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.
Jun 10, 2009 | 11
New research shows that the very wind that many hope will turn alt-energy turbines may actually be dying. The reason, ironically: climate change, say the authors of a study that will be published this summer in Journal of Geophysical Research.
Both average and peak U.S. gusts have been on the decline for at least 30 years, particularly in the East and Midwest, reports the Associated Press, and fewer days—than in the past—have any breeze at all, according to lead study author, Sara Pryor, a professor of atmospheric science at Indiana University.
Winds are still blowing across the West at a good clip, but according to the readings (taken from wind-measuring stations), the Midwest has seen a 10 percent decrease over the past 10 years. "The stations bordering the Great Lakes do seem to have experienced the greatest changes," Pryor told the AP, explaining that with more water and less ice on the lakes (thanks to warming), winds move more slowly across the surface.
May 22, 2009 | 9
A new study says that within three years jumbo jet–makers could be testing a new type of wing that reduces midair drag and cuts fuel costs by an estimated 20 percent. The wing would do this using small, built in jets that redirect air around the wing during flight.
"This has come as a bit of a surprise to all of us in the aerodynamics community," Duncan Lockerby, an associate professor of fluid-solid mechanics at the University of Warwick in the U.K. and head of the research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and aircraft maker Airbus, said in a statement. "It was discovered, essentially, by waggling a piece of wing from side to side in a wind tunnel."
Apr 2, 2009 | 6
The Obama administration needs more research before it can tailor a strategy for harvesting available energy resources in the U.S., according to a report released today by the Interior Department. President Obama has made clear that he's big on alt energy options – but said during his campaign that he would consider off shore drilling on leased land in combo with development of renewable energy sources in a push to make the U.S. independent of foreign oil.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement that the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) energy resources report points to "huge information gaps about the location and extent of offshore oil and gas resources" that need to be filled in before officials can make any policy decisions on oil exploration and renewable energy research. He noted, for instance, that in some cases seismic and related data (in the Atlantic OCS and Eastern Gulf of Mexico) is more than 25 years old and would have to be updated to determine whether drilling would be safe.
Mar 25, 2009 | 17
Do the potential benefits of plants that use renewable sources such as wind and solar to generate energy outweigh the environmental damage that could be caused to make way for them? Californians are grappling with that very question as the state moves ahead with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to have utility companies generate one-third of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2020; today renewables account for 12 percent of their output.
The facilities and infrastructure needed to meet the governor's goals, however, require the state to turn over acres of previously undeveloped land (to install fields of solar panels, for example), something residents near the Carrisa Plains region (about 170 miles northwest of Los Angeles) fear may destroy the area's natural beauty, not to mention habitats of endangered animals such as the San Joaquin kit fox, Time reports.
Feb 11, 2009
Eight people are dead after tornadoes swirled through Oklahoma yesterday. The twisters touched down in at least three cities: Lone Grove, Edmond and nearby Oklahoma City. Fourteen people were seriously injured in Lone Grove, the worst-hit city, where all the fatalities occurred.
Tornadoes are common in Oklahoma, but more so in the spring, National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith told the Associated Press. Here's why, according to a ScientificAmerican.com Ask the Experts column from 2005 on why Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma get more twisters: Tornadoes form when warm, moist air near the ground collides with dry air higher up. When the winds over the central plains bring these two temperature and moisture patterns together, tornadoes can occur.
Feb 9, 2009 | 3
At least 135 people have died and authorities say that more than 200 may have perished in wildfires that have been raging in southern Australia since Saturday. The fires in Victoria and New South Wales have destroyed more than 750 homes and charred 815,000 acres (330,000 hectares), according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The Associated Press reports that more than a dozen of the 400 blazes ignited over the weekend are still burning; arson is suspected.
"What do you say about anyone like that?" Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Australian TV, speaking of the suspected arsonists. "There's no words to describe it, other than it's mass murder."
Jan 22, 2009 | 10
Hate the cold? Well hey, here's a cynically silver-lined perk to global warming: Hot days come earlier than they once did.
Earth's average temperature increased by 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 degree Celsius) from 1905 to 2005, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Over the past 50 years, each season has begun nearly two days earlier than in the century before, Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley, scientists report today in Nature. Scientists have previously noted earlier springs, but the new findings (based on an analysis of land and ocean surface temps between 1850 and 2007) suggest that every season is getting an early start.
The reason for the shift isn’t entirely clear, but the study authors suspect that the Northern Annular Mode, a pattern of air movements across the Northern Hemisphere, may play a role. That pattern has brought stronger winter winds— and, therefore, warmer ocean air—to land, driving up winter temps and, perhaps, the researchers say, triggering earlier springs. And premature spring thaws mean drier soil earlier in the year; the drier the soil, the greater its ability to absorb and trap heat.
Jan 20, 2009 | 1
In his inaugural address today, Pres. Barack Obama underscored his campaign promises to reform health care and develop alternative energy. Here are some excerpts, from the prepared text:
“Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet … .
“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act —not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.…
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