Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mazda delivers hydrogen-powered RX-8 RE to Norway

 mazda hydrogen rx8 re norway photo

Could That Guy Look Any Less Excited to be Getting a Hydrogen Car?

Mazda has delivered the second hydrogen RX8, but the first one to have Norwegian-specs, to the Norwegian government. 29 others are to follow and will be used in HyNor, a government-backed national hydrogen project. This particular hydrogen RX8 RE will in ceremonies and media events on May 11th when the country's hydrogen refueling stations officially open. Read on for more details on HyNor and Mazda's hydrogen RX8 RE....

Mazda Delivers Hydrogen-Powered RX-8 RE to Norway

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Aquatic Energy to open demo-scale algae biofuel facility in Louisiana

algae paste photo 

Algae paste, photo: Biofuels Digest

Lake Charles, Louisiana-based Aquatic Energy has announced that it is ready to move beyond its initial pilot-scale algae biofuel facility, and will be expanding to an 11-acre demonstration project using the company's open pond system, which is achieving yields on 2500 gallons per acre...

Aquatic Energy to Open Demo-Scale Algae Biofuel Facility in Louisiana

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Urban EcoMap in San Francisco

Urban EcoMap Visual Preview from Urban EcoMap on Vimeo.

Cities create 80% of global carbon emissions. As we move from educating people about climate change to taking action to mitigate climate impacts, we need innovation to help spur a shift to climate-friendly social behavior in cities. Urban EcoMap helps address this objective. Begun in fall 2008, this pilot project is a collaborative effort involving Cisco and the City and County of San Francisco.

San Francisco is the first city worldwide to introduce the Urban EcoMap. On Earth Day 2009 (22 April), Mayor Gavin Newsom launched the Urban EcoMap pilot in San Francisco. The web-based tool will be made available to the general public at the Connected Urban Development conference in Seoul, 21st May 2009.

Please view the demonstration of the Urban EcoMap San Francisco in the viewer above. We would like to hear your feedback and comments. In addition, please return here for the latest information as the public go-live day for the web-based Urban EcoMap approaches. …

New Zealand climate scientist fired for unapproved comments

Jim SalingerA top New Zealand climate scientist whose work contributed to a Nobel Peace prize was fired from his job at a state-funded agency Friday for speaking to the media without approval.

Jim Salinger was let go for breaching a new policy at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research requiring scientists to have prior approval before speaking to media. …

TV One News said Niwa had accused Salinger of "serious misconduct" after he took part in a program the channel produced about glaciers. …

Salinger, who has frequently appeared on TV and spoken to the media about climate change, was a member of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that, together with former U.S vice president Al Gore, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

New Zealand's Green Party said Salinger was dismissed for helping state-owned channel Television New Zealand with climate inquiries.

"An investigation is needed into how it came to be that one of New Zealand's foremost scientists was frog-marched out of his job for what appears to be trivial and petty reasons," said Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons. …

NZ climate scientist fired for unapproved comments

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Climate change deniers' own scientists said Global Warming was real

oil refinery photo 

 photo: Jesse Yardly

The New York Times has broken the story that even as far back as 1995, a few years after climate change denier the Global Climate Coalition began lobbying against doing anything about climate change (read: anything that might hurt their backers = industries which will get the short end of the stick as we cut carbon emissions), their own scientific advisors told them that global warming was real:

An internal report from 1995 said,

The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate change is well established and cannot be denied.

William O'Keefe (who was leader of the Global Climate Coalition at the time) was asked by the Times why there was such a gap between their public campaign—which stressed that the uncertainties regarding climate science were such that a cautious approach was the best thing—and that of their own advisors. O'Keefe said that the leadership of the Coalition was not aware of such a gap existing. …

Climate Change Deniers' Own Scientists Said Global Warming Was Real

Colin Campbell and 100 months of Peak Oil

Colin CampbellBy Kjell Aleklett

Colin Campbell has now written newsletters for 100 months. 100 months is a long tenure. In his first letter he introduced the world to a new term, ”Peak Oil”. I first made contact with Colin by email in the autumn of 2000 when I needed a little information for a figure and I believe that it was in December of the same year that I first spoke with him by telephone. He was then writing that which would become newsletter number 1. He spoke about the idea of an organisation that would study the peak of oil production and the name ”Association for the Study of the Oil Peak” was mentioned. But the acronym ASOP did not roll off the tongue in the right way so the suggestion to swap the words around to say Peak Oil was discussed. The acronym became ASPO and the term ”Peak Oil” was coined.

Today, ”Peak Oil” is an expression that is used around the world. The Parliament of the Walloon Region of Belgium has even formed a new standing committee for Peak Oil. Around the world, presidents, national inquiries, parliamentary interrogations etc. have put Peak Oil on the agenda. I just made a search on Google using the exact term “Peak Oil” and found 2,700,000 hits. Peak Oil is spreading around the world like wildfire. Colin Campbell and ASPO have, for all time, written their names into history. When the history books of the future discuss the first half of the 21st century Peak Oil will be part of that history.

Colin Campbell means and has meant so much for so many. He has changed my entire life. Without Colin’s support it would never have been possible to begin the research work that my group now undertakes at Uppsala University. We now have the opportunity to describe in academic publications many of the ideas that Colin has had regarding the world’s future oil production. The world’s first ”Peak Oil” Ph.D. defended his doctoral thesis in 2007, and Colin was one of the supervisors. Colin has always asserted that ”depletion” is the decisive parameter for the world’s future and we support him. Decline in oilfields is also very important and we can now show that the maximal depletion is the same as the decline.

Colin concluded his 100th newsletter with these lines:
“This is the hundredth and final Edition of the newsletter. It has been a stimulating experience engendering a deep sense of gratitude to all those who have supported the endeavour with such enthusiasm, many to become close personal friends.” …

Colin Campbell and 100 months of Peak Oil

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Japan honours 'Limits to Growth' science author

Dennis Meadows argued that 'human demand exceeds nature's supply' in the 1972 study titled 'The Limits to Growth'

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan on Thursday awarded its top science prize to a US researcher who decades ago predicted that rapid economic and population growth on a finite planet would lead to the collapse of civilisation.

Professor Dennis Meadows led a research team that in the 1972 study "The Limits to Growth," using a computer model called World3, forecast that on current trends humanity was headed for doom by 2100.

Meadows, of the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the lead author of the study, which became a best-seller but was also attacked as alarmist and opposed to technology and progress.

Emperor Akihito watched Thursday as Meadows, 65, received the 500,000-dollar annual Japan Prize from the country's Science and Technology Foundation for "transformation towards a sustainable society in harmony with nature."

In his study, Meadows argued that "human demand exceeds nature's supply."

Unless the human race switched from exponential population and economic growth to a sustainable system, his team argued, they would "overshoot" the Earth's limits, leading to the collapse of human civilisation.

More than three decades on -- a time span in which the world population has grown from less than four billion to more than six billion -- Meadows said that today he sees even fewer signs of hope.

"In 1972, our projections suggested growth would end in this 21st century, and that still seems inevitable to me," he told a Tokyo conference this week.

"If demand against the planet rises above its carrying capacity, the carrying capacity will decline," he said.

"Growth will not end gradually and peacefully in the distant future. It will end soon and suddenly through overshoot and collapse." …

Japan honours 'Limits to Growth' science author

Friday, April 24, 2009

Police caught on tape trying to recruit protester as spy

Plane Stupid climate change activist taped men who offered cash for information about group's members and activities

Listen to the tapes and read the transcripts

Plane Stupid protesters at Aberdeen airport

By Paul Lewis

Undercover police are running a network of hundreds of informants inside protest organisations who secretly feed them intelligence in return for cash-in-hand payments, according to evidence handed to the Guardian.

In the material, the police claim to have infiltrated a number of environmental groups and say they are receiving information about leaders, tactics and detailed plans of future demonstrations.

The dramatic disclosures are revealed in almost three hours of secretly recorded discussions between covert officers, claiming to be from Strathclyde police, and Matilda Gifford, an activist from the protest group Plane Stupid. The officers attempted to recruit Gifford as a paid spy after she was released on bail after a protest at Aberdeen airport last month.

Gifford, 24, said she recorded the meetings in a bid to expose how police seek to disrupt the legitimate activities of climate change activists. She had two meetings with the officers, who said they were a detective constable and his assistant.  …

Gifford's lawyer, Patrick Campbell, said: "I have very considerable concerns about these events. There appears to be a covert operation that is running in some way with, or using Strathclyde police's name. There appears to be a concerted effort to turn protesters to informants and possibly infiltrate peaceful protest movements.

"The methods employed are disturbing, and more worrying yet is the lack of any clearly identifiable body responsible for this. These individuals seem to have some kind of police support or at the very least connections with the police – the access to police stations confirms that – but my concern is the lack of accountability and the threat to the individual and her right to protest." …

Listen to the tapes and read the transcripts

Read the full investigation in tomorrow's Guardian.

Police caught on tape trying to recruit protester as spy

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‘Limits to Growth’ predictions surprisingly accurate after 37 years

From The Oil Drum:

This post relates to an article written by my advisor Charles Hall and a close friend of his. The article is available online, but is behind a paywall for nonacademic IPs.

There are only finite resources in the world, but population continues to grow. How will this situation resolve itself? This was a question a group of scientists (Meadows et al), commissioned by the "Club of Rome," attempted to answer back in 1972, in a book called Limits to Growth. The model they presented predicted growing resource scarcity, increasing pollution, and eventual population decline, all prior to 2100.

Charles A. S. Hall and John W. Day revisit these predictions in an article published this month in American Scientist called Revisiting the Limits to Growth After Peak Oil. Their analysis indicates that the predictions from 1972 were surprisingly accurate, considering how long ago they were made:

According to Hall and Day, "The values predicted by the limits-to-growth model and actual data for 2008 are very close." …

Limits to Growth Model Worth Another Look

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New York touts climate-saving plan to lock away CO2

Greenpeace activists burn a symbol of carbon dioxide in November 2008. Scientists in New York have touted an experimental plan to lock carbon dioxide gasses underground and prevent big polluters like China and the US from wrecking the world's climate. (AFP/DDP/File/Theo Heimann)

by Sebastian Smith

NEW YORK (AFP) – Scientists in New York have touted an experimental plan to lock carbon dioxide gasses underground and prevent big polluters like China and the United States from wrecking the world's climate.

The idea, called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, is at the cutting edge of attempts to dramatically reduce CO2 spewed by industrial plants into the atmosphere.

The technology exists, but is little tested and a group of energy companies, academics and state officials hope to make New York one of the field's trail blazers.

"We have the opportunity to demonstrate new technology that could be revolutionary internationally," Paul DeCotis, deputy head of energy policy for New York state, told a conference at Columbia University.

"We would love to be exporting to the rest of the world on carbon capture sequestration technology." …

New York touts climate-saving plan to lock away CO2

Rare 'mountain chicken' frogs airlifted from path of deadly fungus

One of the world's rarest species of amphibians has been airlifted to safety from Montserrat in a last-ditch attempt to save it from extinction

See also: A billion frogs on world's plates, accelerating amphibian extinctions

The 'mountain chicken' frog

By Jessica Aldred and agencies

Conservationists have rescued a number of critically endangered "mountain chicken" frogs from the path of a fatal disease which has hit their Caribbean island home of Montserrat.

The decision to remove 50 mountain chicken frogs (leptodactylus fallax) from their natural habitat was taken in the face of the spread of the chytrid fungus, which is devastating amphibian populations worldwide.

The Zoological Society London (ZSL) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, based in Jersey, have each provided a home for 12 of the frogs which have been removed from Montserrat. Another 26 have gone to Parken zoo in Stockholm.

The plan is to breed the rescued frogs in captivity in a bid to save the species from extinction.

Montserrat is one of only two sites where the once-common mountain chicken is found, but hundreds of the frogs - one of the world's largest species - have been killed in the last few weeks by the disease. …

Dr Andrew Cunningham, a senior ZSL scientist, said: "Chytridiomycosis has already decimated the mountain chickens on Dominica and within a few weeks of the disease being diagnosed on the neighbouring island of Montserrat, its impact has been catastrophic. The mountain chicken frog has been virtually wiped out on the island and the number of surviving frogs decreases every day." …

Rare 'mountain chicken' frogs airlifted from path of deadly fungus

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Transition Towns USA in the New York Times

Transition Town Sandpoint Idaho photo 

 New York Times Offers Profile of Transition Towns

I need to read the New York Times more often. Doing one of my regular check ins on Transition Culture, the blog of Transition Towns founder Rob Hopkins, I find that the NYT just ran a 5000 word article profiling the Transition Towns movement, and getting to meet the folks behind Transition Town Sandpoint, Idaho. I've probably made it pretty clear by now that I am a huge fan of the Transition movement - it may well be the most important  social movement of our time. So it is great to see the word spreading far and wide in the US. The NYT article, by Jon Mooalem, is a great example of exactly why the movement is succeeding in preaching way beyond the choir (and highlights, I think, some pitfalls too). …

Transition Towns USA in the New York Times

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Newsweek and “Cheap Oil forever”


Newsweek cover April 20, 2009 The Economist 9March 1999

By Kjell Aleklett, President of ASPO International, Association for the Study of Peak Oil&Gas, Professor in Global Energy Systems, Uppsala University, Sweden,

Newsweek’s cover declares that we shall have ”Cheap Oil Forever”. …

As individuals we need 2500 kcal of energy in food per day and this means that the world’s population needs 7100 TWh per year. Expressed as the equivalent amount of energy in oil this is 610 Mtoe or 4.2 billion barrels of oil. If one remembers that part of grain production is seed for sowing the following year’s crops then the world’s annual agricultural production constitutes a net food energy amount of 9400 TWh. This means that there is currently just enough food energy for the world’s population. However, for agriculture to produce 1000 kcal of food energy it requires 1600 kcal of oil equivalents on the farm. When that food has finally reached the dinner table in the USA the energy that was required has grown to 7500 kcal and most of that was from oil. This means that a large part of the world’s oil production is required just to prevent starvation. …

Newsweek and “Cheap Oil forever”

Cyclones spurt water into stratosphere, feeding Global Warming

Tropical Cyclone Hudah was one of most powerful storms ever seen in the Indian Ocean. (Credit: Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Scientists have found that tropical cyclones readily inject ice far into the stratosphere, possibly feeding global warming. The finding provides more evidence of the intertwining of severe weather and global warming by demonstrating a mechanism by which storms could drive climate change.

The finding, published in Geophysical Research Letters, provides more evidence of the intertwining of severe weather and global warming by demonstrating a mechanism by which storms could drive climate change. Many scientists now believe that global warming, in turn, is likely to increase the severity of tropical cyclones.

"Since water vapor is an important greenhouse gas, an increase of water vapor in the stratosphere would warm the Earth's surface," says David M. Romps, a research associate in Harvard's Department of Earth and Planetary Science. "Our finding that tropical cyclones are responsible for many of the clouds in the stratosphere opens up the possibility that these storms could affect global climate, in addition to the oft-mentioned possibility of climate change affecting the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones." …

Cyclones Spurt Water Into Stratosphere, Feeding Global Warming

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Another 200 megawatts of solar thermal power coming to Arizona

solar thermal power plant photo photo: Albiasa Corp

Here's a bright spot on the solar scene: Albiasa Corporation has announced that it will be building a new 200 MW solar thermal power plant in Kingman, Arizona. The $1 billion project is expected to be completed by 2013: …

Another 200 Megawatts of Solar Thermal Power Coming to Arizona

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Adversity Index

Neat visualization:

image The Adversity Index, from and Moody's, measures the economic health of 381 metro areas and all 50 states. Each area is judged to be in recession, at risk, recovering or expanding. On this map you can explore changes in the components of the index: employment, industrial production and home values, shown as a percentage change from a year earlier, and housing starts, shown as the annual rate of units begun. Roll over a state to see its numbers. Click on a state to see details for its metro areas. Slide left or right to see data for different months. Click play to see all the months. Use the forward and back buttons to step a month at a time.

Adversity Index linked from A city struggles: ‘We are back at square one’

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Thousands Of lithium battery jobs coming to Michigan


 Made-In-USA, GM Volt Battery Pack, with Ex-GM CEO Rick Wagoner. Image credit:EVBeat

Michigan’s sagging manufacturing base is getting a big employment boost from makers of lithium-ion batteries. The four Li-O car-battery making operations taking root in the state, illustrate how instrumental supply chain management and government incentives can be in "home sourcing" significant numbers of green jobs. …

Thousands Of Lithium Battery Jobs Coming To Michigan: Trade & Immigration Policy Linkages Emerging

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Friday, April 17, 2009

The world's largest forest of rare black coral found in Mediterranean

Black coral. Photo: ISPRA  

Hidden Treasures in the The Strait of Messina

A new survey of the Mediterranean sea bed discovered what is thought to be the world's largest black coral forest, a rare species. It's located in the strait of Messina, between Italy and Siciliy, in the Mediterranean sea. "Using an underwater robot, marine biologists at Italy's Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) found almost 30,000 colonies of Antipathella subpinnata coral at a depth of between 55 and 100 meters (180 and 328 feet)."...

The World's Largest Forest of Rare Black Coral Found in Mediterranean

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MIT completes virus-built nanomachine battery

Virus Battery When we watch science fiction, deep in our heart many of us believe that’s how it will remain, a fiction. But few refuse to believe that and turn science fiction into reality. Angela Belcher and her team of bioengineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) belong to the second category. They have turned virus-built battery into a reality. Their efforts have not yielded instant result. They have been working on this theory for the past five years. They were concentrating their efforts on a virus known as M13 bacteriophage that are harmless to humans.

YouTube: Virus Battery | More Videos

The main advantage of this M13 bacteriophage is that it is attracted to inorganic materials. Each virus can be coated with gold and cobalt oxide and that transforms it into a scrap of nanowire. When we combine these viruses in chain-like fashion, they form a film that can act as anode or the part of a battery that carries a negative ionic charge. This feat was achieved almost three years ago. The battle was half won. We all know that negative and positive ions are needed to form a functional battery. How does battery work? The first requirement is to charge a battery. Charging a battery requires flow of ions from the negatively-charged anode to the positively-charged cathode. Another important aspect is to discharge a battery. For that we need the flow in the opposite direction to “discharge” that electricity through laptops, mobile phones, and other such devices.

MIT team’s next effort was directed towards developing a cathode. They have used viruses that would be attracted to iron phosphate and carbon nanotubes (cylindrical carbon molecules frequently used in nanotechnology). This way they have created a highly conductive substance whose weight is negligible. After creating anode and cathode successfully, they have generated a micro-battery capable of around 100 charges. The prototype took this model and inflated it to the size of a button cell battery which powers a simple LED. …

MIT Completes Virus-Built Nanomachine Battery

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Preservation Green Lab opens in Seattle


The National Trust for Historic Preservation keeps saying that the greenest building is the one that is already built, and they are building a lab to prove it. Its goal is to to find ways to promote green development by re-using and retrofitting existing structures and to encourage the integration of new structures into neighbourhoods without destroying the local character, a very big issue in historic districts around North America.

Preservation Green Lab Opens in Seattle

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Florida proposes ban on commercial freshwater turtle harvest

Florida softshell turtle (Photo by Kevin Enge courtesy FWC)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 16, 2009 (ENS) - Florida moved toward adopting stronger conservation measures for the harvest of freshwater turtles at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting on Wednesday.

FWC commissioners directed staff to finalize a draft rule that bans the commercial take or sale of wild freshwater turtles in both public and private waters. The draft rule will be considered for approval at the commission's June meeting in Crystal River.

Agency staff advised the commission at its April meeting to accept language of a proposed rule to close turtle harvest in both types of waters after receiving an emergency rulemaking request in March 2008 from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

"When staff members began hearing reports of large harvests of freshwater turtles from Florida waters, they brought the concerns to the commission," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. "As conservation managers, going forward with these measures is the right thing to do." …

Florida Proposes Ban on Commercial Freshwater Turtle Harvest

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Forbes: “The best country for business in the world” is one with a very strong carbon cap and a 20% renewable standard for 2011

Well, Forbes magazine has given progressive advocates of climate action a terrific talking point:  The “best country for business in the world” — for two years running — is uber-green Denmark (photo below courtesy of Forbes).

Denmark has one of the strongest cap-and-trade commitments in the world — 20% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.  And it has a requirement that 20 percent of its overall energy mix be renewable by the end of 2011.  And its efficiency measures are such that Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard said last year, “In 2025, (Denmark’s) total energy consumption will not have risen in 50 years.”

And Forbes says that’s great for business! …

Forbes: “The best country for business in the world” is one with a very strong carbon cap and a 20% renewable standard for 2011

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Global warming could turn forests from sink to source of carbon emissions

Rising temperatures could reverse the role forests play in mitigating climate change, turning them into net sources of greenhouse gases, reports a new assessment by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

The report, titled "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment" and authored by 35 forestry scientists, examined the potential impacts of climate change across the world's major forest types as well as the capacity of forest biomes to adapt to climate shifts. Among the conclusions: a 2.5-degree-C rise in temperatures would eliminate the net carbon sequestering function of global forests. Presently forests worldwide capture about a quarter of carbon emissions. …

Global warming could turn forests from sink to source of carbon emissions

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Transition Towns brace for climate change

By Simon Crump

image PEOPLE are being urged to help make Shipston and its surrounding villages resilient against the effects of climate change and a predicted worldwide decline in oil production.

Residents, organisations and groups from the Shipston area are invited to attend a public meeting at Shipston High School, Darlingscote Road, at 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 29 to discuss joining Transition Towns, a worldwide grassroots movement working to build local resilience against the effects of climate change and peak oil.

Peak oil will be the time when the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached, after which the production rate will enter terminal decline.

This concept is based on observed production rates of individual oil wells and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells.

There are more than 150 Transition Town initiatives in Britain and hundreds more in Japan, Chile, America, Australia and other countries.

These work to encourage local food production, produce renewable energy and boost the local economy.

They devise practical solutions, including shop-local schemes, installation of renewable energy production and grow-your-own fruit and vegetable projects. …

Shipston urged to brace itself against climate change

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Singapore scientists say can turn CO2 into biofuel

A sticker is seen on the car of an eco-friendly team that completed a "Grease to Greece" rally from London to Athens August 27, 2008. REUTERS / Yiorgos Karahalis 

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Scientists in Singapore say they have found a way to turn planet-warming carbon dioxide into clean-burning methanol using a process that uses less energy than previous attempts.

The scientists at the state-backed Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said on Thursday they used non-toxic organocatalysts to make ethanol, a biofuel that is also used as an industrial feedstock.

In a statement, the institute said the team, led by Yugen Zhang, used N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs), an organocatalyst in the chemical reaction with carbon dioxide.

NHCs are stable and the reaction between NHCs and carbon dioxide can take place under mild conditions in dry air, the statement said, adding only a small amount of the catalyst was needed.

The process also used hydrosilane, a combination of silica and hydrogen.

"Hydrosilane provides hydrogen, which bonds with carbon dioxide in a reduction reaction. This carbon dioxide reduction is efficiently catalyzed by NHCs even at room temperature," Zhang said in the statement.

"Methanol can be easily obtained from the product of the carbon dioxide reaction," Zhang added. …

Singapore scientists say can turn CO2 into biofuel

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paris using ultracapacitors in buses

Much has been made of the potential of ultracapacitors in electric cars. Many start-up companies are hoping to make the big breakthrough that changes the future of EVs by creating lighter, cheaper and better energy storage, but so far we haven't seen the results.

German company MAN has decided to look beyond small electric vehicles and has outfitted a hybrid bus with an ultracapacitor. Paris's public transport system RATP is currently testing a few of these models called Lion's City Hybrids in the city without passengers to see if they're worth permanently adding to their transportation fleet.

The bus is being tested on four different bus routes to gauge its performance under various demands like longer distances or more frequent stops. The ultracapacitor allows the bus to start without turning on the engine. Once the bus is moving, the diesel engine starts running.

MAN claims that the hybrid bus reduces fuel use by 20 to 25 percent compared to the currently-used models. If these test go well, this could be the beginning of ultracapacitors finally making their way onto the road instead of just being an exciting prospect.

via Autoblog Green

Paris Using Ultracapacitors in Buses

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Louisiana begins wetland repair with Mississippi River sediment

Wetlands in Louisiana's Barataria Jean Lafitte nature preserve (Photo by Ray Devlin)BELLE CHASSE, Louisiana, April 14, 2009 (ENS) - The first project in state history designed to mine sediments from the Mississippi River and transport them by pipeline to rebuild eroding coastal wetlands was announced today by Governor Bobby Jindal.

The $28.3 million project, known as The Mississippi River Sediment Delivery System at Bayou Dupont, will build and restore nearly 500 acres of marsh in Lower Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes using sediment from the Mississippi River.

Governor Jindal said, "The Bayou Dupont Project breaks new ground for coastal restoration in our state because it is the first time we have carried out a project to transport sediments from the Mississippi River through a pipeline to build wetlands outside the river's levees."

"This project is a great example of the ways the state and Environmental Protection Agency are pushing to use available sediments in the Mississippi River to build land rather than dredging them and dumping them in a wasteful way," Jindal said. "The path forward in rebuilding our coast is capturing and using sediment transported in our waterways to rebuild and strengthen our coasts."

The wetlands being restored have been destroyed by hurricanes and saltwater intrusion.

Louisiana has about 40 percent of the nation's wetlands and experiences 90 percent of the coastal wetlands loss in the entire lower 48 states.

The state is losing 25 to 35 square miles of wetlands each year, nearly a football field every 30 minutes. The highest rates of loss are occurring in the Barataria and Terrebonne basins at a rate of 10 and 11 square miles per year. The Barataria basin is located immediately south of New Orleans, with the Terrebonne basin located further south and west.  …

Louisiana Begins Wetland Repair with Mississippi River Sediment

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EPA evaluates ocean acidification as a threat to water quality under Clean Water Act

 Action Marks First Step Toward Regulation of Carbon Dioxide Emissions Under the Clean Water Act United States Environmental Protection Agency announced steps to protect U.S. waters from the threat of ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. Today, EPA issued a notice of data availability to be published in the Federal Register that calls for information and data on ocean acidification that the agency will use to evaluate water-quality criteria under the Clean Water Act.

The notice responded to a formal petition and threatened litigation from the Center for Biological Diversity that sought to compel the agency to impose stricter pH criteria for ocean water quality and publish guidance to help states protect American waters from ocean acidification. EPA’s notice marks the first time that the Clean Water Act will be invoked by the agency to address ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification is likely the greatest threat to the health of our oceans and is occurring at a frightening rate,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program. “The federal government has finally acknowledged that ocean acidification is a threat; now it must take the next step and fully implement the Clean Water Act to protect our nation’s waters from ‘the other CO2 problem.’ ”
EPA’s water-quality criteria are relevant to preventing ocean acidification because they are the measure against which many states gauge the need to impose regulations on pollution. The notice states that EPA’s “recommended criteria provide guidance to States and authorized Tribes in adopting water quality standards that ultimately provide a basis for controlling discharges or releases of pollutants.” Here, that could eventually translate into controls on CO2. …

EPA Evaluates Ocean Acidification as a Threat to Water Quality Under Clean Water Act

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Urgency of climate change, new research emerges at MIT forum

By Noah Spies

A sense of urgency pervaded Monday’s clean energy forum, which was sponsored by the MIT Energy Initiative and featured a who’s who of energy and climate change policy. The forum was moderated by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who is co-authoring legislation designed to tackle technologically and politically difficult global warming and clean energy issues.

The forum featured a presentation by John Holdren ’65, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Holdren noted that the rate of global warming continues to outpace predictions, including those made within a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As a student at MIT in the 1960s, Holdren was inspired by the race to put a human on the moon. However, he said that the U.S. and the world face a far greater task in reducing human greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would avoid catastrophic climate changes.

In his presentation, Holdren outlined a number of cost-effective measures that could reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.

Markey noted that his bill would support the realization of many of these measures by spurring energy-efficient retrofits of existing buildings and increasing efficiency in energy utilities.

Markey also emphasized the role research would play in further achieving these goals and highlighted the MIT spinoff company A123 Systems, which aims to dramatically improve the efficiency of existing batteries.

The forum also featured Daniel Yergin, Chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, as well as Prof. Ernest Moniz, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative. …

Urgency of Climate Change, New Research Emerges at MIT Forum

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A cure for honey bee colony collapse?

(Wiley-Blackwell) For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

A cure for honey bee colony collapse?

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Dramatic decrease of pelagic carbonate production by nannoplankton across the Early Toarcian anoxic event (T-OAE)

“Nanno-“? The spelling is correct, I checked. 

In this account we present estimates of nannofossil fluxes in four sections and one borehole all belonging to the Early Jurassic western Tethys. This study aims to map the distribution of pelagic carbonate production across the Early Toarcian anoxic event (T-OAE), and to understand which environmental parameters did control such production. Our results indicate important changes in carbonate production by nannoplankton occurring within the western Tethys and its variations through time. Nannofossil fluxes (specimens per m2 per year) are extremely low during the T-OAE in all the studied settings. Higher fluxes are encountered in the westernmost part of the Tethys Ocean before the T-OAE, whilst pelagic carbonate production shifted towards the northern margin of the Tethys after the recovery from anoxic conditions. The dramatic decrease in nannoplankton production during the T-OAE has been interpreted in previous works as a biocalcification crisis related to high pCO2 in the atmosphere/hydrosphere system. Although a high pCO2 may have lowered the carbonate saturation state of Early Jurassic oceans and finally hampered biocalcification, we speculate that the most important effects of CO2 increase were indirect, and affected pelagic producers via changes on climate and sea-level. Namely, it seems that precipitation/evaporation budgets and continental runoff that controlled nutrient levels and salinity in surface oceanic waters were important factors for pelagic biocalcifiers.

Mattioli, E., Pittet, B., Petitpierre, L. & Mailliot, S., 2009. Dramatic decrease of pelagic carbonate production by nannoplankton across the Early Toarcian anoxic event (T-OAE). Global and Planetary Change 65(3-4): 134-145. Article (subscription required).

Dramatic decrease of pelagic carbonate production by nannoplankton across the Early Toarcian anoxic event (T-OAE)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Social network for growing your own food

These folks are getting ready for the Great Recession:


Ooooby is...

- food growers and locavores with a goal of food interdependence.
- a place to learn from, connect and exchange with local growers and eaters.
- a social enterprise which pours profits into food growing projects. …

Out of Our Own Back Yards

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Scientists demonstrate laser with controlled polarization

Animation of the demonstration of a laser in which the direction of oscillation of the emitted radiation, known as polarization, can be designed and controlled at will. Credit: Laboratory of Federico Cappaso, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Cambridge, Mass. – April 13, 2009 – Applied scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in collaboration with researchers from Hamamatsu Photonics in Hamamatsu City, Japan, have demonstrated, for the first time, lasers in which the direction of oscillation of the emitted radiation, known as polarization, can be designed and controlled at will. The innovation opens the door to a wide range of applications in photonics and communications. Harvard University has filed a broad patent on the invention.

Spearheaded by graduate student Nanfang Yu and Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, both of SEAS, and by a team at Hamamatsu Photonics headed by Dr. Hirofumi Kan, General Manager of the Laser Group, the findings will be published as a cover feature of the April 13 issue of Applied Physics Letters.

"Polarization is one of the key features defining a laser beam. Controlling it represents an important new step towards beam engineering of lasers with unprecedented flexibility, tailored for specific applications," explains Capasso. "The novelty of our approach is that instead of being conducted externally, which requires bulky and expensive optical components, manipulation of the beam polarization is achieved by directly integrating the polarizer on the laser facet. This compact solution is applicable to semiconductor lasers and other solid-state lasers, all the way from communication wavelengths to the mid-infrared and Terahertz spectrum". …

Scientists demonstrate laser with controlled polarization

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Slow freight: sail power is actually faster than containerships today

 pruessen sailing ship photo

 Image credit

The always fascinating Low-Tech Magazine notes that the big container ships are taking it very slow these days, cruising at ten knots instead of their usual 26 knots, to save fuel. They point out that this is actually slower than sailing freighters travelled a hundred years ago.

The German Preussen (picture above), the largest sailing ship ever built, was launched in 1902 and travelled mainly between Hamburg (Germany) and Iquique (Chile)....The best average speed over a one way trip was 13.7 knots. …

Slow Freight: Sail Power is Actually Faster Than Containerships Today

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Diatom nanostructure improves solar cell efficiency

Salt water centric diatom frustule (skeleton). Diatoms are microscopic, unicellular algae that produce intricate silica (glass) cell walls that overlap like the top and bottom of a box. When diatoms die, their soft, internal parts deteriorate, leaving their hard, porous, glass skeletons behind. Diatoms are found in aquatic environments, and saltwater diatom skeletons appear in the fossil record as early as the Jurassic period (180 million years ago). In the United States, numerous deposits of diatom skeletons are found on the floors of former aquatic inland and coastal habitats. Important commercially, diatomite is used in a variety of ways: as fine abrasive (in silver polish and toothpaste), as filters, as mineral fillers, as insulating materials, and as anti-caking agents. Image and text copyright © Dennis Kunkel. All rights reserved.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have discovered a way to use an ancient life form to create one of the newest technologies for solar energy, in systems that may be surprisingly simple to build compared to existing silicon-based solar cells.

The secret: diatoms.

These tiny, single-celled marine life forms have existed for at least 100 million years and are the basis for much of the life in the oceans, but they also have rigid shells that can be used to create order in a natural way at the extraordinarily small level of nanotechnology.

By using biology instead of conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches, researchers at OSU and Portland State University have created a new way to make “dye-sensitized” solar cells, in which photons bounce around like they were in a pinball machine, striking these dyes and producing electricity. This technology may be slightly more expensive than some existing approaches to make dye-sensitized solar cells, but can potentially triple the electrical output.

“Most existing solar cell technology is based on silicon and is nearing the limits of what we may be able to accomplish with that,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor of chemical engineering. “There’s an enormous opportunity to develop different types of solar energy technology, and it’s likely that several forms will ultimately all find uses, depending on the situation.”

Dye-sensitized technology, for instance, uses environmentally benign materials and works well in lower light conditions. And the new findings offer advances in manufacturing simplicity and efficiency.

“Dye-sensitized solar cells already exist,” Rorrer said. “What’s different in our approach are the steps we take to make these devices, and the potential improvements they offer.” …

Ancient Diatoms Lead to New Technology for Solar Energy

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Babcock Ranch: 100% solar-powered city


We've heard about ecocities in far away lands, but now there's one planned for the Unities States.  Located near Fort Meyers, Florida, Babcock Ranch will be powered entirely by solar power.  It's a bold and progressive plan, and if Kitson & Partners can secure all the necessary regulatory approvals, construction will begin this year.  The city includes a 75-megawatt, on-site, photovoltaic facility constructed by Florida Power & Light for nearly $350 million.  …

Babcock Ranch 100% Solar Powered City

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Understanding risk to Seattle's high-rise buildings from a giant Cascadian earthquake

Summary: Don’t be downtown when the Big One hits…

(Seismological Society of America)

The Cascadia subduction zone is likely to produce the strongest shaking experienced in the lower 48 states. Although seismic activity in the Pacific Northwest has been relatively low in the past two centuries, there is a growing consensus that this fault zone ruptures in giant earthquakes (magnitude exceeding 9); the last rupture is inferred to have occurred in 1700. What is the risk to high-rise buildings from such a giant earthquake? Although four giant subduction earthquakes occurred elsewhere in the past century, there were no cities with high-rise buildings in the heavily shaken areas for any of these events. Furthermore, ground motions have never been recorded in areas strongly shaken by a giant earthquake.

T. Heaton and J. Yang of Caltech simulated ground shaking from an earthquake similar to the giant Sumatran earthquake (M 9.2) that occurred in 2004, and which is hypothesized to be similar to the giant earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. The simulated shaking lasts for more than four minutes and it is dominated by low frequency motions. While smaller buildings (e.g., wooden houses) are not particularly susceptible to these low frequency motions, tall buildings resonate at the low frequencies contained in these simulations. The Seattle basin exacerbates the situation by significantly amplifying these long-period motions in the Seattle metropolitan area. Heaton and Yang simulated the response of modern steel 6- and 20-story buildings to the hypothetical ground motions. Although there are many unanswered questions about such a future earthquake, they report that severe damage and possible collapse is indicated in many of their simulations. Buildings that were constructed prior to important building code changes that were made as a result of the 1994 Northridge earthquake are especially vulnerable to this long period shaking. Heaton and Yang report that, given the current state of understanding, there is insufficient knowledge of ground shaking and of building response to ensure the integrity of tall buildings in such an earthquake.

Understanding risk to Seattle's high-rise buildings from a giant Cascadian earthquake

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Prize for 'Sun in the box' cooker

imageA cheap solar cooker has won first prize in a contest for green ideas.

The Kyoto Box is made from cardboard and can be used for sterilising water or boiling or baking food.

The Kenyan-based inventor hopes it can make solar cooking widespread in the developing world, supplanting the use of wood which is driving deforestation.

Other finalists in the $75,000 (£51,000) competition included a device for streamlining lorries, and a ceiling tile that cools hot rooms.

Organised by Forum for the Future, the sustainable development charity founded by Jonathan Porritt, the competition aims to support concepts that have "moved off the drawing board and demonstrated their feasibility" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but have not gained corporate backing.

"The Kyoto Box has the potential to transform millions of lives and is a model of scalable, sustainable innovation," said Peter Madden, the forum's chief executive.

It is made from two cardboard boxes, which use reflective foil and black paint to maximise absorption of solar energy.

Covering the cooking pot with a transparent cover retains heat and water, and temperatures inside the pot can reach at least 80C.

As many as two billion people in the world use firewood as their primary fuel. …

Prize for 'Sun in the box' cooker

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Carbon capture facility to go live

Andrew Donoghue, BusinessGreen, Thursday 9 April 2009 at 16:22:00

A Total plant in France could mark the next step in CCS development

The first power station retro-fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is due to go live but environmental campaigners and experts claim the technology could be a dangerous distraction.

According to reports, a facility in France owned by power company Total has been equipped with CCS technology and is due to be activated this month.

Located in the Lacq region of south-west France, Total claims the project will essentially work by reversing the action of an existing natural gas plant. Rather than piping natural gas from a rock reservoir to the processing plant, concentrated C02 will instead be pumped the other way down the pipeline into the empty rock formation which used to house the natural gas.

"For CO2 transport, the pilot will take advantage of the existing pipeline used for the past 30 years to export natural gas extracted from the Rousse field to the treatment plant at Lacq. During the pilot, CO2 will simply be piped in the opposite direction," Total claimed in a report on the project. …

Carbon capture facility to go live

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hemp homes offer ‘better than zero’ carbon footprint

hemp-house Hemp could hold the key to the future of carbon-neutral construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.

Hemp is a fast-growing, non-intoxicating member of the cannabis family.

Working with a consortium led by the university’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, the researchers have embarked on a project to develop the use of hemp-lime construction materials in the UK.

Hemp-lime is a lightweight composite material made of plant fibres bound together with a lime-based adhesive. The material offers a trio of benefits: lime has a low-carbon footprint, hemp-lime is an efficient insulator and hemp stores atmospheric carbon as it grows. The result, researchers say, is a construction material with a “better than zero” carbon footprint. …

Hemp homes offer ‘better than zero’ carbon footprint

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Brazil cracks down on illegal loggers in Amazon,%2BUcayali%2Bregion%2Bin%2Bthe%2BPeruvian%2BAmazon.jpg 

By Raymond Colitt

BELEM, Brazil (Reuters) - Environmental police in Brazil seized the equivalent of 400 truckloads of wood in a major raid on illegal loggers, the government said on Wednesday, the latest effort to curb destruction of the Amazon rain forest.

During the surprise raid in Nova Esperanca do Piria, 120 miles east of Belem city, police shut down 13 logging companies and sawmills, and seized tractors, guns, and ammunition, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said during a visit to the remote jungle site. The owners fled the area.

The crackdown is the latest in a series of measures by the government to meet a new target of reducing destruction of the Amazon forest by 50 percent during the next decade.

"We are determined to slash deforestation -- this operation is a warning to illegal loggers," Minc told Reuters.

Brazil's government last year abandoned years of opposition to deforestation targets and is now under pressure to show the world community and critics at home that it can deliver, particularly ahead of a major climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

Minc aims to reduce deforestation to about 3,700 square miles (9,500 sq km) in the 12 months through July, the lowest on record and down from 4,600 square miles (11,900 sq km) the year earlier.

Each year advancing loggers, ranchers and farmers cut huge swathes of forest in search of cheap land. …

Brazil cracks down on illegal loggers in Amazon

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US Department of Interior moves to speed up wind energy

REPower 5M wind turbine, currently the world's largest, in the Scottish North Sea.

The U.S. Interior Department has recently released a report entitled "Survey of Available Data on OCS Resources and Identification of Data Gaps". The report, commissioned by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and completed by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) branch of the department, outlines the energy resources available in the outer continental shelf (OCS) of the United States. Although the MMS is more well known for its role in auctioning off and granting permits for offshore oil and gas leases, the report is striking in that wind and wave energy potential receives top billing. The report (14 MB pdf) along with videos, podcasts, and presentation slides can be downloaded from the department's web site. …

US Department of Interior Moves to Speed Up Wind Energy

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dead malls: tragedy or opportunity?


Photo: Eastland Mall, Tulsa, OK (Tom Baddley of Lost Tulsa via

Is the era of the enclosed shopping mall over? With changing consumer habits (such as increased online shopping) and the advent of “big-box” specialty stores and discounters like Home Depot, Target and Wal-mart, the deepening recession is merely delivering the coup de grĂ¢ce for hundreds of shopping malls across the U.S. For some, the end is coming none too soon.

As icons of excessive consumption and shortsighted urban planning, malls represent everything that has gone wrong with our car-based consumer culture. For others (especially in smaller towns), malls represent one of the last few sanctioned public spaces in our society where communities can gather. So what happens (or could happen) when a shopping mall dies? …

Dead Malls: Tragedy or Opportunity?

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Financiers to plant farm... in downtown Detroit

Danny Bradbury, BusinessGreen, Tuesday 7 April 2009 at 09:22:00

Investors announce plans for giant urban agribusiness on 10,000 acres of rundown urban sprawl

A Michigan-based financial group has announced ambitious plans to turn large swathes of crime-ridden Detroit into urban farmland. In the long term, Hantz Group hopes to develop up to 10,000 acres of underutilised and vacant land in Downtown Detroit - almost a tenth of the city's 143-square-mile area - and turn it into a mixture of cash crop land, ornamental gardens, and riding trails.

The ambitious scheme will begin with a 70-acre purchase on the city's Lower East Side. Matt Allen, senior vice present for Hantz subsidiary Hantz Farms, who lives close to the proposed "phase one farm", said that the land has been targeted for its low density, and currently supports between zero and nine residents per acre. …

Financiers to plant farm... in downtown Detroit

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3,000 US coal power plants could be replaced by offshore wind power: Sec. of Interior

offshore wind farm copenhagen photo 

photo: pastalane via flickr

It's been nearly three years since TreeHugger covered a report asserting that offshore wind power could meet all the United States' electric needs, so when Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar talks up wind's great potential, my reaction is more along the lines of "finally!" more than anything else. The interesting thing is how Salazar is framing that 1 million megawatts of wind power potential—in terms of how many coal plants we could replace. …

3,000 US Coal Power Plants Could be Replaced by Offshore Wind Power: Sec. of Interior

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Bacteria turn excess clean energy into methane for storage

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have discovered a solution to the problem of reliable storage for alternative energy: a bacteria that can convert electricity to methane when combined with CO2.

Any surplus power from wind, solar, or tidal sources is fed into the bacteria and combined with CO2 from the atmosphere to create methane for storage. Methane is a clean-burning gas and 80% of energy fed into the process was retained at the end. ...

Bacteria Turns Excess Clean Energy Into Methane for Storage

NEC Creates Online Game to Make Monitoring Power Consumption Fun


Image via Pink Tentacle

For some of us, monitoring our power consumption is already a lot of fun, simply because it's a personal challenge. But for most people, it's a chore worse than balancing the check book. That's precisely the reason so many start-ups are working diligently to come up with ways to make monitoring energy use simple, easy, and interesting. NEC, a company always looking for a greener way, has worked with BIGLOBE to come up with an online game that helps spice up tracking your consumption. …

NEC Creates Online Game to Make Monitoring Power Consumption Fun

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Port of Los Angeles to install 1.6 million square feet of rooftop solar panels (10 MW) over next five years

Photo: Port of Los Angeles

Though it can't claim the prize for the world's largest rooftop solar power array, the announcement by the Port of Los Angeles that it will be installed solar panels over 71,500 square feet of its World Cruise Center roof by the end of the year is decidedly impressive; what's even more impressive are the expansion plans in the works:

Initially $9 million will be spent building the initial phase of the project, which will generate 1 megawatt of electricity. That's impressive, but the next phases are when the real power starts mounting: Within five years and additional 1.16 million square feet of solar panels are planned to be installed, generating 10 megawatts of power. …

Port of Los Angeles to Install 1.16 Million Square Feet of Rooftop Solar Panels (10 MW) Over Next Five Years

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