Energy Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Energy Media Articles in Major Media
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Friday was the first full day since the height of the Industrial Revolution that Britain did not burn coal to generate electricity. Coal powered Britain into the industrial age and into the 21st century, contributing greatly to the “pea souper” fogs that were thought for decades to be a natural phenomenon of the British climate. For many living in the mining towns up and down the country, it was not just the backbone of the economy but a way of life. But the industry has been in decline for some time. The last deep coal mine closed in December 2015, though open cast mining has continued. Reducing the world’s reliance on coal and increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have long been part of proposals to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. Now on a path to phase out coal-fired power generation altogether by 2025, Britain, also the home of the first steam engine, is currently closing coal plants and stepping up generation from cleaner natural gas and renewables, like wind and solar. Some countries have already left coal behind in power generation. In Switzerland, Belgium and Norway, “every day is a coal-free day,” Carlos Fernández Alvarez, a coal analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, pointed out. In the United States, where coal still accounts for about 30 percent of power generation, Vermont and Idaho are the only coal-free states, and California is close behind, he said.
Note: In the US, the solar power industry now employs more workers than the coal, oil and natural gas industries combined.
Kevin Butt's job is to find cleaner ways to power Toyota. One of the hardest places to do that is at the automaker's sprawling plant in central Kentucky, a state where nearly 90 percent of electricity still comes from coal. A few years ago, Toyota decided that by 2050 all of its operations, all around the world, should be zero-carbon. It's part of a larger business shift. In Kentucky, General Motors, Ford, Walmart, L'Oreal and others also have big goals to reduce emissions. "There's not enough renewable energy being manufactured right now for all of us to do what we say we want to do," Butt says. "The future is renewables and the large corporations that want renewables," says Jim Gardner, who used to regulate power companies as a member of Kentucky's Public Service Commission. Two years ago, Gardner was struck by an encounter with a local man who worked remotely for Facebook. He told Gardner that big corporations were actually deciding where to expand based on where they could get renewable energy. "He made it seem like there was ... a list with a lot of states with big X's marked in," says Gardner, "so that Facebook and others were not looking because [some states] were not going to be open to renewables." The Public Service Commission worried the state was missing out. It quietly issued an official statement — "a clear signal to people outside of the state," says Gardner - that if a big customer wanted renewable energy, Kentucky's utilities could cut a special deal to provide it.
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Electricity prices in [California] have begun turning negative on the main power exchange, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has revealed. Solar made up a record figure of nearly 40 per cent of the electricity sent to the grid in the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO’s) territory for a few hours on 11 March, after utility-scale solar farms grew by almost 50 per cent in 2016, the EIA said. Solar capacity in the state has grown rapidly in the last few years. There was less than one gigawatt in 2007, but nearly 14GW by the end of last year. At this time of year, the large amounts of sunlight and the relatively low demand can produce too much electricity around the middle of the day. “Electricity demand in California tends to peak during the summer months,” the EIA said. “However, in late winter and early spring, demand is at its annual minimum, but solar output, while not at its highest, is increasing as the days grow longer and the sun gets higher in the sky. “Consequently, power prices ... were substantially lower in March compared with other times of the year or even March of last year. System average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour. In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh.”
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In 60 cities in India, 16,876 tons of plastic waste are generated each day. More than 6 million tons of plastic ... end up in landfills a year. Such figures were keeping Medha Tadpatrikar awake at night. She was also deeply troubled by an incident she had witnessed on a safari in India – a deer choking on a plastic packet that it had swallowed. “I realized how big this plastic problem is and how every creature on this earth is affected by it,” she says of the incident. So Dr. Tadpatrikar resolved to find a way to make plastic waste useful. She and Shirish Phadtare started experimenting in Tadpatrikar’s kitchen. “Plastic is made of crude oil, and we wanted to reverse the process to get usable oil,” Tadpatrikar explains. This experimenting duo has come up with an operation in the Pune, India, area that benefits the environment in several ways. They are indeed producing fuel, using a process that doesn’t emit toxic gases. And by pressing plastic waste into service, they’re reducing the amount of plastic headed toward landfills. Moreover, the oil itself is eco-friendly – a better choice than some of the other fuels that villagers living near Pune use. “Much cheaper than any other fuel in the market, this one is used in cooking stoves, in generators, and even to run tractors,” explains Tadpatrikar. The fuel ... is carefully collected in bottles, and it’s sold to people in 122 villages around Pune at a subsidized rate of 38 rupees (53 cents) per liter.
Note: Similar technology has been developed numerous times around the world, yet somehow the technology is not widely embraced. Could it be that big money doesn't want this to happen? Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Norway said that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far in 2017, as Norway continues its trend towards becoming one of the most ecologically progressive countries in the world. According to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council (OFV) ... sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6 per cent of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8 per cent, for a combined 51.4 per cent. Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric cars in the world. The milestone is also particularly significant as a large proportion of Norway’s funds rely on the country’s petroleum industry. "This is a milestone on Norway's road to an electric car fleet," Climate and Environment minister Vidar Helgesen [said]. “The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030," he added. Last year, the government agreed on a proposal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered car starting in 2025. It also aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 85 grams per kilometre by 2020 - a goal it has almost achieved: : the figure stood at 88 grams in February compared to 133 grams when the decision was taken five years ago. In December, Norway registered its 100,000th electric car. Norway has also become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.
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The solar panels - 3,852 of them - shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for [the] project. It is, Mr. Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor. “I hope that we’ll see a realization on the part of the new administration that one of the best ways to provide new jobs - good-paying and productive and innovative jobs - is through the search for renewable sources of energy,” Mr. Carter, 92, said in an interview. Although Mr. Carter, now decades removed from the night in February 1977 when he donned a cardigan sweater and spoke of the country’s “energy problem,” remains a keen student of energy policy, the solar project is also an extension of his legacy. The project on Mr. Carter’s land, which feeds into Georgia Power’s grid and earns the former first family less than $7,000 annually, did not need to be large to serve much of Plains, population 683 or so. It began when a solar firm, SolAmerica, approached Mr. Carter’s grandson Jason Carter about the possibility of installing panels here. The former president, who was 11 when his boyhood home got running water after his father installed a windmill, did not need convincing and became deeply involved with the project, writing notes in the margins of the lease agreement and visiting the site regularly.
For nearly 100 years, scientists have dreamed of turning the lightest of all the elements, hydrogen, into a metal. Now, in a stunning act of modern-day alchemy, scientists at Harvard University have finally succeeded in creating a tiny amount of [this] material. Metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionise technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity. But the prospect of this bright future could be at risk if the scientists’ next step – to establish whether the metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures – fails to go as hoped. Professor Isaac Silvera, who made the breakthrough with Dr Ranga Dias, said: “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. “It's the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you're looking at it, you're looking at something that’s never existed before.” At the moment the tiny piece of metal can only be seen through two diamonds that were used to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature far below freezing. The amount of pressure needed was immense – more than is found at the centre of the Earth. Sometime in the next few weeks, the researchers plan to carefully ease the pressure. According to one theory, metallic hydrogen will be stable at room temperature. If this is true, then [it] could ... transform humanity’s efforts to explore our solar system by providing a form of rocket fuel nearly four times more powerful than the best available today.
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President Donald Trump just dealt his biggest blow to the renewable energy industry yet. On Monday, Trump approved duties of as much as 30% on solar equipment made abroad, a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80% of its supply. The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected 23,000 job losses this year in a sector that employed 260,000. The tariffs are just the latest action Trump has taken that undermine the economics of renewable energy. The administration has already decided to pull the U.S. out of the international Paris climate agreement, rolled back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes, however, will prove to be the most targeted strike on the industry yet and may have larger consequences for the energy world. Trump approved four years of tariffs that start at 30% in the first year and gradually drop to 15%. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells are exempt for each year, the president said in an emailed statement. China and neighbors including South Korea may opt to challenge the decision at the World Trade Organization - which has rebuffed prior U.S.-imposed tariffs that appeared before it. Lewis Leibowitz, a Washington-based trade lawyer, expects the matter will wind up with the WTO. The Solar Energy Industries Association warned the tariffs will delay or kill billions of dollars of solar investments.
Note: The solar power industry now employs more US workers than coal, oil and natural gas combined. Elites like the Rockefellers have stopped investing in fossil fuels, while utility executives have been waging a "determined campaign" to try to stop Americans from installing rooftop solar panels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report. 6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth. Overall, the U.S. solar workforce increased 25 percent in 2016. Solar ... employed almost 374,000 workers in 2016, or 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation workforce. This is followed by fossil fuels, which accounts for 22 percent of total Electric Power Generation employment, or 187,117 workers across coal, oil and natural gas generation technologies. Wind generation is seeing growth in employment with a 32 percent increase since 2015. The wind industry provides the third largest share of Electric Power Generation employment with 102,000 workers at wind firms across the nation. Construction and installation projects represented the largest share of solar jobs, with almost four in ten workers doing this kind of work, followed by workers in solar wholesale trade, manufacturing and professional services. Solar employers reported that they expect to increase employment by 7 percent this year.
More electric cars are sold in China than in the rest of the world combined. The Chinese-branded electric vehicle (EV) market is propped up by huge government subsidies as part of Beijing's policy to build global leadership in cleaner energy driving. China has spent billions of dollars on subsidies to help companies ... achieve large-scale production of plug-in vehicles. Sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrids increased 60 percent in January-November, to 402,000 vehicles. By 2020, China wants 5 million plug-in cars on its roads. The domestic EVs don't have the 'wow' factor of a fast, longer-range and luxury-style Tesla. They sell on price. Some EV buyers in Beijing and Shanghai said they primarily bought plug-in vehicles to easily get a license plate. Half a dozen of China's biggest cities tightly control license plates for traditional gasoline cars, but freely award plates that can only be used by plug-in vehicles. For those set on buying a plug-in, price is key. "I only considered BYD and BAIC. I definitely can't afford the 300,000-600,000 yuan price of a luxury-style Tesla or Denza," said Qu Lijian, a 31-year-old government worker in Beijing. China's cocktail of pro-electric policies is a challenge for global automakers, as foreign manufacturers can access subsidies only via joint ventures with local partners, producing cars under new made-for-China brand names such as Denza. But those brands lack the cachet of established foreign marques, and cost more than most local brands even after subsidies.
Solar energy is now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Solar and wind is now either the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. The influential foundation has described the change as a "tipping point" that could make fighting climate change into a profitable form of business for energy companies. But investors and energy firms are still failing to put money into such green solutions despite the fact that they are cheaper than more traditional forms of electricity generation. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point – it now constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming,” said Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum. Just ten years ago, generating electricity through solar cost about $600 per MWh, and it cost only $100 to generate the same amount of power through coal and natural gas. But ... today it only costs around $100 the generate the same amount of electricity through solar and $50 through wind. The cheap price of solar and wind energy is already encouraging companies to build more plants to harvest it. The US is adding about 125 solar panels every minute ... and investment in renewables in 2015 rose to $286 billion, up 5 per cent from the year before. Even despite that cheap price ... the worldwide investment is only 25 per cent of the $1 trillion goal set in the landmark Paris climate change accord.
Note: Why are most of the media in the US hardly reporting this inspiring news at all? Read more on this great news in this informative essay.
Almost all Costa Rica's electricity was produced by renewable energy in 2016. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that around 98.1 per cent of the country’s electricity came from green sources. These included large hydropower facilities, fed by a myriad of rivers and heavy seasonal rains, geothermal plants, wind turbines, solar panels and biomass plants. The country used carbon-free electricity for more than 250 days last year with a continuous 110-day stretch from 17 June until 6 October. Science and environment journalist Maria Gallucci described the tropical country as "a verdant gem amid a pile of black coal rocks". In comparison, less than 15 per cent of the US electricity supply for January to October 2016 was renewable. Coal and natural gas together made up nearly two-thirds of the US electricity generation over that period and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent. ICE president Carlos Manuel Obregón said he expected renewable power generation to stay “stable” in Costa Rica in 2017. The country, which hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species biodiversity despite a landmass that covers 0.03 per cent of the planet, has recently set up four new wind farms. Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr Monica Araya has said the extent of Costa Rica's renewable electricity generation is a “fantastic achievement".
In a few days, the water-bound wind turbines off of Rhode Island’s Block Island are expected to generate electricity commercially for the first time, and New Englanders are set to become the first in U.S. history to use electric power generated from an offshore wind turbine. The Block Island Wind Project is the first commercial offshore wind farm ever built in the U.S., and the start of its operation marks the the beginning of a brand new clean energy industry in the United States. Offshore wind is one of America’s largest untapped energy sources. As part of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F), the Obama administration unveiled a plan in September to build wind farms off of nearly every U.S. coastline by 2050 - enough turbines to generate zero-carbon electricity for more than 23 million homes. In 2009, the Obama administration began ... leasing large swaths of the East Coast’s continental shelf to offshore wind developers. Since then, federal government lease sales have been held for areas off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. New York is next in line for a lease sale this month. Once it is operational, the success of the Block Island Wind Project will prove that offshore wind power can be done in the U.S., said Steve Pike, CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a publicly funded state agency that conducts offshore wind technology research.
A research team at the University of Bristol has developed a way to use a type of nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery that is an actual diamond. Such a battery produces very low power, but has no moving parts, no emissions of any type including radiation, needs no maintenance, does not need to be recharged and will operate for thousands of years. The team grew a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radiation field, was able to generate a small electrical current. And the radioactive field can be produced by the diamond itself by making the diamond from radioactive carbon-14 extracted from nuclear waste. Even better, the amount of radioactivity in each diamond battery is a lot less than in a single banana. Diamonds are made from pure carbon subjected to high pressures, usually deep in the Earth’s crust. But we have been artificially making them for decades. The normal way to produce electricity is to use energy, like burning coal or capturing wind, to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current. However, a diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being subjected to a radiation field. The cost to produce a diamond is a lot less than disposing of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. These radioactive diamond batteries would have a very specific purpose – low power and extremely long life. The ... battery would still be putting out 50% power after 5,730 years.
Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, addressed the insurance industry on climate change [in 2015]. He dropped a bombshell on the oil industry. His message was twofold. First, if the world seriously intended to limit global warming to 2şC, most of the coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground would be left “stranded”, or unrecoverable. Second, a task force would be set up to prompt companies to disclose how they planned to manage risks and prepare for a 2şC world, similar to the one created to improve risk disclosure by banks after the financial crisis. Mr Carney’s remarks presaged a change in attitude towards oil companies by governments, financial regulators and investors that has become clearer since the Paris climate-change agreement last December. The Securities and Exchange Commission, America’s stockmarket regulator, is investigating whether ExxonMobil, the country’s biggest oil company, values its untapped reserves appropriately in light of the recent halving of oil prices and potential regulatory action on climate change. In October it said it might write down about one-fifth of its reserves. The company has faced related probes by New York’s attorney-general. The industry may come under further pressure. If measures to stop global warming are fully implemented, oil-company revenues could fall by more than $22trn over the next 25 years, more than twice the predicted decline for the gas and coal industries combined.
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Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Tennessee, have discovered a mechanism for converting carbon dioxide into ethanol. Their method takes advantage of nanotechnology, creating a catalyst that produces ethanol from a solution of carbon dioxide in water. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, the lead author of a new study in the journal ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” The discovery may change the way we think about carbon dioxide. If it could be captured and turned into a fuel, then carbon dioxide – the earth-polluting byproduct of global dependence on fossil fuels – could help high-energy societies work toward energy independence. Repurposing carbon dioxide could be invaluable for the environment, the researchers say. Converting it into ethanol can turn a greenhouse gas into a gasoline-like fuel source. Ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline but produces far fewer byproducts when burned in engines, which can limit further carbon emissions. “Closing the carbon cycle by utilizing CO2 as a feedstock for currently used commodities, in order to displace a fossil feedstock, is an appropriate intermediate step towards a carbon-free future,” the researchers wrote in the study.
It’s often smarter to borrow from nature than reinvent the wheel. That was the approach of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and convert it into an efficient, inexpensive fuel. The result: an artificial leaf that turns CO2 into fuel, "at a cost comparable to a gallon of gasoline" could render fossil fuel obsolete, according to the researchers. The “leaf” is one of a growing number of inventions that mimic photosynthesis to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere, and convert it into new, sustainable forms of energy to power our world. “The new solar cell is not photovoltaic - it’s photosynthetic,” said [the study’s lead author] Amin Salehi-Khojin. “Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight." The concept of reduction reaction - converting CO2 into a burnable form of carbon - isn’t new. But scientists previously relied on silver and other expensive precious metals to break gas into storable energy. UIC researchers took a different approach. When light strikes the "leaf," hydrogen and carbon monoxide bubble from the cathode, while free oxygen and hydrogen ions are released from the anode. Leafs could be spread throughout a solar farm, or used in smaller applications, the researchers said.
Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design. The 7th-grader ... noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined (as naturalist Charles Bonnet did in 1754) that the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis. In a pretty innovative experiment, this intrepid young scientist set about duplicating an oak tree, comparing its sunlight-capturing abilities to a traditional rooftop solar panel array. He copied the pattern using a computer program, and built an oak tree-shaped solar array out of PVC pipe. He next built a flat-panel array mounted at 45 degrees, like a typical home rooftop array, and attached data loggers to each model to monitor voltage. Aidan's award-winning essay ... walks you through his experiment design and his results. But the short story is that his tree design generated much more electricity - especially ... when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. At that point, the tree design generated 50 percent more power, without any adjustments to its declination angle. He determined the tree's Fibonacci pattern allowed some solar panels to collect sunlight even if others were in shade, and prevented branches on a tree from shading other branches. Now Aidan is studying other tree species and improving his PVC model to determine how it could be used to make more efficient solar arrays.
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More than 40 nations are proposing to boost their 'bioeconomy' - the part of the economy based in biology and the biosciences. Around US$2 trillion of products in agriculture and forestry, food, bioenergy, biotechnology and green chemistry were exported worldwide in 2014, amounting to 13% of world trade, up from 10% in 2007. These sectors are central to at least half of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from food security to ensuring energy access and health. But conflicting national priorities make it hard to align bioeconomy policies to meet the SDGs on a global scale. Ecological sustainability is a prime concern in rich and industrializing countries; inclusive rural development and equitable sharing of resources is central in developing countries. Decisions made in one place may be felt elsewhere. A global bioeconomy must rebuild natural capital and improve the quality of life for a growing world population. It should balance managing common goods, such as air, water and soil, with the economic expectations of people. Three types of innovation will be needed: technological (such as systems to reduce emissions), organizational (changes in institutional behaviour) and social (such as job creation).
Note: For an excellent, more recent discussion on the global bioeconomy, see this informative article.
The deep waters off the coast of California could become home to the country’s largest offshore wind energy project. The 765-megawatt project, proposed by ... Trident Winds, would sit about 25 miles off California’s central coast. If built, it will be larger than the 630-megawatt London Array off the coast of Kent, – the world’s largest working offshore wind farm. The [US currently] has no offshore wind farms, though a number of projects are in the research phase. Trident is proposing an unprecedented project in a state that has frowned on coastal energy development ever since a 1969 blowout at an offshore oil drilling platform near Santa Barbara, which released more than 3m gallons of crude oil into the waters. California has some of the world’s toughest coastal development regulations. To win government approval, Trident will have to prepare a lengthy report to investigate the potential environmental impact of its project.
Note: Demand for energy from wind and solar sources is soaring despite the bargain price of fossil-fuels.
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