Sunday, November 22, 2009


Carmakers are shifting towards electric vehicles. Policymakers must do their part, too

The amount of global vehicles is expected to quadruple over the next few decades and if car companies fail to produce more energy efficient vehicles, then the “world would explode” claims Carlos Ghosn. The companies Nissan and Chevrolet have begun to assemble cars that are solely propelled by electric motors, slowly replacing the conventional car industry we have today. As seen in the lectures, every electric car produced has substantial effects on the environment and could eventually lead to a reduction of man-made greenhouse gases.

The cost of redesigned components and the cost of generating electricity could slow the process of transferring to zero emission vehicles. These high costs could be avoided if the transformation became worldwide and the industry completely switched to electric vehicles, that way the price of buying all new equipment to produce a small volume of cars would be eliminated. The government can also play a part to stimulate the switch by raising the price on gasoline or by placing a tax on the carbon emissions released. Either way, the cost is a fleeting manner when it comes to the health of the world.

Green Energy in the Rust Belt

When you think of green energy you do not generally think of the Rust belt. Once known for many smokestacks, Ohio has become a location for the expansion of the green energy movement for the rest of the country. Many solar start ups are moving to Ohio because the large availability of skilled workers, many of whom have been out of work since the downturn in the economy. In automotive manufacturing cities such as Detroit, where plants to stamp metal are already largely available, it seems the logical choice to move mirror manufacturing for solar power. Stamped metal used for cars is very similar to the metal used for the mirror backing in solar array fields. This means much of the manufacturing is cheaper because the existing machinery is there and can be used which saves a lot on the overhead costs of building it. Adding to the buzz is the belief that solar and wind energy is and will continue to one of the fastest growing businesses on the market and the business can only increase. Not only that but many wind turbines are already made in Ohio. The once bleak future of the aging rust belt states is starting to look much brighter.

Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

This article is the exact opposite from "No peak in oil before 2030, Study says" that I've posted.

This article states that "the world has already past it's oil peak production," but people like the US are trying to bend the truth so that there will not be panic in the financial markets. Also, "Americans fear the end of oil supreacy because it will threaten their power over access to oil resources," no one wants to admit the truth of the future of oil, therefore, no one is saying it.

People need to know exactly what the oil supplies future has, so their eyes can open up to new resources. Being optimistic is good but when it is talking about oil and resources this world has I think the truth should be nice and clear. Like I stated before we need to start on planning for the future, but not just that, we also need to start putting into work and finding a way to have our nation changing their lifestyles; they are going to have to change it anyway why not now.

Read this article it is way more interesting than the one I posted before.

No Peak in Oil Before 2030, Study Says

In this article, it is generaling saying that we are not running out of oil just yet. We will reach our highest level in 2030 or 2050, so the study says. Experts/researchers say that there is still oil on this planet in such places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq that we can still get oil from, therefore, oil supplies will keep growing in the next two decades.

What goes up must come down therefore I think we should prepare for when oil supplies gets low and we have to use other sources/reserves. If we do not plan ahead we might find ourselves in a bad situation. This whole article is just trying to be optimistic and keep people from panic.

Read my other article "Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower" that says the exact opposite about the "oil peak" in this article.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

India Cabinet Approved a $19 Billion Solar Plan

Summary: India cabinet approved a $19 billion dollar solar power plant in the whole India. The power plant is designed to generate about 20 gigawatts of electricity by 2020。 The plan is only under projection right now, and the India will spend future years research as well as construction. It is reported that the power plant will provide roughly 1-1.5 gigawatts of electricity in 3 years. The report says that this super expensive plan is India trying to narrow the gap between the solar leader like China, and in that way it would have more leverage in internationla talk. This is a Yahoo News posted on Novenber 19th. Click here to check the original article.
Comments: India is the biggest developing country right next to China. it consumes tremendous amount of energy in its industry. Also, India has about 1 billion population, the electricity demand of India is very high. The purpose of this giant solar power plant will certainly reduce the CO2 emission of India. However, the concern will also raise. Is the solar the suitable source for India? Or moreover, Is such a large-scale solar power palnt suitable for India? Is India has mature enough techonologies to build such a giant power plant? Is this just a comptetion to China? I certainly doubt that Indian can afford such a expensive budget, as well as the effect of this solar power plants. But it looks like we all going to find out soon, since it will start its operation in 2012 accroding to the article.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Digging for Oil; Canada Is Unlocking Petroleum From Sand

Summary: In Canada, less than 1% of the available oil sands have been used to produce oil. “According to Canada's National Energy Board, there are at least 300 billion barrels of recoverable oil within a 250-mile radius of this northern city, about 15 percent more than the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia.” Canada’s oil sand production is expected to grow drastically in the next few years thanks to the new advancements in technology, which make the production of oil sands easier and cheaper.

Comment: As we already know, Canada is the largest oil supplier country of the United States. This means that if Canada’s oil sands production is going to increase drastically in the next few years, the amount of oil coming from oil sands in the United States is obviously going to increase as well. This is a really good thing because we need to take advantage of the other ways we can produce oil rather than just from petroleum, which we know is already running out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Books Help Students Investigate Energy

The students who are learning a lot of the material about energy are mostly kids from the age of 9-12. From these new books they are learning plenty of material from energy such as the history and science of it. Also "Why do we need power and how we get it?". I just think it is a great idea to inform children about what all energy is and does. By doing such matters, kids will know what is going on in the world and have more interest in the world and energy. RIght now there are a lot of people who just do not know a thing about what is going on in the world, and it is for two reasons. Either they just do not know or they just do not care. Either way both reasons is quite a bad thing. It is best that the majority of humanity have interest in energy. So by giving these kids the education of Energy, can result to become a good thing.

India to Boost Funding for Solar Power

Climate change is a global problem that many countries are working on tackling. Although it may not be a drastic enough step, India's move towards solar energy is beneficial to the world and India. Sunlight is abundant in India in contrast of other renewables: wind and hydroelectric. Right now, India produces about 7.5% if their energy from renewable sources with the majority being wind. The government's new policy is aimed at increasing solar-power generation to 20,000 megawatts by 2020 from three megawatts. India is also working on energy efficiency of cars and consumer appliances in their efforts to adapt to a more economical, and sustainable energy profile. America, Russia, and others who seem to show an unwillingness to act on climate change need to realize that if we all work together, we can significantly cut carbon emissions. If developing countries play their part in the action we collectively need to take, we are moving in the right direction. Solar power is a technology that should continue to develop and become competitive in the future, and investing in it is a sound strategy.

Turtles Are Casualties of Warming in Costa Rica

While some people dedicate their summer nights to cookouts and fireworks, tourists on Costa Rica's northern Caribbean coast stroll the palm-lined beach of Tortuguero National Park to witness a more natural ritual, the annual nesting of green sea turtles. As many as 150,000 bury their eggs in the sands of Tortuguero in a good year, making it one of the world's top nesting beaches for the endangered green turtle. Four times as many green turtles now nest in Tortuguero than did in the 1960s. Tortuguero is one of many success stories in a long struggle to ensure the survival of the harmless marine reptile, which only recently faced an uncertain future.
But scientists fear that climate change could undo much of the progress made in sea turtle conservation. Global warming is linked to weather extremes. Rising temperatures from global warming are a major threat. Beach temperature during egg incubation determines turtle sex ratios, with higher temperatures producing more females.
A recent study at a Florida nesting beach found that all the turtle hatchlings were female, while on Costa Rica's Playa Grande, the sand was so hot between January and March of this year that turtle eggs buried there stopped hatching.
This is a clear consequence of climate change. It does affect more than we think, If we don’t measure what we do we can finish destroying all the life on the earth. There are some damages which are reversible but there are other that are impossible to fix. Contaminated water may be purified, but extinct species can’t be recovered. How will we stop the bad we have started?

Shower Time Could Get Shortened

The average American spends about eight minutes in the shower using about 20 gallons of water. The most radical proposal would be to take fewer showers. Which would help the environment, and give you more workspace around your colleagues. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wants shower time limited to three minutes without any singing. Another proposal was “Navy showers”, or turning the shower off while lathering up. However, the main focus of this article is to improve water usage through modification of the showerhead.

This is not the first time that governments have looked at setting restrictions on showerheads. In 1992, the government restricted showerheads to ones that pump 2.5 gallons of water per minute. This forced showerhead companies to add flow restrictors, often by adding simple washers. The small secrets were that these washers were easily removed with a knife and there were often directions in the box about where they were located and how to remove them.

The latest idea is to turbo charge the new showerheads like today’s turbo charged cars that force more air into the engine, which boosts the power. With restrictions on the flow rates of showerheads - of 1.5 gallons per minute in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and 2.0 gallons per minute in San Antonio, Texas - improvements will have to come from technology. Engineers believe mixing air into the water can still give people the same pressure and enjoyment as a regular shower. The current technologies use either a “Venturi Vacuum”, which is often used by hotels to save water, or a small turbine inside of the showerhead. Both these technologies provide great pressure, and a reduction in water usage. However, the only problem is that the addition of more air causes users to operate their showers at higher temperatures, which uses 10% more energy in the process.

I hope that the EPA will only consider making restrictions to showerheads and not on the number of showers that I can take. Otherwise, I think we would need more space for group projects, and swimming would make chlorine the most popular cologne. I am impressed with the progress and cannot wait to take a shower in a fancy hotel to test out the new technology!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

IEA bets on Solar, Wind and Natural Gas to win the race to renewables.

Seeing as we're getting ready to write our papers, I feel that this article complements our research very well by proposing a realistic assessment of the material future of alternative energy in the united states.

the article actually makes a few points:

first, to get our sources strait: it's quoting the International Energy Agency's "outline for world energy future for the next 20 years" - the article explains that this year marks their decision to focus on stimulating clean energy for the future.

secondly, it indicates that while natural gas, solar, and wind power are expected to a rapid increase in demand, nuclear power will continue to play quite a minimal role in the future of alternative energy.

thirdly, this entire report is all based on the assumption that the world will cooperate on environmental policy and carbon taxes will skyrocket among a host of other presuppositions, which makes this report perhaps seem less important than it is. However, even if its based on the above assumptions, if there's one thing i've learned in economics is that public perception influences the demand for a product. If the public percieves that the International Energy Association advocates and predicts a big boom in wind and solar power, they might just believe in it.

I think it is critical to ask why nuclear power is still being left out of the picture as a "clean renewable source of energy" by even a network of informed scientists as prestigious as the international energy association. I hypothesize that it is one of the following:
a. given that nuclear power plants are highly capital intensive and take time to be approved let alone built, so the IEA is skeptical of the worlds ability to stimulate the production of nuclear power plants quickly in the next 10 years. OR
b. nuclear power is still seen as "dirty" or "unsafe" in terms of it's public image despite the massive leaps in efficiency, disposal and safety technologies.

I really hope it's the former, because if it's the latter, we're on the verge of making perhaps the gravest mistake of our time. In a world where we are thirsty for a highly safe, efficient and clean sources of energy - nuclear power should be one of the leading contenders to supplement our energy portfolio.

- thoughts?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Solar incentives drop as cells get raised on roofs

The popularity and demand for solar panels has increased as the price for their installment has dropped substantially. Another aspect of this spike in solar cell sales is the high rebate for the electricity produced by the cells. But because of this high spike in sales the cities and even countries such as Australia have placed cuts in the rebates. These cuts have received some argument because these cuts reduce the rebate by 50%. Cities such as Austin are behind the movement toward reducing the rebate.

The cut I find is logical as proposed. The rebate was used to give incentive to develop solar energies and replace polluting plants and hazardous emissions. As solar sales go up why should the rebate remain the same. The rebate is still in place-though at a lower level, and the people receiving the rebate are still receiving "free" energy. over time they are still benefiting from both. If the rebate were to stay at the current level the city would have to recover this money in some other program-maybe tax increases, which would mean a pretty vicious circle of people paying taxes to the city then the city paying the rebate to those with solar cell. In the end those without solar cells would be paying those with them. This would drive those without cells to install them then the whole system would be useless. The reduction is necessary in my opinion.

Clean Air for the future

In response to a lawsuit brought on by the State of North Carolina the T.V.A must "significantly reduce" its air pollution from four coal-fired power plants by December 2013. In order to do so smokestack scrubbers are being installed to eliminate most of the sulfur emissions. However this system takes into practice creating a landfill area rather than polluting the air. The T.V.A. has been approved to use an area of 50 acres and 200 feet tall but the project is wanting to limit the land use down to a fraction of this size to further reduce its footprint. Also being used is a dry storage system for the coal ash in response to last year's coal-ash spill. Two plants are already online with new scrubbers and a third one needing some adjustments and the fourth one is still to be determined if it can make deadline.

Investing over $6 Billion since the late 1970's T.V.A. has been working to reduce air pollution from sulfur dioxide and particulates and smog forming nitrogen oxide. The emphasis has been toward the air and has been leaving landfills to fill. the trade off is fair according to Mr. Nash who commented, "but it is still better to clean the air," because "we all breathe the air." I believe this logic is somewhat flawed because landfills as already noted in the article coal ash can spill. These resulting spills can devastate the local area and leak into underground water supplies leaving it contaminated. It is important to clean the emissions produced by the plants but the long run effects lead to a need for cleaner fuels and energy sources.

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

As the article state, "The holy grail of renewable energy is a solar power plant that continues producing electricity after the sun goes down". Essentially, SolarReverse, a company in Santa Monica, California, is looking to build a 150-megawatt solar farm that will store around seven hours worth of the sun's energy by heating molten salt and releasing that heat at night to create steam that will turn a turbine in order to compensate for the demand of electricity throughout the day.

The project, named Rice Solar Energy Project, will be built in the Sonoran Desert. The power plant will use thousands of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate sunlight to a tower with a receiver mounted on top of it. The receiver will be filled with 4.4 million gallons of liquid salt and will be heated by the focused sunlight to around 1050 degrees, which will flow through a steam-generating system.

This isn't the first time salt has been used for solar purposes, but in this case, the salt will be stored in tanks and used later. Solar Reverse also claims that it will air-cool the plant to avoid using water, another concern that comes with energy. This is yet another step in the right direction in our path to more reliable and renewable energy. Now that we are expanding the definition of solar energy with the introduction of using salt, this will urge scientists to find other mediums to where we can store the sun's energy, a source of energy that will be here to stay.

Although this may work in California, not all states have the available space need to commit to such a large project. This limits the effectiveness of a power plant like this dependent on its location. In the future, I believe that the big states with enough money and in an area that has high solar power potential will invest in this type of power plant. I do wonder however, if the current state of California's economy will have any effect on this specific project. Whether it will delay the completion of the project, or completely abandon it, if there is any effect at all.

Yemen could become first nation to run out of water

Summary: Yemen is set to be the first country in the world to run out of water, providing a taste of the conflict and mass movement of populations that may spread across the world if population growth outstrips natural resources.

Comment: This really puts things into perspective. When the world is talking about cutting down on CO2 emissions, and finding ways of storing and producing energy, there are still areas of the world where the very basic needs are scarce. The crazy thing is, Dr.Webber's flyer about water policy talked about how water demanding many of the energy generation techniques were, but here in Yemen, the situation is completely different. They find themselves in a situation where energy...just doesn't even matter. They are in a situation where water policy is the most important matter to discuss and legislate. It is a matter of life and death. The amazing thing is that gangs protect trunks containing water with guns. The most powerful currency in Yemen without a doubt is water. The government has anounnced that wells will run dry within ten years. Without mentioning their unstable civil wars, which lead to gangs obtaining ilegal water.
One of the main problems also, is the fact that yemen's growth rate is very high, one of the highest in the world. This makes things even worse. More mouths to feed means more problems. Most people can't afford water, and end up spending almost half of their money on all the water they can find.
Something they need to look at is agriculture. With almost 40% of water being consumed by Qat trees, which is a local drug, little is left for essential daily water use. The idea of constructing a desalination plant is good, however very expensive. Disease will increase and Yemen will find themselves in a situation where, if no one helps them out from the outside, they will find themselves in extreme civil war. Desperate times will produce fear and hatred. So this really does look like a very serious problem.

Our Choice Al Gore,

The Inconvenient Truth, when ever this title is heard some ideas that may come to mind might be global warming, recycle, or simply Al Gore. Well the former vice president once again helps the fight concerning the environmental movement; now in the article “Gore Calls for Student Efficiency in Energy Consumption”, Gore is shown with one of his most praised audiences, youth. The reason as to why this article caught my attention was how it connected to a blog posted about two weeks ago on the WebberEnergyBlog. The blog was on the article “Iowa Lakes Community College: Partnership for Academic and Economic Success in a Rapidly Evolving Wind-Energy Industry”, it spoke of how the Community College placed a course to help with energy expenses and is now a two year degree program for studies in wind energy. Similarly in this article George Washington University was the center of attention, and during the presentation the president of the university, Steven Knapp, mentioned “GW’s efforts to promote campus sustainability, one of the university’s three key strategic initiatives. The first university in D.C. to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in April[…]” Through this you can see the ripple affect the phenomenon known as energy efficiency is having on the United Stated nationwide. Of course this is happening all around the world, although it is still in its early stages energy efficiency and alternative forms of energy are booming!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Could shale change the fate of our energy supply

Summary: Inside shale formations thousands of feet underground in Louisiana is what many people believe to be huge amounts of natural gas. Many people see natural gas as a way for America to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and also natural gas has the least environmental impacts out of available fossil fuels. There is a huge surge in this area of Louisiana with people buying large amounts of land and tons of money being spent in hope of developing this area to supply large amounts of natural gas to the rest of the country. Other people are still skeptical however of this and aren't really sure if it will deliver fuel that was promised.

Natural gas is a really great alternative to some of the other available fossil fuels that we have out there. The fact that it's so much more clean than even coal helps the company that are producing it promote it and the development in other places. This might even lead us to use electricity in other places besides a power plant which is a main use of it today. If natural gas becomes as abundant as other fossil fuels such as oil, we all might eventually see natural gas cars on the road. This is also important because it serves as a less traumatic way of making the switch from the dirtiest fossil fuels strait to all clean energy. If we had an energy system that was more natural gas/ wind/ solar energy, we would be so much better off. We don't have to solve every problem with pure clean energy.

Lone Star, Meet Red Star: China’s $1.5 Billion Wind-Power Deal in Texas

The question of who pays for pollution is introduced when foreign companies, for instance China’s Shenyang Power Group, Cielo Wind Power, assemble power plants abroad. Chinese energy-related investments have begun to take place in Texas, where they are planning to install a $1.5 billion wind plant next year. Texas is already listed as the biggest wind-power state and with this new plant, their defeat over other states will continue to increase. Power leads to pollution, but whose responsibility is it? Chinese banks are funding the wind farm and supplying the components while Texas provides the land. Which element dominates; is the location more important or is the sponsor the responsible one? The producer may not even be accountable at all, the blame could be thrown onto the consumers of energy, therefore putting the weight of harming the economy evenly onto three groups, the supplier of sources & money, the producer of the pollution, and the consumer of electricity. I think countries should focus more on what emissions they’re putting out rather than concentrating on other countries’ rates of pollution. The article discusses the foreign competition to different sectors, proving that the entire world does contribute to global pollution, and therefore should all contribute to cleaning it back up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Campaign Against Emissions Picks Number

Many campaigns have been formed that focus on global warming. In this article the campaigners have become a bit more creative in their approach to their protest and focused on the number 350. This number means that "if the gas concentration exceeds 350 for long, they warn, the world can expect decades of disrupted climate patterns, rising sea levels, drought and famine."

The Earth is going to diminish slowly and we are obviously going to go down with it. There are many things that have been killing this planet, and carbon emissions is one form. Trees are important in reducing carbon emissions, yet many trees are being cut every day. I think people hesitate in making a sacrifice because they do not want to change their lifestyles. I do not understand why saving the environment would not be on every one's list of "Things to Do."

Monday, October 26, 2009

$105 million was ordered from Exxon to NYC

Summary: A 105 million dollar punishemnt fee was ordered by a federal jury from Exxon to NYC. The fine was ordered to treat the gasoline addctive that can contaiminate the undergroud water in NYC. The addctive that NYC reported is methyl tertiary butyk ether, also know as MTBE, which is used to increase gasoline's octane level to reduce air pollution. Royal Dutch Shell, BP Plc, Chevron Corp, Citgo Petroleum Corp, Hess Corp and Sunoco Inc tried to settle a 15 million payment with NYC earlier. And Exxon is seeking for legal options now. It was a news posted Yahoo on Oct 19th. Please check orginal article here.

Commnets: This article reminded me aout the relationship between water and energy that Dr. Webber mentioned in his article. We always valued more about energy, since it might bring more profits in short term. But we mostly ignored the importance of water . We can't live without water, and there is no alternatives for that, but we can always invent alternative energy form. Specially, in this case, NYC is the most population intnesive area in the whole world, and rely mostly on underground water for its daily life. Pollution to the undergraoup water is extermely dangerous. So, I think those big oil company which have it all need think more about the side effects that energy exploring might bring, and think more about long-term effects. Moreover, we need to think the importance of water, and put that in the list of environmental protection, and maybe set an agency to control the water qualties.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

China’s Bright Solar Outlook

China’s new solar energy policy is very lofty proposing to increase its solar capacity from 50 megawatts in 2008 to 10 to 20 gigawatts in 2020. This increase would be about 20 or 40 times the solar capacity of the U.S. in 2008 (eia). This increase is to be accomplished through government subsidies for solar power plants and rooftop instillations. The program “Golden Sun” will subsidize 50% for on-grid plants, and 70% for off-grid power systems. This program should generate 500MW of power and lasts until 2011.

China’s solar policy should be good for many global companies and consumers. Companies such as First Solar, Solarfun, Canadian Solar Inc., and Trina Solar all have agreements to start building facilities. First Solar, which is an Arizona based company, has an agreement to build a 2GW plant in Ordos City, which should be one of the largest in the world. This would probably be like The Three Gorges Dam of solar plants a.k.a. huge! This 2GW plant will not even be completed until 2019. Solarfun, a Chinese company, also has a contract to build 2 plants that will total 600MW of power for the city of Hohhot. Canadian Solar Inc. has a contract to build a 500MW plant for the city of Baotau. Trina Solar also has plans to increase its plant by 500MW.

This is all being done by solar companies because of China’s availability of capital and lower prices of polysilicon, which is the raw material to make thin-film solar cells. This is all a play by China to make Solar power technologies economical for production. Solarfun and Trina Solar are good examples of this. Solarfun has taken out a 56.8 million dollar loan to increase its capital for its 600MW plants. Trina Solar has taken out a 304 million dollar loan to increase its capital to fund its expansion of 500MW.

These loans and expansions of power and solar technologies should come back to benefit the consumer. The increased use of capital should help start the flow of money again and help us out of our current recession. The increased renewable energy capacity will help China reach its desired solar energy capacity and supply power to more of its cities. This is also helpful for the U.S. in order to see how the production of these solar plants function economically and efficiently before we construct more of our own. Finally the most important thing is to see if China can meet more of its energy demands with more solar and less with its coal plants!

(The lithium part of the article, which I am not commenting on, but will be very important for the next generation of batteries for electric cars, and storage of large amounts of power from utility scale wind or solar plants.)


U.S. Electric Net Summer Capacity. EIA, 01 July 2009. Web. 25 Oct. 2009. .

Iowa Lakes Community College: Partnership for Academic and Economic Success in a Rapidly Evolving Wind-Energy Industry

Iowa Lakes Community College have demanded for a trained renewable energy workforce in order to reduce energy expenses. Their request for the program launched in 2004, since then it became a 2 year degree program for the studies of wind energy. Students join together and come up with a project involving wind energy. Most of their projects become a great use to the environment. Students work utilizing a 1.65 megawatts wind turbines as a laboratory. Their work has became a great help not only to the environment but also economically that America should "continue to pursue alternative energy resources and encourage citizens to pursue formal education in renewable energy." This program also pre-pairs students on becoming future technicians with high skills, great knowledge of wind energy. So far this Community College has became a success and hopes to grow and pass on to other schools.

Converting Carbon Chains Into Ethanol

Summary: The competition is on to produce biofuels without needing food crops. Many companies around the country are developing methods and refining methods to convert many viable resources into ethanol. The industry is working towards reaching the goals Congress set in 2007. They are running a little behind schedule due in part to lack of capital because of the credit crisis, but mostly because discovering the keys of how to successfully break the materials down in an economically feasible way is proving to be difficult. However, progress is being made, and around the country small plants testing different methods of biofuel production are springing up. There are a variety of ways being used to create biofuel (Coskata, a leader among the group, uses an 8,000 degree torch to convert wood chips into its base elements which are then fed upon by bacteria who secrete ethanol), and many companies are pursuing different routes hoping to claim the prize of creating the second generation of ethanol.

Comment: As the actual costs of creating these fuels begin to surface, we will have a better picture of what the energy profile in the future may look like. The forms of ethanol production these companies are pursuing are carbon neutral, and could be very beneficial to the environment. Scaling the prototype factories into larger, more economical sizes is the key, as Wesley J. Bolsen, Coskata’s chief marketing officer, says, “the question is how rapidly we can scale.” If we could start creating environmentally friendly, cost efficient fuels from garbage, construction and demolition waste, trees or special crops we would be moving in the right direction.

Daniel Gellerup

Oil Industry Sets a Brisk Pace of New Discoveries

Summary: Even though oil is harder to find nowadays, it is possible thanks to the technology that keeps on improving. This year, more than 200 oil discoveries have been made by big and small oil companies. This brings excitement for the industry as well as anxiety because of the fear that lower prices might injure the exploration. Companies are trying to keep up with the exploration while trying to reduce the costs. Thanks to this exploration drive companies have also found natural gas reserves and one of them could be Venezuela’s largest natural gas field.

Comment: We know that we need oil and people believe that there’s still a lot in the ground but it’s very expensive to explore and extract. It is reasonable that companies will explore more when the prices are high and that they won’t when the exploration is not worth the price. So, maybe there’s more oil left than we think, and the day when the price is high enough to explore the most difficult places will come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

California Tries to Solve Water Woes

Earth, also called Blue Planet cause of the huge amount of water it has. Even if we want to see it or not it is becoming less and less blue every day. Depending on the part of the planet this is becoming a small, normal, big or huge problem.
In this case we do not need to look very far to find one of those problems, right here in the state of California. It should be a reason to worry about, but as usual it is turning into political stuff, the typical argument between Republicans and Democrats, but in this case both supporting the same goal, to solve the problem about the water supply.
The main idea is to repair the state’s fragile water ecosystem, to unleash new water supplies and to increase water conservation throughout the state. More specifically, negotiators hope to seal a deal that would make equal the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ( a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers that is a major source of the state’s drinking water) and increasing the supply of water to residents, businesses and farms. Being the first one the largest environmental restoration project ever in the United States.
The discussion over how to distribute the water in California is decades old, but when it comes to water legislation, close to done never means done. There are many consequences cause of this problem with water, like water restrictions and increased prices for water, a federal order last year forcing water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help preserve dying smelt has reduced water flows to agriculture, environmental problems in the Sacramento River have resulted in a collapse of the Chinook salmon population…
Of course there are some proposals to fix this. The construction of at least one dam is included in the plan, as well as a peripheral canal that would transport water from the Sacramento River around the delta to federal and state aqueducts for use in urban and agricultural areas.
One thing is clear, without water we can’t live. It’s necessary for us to survive, it’s a resource of energy we use continuously and it’s part of the nature where we live. It’s time to fix the damage we have caused during ages.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Too Fast Too Furious: Climate Change

Many of us may know that we are at war, but what is missing is for what and with whom? Well the reason would be changing the old ways of using energy and exactly what is it that we use to simply new and improved forms. The who would have to be major companies in the energy industry and concerned parties, anyone and everyone from Exelon to Apple. Also now advocates from The American Petroleum Institute and Environmental Defense Fund , just to name a few, are also getting in on the action. Well in this article I found that even though companies in the energy business were so united once this blew over it was ever man for themselves.
The article, Energy Firms Deeply Split on Bill to Battle Climate Change by John Broder and Jad Mouawad, goes on to talk about how since it has become a war of everyone against everyone there have been bought protests and advertising campaigns thrown around the battle field. One comment that caught my attention was concerning lobbing and how energy producers have literally thrown money into such efforts. The comment more than anything gave a comical take on the situation of how desperately this was happening, “The fact that the lobbying is so fast and so furious is a positive sign that this thing is moving along,” said Mark Brownstein, a managing director at the Environmental Defense Fund and an advocate of climate legislation. “The fact that everyone is rushing to Washington tells you people believe it is real.” The war is far from over it goes from coal to natural gas, to congress from fake advertising, and well the list is endless but most exhausting to maintain.
I see all of this as just pointless; I do not necessarily mean that we should not concentrate on saving our environment but this fiasco just seems over rated. There is never a moment in which what was agreed upon is later respected let alone acknowledged. Well those in senate all I can say is beat of luck, because seems to me that you must deal with a four year old throwing a temper tantrum.

Renewable Energy Powerhouse

The race for a state to claim leadership for clean-energy is on, and the two forerunners have different ways of going about it. Texas, is boasting wind power, and has recently opened the world's largest wind farm this month. Now, Texas has close to three times as much wind capacity as Iowa, the second rank state in wind energy. The other state, California, has invested in solar power and currently leads the nation.

As Congress considers ways to make America greener, these two states will serve as laboratories according to the policy makers under the Obama administration. Texas has loads of land and loose regulation, which makes it easy to build a wind turbine farm. California on the other hand does not have much extra space, which is why they turned to solar power. Although it may cost more money, it does not take up any land if they build the panels on the rooftops of buildings.

However, the one thing that both states have in common is that each has a renewable electricity mandates, stating that a certain amount of their electricity come from a renewable source. Congress is now considering on making such a mandate for the nation as a whole. As of now, renewable energy only accounts for 9.5 percent of the nation's supply of energy. Congress hopes that better technology will be developed soon so that the percentage will rise.

I believe that many other states will begin to follow in California's footsteps in solar power because it is a sure bet unlike wind power. Seeing as a majority of the states are not as big as California or Texas, they should take advantage of their building's rooftops and such. Also, as the concern for the environment rises, the creation of these energy mandates should satisfy many environmentalists.

Marine plant life holds the secret to preventing global warming

Summary: Marine plant life sucks 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, but most of the plankton responsible never reaches the seabed to become a permanent carbon store. Their capacity to absorb the emissions is under threat, however: the habitats are being lost at a rate of up to 7 per cent a year, up to 15 times faster than the tropical rainforests. A third have already been lost.

Comment: It seems that nowadays there really isn't much debate as to which gasses are harmful to the environment, or that global warming exists. We may or may not be right about this, but the fact of the matter is that correlations are simply too strong for us to ignore the situation. Talks of carbon sequestration are evermore a reality. Governments are paying more attention towards reducing CO2 emissions, whether it may be by forcing regulations on certain industries or cap and trade , tax...etc.
So, where do we need to look? The carbon cycle is a good place to start. The cycle gives us an indication of where everything goes, where everything is transformed, absorbed and so on. A closer analysis of this cycle gives us an idea of where exactly we are influencing the cycle. The main problem isn't really how much CO2 we emit, but how much of the CO2 emitted by us is excess. In other words, how much of it doesn't follow the cycle and simply accumulates. This really is the only CO2 that needs to be controlled as this is the main reason for global warming.
The carbon cycle indicates that on average, in modern day terms, the atmosphere has an excess of about 3.2 billion tons of carbon that it can not flow to other areas. If you click here you have an idea of what sort of flows exist. Now the ocean as we all know plays a huge part in absorbing most of what we emit into the atmosphere, and in fact has been one of the mains reasons why the world has not warmed up faster. Most of us don't know how important it trully is and yet we make no effort to protect it or maintain it. It in fact holds a major role in our future. Marine life absorbs so much CO2 that if we invest money into protecting the marine mangrove forests and actually plan to expand them, more and more CO2 may be absorbed naturally in the carbon cycle giving us more time to breathe and come up with alternate solutions to calm down the environment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wind offshore in the east...why not the west?

Recent developments in offshore wind harvesting in eastern states reaching from North Carolina to Maine has inadvertently moved focus towards our west coast which has just as much if not more windpower offshore.
So why is there little interest in western states such as California in obtaining energy from its strong off shore winds? One answer is its topography offshore. Unlike eastern states which have a fairly continuous continental shelf on which turbines can be anchored, the west coast has a sudden shear drop to depths that do not allow turbines to be anchored with today's technology at an economic rate. Another reason is that California has large tracts of land that is recently being developed to obtain wind energy with less expense. With plenty of land to last them economically there is no need at the time to develop offshore wind systems. Power prices as well are cheaper than those in states such as New England and therefore there is little incentive to dump large amounts of money into new technologies as offshore wind when they are already stable. These technologies would have to deal with such things as the tremendous depths that the wind turbines would have to be anchored as well as earthquakes which the area is prone to. Other concerns in developing this technology include the high price for the research and engineering as well as maintenance.

From these reasons I believe it an understandable position of western states to resist the drive toward offshore wind power to some degree. I see it as beneficial however for small divisions of field research to develop basic groundwork. The potential for states such as California to establish this technology to produce electricity will come as a gain as it can produce enough for itself and for other grid systems in the long run. And as in the case of Texas which is proving to be a founder in the innovations of solar and nuclear plants California can also prove to be a key to such technologies as offshore wind technologies and gain world attention.

Citation: Galbraith, Kate. "Prospects Distant for Offshore Wind in West - Green Inc. Blog -" Energy and Green Business - Green Inc. Blog - 09 Oct. 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2009. .

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Solar Living, Without Compromising on Lifestyle

Twenty teams of university students from the United States, Canada, and Europe are going head to head in the Solar Decathlon, a federal Department of Energy competition. Their challenged is to construct and design a solar powered home. The 10 day competition will consist with a series of test that should prove their solar powered home to be livable. They will also be judged on the "architect design, engineering skill and comfort."

I like the fact that this competition exists because it gives students a chance to showcase their skills but also their great ideas. One will never know if any of these students will come up with an invention or idea that we will be using in the future. With success, these students can prove that there is a way to live a "green" life in your own home.

Climate: a bipartisan problem that needs a bipartisan solution

As we know, global warming is not just a mundane myth, is is increasingly becoming a global reality and unless we do something to curb our effect on the environment now, we're going to see something close to an environmental rapture in the years to come. It seems like after quite sometime, the senate democrats seem to have gotten the message. Although previously, key democrats were strictly opposed to the Nuclear option - fearing it was unstable, radio-toxic and would only create more environmental problems - have recently decided to support the nuclear option - if it means more republicans will sign onto the climate bill.

Notably, senator Kerry who has been known for his long-time support for climate legislation said "We're going to work in a bona fide way with everybody to see how to bridge a gap here. We've got to get a 60-vote margin. That means you've got to legislate, which means you have to compromise."

The current legislation being debated includes a "preliminary section on nuclear power that provides greater incentives for worker training and research, as well as funding for the NRC's program to study the feasability...of expanding comercial reactor use beyond their current 40-year licenses"

How has the NRC responded? They believe it's a "step in the right direction" however more comprehensive nuclear reform will be needed to revitalize the industry.

The democrat's decision to barter with the republicans and make concessions is both monumental and proactive, especially at a time where there is such a great schism in congress over the healthcare bill. The Kerry-Boxer proposal is not just "a step in the right direction" it makes the necessary compromises that are at the heart of popular legislation, and potentially the signal of a new-wave of bipartisanship to come.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Financial Crisis' impact on CO2 Emissions

Summary: In the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2009 Climate Change Excerpt released last week, the IEA found that the ongoing financial crisis has had a significant impact on worldwide CO2 emissions, predicting a fall in CO2 emissions of as much as 3% which would be the greatest drop in 40 years. IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka goes on to explain how “this gives us a chance to make real progress towards a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly.”

Comment: The impact the financial crisis has had on worldwide CO2 emissions has been huge. At first, a fall of 3% from the previous year may not seem like much, but when you consider the fact that the worldwide CO2 emissions for the last decade has increased on average by about 3% annually, a fall of 3% becomes a huge deal. In fact, the press release even states that the predicted CO2 emissions in 2020 is now 5% lower than it was calculated to be last year, and that’s without any changes in climate change policies.

The drop in CO2 emissions this year will not solve the climate change issue, but it will be a small break if, and only if, we capitalize on it and work towards the goals of the IEA’s 450 ppm Scenario (“to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse-gas emissions in the atmosphere at 450 ppm CO2-equivalent.” At these levels, the average global temperature would be within the 2 degrees Celsius margin for dangerous global warming). In the press release, Dr. Tanaka stresses the importance of a worldwide energy transformation, especially by the two major contributors of CO2 emissions, China and the United States.

The financial crisis has provided us with a little relief, but we, as a world, need to use it as a window of opportunity to get on track towards the 450 ppm Scenario. Hopefully, the world will take swift action and come to an agreement when the UN Framework Convenction on Climate Change meets at Copenhagen in December.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Power of Green

Tom Friedman, author of “The Power of Green,” describes his ideas of green patriotism with his motto: “Green is the new red, white and blue.” The term green is slowly transforming from “tree-hugging” and “girly” to being considered geoeconomic and environment-friendly. This ideology could be the binding tool to revive America’s patriotism. The United States has made steps toward uniting after the 9/11 tragedy but a common interest or goal could help quicken the process.

Americans are continuously bombarded with issues regarding global warming, the economy and terrorism, and the solution of creating a green nation can be the beginning of a consolidating political movement. Painting the states green could erase over the divisions and differences of the red and blue states and transform the image of the US into one single hue and could drive us forward.

Tom Friedman believes that the highway system that President Eisenhower installed after the Communist threat helped America’s car culture grow and aided to our dependence of oil. Because of this “red menace” we have to pay for our reliance on harmful fossil fuels and the economic and environmental prices that came along with the habit.

We are in desperate need of a leader who can address the “profound economic, geopolitical and climate threats posed by our addiction to oil” (Friedman). By making more efficient ways of producing energy we can regain our “international stature” by leading the way in fueling our nation in a much cleaner way with alternative energy. These changes are in hopes that many countries will follow the example.

The Internet Takes Energy Too

Summary: What many people don't realize when they are using some of their favorite websites is that they use a large amount of energy. 1.6% of the U.S. annual energy goes to operating these data storage centers. One of the biggest costs of this is the energy it takes to keep the technology cool. Microsoft recently tried to combat this problem by locating on of their data centers in Dublin where the weather could do this work for them. Another huge consumer is the computing chips themselves that consume huge amounts which are only expected to rise in the future.

Comments: This is something many of us really don't think about when we're logging on to our favorite websites. It also puts a new perspective on how we can save energy. As our technology and capabilities grow, so does our need for energy, and this is going to make it very difficult in the future to continue to provide the electricity while trying to cut down on our fossil fuels. So really the electricity that this technology takes goes hand in hand with the need for new sources of energy because in some regards our energy uses are only going to go up in the future.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Solar Energy Industry Facing Bind in German

Summary: This news generally reported about that German solar energy firms are facing a hard time now. They said they had bad enough situation since the solar energy industry is failing due to the collapse in the sale, and the new German government made it worse. The firms reported that German government is abandoning solar energy industry. They reported that solar energy firms did not get much investment because solar panel is only good investment for household. The new German's great promotion on nuclear energy, the discontinue of the fund that reinforce the solar energy panel sale, and the competition from Chinese manufactures are the main reasons why solar energy is failing in German. The original article is from Yahoo! News on October 2nd. Please click here to check original article.

Comments: The energy is highly related to national and international politics. This article reminded me about the failing of solar energy in United Sates in 90s that we talked about in class. the causes of the failing in U.S. are similar to German, like the shrinking of the demands, the new government policy that do not support solar energy, and the competition from other energy sources. I personally do feel that solar energy is a competitive source compare to others. It is safe, clean, renewable, sustainable, and rather cheap. I think he reasons that solar energy did not become the major source to generate electricity are that first solar is rather unstable, cause we can only get them during the day, and we have to store them to prepare the usage during the night. Second, I think that the cost of building the panels is the main reason keep the low demands in the market. Third, the transition difficulties that caused great electricity loss made some it is impossible to use solar energy in certain regions. Last, I think another reason is we have enough other types of sources for current uses. However, solar energy can be our future, and also the great opportunities for the third world countries. Even though U.S. has plenty natural sources, lots of countries like islands countries in Asia do not. So, The solar could be a great solution for the electricity shortage.

Fungas Fuels?

Fungal Fuel... could it be true? A recent MSNBC article suggests that researchers may have stumbled upon a newfound Fungus that can produce Biofuels better and more efficiently than any known method.

The report suggests that the fungus is "so good at turning plant matter into fuel that researchers say... [it] calls into question the whole theory of how crude oil was made by nature in the first place." The fungus' raw potential for converting plant matter into biofuels suggests that the fungus could be used to convert billions of acres of farmland into the raw material for biofuels. Not only is this highly effective, but it also helps us avoid some of the harmful side-effects of growing massive amounts of Corn and Switchgrass which both have adverse effects on soil and land trade-off.

The organism, named Gliocladium roseum, researchers find very interesting...

" "This is the only organism that has ever been shown to produce such an important combination of fuel substances," said researcher Gary Strobel from Montana State University. "The fungus can even make these diesel compounds from cellulose, which would make it a better source of biofuel than anything we use at the moment.""

The article goes on to suggest that this fungus might have been responsible for helping creating fossil fuels in the first place..

""The accepted theory is that crude oil, which is used to make diesel, is formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that have been exposed to heat and pressure for millions of years," Strobel said. "If fungi like this are producing myco-diesel all over the rainforest, they may have contributed to the formation of fossil fuels." "

Monday, October 5, 2009

From Turbines and Straw, Danish Self-Sufficiency

How much of the renewal energy we produce do we need to cover all our consumption of energy? Would it be possible to subsist only with renewal energies? That is what a small neighborhood in Samso, Denmark is trying to do. It is time to do our best and exploit the natural and renewable energy sources, without damaging the planet or consuming the planets limited resources.
There are many ways to get energy, not only those of which we all have heard about like wind, sun or water. What about becoming energy self-sufficient? This can be accomplished, maybe it is not the most comfortable and fast way to do it, but it works. It can sound like taking steps backwards in our development, but it is worth it if we can keep preserve nature. Nowadays it is much easier to pay for fuel and natural gas and get all the energy without doing anything else, but what will happen when these reserves are consumed? Maybe it is time to realize what is happening around us, and have a look at this Danish island and learn from them. Even if we don’t want energy sources are not unlimited, at list the ones we use most.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Big Oil Goes Green For Real

Summary: Oil companies in America are starting to go green and invest in alternative ways of energy. This is partially because of government regulations, China’s demand on alternative technologies, and because Russia and Venezuela are pushing them out. But the strongest reason for these companies to be investors is the profitable business that they think this alternative energy can be for them.

Comment: As we already know from the previous presentations in class, oil is not going to last very long and alternative sources of energy are needed. But are these alternatives going to be functional by the time the oil is almost gone? How is the transition going to be? When are we going to see a significant increase? I don’t see in the near future a reduction of oil demand and I think that the significant increase in these alternatives should be seen already.

Going Solar Yields Long-Term Economical, Educational Benefits

More public and private schools across the country are making the responsible decision to go green. Solar power for the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that in 2006, schools nationwide spent about 8.3 billion on energy, creating opportunities for schools to input solar or other renewable energy into their budget.
Incorporating solar takes a long time to invest in schools. They depend on financial programs in order to make solar energy systems work. Schools usually end up paying the power purchase agreements (PPA) instead of paying their local electricity utility because it turns out that paying the PPA is much cheaper. The PPA is becoming well known to schools and is helping their clients reduce their monthly energy bills. Another solar program would be Borrego Solar System, which has helped many public and private schools with education factors just by going solar. By reducing energy cost just by using solar power energy, it has become a large green initiative that will benefit the community.
It is now easier than before for schools to be involved with renewable energy. Yet, even though solar energy did help out schools, that does not mean that solar is the only renewable energy, there are more types of energy that would help out the community. But Solar Energy made an impact for many schools giving them a better community.

Water an issue for some renewable energies

Summary: Renewable energies can be very water demanding, especially solar thermal farms. This is a cause for much concern as renewable energies continue to grow in America. The high demand for water by renewable energies could cause conflicts over the scarce water resources. Our very own professor, Dr. Webber, comments on the issue in the article.

Comment: I found it ironic that the environmental impact of renewable energies is potentially harmful in some regards. Water is obviously a very important resource, and it will be interesting to see how we as a nation respond to the solar thermal farms high demand for such a precious resource. At the same time, many people are pushing for these sources of energy, and it will be interesting to watch our nation's energy policy in the future, and how we reconcile the many complex issues regarding our energy sources and their affects on the environment.

Daniel Gellerup

Brazil's New Energy from Offshore Oil and Hosting the Olympic Games

Brazil has a lot of energy from its recent win to host the 2016 Olympics and its 50 Billion barrel offshore oil find. Both of these events are good news for Brazil’s economy, industrial capability, and recognition on the world stage.

The economic benefits will come from giving Brazil’s own oil firm, Petrobas, exploration and production rights of the crude. The government’s share of the oil revenue will be placed in a fund to invest in future development projects. Brazil will also gain economic leverage in the regulating oil prices and production volumes through its firm.

Brazil’s industrial benefits will be from acquiring and using the new technology needed for offshore drilling. Brazil may also see increased industrial activity from better infrastructure and cheaper transportation costs in the future, which will be helpful in preparing for and hosting the games in 2016.

The economic and industrial gains will help Brazil improve its position on the world stage. Their ability to join in the regulation of oil production and prices will allow them to be more influential in world markets. Brazil being acknowledged for the games will help them become recognized as “first world” or global cultural players, and economic players.

But before Brazil can get these benefits, they must make substantial investments and take substantial risks. The economic costs for Brazil will be from much greater debt, the high initial cost of oil production and building facilities and infrastructure for hosting the games. Brazil cant make any money from its oil if commodity prices stay high enough to cover the high initial and on-going costs of production. Brazil is going to have to pay for the technology to drill offshore and maybe give into lucrative deals in order to get to the oil. This means the first barrels of oil will be very expensive to produce. Regarding the games, Brazil will gain recognition for the games if they can successfully overcome the severe crime and infrastructure problems in its leading city, Rio de Janeiro. While there is great prestige, the difficulty for cities and countries hosting the games is that no city has ever come out ahead economically. This means that in the short run Brazil will be in debt for both the games and from drilling.

Nevertheless, the benefits from oil drilling and hosting of the Olympic games could help Brazil in the long run. If Brazil is able to get past the first barrels of oil being very expensive, the costs will begin to plummet after the first very expensive barrels. The greater availability and lower relative cost of oil in Brazil should help improve their infrastructure and industry creating more jobs and cheaper transportation. Hopefully helping improve the slums in Rio and helping expand the growing middle class in Brazil.

Brazil’s new energy should be good for most of us. The new oil and hosting of the games will rightfully put Brazil on the map as a world economic power and petroleum power. And given their sports history, we can imagine how good a soccer or “futebol” team they will put on the field when they host the games!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Energy Bill would create 5,000 new jobs in state

In the day and age we live in, our society has become obsessed with CONSERVATION OF ENERGY and being eco friendly 24 hours per day 7 day a week. Now this is most evident through the importance that alternate forms of energy/green jobs had on our most recent presidential elections. Once in office president Obama gave a speech regarding “green jobs”, which in fact not only tied into issue of the economic chaos but gave a helping hand to the relationship between Mother Nature and the U.S. The article that I found talks about the bill pending to passes, in South Dakota, that would save the state around $226 per household by the year2020.
The article, “Energy bill would create 5,000 new jobs in state” written by Roger Larsen, has the same topics of green jobs, effects on the environment, and effects on the economy. Now an unfortunate twist to this “miracle plan” is that not everyone agrees on these changes, but they are rightfully justified. Some famers in South Dakota would not be able to work as efficiently with the new energy resources being used. I see both the pros and cons in this article, the article goes from both sides of how great this can truly be, but more importantly as seen in a short term point of view the effects out way the idea of an “eco friendly nation”. Clearly stated by Senator Tim Jonson, “Steps need to be taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, but it will take decades to correct the situation, Johnson said. In the meantime, however, there will be job creation and cleaner air”, and then there is the problem of how “if the bill fails to pass the Senate, it would stall the economy for the next few years.” I believe that to have such progress you must take in the good with the bad, although it may be a time lapse of 20 or 30 years, the nation will be that much closer on cleaning up mistakes made before. That is what the U.S. is; it is setting up a brighter future for future generations to come.

China vows climate change action

Summary: In an attempt to control climate change, China vows to control its carbon dioxide emissions. Joint with the USA, China is responsible for 20% of the worlds greenhouse pollution. 70% of China's energy comes from coal which during combustion releases great amounts of carbon dioxide. The question now is whether or not China actually goes through with this or not. The main problem resides in the fact that the Chinese government believes developed nations should do more than developing nations.

This story is potentially groundbreaking. As one of the world's leading greenhouse polluters is talking about reducing their global emission. China is currently responsible for emitting 20% of the world's total carbon dioxide, this can only be matched by the USA. This therefore makes China into a very important and strategic nation in terms of overall pollution cutbacks. Reducing the amount emitted by a country such as China would have drastic consequences on the world's environment.
The main problem China has is that it is a developing nation, and as such has a necessity to consume all the energy it can create to further progress its economy. 70% of all the energy they produce comes from coal, which of course during its combustion generates great amounts of carbon dioxide. If they are true to their word then essentially the efficiency of the country will increase. The general goal is to reduce the carbon intensity of the nation, which is associated to the GDP of the nation. This is however very deceptive because one of the main problems is the speed at which the Chinese economy is growing. What would actually happen is that the overall emissions today would be exactly the same as those in 2030. In actual fact, no official figures have been published by the Chinese government so it is still uncertain as to what actually is going to happen.
One of the major factors in Chinese policy resides in the fact they believe they have a right to emit more carbon dioxide than developing countries. This of course is something which I am certainly in favor of. I feel it is unfair to force countries that haven't really contributed to what is now considered to be a global problem. Developed nations have been emitting all sorts of contaminants and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for years and years, without the slightest concern. This in turn has enabled us to progress, making us richer and more powerful. Whether or not this has contributed to global warming is a completely different debate which will continue to create conflict between experts. However what isn't debatable is the potential each country has to contributing to lowering emissions. It is unfair to ask a nation which finds itself in the position the US was back in the day, to cutback its progression. The Chinese have only been technologically competitive for a few years, and their accumulative pollution is not anywhere near the rest of developed nations. They are essentially still very economically immature and have a greater need to maintain their current status in order to make the next step into a developed country.
One of the major factors in global warming resides in the American energy policy. The fact the Kyoto protocol was dismissed completely proves just how much the Americans care about the overall well being of the world. The fact of the matter is that they only care about themselves and this in turn automatically gives China the right to not care about anything else but themselves and actually increase carbon dioxide emissions. However, thankfully some politicians are smart enough to understand that we all live on the same planet and therefore we all need to make an effort to cutback on any potentially harming policies. The Europeans have and are investing a great amount of their money into new technologies which have had serious effects on their carbon dioxide emissions.
The Chinese government is prepared to cutback on their emissions which in turn slows down their growth rate, but this should be seen as a good thing, as an example to the rest, that if we all pitch in, in the long run the earth will be in a better state. The Chinese have asked for help, they have asked for the developing nations to also make a move and actually make a greater effort in cutting back. This is simply because they have more power and a greater tolerance. The Chinese have also asked for the more powerful nations to investigate in cleaner technologies, which later on can be adopted by less developed nations. The general message is that everyone needs to contribute. With the Copenhagen summit later this year, where a general analysis of the state of the world will be evaluated, one can only hope that this time a step forward by the greater nations will be made.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

NRG agreement with Houston

Being from Houston, I was surprised when I came upon an article about the City of Houston making a 25-year agreement with NRG Energy to buy power from a solar power plant that will be built in July of 2010, which will then be the largest solar power plant in Texas. Its 10-megawatt capacity is estimated to provide the city with 1.5 percent of its energy needs. The cost per megawatt hour, estimated at $4 million per megawatt, is not much higher of those of its surrounding plants.

Issa Dadoush, the director of Houston's General Services Department hopes that this will give the city renewable energy credit, stating that "Houston always talks about being the energy capital of the world, but we'd like to see it transformed into the energy conservation and renewable capital".

This quote caught me by surprise because I doubt Houston can change their nickname to something pertaining to renewable when it headquarters a company like Halliburton, which opened a second headquarters in Duabi, a place not known for renewable energy, in 2007.

I found it interesting that the city is investing in a source of energy that will further diversify Houston's sources of fuel, which has been a concern after the natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which affected supply of oil and natural gas and caused a rise in the price of electricity.

I believe that if this investment is deemed a success that this could only push Houston in the direction to use more sources of renewable energy, aside from wind. Even if the plant's capacity is a mere 10-megawatts when being compared to plans on building a 14-megawatt plant in San Antonio and a 30-megawatt plant in Austin, this could be a small step towards a better future for the city.

The article, in its entirety, can be found here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Algae in politics

While reading through a few articles I came across one based on algae and its development and possible future as a biofuel. The research and development done for this project was through Sapphire Energy which has since its beginning in 2007 has over "200" patents of its "designer algae" mechanisms. The focus of the article was toward the "green" nature of algae ands its efficiency as a fuel in areas of cost and productivity. The part that really caught my attention however was the political and business portion of this green venture.

In one particular section Mayfield, one of Sapphire's founders, commented that " there are no senators for algae-growing states to go back to Congress and say, 'Stop giving money to corn and give it to algae'." This is a rather inverse affect of one of algae's positives that it can be grown virtually anywhere- that because it has no "official home" it receives little political support at the time. (Though at this time Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwomen, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, support algae and its development.)

Under the current writing of the House Bill toward carbon offset ventures and biofuel equivalences, algae does not yet qualify as being either. But with continual drive from such political backing and business networks the language of the bill will be rewritten in order for algae research to gain grants and other government support.

In order to strengthen its foundation Sapphire Energy has been building bridges in the world of business. Not wanting to project themselves as a competitor fuel source it has lent itself toward facilitating needs of other energy providers- such as coal burning plants. In one section it was noted that algae absorbs and fixes CO2 as part of its chemical metabolism and algae stations have thus become a factor in some power plants in reducing their carbon emissions to meet EPA standards.

For the full article click this link, it is a rather long article but I found it very interesting and gave me a better perspective on the energy issues and how politics and business interplay with new energy developments such as algae.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

visit to a brazilian sugar cane mill

I'm currently in Sao Paulo, Brazil attending the 1st Brazil-US Biofuels Short Course organized by Fulbright Brazil. This post was originally posted at

Today we visited the Iracema Sugar Cane Mill, which is a few hours northwest of Sao Paulo. The mill takes sugar cane stalks from nearby plantations and refines it into sugar and ethanol. All of the sugar mills in Brazil make sugar and choose whether or not to make ethanol based on market prices. I have never been to a sugar mill or ethanol refinery today.

While sugar and ethanol are the main products from the mill, leftover biomass, or bagasse, is burned to create process steam and electricity that powers the plant. All ethanol plants are required to be self-sustaining or else they're products are hit with a penalty. The flue gas from combusting the bagasse is scrubbed with water vapor to remove (most) particulate matter.
bagasse and stack

The exhaust is mostly water vapor.

They produce a lot of bagasse.
mountain of bagasse

The scrubber system.

While most of the sugar cane is harvested mechanically a fair amount is still burned and delivered to the mill. Today's cane was milled. Notice the burn marks and full stalks. Mechanically harvested cane is shorter because it is chopped up into smaller pieces by the harvester in the field.

The cane stalks are milled by giant machines.

Juices from the cane goes off for processing while the bagasse is separated out.

The sugary juices are hit with steam and then left to turn into molasses. The solid sugar crystals are then removed from the molasses by a centrifuge. The remaining sugary liquid is sent off to be fermented and distilled into ethanol.

The sugar crystals are stored in a giant mountain of sugar bags.
mountain of sugar

We didn't get to walk through the refinery, but we did get to travel out into the fields and see the harvesting.

What a sight it must have been to see a bus full of Americans get out and take pictures of cane harvesting then get back in and leave.

The sugar cane is several meters tall!
tall cane

We watched them dump cut cane into trucks.

We made sure not to get run over by the big machines.
crazy machine

The trip to the sugar cane mill was very educational. Before going I had a hard time visualizing the scale of biofuels production, but I have a better understanding about it now. Even though I'm not a huge fan of ethanol, you have to hand it to the Brazilians for having a large-scale system that is very efficient.

learning about brazilian sugar cane

I'm currently in Sao Paulo, Brazil attending the 1st Brazil-US Biofuels Short Course organized by Fulbright Brazil. This post was originally posted at

I've learned a great deal about the Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry in the past few days and I have some thoughts... Brazil is intent on expanding their ethanol production, essentially doubling production by 2020 - producing 1000 million metric tons of cane. This amount will translate to approximately 54 billion liters of ethanol per year (based on 26.6 Blpy produced currently).

I wonder where all of this extra ethanol is going to go? Some of the presenters in attendance suggested that up to 60% of ethanol might go to external markets. This estimate is subject to change because no one really knows what will happen 10 years from now, but it opens up interesting scenarios. How will Brazilian ethanol fit into the US fuel mix? How will carbon regulation affect the import of Brazilian ethanol into the US? What about other world markets (Europe, Asia)?

What's certain is that Brazil is going full steam ahead with increasing sugarcane production. This most likely means detrimental impacts on the land. The Amazon won't be directly affected, but any planting on the cerrado (savanna in the central region of Brazil) will have negative impacts on the land because of water usage or displacing grazing land or other crops.

With that said, I have developed an understanding of Brazil's fascination with sugarcane biofuels. As in the US, Brazil is using a domestic resource that they have experience with. In the US we have a lot of knowledge with growing corn and grain crops, and the same holds for Brazil and sugarcane. They're trying to make the most out or a domestic resource and we need to understand and learn from their mistakes and successes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tonight I attended the Eco-Change event at Austin City Hall. A lot of environmental groups and activists came out to get word out about their activities and also let the Council know what's important to them. Several city council members were there including Bill Spelman, Chris Riley, Laura Morrison, Randi Shade and I think I saw Sheryl Cole pop her head in. Mayor Lee Leffingwell gave a quick speech before heading off to another event.

After a brief meet-and-greet we went in to the chamber to decide what environmental and sustainable issues we'd most like to see the City of Austin act on.

There were many ideas, but here are the main themes:

  • Improved transportation: shifting away from a reliance on automobiles to mass transit, bicycling and walking. Shifting away from building new roads as the go-to option was one idea. Also changing the development process so other transportation options can be discussed.

  • Clean water: Austin is blessed with the Edwards Aquifer and many natural springs and swimming holes. Austinites don't want to see these polluted by development or industry. The Save Our Springs Alliance has been a major force in fighting for Austin's water gems for a long time. The 20 year anniversary of the major SOS fight is next year.

  • Managing growth, expansion and land use: Austin is growing rapidly and we are doing so at a cost to our environment. Gentrification is also a major concern to longtime residents of East Austin.

  • Keeping it local: encouraging locally grown, organic food. Incentives for restaurants to use locally grown food was also suggested.

  • Waste management: composting, recycling and diverting material from our landfills.

These are all great ideas and I'm glad to see the City Council interested in hearing the public's thoughts on where we think Austin should be headed in the future.

One problem I noticed time after time tonight was the perception people have of the solutions to a lot of our problems. I heard so many times that Austin needs 100 percent renewable energy, we shouldn't build more roads, or that 25% of the city's budget should be devoted to sustainability. The goals are noble, but the means aren't necessarily rooted in reality.

Education was brought up tonight as a crucial element for educating the public about sustainability, and I agree. But the public should also be educated about the realities of our options for a sustainable city. People want clean power, but don't want coal or nuclear plants - unless you want to pay significantly more for natural gas, coal and nuclear keep the lights on. People want solar and wind renewables all the time, but they're variable. There are certain realities that are often overlooked by the public that make or break policies.

From tonight's turnout it's clear that Austinites are very much concerned with making our city more sustainable. The details need a lot of work, but the conversation has been started. And that's a very good place to be at.