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Oil Addiction

Keystone Supporters Go Bananas Over Chiquita’s No-Oil-Sands Pledge

December 19th 2011

Energy Topics - Keystone pipe

Chiquita Brands International, the well-known banana company, is coming under fire from supporters of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for the company’s decision to curb its reliance on fuels derived from Canadian oil sands crude.

ForestEthics, a nonprofit that works to protect endangered forests in the United States and Canada, said Thursday that Chiquita agreed to stop using fuel derived from oil sands, often called “tar sands” by environmental groups, to ship its bananas. “Canada’s tar sands is all risk and no benefit for leading American brands like Chiquita that are resolved to reduce environmental problems, so they are working hard to get tar sands out of their transportation footprint,” said Aaron Sanger, director of U.S. campaigns at ForestEthics, in a statement.

ForestEthics has been pressing Chiquita and other companies for months to abandon its reliance on oil sands crude. In a November letter to ForestEthics, Manuel Rodriguez, corporate responsibility officer at Chiquita, said that the company is “committed to directing our transportation providers to avoid, where possible, fuels from tar sands refineries and to adopt a strategy of continuous improvement towards the elimination of those fuels.” Read more ..


The Toxic Edge

Mercury Falling: Groundbreaking Power Plant Emissions Rule Imminent

December 17th 2011

Energy / Environment - carbon emissions

It’s an important moment for Americans who eat fish or use electricity. After more than two decades of delays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to issue a new regulation restricting some power plant emissions that have polluted the nation’s air and water.

Even though the rule won’t take effect until at least 2015, it’s a big deal. For the first time, all of America’s 150 oil-burning facilities and 1,500 coal-fired power plants would have to limit emissions of mercury and other air toxics — a class of nearly 200 hazardous, haphazardly regulated chemicals that have been the subject of the Poisoned Places series by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and NPR. The EPA is required to issue the new standard today, but some observers predict that the Obama administration will wait until Congress is out of session Monday to release the final language. Read more ..


Edge Energy

Kite Surfing Spurs Solar Energy Breakthrough

December 15th 2011

Energy Topics - Etenergy

A kite surfing engineer from Israel has found a way to turn his passion for the sea into more power from the sun. Eyal Dror's company Etenergy has developed a new kind of solar panel tracker, the Etracker, to help solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants soak in more energy from the sun.

PV solar panels that are fixed to the ground collect the most amount of energy when the sun hits them at a 90-degree angle. This usually happens at high noon, only once a day. Trackers that can move on one or two axes according to the angle of sun help optimize collecting the sun's rays, but they tend to be expensive. Dror's new invention, inspired by a "eureka" moment when kite surfing, aims to collect 40 percent more power from the sun on a daily basis, with an investment that costs about the same as a fixed panel installation. Choosing fixed or dual-axis tracking has turned into a no-brainer. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Lobbyists go to battle over Keystone pipeline

December 12th 2011

Energy / Environment - Keystone Pipeline

At least 42 lobbying firms, associations and companies have lobbied on the Keystone XL pipeline since 2009, Senate records show.

Lobbying on the controversial project accelerated this year as the pipeline became a hot-button political issue. Of the 42 entities that have lobbied since 2009 on Keystone, at least 33 of them lobbied on the issue in the most recent quarter, records indicate.

The pipeline began to draw widespread attention earlier this year when environmentalists staged a series of protests at the White House to try and stop the pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Canada to Texas. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Solar Power Development in US Southwest Could Threaten Wildlife

December 12th 2011

Energy Topics - Solar panels

Government agencies are considering scores of applications to develop utility-scale solar power installations in the desert Southwest of the United States, but too little is known to judge their likely effects on wildlife, according to a recent sudy. Although solar power is often seen as a "green" energy technology, available information suggests a worrisome range of possible impacts. These concern wildlife biologists because the region is a hotspot of biodiversity and includes many endangered or protected species, notably Agassiz's desert tortoise. It and another tortoise, Morafka's, dig burrows that shelter many other organisms.

The study, by Jeffrey E. Lovich and Joshua R. Ennen of the US Geological Survey's Southwest Biological Science Center, notes that solar energy facilities are poised for rapid development and could cover hundreds of thousands of hectares. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Top Nuke Regulators tell White House of ‘Grave Concerns’ with NRC Chairman

December 11th 2011

Energy Topics - Nuclear Regulatory Chairman
Gregory Jaczko

Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have told the White House that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.

An Oct. 13 letter from Jaczko’s four NRC colleagues to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is a powerful, unified rebuke of the agency’s leader by his fellow commissioners, who cite “grave concerns” about his conduct and allege it’s increasingly “erratic.”

“We believe that his actions and behavior are causing serious damage to this institution and are creating a chilled work environment at the NRC,” states the letter to Daley from NRC commissioners Kristine L. Svinicki, George Apostolakis, William D. Magwood, IV, and William C. Ostendorff.

“We are concerned that this will adversely affect the NRC’s central mission to protect the health, safety and security of the American people,” the letter adds. Svinicki and Ostendorff are Republicans, the other three NRC commissioners, including Jaczko, are Democrats. The four NRC members laid out their concerns to Jaczko directly in an Oct. 13 memo that mirrors the complaints in their letter to Daley. The memo tells Jaczko of the letter to Daley and acknowledges it is an “extraordinary step,” while adding that Jaczko has left them without “viable alternatives.” Read more ..


The Race for Alt Bioenergy

Switchgrass as Bioenergy Feedstock Reduces Greenhouse Gases

December 10th 2011

Energy Topics - switchgrass

Scientists examined current knowledge about the potential contributions of bioenergy production from switchgrass to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Their findings conclude that the use of switchgrass bioenergy can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but encourage further research to address the significant sources of uncertainty, such as what type of land is converted to switchgrass.

According to the leading author, Dr. Andrea Monti, Research Scientist at the University of Bologna, Italy, "We reviewed over 100 articles on switchgrass, which found that this crop has a considerable ability to accumulate carbon in the soil compared to several other grasses, and especially row crops. Although switchgrass has recently received a lot attention as an environmentally beneficial energy crop, it is important to consider that switchgrass had not been planted as a monoculture crop until the mid 20th century. Information needed to make long term predictions on carbon sequestration, such as land use change, carbon turnover rate, and the economic life cycle length are lacking." Read more ..


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 ..



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