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The Race for Nuclear

From Chernobyl to Fukushima: Nuclear Safety is Still in Doubt

April 4th 2011

Japan - fukushima reactor smoke
Fukushima nuclear plant

Soldiers long ago shot the dogs and cats. Today, the only sound on Lenin Avenue is a chill wind blowing dead leaves. In the summer, thick vegetation obscures six-story apartment blocks, once homes for the city’s 50,000 residents. Once a model Soviet community built for Chernobyl’s nuclear power station, Pripyat now looks like a post apocalypse film set.

Tourists, some wearing face masks, pick their way carefully through dimly lit corridors, boots crunching on broken glass. They walk down debris strewn sidewalks, keeping an eye out for missing manhole covers. Side streets have narrowed into tunnels as bushes and trees have grown unchecked for a quarter century. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Bedouin Women Lighting Up the Desert as Barefoot Solar Engineers

April 4th 2011

Arab Topics - Bedouin women lighting up

For many living in the harsh and desolate deserts of south Jordan, life without electricity is the norm. Either the infrastructure which provides electricity doesn’t reach them or they simply don’t have the money to afford it. However, all that looks set to change as two women bring to light the advantages of solar energy.

Two Jordanian Bedouin women have recently returned from a six-month course at a unique college in India where they were trained as solar engineers. The two women, who are illiterate and have never been employed, were carefully selected by the elders in the village to attend the course at Barefoot College in India which helps poor rural communities become more sustainable. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Researchers Devise Exceptionally Efficient OLED for Televisions, Cell Phones, and Computers

March 30th 2011

Energy Topics - OLED matrix

University of Michigan engineering researchers have designed an exceptionally efficient fluorescent blue OLED, or organic light emitting diode.

OLEDs are the next generation display technology. They are already used in televisions, cell phones and computers, and they are candidates for a vast array of light sources from advertising billboards to indoor and outdoor illumination. Fluorescent OLEDs are typically less efficient at emitting light per unit area than their phosphorescent counterparts.

That may be changing, according to new findings by professor John Kieffer and graduate student Changgua Zhen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. They released findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that shattered previous records. Traditionally, the ceiling for the efficiency of fluorescent OLEDs was believed to be 5 percent. Now, Kieffer and his collaborators have produced fluorescent OLEDs with close to 10 percent efficiency. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Better Place Chosen for Hawaiian Stimulus Funds

March 28th 2011

Energy Topics - A better place Hawaii
Better Place in Hawaii

Hawaii has just invested $2.6 million in stimulus funds in a public private partnership in electric vehicle infrastructure planned since 2008 to help jump start the adoption of electric vehicles. Better Place, with $854,000, and Aerovironment with $820,000 were the leaders among six road-ready electric vehicle innovators to receive a share of the funding.

Before electric cars are widely adopted, some way of charging them on the go is needed. Better Place will use its $854,000 to help support the introduction of EVs to a rental car fleet with the installation of the charging stations that will be needed to do just that. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Indian Electricity Initiative Shines New Light on Farm Garbage

March 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - India's Garbage is Power
India's Garbage Points to New Power Source

Some of India's most remote farming villages are beginning to see sundown in a new light, now that they are able to convert an abundant crop into electricity.

Remote regions are prime examples of what people describe as old India - parts of the country off the grid, literally, from new India and its high-tech urban centers.

Tamkuha, in the Indian state of Bihar, does not receive electricity from the country's main distribution network. It gets by on traditional farming - and for decades, as the sun went down, villagers turned to the dim light of candles or kerosene lamps.

But these days, thanks to an ambitious renewable energy project, life in Tamkuha no longer grinds to a halt around 6:00 p.m.  By the glow of florescent bulbs, residents have been able to extend their hours of productivity late into the night. A woman says she used to work as a tailor only during the day. Sewing was nearly impossible with a kerosene lamp. Now, she says she can work in her shop until very late at night. Read more ..


The Cost of Oil

Clean-up of Amazon Jungle Awaits Ecuador following $9 Billion Judgment Against Chevron

March 28th 2011

Latin American Topics - Amazonian kid and toxic waste

Since initiated in 1993, the environmental class action lawsuit brought against Texaco’s alleged pollution of Ecuador’s Amazon region has been fought before various courts and judges, always under the shadow of dubious impartiality. After the case had already filed, Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and assumed its liabilities, including Texaco’s defendant status. On February 14, 2011, after 18 years of intense legal battle, Ecuadorian provincial Judge Nicolás Zambrano ruled against Chevron and ordered the successor corporation to pay more than $9 billion in compensation for decades of petro-contamination of virgin Amazon jungle. Read more ..

The Race for Wind

Wind and Solar can Reliably Supply 25 percent of Oahu's Electricity

March 21st 2011

Energy Topics - Oahu Wind
Kahuku Wind Project

When combined with on-Oahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu could reliably supply more than 25 percent of Oahu's projected electricity demand, according to the Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS).

For the purposes of the research project, the OWIS released today studied the impact on the Oahu grid of a total of 500 MW of wind energy and a nominal 100 MW of solar power, though a good deal more utility-scale and customer-sited solar power is expected on Oahu. Read more ..


The Race for More Oil

Obama Administration Approves Third Drilling Permit for Gulf of Mexico

March 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Interior Department announced on March 18 it has approved a third permit for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for the type of project that was subject to a months-long moratorium in response to the BP oil spill.

The pace of deepwater permitting since the formal ban was lifted in October has been the stuff of intense political controversy, with Republicans and some Democrats alleging the Obama administration is dragging its feet on Gulf development. 

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the permit for ATP Oil & Gas Corp. to resume a project about 90 miles south of Venice, Louisiana, that was halted by the ban imposed after BP’s Macondo well blew out in April 2010. Read more ..


Edge of Economic Recovery

Energy Department Stimulus funds Produce Questionable Results

March 21st 2011

Economy - Green Jobs

The Department of Energy has struggled to show how its $41.7 billion in stimulus funding created jobs, reduced environmental risks or improved nuclear waste cleanup.

Program funds went to energy efficiency, home weatherization, nuclear waste cleanup, and a loan guarantee program to promote renewable energy technology.

The loan guarantee program for renewable energy provided $6 billion in credits to eligible companies, but due to concerns with the administration of the program, Congress has reduced those funds by almost $4 billion. DOE only obligated 17 percent of the remaining $2.5 billion in the fund and will lose about $2 billion if it does not make final decisions on loan guarantees soon.  Borrowers must begin construction on their projects by Sept. 30.

“Measuring the impact of Recovery Act funding has been a challenge for DOE. It has had particular difficulty providing an accurate assessment of the act’s impact on jobs, environmental risk reduction, and the life-cycle costs of its cleanup program,” the General Accounting Office report said. Read more ..


Edge on Nano-Technology

New 3-D Nanostructure Battery Cathodes Mean Faster Charging

March 21st 2011

Energy Topics - Battery

The batteries in Illinois professor Paul Braun's lab look like any others, but they pack a surprise inside.

Braun's group developed a three-dimensional nanostructure for battery cathodes that allows for dramatically faster charging and discharging without sacrificing energy storage capacity. The researchers' findings will be published in the March 20 advance online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Aside from quick-charge consumer electronics, batteries that can store a lot of energy, release it fast and recharge quickly are desirable for electric vehicles, medical devices, lasers and military applications.

"This system that we have gives you capacitor-like power with battery-like energy," said Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering. "Most capacitors store very little energy. They can release it very fast, but they can't hold much. Most batteries store a reasonably large amount of energy, but they can't provide or receive energy rapidly. This does both." Read more ..


The Race for Electric

Israeli-Funded EVida Gets 50,000 Battery Order from Mia Electric

March 14th 2011

Energy / Environment - Mia Electric Car
Israel's New Power Plant Powering Electric Cars

Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries being built in Israel by the two year-old battery start-up EVida will power small but practical and freeway-capable electric cars built in China by the French-German EV manufacturer Mia Electric for sale in Europe, a competitive market for electric vehicles.

The order represents a triumph for Terra Venture Partners, one of Israel’s leading cleantech funds, that had invested half of EVida’s start-up money from private investors – $1 million – in the start-up. Read more ..


Race for Batteries

Making Batteries Affordable is Key to Harnessing Wind and Solar Power

March 14th 2011

Energy Topics - Wind turbines in cloudy sky

Future batteries used by the energy grid to store power from the wind and sun must be reliable, durable and safe, but affordability is really the key to widespread deployment, according to a new report. The report is one of the most comprehensive reviews of electrochemical energy storage to date.

In the report, researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say that successful electrochemical energy storage, or EES, systems will need to evolve — in some cases, considerably — if they are going to compete financially with the cost of natural gas production.  And besides technical improvements, the systems will need to be built to last, using materials that are safe and durable so that batteries could operate more than 15 years and require very little maintenance over their lifetime.

The report provides a comprehensive review of four stationary storage systems — ones considered the most promising candidates for EES: vanadium redox flow, sodium-beta alumina membrane, lithium-ion and lead-carbon batteries. In their study, the PNNL researchers note the potential of each technology but, more importantly, explain what advances must occur with each if they're ultimately to be deployed. Read more ..


After the BP Spill

New Study Reveals Aerosol Plumes Downwind of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

March 14th 2011

Energy / Environment - oil platform fire

Scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science were part of a national research team to find two plumes of oil-based pollutants downwind of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill. A study prepared by the research team offers new insight into the mechanism by which the crude oil traveled from the sea surface to the atmosphere.

According to a news release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-led research team collected data of atmosphere gas and aerosol concentrations during two flights, on June 8 and June 10, aboard a specially equipped NOAA WP-3 Orion aircraft. “By having such a well-defined source of the evaporating oil we were able to investigate how aerosols form in the atmosphere,” said UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Elliot Atlas, a co-author of the study. Atlas regularly uses similar techniques to study aerosol formation and air pollution downwind of major U.S. cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles. Read more ..


Edge on the Environment

Coal Ash Plans Raise Fears in Missouri Community

March 7th 2011

Energy / Environment - Kingston Plant Spill
Typical Coal Ash spill

Coal consumption is increasing in many parts of the world, driven by skyrocketing energy demands in rapidly developing countries like China. But with coal comes pollution: from climate-changing carbon dioxide to coal ash,  the powdery toxic waste left over from burning coal to produce electricity.

In the United States, coal-fired power plants produce more than 130 million tons of coal waste each year. The debate over how to dispose of it is playing out in the small town of Labadie, Missouri where the controversy is pitting local residents against the Midwestern utility company, Ameren. Read more ..


The Race for Thermal

Novel Gas Turbine Promises Greater Thermal-to-Electric Efficiency

March 7th 2011

Science - Sandia gas turbine

Sandia National Laboratories researchers in New Mexico are moving into the demonstration phase of a novel gas turbine system for power generation, with the promise that thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency will be increased to as much as 50 percent—an improvement of 50 percent for nuclear power stations equipped with steam turbines, or a 40 percent improvement for simple gas turbines. The system is also very compact, meaning that capital costs would be relatively low.

Research focuses on supercritical carbon dioxide (S-CO2) Brayton-cycle turbines, which typically would be used for bulk thermal and nuclear generation of electricity, including next-generation power reactors. The goal is eventually to replace steam-driven Rankine cycle turbines, which have lower efficiency, are corrosive at high temperature and occupy 30 times as much space because of the need for very large turbines and condensers to dispose of excess steam. The Brayton cycle could yield 20 megawatts of electricity from a package with a volume as small as four cubic meters. Read more ..


No Plan for Oil Interruption

Libyan Turmoil, $100-a-Barrel Oil Power Republican Drilling Push on Capitol Hill

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

The Libyan uprising and triple-digit oil prices are reinvigorating GOP-led attacks on White House offshore drilling policies—a collision that will burst into public view next week on Capitol Hill.

Republicans will press Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on offshore drilling restrictions when he appears before two committees to defend the Interior Department’s fiscal year 2012 budget plan.

It will be Salazar’s first Capitol Hill appearance since uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began, sending oil prices to their highest levels in more than two years. Read more ..


No Plan for Oil Interruption

Oil Prices Surge as Libyan Revolt Rages

February 28th 2011

Energy Topics - Oil Barrels 400px

Global stocks dipped again on February 23 as oil prices soared to new highs on fears that the revolt in Libya could spread.  International oil companies, such as BP and Shell, have already cut production or evacuated staff in the troubled African country. Analysts say the impact of such unrest upon the world economy will be far-reaching, whether or not dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime survives.

Grainy YouTube video shows no letup in the popular but deadly uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. The dictator has resorted to rambling speeches to exhort fellow Libyans to "bring your sons home" even while he has ordered snipers to fire on demonstrators as well as aerial bombardment. Critics vow to continue their protests despite Gadhafi. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Over-Fertilization is Bad for the Environment and Bad for Biofuel

February 28th 2011

Energy / Environment - Biofuel field

A study conducted by Rice University researchers shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment.

The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America's need for energy while trying to cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels.

The Houston TX team led by postdoctoral researcher Morgan Gallagher as part of her dissertation at Rice discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization.

The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. And when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.

This happens, they discovered, because surplus nitrogen fertilizer speeds up the biochemical pathway that produces lignin, a molecule that must be removed before cellulosic ethanol can be produced from corn stems and leaves. Read more ..


The Battle for Libya

Libyan Revolution Makes Oil Markets Shudder and Promises More Shocks to Come

February 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - EIA Oil data table

Unlike energy produced in most African states, nearly all of Libya’s oil and natural gas is produced onshore. This reduces development costs but increases the chances that political instability could impact output — and Libya has been anything but stable of late.

Libya’s 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil output can be broken into two categories. The first comes from a basin in the country’s western extreme and is exported from a single major hub just west of Tripoli. The second basin is in the country’s eastern region and is exported from a variety of facilities in eastern cities. At the risk of oversimplifying, Libya’s population is split in half: Leader Moammar Gadhafi’s power base is in Tripoli in the extreme west, the opposition is concentrated in Benghazi in the east, with a 600 kilometer-wide gulf of nearly empty desert in between. Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen

Mimicking Photosynthesis Path to Solar-derived Hydrogen Fuel

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Hydrogen fueling

Inexpensive hydrogen for automotive or jet fuel may be possible by mimicking photosynthesis, according to a Penn State materials chemist, but a number of problems need to be solved first.

"We are focused on the hardest way to make fuel," said Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. "We are creating an artificial system that mimics photosynthesis, but it will be practical only when it is as cheap as gasoline or jet fuel." Read more ..


Nuclear Edge

The US Can Enhance Energy Security and Independence through Nuclear Fuel Re-processing

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Vetrified slag

Spent nuclear fuel is anything but waste and the time has come revive long-dormant reprocessing program. Failure to pursue a program for recycling spent nuclear fuel has put the U.S. far behind other countries and represents a missed opportunity to enhance the nation's energy security and influence other countries, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Sunday.

Dale Klein, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Texas System, said largely unfounded concerns and "long-held myths" about the reprocessing of spent fuel have prevented the U.S. from tapping into an extremely valuable resource. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Researchers Develop Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Cells

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Project Better Place

The sun provides more than enough energy for all our needs, if only we could harness it cheaply and efficiently. Solar energy could provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels, but the high cost of solar cells has been a major barrier to their widespread use.

Stanford researchers have found that adding a single layer of organic molecules to a solar cell can increase its efficiency three-fold and could lead to cheaper, more efficient solar panels. 

Professor of chemical engineering Stacey Bent first became interested in a new kind of solar technology two years ago. These solar cells used tiny particles of semiconductors called "quantum dots." Read more ..


Edge on the Environment

Energy Industry Seeks to Rein in EPA on Coal Ash

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - KY ash spill

For months now, political pressure has mounted against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate for the first time the disposal of coal ash—an environmental hazard fouling water supplies and threatening communities across the country.

This week, the pressure on regulators took a new turn as two Republican congressmen inserted language in a must-pass spending bill that would stop the EPA from moving forward to protect the public and the environment from the hazards of coal ash. Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Cliff Stearns of Florida say they added the language because of concerns about lost jobs and other consequences of overregulation. Read more ..


After the BP Disaster

Scientific Study Finds Another BP Disaster in the Making in the Gulf of Mexico

February 14th 2011

Energy / Environment - oil platform fire

A new University of Georgia study that is the first to examine comprehensively the magnitude of hydrocarbon gases released during the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil discharge has found that up to 500,000 tons of gaseous hydrocarbons were emitted into the deep ocean. The authors conclude that such a large gas discharge—which generated concentrations 75,000 times the norm—could result in small-scale zones of "extensive and persistent depletion of oxygen" as microbial processes degrade the gaseous hydrocarbons.

The study was led by UGA Professor of Marine Sciences Samantha Joye, assisted by Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, Ira Leifer of the University of California-Santa Barbara and Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi. Read more ..


The Race for LED

California Researchers Find that LED lights Are not Necessarily Eco-Friendly

February 14th 2011

Energy Topics - LED lights

Those light-emitting diodes marketed as safe, environmentally preferable alternatives to traditional lightbulbs actually contain lead, arsenic and a dozen other potentially hazardous substances, according to newly published research.

“LEDs are touted as the next generation of lighting. But as we try to find better products that do not deplete energy resources or contribute to global warming, we have to be vigilant about the toxicity hazards of those marketed as replacements,” said Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of the University of California-Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention.

He and fellow scientists at UCI and UC Davis crunched, leached and measured the tiny, multicolored lightbulbs sold in Christmas strands; red, yellow and green traffic lights; and automobile headlights and brake lights. Their findings? Low-intensity red lights contained up to eight times the amount of lead allowed under California law, but in general, high-intensity, brighter bulbs had more contaminants than lower ones. White bulbs copntianed the least lead, but had high levels of nickel. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Scientists Find How Hornets have Used Solar Energy for Millenia

February 14th 2011

Animals - Oriental hornet

While abundant resources are channeled to converting sunlight into power, it emerges that the common Oriental hornet has known the secret all along. Structures in the body of the Oriental hornet trap solar light and beam it into lower layers that keep energy bouncing between them, the yellow stripes contain a pigment that turns light into electrical energy.

"These structures are very complicated," explained researcher and graduate student Marian Plotkin. "To build something similar would be very expensive and complicated, but the insects do it naturally. Their cells secrete all the building blocks and they just do self-assembly." Read more ..


Egypt in Revolt

Terrorists Set the Mideast Alight with Attack on Egyptian Pipeline

February 6th 2011

Arab Topics - Egypt gas explosion

Egyptian state-controlled media reported on February 5 that unidentified masked terrorists detonated explosives at the El-Arish gas terminal in Egypt. The conflagration shot flames hundreds of feet into the air at the Sinai Peninsula facility, also effectively cutting off Israel’s supply of essential natural gas at least temporarily. The pipelines there transport gas from Egypt's Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to Israel and Jordan. The gas pipeline to Jordan was damaged in the blast, according to Israel Radio. "It is a big terrorist operation", an Egyptian TV reporter said. Israel has stopped drawing gas as a precaution. Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

The Story of A Gas Well that Was Drilled in a National Forest

February 6th 2011

Energy Topics - Marcellus gas well
A typical gas well in a wooded area

A new report  by the U.S. Forest Service offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how natural gas drilling can affect a forest – in this case the Fernow Experimental Forest, deep in the mountains of West Virginia.

The report traces the construction and drilling of a single well and an accompanying pipeline on a sliver of the 4,700 acre forest that federal scientists have been studying for nearly 80 years. It found that the project felled or killed about 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land and—perhaps most important—permanently removed a small slice of the forest from future scientific research.

The report said the drilling didn’t appear to have a substantial effect on groundwater quality. The scientists did not monitor the forest’s most sensitive ecosystems, including extensive caves, and did not evaluate the operation’s impact on wildlife. The authors also did not test for any of the chemicals added to drilling and hydraulic fracturing fluids. Read more ..


Edge on Energy

Louisiana Senator Accuses Obama Administration of Placing Ideology over Science in Oil Drilling Debate

February 6th 2011

Energy / Environment - Offshore Oil Rig

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is accusing the Obama administration of "leading with ideology and politics" instead of science on the deepwater oil drilling debate.

"Unfortunately, I think it is politics and ideology over sound science and common sense," Vitter said in an interview with the Fox Business Network. "The president...has also been attacking traditional energy, particularly oil and gas."

Vitter, a vocal critic of the administration's opposition to deepwater drilling, said he agreed with a recent court ruling that held the administration in contempt for its repeat imposition of a deepwater drilling moratorium. Read more ..


The Race for Electric Cars

Ford and Best Buy Getting the Jump on Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

February 6th 2011

Automotive - Ford Focus electric

Until recently, getting Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) installed in your home required you to go directly to the manufacturers of the equipment, or buy direct from your electric car dealer.

But in a deal announced at the January 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford and Best Buy announced that they were revolutionizing the way electric car owners shop for their EVSE.  Coinciding with the unveiling of Ford’s 2012 Focus Electric, the Level 2 240-volt Ford-branded home charging station will be capable of providing up to 32-amps of current, providing the Ford Focus Electric with the full 6.6-kilowatts it needs to fully charge in under 4 hours.

Soon available 1,200 of the Best Buy stores throughout the U.S., the home charging stations will retail for around $1,499, including installation costs.  Consumers are already familiar with Best Buy as a retailer of electronics, cameras, and home appliances. Read more ..


Edge on Energy

Study Finds Energy Limits Global Economic Growth

February 6th 2011

Energy / Environment - electric power lines

A study that relates global energy use to economic growth, finds strong correlations between these two measures both among countries and within countries over time. The research leads the study's authors to infer that energy use limits economic activity directly. They conclude that an "enormous" increase in energy supply will be required to meet the demands of projected world population growth and lift the developing world out of poverty without jeopardizing standards of living in most developed countries. Researchers used macroecology to establish correlations across countries and over time. Read more ..


The Edge of Fracking

Philadelphia is Latest City to Call for Ban on New Gas Wells in Critical Watersheds

January 30th 2011

Energy Topics - Marcellus gas well

As the federal government continues to study a controversial gas drilling technique and the states tinker with their own regulations, some cities and towns are trying to halt local drilling. Philadelphia became the latest to do that on January 28, when city officials called for at least a temporary ban on new wells in the watershed that serves the city's taps.

The request was part of a set of recommendations in a report approved by the city council asking federal and state authorities to tighten drilling regulations. The report also urges the city-owned utility to avoid buying gas that comes from the Marcellus Shale, the layer of rock that stretches under much of Pennsylvania and is considered one of the world's largest gas fields. Read more ..


Race for natural Gas

Ecological Benefits of Natural Gas Production May Be a Vapor

January 30th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrolic Fracking pollution
Pollutant containment pond

The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil.

But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency—and a growing understanding of the pollution associated with the full “life cycle” of gas production—is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change. Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future. But those assumptions are based on emissions from the tailpipe or smokestack and don’t account for the methane and other pollution emitted when gas is extracted and piped to power plants and other customers. Read more ..


The Race for Wind

Israel Takes Another Big Step away from Petroleum Addiction

January 30th 2011

Israel Topics - Israel road sign to wind turbines

Israel approved a plan to develop technologies to reduce the global use of oil in transportation.  Following a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, Israel is due to  invest approximately $ 407 million over the next decade while seeking to invest millions more from other sources.

According to a January 31 statement from the prime minister’s office, the plan is designed to decrease global  dependency on oil and oil-producing countries, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, “which causes instability in the global economy and harms the environment through the emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases.” Read more ..


Oil on the Edge

Gaping Holes in Saudi Arabia's Oil Policies

January 24th 2011

Arab Topics - Saudi Oil

During the past three months, world prices for oil have steadily increased, leading to predictions that the $100 per barrel level will soon be breached. Although, in part, the increases reflect recovering demand in the world economy, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this week that prices are entering "a dangerous zone" that threatens economic recovery. In the past, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has been careful to avoid such criticism by using its market strength to influence prices. But owing to the poor health of many of its leaders, Saudi Arabia's ability to continue to manage this role effectively is open to scrutiny. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Seismic Shift: Israel's Natural Gas Discoveries

January 24th 2011

Energy Topics - Levant Basin Natural Gas
Israel's Natural Gas Locations

On December 29, 2010, Houston-based Noble Energy announced a "significant natural gas discovery" in the Leviathan offshore license area eighty miles off the northern Israeli port of Haifa. According to the company, recent measurements confirmed initial estimates for the field of 16 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, making it the world's largest deepwater gas discovery in ten years and increasing Israel's total natural gas reserves to as much as 26 tcf. Although the discovery adds less than 0.4 percent to the world's proven gas reserves, it is a significant boost for Israel's economy—indeed, exploiting the field and other possible finds in the Eastern Mediterranean could dramatically change the economic fortunes of Israel and its neighbors. Read more ..

The Race for Solar

Nature Shows how Moth Eyes Increase the Efficiency of Photovoltaics

January 24th 2011

Animals - Moth

The eyes of moths, which allow them to see well at night, are also covered with a water-repellent, anti-reflective coating that makes their eyes among the least reflective surfaces in nature and helps them hide from predators in the dark. Mimicking the moth eye's microstructure, a team of researchers in Japan has created a new film, suitable for mass-production, for covering solar cells that can cut down on the amount of reflected light and help capture more power from the sun. Read more ..


Fracking on the Edge

Congressional Opponents to Disclosure by Natural Gas Extractors Receive Big Industry Checks

January 18th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrolic Fracking pollution
Containment pond for hydraulic fracking fluids

Congress isn’t going to regulate hydraulic fracturing any time soon. But the Department of Interior might. For starters, Interior is mulling whether it should require drilling companies to disclose the chemicals they use to frack wells drilled on public lands, and already the suggestion has earned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar an earful.

On January 5, a bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress, who belong to the Natural Gas Caucus, sent Salazar a letter imploring him to resist a hasty decision because more regulations would “increase energy costs for consumers, suppress job creation in a promising energy sector, and hinder our nation’s ability to become more energy independent.”

A week later, 46 House Democrats followed up by signing a letter to Salazar urging him to at least adopt the disclosure requirement because, as Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said, “communities across America have seen their water contaminated by the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.”

“The public has a right to know what toxins might be going into the ground near their communities, and what might be leaking into their drinking water,” said the letter, which was sent by the three initial sponsors of now-stalled legislation to regulate fracturing, Hinchey, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. Read more ..


Oil on the Edge

Following Discovery of Oil, Ghana has a Lot to Learn From Nigeria

January 18th 2011

Africa Topics - Ghana oil

The news filtered around the international media recently that Ghana will start pumping its oil, estimated to be a minimum of 1 billion barrels in reserve. However, this news has been met with both joy and fear. Joy because this means Ghana now joins the league of oil producing countries, with the attendant streams of petroldollar in revenue.

There is the fear of the so-called oil resource ‘curse’ or the paradox of plenty - often used to describe a situation in which countries blessed with abundance of natural resources such as oil tend to have worse economic and development outcomes. This economic phenomenon is sometimes called the Dutch disease.

Macroeconomics traditionally offers some insights into how the ‘blessing’ of abundant natural resources might turned into a ‘curse’ overtime. This may occur when the revenue from oil exports initially leads to increase in real exchange rate and wages. This increase in turn will eventually damage the other productive or tradable sectors of the economy, such as the agriculture and manufacturing, as they become less competitive in world markets.

On the government front, the revenue from oil exports will more likely result in higher government spending (e.g. on education, health), but this is more likely to be financed through deficits in anticipation of higher oil revenue that are vulnerable to vagaries in world oil prices. Overtime, as the real sectors of the economy are exposed to international competition, the revenue from oil also becomes volatile due to exposure to global commodity market shocks, and this leaves the economy largely dependent on oil revenue. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Fuel

Power Plant: Algae as an Alternative Energy Source

January 10th 2011

Energy Topics - algae

Prof. Avihai Danon of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Plant Sciences has been working with algae—simple, photosynthetic life forms that can be found all over the world—for more than 20 years. Algae are diverse, having many thousands of species, and adaptive, thriving in a variety of conditions; these attributes can teach scientists a lot and make algae, as Prof. Danon says, “a great model system to study.” For example, in his research focusing on how they adapt to sunlight, Prof. Danon found that there is a very sophisticated level of regulation inside algae. “On the one hand, the plant utilizes sunlight for energy production through photosynthesis,” a process that, while beneficial, must be very carefully calibrated because “on the other hand, it can kill the plant in seconds,” he says. He likes to compare a plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis to having an atomic reactor in your stomach: the reactor can provide you with free energy, but if it’s not tightly controlled, then it can melt down. Read more ..



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