodder||October 2nd 2012|
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Incremental costs due to policy options restricting the use of nuclear power do not significantly increase the cost of even stringent greenhouse-gas emissions reductions.
"Questions have been raised if restricting nuclear energy – an option considered by some countries after the accident in Fukushima, Japan – combined with climate policies might get extremely expensive. Our study is a first assessment of the consequences of a broad range of combinations of climate and nuclear policies," lead author Nico Bauer says. Restrictions on nuclear power could be political decisions, but also regulations imposed by safety authorities. Power generation capacities would have to be replaced, but fossil fuels would become costly due to a price on CO2 emissions, this in sum is the main concern.
"However, in case of restricted use of nuclear power, the flexibility of allocating a long-term carbon budget over time enables higher near-term emissions due to increased power generation of natural gas," Bauer says. Along with demand reductions and efficiency improvements, these provisions could help fill the gap on electricity. The price of natural gas is projected to decrease due to demand reductions, according to the study. Decommissioning existing plants will also avoid refurbishment costs for expanding lifetimes of old nuclear power plants. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Karin Kloosterman||September 30th 2012|
It’s dark at an upscale Cairo café. It’s not closed; service continues despite the only light coming from windows along two walls. The cause was an electricity outage. While it only lasted around 15 minutes, it was one of thousands of power cuts this past summer in Egypt as overuse left many without power for large portions of the day.
Across the river from Cairo’s upscale Zamalek neighborhood lies Imbaba, a lower-class neighborhood, and one of the harder hit areas of the Egyptian capital. “We had some days where we didn’t have power for six hours, sometimes longer,” Hassan Ghozlan, a local resident, stated. And they still continue, he added. “Still, some days it goes out for a few hours, even during the evening when it is cooler,” he added. The government has said that too many air-conditioners are to blame for the cuts. Either way, there is hope for the country’s citizens, as a new project aims to tackle electricity by using alternative power methods. Read more ..
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