By Katherine Ellison
9 May 2012
Industry giants say their case is misguided. But that isn't stopping a group of high school students from using the legal system to make environmental demands.
Alec Loorz turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Frisbee on weekends, he's also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
The Ventura, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change -- the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013.
"I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we're not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more," Loorz said in an interview.
The youth -- represented, pro bono, by the Burlingame, California, law firm of former U.S. Republican congressman Paul "Pete" McCloskey, a co-founder of Earth Day -- filed the suit, Alec L. et. al vs. Lisa P. Jackson, et. al, in May of last year. Defendants include not only Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson but the heads of the Commerce, Interior, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Agriculture departments. This Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins, an Obama appointee, will hear arguments on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. […]
The plaintiffs contend that they have standing to sue under the "public trust doctrine," a legal theory that in past years has helped protect waterways and wildlife. It's the reason, for example, that some state government agencies issue licenses to catch fish or shoot deer, particularly when populations are declining. The doctrine has never before been applied to the atmosphere, and it's a trickier prospect, not least because the sources of atmospheric pollution are so diffuse and wide-ranging, extending to other countries whose actions the United States may not be able to influence. […]
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
By Marcia Goodrich
21 May 2012
(Phys.org) – A materials scientist at Michigan Technological University has discovered a chemical reaction that not only eats up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, it also creates something useful. And, by the way, it releases energy.
Making carbon-based products from CO2 is nothing new, but carbon dioxide molecules are so stable that those reactions usually take up a lot of energy. If that energy were to come from fossil fuels, over time the chemical reactions would ultimately result in more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere—defeating the purpose of a process that could otherwise help mitigate climate change.
Professor Yun Hang Hu’s research team developed a heat-releasing reaction between carbon dioxide and Li3N that forms two chemicals: amorphous carbon nitride (C3N4), a semiconductor; and lithium cyanamide (Li2CN2), a precursor to fertilizers.
“The reaction converts CO2 to a solid material,” said Hu. “That would be good even if it weren’t useful, but it is.”
And how much energy does it release? Plenty. Hu’s team added carbon dioxide to less than a gram of Li3N at 330 degrees Celsius, and the surrounding temperature jumped almost immediately to about 1,000 degrees Celsius, or 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit, about the temperature of lava exiting a volcano.
Hu’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation and detailed in the article “Fast and Exothermic Reaction of CO2 and Li3N into C–N-Containing Solid Materials,” authored by Hu and graduate student Yan Huo and published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
23 April 2012
By Julie Ma
Had Willy Wonka had been fascinated by industrial ecology instead of cocoa beans, his factory may have looked something like The Plant, Chicago’s first entirely self-sustaining "vertical farm."
The Plant occupies a former meatpacking plant and slaughterhouse in the Union Stock Yards, transforming a huge brick building that once specialized in bringing red meat to the masses into a green space all about urban farming without waste. The interior looks like something straight out of a scientific-environmental fantasy.
Tenants include aquaponic farms (think vegetables on water beds flourishing under colored UV lights), a tilapia fish farm, beer and Kombucha tea breweries, a mushroom garden, and a host of independent bakers and caterers that will work together in a communal kitchen space. Future plans include living walls and rooftop gardens.
But the most ambitious part of the building is its focus on producing "net-zero waste" in its 93,500-square-foot space. Spent grains from the beer brewery will feed the tilapia. The waste produced by the fish will feed the mushroom garden or be converted nitrates to feed the hydroponic plants. Those plants will clean the water through natural processes and be cycled back into the fish tanks. Taken together, the system will make the building completely self-sustainable. With the help of a few machines, including an anaerobic digester (similar to a waste-eating mechanical "stomach" that produces biogas) and a combined heat and power system, the building hopes to go off the grid within the next four years.
“Industrial ecology—the concept of using other people’s waste as input—is fascinating. In nature, there’s no waste, but there is so much waste in human consumption and development,” says Melanie Hoekstra, The Plant's director of operations. “This is an obvious problem that we can resolve with a building that can do so many things. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s really close.” […]
Sunday, May 6, 2012
By Leon Kaye
20 April 2012
The world’s largest solar thermal plant recently opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The new plant is almost double the size of what was previously the largest solar thermal facility (located in Denmark), and it will generate enough power to heat water for a university of 40,000 students. GREENTecONE, an Austrian solar design company, supplied the solar panels for the project.
The 388,000 square foot (36,000 square meter) rooftop system is the size of five soccer fields and was built at a cost of $14 million. The solar technology is just one of the many features that will make the new $11.5 billion Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women in Riyadh a showcase for environmental innovation. The project is also a signal that countries in the Middle East, which have become wealthy thanks to fossil fuels, are now planning for post-oil future. […]
Thursday, May 3, 2012
An atmospheric vortex engine (AVE) uses a controlled vortex to capture mechanical energy produced when heat is carried upward by convection in the atmosphere. A tornado-like vortex is produced by admitting warm or humid air tangentially into a circular arena. Tangential entries cause the warm moist air to spin as it rises forming an anchored convective vortex. The work of convection is captured with turbines located at ground level around the periphery of the arena. The heat source can be solar energy, warm water or waste heat.
The vortex engine has the same thermodynamic basis as the proven solar chimney except the physical tube of the solar chimney is replaced with centrifugal force. There is no need for a solar collector - The solar collector is the earth’s surface in its unaltered state.
An AVE power station could have a diameter of 200 m and generate 200 MW of electrical power at a cost as low as $0.03/kWh.
The vortex engine alleviates global warming by reducing fuel required to meet energy needs.