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Oil Addiction

Research Indicates China's Oil Demand To Equal US Demand By 2040

December 5th 2011

Energy / Environment - China Oil

Despite aggressive demand-management policies announced in recent years, China's oil use could easily reach levels comparable to today's U.S. levels by 2040, according to a new energy study by the Baker Institute.

The study's authors said this finding has timely significance because China's growing energy use could continue to pose a major challenge for global climate deliberations in South Africa this week.

The study, "The Rise of China and Its Energy Implications," finds that China's recent efforts at centralizing energy policy do not appear to be significantly more successful than the makeshift patchwork of energy initiatives devised by the United States. In fact, the study said, the U.S. system of open and competitive private sector investment is stimulating more innovation in the American energy sector than in the Chinese energy industry, especially in the area of unconventional oil and gas. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Senegal's Shining Solution to Blackouts

December 3rd 2011

Energy / Environment - Solar Senegal

It's still early on in Senegal's nine-month-long dry season and, as usual, there's not a cloud in the sky. In a West African nation where growing energy demands far outweigh supply, such abundant sunlight, some say, is the obvious solution to crippling power cuts that result from its aging infrastructure.

Senegal's rolling power outages hinder progress in many sectors, especially in the administrative and financial capital of Dakar. But today a Spanish solar-power company, Prosolia, is installing panels on a vocational school that prepares youth for the city's booming construction industry.

According to Yerogallo Kamara, the school's director, when power goes out, students stop studying. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

The High Cost of Latin America's Electrification Projects

December 3rd 2011

Energy / Environment - Itaipu Dam - Paraguay
Itaipu Dam - Paraguay

Are urbanization and efforts toward environmental sustainability and land preservation compatible? Can we imagine a development strategy that does not destroy territory and also respects the rights of local indigenous populations? These are the fundamental questions that are arising in Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile; each of which are going through various types of economic booms that require investment in energy and infrastructure. In these countries, some projects under discussion, although widely different from each other, have generated protests and clashes between citizens and their governments. Placing these distinct disputes into a global perspective presents a classic problem: the clash between two different methodologies of weighing the benefits of “progress.”

Brazil: Belo Monte Dam

The Belo Monte Dam, a proposed hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in Pará, Brazil, has been in the planning stage for thirty years. The first version of the dam dates back to 1975 when it was formerly known as Kararaô. The Kararaô project proposed six dams that, if built, would have flooded 20,000 square kilometers (km2) of rainforest, including protected areas and indigenous land. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Energy Defends Air Pollution Regulations, Says New Rules Won’t Crash Power Grid

December 2nd 2011

Energy / Environment - electric power lines

The Energy Department said Thursday that upcoming air pollution regulations will not threaten the reliability of the country’s electric grid, the latest effort by the Obama administration to counter claims by Republicans and industry officials that the rules could cause power outages.

The department released a report Thursday that analyzed the effects on the electric grid of two Environmental Protection Agency air regulations: the cross-state air-pollution rule and the mercury and air toxics standard.

The Obama administration has launched a full-court press this week to counter growing attacks by Republicans on EPA air regulations over the reliability of the electric grid just weeks before the agency is scheduled to finalize rules requiring that power plants install technology to reduce emissions of mercury and air toxics.

  Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Judicial Watch Sues Administration for Solyndra Documents

December 2nd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Chu
Energy Sec. Steven Chu

A conservative watchdog group is suing the Obama administration for documents related to the $535 million loan guarantee to failed California solar company Solyndra.

Judicial Watch said Thursday that it filed separate lawsuits with the Energy Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget after the agencies did not fully comply with a request for records related to the loan guarantee. The group said it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in September for “any and all records regarding, concerning or related to” the Solyndra loan guarantee.

The Energy Department released digital copies of documents in October and noted that “[a]dditional responsive documents exist and are being reviewed in preparation for public release,” according to Judicial Watch. But the group said the department has not provided additional documents. "While we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department has consistently demonstrated our commitment to being fully open and transparent since the beginning of this investigation," Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera said in a statement. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Sludge Transformed into Electricity using Solar Power, Robots

November 29th 2011

Energy Topics - Sludge

Israeli startup Global Recycling Projects Ltd., is working on a system to treat sludge waste and transform it into energy and raw materials by harnessing solar energy to thermo-chemically transform the waste.

Toxic sludge, a byproduct of wastewater, is both bad for the environment and expensive to get rid of, requiring dewatering, conditioning, storage, hauling and disposal, either through dumping it in landfills, or incinerating it – neither option a particularly green one.

GRPL, however, has come up with a novel way of dealing with sludge, which not only disposes of the waste greenly, but also provides gas to power electricity-generating turbines in the process.

Using solar power to concentrate solar radiation using a field of tracking mirrors (called heliostats), GRPL directs the collected radiation to a solar tower where a solar biomass reactor has been placed. This then powers the reactor, which acts as a gasifier, capable of transforming the sludge into a gaseous state, which can be used to power electrical utility plants. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

When it Comes to Oil Industry, Self-Preservation is its Highest Skill

November 27th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

The oil industry is batting 1.000 this year when it comes to preserving its tax breaks.

The survival of billions in incentives, which President Obama and Democrats repeatedly have targeted this year, shows that the industry’s lobbying and political muscle remains intact even after a year that saw $4-per-gallon gasoline prices and strong profit reports.

The demise of the bipartisan deficit “supercommittee” robbed industry foes of their best opportunity this year to roll back the incentives, observers say. Read more ..


The Race for Fuel Cells

Fuel Cell Carmakers and Industry Highlight Zero Emission Mobility

November 27th 2011

Technology - hydrogen car

On 22 and 23 November, carmakers Daimler, Honda, Opel and Toyota have organized for the fourth time their Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Drive 'n' Ride in Brussels. At the event, the companies demonstrate how zero-emission technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells tackle transport emissions, one of the European Commission's two environmental priorities for 2012.

During the Drive 'n' Ride, more than 100 EU officials and other high-level stakeholders have the opportunity to experience the reality of clean technology by driving or riding in one of eight fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on display. In addition, for the first time in Brussels, a fully mobile and compact hydrogen station, provided by industrial gases vendor Linde AG and Daimler, will demonstrate the refuelling process. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

UGA Scientists Invent Long-lasting Infrared-Emitting Material

November 23rd 2011

Science - Radio and Infrared Emission

In a paper just published in the early online edition of the journal Nature Materials, University of Georgia scientists describe a new material that emits a long-lasting, near-infrared glow after a single minute of exposure to sunlight. Lead author Zhengwei Pan, associate professor of physics and engineering in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Engineering, said the material has the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics, give the military and law enforcement agencies a "secret" source of illumination and provide the foundation for highly efficient solar cells.

"When you bring the material anywhere outside of a building, one minute of exposure to light can create a 360-hour release of near-infrared light," Pan said. "It can be activated by indoor fluorescent lighting as well, and it has many possible applications."   Read more ..


The Fracking Problem

Pennsylvania Public Views Hydro-Fracking Gas Wells Warily

November 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - Marcellus gas well

Pennsylvanians have significant doubts about the credibility of the media, environmental groups and scientists on the issue of natural gas drilling using "fracking" methods, a new poll says.

Those surveyed also believe the state's governor, Tom Corbett, is too closely aligned with companies involved in fracking in Pennsylvania, which is on the frontline of a growing national and international debate about the industry.

The findings raise serious questions about where Pennsylvanians should seek credible information and leadership on an issue that is becoming increasingly important to the state's economy and environment.

The poll, one of the most extensive recent surveys on fracking, was conducted by the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion in collaboration with the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Read more ..


Poisoned Places

Many Americans Left Behind in the Quest for Cleaner Air

November 18th 2011

Environment Topics - Smokestacks

For all of her 62 years, Lois Dorsey has lived five blocks from a mass of petrochemical plants in Baton Rouge. She worries about the health of people in her life: A 15-year-old granddaughter, recovering from bone cancer. A 59-year-old sister, a nonsmoker, felled by lung cancer. Neighbors with asthma and cancer.

She's complained to the government about powerful odors and occasional, window-rattling explosions—to no avail, she says. Pollution from the plants—including benzene and nickel, both human carcinogens, and hydrochloric acid, a lung irritant—continues.

“If anything," said Dorsey, herself a uterine cancer survivor, "it’s gotten worse."

Americans might expect the government to protect them from unsafe air. That hasn’t happened. Insidious forms of toxic air pollution—deemed so harmful to human health that a Democratic Congress and a Republican president sought to bring emissions under control more than two decades ago—persist in hundreds of communities across the United States, an investigation shows. Read more ..


The Race for Light Rail

She’s Been Workin’ on The Railroad

November 18th 2011

Israel Topics - Barbara Levine, Tel Aviv MTA
Barbara Levine, Tel Aviv Metro Mass Transit System

Golda Meir would be proud of fellow American expatriate Barbara Levine.

Meir, Israel's fourth prime minister, proposed a light rail transit system (LRT) for Tel Aviv back in the early 1970s. Levine, a University of Pennsylvania-trained electrical engineer, is in charge of "rolling stock" -- the vehicles, signaling, traction power, tracks and fare collection system -- for the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Mass Transit System, which is now digging tunnels to fulfill Meir's vision.

"I‘ve more or less spent my whole life being a pioneer of something," Levine tells ISRAEL21c, "whether it was becoming the first woman engineer at [US national railroad] Amtrak, or to trying to put an LRT system in Tel Aviv."

When Levine was brought aboard six years ago, she had just helped implement Amtrak's high-speed Acela route on the US East Coast. Read more ..


Green Scandals

DoE Secretary Steven Chu 'too associated' with Silicon Valley Business Elites

November 17th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Chu
Energy Secretary Steven Chu

New internal White House emails reveal that a scathing critique of Energy Secretary Steven Chu by a former Obama political advisor was widely circulated at the highest levels of the administration.

The Feb. 25, 2011 email that sparked the deliberations landed on West Wing desks just as the solar energy firm Solyndra was starting to show outward signs of financial trouble. It was sent by Dan Carol, a former Obama campaign staffer and clean energy advocate who was described by Obama's then-Chief of Staff Pete Rouse as someone whose views "reflect the President's general philosophy on energy policy."

Carol's four-page proposal to restructure the Energy Department included the blunt recommendation that Chu be fired, and that his leadership team also be replaced, calling it time for "serious changes, even if they are uncomfortable to make."

"I would respectfully suggest that the president be strongly encouraged to make major leadership changes as soon as possible," Carol wrote. Read more ..


The Race for Rail

Rail Supporters Get Back On Track With Amtrak Victory

November 14th 2011

Transportation Topics - transit

Rail supporters won a rare victory this week after a year spent mostly in retreat when the House backed off a push to privatize a major component of Amtrak service.

Republicans have worked to dismantle President Obama’s vision for a nationwide network of railways since they swept into power last November.

This week, however, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), said he would no longer push to privatize Amtrak service in its most profitable region, the northeast.

Transportation advocates, many of whom are in the labor movement, staunchly opposed the proposal. They argued it would effectively end the longtime national passenger rail service.

Ed Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, told The Hill that the victory on Amtrak privatization was sweet, but the fight over rail in Congress was far from over. Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Iran Halts Oil Exports to Pakistan because of Sanctions

November 9th 2011

Iran - Ahmadinejad Nuclear
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran

Petroleum-rich Iran has ceased exporting oil to its southern neighbour, Pakistan, when a refinery in the South Asian country could not get financing for the purchase. This was due to sanctions now imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union, reported the Mehr news agency on November 9. The National Iranian Oil Company of the Islamic republic had signed a contract to sell 12,000 barrels of oil per day to Pakistan Oil Refining Co., also state-run.

Banks in Pakistan rejected the Karachi-based refinery’s requests to open letters of credit in order to do business with the Iranian company. Iran was the sole supplier to the refiner, which has closed for unspecified “technical reasons,” said Pakistan’s minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain. The date for the halt in exports, and whether any other Pakistani importers might be affected, was unclear. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Gas Exploration Refuels Israel-Cyprus Relationship

November 3rd 2011

Israel Topics - Israel Cyprus platform

‘Maybe this is the biggest and most important landmark of the relationship so far,' says Cyprus-Israel Business Association president.

As the world awaits word of natural gas exploration partnerships between Israel and Cyprus, businessman Christakis P. Papavassiliou, president of the Cyprus-Israel Business Association, says it's perfectly logical that Israel would turn to its island neighbor, particularly in light of faltering ties with Turkey, gas-line blowups in Egypt and offshore gas finds domestically.

Joint natural gas exploration, with a processing facility built in Cyprus, is among recent proposals. Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis flew to Israel in August to hammer out related agreements.

Cooperation between Israel and Cyprus is actually decades old, Papavassiliou says -- since the founding of both countries in the late 1940s and early 1950s, respectively. "Israel has been for many years at number five or six as an exporter to Cyprus, the main volume coming from fuel -- mainly distilled gas, jet fuel and marine fuel," as well as fruit and frozen goods, says Papavassiliou, the 61-year-old head of Shoham Maritime Services shipping company. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Paper-Thin Fully-Printed Battery gets Big Charge of Cash

October 31st 2011

Energy Topics - paper battery

The Paper Battery Company has been selected to receive a $1 million award from The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to continue development of a fully printed energy-storage device that is as thin as a piece of paper. NYSERDA's funding will be matched by the company and private investors.

Ultracapacitors are energy-storage devices that give off short bursts of energy. In one application, these devices are used by computer manufacturers to provide emergency power to allow equipment to finish processing and save critical data changes in the event of a power outage or other problem, potentially eliminating the need for energy-inefficient lead acid battery UPS systems.

The technology also has a variety of clean energy applications, including hybrid electric cars (for rapid acceleration and regenerative braking), flexible solar panels, and other products that require high power and long charge/discharge cycle lives. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grid

Smart Grid research collaboration aims to develop a Renewable Ireland

October 31st 2011

Science - superconducting fibers

Leading European energy and ICT companies, R&D centers and universities, including ESB, Intune Networks and the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) are teaming up as part of a €5million for EU Collaboration to develop innovative “smart grid” energy solutions and services for homes, buildings, industry and the transport infrastructure.

The project aims to identify the requirements of a “smart grid” ICT system. Smart grids provide a balance between the supply of energy generated and demand. They can integrate advanced information and communication technology (ICT) into the energy distribution network so that electricity delivery is remotely controlled and automatically optimized. Read more ..


The Green Edge

Greener Heating for Hotels and Hospitals

October 24th 2011

Israel Topics - Phoebus Energy

An Israeli hybrid water-heating system shaves thousands of dollars a year off heating costs at big facilities, and vastly improves efficiency.

Heat pumps, more common in moderate climates than extreme ones, have been around for about 60 years. They create a greener heating system and work by using a small amount of electricity to pull heat from one place to another.

Improving on the old design, the Israeli company Phoebus Energy is giving "brains" to the water heating industry. The Phoebus solution can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on heating costs for big facilities, and improve efficiency by up to 70 percent, they say. Read more ..


Green Scandals

Energy’s Risky $1 Billion Bet on Two Politically-connected Electric Car Makers

October 24th 2011

Technology - Fisker Karma and Tesla Model S
Fisker Karma; Tesla Model S

Standing in a shuttered General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., Vice President Joe Biden heralded a half-billion-dollar Department of Energy loan that would transform the idled site into a production line for electric cars.

“Folks, we’re making a bet,” Biden said on Oct. 27, 2009. “We’re making a bet in the future, we’re making a bet in the American people, we’re making a bet in the market, we’re making a bet in innovation.”

That loan is part of a $1 billion bet the Energy Department has made on two politically connected California electric carmakers producing sporty—and pricey—cutting-edge autos. One is Fisker Automotive, the project heralded by Biden and backed by a powerhouse venture capital firm whose partners include former Vice President Al Gore and a campaign donor to President Obama. The other is Tesla Motors, whose prime backers include a major fundraiser for Obama and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Read more ..


Greener Grid

LED Street Lighting Project Cuts Energy Consumption In Half

October 22nd 2011

Technology - LED street

As of late, the streets in the historic centre of Arraiolos in Portugal have been lit up entirely by energy-efficient lighting diode technology (LED), used in combination with an intelligent lighting management system. The project was realised by Schréder, a manufacturing company for street lighting, in cooperation with Osram Opto Semiconductors. According to Osram, the new street lighting will ensure energy savings of approximately 50 percent.

In the scope of the project, street lanterns used in the historic town centre of Arraiolos were replaced completely by new luminaires that use energy-efficient LED-technology in combination with an intelligent lighting management system (LMS). Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Fuel Economy of New Vehicles still at Lowest Point in the Past Year

October 12th 2011

Automotive - car door

For the second straight month, the average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States remained the same, according to a researcher at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The average fuel economy of vehicles purchased in September was 22.1 mpg, unchanged from August.

According to Michael Sivak, research professor and head of UMTRI's Human Factors Group, average fuel economy of all new vehicles bought last month is at its lowest level in the past year. In fact, average fuel economy for new vehicle purchases has trended downward since it hit a high of 23.0 mpg last March.

"This decrease is likely related to a slight drop in gas prices since spring, because people tend to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles when gas prices go up," Sivak said. Read more ..


Mideast Energy on Edge

Storm Clouds Over Eastern Mediterranean

October 12th 2011

Turkish Topics - KemalRais
TCG KemalReis (credit: Turkish Navy)

In early October, US-based Noble Energy Company began exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus. They did so with the agreement of the Nicosia authorities, in an area indisputably located within Cypriot territorial waters. Despite this, there was real concern that the drilling could face interference from Turkish navy ships on maneuvers in the area.

The explorations proceeded undisturbed. The Turkish ships observed procedures from a discreet distance. But Cyprus’s defiance of recent Turkish warnings against beginning the search for natural gas in this area is unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

Muscle-flexing in the eastern Mediterranean forms part of Ankara’s broader combined strategic and economic ambitions. Israel is part of the picture and is drawing closer to the Cypriots. Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Fundraiser for Obama Urged Solyndra Deal from the Inside

October 12th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Spinner

An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration’s energy loan program pushed and prodded career Energy Department officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife’s law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday, October 7.

“How hard is this? What is he waiting for?” Steven J. Spinner, who worked in the Obama administration’s energy loan guarantee program, wrote in August 2009. “I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this.” Spinner, a high-tech consultant and energy investor who raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, joined the DOE in April 2009. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Colored Solar Cells Boost E-Reader Efficiency and Create Energy-Harvesting Light Displays

October 10th 2011

Energy Topics - solar cell in color
Colored solar cell (Credit: Jay Guo)

A new kind of screen pixel doubles as a solar cell and could boost the energy efficiency of cell phones and e-readers. The technology could also potentially be used in larger displays to make energy-harvesting billboards or decorative solar panels. Jay Guo, a professor in the University of Michigan's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has developed the reflective photovoltaic color filter device that can convert absorbed light to electricity. The research is newly published in the current print edition of ACS Nano.

In traditional LCDs, less than 8 percent of the backlight actually reaches a viewer's eyes. The rest is absorbed by color filters and polarizers, Guo says. "This absorbed light is totally wasted," he said. "It becomes heat. You can feel it if you put your hand close to a monitor. Why not try to harvest some of this energy?"

That's just what he has done. Guo's new filter can convert to power about 2 percent of the light that would otherwise be wasted. This could add up to a significant amount in small electronics, he says.

The researchers created the new filter by adding organic semiconductor solar cells to an elegant and ultra-thin color filter, similar to what Guo's lab had created over a year ago. That filter is composed of nano-thin sheets of metal with precisely spaced gratings that act as resonators, trapping and reflecting light of a particular color. The color depends only on the amount of space between the slits. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Steve Jobs Leaves a Legacy Environmentalists Can Learn From

October 7th 2011

Technology - Steve Jobs headshot w/dates

The world’s most innovative rebel was given up for adoption. But neither this, nor cancer, nor a series of public setbacks ever deterred his strength of vision. This is Green Prophet’s tribute to Steve Jobs.

“No one wants to die,” Steve Jobs said in a speech to Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “and yet it is the destination that we all share.” At 56, after struggling with pancreatic cancer for several years, Apple’s co-founder and lead visionary finally reached his destination. And though he once said that he didn’t care about being the richest person in the cemetery, he will be, not only because he is one of the world’s wealthiest people, but because his commitment to personal excellence has completely changed how millions of people from all walks of life interact with their personal computers, their telephones, and one another. Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Venture Capitalist's Email Illustrates Closeness between Obama Administration and Campaign Bundlers

October 5th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Solyndra Obama
President Obama shakes hand with Solyndra employees

New White House emails show a top donor to Barack Obama was in direct contact with one of the president’s closest advisers about the federal energy loan program, the latest disclosure underscoring the closeness between the administration and bundlers with a stake in Energy Department funding.

Steve Westly, a California venture capitalist who raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, emailed Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisers, to warn her about political fallout that could ensue if the president visited the factory being built by Solyndra.

“Could you perhaps check with [the Energy Department] to make sure they’re comfortable with the company? I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press,” Westly wrote on May 24, 2010. “If it’s too late to change/postpone the meeting, the president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy.” Read more ..


Internal Combustion on Edge

Jerusalem’s Bus Station: A Pollution Death Trap for Workers and Shoppers

October 4th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem Bus Terminal

Working in a congested bus station, especially one like Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station is not conducive to one’s health. The toxic fumes created by the hundreds of buses that go in and out of this station, and all the free radicals in this air pollution is almost as bad as “black cloud” infested Cairo, or Tehran, where as many as 27 people die each day from air pollution.

A recent study was made by Israel’s Environment Ministry, and was reported afterwards in the Jerusalem Post. Findings? Pollution at this bus station, including high levels of ozone, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter, made the level of pollution in the air four or five times greater than acceptable levels. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

E-Mail Trail shows Obama Administration's Early Concerns over Solyndra

October 3rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama solyndra
President Obama and Solyndra officials

Administration officials raised concerns about a 2010 visit by President Obama to a Solyndra manufacturing plant in California, arguing that the visit would embarrass the White House if the company ultimately went bankrupt, emails released Monday show.

In the days before Obama visited the now-bankrupt solar company's facility on May 25, 2010, one OMB official wrote an email to a colleague that said, “Hope doesn’t default before then.” Another official said, “I am increasingly worried that this visit could prove embarrassing to the Administration in the not too distant future, given 1) what we just heard today from DOE that Solyndra is delaying their IPO at least until the end of the year, and 2) what the auditors said about Solyndra making it through the year absent new financing.” Solyndra canceled plans to go public in June of 2010. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

From Woodchips to Biofuel

September 26th 2011

Technology - Wood Chips

It’s not every day that an Israeli company based on the science of a Nazi collaborator wins a huge US contract. But HCL Clean Tech, which offers a process to turn wood chips into biofuel, just received a $100 million bond package from the Mississippi state legislature to build plants in Grenada, Booneville, Hattiesburg and Natchez for products in the cosmetics, pet food, and lubricants industries.

The plants will take wood chips from region, where there is a surplus of pine trees, and begin processing them in 2012 in Grenada. Three bigger plants will be opened in 2015, 2017 and 2019, according to the deal. Most of the funding will go toward building the facilities, while $5 million is earmarked for infrastructure and training.

The new project is expected to create about 800 new jobs, with the average salary not too shabby at $67,500 plus benefits. Backers of the bill, which was approved almost unanimously, believe these jobs - some 200 new positions in Natchez alone - will be readily filled by locals. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Congressional Republicans Take a Closer Look at Obama-Solyndra Solar Connections

September 26th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama solyndra
President Obama meets Solyndra executives

House Republicans have sunk their teeth into the bankruptcy of an Obama administration-backed solar firm, and they made it clear this past week that they’re not letting go. Unlike other GOP-led probes of the White House that quickly faded away, Republicans are vowing to intensify their investigation into the California-based Solyndra. The company declared bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers this month just two years after receiving a $535 million stimulus-law loan guarantee from the administration.

The incident has ignited a firestorm in Washington, leaving the White House scrambling to defend itself against Republican allegations that the administration missed a series of red flags that hinted at Solyndra’s pending financial collapse. The debacle is a messaging nightmare for the White House, which has invested a huge amount of political capital in the stimulus law and its clean energy agenda. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

KeyStone Pipeline Capers present an Environmentalist's Nightmare for North America

September 23rd 2011

Energy / Environment - Keystone pipeline map

In June 2010, TransCanada began the first phases of construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada. Keystone XL is an expansion of the already existing Keystone Pipeline, which runs east across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, south from North Dakota to Kansas, east through Missouri and then into Illinois. The expanded petroleum route will extend through parts of Montana and continue south through Oklahoma and Texas. The Keystone XL pipeline will cost USD 7 billion to construct and will carry nearly 800,000 barrels of oil a day into the U.S. from Canada.

Though seemingly very different, Alberta and Texas share a similar economic reliance on petroleum. In a report earlier this year, The Economist discussed the production of oil in Alberta across a 232 square-mile area known as the tar sands or oil sands. A crude form of petroleum called bitumen occurs naturally underground in this region, which is home to “one of the largest oil reserves in the world.”

An Environmentalist’s Nightmare

Opposition to the project extends beyond the gates of the White House. Many U.S. citizens question the safety and necessity of the project. Environmentalists and alternative-fuel advocates insist that its approval indicates merely a “commitment to the petroleum-based economy.” Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen Cars

Innovative Hydrogen-Powered Vehicle

September 17th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrogen car

Amidst ongoing discussions over the shortfalls and challenges of battery electric vehicle concepts, at the Frankfurt Motor Show Daimler presented a research car driven by hydrogen fuel cells. The vehicle boasts a large number of innovative features including its electronics.

The F125 is powered by the same near-production fuel cell stack that was used in the fleet of Daimler B-class passenger cars that circled the world recently. The hydrogen to feed this stack is stored in a tank with a capacity of about 7.5 kg of hydrogen. The tank design is rather innovative: Instead of the cylindrical high-pressure (700 bar) tanks typically used for this purpose, the vehicle's tank stores the liquid hydrogen in a porous, spongy metallic structure. With its working pressure of only about 30 bar, it was possible to integrate the tank into the floor assembly. This technology however, still is an object of basic research, Daimler admitted. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Gel Electrolyte Promises Better Battery

September 14th 2011

Technology - Batteries

Researchers at the University of Leeds in England have invented a polymer gel that they claim can be used to manufacture cheaper, flexible lithium batteries without compromising performance.The technology has been licensed to Polystor Energy Corp. (Pleasanton, Calif.), which is attempting to commercialize the cells for portable consumer electronics applications.

Professor Ian Ward, the research physicist who developed the technology, said it could replace liquid electrolytes currently used in rechargeable lithium cells. In addition the gel can be made into a thin, flexible film by way of an automated low-cost process.

The polymer gel developed by Professor Ward and his team gets rid of the traditional need for a separator in a rechargeable lithium battery, making for a lighter pack. In addition they have developed a patented manufacturing process that extrudes the gel between an anode and cathode at a speed of up to 10 meters per minute to create a battery that is nanometers thick. Read more ..


Turkey and Israel

Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches

September 14th 2011

Israel Topics - Leviathan Oil field

Ankara warns that Turkey will stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean—and directly challenges U.S. policy.

On September 8, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Aljazeera that his government had taken steps to prevent Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea. “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean,” he stated, apparently citing Israeli plans to tap newly discovered offshore gas reserves. Israel “will not be the owner of this right,” he warned.

In other remarks, Erdogan declared that the Turkish navy would protect future aid ships bound for Gaza in order to prevent a repetition of the 2010 flotilla incident, in which Israeli commandos killed nine activists attempting to break the blockade. These comments came just days after the release of a UN report condemning the deaths but justifying Israel’s blockade—a judgment that prompted Ankara to drastically reduce diplomatic relations between the two countries and freeze their substantial military cooperation and trade. Read more ..


Grid on Edge

Prisoners of the Grid Suffer Blackout in Arizona and Northern Mexico

September 11th 2011

Energy Topics - Power outage

The September 8 blackout provoked by a failure at a private utility company substation in Yuma, Arizona, rolled across the border and affected more than 1.3 million people in northern Mexico, according to press accounts.

For more than ten hours, chaotic scenes unfolded in the states of Baja California and part of neighboring Sonora. Workplaces ground to a halt, classes were canceled, traffic lights stopped functioning and water service was interrupted. In the Baja state capital of Mexicali, the electricity shut-down came as temperatures soared to 111 degrees.

The cities most impacted included Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, Ensenada, Rosario, and San Luis Rio Colorado.

Panic-buyers seeking water, ice and food saturated Oxxo and Circle K convenience stores. The proximity of the blackout to the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as this year’s disaster at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, prompted sensational speculation as to the cause of the power outage. Read more ..


The Green Edge

The Mideast’s Environmental “Prophet”

September 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Karin Kloosterman of Green Prophet
Karin Kloosterman, founder of Green Prophet

Can young people in the region come together around green issues? The woman behind the Green Prophet website thinks so. She has a vision of a multicultural, borderless Middle East, not unlike the European Union, with Israel and its Arab neighbors brought together not by enmity but by a deep concern for the environment—from Beirut to Jerusalem to Cairo, the people of the Middle East joined by the need for clean air and water, regional issues that transcend nationalities and political ideologies.

It’s a noble, if slightly Quixotic, vision, but perhaps not a surprising one from the woman behind an increasingly popular website with the lofty name, Green Prophet.

“It might sound naïve but I think it’s achievable” within 20 years, said Karin Kloosterman, who in 2008 launched Green Prophet, a news website dedicated to environmental and ecological issues that affect some 20 countries across the Middle East.

“My true vision is to access the young global elite in the region and get their minds working, accessing information and thinking up new ideas for green projects to save the environment for the future,” said the Canadian-born Kloosterman, who moved to Israel just over a decade ago and lives in Jaffa. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Solyndra Investigation Expands, with Agents Visiting Executives’ Homes

September 11th 2011

Energy Topics - solyndra HQ

Federal agents have expanded their examination of the now-bankrupt California solar power company Solyndra, visiting the homes of the company’s chief executive, a founder, and a former executive, examining computer files and documents.

Agents visited the homes of CEO Brian Harrison and company founder Chris Gronet. Agents also visited the home of a third executive involved in the company from the start, according to a source who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because of the legal sensitivity of the situation.

Gronet, reached at his home Friday morning, did not dispute that his home was visited by federal agents a day earlier.

“I’m sorry,” Gronet said in an interview. “You probably understand full well that I cannot comment.” Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Driving Responsibly can cut Fuel Consumption even for Gas Guzzlers

September 8th 2011

Automotive - car door

While driving a fuel-efficient vehicle is the best way to save gas, motorists can still cut fuel consumption nearly in half by driving slower and less aggressively, properly maintaining their vehicles and avoiding congested roads, say University of Michigan researchers. See their report here.

"Driving a light-duty vehicle in the United States is currently more energy-intensive than using a bus or a train and even flying," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "How can we improve on this performance? Vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect—the best vehicle currently available for sale in the United States is nine times more fuel-efficient than the worst vehicle.

"Nevertheless, remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45 percent reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing." Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Israeli Electric Car firm announced First Trade-In Agreement for Electric Cars

September 7th 2011

Automotive - Electric car Israel

Better Place, the company bringing an electric car infrastructure to Israel, has been changing so much about how the Israeli public thinks about transportation. It has educated the public about the benefits of using electric cars, taught us that a whole new electric infrastructure can be created to replace fossil-fuel-guzzling gas stations, and now it is teaching us that yes, there is such a thing as a used electric cares salesman.

According to a recent agreement between Better Place and Trade Mobile, Better Place customers will be able to enjoy car trade-in services when buying or selling Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars.

This is the first such agreement of its kind in the Israeli electric car market and is opening up a whole new green industry. Read more ..



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