Saturday, January 31, 2009

Many new species discovered in hidden oasis with help of Google Earth

 Scientific surveying Mount Mabu -- Mozambique - found a wealth of wildlife including Pygmy Chamelons. (Credit: Julian Bayliss / Kew)

Space may be the final frontier, but scientists who recently discovered a hidden forest in Mozambique show the uncharted can still be under our noses. Scientists used Google Earth to identify a remote patch of pristine forest. An expedition to the site discovered new species of butterfly and snake, along with seven Globally Threatened birds.

The team were browsing Google Earth – freely available software providing global satellite photography – to search for potential wildlife hotspots. A nearby road provided the first glimpses of a wooded mountain topped by bare rock. However, only by using Google Earth could the scientists observe the extent of woodland on the other side of the peak. This was later discovered to be the locally known, but unmapped, Mount Mabu. Scientific collections and literature also failed to shed light on the area.

“This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I’m aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map”, related Jonathan Timberlake from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), who led the expedition. “Most Mozambicans would not even have recognised the name Mount Mabu.”

Many New Species Discovered In Hidden Oasis With Help Of Google Earth
Sat, 31 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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Scientists rank global cooling hacks

Cooling potential of geo-engineering techniques

Not all climate hacks are created equal.

The dozens of ways that scientists, as well as crackpots, have proposed to geoengineer the world's climate won't all be equally effective. In fact, some of them, particularly the ones that rely on sucking up carbon dioxide instead of blocking out solar radiation, will hardly have any impact at all, a new study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found.

"By 2050, only stratospheric aerosol injections or sunshades in space have the potential to cool the climate back toward its pre-industrial state," earth scientists Tim Lenton and Naomi Vaughan of East Anglia University in England write.

Many global cooling approaches have been floated. The broad range of the proposals — from injecting the upper atmosphere with sun-blocking particles to creating plankton blooms by feeding them extra iron to burying carbon-filled "biochar" in soil — has made comparing them very difficult. The new study provides the first useful comparisons of a wide variety of geoengineering ideas.

The study did not calculate the costs or environmental impacts of any of the techniques, but for most of the climate hacks, they could be large. For those reasons, the authors of the paper recommend reducing the amount of our emissions, not just banking on geoengineering to bail us out.

"Climate geoengineering is best considered as a potential complement to the mitigation of CO2 emissions, rather than as an alternative to it," they write.

Scientists Rank Global Cooling Hacks

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pole-to-pole flight finds CO2 piling up over Arctic

By Timothy Gardner

An undated handout photo from the Center for Northern Studies shows the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf disintegrating. REUTERS/Denis Sarrazin/Center for Northern Studies/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists who flew a modified corporate jet from pole to pole to study how greenhouse gases move found carbon dioxide piling up over the Arctic, but also higher than expected levels of oxygen over the Antarctic.

The three-week, $4.5 million mission this month in a specially equipped Gulfstream V jet was the first of five flights planned over the next three years by a Harvard University-led project based in Colorado.

The research will help scientists understand how carbon is stored in the planet and how much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is released by cars and factories burning fossil fuels, or by the burning of forests.

The jet, which flew from Colorado to the Arctic and back south to the Hawaiian Islands toward Antarctica, is equipped to suck in air samples and test them in a laboratory aboard.

Initial observations point to a carbon dioxide build up over the Arctic, which may be due to industrial pollution and burning of trees over the last few centuries, scientists told reporters on Thursday in a teleconference about the mission.

Pole-to-pole flight finds CO2 piling up over Arctic

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Scientists call for immediate action to stop ocean acidification

 Effects of increasing carbon dioxide and temperature on coral reefs. (NOAA Coral Reef Watch)

Paris, 29 January - More than 150 leading marine scientists from 26 countries are calling for immediate action by policymakers to reduce CO2 emissions sharply so as to avoid widespread and severe damage to marine ecosystems from ocean acidification. They issued this warning in the Monaco Declaration, released on 30 January.

The scientists note that ocean acidification is already detectable, that it is accelerating. They caution that its negative socio-economic impacts can only be avoided by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels.


“The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable.” said James Orr of the Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL-IAEA) and chairman of the symposium. “The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen. The report from the symposium summarizes the state of the science and priorities for future research, while the Monaco Declaration implores political leaders to launch urgent actions to limit the source of the problem.”

Leading scientists from all over the world call for immediate action to stop ocean acidification
Fri, 30 Jan 2009 09:55:45 GMT

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Human sewage to power buses in Norway

Free, friendly and non-fossil – biomethane from human waste will soon power public transport in Oslo, the capital city of Norway. It is available for free in huge quantities, is not owned by Saudi Arabia and it contributes minimally towards climate change. The latest green fuel might seem like the dream answer to climate crisis, but until recently raw sewage has been seen as a waste disposal problem rather than a power source. Now Norway’s capital city is proving that its citizens can contribute to the city’s green credentials without even realising it.

In Oslo, air pollution from public and private transport has increased by approximately 10% since 2000, contributing to more than 50% of total CO2 emissions in the city. With Norway’s ambitious target of being carbon neutral by 2050 Oslo City Council began investigating alternatives to fossil fuel-powered public transport and decided on biomethane.

Biomethane is a by-product of treated sewage. Microbes break down the raw material and release the gas, which can then be used in slightly modified engines. Previously at one of the sewage plants in the city half of the gas was flared off, emitting 17,00 tonnes of CO2. From September 2009, this gas will be trapped and converted into biomethane to run 200 of the city’s public buses.

Human Sewage to Power Buses in Norway

Scientists propose a way forward on carbon capture

A new report advises the Obama Administration on the regulatory problems posed by pumping CO2 underground.

by Erika Engelhaupt

The U.S. cannot feasibly reduce 50–80% of its CO2 emissions by 2050 without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, according to a new interim report by a group of scientists and legal experts. But responsible development of that technology would require a complete overhaul of U.S. environmental regulations, the team concludes.

This test well in Gaylord, Mich., is part of U.S. Department of Energy efforts to develop new technology for storing carbon deep underground. NATIONAL ENERGY TECHNOLOGY LAB

Current regulations, which mainly address the impacts of CCS on drinking water, will not address the need for long-term oversight, the researchers said at a January 9 report briefing in Washington, D.C. The report was written as part of the CCSReg Project, a joint effort by a team of experts led by M. Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University with primary funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Storing CO2 underground raises a host of nagging legal and regulatory questions. How can a developer, such as a utility, demonstrate that a project will be safe and effective? And, who, if anyone, owns the right to pump CO2 into deep underground pore space? In addition, a national CCS program could require building and maintaining about 300,000 miles of pipeline—about the length of current U.S. natural gas pipelines—and that raises issues of property rights and possible eminent domain rulings.

Scientists propose a way forward on carbon capture

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Ocean fertilization: dead in the water?

Study casts doubt on iron-induced carbon sequestration.

by Quirin Schiermeier

RV Polarstern: ready to fertilize the ocean. ALFRED WEGENER INSTITUTE

The theory that adding iron to the oceans can help suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide cheaply and efficiently has received a further blow. A study1 published in this week's issue of Nature (see page 577) finds that the potential of iron-induced carbon sequestration is far lower than previously estimated.

During the CROZEX experiment in 2004 and 2005, scientists on board the British vessel RSS Discovery observed the impact of natural iron fertilization on algal growth and carbon export near the Crozet Islands, an archipelago some 2,000 kilometres southeast of South Africa. The team found that, relative to one unit of added iron, the amount of carbon sequestered to 200 metres' depth, where it will stay for a couple of decades, was almost 80 times smaller than the amount that scientists had determined during a similar study in the nearby Kerguelen region2.

"Ecosystem response and carbon export seem to vary very substantially from region to region," says Ulrich Bathmann, a biological oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, who was not involved in the new study. "And the closer you look, the more complex the story gets."

Ocean fertilization: dead in the water?
Thu, 29 Jan 2009 17:51:38 GMT

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beacon Power, National Grid in deal for flywheel energy storage

Smart Energy 25 kWh

Beacon Power Corp., a power storage technology developer in Tyngsborough, has signed a two-year agreement with the energy utility company National Grid. The deal enables the two companies to share data on Beacon Power’s flywheel energy storage systems, specifically the Smart Energy Matrix, and how it could operate with National Grid’s electricity transmission network.

National Grid officials said in a statement that the company is interested in the flywheel energy storage systems because of their “high efficiency, zero carbon emissions, and extremely fast response.”

Beacon Power (Nasdaq: BCON) and National Grid have collaborated in the past, including interconnection projects in Massachusetts and New York, and demonstration systems in New York and Amsterdam.

Beacon Power makes grid-level energy storage systems based on flywheel technology. The company has already built one megawatt of capacity, with an additional two megawatts at its Tyngsborough facility as part of a grid-based alternative energy storage pilot program launched by ISO New England Inc. An additional two megawatts of capacity, originally intented for the Tyngsborough facility, will be reallocated to two other ISOs, according to a Beacon Power spokesperson.

Beacon Power, National Grid in collaboration deal

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Scientists given go-ahead for ocean fertilization scheme

Scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute have been given approval to proceed with a controversial plan to dump several tons of iron into the Southern Ocean. A recent study from the University of Southampton has shown that seeding the ocean with iron can lock carbon away from the atmosphere permanently, but many environmentalists are concerned about the scheme’s long-term effects.

Read more of this story »

Scientists Given Go-Ahead for Ocean Fertilization Scheme
Wed, 28 Jan 2009 22:35:30 GMT

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World's first hybrid solarized gas turbine power station

Yavne, Israel (SPX) Jan 29, 2009 - An Israeli company called AORA has developed the world's first modular Hybrid Solarized Gas Turbine Power Station to provide affordable and customizable green energy solutions around-the-clock.

AORA's ultra-high concentrating solar power (CSP) technology and unique modular solutions allow for quick and easy construction of power plants and require less land to generate more usable power and heat.

It also costs significantly less than other solar energy systems, making green energy a viable option for villages, communities, utilities and industrial use throughout the world.

The company's innovative scalable solutions are comprised of very small modular units (100kw / 170kw heat) which are linked together into centrally controlled power plants, customized to client demand. Each mirror unit (heliostat) follows the sun and directs its rays towards the top of a 30 meter-high tower housing a special solar receiver along with a 100kw gas turbine engine.

World's First Hybrid Solarized Gas Turbine Power Station
Wed, 28 Jan 2009 23:59:51 GMT

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nuclear fusion-fission hybrid could contribute to carbon-free energy future

How cool is this?

This illustration shows how a compact fusion-fission hybrid would fit into a nuclear fuel cycle. The fusion-fission hybrid can use fusion reactions to burn nuclear waste as fuel (people are shown for scale). It would produce energy and could be used to help destroy the most toxic, long-lived waste from nuclear power. The hybrid would be made possible by a crucial invention from physicists at the University of Texas at Austin called the Super X Divertor. (Credit: Angela Wong)

Physicists have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants, making nuclear power a more viable alternative to carbon-based energy sources.

The invention could help combat global warming by making nuclear power cleaner and thus a more viable replacement of carbon-heavy energy sources, such as coal.

"We have created a way to use fusion to relatively inexpensively destroy the waste from nuclear fission," says Mike Kotschenreuther, senior research scientist with the Institute for Fusion Studies (IFS) and Department of Physics. "Our waste destruction system, we believe, will allow nuclear power-a low carbon source of energy-to take its place in helping us combat global warming."

Nuclear Fusion-fission Hybrid Could Contribute To Carbon-free Energy Future
Tue, 27 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Survey finds broad agreement that human-induced global warming is real

Chicago IL (SPX) Jan 26, 2009 - While the harsh winter pounding many areas of North America and Europe seemingly contradicts the fact that global warming continues unabated, a new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause.

A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, along with former graduate student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, conducted the survey late last year.

The findings appear in the publication Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

In trying to overcome criticism of earlier attempts to gauge the view of earth scientists on global warming and the human impact factor, Doran and Kendall Zimmerman sought the opinion of the most complete list of earth scientists they could find, contacting more than 10,200 experts around the world listed in the 2007 edition of the American Geological Institute's Directory of Geoscience Departments.

Survey Finds Broad Agreement That Human-induced Global Warming Is Real
Sun, 25 Jan 2009 23:59:57 GMT

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Lovelock: One last chance to save mankind

James Lovelock thinks humanity has only one remaining option to halt climate change and save ourselves (Image: Eamonn McCabe / Camera Press)

With his 90th birthday in July, a trip into space scheduled for later in the year and a new book out next month, 2009 promises to be an exciting time for James Lovelock. But the originator of the Gaia theory, which describes Earth as a self-regulating planet, has a stark view of the future of humanity. He tells Gaia Vince we have one last chance to save ourselves - and it has nothing to do with nuclear power

Your work on atmospheric chlorofluorocarbons led eventually to a global CFC ban that saved us from ozone-layer depletion. Do we have time to do a similar thing with carbon emissions to save ourselves from climate change?

Not a hope in hell. Most of the "green" stuff is verging on a gigantic scam. Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It's not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it'll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning. I am not against renewable energy, but to spoil all the decent countryside in the UK with wind farms is driving me mad. It's absolutely unnecessary, and it takes 2500 square kilometres to produce a gigawatt - that's an awful lot of countryside.


So are we doomed?

There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste - which contains carbon that the plants have spent the summer sequestering - into non-biodegradable charcoal, and burying it in the soil. Then you can start shifting really hefty quantities of carbon out of the system and pull the CO2 down quite fast.


Do you think we will survive?

I'm an optimistic pessimist. I think it's wrong to assume we'll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It's happening again.

One last chance to save mankind

Saturday, January 24, 2009

With nature at Hidden Creek Eco-Village


This is Hidden Creek Eco-Village.  It's a little bit different kind of suburban development that attempts to reconcile the demands of single-family home buyers with the problems of sprawling housing developments.  First, Hidden Creek is full of communal features, such as neighborhood trails, car parks, front porches, central mailboxes, and shared streetscapes.  Plus the homes are densely sited to maintain open, natural spaces.  Second, Hidden Creek is surrounded by the natural environment: there's a nature preserve on the north, a creek on the south, and natural grasses and trees everywhere else.  To maintain the integrity of the site, homes were placed around existing trees and landscaping.  Third, all the homes have been custom-designed for each site to allow views of the surrounding landscape and nature. 

It's interesting how nature dominates this development.  The community reminds me of a recent article on, which explored a psychologist's findings that the human mind needs nature.  Nature facilitates better memory, attention, and mood, so maybe Hidden Creek Eco-Village is on to something here.  Certainly, the homes are incredible, I mean, check out the Crabapple and Elm Houses below. 

Crabapple House - standout features include the bamboo floors, a roof garden, grey water recycling, concrete floors with radiant heating, modern finishes, low-E windows, recycled stone countertops, and incredible views from the inside.  ...


Hidden Creek Eco-Village has a total of 11 new homes (and three existing) and won a Green Dot Award in 2008 in the Design + Build category.  Some homes are still available for purchase. 

Photo credits: Randy Brown Architects.

With Nature at Hidden Creek Eco-Village
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 08:41:01 GMT

Friday, January 23, 2009

Clear carbon-nanotube films

Special sheets for bendable displays will soon hit the market.

By Prachi Patel-Predd

Nanotube shrink-wrap: A small sample of the carbon-nanotube-coated plastic film that could be used as the see-through electrodes in touch screens, roll-up displays, and thin-film solar cells. Credit: Unidym

The first electronic product using carbon nanotubes is slated to hit the market this year. Unidym, a startup based in Menlo Park, CA, plans to start selling rolls of its carbon-nanotube-coated plastic films in the second half of 2009.

The transparent, conductive films could make manufacturing LCD screens faster and cheaper. They could enhance the life of touch panels used in ATM screens and supermarket kiosks. They might also pave the way for flexible thin-film solar cells and bright, roll-up color displays. The displays could be used in cell phones, billboards, and electronic books and magazines.

In all of these applications, the nanotube sheets would replace the indium tin oxide (ITO) coatings that are currently used as transparent electrodes. ITO cracks easily and is a more expensive material. "The cost of indium has gone up by 100 times in the last 10 years," says Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, a research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, U.K.

Sean Olson, vice president of business development at Unidym, says that touch panels--which are particularly susceptible to the brittleness of ITO--will be the first market that the company will target. He says that Unidym is already working with leading touch-panel makers.

Clear Carbon-Nanotube Films
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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Giant North Sea wind farm plan offers promise of European energy independence by 2050

By Anna Winston

OMA has developed a masterplan for an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. If built, the giant Zeekracht wind facility could give Europe energy independence.

Commissioned by the Netherlands’ Society for Nature & Environment (Natuur en Milieu), the masterplan outlines locations for a ring of wind parks in the North Sea that could generate 13,400TW hours of energy, while a new international institute for renewable energy would sit at the centre of the network.

As fishing with within a wind farm site is not allowed, links between the windmills would create areas of shelter for marine wildlife and space for artificial reefs.

OMA’s vision would see all seven countries on the coastline around the sea sharing, distributing and trading electricity.

Download the OMA masterplan outline (pdf)

If the plan goes ahead, the society estimates that Europe could achieve energy independence from Russia and the Gulf states by 2050.

The Netherlands’ Society for Nature & Environment said: “The Zeekracht masterplan’s strength lies in its combination of current scientific knowledge with a strong vision of the future.

“Small, short-term instruments such as subsidies need to be replaced by long-term investment that delivers financial and ecological profit, as well as more energy independence.”

OMA’s Zeekracht North Sea wind farm masterplan offers promise of European energy independence

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quantum teleportation between distant matter qubits: first between atoms 1 meter apart

Single photons emitted by each of the ions are routed through optical fibers to a beamsplitter in which any arriving photon has a 50-50 chance of passing through or reflecting off. Before hitting the splitter, each photon is in a superposition of red and blue colors. When photons emerge from different sides of the beamsplitter, however, they are forced into opposite states -- red/blue or blue/red -- at random. In this case, each detector will record a photon at the same time -- one red and one blue. But it is impossible to know which ion produced which photon. A blue photon in the left detector, for example, could have come from Ion A and been reflected at the splitter. Or it could have come from Ion B and passed directly through. This fundamental uncertainty projects the ions into an entangled state, a condition immediately signaled by the simultaneous detection of two photons. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland) 

For the first time, scientists have successfully teleported information between two separate atoms in unconnected enclosures a meter apart – a significant milestone in the global quest for practical quantum information processing. Teleportation may be nature's most mysterious form of transport: Quantum information, such as the spin of a particle or the polarization of a photon, is transferred from one place to another, without traveling through any physical medium.

Quantum Teleportation Between Distant Matter Qubits: First Between Atoms 1 Meter Apart
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:00:00 GMT

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Analysis: Green sector may save economy

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Jan 20, 2009 - A renewable energy "revolution" is taking place in the heart of the global oil industry here on the Arabian Peninsula, where world leaders and experts at a summit on tomorrow's energy say it may not only save the climate but also help revive today's ailing global economy. (e-mail:

Analysis: Green sector may save economy
Thu, 22 Jan 2009 00:00:00 GMT

City of Newark first in nation using cars to power grid

Caption: This shot shows the electric car owned by Willett Kempton, UD professor of marine policy. Kempton plugs in the car at his home every night and on campus during the day. When not in service, he says, it stores enough electricity to power 7-8 houses on his block for 30 minutes. Credit: Kathy Atkinson, University of Delaware

(University of Delaware) This month, the City of Newark, Del., became the first electric utility in the US to use a car to store and provide power for the local electric grid.

The vehicle, which runs on electricity alone, is specifically designed to store energy and improve grid reliability. University of Delaware researchers helped develop the concept, called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G). With the City of Newark's approval, the UD team is now conducting V2G testing at two outlets within the City's service territory. ...

University of Delaware Associate Professor of Marine Policy Willett Kempton explained how the technology benefits the grid operator. Currently, there is no energy storage built into the electric grid system, meaning that electricity usage and electricity generation must be simultaneous. As fluctuating renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, become a larger fraction of our electric generation, energy storage will help grid operators smooth power output fluctuations.

"Wind tends to blow stronger at night when the electric load is low," he said. "If electric vehicles charged at night with wind power, the grid operator could use the energy in the batteries, when vehicles aren't needed for driving and are plugged in, to help maintain grid reliability. The vehicle owner would then be paid for providing these energy services at a greater value than what they paid for the electricity." 

City of Newark first in nation using cars to power grid
Wed, 21 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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ecoRoute from Garmin helps lessen carbon footprint of cars

Las Vegas NV (SPX) Jan 21, 2009 - Garmin International has introduced ecoRoute, a free software update that helps drivers conserve money and fuel, easing growing pressures on personal budgets and the environment.

ecoRoute From Garmin Helps Lessen Carbon Footprint Of Cars
Tue, 20 Jan 2009 23:59:48 GMT

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Microbot motors fit to swim human arteries


A range of complex surgical operations necessary to treat stroke victims, confront hardened arteries or address blockages in the bloodstream are about to be made safer as researchers from the Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory at Australia’s Monash University put the final touches to the design of micro-motors small enough to be injected into the human bloodstream.

A research paper, published today, Tuesday, 20 January, in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering details how researchers are harnessing piezoelectricity, the energy force most commonly used to trigger-start a gas stove, to produce microbot motors just 250 micrometres, a quarter of a millimetre, wide.

Methods of minimally invasive surgery, such as keyhole surgery and a range of operations that utilise catheters, tubes inserted into body cavities to allow surgical manoeuvrability, are preferred by surgeons and patients because of the damage avoided when contrasted against cut and sew operations. Serious damage during minimally invasive surgery is however not always avoidable and surgeons are often limited by, for example, the width of a catheter tube which, in serious cases, can fatally puncture narrow arteries.

Remote controlled miniature robots small enough to swim up arteries could save lives by reaching parts of the body, like a stroke-damaged cranial artery, that catheters have previously been unable to reach (because of the labyrinthine structure of the brain that catheters are too immobile to safely reach). With the right sensor equipment attached to the microbot motor, the surgeon’s view of, for example, a patient’s troubled artery can be enhanced and the ability to work remotely also increases the surgeon’s dexterity.

Microbot motors fit to swim human arteries

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Monday, January 19, 2009

'V-wing' turbine gets study cash

Energy specialists OTM Consulting lead Project Nova. The designers say a wind turbine with a pair of giant vertical wings should be more rugged, stable and simpler to maintain, compared to the horizontal axis concept of conventional turbines.

An unusual design of wind turbine with a pair of giant vertical wings could one day be generating electricity for the UK Grid.

The innovative Nova Project is one of the first ideas to receive development funding from the recently established Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

The ETI aims to find green engineering solutions that will help the UK meet its future energy and climate targets.

Set up as a public-private partnership, it has a potential £1.1bn of funding.

Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson announced the first four recipients of ETI funding.

"This is evidence of a real shift to green jobs and green engineering," he told BBC News.

'V-wing' turbine gets study cash

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Senate passes Lautenberg measure on ocean acidification

Via Ocean Acidification:

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Legislation authored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) to focus research on rising ocean acidity passed the Senate yesterday. Ocean acidification harms marine life and poses serious risks to the fishing industry.

“Ocean acidification is a serious threat to our environment and to our marine life,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “Changes in ocean chemistry, caused by greenhouse gases, will affect our food supply and the health of our oceans. But research on ocean acidification is still in its infancy. My legislation would provide the needed research to analyze and address the environmental and economic impacts of ocean acidification.”

Increased carbon dioxide emissions are causing oceans to become more acidic. Ocean acidity has increased 30 percent in the last 100 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA also projects that, by the end of this century, current levels of carbon dioxide emissions would result in the lowest levels of ocean pH in 20 million years.

Oceans require a balanced pH to maintain water quality favorable to marine life. If oceans become too acidic, the shells of scallops, clams, crabs, plankton, corals and other marine life begin to dissolve. In New Jersey, sea scallops and clams are some of the state’s most valuable fisheries, valued at $121 million, according to NOAA.

Sen. Lautenberg’s bill, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2007 (FOARAM), would require a committee of federal agencies led by NOAA to coordinate research and monitoring of acidification of our oceans, develop a national plan to assess the environmental and economic impacts, and recommend solutions. The measure would also establish an ocean acidification program in NOAA - the federal agency with primary responsibility for preserving the health of our oceans and marine life. ...

Michael Pagan,, 16 January 2009. Article.

Senate passes Lautenberg measure on ocean acidification
Mon, 19 Jan 2009 08:38:54 GMT

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Electric-car recharge stations planned for Ontario

By John McCrank

TORONTO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A California company plans to build a network of stations to recharge or swap electric car batteries in Ontario, a move that could expand the market for electric cars in Canada's most populous province.

Closely held Better Place plans to build an electric recharging grid that will sell power to motorists under a subscription service, similar to the model that cellphone companies use to sell airtime.

Consumers would have the option of exchanging their depleted batteries at the company's stations or recharging them at homes, businesses or parking lots equipped with the company's "power spots."

It would take drivers less time to pull into an exchange station and swap a depleted battery for a fresh one than it would take to fill a tank with gasoline, the company said on Thursday.

Better Place would need about three years to build the network, and the company plans to open a demonstration center in Toronto in about a year to educate the public and let them test-drive electric vehicles.

Better Place has partnered with Renault (RENA.PA) and Nissan (7201.T) to develop electric car infrastructure.

"This is an exciting step towards building a network in Ontario," Better Place Chief Executive Shai Agassi said in an interview. "It's a road that we started with a lot of prodding from the (Ontario) government."

Electric-car recharge stations planned for Ontario

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Top 7 alternative energies listed

The US could replace all its cars and trucks with electric cars powered by wind turbines taking up less than 3 square kilometres - in theory, at least. That's the conclusion of a detailed study ranking 11 types of non-fossil fuels according to their total ecological footprint and their benefit to human health.

The study, carried out by Mark Jacobson of the atmosphere and energy programme at Stanford University, found wind power to be by far the most desirable source of energy. Biofuels from corn and plant waste came right at the bottom of the list, along with nuclear power and "clean" coal.

Watch a video of Jacobson discussing his findings.

The energy sources that Jacobson found most promising were, in descending order:

  • Wind
  • Concentrated solar power (mirrors heating a tower of water)
  • Geothermal energy
  • Tidal energy
  • Solar panels
  • Wave energy
  • Hydroelectric dams

To compare the fuels, Jacobson calculated the impacts each would have if it alone powered the entire US fleet of cars and trucks.

He considered not just the quantities of greenhouse gases that would be emitted, but also the impact the fuels would have on the ecosystem - taking up land and polluting water, for instance. Also considered were the fuel's impact on pollution and therefore human health, the availability of necessary resources, and the energy form's reliability.

"The energy alternatives that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most," says Jacobson.

"Some options that have been proposed are just downright awful," he says. "Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply, and land use than current fossil fuels."

Top 7 alternative energies listed
Fri, 16 Jan 2009 15:01:00 GMT

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Religious groups join the green movement

The Green Bible, made with recycled paper, soy-based ink and a linen cover, is a part of a Christian movement to take care of the Earth.  ¦ ANGIE CIPPONERI

BY Madoline Markham

COLUMBIA — People of faith in Columbia are uniting to join in a national movement to discuss how their religions speak to environmental concerns. This discussion centers on sharing ideas on how they and their religious institutions can better steward the earth and educate others to do so.

Religious groups are growing increasingly active in environmental efforts to "care for creation." In contrast to other cultural issues, there is a strong consensus across faith groups regarding environmental policy, according to a 2004 Pew Forum survey.

“They are beginning to take action to protect the environment not because they are members of a secular group but because it’s an act of faith,” said former Los Angeles Times reporter Larry Stammer at a Care for Creation event in Columbia in September. “Basically, they say if God created everything, then how can we hate something God created? And so what you have here is not the Sierra Club with prayer but people acting out of a totally different motivation, that is, their belief in God, or their faith.”

Religious groups join the green movement

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chicago plans gargantuan 1140 acre LEED neighborhood development

Chicago LEED-ND Site - Click to Enlarge

Looks like Chicago city planners have big ideas for a 1140 acre swathe of land in South Chicago.  The spot is former U.S. Steel land, and planners have been mulling development options for the spot since about 2000.  Now, they'd like to submit a proposal for a green development with sustainable neighborhoods, green buildings, street cars, and bicycle paths, etc.

Officially referred to as the "South Chicago LEED Neighborhood Development Initiative," the plan would be rated by the USGBC's LEED-ND pilot program and would unravel over roughly 20-30 years. 

The gargantuan development aims to mix smart growth, mixed uses, and LEED-ND guidelines to create a livable, vibrant, sustainable new community in South Chicago.  It's certainly one of the boldest initiatives going on across the nation right now. 

Early on, one of the challenges with the plan was figuring out what to do with 573 acres of No Man's Land, a desolate area covered in slag (a rock-hard by product of making steel).  They fixed that by taking excess sediment from the Illinois River and covering slag with it.  Now, the area is growing plants and very well might become the foundation to one of the largest green developments in the U.S.

Chicago Plans Gargantuan 1140 Acre LEED Neighborhood Development
Fri, 16 Jan 2009 06:17:52 GMT

First-ever estimate of global fish biomass and impact on climate change

Via Ocean Acidification:

Fish Carbonate Animation

Are there really plenty of fish in the sea? University of British Columbia fisheries researcher Villy Christensen gives the first-ever estimate of total fish biomass in our oceans: Two billion tonnes.

And fish play a previously unrecognized but significant role in mitigating climate change by maintaining the delicate pH balance of the oceans, according to a study published in tomorrow’s edition of the journal Science, co-authored by Christensen and a team of international scientists.

“By drinking salt water, fish ingest a lot of calcium, which needs to be removed – or they will get renal stones,” says Christensen, an associate professor in the UBC Fisheries Centre.
The team discovered that fish do this by binding the calcium to bicarbonate, and then excreting it as pellets of calcium carbonate, a chalk-like substance also known as “gut rocks,” in a process completely separate from food digestion. For an animation of this process, visit

As the calcium carbonate from these pellets dissolves, it turns the seawater more alkaline, which has relevance for ocean acidification, and is impacted by the ocean’s exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) with the atmosphere.


“This study really is the first glimpse of the huge impact fish have on our carbon cycle – and why we need them in the ocean,” says Christensen. “We must buck the current trend of clear-cutting of the oceans and foster these unrecognized allies against climate change.”

Brian Lin, EurekAlert, 15 January 2009. Article.

UBC researcher gives first-ever estimate of worldwide fish biomass and impact on climate change
Fri, 16 Jan 2009 08:15:27 GMT

Magnetically levitated wind turbines

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Orbiting Carbon Observatory will help track sources of rising carbon dioxide

Artist's concept of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Scientists still do not know precisely where all the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere comes from and where it goes. Now, they soon expect to get some answers to these and other compelling carbon questions, thanks to the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a new Earth-orbiting NASA satellite set to launch in early 2009.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory Will Help Track Sources Of Rising Carbon Dioxide
Wed, 14 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

Could ice-like cages be used to trap carbon dioxide underground?

Mehran Pooladi-Darvish (left) and Jocelyn Grozic check the calibration on a series of high pressure syringe pumps used in their research on storing CO2 in hydrates. (Credit: Photo: Ken Bendiktsen)

Ice-like "cages" of gas trapped underground may offer a safe and efficient way to reduce global warming. Researchers are investigating the potential for permanently storing carbon dioxide in geological reservoirs, by locking the global-warming gas within solid, cage-like structures called hydrates.

Two U of C researchers are investigating the potential for permanently storing carbon dioxide in geological reservoirs, by locking the global-warming gas within solid, cage-like structures called hydrates.

“A main attraction of utilizing hydrates is CO2 storage, including in some depleted gas reservoirs near oilsands operations in northern Alberta,” says Mehran Pooladi-Darvish, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in the Schulich School of Engineering.

“Once you get the CO2 into a reservoir that has the right conditions and it contacts the reservoir water and forms hydrates, it’s in a pretty stable form,” says Jocelyn Grozic, associate professor of civil engineering at Schulich.

The Alberta government has committed $2 billion to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, to reduce the industrial CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change.

Could Ice-like Cages Be Used To Trap Carbon Dioxide Underground?
Wed, 14 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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Once-plentiful abalone put on endangered list

By Zeke Barlow

A rare occurrence in Southern California-black abalone cluster together in a rocky, intertidal crag on San Nicolas Island. (Credit: David Witting, NOAA Restoration Center) 

The black abalone that were once thick in the waters off the California coast earned a dubious distinction today when biologists took the final steps in putting the mollusk on the Endangered Species List.  ...

The wording in the listing of the abalone brings up how global warming may affect the endangered species if ocean temperatures were to rise. ...

The abalone, which were once found in great numbers off the Channel Islands, suffered a one-two punch that led to their rapid decline and population crash in the 1990s, said Melissa Neuman, a fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which published the listing in the Federal Register today. After 30 days, the listing becomes official.

Years of fishing greatly reduced the population numbers, but it was the “whithering syndrome” that was first found on Santa Cruz Island that dealt the devastating blow to the species, she said.

The disease, which spread rapidly among the population, prevents it from digesting food and the abalone in turn starts to absorb its own body mass, including its foot which attaches it to rocks and reefs.

They are now found in only a few places off the islands and off the mainland to the north. Recent surveys off Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands found about 320 in three places, said Kate Faulkner, chief of resources management of the Channel Islands National Park.

Once-plentiful abalone put on endangered list

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spain's high-speed trains win over fed-up flyers

Giles Tremlett in Madrid, The Guardian

When we think of air travel, what usually comes to mind is the cramped seats, bags of peanuts, and annoyance of checking luggage. But if Spain has its way, their brand new high speed train network may just make all that obsolete. The newly-open for business AVE S103 service will take you from Madrid to Barcelona in two and a half hours, just a tad longer than a standard carbon-spewing jet.

Spain's sleek new high-speed trains have stolen hundreds of thousands of passengers from airlines over the last year, slashing carbon emissions and marking a radical change in the way Spaniards travel.

Passenger numbers on fuel-guzzling domestic flights fell 20% in the year to November as commuters and tourists swapped cramped airline seats for the space and convenience of the train, according to figures released yesterday.

High-speed rail travel - boosted by the opening of a line that slashed the journey time from Madrid to Barcelona to 2 hours 35 minutes in February - grew 28% over the same period. About 400,000 travellers shunned airports and opted for the 220mph AVE trains.

Last year's drop in air travel, which was also helped by new high-speed lines from Madrid to Valladolid, Segovia and Malaga, marks the beginning of what experts say is a revolution in Spanish travel habits.

In a country where big cities are often more than 500km (300 miles) apart, air travel has ruled supreme for more than 10 years. A year ago aircraft carried 72% of the 4.8 million long-distance passengers who travelled by air or rail. The figure is now down to 60%.

"The numbers will be equal within two years," said Josep Valls, a professor at the ESADE business school in Barcelona.

Spain's high-speed trains win over fed-up flyers

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Obama to add 20 GW of wind power within 3 years

From Red, Green, and Blue:

by Susan Kraemer

An aide to Obama said Friday that the administration plans to add 20 gigawatts (GW) or more of wind power and  4 GW of geothermal and solar power by 2012 through loan guarantees and fast tracked national renewable energy requirements, like the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Last May the U.S. Energy Department estimated wind power could provide almost a quarter of U.S. electricity.

Trade groups from the U.S. wind and solar industries were happy with the news, considering that the current economic environment for commercial credit has lowered all boats as it were, with all investment now endangered - not just investment in risky financial instruments, but even those investments in renewable energy that are essential to growing a stable economy.

No other country, in any single year, has added the volume of wind capacity that was added to the US electrical grid in 2007 with both wind and solar growing well over 40%, but with the credit crunch affecting all sectors of the economy, new projects could drop by as much as 50%, without help from the Federal government.

In response to the news, renewable energy shares soared following the announcement, with the rally continuing into Friday. The move was an about-face for many of those stocks, which have been battered by a string of recent earnings warnings from solar companies including Germany’s Q-Cells, U.S.-based MEMC Electronic Materials Inc , and China’s LDK Solar Co Ltd;.

Obama to Add 20 GW of Wind Power in 3 Years

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Anti-science site wins Best Science Blog 2008

PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Last year it was the terrible ClimateAudit site, but at least it tied with the excellent Bad Astronomy site, after suspicious voting activity. This year, the denialists eked out a victory over cool evolution educator, PZ Myers. Which goes to show that science education still has a long way to go.

I haz a sad.

Best Science Blog

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nanotube superbatteries

Pure power: Pure thin films of carbon nanotubes can store and carry large amounts of electrical charge, making them promising electrode materials. This scanning-electron-microscope image shows a film made up of 30 layers of the nanotubes on a silicone substrate. Credit: Journal of the American Chemical Society

Researchers at MIT have made pure, dense, thin films of carbon nanotubes that show promise as electrodes for higher-capacity batteries and supercapacitors. Dispensing with the additives previously used to hold such films together improved their electrical properties, including the ability to carry and store a large amount of charge.

Carbon nanotubes can carry and store more charge than other forms of carbon, in part because their nanoscale structure gives them a very large surface area. But conventional methods for making them into films leave significant gaps between individual nanotubes or require binding materials to hold them together. Both approaches reduce the films' conductivity--the ability to convey charge--and capacitance--the ability to store it.

The MIT group, led by chemical-engineering professor Paula Hammond and mechanical-engineering professor Yang Shao-Horn, made the new nanotube films using a technique called layer-by-layer assembly. First, the group creates water solutions of two kinds of nanotubes: one type has positively charged molecules bound to them, and the other has negatively charged molecules. The researchers then alternately dip a very thin substrate, such as a silicon wafer, into the two solutions. Because of the differences in their charge, the nanotubes are attracted to each other and hold together without the help of any glues. And nanotubes of similar charge repel each other while in solution, so they form thin, uniform layers with no clumping.

Nanotube Superbatteries
Fri, 09 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT

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Re-introduction of endangered plant monitored over 10 years for first time

Centaurea corymbosa. (Credit: Photo by B. Colas)

An international team of researchers has carried out the first long-term study into the demographic dynamics of naturally-occurring and artificially-introduced plants of the same species. By using simultaneous monitoring, the scientists have identified biological and demographic features of the plants that could help to optimize conservation strategies.

The researchers carried out a programme between 1994 and 2004 to intensively monitor the germination, growth and reproduction of natural and introduced plants of the species Centaurea corymbosa, in order to evaluate the success of strategies to introduce the species, and to identify reasons why these fail.

“Very few long-term studies have analysed the success of such strategies, or looked at the critical demographic factors that could help improve them,” Miquel Riba, a researcher at the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) at the UAB and one of the authors of the study, told SINC.


One of the study’s main conclusions was that it is easier to introduce natural and unique Mediterranean species by means of artificial seed dispersion rather than by restoring degraded habitat. For this reason, the researchers believe a programme to re-introduce many endemic plant species with a limited geographical range due to their poor colonisation capacity could be successful.

Re-introduction Of Plant In Danger Of Extinction Successfully Monitored Over 10 Years For First Time Ever
Tue, 13 Jan 2009 04:00:00 GMT

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Scientists refute argument of climate skeptics

Global monthly and annual mean near-surface temperatures between 1850 and June 2008 in relation to the average temperature in the period between 1961 and 1990, based on the air temperature measurement data of weather stations. (Credit: HadCRUT) 

Scientists have investigated the frequency of warmer than average years between 1880 and 2006 for the first time. The result: the observed increase of warm years after 1990 is not a statistical accident.

Between 1880 and 2006 the average global annual temperature was about 15°C. However, in the years after 1990 the frequency of years when this average value was exceeded increased.

The GKSS Research Centre asks: is it an accident that the warmest 13 years were observed after 1990, or does this increased frequency indicate an external influence?

With the help of the so called "Monte-Carlo-Simulation“ the coastal researchers Dr. Eduardo Zorita and Professor Hans von Storch at the GKSS-Research Centre together with Professor Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern estimated that it is extremely unlikely that the frequency of warm record years after 1990 could be an accident and concluded that it is rather influenced by a external driver.

The fact that the 13 warmest years since 1880 could have occurred by accident after 1990 corresponds to a likelihood of no more than 1:10,000.

Scientists Refute Argument Of Climate Skeptics
Sat, 10 Jan 2009 19:00:00 GMT

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California scientists create E.Coli-based fuel that's much more efficient than ethanol

U.S. scientists say they can turn E.coli, a strain of bacteria present in the human digestive tract, into a fuel that is twice or three times more efficient than ethanol. The scientists, attached to the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) managed to create a strain for the first time that generates alcohol with five carbon atoms per molecule instead of the regular two or three. That's important because the larger, longer chain molecules contain more energy, something of a "holy grail" for the fuel industry.

California Scientists Create E.Coli-based Fuel That's Much More Efficient Than Ethanol
Thu, 08 Jan 2009 14:00:00 GMT

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Energy panel shake up signals action on climate


AP - A liberal Massachusetts Democrat will take over a House subcommittee that will play a major role in drafting legislation on global warming and other environmental issues.

Rep. Edward Markey, known for his tough stances on environmental issues, will replace Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat who has been friendly to the coal industry. Boucher had chaired the panel eight years.

Markey's appointment is another sign that House Democrats plan to aggressively tackle global warming and other environmental problems. He will take charge of an expanded subcommittee with broader jurisdiction, renamed Energy and Environment.

Markey already chairs a special committee set up in 2007 to focus on global warming and energy independence.

"I look forward to pursuing the legislative agenda on climate change and clean energy at this critical time," Markey said in a statement.

Energy panel shake up signals action on climate (AP)
Fri, 09 Jan 2009 00:18:50 GMT

First flight of algae-fuelled jet

The biofuel's developers showcased its algal origins

A US airline has completed the first test flight of a plane partly powered by biofuel derived from algae.

The 90-minute flight by a Continental Boeing 737-800 went better than expected, a spokesperson said.

One of its engines was powered by a 50-50 blend of biofuel and normal aircraft fuel.

Wednesday's test is the latest in a series of demonstration flights by the aviation industry, which hopes to be using biofuels within five years.

The flight was the first by a US carrier to use an alternative fuel source, and the first in the world to use a twin-engine commercial aircraft (rather than a four-engine plane) to test a biofuel blend.

First flight of algae-fuelled jet

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Obama: “We will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years”

From ClimateProgress:

[I will post the details of how Obama will achieve this remarkable goal when they become available. But clues can no doubt be found in his August energy plan, “Breaking news — A real energy plan for America: Efficiency now, 10% renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015,” where he pledges to “Require 10 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2012″ and 25 percent by 2025.]

In his big economic speech today at George Mason University, Obama pledged to jumpstart job creation and long-term growth by:

  • Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
  • Modernizing more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.
  • Making the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years, all of America’s medical records are computerized.
  • Equipping tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.
  • Expanding broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
  • Investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries.

His full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:


Obama: “We will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years”
Thu, 08 Jan 2009 16:44:33 GMT

Solar electric cars invade Hollywood

By Ben Mack

Hollywood is probably the last place that you expect to go green. It talks a good game, but there is something about Botox, breast implants and reality TV that doesn’t say “eco-friendly.”

Cruise Car, which bills itself as the only company mass producing solar-electric cars, hopes to change that perception of Tinseltown with some help from Universal Studios, which will convert its entire fleet of 300 fossil-fuel burning, carbon-spewing vehicles to EVs.

“We’re extremely honored to have a partner like NBC Universal Studios work with us to help make our environment a sustainable place to live,” company president Ken Chester says in a statement (.pdf) that reads like a Hollywood script. “And we commend Universal for being leaders in the entertainment industry by converting to alternative energy transportation.”

The Florida firm offers an impressive 50 models in its lineup, something it claims makes it  one of the world's leading EV manufacturers. They vehicles are limited to 35 mph and the company says they can be made street-legal in most states. The eco-friendlier rides are used by the likes of the Pentagon and the University of Mississippi, and Universal has signed up for a fleet of the company's 14-seat Kudo transporters.

Cruise Car claims its rides are good for 40 to 60 miles per charge and says the photovoltaic panel, which produces up to 180 watts at 60 volts, can boost that by one-third on a sunny day.

Solar Electric Cars Invade Hollywood

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Green revolution: still possible amid deep recession?

By Mark Rice-Oxley

In 2008, oil prices spiked then collapsed, climate-change talks stuttered, and nuclear power reemerged. Europe banned incandescent light bulbs, Britain made cutting emissions legally binding, and US President-elect Barack Obama appointed the greenest US cabinet ever. But what does this augur for 2009? While nature and the economy can be wildly unpredictable, experts believe a warmer year is coming. At the same time, carbon-dioxide emissions are likely to drop as businesses slow. Some experts hope "green collar" jobs will help reverse the recession, but fossil fuels will probably continue to power much of the world for years. When and if the economy picks up steam, demand for oil will rise – as will prices.

Will the recession defeat efforts to combat climate change?

Leaders like Barack Obama are promising a "green new deal" through formidable investment in the green economy. Environmentalists say that green technology is far more labor intensive than traditional energy sources such as oil and nuclear. There will also be plenty of jobs in the energy efficiency segment, according to Lester Brown, founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, who sees benefits to both economy and environment from retrofitting buildings, for example.

"If you compare wind and solar technologies versus coal," he adds, "it's much more labor intensive by a factor of 2 or 3. So if you're interested in creating jobs, you have to look at efficiency and renewables."

Green revolution: still possible amid deep recession?
Wed, 07 Jan 2009 08:00:00 GMT

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Omnivorous fuel cells

A prototype fuel cell runs on a wide range of fuels without turning up the heat.

Smokeless stack: This prototype stack of solid-acid fuel cells made by Superprotonic puts out 50 watts of power--enough to recharge a battery or power small electronic devices. The cells can run on a range of fuels, including natural gas and biofuels. Credit: Superprotonic

Fuel cells are the most efficient way to convert chemical energy into electricity. But most either operate at high temperatures or require very pure hydrogen fuel. Superprotonic, a startup company in Pasadena, CA, is developing a fuel cell that can handle dirty hydrogen at relatively low temperatures. It could thus use hydrogen produced from other fuels--such as natural gas or ethanol--by a simple device called a "reformer."

In a fuel cell, an electrolyte is sandwiched between an anode and a cathode. A catalyst at the anode splits hydrogen into electrons and protons. The protons can pass through the electrolyte, but the electrons can't. So in order to reach the cathode, the electrons travel through an external electrical circuit, where they can be used to recharge a battery or power a device. At the cathode, another catalyst helps the protons and electrons combine with oxygen sucked from the air to form water--the fuel cell's only waste product.

Superprotonic's fuel cells rely on a material called a solid acid, first tested as an electrolyte in 2001 by Caltech materials-science and chemical-engineering professor Sossina Haile. "What makes our fuel cell special is the nature of this electrolyte," she says. Solid-acid fuel cells operate at what Haile calls a Goldilocks temperature: not too hot, not too cold.

Omnivorous Fuel Cells
Tue, 06 Jan 2009 05:00:00 GMT