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 | 26
You really can drive across the country on algae--and a 700-pound battery pack--or so proved the crew behind the documentary Fuel . Embarking on September 8 and pulling into New York City today, just in time for the film's premiere, the Algaeus covered 3,750 miles.
"It got 147 miles per gallon in the city," says Fuel director Josh Tickell of the converted to plug-in Prius hybrid that he drove on a mix of battery power and algae fuel blended with conventional gasoline. The Algaeus did less well on the highway: 52 mpg, because of the lack of regenerative braking that recharges the battery, among other things.
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 24, 2009 | 3
Chevron will tap sunlight to help it get more oil out of the ground in California. The company will partner with BrightSource Energy—a solar start-up that Chevron helps fund—to develop 29 megawatts of thermal power from the sun's rays.
The idea is simple (and ancient): use mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto a water tank, turning said water to steam. The steam can then be used to turn a turbine and produce electricity or, in this case, pumped down a well to loosen heavy oils.
The plant slated for the Coalinga Oil Field near Fresno will employ at least 3,000 mirrors to concentrate light on a more than 300-foot tower with water inside. Chevron hopes it will be fully operational by the end of next year. "The only problem we have is when it's cloudy," said Sergio Hoyos, a business developer at Chevron Technology Ventures, at the city council meeting last week where the plan was unveiled, according to Reuters.
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.”
Feb 9, 2009 | 9
If you follow biotechnology at all, you probably know that there is red biotech for medical applications (example: using bacteria to produce drugs); white biotech for industrial applications (example: using microbes instead of chemicals); and green biotech for agriculture (example: using genetically modified crops.)
So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a term for using biotechnology to come up with new fuel sources. "Black biotech" is the phrase Richard Gallagher at The Scientist has coined to describe the rush going on in the life sciences to enlist microbes in a bid to prolong the age of oil in the latest issue. But it really comes down to figuring out what's up down in those subsurface oil formations.
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 15, 2008
We recently asked, is keeping kosher good for the environment? We tried to answer the question by running the carbon footprint numbers based on what you substituted for forbidden foods like pork and shellfish.
Now, the New York Times Magazine offers its own spin on the question. An emerging movement among kosher-keeping Jews infuses modern-day ethics into the practice, taking care that workers at processing plants and the animals themselves are well cared for. In a widely reported story, immigration authorities in May raided the country's largest independent kosher manufacturer, Agriprocessors, arresting nearly 400 workers, and last month, Iowa's attorney general slapped the company with more than 9,000 criminal misdemeanor charges, including child-labor violations. At that time, company spokesman Chaim Abrahams said the workers "lied about their age" to Agriprocessors. "We look forward to our day in court,” he said in a statement then.
Sep 26, 2008 | 4
Despite a slowing global economy, carbon dioxide emissions continued to rise in 2007, according to energy use figures from oil company BP—jumping to 8.47 billion metric tons of the most common greenhouse gas responsible for global warming or 2.9 percent higher than the last year's total. Leading the charge: the U.S. (up nearly 2 percent to 1.58 billion metric tons) and China (up more than 7 percent to 1.8 billion metric tons).
These figures outpace even the worst-case projections of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned last year that unless pollution is reduced, global average temperatures could rise by between four and 11 degrees Fahrenheit (two to six degrees Celsius).
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