Energy Inventions Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Energy Inventions Media Articles in Major Media
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Volkswagen's amazing 300mpg-plus XL1 two-seater diesel/electric hybrid is a supercar where mpg matters more than mph. Imagine a different sort of supercar; small, lightweight, with the ... most parsimonious engine. That’s VW’s 21st-century streamliner, the XL1, honed not for speed but to achieve an astonishing 313mpg. VW has been messing about with these cigar-thin eco cars since the 1980 ARVW concept. In 1999, it developed a Lupo capable of three litres per 100km (94mpg), but Ferdinand Piëch, VW’s chairman, was more ambitious and had already ordered his R&D team to build him a “one-litre” (282mpg) car. In normal operation, the car stays in electric drive until full throttle is used, speeds exceed 62mph or the battery charge is down to 20 per cent. In e-mode, the car remains on battery power until 10 per cent of its charge remains (about 22 miles), whereupon the motor starts to charge it and power the vehicle. The 2.2-gallon fuel tank gives a range of about 340 miles. As might be expected, the body style is all about wind cheating. With a frontal area of 16.15sq ft and a drag coefficient of 0.186, the XL1 will be the world’s most aerodynamic production car.
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Two Italian scientists claim to have successfully developed a cold fusion reactor that produces 12,400 watts of heat power per 400 watts of input. Not only that, but they’ll be commercially available in just three months. Cold fusion is a tricky business -- some say a theoretically implausible business. Hypothetically (and broadly) speaking, the process involves fusing two smaller atomic nuclei together into a larger nucleus, a process that releases massive amounts of energy. If harnessed, cold fusion could provide cheap and nearly limitless energy with no radioactive byproduct or massive carbon emissions. Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi claim [their reactor] fuses atomic nuclei of nickel and hydrogen using about 1,000 watts of electricity which, after a few minutes, is reduced to an input of just 400 watts. This reaction purportedly can turn 292 grams of 68 degree water into turbine-turning steam -- a process that would normally require 12,400 watts of electricity, netting them a power gain of about 12,000 watts. They say that commercially scaled, their process could generate eight units of output per unit of input and would cost roughly one penny per kilowatt-hour, drastically cheaper than your average coal plant.
Note: For a balanced and informative article on this, see the Technology News article available here. Sadly, the only other media report on this fascinating news was a Washington Times article available here. For lots more useful information and videos on this exciting discovery, click here.
New Zealand engineer John Fleming is part of an effort to bypass the hydrogen era and go directly to the nitrogen-hydrogen economy. Texas-based Fleming, 65, is responsible for a string of inventions that produced more efficient, cleaner-burning heating appliances and holds a number of patents. He ... is helping researchers at Texas Tech University look at the potential to power vehicles using liquid ammonia, produced by combining hydrogen and nitrogen. Fleming's most tangible contribution has been a small, cheap processing plant that converts hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia using a compression and decompression system. It promises on-site production of hydrogen-carrying liquid fuel, solving the problem of storing and distributing (with considerable energy loss) a highly explosive gas from large and expensive centralised plants. "Ammonium can be liquefied, produces no carbon or solid deposits and can burn in internal combustion engines carrying a reasonable amount of hydrogen." Based on an electrolyser he devised for potential use in gas fireplaces, the processor offers huge cost savings in the production of hydrogen using electricity. The processor costs US$200 (compared with around $130,000 using large-scale conventional models) and is predicted to produce fuel for about US27c a litre [about $1.00/gallon] before taxes.
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An electric sportscar finished a remarkable road trip [on November 16] on the Panamerican Highway, traveling from near the Arctic Circle in Alaska to the world's southernmost city without a single blast of carbon dioxide emissions. Developed by engineers from Imperial College London, the SRZero sportscar ran on lithium iron phosphate batteries powering two electric motors with a peak output of 400 horsepower during its 16,000-mile (26,000-kilometer) journey. Powering up was a joy at times, the team said — such as in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska, where they started their trip July 3 after charging the batteries using geothermal energy. "The SRZero was literally being charged from energy taken straight out of the earth with absolutely zero CO2 emissions," Alex Schey, a mechanical engineer who organized the trip, wrote in his blog that day. Finding places to plug in along the way became a major challenge as the team passed through 14 countries in 70 days of driving. But every time the driver hit the brakes — and there was plenty of that as the team made its way through the Rocky Mountains, Mexico and Central America and then through South America — the car recovered kinetic energy, extending its capacity to drive as much as six hours and more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) on a single charge. This was no clunky science project — all that horsepower enabled the car to reach 60 mph (96 kph) in just seven seconds and reach top controlled speeds of 124 mph (200 kph), the team said.
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David Sandalow, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, practices what he preaches when it comes to alternative-energy vehicles. Sandalow drives a Toyota Prius converted to a plug-in electric for his 5-mile commute to work every day. He recharges at night in the carport of his Washington home. Sandalow's Prius, which was converted two years ago to allow him to recharge the battery from an electric outlet, gets more than 80 miles per gallon and lets him drive 30 miles on a single charge. He can drive up to 30 miles on a single charge, only has to fill the gas tank about twice a month, and he figures he gets about 80 miles a gallon. Including the six-hour electric plug-in a day, it works out to about 75 cents per gallon of gas. His aftermarket conversion cost about $9,000, on top of the price of the Prius. Sandalow wrote the 2007 book Freedom From Oil, and he thinks that hybrids and plug-ins are the quickest way for the country to lessen its dependence on foreign oil.
Note: For key reports from reliable sources on exciting new developments in automotive design and new energy technologies, click here.
An electric car made of hemp is being developed by a group of Canadian companies in collaboration with [the Alberta provincial government]. The Kestrel will be prototyped and tested later in August by Calgary-based Motive Industries Inc. The compact car, which will hold a driver and up to three passengers, will have a top speed of 90 kilometres per hour and a range of 40 to 160 kilometres before needing to be recharged, depending on the type of battery. The car's body will be made of an impact-resistant composite material produced from mats of hemp, a plant from the cannabis family. The material is being supplied by Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures, a provincial Crown corporation that provides technical services and funding to help commercialize new technologies. The Kestrel is one of five electric vehicles being developed by Project Eve, an automotive industry collaboration founded by Motive and Toronto Electric, an Ontario material handling and electric motor company, to boost the production of electric vehicles and electric vehicle components in Canada. The Kestrel cars will be built with the help of polytechnic schools in Alberta, Quebec and Toronto, and the first 20 cars are scheduled to be delivered next year to EnMax, a Calgary-based energy distribution, supply and service company that is taking part in Project Eve. Automotive pioneer Henry Ford first built a car made of hemp fibre and resin more than half a century ago.
Note: The U.S. continues to have laws against growing hemp. Is it time for change? For more on exciting new automotive technologies, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Matt Reynolds, an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Duke University, wears other hats, too — including that of co-founder of two companies. These days, his interest is in a real hat now in prototype: a hard hat with a tiny microprocessor and beeper that sound a warning when dangerous equipment is nearby on a construction site. What’s unusual, however, is that the hat’s beeper and microprocessor work without batteries. They use so little power that they can harvest all they need from radio waves in the air. The waves come from wireless network transmitters on backhoes and bulldozers, installed to keep track of their locations. The microprocessor monitors the strength and direction of the radio signal from the construction equipment to determine if the hat’s wearer is too close. Dr. Reynolds designed this low-power hat, called the SmartHat, with Jochen Teizer, an assistant professor in the school of civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech. They are among several people devising devices and systems that consume so little power that it can be drawn from ambient radio waves, reducing or even eliminating the need for batteries. Their work has been funded in part by the National Science Foundation.
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A year ago, hundreds of people flocked to a 100,000-square-foot former factory building in Wauseon's industrial area where a Napoleon, Ohio, inventor promised to begin building engines that would travel more than 110 miles on a gallon of E85 gasoline. But time and the economy have not been kind to Doug Pelmear's plan to revolutionize the American automobile. The factory today is largely dark and empty, Mr. Pelmear's dreams of putting northwest Ohioans back to work are still constrained within two file drawers full of job applications, and his hopes of mass-producing his HP2g engine have fallen victim to a lack of funding. "We can't get the banks to look at us," Mr. Pelmear said yesterday. Mr. Pelmear said he hasn't sought money from more traditional capital sources such as investors, selling stock or bonded indebtedness, because such sources would likely cost him control of HP2g LLC - something he's unwilling to provide. A partnership Mr. Pelmear forged with Revenge Designs Inc., a Decatur, Ind. specialty carmaker that had planned to use his engine in its upcoming "Verde" supercar, dissolved this spring.
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Trees and algae have been turning CO2 into fuel since the dawn of time, unlocking the chemical energy within this molecule to power metabolic processes. With a little ingenuity, it is already possible to transform CO2 into anything from petrol to natural gas. Any conversion processes will take a lot of energy. The question is, can these processes be refined to ensure that less energy is used to create this fuel than is provided by it? The key challenge is to convert CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), by removing one of its oxygen atoms. Once you have CO, the process of creating hydrocarbon fuels such as petrol is easy. It's achieved through a reaction known as the Fischer-Tropsch process – most commonly used to synthesise liquid fuel from coal. But getting from CO2 to CO requires ... a lot of energy. The US Government's Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have opted for ... a system that takes its energy source from concentrated solar power. As Green Futures goes to press, researchers from Bristol and Bath Universities in the UK have also announced plans for solar-powered CO2-to-fuel conversion.
Note: If plants are able to convert CO2 to energy and have been doing this for billions of years, why can't scientists figure out a way to do this for human use?
A Navy-funded thermal engine bobbing off the coast of Hawaii is accomplishing a rare feat -- it produces more energy than it consumes. Though it's not quite a perpetual motion machine, it could provide scientists or the Navy with a perpetual presence on the seas. The engine is attached to an unmanned underwater vessel, called SOLO-TREC, and uses the energy of the ocean to derive a practically limitless energy supply. SOLO-TREC is outfitted with a series of tubes full of waxy phase-change materials. As the float encounters warm temperatures near the ocean's surface, the materials expand; when it dives and the waters grow cooler, the materials contract. The expansion and contraction pressurizes oil, which drives a hydraulic motor. The motor generates electricity and recharges the batteries, which power a pump. The pump can change the float's buoyancy, allowing it to move up and down the water column. "In theory what you have now is unlimited endurance for something that has this type of engine," said Thomas Swean Jr., team leader for ocean engineering and marine systems at the Office of Naval Research, which funded the project. "Other things can break, but as far as the energy source, it will only stop working if the ocean ran out of energy, which is unlikely to happen."
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This week, scientists gathered at the American Chemical Society's spring meeting in San Francisco to turn the spotlight on a highly unorthodox path: the effect known as cold fusion. This year's session featured nearly 50 presentations - including reports on batteries and bacteria that appear to exhibit the cold-fusion effect. Back in 1989, cold fusion was heralded as a simple, inexpensive way to get a power-generating fusion reaction on a desktop. But when the experimental results couldn't be reproduced, the researchers were driven into obscurity [and] the term "cold fusion" became synonymous with quackery. Chemists, however, have kept up their interest in the effect. Rick Nebel [has headed] up a handful of researchers following the less-traveled path to fusion at EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. EMC2 recently created a buzz in the fusion underground by reporting on its Web site that it successfully completed a series of experiments to "validate and extend" earlier results. The company is now using a $7.9 million contract from the U.S. Navy to build a bigger test machine. Nebel and his colleagues are now seeking contributions to fund the development of what they say would be a 100-megawatt fusion plant - a "Phase 3" effort projected to cost $200 million and take four years. "Successful Phase 3 marks the end of fossil fuels," the Web site proclaims.
Note: For a powerful, reliable documentary showing how promising results from cold fusion were strongly suppressed, click here. For lots of reports from reliable sources of new energy developments, click here.
In the world of energy, the Holy Grail is a power source that's inexpensive and clean, with no emissions. Over 100 start-ups in Silicon Valley are working on it. One of them, Bloom Energy, is about to make public its invention: a little power-plant-in-a-box they want to put literally in your backyard. You'll generate your own electricity with the box and it'll be wireless. The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid. K.R. Sridhar ... says he knows it works because he originally invented a similar device for NASA. He really is a rocket scientist. He invented a new kind of fuel cell, which is like a very skinny battery that always runs. Sridhar feeds oxygen to it on one side, and fuel on the other. The two combine within the cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. There's no need for burning or combustion, and no need for power lines from an outside source. "It's cheaper than the grid, it's cleaner than the grid." Twenty large, well-known companies have quietly bought and are testing Bloom boxes in California. The first customer was Google. Four units have been powering a Google datacenter for 18 months. They use natural gas, but half as much as would be required for a traditional power plant. John Donahoe, eBay's CEO, says its five boxes were installed nine months ago and have already saved the company more than $100,000 in electricity costs. eBay's boxes run on bio-gas made from landfill waste, so they're carbon neutral. "In five to ten years, we would like to be in every home." [Sridhar] said a unit should cost an average person less than $3,000.
Note: To watch the fascinating 60 Minutes video clip of this amazing invention, click here. For other CBS videos clips on the Bloom Box, click here. For astounding news on other new energy sources and inventions, click here and here.
Is the economic, social and physical deterioration that has caused so much misery in the Motor City a sign of what’s in store for larger and larger segments of the United States? I found real reason to hope when a gentleman named Stan Ovshinsky took me on a tour of a remarkably quiet and pristine manufacturing plant ... about 30 miles north of Detroit. What is being produced in the plant is potentially revolutionary. A machine about the length of a football field runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, turning out mile after mile after mile of thin, flexible solar energy material, from which solar panels can be sliced and shaped. Mr. Ovshinsky ... developed the technology and designed the production method that made it possible to produce solar material “by the mile.” He invented the nickel metal hydride battery that is in virtually all hybrid vehicles on the road today. When I pulled into the parking lot outside his office ... he promptly installed me in the driver’s seat of a hydrogen hybrid prototype — a car in which the gasoline tank had been replaced with a safe solid-state hydrogen storage system invented by Mr. Ovshinsky. What’s weird is that this man, with such a stellar track record of innovation on products and processes crucial to the economic and environmental health of the U.S., gets such little attention and so little support from American policy makers. In addition to his work with batteries, photovoltaics and hydrogen fuel cells, his inventions have helped open the door to flat-screen televisions, new forms of computer memory and on and on.
Note: Ovshinsky has been at the forefront of new energy breakthroughs for years, yet has received very little press, likely because his inventions threaten the established oil industry. For a powerful, three-minute video showing how some of his key inventions have been shelved because they threatened profits, click here.
Scientists at Sandia National Labs, seeking a means to create cheap and abundant hydrogen to power a hydrogen economy, realized they could use the same technology to "reverse-combust" CO2 back into fuel. Researchers still have to improve the efficiency of the system, but they recently demonstrated a working prototype of their "Sunshine to Petrol" machine that converts waste CO2 to carbon monoxide, and then syngas, consuming nothing but solar energy. The device, boasting the simple title Counter-Rotating-Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (we'll go with "CR5") sets off a thermo-chemical reaction by exposing an iron-rich composite to concentrated solar heat. The composite sheds an oxygen molecule when heated and gets one back as it cools, and therein lies the eureka. The cylindrical metal CR5 is divided into hot and cold chambers. Solar energy heats the hot chamber to a scorching 2,700 degrees, hot enough to force the iron oxide composite to lose oxygen atoms. The composite is then thrust into the cool chamber, which is filled with carbon dioxide. As it cools, the iron oxide snatches back its lost oxygen atoms, leaving behind carbon monoxide.
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When I meet [Edward] Moses [at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory], the 60-year-old scientist ... shows me a tiny pellet ... and swears it will provide an endless supply of safe, clean energy. The pellet Moses holds is a model, but the real version will contain a few milligrams of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from water. If you blast the pellet with a powerful laser, you can create a reaction like the one that takes place at the center of the sun. Harness that reaction, and you've created a star on earth, and with the heat from that star you can generate electricity without creating any pollution. Forget about nuke plants, coal, oil, or wind and solar. "This is the real solar power," says Moses. What Moses is talking about is controlled nuclear fusion. Instead of splitting the nucleus of an atom, you're trying to force a deuterium nucleus to merge, or fuse, with a tritium nucleus. When that happens, you produce helium and throw off energy. Scientists have been trying to produce energy with fusion for decades. So far, they keep failing. The joke is that fusion energy is only 40 years away, and will always be only 40 years away. Moses believes, however, that his lab, which is called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, has cracked the problem. The big challenge fusion has faced is lack of power. NIF's laser ... can produce 60 times more energy than any other laser ever built. Right now it's still being tested. But next year Moses and his scientists will fire it up with a full load of deuterium-tritium fuel, and Moses feels confident it will achieve "ignition," meaning a controlled burn in which you get out more energy than you put in.
The federal government is behind the times when it comes to making decisions about advancing the solar industry, according to several solar-industry experts. This has led, they argue, to a misplaced emphasis on research into futuristic new technologies, rather than support for scaling up existing ones. That was the prevailing opinion at a symposium last week put together by the National Academies in Washington, DC, on the topic of scaling up the solar industry. The meeting was attended by numerous experts from the photovoltaic industry and academia. And many complained that the emphasis on finding new technologies is misplaced. "This is such a fast-moving field," said Ken Zweibel, director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University. "To some degree, we're fighting the last war. We're answering the questions from 5, 10, 15 years ago in a world where things have really changed." Industry experts at the Washington symposium argued that new technologies will take decades to come to market, judging from how long commercialization of other solar technologies has taken. Meanwhile, says Zweibel, conventional technologies "have made the kind of progress that we were hoping futuristic technologies could make." For example, researchers have sought to bring the cost of solar power to under $1 per watt, and as of the first quarter of this year one company, First Solar, has done this. These cost reductions have made solar power cheaper than the natural-gas-powered plants used to produce extra electricity to meet demand on hot summer days.
Note: Interesting that MIT has reported this story, but none of the major media picked it up. Solar energy will very likely be cheaper than oil-generated energy in under 10 years. For more on the current state of solar, click here.
If not for the Finnish American Reporter, Steve Lehto would never have eaten barbecued chicken in Jay Leno's garage after taking a ride in a car that sounds like a vacuum cleaner. Also, Lehto wouldn't have finally found an agent for his book [Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation] about the Chrysler Turbine. The Chrysler Turbine was essentially a stylish, bronze-colored, four-seat sedan with a jet engine. It could run on gasoline, kerosene, or just about anything else, including Chanel No. 5 and tequila. Of the 55 that Chrysler produced, none were sold to the public, and all but nine were destroyed when the experiment ended. A collector in Indiana owns one. Museums have five. Chrysler had three -- and now one of them is [Jay] Leno's. "He offered to let me drive it if I was ever in town," Lehto says, "which I just happened to be, as soon as I could get tickets." Yelps and cheers from bystanders as they cruised the streets of Burbank. Cuisine from a grill in one of Leno's garages. Another ride in a steam-powered 1907 White. More yelps and cheers. Also, an offer from Leno. If it'll help sell the book, he'll write a [foreword]. It does help; a New York agent has agreed to shop it around. Lehto is still in car-buff heaven. "I was 3 feet across from Jay Leno," he marvels, "having lunch."
Note: This amazing engine could run on vegetable oil and more. Why didn't it get more publicity? For lots more fascinating information on the engine, click here. For why it never got developed, click here.
Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University. Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel." Pee power is based on hydrogen, the most common element in the universe but one that has resisted efforts to produce, store, transport and use economically. Storing pure hydrogen gas requires high pressure and low temperature. Chemically binding hydrogen to other elements, like oxygen to create water, makes it easier to store and transport, but releasing the hydrogen when it's needed usually requires financially prohibitive amounts of electricity. By attaching hydrogen to another element, nitrogen, Botte and her colleagues realized that they can store hydrogen without the exotic environmental conditions, and then release it with less electricity, 0.037 Volts instead of the 1.23 Volts needed for water. Stick a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine, apply an electrical current, and hydrogen gas is released. A fuel cell, urine-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon. A refrigerator-sized unit could produce one kilowatt of energy for about $5,000, although this price is a rough estimate, says Botte. "The waste products from say a chicken farm could be used to produce the energy needed to run the farm," said John Stickney, a chemist and professor at the University of Georgia.
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The man who drove his 20-year-old Mustang from Napoleon, Ohio, to Las Vegas and back last year on 39 gallons of fuel will open his first manufacturing facility Monday to allow others to get 110 miles per gallon. Doug Pelmear, owner of Horse Power Sales.net Inc. and Hp2G LLC, will hold an open house ... in Wauseon to begin manufacturing his revolutionary engine. The factory ... will be tooled to initially turn out 20 of Mr. Pelmear's custom engines per day with one shift of 25 workers. A Decatur, Ind., specialty car company, Revenge Designs Inc., has contracted with Mr. Pelmear to purchase 2,000 engines for use in a new vehicle it plans to unveil at the end of this year at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. The vehicle is to be called the Revenge Verde Super Car, which will use Mr. Pelmear's 400-horsepower engine and its 500 foot-pounds of torque to travel up to 200 mph and get 110 mpg - though admittedly not at the same time. "The engine is going to be a really great partnership with the car," explained Emily Levault, a spokesman for Revenge Design. "The idea behind this was to give people what they want while putting people back in their jobs." Ms. Levault said the Verde will be introduced as both a left and right-hand drive, so that it can be marketed around the world. Mr. Pelmear has said that he employs more precise tolerances and manufacturing techniques to decrease heat and energy loss and increase the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. He said he has more than quadrupled the industry average engine efficiency of about 8 percent.
Note: For a treasure trove of reliable reports on breakthrough developments in auto and new energy technologies, click here.
Twenty years ago it appeared, for a moment, that all our energy problems could be solved. It was the announcement of cold fusion - nuclear energy like that which powers the sun - but at room temperature on a table top. It promised to be cheap, limitless and clean. Cold fusion would end our dependence on the Middle East and stop those greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. It would change everything. But then, just as quickly as it was announced, it was discredited. So thoroughly, that cold fusion became a catch phrase for junk science. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion - for many scientists today, cold fusion is hot again. "We can yield the power of nuclear physics on a tabletop. The potential is unlimited. That is the most powerful energy source known to man," researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. McKubre says he has seen that energy more than 50 times in cold fusion experiments he's doing at SRI International, a respected California lab that does extensive work for the government. McKubre is an electro-chemist who imagines, in 20 years, the creation of a clean nuclear battery. "For example, a laptop would come pre-charged with all of the energy that you would ever intend to use. You're now decoupled from your charger and the wall socket," he explained. The same would go for cars. "The potential is for an energy source that would run your car for three, four years, for example. And you'd take it in for service every four years and they'd give you a new power supply," McKubre told Pelley.
Note: To watch the full, revealing 12-minute video clip of this segment, click here.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.