Sep 22, 2009 | 16
President Obama gave his first major speech on climate change today at the United Nations, part of a special session convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The reason for the session? Lack of speed in international negotiations to address climate change.
You can see the president's speech here:
In addition to reaffirming the U.S. commitment to addressing climate change, the president listed some recent accomplishments: new efficiency standards for all vehicles, billions of dollars for renewable energy development, and the nation's first mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system. He even noted a plan to work with the world's other largest economies, known as the G20, to "phase out fossil-fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge."
Aug 27, 2009 | 17
The American age of oil began 150 years ago today. Or, if you prefer the phrasing of President George W. Bush, the U.S. addiction to oil can be traced back to the original pusher "Colonel" Edwin Drake who began producing oil from the first commercial well near Titusville, Pa., (about 100 miles north of Pittsburgh).
The rest is history—the automobile, plastics, modern agriculture and, of course, climate change. But it all started with the Colonel's 69-foot wooden well that ultimately yielded roughly 40 barrels a day. To put that in perspective, the world currently produces some 85 million barrels per day, which provide us with a full 40 percent of our energy.
The Titusville find kicked off the first oil boom (to be followed by similar booms in Texas, Saudi Arabia and, most recently, Brazil) and left us with the enduring legacy of Pennzoil as well as the corporate children of the oil monopolies created by capitalist titans like John D. Rockefeller.
Aug 27, 2009 | 29
Here's a seemingly simple solar power fact*: the sun bathes Earth with enough energy in one hour (4.3 x 1020 joules) to more than fill all of humanity's present energy use in a year (4.1 x 1020 joules). So how to convert it? In the world of solar energy harvesting, there's a constant battle between cost and efficiency. On the one hand, complex and expensive triple-junction photovoltaic cells can turn more than 40 percent of the (specially concentrated) sunlight that falls on them into electricity. On the other, cheap, plastic solar cells under development convert less than 5 percent.
In between, ubiquitous photovoltaics—the multicrystalline silicon solar panels cropping up on rooftops across the country and, indeed, the world—struggle to balance the need for (relatively) easy manufacturing and low cost with technology to get the most electrons for your solar buck.
May 13, 2009 | 6
Many have wondered what Better Place's vaunted automated battery changing stations might look like. So the company, a would-be pioneer in electric cars and their attendant infrastructure, has released a slick video showing how it’s done at a demonstration site in Yokohama, Japan.
Swapping out the discharged battery from an electric Nissan SUV for a fully charged one took slightly more than a minute, according to the video, or less time than it might take you to gas up your car. And you wouldn't even have to get out (talk about full service).
May 8, 2009 | 43
In the newly released budget, the U.S. Department of Energy cuts $100 million from the hydrogen fuel cell program in fiscal year 2010 and transforms its name to "fuel cell technologies." Hydrogen, of course, is just the fuel of a fuel cell—a device that recombines hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electrical current. Still, the name change distances the Obama administration from the "hydrogen economy" goals of their predecessors.
"We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was 'No,'" said energy secretary Steven Chu in a briefing on the budget for reporters yesterday, citing the need for better fuel cells and a near complete lack of infrastructure.
Apr 17, 2009 | 1
The breezes of good fortune have been blowing through the wind power business according to the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) annual report, released this week.
Despite a slowing economy and a precipitous drop in oil prices last year, the industry reports a 70 percent jump in jobs (to 85,000 employees) between the end of 2007 and the end of last year as well as a doubling of demand for small wind turbines (those that can power up to 100 kilowatts – the size used for homes and small buildings).
A total of 8,545 megawatts of wind power came on line last year, but the estimates for this year are decidedly more modest (due in part to tougher credit) at 5,000 new megawatts.
The industry organization still expects to report fairly robust numbers for the first quarter of 2009, says Kathy Belyeu, AWEA's manager of industry information. But, she cautions that the numbers might be misleading because many of the projects were simply held over from 2008.
Apr 7, 2009 | 1
Where should new solar and wind power facilities go? Seems many of the best potential sites, including rugged, windswept regions in the Rocky Mountains to the sun-baked Mojave Desert, contain swathes of land legally set aside as national parks, or support what remains of an endangered species' dwindling habitat, for example.
Now environmental groups have teamed up with Google to offer the Path to Green Energy map on Google Earth that highlights protected areas to prevent alt-energy developers from clashing with conservationists over where to place solar, wind and geothermal generators.
Apr 7, 2009 | 1
Antarctica’s newly inaugurated Princess Elisabeth Station is the white continent's first research facility that doesn't emit any greenhouse gases, according to the Belgium-based International Polar Foundation that designed and constructed it. The research center, open to scientists from around the globe, is located about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from the coast in Eastern Antarctica, due directly south of Africa’s southern tip. The station will draw power from wind turbines (eight for now, and nine next year) and solar panel arrays rather than from the diesel generators that power most other stations.
Mar 31, 2009 | 14
You could get some green if you go green: President Obama is touting legislation that would pay drivers to turn in their gas-guzzling, exhaust-emitting cars for fuel-efficient vehicles.
So-called “cash for clunker” bills moving through the House and Senate would provide vouchers of $2,000 to $5,000 – depending on the age of the clunker, the fuel efficiency of the new car and where it was made – to buyers of greener automobiles. The old car parts would then be recycled. An incentive program in Germany that offered $3,290 to consumers who traded in their old cars hiked auto sales by more than 21 percent last month over the previous February, according to Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), who is sponsoring legislation on the issue.
Mar 18, 2009 | 35
As the call for a clean-energy savior—to wash away our fossil-fuel sins—grows louder, the number of questionable candidates swells. Should we be looking to photovoltaic or fusion? Turbines or tides? With thanks to readers who responded to our Twitter call for favorite alt-energy duds, here's a roundup of five ideas that may one day succeed, but aren't going to save the globe from a climate calamity anytime soon.
Some have posited that looking to the very small – as in quantum – might help solve the very big global energy need. According to quantum mechanics, a perfect vacuum actually contains a bit of energy, which can create particles that pop into existence out of nowhere before quickly disappearing again. Physicists have seen this zero-point energy in the form of the Casimir effect in which two closely spaced plates in a vacuum are pushed together ever so slightly by this energy. But one of the big problems would be capturing useful amounts of energy; after all, it takes at least as much energy to pull the plates apart again. Nevertheless, plenty of so-called "perpetual motion" devices using zero-point energy have been proposed, but careful analysis inevitably shows that such schemes violate at least one law of thermodynamics, and nothing concrete (or even too theoretically plausible) has materialized just yet.
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