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 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 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.
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.
May 12, 2009 | 12
When it comes to energy policy in the U.S., not very much has changed since President Jimmy Carter declared more than three decades ago that achieving energy independence was "the moral equivalent of war."
Today, Carter had his “I-told-you-so-moment” in testimony on energy policy before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving lawmakers a bit of a history lesson (while acknowledging that some of them were also in government then).
Two weeks after becoming president, Carter famously appeared in a cardigan and urged energy conservation on a resistant American public. Ultimately, that and other efforts led to a more energy-efficient economy as well as cutting oil imports in half by 1982.
Mar 10, 2009 | 2
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—By 2030, the people of the world will be driving as many as two billion cars—up from 700 million today—according to John Viera, director of sustainable business strategies for Ford Motor Company. Whether those cars are plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or just supremely efficient internal combustion engines, the economic, environmental and social impacts will be huge—from lithium mining in Bolivia to road rage in China.
Feb 10, 2009 | 4
The Obama administration today shelved a Bush administration plan to allow drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, delaying a final decision on the controversial policy for at least six months to give states, enviros and others time to weigh in on it.
In announcing the move, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said that more time was needed to mull offshore renewable energy alternatives "torpedoed" by Bush officials in favor of oil and natural gas. "To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside" the plan, he said in a statement, "and create our own timeline."
Salazar also ordered the Interior Department to report on potential renewable energy sources such as wave and wind on the Outer Continental Shelf (where the feds oversee 1.7 billion acres), noting that the Bush policy was based on data that is "thin" and at least 20 to 30 years old.
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.
Feb 6, 2009 | 2
A new study suggests that potentially deadly infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients might be destroyed by dousing them with a mixture of mostly soybean oil and water. The so-called "nanoemulsion" has so far only been tested in bacteria in the lab, but the researchers say they will now test it in animals and, if successful, conduct clinical trials in people with CF.
"The nanoemulsion inhibited the growth of all 150 [bacterial] strains tested," says John LiPuma, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor and coauthor of the study published recently in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. "It was very effective in vitro."
Sep 17, 2008 | 4
In response to soaring fuel prices, the Democratic-controlled House last night passed an energy package that would allow offshore drilling for the first time in 26 years.
The measure, which passed by a 236-to-189 margin along party lines, would lift a ban on offshore drilling in place since 1982 and allow companies to drill for oil and gas 50 to 100 miles out to sea.
Conservationists have vehemently opposed drilling near U.S. coasts because of its potential to pollute the oceans and disrupt the ecosystem. But they have offered little criticism of the bill. "The lack of complaints from environmental groups about this sham Democratic bill is a telling sign," Michael Steel, an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner, told Politico. "It’s the dog that didn’t bark."
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