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).
Sep 18, 2009 | 31
At least some members of the Obama administration plan to call for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies as part of next week's G20 economic leaders summit, citing positive impacts ranging from improved energy security to combating climate change. But how much does the U.S. government pay? Well, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Law Institute released today, roughly $72 billion between 2002 and 2008.
More than $54 billion of that was in the form of 23 different tax credits for oil, coal and natural gas producers, including those overseas, most of which are permanent provisions of the U.S. Tax Code. Just $18.3 billion was grants and other direct cash for research and development and other pursuits, such as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Aug 18, 2009 | 13
Mining is the second most dangerous occupation in the U.S., averaging roughly 27 deaths for every 100,000 workers per year. That's nearly nine times higher than the overall fatality rate for U.S. industry as a whole, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau (pdf).
So it stands to reason that energy derived from renewable resources such as the sun and wind might cause fewer workplace deaths than energy industries—coal, oil and natural gas—that rely on mining, drilling and otherwise extracting fossil fuels. And that's exactly what doctors from Medical College of Wisconsin and Duke University Medical Center found in an analysis published in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association on August 19.
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.
Mar 10, 2009
Three months after a massive coal ash spill at a Tennessee utility buried homes and killed scores of fish in over 300 surrounding acres, the feds say they're crafting new rules to ensure coal ash is safely stored.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent letters yesterday to 300 electric utilities that have surface impoundments, requesting info on their structural integrity and demanding that damaged units be repaired. “Environmental disasters like the one last December in Kingston should never happen anywhere in this country,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. “That is why we are announcing several actions to help us properly protect the families who live near these facilities and the places where they live, work, play and learn.”
Mar 9, 2009 | 12
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—You could be forgiven for showing up to the M.I.T. Energy Conference here this past weekend looking forward to hearing how clean energy was going to take the world by storm. After all, Friday night, the exhibition hall was full of solar, small wind and cellulosic biofuel projects, sandwiched in between better batteries, fuel cells, nukes and algae. And the agenda was full of sessions on bioenergy, wind power, energy storage and smart grids.
But for a conference billed as "accelerating change in global energy," there was a consistent theme: Today's main sources of electricity—fossil fuels, particularly coal —are not going to stand aside for renewable sources without a significant shift in policy.
Mar 6, 2009 | 35
Does the world really need the ability to trap carbon dioxide before it invisibly billows from power plant smokestacks or out car tailpipes and bury it permanently to slow global warming? You bet, argued some environmentalists, academics and corporate executives at a carbon capture and storage (CCS) conference held at Bloomberg headquarters yesterday in New York. Among the reasons: China (the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide) will need it, the technology already exists and if we don't get a handle on ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will reach catastrophic proportions.
"The reason that we believe CCS is a critically important part of the toolbox is there's a huge gap between what can technically do and what we are doing, and part of that is politics," said David Hawkins, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He said that 30 states either mine coal or burn it for the majority of their electricity and therefore support technology that would allow that to continue even as the nation reduces CO2 emissions.
Feb 12, 2009 | 16
The world needs a "revolution" in science and technology to solve global warming, says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, made the remarks in today's New York Times. The article was short on specifics, but Chu, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said Nobel-level breakthroughs were needed in electric batteries, solar power and crops that could be turned into fuel. "Science and technology can generate much better choices,” Chu, a long-time proponent of alternative energy development, told the newspaper. “It has, consistently, over hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Jan 26, 2009
California and other states that want to set stricter tailpipe emissions and fuel-efficiency standards may get their chance. Pres. Obama today ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its rejection of the Golden State’s application for a waiver to the Clean Air Act, which allows states to enact their own rules if they can prove that they’re tougher than federal pollution standards.
Obama said during his campaign that he’d reverse the waiver rejection, the Associated Press notes, and the agency is expected to do so. New EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said during her Senate confirmation hearing January 14 that she would “very, very aggressively” review California’s application, which was submitted in 2007 and denied later that year by the Bush administration, which agreed with auto industry arguments that it would be tough to enforce different standards across the country.
Jan 21, 2009 | 13
Pres. Barack Obama yesterday put all pending regulatory changes made in the waning months of the Bush administration on hold until he has a chance to review them.
Obama spokesperson Bill Burton told The Washington Post he's not sure how many regs are affected by the order. Former Bush official Susan Dudley of the Office of Management and Budget said the administration had issued 100 rules since November. But it’s not clear how many of them have already taken effect.
A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said today that one of the most controversial of the last-minute Bush measures took effect yesterday. That reg, known as the "right to conscience" rule, allows the government to withhold money from federally funded health care facilities that do not make allowances for workers who refuse on moral grounds to help administer certain procedures, such as abortions. Reproductive rights groups last week sued to block the reg from taking effect, charging that it's unlawful.
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