Sep 25, 2009 | 25
The U.S. Secretary of Energy—channeling former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev perhaps?—has one thing to say in this week's Science to the greenhouse gases emitted by coal-fired power plants: We will bury you. Nobel laureate Steven Chu's department has funneled $3.4 billion in stimulus dollars to research and develop the technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
But to give you a sense of the challenge, here are his estimates of the scale of the challenge: six billion metric tons of coal burned every year, producing 18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and requiring an underground storage volume of 30,000 cubic kilometers per year with untold consequences on subsurface pressure, mineral composition and the like. And we are nowhere near that scale: "We now sequester a few million metric tons of CO2 per year," he wrote, largely from cleaning natural gas or so-called "enhanced oil recovery" efforts, in which CO2 is pumped down to flush out more of the valuable petroleum (and therefore not as useful, from a climate perspective, as sequestration for its own sake).
May 15, 2009 | 6
How can a Nobel Prize–winning physicist—now the nation's energy secretary—get a bunch of coal industry folks to sit up and take notice during a keynote speech? How about by announcing that the feds are planning to dispense $2.4 billion to research and develop so-called clean coal technology?
In fact, that's exactly what Steven Chu did today at a meeting of the National Coal Council in Washington, D.C., where he announced that the government plans to add another $800 million to the Clean Coal Power Initiative pot of cash designed to explore new ways to cut acid rain, smog and mercury pollution as well as $1.5 billion to probe carbon dioxide capture and storage (rather than venting it) from heavy emitters other than power plants (think: cement manufacturers and refineries).
Mar 11, 2009 | 6
Congressional investigators charge that Bush administration energy officials put the kibosh on FutureGen based on what turned out to be a megabuck mathematical error. The finding could pump new life into the project, which was slated to be the world’s first near-zero-emissions coal plant until early last year when it was deemed too pricey to build.
“I am astonished to learn that the top leadership of the Department of Energy in the last administration made critical decisions about our nation’s energy future and capacity to combat global warming based on fundamental budget math errors,” Rep. Bart Gordon (D–Tenn.) told the The New York Times. “This is math illiteracy on a grand scale and with global consequences.”
Mar 11, 2009 | 15
BOSTON (March 11, 2009) -- In most discussions of energy and climate, coal figures prominently as one of the villains. Burning coal is responsible for more than a third of all energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and 80 percent of those from electricity production. It is also one of the largest contributors of air pollution, acid rain and even toxic environmental mercury. But because coal is so inexpensive and plentiful—at the current rate of domestic demand, the U.S. has enough coal to last for 250 years—nations find it hard to abandon the fuel without risking economic ruin.
The clean-coal technology developed at GreatPoint Energy (with offices in Chicago and Cambridge) might represent a solution to that dilemma, however. CEO Andrew Perlman advanced that argument in his keynote speech here last night at the GoingGreen East conference in Boston. (Here are our previous posts on Going Green East.) GreatPoint Energy was just named overall winner in the GoingGreen East 50 Top Private Companies list, which recognizes exceptional organizations based on clean technology.
Feb 14, 2009 | 47
CHICAGO—Fresh from adding a Grammy to his mantle Sunday, former vice president Al Gore told scientists gathered here for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to push administration officials and the general public for solutions to climate change.
"Scientists can no longer in good conscience accept this division between the work you do and the civilization in which you live," Gore said.
"Keep your day jobs, but get involved in the debate," he added.
In about a 45-minute speech, Gore reviewed the evidence for global warming, showing a set a slides that has evolved since An Inconvenient Truth. (A few of our Twitter followers—yes, we live—Twittered Gore's talk, so you can see the blow-by-blow here--pointed out that he had presented a lot of the slides at the recent TED conference.)
Dec 23, 2008 | 13
The original fossil fuel is back in the spotlight, under fire for being the biggest contributor to climate change (when burned in power plants). In an attempt to polish coal's tarnished image, the industry has launched a series of ads and other PR efforts (to the tune of “Jingle Bells”):
Frosty the coal man is a jolly happy soul
He's abundant here in America and he helps our economy roll
Frosty the coal man's getting cleaner every day
He's affordable and adorable and helps workers keep their pay
Nov 20, 2008 | 2
The Bush Administration's push for "midnight regulations" in the last moments of office continues.
In the next 24 hours, the Bush is expected to relax requirements for federal environmental officials to sign off on building projects that pose a threat to species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Publishing the rules by tomorrow means they would take effect before President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration. Otherwise, Obama could simply decide not to put them into practice.
The rules would allow each federal agency to determine for itself whether its own projects (such as building a highway or dam) present an environmental threat, rather than getting clearance from wildlife biologists who sometimes order modifications, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the new watered-down regulations.
Nov 14, 2008 | 19
In its waning days, the Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has essentially halted all new construction of coal-fired power plants until the government can figure out what to do about climate-change-causing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In a ruling yesterday (pdf) on a petition to build a new 110-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Bonanza, Utah, the EPA decided that it could no longer grant permits for such new construction until it determines what is needed to limit CO2 emissions.
The decision refers back to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that the EPA, much to its own chagrin, has the authority to regulate emissions of CO2, the most ubiquitous greenhouse gas. In essence, permits cannot be granted until the agency figures out whether or not to force power plants to install technology to control such emissions.
Oct 3, 2008 | 2
Last night's debate between vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin showcased their differences on energy policy and climate change, and also reminded us of some intra-ticket differences on those key scientific issues.
Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska, reiterated that she does not believe that global warming was solely caused by humans, a softer stance than that of running mate John McCain as well as that of the International Panel on Climate Change, which determined that it is "very likely" man-made. As Palin told Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News earlier in the week, climate change is a problem, but people are not the only culprits.
"I'm not one to attribute every man — activity of man -- to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet," she said last night. "But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don't want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?"
Sep 4, 2008 | 6
The U.S. produces half its electricity from burning coal—and pumps out more than 40 percent of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the process. Vattenfall—the enormous Swedish electric company—has a similar problem, though it sources most of its electricity in that Nordic country from dams and nuclear power plants.
The company also owns a slew of dirty, old coal-fired power plants in the former East Germany. These plants burn the dirtiest form of coal, lignite (a.k.a. brown coal), which is soft because it’s still damp and produces much more polluting soot when burned.
With the onset of a new CO2 emissions trading scheme in the European Union, Vattenfall decided to build a demonstration project at its lignite-burning power plant in Schwarze Pumpe. The technology is called oxyfuel, and it basically relies on burning coal in pure oxygen and CO2 rather than normal air.
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The Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative (GBFAI) is launching the 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge whose
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