Jul 21, 2014

Solar Power in India: Making it Affordable for People without Electricity via @Sustainablog

Sustainablog ; Have you priced a solar energy system for your home lately? While new incentives and financing options make solar power more attractive than ever, purchasing a system isn't cheap: you're still looking at $20,000 minimum in most cases (before incentives, of course). Now, imagine you've never been able to afford electricity for your home, and trying to make ends meet on less than $10 a day. A solar system, even a small one that could run a light, and maybe charge a phone, could easily create a ton of opportunity for you and your family… but there's no way you can afford to purchase one.

400 million people – more than the entire population of the United States – live in such circumstances in India. In spite of these overwhelming numbers, the country's current prime minister, Narenda Modi, wants all of them to have access to solar power in the next five years… at least enough to power a light bulb. Given the economic circumstances of these people, that sounds like a tall order… as long as these people believe purchasing a solar panel or system is their only option. But just as in Central America and Africa, a different business model can make solar available to India's most impoverished citizens.

We associate "pay as you go" with cheap cell phone access, but, as we've shown before, this model is working for electricity in the developing world. In India, the poor have access to energy either with wood or with diesel. Both are dirty, unhealthy, and expensive in terms of either time or money. Simpa Networks, an Indian company, sees an opportunity to provide its fellow citizens with clean electricity through a pay-as-you-go model. A simple solar system that could power a few lights and a phone charger would run about $300-400 retail, but the company can provide them to its fellow citizens "if only they could pay for such a system over time, in small, irregular, and user-defined increments."

Please read full and follow at:  The post Solar Power in India: Making it Affordable for People without Electricity at Sustainablog

Jul 19, 2014

Is This Tesla Tower A Scam Or Just Bad Science? Via @adele_peters #energy #tech #news

Via @adele_peters, fastcoexist.com: A team of Russian physicists wants to resurrect one of Nikola Tesla's old ideas: A huge tower that would, in theory, transmit electricity all around the world. An enormous solar farm in the desert could supply the power. The only problem? There's no way it could work.

The Moscow-based team is raising money now on Indiegogo, and as of this writing, had collected over $40,000. So far, it's well short of their $800,000 goal, but they'll get to keep all of it--and it's enough to illustrate a fundamental problem with crowdfunding. Just because someone says something is possible doesn't mean it actually is, and no one's fact-checking the science for the people donating money.

"It's a 100-year-old idea," says Tom Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who calls Tesla a hero and has studied Tesla's patents and notebooks. "It's certainly a nice sounding dream. But as with everything else, the fantasy kind of falls apart the closer you look at the details."

One of the biggest problems is the fact that the device can't direct power only where needed. "There are so many ways this thing fails," says Lee. "If you're going to deliver a useful amount of power to an arbitrary point somewhere distant, that means you're going to have to be spraying an enormous amount of power to lots of other points that aren't necessarily using the power."

"Imagine a fire hose spraying all over a gigantic sphere," he explains. "All you wanted was to water the lawn over there, but you're spraying water everywhere else. In principle, yes, you could in fact supply energy this way, but it would be a horribly, horribly inefficient way to do it."

EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk.

At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

California City Will Fine Couple $500 For Not Watering Brown Lawn, State Will Fine’em $500 If They Do – Consumerist

consumerist.com/ When you're in a steady relationship, communication is clear. Because when mom says to do one thing, and dad says another, the kids get really confused. Such is the case in California, where the state has issued rules for homeowners to conserve water in the midst of extreme drought, with fines of $500 per day or violating those guidelines, but one city is threatening to fine a couple $500 — unless they water their lawn.

In the epitome of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, Laura and Mark received notice from Glendora, Calif. that they'd get a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn… on the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the same fine for violating that attached, $500.

Why is the lawn brown? Because they're conserving water. Why are they conserving water? Because California asked them to — the state water board chairman even called brown lawns in Cali a "badge of honor."

But Mom and dad aren't communicating effectively, it seems.

"Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green," says the letter, according to the Associated Press, setting a 60-day deadline to get the brown green again.

They're not alone in the confusion, Laura adds.

"My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering," she explains. "I felt like I was in an alternate universe."

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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Toyota is on track to launch the first consumer fuel-cell car in Japan next year, and the country's Prime Minister says the government wants to assist the new alternative to gas-driven vehicles. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will offer subsidies of almost $20,000 for fuel cell cars, which will decrease the Toyota model's cost by about 28%. He said, "This is the car of a new era because it doesn't emit any carbon dioxide and it's environmentally friendly. The government needs to support this. Honda is also planning to release a fuel-cell car next year, but experts expect widespread adoption to take decades, since hydrogen fuel station infrastructure is still in its infancy.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Largest Landfill On Earth: Plastic Garbage In The Oceans — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.

(OilPrice, July 15, 2014):

Think about the last time you got takeout or ate at a fast food restaurant. Or the last time you bought a pre-packaged food item from a store, or drank a bottle of water or soda. Chances are, plastic was involved in all those items — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.

Americans throw away over 30 million tons of plastic every year, of which only about 25 percent is recycled. The rest goes to landfills. Unfortunately, the largest "landfill" on Earth is actually in the North Pacific Ocean.

The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is estimated to be anywhere from 3,100 square miles to twice the size of Texas.

You may be wondering how garbage dumped on land can make it to the ocean. Well, first of all, some garbage is directly dumped into the ocean. Secondly, as Scripps Institution marine biologist Miriam Goldstein puts it, "the ocean is downhill from everywhere;" if someone in Iowa throws a bottle into a river, it will eventually end up in the ocean. Finally, about 20 percent of the debris in the garbage patch comes from sea-going vessels and oil platforms.

Caption: The Five Main Ocean Gyres
Credit: Wikipedia

The garbage patch forms in the North Pacific gyre, one of five main ocean gyres worldwide: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. These gyres are created when the jet stream goes one way and the trade winds go the opposite way – creating a huge, gently swirling circle. On the outside of the circle, the currents move around, but the inside remains calm, making it the perfect place for debris to accumulate.

In the case of the North Pacific gyre, pretty much everything that falls off the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia will most likely end up in there. While the North Pacific garbage patch is the largest, each of the five gyres has its own accumulation. In fact, the trash from all five gyres put together covers 40 percent of the world's oceans.

So what exactly are these oceanic garbage patches? Well, first let's be clear as to what they're not. Contrary to popular myth they are NOT huge floating trash islands. The patches are made up of millions of small and microscopic pieces of plastic. The patches won't show up on satellite and if you were to take a boat through them, you might not even necessarily notice the plastic floating in them. So does that mean we don't need to be concerned?  Nope. The fact that the debris is so small means that cleanup is nearly impossible. As Goldstein explains, you'd basically have to clear-cut the upper layer of the ocean to remove it all.

Caption: Don't be fooled. This photo often accompanies stories about the garbage patches, but it was actually taken at Manila Harbor. The real pieces of oceanic plastic garbage are typically smaller than your pinky fingernail. 
Credit: i09.com

So the pieces are too small to easily clean up – that might make it seem as though they're too small to do much damage, but that's far from correct. Some of the plastic remains in large chunks and many animals and birds become entangled in them and die every year.

The plastic pellets are small enough that birds and fish mistake them for food. This is especially disastrous for birds – the plastic stays in their stomachs, keeping them from eating anything with nutritional value and causing them to slowly starve to death. For fish, whose digestive systems are much different, the effect of eating the plastic may not be so catastrophic, but scientists are still trying to understand the extent to which ingesting these plastic pellets is effecting marine life, but for some, like the albatross below, the deadly effects are clear.

Caption: Dead albatross with a stomach full of plastic debris
Credit: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Some creatures have actually been granted a boon by this massive plastic soup, but don't feel too cheerful about that. The plastic has created a surface for small creatures like water insects, barnacles, small crustaceans and invertebrates called bryozoans. These creatures would normally not make it to the middle of the ocean, so their presence will change the ocean's ecosystem. Especially in the case of barnacles and bryozoans – they have caused considerable damage to other ecosystems they've invaded.

And it's not just about ecosystems in the middle of the ocean – the surface the plastic provides could enable these creatures to travel to places they've never been before, for example, their introduction to the Pacific Northwest islands' coral reefs could be a real problem.

So what can be done? The most important thing is for people to be aware. As biologist Goldstein puts it, "It really is an issue that effects everybody, but that's great because that means that everybody can help."

Using fewer plastic products would help, as would more recycling of what we already use. There are also scientists who are working to make plastic products from renewable products. According the Science channel, starches, cellulose, soy protein, vegetable oil, triglycerides and bacterial polyesters all contain polymers that can be processed to produce biodegradable plastics.

Even so, reducing the amount of new plastic dumped into the ocean won't get rid of what's already there. For that monumental task, The Ocean Cleanup – a group of oceanographers, marine biologists, recycling experts and engineers — is raising money through crowd funding to launch a massive cleanup effort.

Please read more from source: 
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Forging a path for #Biogas #Energy in Alberta, decade-long adventure into the somewhat unchartered waters of Canadian renewable energy.

hazmatmag.com/ There was a time not long ago when Stefan Michalski knew regulators were happy to see him leave their office. As much as they supported the concept of biogas and green energy, it was more of a technology left to the Germanys of the world, from where Michalski hails, not the wilds of Alberta.

Lethbridge Biogas LP

But now, more Stefan Michalskis are coming out of the woodwork, looking for answers from Canadian regulators, particularly in Alberta, where the feedstock-laden landscape is an anaerobic digester's dream.

Still, the question remains whether provincial officials will eventually craft legislation that deals directly with the burgeoning technology of biogas, or continue what Michalski calls a "one-off" approach—a kind of regulatory patchwork that pulls heavily from the traditional oil and gas sector, one that in some ways operates completely antithetical to the greener principles of a company like Lethbridge Biogas LP, Michalski's decade-long adventure into the somewhat unchartered waters of Canadian renewable energy.

Lake Huron is no place for a nuclear waste dump

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Is dilution really the solution to pollution — especially when it's nuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is.

The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic metres of contaminated water could leak from the site, although it's "highly improbable." But even if it did leak, they argued, the amount is small compared to Lake Huron's water volume and the quantity of rain that falls into it.

If the materials were instead buried in Canadian Shield granite, any leaking waste would be diluted by active streams and marshes, the experts claimed: "Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing...so the dilution capacity is significant."

Others aren't convinced. The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has more than 62,000 signatures on a petition opposing the dump. Many communities around the Great Lakes, home to 40-million people, have passed resolutions against the project, including Canadian cities Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more, and local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio. The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.

Michigan's Senate recently adopted resolutions to urge President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Congress to intervene, and for the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission and all Great Lakes States and Ontario and Quebec to get involved.

According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 per cent of the world's fresh water "defies common sense." The group's website notes, "There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee." The Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old!

On top of that, retired Ontario Power Generation research scientist and chemist Frank R. Greening wrote to the review panel stating that OPG has "seriously underestimated, sometimes by factors of more than 100" the radioactivity of material to be buried.

Greening says the company acknowledged his criticism but downplayed its seriousness, which he believes raises doubts about the credibility of OPG's research justifying the project. "Their response has been, 'Oops we made a mistake but it isn't a problem' and that really bothers me as a scientist," he toldKincardine News. "It is rationalizing after the fact."

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New study shows how existing cropland could feed billions more

phys.org/ Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.

The report, published today in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries—China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan—along with Europe.

"This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people," said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment's Global Landscapes Initiative. "By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good."

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"World’s largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica

WindStream Technologies says it has installed the world's largest wind-solar hybrid genera...
Generating renewable electricity at home or commercial buildings is becoming increasingly viable. WindStream Technologies has installed what it says is the world's largest wind-solar hybrid array on an office roof in Kingston, Jamaica. The array is expected to generate over 106,000 kWh annually... Continue Reading "World's largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency

Five years ago we first heard about a Caterpillar diesel engine located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that had been modified to run on an unlikely-sounding mixture of diesel and gasoline. Not only did the one-cylinder engine work, but it was more efficient than pure-diesel or pure-gas engines at converting the chemical energy of fuel into motion. Sitting in a basement lab, however, isn't the same as experiencing use in the real world. That's why students at UW-Madison, led by Prof. Rolf Reitz, have now put another diesel/gas engine into a 2009 Saturn. .. Continue Reading Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Jul 18, 2014

Google Street View Maps Show Extent of Methane Leaks in Cities

Yale Environment 360New maps from Google reveal the locations of natural gas leaks in U.S. cities and highlight the extent of "fugitive" methane emissions associated with the nation's aging infrastructure. The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Google Street View to map leaks in the nation's natural gas system, using cars equipped with air-quality sensors that collected millions of readings across Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island. The analysis found thousands of methane leaks in highly-populated areas — particularly in Boston, where half of the pipes are more than 50 years old and leaks were detected every few blocks. Although the leaks did not appear to pose explosion hazards, their prevalence highlights the potential for fugitive methane — a greenhouse gas with an impact 20 times that of carbon dioxide — to contribute to global warming. Please read full and follow at: Yale Environment 360

One-Third Of Borneo's Rainforest Has Been Cut Down

Popular Science - In the image on the right, areas in red have been logged between 1973 and 2010.
In the last 40 years, nearly one-third of the rainforest on Borneo have been cut down. That's nearly twice as fast as the average deforestation rate for tropical rain forests worldwide. That raises the question: What's going on?

In part, it's because of the high-quality forests on Borneo, the world's third-largest island, an incredibly biologically diverse landmass that is divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, and is one of only two remaining habitats for orangutans. Between 1980 and 2000 more wood was harvested from Borneo than from Africa and the Amazon combined, for example.

This logging can take place because many areas of the island are not protected, or their protections are not well enforced. Protections are "often inadequate or are flagrantly violated, usually without any consequences," the environmental group WWF noted. Illegal logging has also become a way of life and source of income for many communities, they added. 

Many areas of Borneo are also perfect for growing palm oil plantations, and as demand for this oil has increased--especially in the last decade--more land has been cleared for this purpose. About 10 percent of the entire island now consists of single-crop monocultures such as these plantations, according to the study that documented the deforestation, published in PLOS ONE.

The study documented forest loss by using satellite images, which can gauge by how much light is reflected what type of vegetation exists over an area. The study was done in part because deforestation isn't well-documented by local governments, and some statistics kept by the Indonesia, for example, are highly suspect, underestimating forest loss, the authors wrote. Borneo also has large coal deposits, as well as abundant minerals--including tin, copper, gold, silver, coal, diamonds--which are increasingly being mined, and land developed to allow for this activity.

In semi-related and less depressing news, a new species of ground squirrel was recently discovered in Borneo, which breaks a record for tail size and may eat deer's hearts. Please read full and follow at: Popular Science

Jul 17, 2014

Washington Emergency Rule Regarding Rooftop #Solar Photovoltaic Installations

On June 13, 2014 the Washington State Building Code Council approved an emergency rule-making order to allow installation of standard solar photovoltaic systems on residential rooftops without the need for an engineering report. The effective date of the emergency rule was July 1, 2014.

These documents are also available on the WSU Energy Program website at http://www.energy.wsu.edu/BuildingEfficiency/EnergyCode.aspx#Solar 

Drought update of the worst drought we probably have seen in our lifetime

Michael SnyderThe California State Water Resources Control Board says that nearly 50 communities are already on the verge of running out of water. 

Climate scientist Tim Barnett says that the water situation in Las Vegas "is as bad as you can imagine", and he believes that unless the city "can find a way to get more water from somewhere" it will soon be "out of business" .. Rob Mrowka of the Center for Biological Diversity believes that the city of Las Vegas is going to be forced to downsize because of the lack of water...

According to Accuweather, "more than a decade of drought" along the Colorado River has set up an "impending Southwest water shortage" which could ultimately affect tens of millions of people.

Farmers in California are allowing nearly half a million acres to lie fallow this year due to the extreme lack of water.

Things are so dry in California right now that people are actually starting to steal water. For example, one Mendocino County couple recently had 3,000 gallons of water stolen from them. It was the second time this year that they had been hit.

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Boldt says that this is "the worst drought we probably have seen in our lifetime".

Please continue reading from: Via Michael Snyder

The CDC Goes Before Congress And Five More News Updates Since Last Week's Smallpox Find

POPSCI: Last week, we learned that U.S. government scientists found six vials of smallpox virus that they didn't know they had. Because the virus is so deadly, only two labs in the world are supposed to hold samples of it. Other labs are not prepared to secure the vials as well as they should.

Although nobody got sick from the smallpox discovery, it was an unsettling mistake for what were supposed to be some of the most secure labs in the world. Since then, there's been a lot of activity—and a few new revelations—at the U.S. agencies that deal with deadly pathogens. Here's the rundown:

  1. Scientists determined some of the 60-year-old forgotten smallpox vials contained virus that was still "alive" enough to reproduce. This means that if other facilities around the world also have forgotten smallpox samples—a likely scenario—those may also be alive enough to cause illness.

  2. Top leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that CDC workers had accidentally shipped virulent H5N1 to another federal lab. Prior to the smallpox incident, lapses in lab procedures meant dozens of CDC workers could have been exposed to anthrax.

    No one has fallen ill from any of these mistakes, but they are serious and troubling.

  3. The CDC temporarily closed its flu and anthrax labs. It also temporarily stopped shipping certain pathogens.

  4. The National Institutes of Health plans to reconvene the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which hasn't met in almost two years.

  5. A House of Representatives committee questioned CDC Director Tom Frieden about the agency's recent security lapses. Frieden said that the CDC needs to improve its "culture of safety."

  6. The CDC revealed that federal scientists had discovered 327 vials of decades-old, forgotten samples labeled as pathogens such as dengue, influenza, Q fever and rickettsia. The samples were discovered in the same area as the forgotten smallpox vials. All the vials were well sealed and free of leakage.

    Please read full and follow at: // Popular Science - New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

Jul 16, 2014

One Company Is Exporting Water Straight Out of Drought-Stricken California

The news: California's devastating three-year drought continues, making the state likely to approach its driest period in 400 years. Californians are urged not to waste water and the state may be forced to fine residents who waste water outdoors. 

But one company is still taking a nice, cold gulp of the state's dwindling water reserves: Nestlé is bottling water in the midst of California's drought.

The Desert Sun reports that amidst the worst drought in memory, a Nestlé bottling plant located on the reservation of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians is exempt from local water agencies and doesn't have to reveal how much water it is pulling out of the ground. It produces large quantities of Arrowhead spring water as well as purified water sold as Nestlé Pure Life. The company has refused tours of the plant. Read More via // Mic

Super Controversial Blacklight Power is Promising World Changing Energy New Physics Magic ... This time for real ? ... instead of what looks like decades of fraud

Blacklight Power has been saying that their technology is capable of amazing power densities -- e.g. a 10 MW system would occupy one cubic foot. However, that was with a 60-toothed gear spinning at 200 rpm, making the water chamber size a few micro liters, lasting a millisecond, during which two electrodes create a supersonic-expanding plasma that goes into a magnetohydrodyamic converter, then directly into electricity, cleanly, safely. That is the paradigm they were operating under last January when they gave their first public demonstration. And it turns out that there are some significant challenges with that approach.

Since then, they realized that the greatest energy output of the process comes in the form of intense light. And with modern photovoltaic technology, they will be able to convert that light directly to electricity with an even grater power density. Some modern PV systems are able to absorb 1000x focused sunlight. The technology is developed and ready to go, after four decades and trillions of dollars. 

Dr. Randall Mills has done an interview, claiming that his company is garnering sales of $40 billion. He is claiming that he will lease the equipment to providers. There will be another demonstration on July 21.

Randell said that the engineering firms they are consulting with say that there are no engineering obstacles to marry the Blacklight system with photovoltaics, but that all systems are Go. All the different engineering problems are covered, including light angle, emission from electrodes, heat dissipation and transfer, and material handling. "This thing is meant to be", is their assessment. They are extraordinarily optimistic this will roll out quickly.

They promise power for 0.1 cents per kwh.

Read more »// Next Big Future

Thermoelectric material Tetrahedrite costs 6 to 36 times less but can achieve up to 10% heat to electricity conversion instead of 2.5%

According to data released by Alphabet Energy, the thermoelectric material tetrahedrite costs about $4 per kilogram, whereas other thermoelectric materials cost between $24 and $146 per kilogram. For now, the company is focusing on stand-alone generators, but founder and CEO Matt Scullin says it's currently working with car companies to see if tetrahedrite can be used to harness heat from car exhaust.

Scullin says that other thermoelectric materials have typically achieved about 2.5 percent efficiency in cars, but tetrahedrite could reach 5 to 10 percent efficiency. "These aren't incremental improvements," he says. "They're really huge improvements that make really significant impact." 

Ali Shakouri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, says that tetrahedrite has promise because it doesn't require the expensive up-front manufacturing that other materials require. "I think that's kind of quite unique in thermoelectrics," Shakouri says. "People look at so many materials, but the starting point has always been pure materials that they synthesize together."

California-based Alphabet Energy plans to begin selling a new type of material that can turn heat into electricity. 

Read more »// Next Big Future

#WaterWars - #California approaches mandatory #water restrictions

Think Progress -  The State Water Resources Control Board in California is expected to institute statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time. All of California is in some type of drought and reservoirs are precariously low in many places. The nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada, recently reached an all-time low. So now the impact of the enduring drought has extended beyond warning.

The restrictions would ban wasteful outdoor watering, such as sprinkler water that runs onto the sidewalk or street. Hosing down sidewalks and driveways would also be banned and washing a car would require a shut-off nozzle on the hose. Maximum penalties could reach up to $500, enforceable by any public employee empowered to enforce laws, including local water agencies. Warnings and escalating fines would likely be the more moderated approach. If the restrictions prove ineffective or the drought worsens, tougher restrictions could be considered.

The board estimates that the proposed restrictions could save enough water to supply more than 3.5 million people for a year, about nine percent of the state's population. 
Please continue reading from: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/15/3460161/california-mandatory-water-restrictions/

Jul 15, 2014

Harvesting Energy From Humidity

Slashdot: Last year, MIT researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices. This approach could lead to devices that can charge cellphones or other electronics using just the humidity in the air. As a side benefit, the system could also produce clean water. The device itself could be simple, consisting of a series of interleaved flat metal plates. A cube measuring about 50 centimeters on a side — about the size of a typical camping cooler — could be sufficient to fully charge a cellphone in about 12 hours. While that may seem slow, people in remote areas may have few alternatives.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Pure Gold F35 Fighter Plane would be cheaper. $670.8 million plane is $1300 per ounce

The F-35 program office found that as of January 2014, costs for the F-35 fleet over a 53-year life cycle was $857 billion. Costs for the fighter have been dropping and accounted for the 22 percent life cycle drop since 2010.

The empty weight of an F-35 jet is 32000 pounds. At $1300 per ounce this $670.8 million.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. The F-35 has three main models; the F-35A is a conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take-off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant

It is not a gold plated military program... it is pure solid gold.

Read more »// Next Big Future

REPORT: More Than $20 Billion Annually In Government Subsidies For Oil

Today, Oil Change International released a comprehensive report on fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies in the U.S. – Cashing in on All of the Above: U.S. Fossil Fuel Production Subsidies under Obama – which demonstrates that at a time when we need urgent action on climate change more than ever, the U.S. government is channeling huge and growing amounts of money to increasing discovery and production of oil, gas, and coal. These federal and state subsidies totaled $21.6 billion in 2013. Subsidies that promote fossil fuel exploration are particularly harmful and hypocritical. The world's preeminent scientific institutions working on climate and energy have determined that the majority of the world's existing fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. In 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2°C goal." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached a similar conclusion in its 2013 climate assessment. 
Please continue reading from: More Than $20 Billion Annually In Government Subsidies For Oil

US oil consumption outdoes China

U.S. oil demand reversed course in dramatic fashion in 2013, as the nation's growth in crude consumption outpaced perennial leader China for the first time since 1999, according to oil company BP's annual compendium of world energy statistics.
inside Climate - The U.S. increase follows two years of declines, and dampens hopes that the world's largest oil guzzler was permanently reining in its appetite for crude. The nation's oil use rose by 400,000 barrels per day to a daily draw of 18.9 million barrels; China's oil consumption grew by 390,000 barrels a day, to 10.8 million barrels a day, according to the BP figures released last month. 

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Jul 13, 2014

Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

Oxford University engineering professor Dr Thomas Povey just invented a new cooking pot that heats food 40% faster. The pot is made from cast aluminum, and it features fins that direct flames across the bottom and up the sides, capturing energy that would otherwise be wasted. The pot is set to hit the market next month in the UK. "Povey specializes in the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet engines. He is also an avid mountaineer and says that this invention was spurred by the long time it takes for water to reach a boil at high altitudes. He and a group of his students worked three years experimenting with different designs before they came up with one being marketed."Please continue reading from b Slashdot


26 people were being received at 2 local hospitals as of 6 p.m. on Fri 11 Jul 2014 in response to a Hazmat emergency at Michigan's Adventure, said Joan Kessler, spokeswoman at Mercy Health Muskegon.

Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler has confirmed that a combination of chemicals were released in the area of the park's wave pool which combined to make chlorine gas.

The park is looking into the incident, Roesler said. At least 50 people were evaluated, some of which were individually hosed down in the Michigan's Adventure parking lot.

One witness in the park said she "got a splash of chlorine" and started coughing while finding it difficult to breathe. Other witnesses reported burning lips.

Multiple ambulance and fire officials responded to the scene as well as a Hazardous Material Response Team (Hazmat) just after 4 p.m.
Please continue reading from: Source: Mlive.com [edited]

Insecticides killing off farmland birds #nature #news

Guardian - New research has identified the world's most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds.

The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production.

The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.

Peer-reviewed research, published in the leading journal Nature this Wednesday, has revealed data from the Netherlands showing that bird populations fell most sharply in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. Starlings, tree sparrows and swallows were among the most affected.

At least 95% of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.
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F-35 Spending Could Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion #Humanity

Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon's next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home. It's hard to argue against the need to modernize aircraft used to defend the country and counter enemies overseas, especially if you're a politician. But the Joint Strike Fighter program has been a mess almost since its inception, with massive cost overruns leading to its current acquisition price-tag of $398.6 billion — an increase of $7.4 billion since last year. That breaks down to costing about $49 billion per year since work began in 2006 and the project is seven years behind schedule. Over its life-cycle, estimated at about 55 years, operating and maintaining the F-35 fleet will cost the U.S. a little over $1 trillion. By contrast, the entirety of the Manhattan Project — which created the nuclear bomb from scratch — cost about $55 billion in today's dollars. 
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Oil supply risks for 2015 'extraordinarily high' #energy #news

Oil prices are heading for their third consecutive weekly loss as tensions in the Middle East and North Africa ease, but supply risks in the region for next year remain "extraordinarily high", the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned.

Markets are "more optimistic" about future supply, the energy watchdog said in its July report on Friday, as it predicted that global demand was set to climb to 1.4 million barrels a day (mb/d) in 2015, from 1.2 million mb/d in 2014.

But it warned that geopolitical uncertainty would remain very much in focus for the year ahead.

"The global economy is still expected to gain momentum in 2015. Supply risks in the Middle East and North Africa, not least in Iraq and Libya, remain extraordinarily high," IEA said, making its first forecasts for next year.

"The risks associated with the 2015 forecast are particularly high. Notably, geopolitical uncertainty in Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela bring with them macroeconomic uncertainty."

Please continue reading from: CNBC

Jul 12, 2014

Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. This video exposes the way we die, and what we can do about it.

DESCRIPTION: Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Michael Greger, M.D., offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers in the United States.

Jul 11, 2014

Dow Chemical wants to use Agent Orange to kill invasive, nearly indestructible superweeds

Agent Orange could soon be coming to a farm near you. "Dow Chemical is seeking federal approval for an herbicide containing one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange" to be sprayed on superweeds that can't be killed by traditional herbicides and choke crops, Clare Foran reports for the National Journal. "The Environmental Protection Agency, which is tasked with reviewing Dow's application, says that if the chemical, known as 2,4-D, is used in fields, trace amounts could end up in food and drinking water." (Getty Images by Sean Gallup)

Critics say Agent Orange could damage the environment and create health concerns, but EPA appears to be leaning towards siding with the chemical company, Foran writes. "The agency has already unveiled a proposal to greenlight the chemical compound, and is expected to make a final decision as early as this summer. The debate hinges on two questions: Does Dow's weed whacker carry any of the health risks of the wartime weapon? And, long term, would the pesticide create a bigger problem: a new generation of stronger, even harder-to-kill superweeds?"

Dow says its product won't be tainted with the cancer-causing contaminant like the Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, Foran writes. "But testing conducted by an Agriculture Department researcher using samples collected in the mid-1990s showed that the chemical that plays a starring role in Dow's product can still contain contaminants similar to those found in Agent Orange. The study concluded that there was a 'need for more investigation into possible human health effects.'" (Read more) // The Rural Blog

Buy 2050, two thirds of world's population will live in cities

Guardian - Two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90% of the growth is predicted to take place. The planet's urban population – which overtook the number of rural residents in 2010 – is likely to rise by about 2.5 billion to more than 6 billion people in less than 40 years, according to a UN report. Africa and Asia "will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and healthcare", it added. 
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France and Sweden show you can use more energy and be richer if you use hydro and nuclear power While Germany and USA use coal and natural gas and tell others to use less

France and Spain are relatively close in the amount of per capita emissions but French people get to use 50% more energy than each person in Spain.

The Swedes get to use even more energy than the French but Sweden has combined hydro and nuclear power that is even higher than the French ratio of nuclear energy.

Energy use per capita by country is tracked by the World Bank.

Emissions per capita by country are at wikipedia.

Germany and USA are richer per person and use mainly coal and natural gas and tell others to use less energy and emit less.

Read more » // Next Big Future

Commercial plant making cellulosic ethanol; two more plants expected to open in Iowa this year

Production of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol, which is considered more environmentally friendly than conventional ethanol, is up and running in northwest Iowa, Donnelle Eller reports for The Des Moines Register. Galva-based Quad County Corn Processors last week produced a limited amount but was expected to be at full speed this week and "plans to quickly scale-up so that it's producing about 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year." (Register photo by Charlie Litchfield: Bales of cellulosic field refuse outside a plant last winter)

Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter, reports that in 2007 a bipartisan Congress "overwhelmingly adopted an updated Renewable Fuel Standard that calls for 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol to make up the largest of a 36-billion-gallon biofuel target by 2022. Underscoring that optimism was the decision by Congress to cap corn ethanol's annual contribution at 15 billion gallons in 2015 and beyond." (Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but a free trial is available by clicking here.)

"The dramatic reduction of carbon emissions offered by fuel from corn stalks or agriculture residues when compared to gasoline and the availability as an almost limitless source of feedstock led Congress to establish an upward progression of cellulosic ethanol targets under RFS," Agri-Pulse writes. But the Environmental Protection Agency kept revising its cellulosic ethanol targets, lowering numbers from an original target of 1.75 billion in 2014 to only 17 million gallons. Blenders have still called the target number excessive, and EPA data shows that as of early June, less than 30,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol has been produced this year.

But production could increase at a rapid rate, with two more facilities expected to be up and running in Iowa by the end of the year, Eller writes. DuPont Danisco is building a $225 million cellulosic ethanol plant near the town of Nevada, Iowa, that "plans to make 30 million gallons of ethanol annually from corncobs, husks and stalks, known as stover." Poet-DSM is building a $250 million cellulosic plant in the northwest Iowa town of Emmetsburg and plans to produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. (Read more) // The Rural Blog

Jul 10, 2014

World’s Oceans Face ‘Irreparable Damage’

There are a number of things happening to the ocean, and one of them is the fish in the ocean. And there has been and continues to be quite a lot of overfishing. And more and more we see that the catch we are getting from the ocean is stabilizing more even declining overall globally. But for some specific fisheries, there have been collapses in it, and the classical one is the cod stocks off Newfoundland in Eastern Canada. So there are some collapses and overall resistible stabilizing of global catches because there's no more place to go fishing in. We started fishing by the coasts, rather close to the coasts. And as those were depleted, we kept moving further into the ocean and deeper. And now there's no place to go. What this means is that the fishing effort, that is, the amount of people and machines we take out to catch fish, is increasing whiles we are getting less and less back in terms of returns. So that is on the fish side. And then, when you move into the marine pollution, there's a lot of debris, plastic being absorbed or taken in by the ocean. And this has huge consequences, right? Some of these things stay in the water forever almost, and they split and become very little pieces of plastic that the fish see and think is food, is algae, and then they eat them, and there are consequences all over. 
Please continue reading from: World's Oceans Face 'Irreparable Damage'