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Oil Addiction

Political Common Ground on Peak Oil and Public Health

August 10th 2011

Energy Topics - Arab Oil Derick

Peak petroleum—the point at which the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of production begins to decline—is a hot topic in scientific and energy circles. When will it occur? What will the impact be? While geologists and economists debate the specifics, American University School of Communication professor Matthew Nisbet believes peak petroleum and the associated risks to public health may provide an opportunity to bring conservatives and liberals together in the move toward alternative forms of energy.

“Somewhat surprisingly, conservatives are more likely to associate a major spike in oil prices with a strong threat to public health,” said Nisbet—an expert in the field of climate and energy communication. “This could present a gateway to engagement with conservatives on energy policy.” Read more ..

Race for Alt Energy

Water/Methanol Hybrid Energy System Boosts Rooftop Solar Power

August 10th 2011

Science - hydrogen system

While roofs across the world sport photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a Duke University engineer believes a novel hybrid system can wring even more useful energy out of the sun's rays.

Instead of systems based on standard solar panels, Duke engineer Nico Hotz proposes a hybrid option in which sunlight heats a combination of water and methanol in a maze of glass tubes on a rooftop. After two catalytic reactions, the system produces hydrogen much more efficiently than current technology without significant impurities. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used on demand in fuel cells.

For his analysis, Hotz compared the hybrid system to three different technologies in terms of their exergetic performance. Exergy is a way of describing how much of a given quantity of energy can theoretically be converted to useful work. Read more ..

The Race for Wind Power

Inflatable Wind Turbines Proving to be an Affordable Energy Solution

August 5th 2011

Energy / Environment - Inflatable Wind Turbine

Inflatable wind turbines are now lighter and cheaper than heavy conventional ones. Following a number of  Israeli clean technology companies being winners in the General Electric Company’s Green Innovation Marathon, GE has announced plans to establish a “Green Tech Shop” in Haifa in which a number of renewable energy and other green technology projects will be developed under the giant American electronics company’s sponsorship. One of these green companies, Winflex LTD, is set on proving that harnessing energy from the wind does not have to involve the use of  large cumbersome wind turbines, such as the wind turbines now churning away on the Golan Heights.

Winflex wind rotor

What is unique about Winflex’s inflatable wind turbines is that they are made out of “light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials.” The result are light weight portable wind turbines that can be installed virtually anywhere – even on home rooftops – and result in a much shorter return on equipment investment than conventional wind turbines. By reducing costs and erection time of equipment, it reduces need for government subsidies, according to Winflex’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Vladimir Kliatzkin.

Using inflatable, easily installed wind turbines is a novel idea, especially compared to those giant whirling wind turbines are now becoming commonplace in many western European countries, such as Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland. Winflex’s designs uses a much lighter rotor around which the turbine blades revolve like sails from a sailing vessel. Read more ..

The Race for Smart Grids

Europe Needs Substantial Investment to make Smart Grids a Reality

August 4th 2011

Energy Topics - High volt tower

Intelligent electricity networks – smart grids – are a key component in the EU energy strategy, but substantial investments are needed to make them a reality. A new study from the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), presents a review of 219 smart grid projects Europe-wide. The vast majority of investments, amounting to about 5.5 billion euros, were made in old Member States ("EU15"), while new Member States ("EU12") tend to lag behind.

By providing a complete catalogue of the projects to date, the report showcases how smart grids can help integrate more renewables, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages occur. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Energy

Energy Harvesting is Big Business

August 4th 2011

Energy Topics - Photovoltaic cells

In 2011, IDTechEx research finds that the amount of money spent on energy harvesters will be USD0.7Bn, with several hundred developers involved throughout the value chain. Energy harvesting is the process by which ambient energy is captured and converted into electricity for small autonomous devices, such as satellites, laptops and nodes in sensor networks making them self-sufficient. Energy harvesting applications reach from vehicles to the smart grid.

The majority of the value this year is in consumer electronic applications, where energy harvesters have been used for some time. In 2011, 1.6 million energy harvesters will be used in wireless sensors, resulting in $13.75 million being spent on those harvesters. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

There is Plenty of Lithium for Electric Vehicles

August 4th 2011

Automotive - Lithium car battery

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. have assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. The research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, conclude that sufficient resources of lithium exist for the next 90 years to supply a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles through at least 2100.

The researchers compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on 32 deposits that have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 metric tons each. Lithium is a key ingredient in the development of certain types of batteries, and is a key element of batteries used in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

White House Budget Office Raised Risk on Big Solar Loan Guarantee

August 2nd 2011

Energy Topics - solyndra HQ

The White House budget office raised flags about the first energy loan guarantee awarded under the Obama administration, adding another layer of questions to the taxpayer backed financing now at the center of a House investigation.

In 2009, as the Department of Energy pushed to close the $535 million loan guarantee to California solar panel maker Solyndra Inc., the Office of Management and Budget concluded the financing was a greater risk to taxpayers than did DOE. That higher risk rating, in turn, forced the government to set aside more money in case the company defaults on payments.

The Department of Energy pressed ahead, formally approving the deal in September 2009 while portraying the Solyndra loan guarantee as a symbol of President Obama’s quest to spread green energy projects with government backing. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Photovoltaic Inverter shipments to grow to 27-GW by 2015 due to Grid Integration

July 27th 2011

Energy / Environment - solar panels and flowers

‘Smart’ photovoltaic inverter (PV) shipments are forecast to grow to 27 GW in 2015, accounting for almost 60 percent of the market compared to just 20 percent in 2010 according to the latest report from market analyst, IMS Research. The growth is being driven by utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of photovoltaic inverters connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate photovoltaic inverters into the ‘smart grid.’

According to the new IMS Research report entitled “The World Market for PV Inverters,” features such as reactive power, smart grid interaction and energy storage are transforming inverters from a simple power conversion unit into an essential component of grid infrastructure and will radically change the PV inverter market over the next five years. Tom Haddon a PV Research Analyst at IMS Research explained: “Utilities, especially in Europe, are increasingly pushing for inverters to assist in grid stabilization and conform to stricter technical requirements.”

Because of this, IMS Research forecasts that smart inverters will account for 80% of the EMEA market in 2015. Haddon commented: “Despite this, most inverter shipments will still not be “fully smart” and will only have reactive power capabilities, rather than full smart grid interaction or energy storage.” Read more ..

Race for Solar

Renewable Energy Appears to Re-Charge Germany's Economy

July 26th 2011

Energy Topics - German solar power

Professor Eicke Weber, spokesperson for the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance, says that the transition to renewable energy is set to deliver an economic pay off in the years to come and points out that various studies show a shift to alternative energy sources will raise the GNP in the coming decade and create new jobs. “Germany has the chance to take the global lead in the shift of a large-scale economy to renewable energy, with numerous advantages in the further development of these technologies and the corresponding creation of jobs. I cannot imagine a more effective, sustainable economic stimulus program than this process,” asserted Prof. Weber. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

OMB Dodges Subpoena on Solyndra Solar Investigation

July 25th 2011

Economy - solyndra plant groundbreaking
Solyndra plant groundbreaking, 2009 (credit: Solyndra)

The Obama administration’s budget office dodged a deadline Friday to hand over subpoenaed documents sought as part of a congressional investigation into a politically-connected solar panel manufacturer.

The Office of Budget and Management didn’t send over the requested documents—internal emails, memos and letters from OMB and anything in their possession from other offices—demanded in the subpoena from a House energy subcommittee on July 14 . But OMB promised to make a “substantial” number of internal documents and emails available for committee staff to review, said OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Syrian Energy Sector Targeted

July 24th 2011

Syrian Issues - Syrian oil tanks

By targeting Syria's energy sector, the United States can hit President Bashar al-Assad where it really hurts -- his pocketbook.

Four months into Syria's uprising, the violence wracking the country is bad and getting worse. The restive city of Homs witnessed sectarian clashes over the weekend that reportedly left dozens dead, while forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad converged on the eastern town of Abu Kamal. As the Assad regime's iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach to the uprising continues to fail, all eyes are focused on the Aug. 1 start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the minority Alawite regime's killing of predominately Sunni protesters could transform the uprising into a sectarian bloodbath.

This bloodshed, which is tragic in its own right, is also causing the sputtering Syrian economy to grind to a halt. Such a development would be particularly dangerous for Assad, as it could cause the business elite in the commercial hubs of Damascus and Aleppo to finally break ties with the regime and join ranks with the opposition. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

SolarOr to Power Buildings with Honeycombs in Windows

July 17th 2011

Energy Topics - SolarOr BIPV window panels
SolarOr BIPV installed; closeup of window panel

Many governments worldwide now require double pane glass in windows for energy efficiency. In between the panes is usually a gas that helps to cut down on unwanted heat transfer. But what if, sandwiched between the two panes of glass, instead of merely a substance that helped conserve energy, there was also an actual energy generator? That is the ingenious energy innovation supplied by Israel’s SolarOr, which was on display at this month’s Intersolar event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Between the two panes, SolarOr inserts tiny faceted solar photovoltaic cells facing the sky at the top of a honeycomb inside the glass. Read more ..

The Grid's Edge

Off-grid Energy Storage Market to Grow Rapidly for Next Five Years

July 17th 2011

Energy Topics - ultracapacitor and flywheel
Ultracapacitor and cross-section of flywheel storage unit

Battery, flywheel, ultracapacitor and fuel cell developers need to act now if they wish to tap the USD 4 billion market for off-grid applications, says Lux Research. Struggling to get their feet in the door of transportation and grid-tied markets, emerging electrical storage developers have begun eying off-grid opportunities as a way to attain scale and lower costs. Read more ..

Clean Air on Edge

Nearly One-third of U.S. Cars Won’t Have Onboard Vapor Recovery Technology by 2013

July 17th 2011

Energy / Environment - vapor recovery gas nozzle

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to stop requiring gasoline stations to install costly anti-pollution systems in 2013 because all vehicles made since 2006 are equipped with similar technology. But the switch means nearly one-third of American cars on the road still won’t have the onboard technology, leaving some smog-producing vapors leaking from the gas pump, according to industry experts.

On July 11, the EPA proposed to give states the option of dropping a requirement that gas stations in smoggy cities install vapor recovery systems to prevent vapors from leaking out of gas pumps. The Obama administration has argued these systems are no longer necessary and dropping the requirement could save gas station owners $67 million each year. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Quantum Dot Solar Cells May Yield Higher Efficiency Photovoltaics

July 15th 2011

Energy Topics - Photovoltaic cells

University of Toronto engineering researchers reported in Nature Photonics a new solar cell that may pave the way to inexpensive coatings that efficiently convert the sun's rays to electricity. The researchers, led by Professor Ted Sargent of electrical and computer engineering, report the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD).

"The University of Toronto device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers - one tuned to capture the sun's visible rays, the other engineered to harvest the half of the sun's power that lies in the infrared," said lead co-author Xihua Wang, a post-doctoral fellow. Read more ..

Egypt After Mubarek

Pipeline Sabotage in Egypt leads to Natural Gas Price Hike and Legal Action

July 12th 2011

Egypt - Egyptian pipeline blast

On July 12, for the second time in a week, the crucial gas pipeline leading to Israel and Jordan from Egypt was attacked. Saboteurs blew up the Egyptian gas pipeline distribution station in northern Sinai, sending plumes of smoke and flame hundreds of feet into the air. The explosion was the fourth attack this year on pipelines in Sinai that supply gas to Israel and Jordan. With roiling unrest in its eastern neighbour, Israel's important economic ties to Egypt are deteriorating, said Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau in a radio interview. "The most important economic connection between Israel and Egypt is eroding," Landau said. "Electricity disruptions are not expected since we have other energy reserves, however it will be more expensive." He added, "The price will increase by about 20 percent due to the use of gasoline and diesel, but my job is to maintain the supply of electricity to the Israeli economy."

Landau continued, "Israel was ready to allow Egypt to deploy more forces in Sinai to secure the pipeline, even at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising, in opposition to the peace agreement," he explained. "But I recommend against interfering since our neighboring country's situation is not simple. Israel needs to rely on herself and the Tamar reserves can supply [gas] needs for the next 25 years." Read more ..

After the BP Spill

Most Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Victims Don’t Need Future Compensation, Says BP

July 11th 2011

Disaster - Gulf Oil Spill Sat Image 2010-05-24

BP said on July 8 that victims of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill do not need compensation for future economic losses because the region has made significant progress in its recovery from the disaster.

“The current economic data do not suggest that individual and business claimants face a material risk of future loss caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” BP said in a document filed with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCG) Thursday. The Associated Press first reported on the document earlier the same day.

The GCCF has been charged with doling out as much as $20 billion set aside by BP to compensate victims of the spill. Kenneth Feinberg, a Washington lawyer, is in charge of the massive claims process. Read more ..

Race for Hydrogen

Turkey Beginning to Lay Infrastructure for Hydrogen Economy

July 5th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrogen car Turkey

Hydrogen-fueled vehicles and power systems could be feasible in Turkey by 2020, says Mustafa Hatipoğlu, managing director of the UN’s International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies in Istanbul. Since it was established in Istanbul eight years ago, the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (ICHET), a project of the United Nations International Development Organization, has been developing a series of small, experimental hydrogen energy projects. But Turkey is beginning to lay the infrastructure for a much larger hydrogen economy, according to the man at the head of ICHET, Mustafa Hatipoğlu.

In an exclusive interview, Hatipoğlu sat down for an exclusive interview about the future and progress to date of hydrogen energy in Turkey.

The advantages and limitations of hydrogen as an energy carrier are well illustrated by the most significant project ICHET has completed so far, the EkoKaravan. Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Better Place Inaugurates First Battery Swap Station in Denmark

July 5th 2011

Automotive - Danish EV
credit: Better Place

Denmark is the newest country to get Israeli innovator Shai Agassi’s battery-switching stations. The first of 20 long-planned Better Place battery swap stations slated for installation over the next twelve months was inaugurated June 30, CNet is reporting.

The EV battery switching station was installed in Gladsaxe, a town just outside of Copenhagen. The first battery swap was conducted on a Renault Fluence ZE, which, along with the Nissan Rogue SUV, is one of just two car models designed to accept the robotic battery swap technology designed by Agassi, so far. But that is not slowing Danish enthusiasm for Better Place. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Here Comes the Sun: Israel Launches a Solar Power Field

July 5th 2011

Energy Topics - Israeli solar power field

It’s taken five years to get off the ground, thanks in part to the difficulty of coordinating between no less than 24 ministerial offices, but the first Israeli solar field was finally launched in June 2011 to fanfare, VIP barbecues, music, a religious rapper (who wrote a song for the occasion), and a picturesque setting sun.

Arava Power’s 4.95 megawatt solar field in Kibbutz Ketura marks a milestone for the state of Israel. The Jewish nation has been intent on branding itself as a clean-tech superhero, selling solar innovations like inverters and software abroad, yet not quite able to prove its commitment to renewable energy on its home turf. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Obama Releases Oil from Strategic Reserve

June 23rd 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

The Energy Department has said that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, citing supply disruptions threatening the global economy and hailing from the unrest in Libya and other nations.

If all 30 million barrels are sold, it would be the largest sale from the reserve in history.

The release is part of a coordinated effort with other members of the International Energy Agency that will send a total of 60 million barrels of crude oil into world markets over the next 30 days, according to the Energy Department.

The decision comes amid signs that the economic recovery is faltering—which is a political threat to the White House heading into 2012—and concerns that high energy prices are acting as a brake on growth. Read more ..

Edge of Oil Addiction

Obama Administration Signals Higher Gas Royalties on Public Lands

June 22nd 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Obama administration may be readying for a fight with the energy industry as it prepares to raise royalty charges for oil and gas obtained from public lands—and tighten up practices that have allowed companies to pay less than they should.

Anticipated rollout in 2012 of new regulations to raise royalties could spark a fight with Republicans in an election year, and slightly reduce the spiraling deficit within a decade by adding nearly $1 billion to Interior Department collections.

The Interior Department has a poor track record of collecting royalties. As reported, the oil and gas industry regularly underpays what it owes, with a possible loss to taxpayers in the billions of dollars.

Oil and natural gas extraction from federal lands and waters make up one of the biggest sources of revenue for the government, behind taxes. In fiscal year 2010, Uncle Sam collected about $9.1 billion from oil and gas companies. Read more ..

Race for EVs

Inductive Charging for EVs Emerging as an New Alternative

June 19th 2011

Energy / Environment - Mia Electric Car

The charging interface for electric vehicles has been - and is - a subject to fierce discussion in the industry. AC and DC charging interfaces both have advantages and disadvantages. Now inductive charging is emerging as a surprise alternative.

All charging methods and interfaces for e-cars are characterized by tradeoffs between charging time, weight and installation space. Single-phase AC charging is convenient since it can be used in a private garage overnight. Read more ..

The Race for Thermal Energy

Neutron Analysis explains Dynamics behind the Best Thermoelectric Materials

June 15th 2011

Science - Oak Ridge boiling stuff

Neutron analysis of the atomic dynamics behind thermal conductivity is helping scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory gain a deeper understanding of how thermoelectric materials work. The analysis could spur the development of a broader range of products with the capability to transform heat to electricity.

Researchers performed experiments at both of ORNL's neutron facilities -- the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor -- to learn why the material lead telluride, which has a similar molecular structure to common table salt, has very low thermal conductivity, or heat loss -- a property that makes lead telluride a compelling thermoelectric material. Read more ..

Edge on Transportation

Paved Surfaces and Urban Development Alters Weather Patterns

June 14th 2011

Transportation Topics - Man hole cover

New research focusing on the Houston, Texas, area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea. The international study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), could have implications for the air quality of fast-growing coastal cities in the United States and other mid-latitude regions overseas.

The reason: the proliferation of strip malls, subdivisions and other paved areas may interfere with breezes needed to clear away smog and other pollution. The researchers combined extensive atmospheric measurements with computer simulations to examine the impact of pavement on breezes in Houston.

They found that, because pavement soaks up heat and keeps land areas relatively warm overnight, the contrast between land and sea temperatures is reduced during the summer. This in turn causes a reduction in nighttime winds that would otherwise blow pollutants out to sea. Read more ..

The Race for More Oil

Will Israel Become The Next Oil Superpower

June 13th 2011

Israel Topics - Israeli oil find

Tiny Israel, long dependent on outsiders for its energy needs, is poised to become a major exporter of oil. That's according to Lawrence Solomon, writing in the Financial Post.

The new energy order is founded on rock – the shale that traps vast stores of energy in deposits around the world. One of the largest deposits – 250 billion barrels of oil in Israel’s Shfela basin, comparable to Saudi Arabia’s entire reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil – has until now been unexploited, partly because the technology required has been expensive, mostly because the multinational oil companies that have the technology fear offending Muslims.

“None of the major oil companies are willing to do business in Israel because they don’t want to be cut off from the Mideast supply of oil,” explains Howard Jonas, CEO of IDT, the U.S. company that owns the Shfela concession through its subsidiary, Israel Energy Initiatives. Jonas considers the Shfela deposit merely a beginning: “We believe that under Israel is more oil than under Saudi Arabia. There may be as much as half a trillion barrels.” Read more ..

Oil Addiction

OPEC Meeting Ends In Discord, Saudis Unable To Swing Production Increase Accord

June 9th 2011

Energy Topics - al-naimi and chavez

For the first time in its history, the Saudis were unable to get the other members of OPEC to agree to increase production to lower prices on crude.

The meeting reportedly ended in considerable turmoil and acrimony, and Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister for Saudi Arabia was quoted as saying, "We were unable to reach an agreement—this is one of the worst meetings we have ever had."

The Saudis are OPEC's biggest producer, and normally have enough clout to persuade the others to go along with them. But the meeting degenerated into a standoff between the Gulf Arab countries, who had undoubtedly trying to fulfill a request from the White House and Europe to get prices lowered before the oncoming election and anti-U.S. forces in the coalition led by Iran and Venezuela. Read more ..

Edge on Energy

Battle Royal is Between Obama Administration and Opponents of Oil Sands Pipeline

June 8th 2011

Energy Topics - Keystone pipe

State of Play: Opponents of a controversial proposed oil sands pipeline currently being reviewed by the Obama administration will blast the State Department’s environmental analysis of the project on June 7.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Pipeline Safety Trust plan to argue that the State Department’s environmental analysis of the project — the second such analysis conducted by the administration as part of an extended multi-agency review process — is inadequate because it doesn’t take into account key issues like pipeline safety.

The groups will also criticize the State Department for its review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, for not allowing the public more than 45 days to comment on its environmental analysis.

Keystone XL would extend the existing Keystone pipeline, which carries oil sands from Alberta to Oklahoma, to refineries on the Texas coast.

Environmental and public lands groups have mounted an intense opposition campaign against Keystone XL, raising safety concerns and noting that oil sands production results in greater greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production. Read more ..

The Race for Power

Smart Grid Could Cost $476 Billion

June 5th 2011

Energy Topics - transformer farm

Costs and benefits of building a smart electric grid have more than doubled as the vision of a digital, networked power utility has expanded, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Sensor networks are on the rise as one of the big and under-served opportunities in the diverse terrain of the smart grid.

The EPRI report estimated the cost of upgrading the U.S. grid could range from $338 to $476 billion, up from $165 billion in a 2004 forecast. Benefit estimates have also skyrocketed to a range of $1.2 to $2 trillion, up from $660 billion estimated in 2004.

EPRI's previous estimates did not include enabling plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, renewable energy sources, grid-scale energy storage, distributed generation and demand response applications that let consumers adjust energy use based on changing energy prices. Benefits of a smart grid include reduced carbon emissions, energy savings and reduced blackouts that cost $10 billion per event. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Our Lack of Choice at the Pump Props Up the House of Saud

June 5th 2011

Contributors / Staff - Gal Luft

At a time when Americans are engaged in a heated debate about cutting domestic social services and entitlement programs, we are forced to fund more and more social programs—for other nations. How so?

In February, after seeing fellow Sunni Muslim regimes destabilizing throughout the Middle East, Saudi King Abdullah rushed back from New York, where he was recovering from a back injury, to the kingdom to stave off any potential spillover. After all, if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had been ousted, anyone could be. In an attempt to pacify its subjects, the House of Saud announced a “stimulus package” that included an increase in subsidies, a 15 percent salary raise to all government employees, and housing benefits to military and religious groups in exchange for support of his ban on protests.

In total, $133 billion was committed—equivalent to 86 percent of the Saudi regime’s $154 billion 2011 budget approved before the disturbances. (For the sake of comparison, the $787 billion economic stimulus plan implemented by the Obama administration constituted 25 percent of the U.S. federal budget.)

Saudi Arabia is not the only country where money was used to pacify disgruntled masses.

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Ahmad Al Sabah increased his country’s budget liabilities by nearly 10 percent, committing to provide each of the country’s 1.12 million citizens some $3,572. In addition, he offered citizens free essential foodstuffs for one year, at the cost of $1 billion. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Northwest Aviation Biofuels Industry Needs Political Boost

May 29th 2011

Transportation Topics - Frankfurt Airport

The Pacific Northwest has the diverse feedstocks, fuel-delivery infrastructure and political will needed to create a viable biofuels industry capable of reducing greenhouse gases and meeting the future fuel demands of the aviation industry. Creating an aviation biofuels industry, however, will depend upon securing early government policy support to prioritize the aviation industry in U.S. biofuel development. That's the conclusion announced in a 10-month study by Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest, the nation's first regional stakeholder effort to explore the feasibility, challenges and opportunities for creating an aviation biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest. Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport and Washington State University partnered in a strategic initiative to identify the potential pathways and actions necessary to make safe, sustainable aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators in the area. Read more ..

Edge on China

The New Silk Road: China’s Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East—The Four Seas Strategy

May 28th 2011

China Topics - China Energy String of Pearls

As Beijing embarks on its “look west” Silk Road development strategy, Syria’s “look east” policy aims to meet China at the Caspian Sea. Since 2009, Syrian president Bashar al-Asad has promoted his Four Seas strategy to transform his country into a trade hub in the regions bordering the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea, and the Caspian. Damascus has therefore been aligning with key countries that lie on these shores, namely Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan. According to one analyst, Syria’s economic relationship with Ankara lies at the center of this strategy, particularly the two countries’ efforts to connect their oil and gas infrastructure with the region’s expanding pipeline networks. With Turkey emerging as Syria’s most significant investor and trade partner and Iran remaining the guarantor of Syria’s security, the Ankara-Damascus-Tehran triangle has become the nucleus of an approach that aims to include Iraq and the Caucasus in a geographical continuum linking the Four Seas. Read more ..

Race for Alt Fuel

Hydrogen Fuel from Algae with Nanoparticle Catalysts

May 25th 2011

Science - Argonne lab algae

Algae can produce hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight, with a little boost from man-made nanoparticle catalysts, according to engineers at the U.S.Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. By commandeering the photosynthesis mechanisms that enable algae to harness the energy of the sun, algae can produce abundant fuel to power an emerging hydrogen economy, they say. Led by Argonne National Lab chemist Lisa Utschig, working with colleague David Tiede, the team at Argonne's Photosynthesis Group recently demonstrated how its platinum nanoparticles can be linked to key proteins in algae to coax them into producing hydrogen fuel five times more efficiently that the previous world's record, Utschig said. Read more ..

The Race for Energy Storage

Activated Graphene Makes Superior Supercapacitors for Energy Storage

May 19th 2011

Science - Dong Su and Eric Stach of UT Austin
Dong Su and Eric Stach

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have helped to uncover the nanoscale structure of a novel form of carbon, contributing to an explanation of why this new material acts like a super-absorbent sponge when it comes to soaking up electric charge.

The material, which was recently created at The University of Texas–Austin, can be incorporated into “supercapacitor” energy-storage devices with remarkably high storage capacity while retaining other attractive attributes such as superfast energy release, quick recharge time, and a lifetime of at least 10,000 charge/discharge cycles. “Those properties make this new form of carbon particularly attractive for meeting electrical energy storage needs that also require a quick release of energy—for instance, in electric vehicles or to smooth out power availability from intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar power,” said Brookhaven materials scientist Eric Stach,. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Fuel

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Energy Harvesters Transform Waste into Electricity

May 19th 2011

Energy Topics - ORNL energy harvester

Billions of dollars lost each year as waste heat from industrial processes can be converted into electricity with a technology being developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The high-efficiency thermal waste heat energy converter actively cools electronic devices, photovoltaic cells, computers and large waste heat-producing systems while generating electricity, according to Scott Hunter, who leads the development team. The potential for energy savings is enormous.

"In the United States, more than 50 percent of the energy generated annually from all sources is lost as waste heat," Hunter said, "so this actually presents us with a great opportunity to save industry money through increased process efficiencies and reduced fuel costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

After Decades, Preventable Fire Hazards Persist at Alabama Reactor

May 18th 2011

Energy / Environment - browns ferry plant after fire.jpg
Worker at Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant (credit: NRC)

Thirty-six years after federal overseers of safety at nuclear plants first recognized the serious risks of fires—when a candle ignited a major emergency at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant—preventable fire hazards still persist at the nation’s reactors, including Browns Ferry.

On Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was back at the site of the nation’s worst reactor fire, in 1975, this time to issue a rare “red” safety violation—considered a matter of “high safety significance.” A valve critical for reactor cooling in the event of a fire or other accident had failed. The valve may have been inoperable for more than two years. Read more ..

Edge on China

The New Silk Road: China’s Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East—An Increasing Footprint

May 18th 2011

China Topics - China Energy String of Pearls

China’s widesspread energy investments have extended to most every corner of the Greater Middle East, particularly the Caspian Basin and key nodes such as Iran, Turkey, and Greece. In many cases, this growing economic foothold has translated into a military foothold as well, given the large-scale participation of Chinese army personnel in energy projects and the “strategic partnerships” that Beijing has formed with key states.

Caspian Sea

In the Caspian Sea Basin, China has invested most heavily in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, in addition to increasing its ties with Azerbaijan. Read more ..

The Race for Nuclear

Yucca Mountain Cancellation Creates Expensive Headaches for DOE, Navy

May 9th 2011

Energy / Environment - Worker contemplates nuclear waste

The Department of Energy is responsible for managing almost 13,000 metric tons of nuclear waste at sites in Colorado, Idaho, New York, South Carolina, and Washington. For the past three decades, DOE planned to permanently dispose nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a geological repository in southwest Nevada. The cancellation of the project by the Obama administration in 2009 has left the department scrambling to come up with alternatives.

Since 1983, DOE has spent $14 billion to research potential sites, develop technical documents and apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license for the Yucca Mountain repository, which was slated to open in 2020. When the administration decided to terminate the Yucca Mountain program and proposed cutting its funding, DOE tried to withdraw its license application from NRC. The commission declined to do so. As a result, the status of the Yucca Mountain program is still in limbo, but the DOE and Navy do not have backup plans in place for a different location the nuclear waster could be stored. Read more ..

The Race for Solar Energy

“Swiss cheese” Design Enables Thin Film Silicon Solar Cells Higher Efficiencies

May 8th 2011

Science - SEM electronics

A bold new design for thin film solar cells that requires significantly less silicon – and may boost their efficiency – is the result of an industry/academia collaboration between Oerlikon Solar in Switzerland and the Institute of Physics' photovoltaic group at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

One long-term option for low-cost, high-yield industrial production of solar panels from abundant raw materials can be found in amorphous silicon solar cells and microcrystalline silicon tandem cells (a.k.a. Micromorph)—providing an energy payback within a year.

A drawback to these cells, however, is that the stable panel efficiency is less than the efficiency of presently dominate crystalline wafer-based silicon, explains Milan Vanecek, who heads the photovoltaic group at the Institute of Physics in Prague. Read more ..

Edge on China

The New Silk Road: China’s Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East

May 8th 2011

China Topics - China energy sources 2008
China's Energy Sources (source: US EIA)

Since China became an energy importer in 1993, it has adopted a “go out” strategy to procure energy assets abroad. Enabled by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Beijing is reviving the strong economic connection between China and the Middle East; for centuries, the trade carried along the Silk Road was important to the economies of both areas. Along much the same route as the Silk Road, and along the sea trade routes between China and the Middle East, Beijing is building a modern grid of pipelines, roads, and railways for its enegy supplies, in addition to addressing maritime concerns.

Snapshot of Current Energy Consumption

In August 2010, a report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency stated that China had become the world’s number-one energy consumer, surpassing the United States. Specifically, China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent in 2009—about 4 percent more than the United States, which consumed 2.170 billion tons of oil equivalent. (The oil equivalent metric represents all forms of energy consumed: crude oil, nuclear power, coal, natural gas, renewable sources, etc.) Read more ..

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