Energy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on energy
We couldn't pass up mention of the winner of last week's Eco-marathon Americas, a fuel-economy challenge sponsored by Shell Oil Co. A team from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo won the $10,000 grand prize by achieving the equivalent of 1,902.7 miles per gallon on regular gasoline in a student-built vehicle. Granted, the students didn't win in someone's mom's Dodge minivan. Their "car" is a one-occupant streamliner built of carbon fiber composite. At a measly 98 pounds, it weighed less than the driver. And that was 98 pounds including the car's 50-cubic-centimeter Honda engine. "The main reason we do this is because it's a way to encourage students to focus on technical innovation for potential future careers," said David Sexton, president of Shell Oil Products. But there is a practical side to the competition, said Cal Poly team manager Tom Heckel, a junior mechanical engineering major. "Any publicity we can get makes people aware that the 20 mpg or so they're averaging in their cars can be improved on — a lot." The event, held April 14 at the California Speedway in Fontana, was the first time that Shell had brought its 25-year-old Eco-marathon competition to the U.S. The event drew 20 university, college and high school teams from around the U.S. and Canada. Rules called for each vehicle to complete seven 1.45-mile laps around the speedway's inner track, averaging at least 15 mph. Fuel consumption was measured after each attempt and adjusted for ambient temperature and other factors in a complex formula that ends up giving an extrapolation of miles per gallon.
Note: Why would the president of Shell Oil Products state the main reason for this competition is about careers and not finding ways to improve gas mileage? The world record is over 10,000 mpg. How is it that the average car gets only 22 mpg when the Ford Model T got 25 mpg almost 100 years ago? For more, click here.
The government for decades has failed to meet legal deadlines for tougher energy efficiency standards for appliances and other equipment, costing consumers and industry tens of billions of dollars in electric costs, a congressional study said Thursday. The Government Accountability Office reported that over several decades the Energy Department has "missed all 34 congressional deadlines for setting efficiency standards," with delays ranging from several months to as long as 15 years. The standards approved by Congress seek to reduce energy use from a broad range of products from refrigerators and home heating systems to electricity grid transformers and electric motors in factories. If the deadlines had been met on only four widely used consumer products - refrigerators, freezers, central air conditioners and heat pumps - consumers would have saved $28 billion in accumulated energy costs by 2030 - because more energy efficient products would have been on the market sooner. Andy Karsner, the department's assistant secretary in charge of energy efficiency programs, acknowledged the department has had "a simply abysmal" record on meeting efficiency standard deadlines set by Congress.
Note: Could it be that the powerful energy lobby didn't want these policies instituted? For more, click here.
The world's largest publicly owned oil company announced yesterday the largest corporate profit ever, but news of its near $40-billion (U.S.) windfall in 2006 sparked an angry backlash, coming on the eve of a major report blaming the use of fossil fuels for wreaking devastation on the planet. Exxon shares have risen by about 20 per cent in the past year. Exxon wasn't alone in unprecedented oil earnings. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, an Anglo-Dutch company, and U.S.-run Marathon Oil and Valero Energy, also posted best-ever annual results yesterday. And ConocoPhillips Co., also American, last week posted its highest profits. Profits at the five companies together totalled $91.1-billion -- in a year when drivers paid record prices for gasoline. Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have also urged Exxon to end its funding of organizations that deny the existence of -- or minimize the seriousness of -- human-made global warming. Scientists yesterday accused the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which receives funding from Exxon, of offering scientists up to $10,000 for articles that undercut a report to be released today from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Last month, the Union of Concerned Scientists ... said that Exxon has spent $16-million over the past 10 years financing organizations that deny the seriousness of climate change. Alden Meyer, a strategist with the group, compared Exxon's efforts to discredit the science of global warming to the tobacco companies' efforts to sow doubts about the link between smoking and lung cancer in order to protect their profits.
Note: Compare this Canadian article with the New York Times reporting of this record profit, or that of any other major U.S. newspaper. The U.S. press barely mentions that oil company gouging which took dollars from your pocket is what led to record profits. To understand why the U.S. press behaves in this way, click here.
The planet's most pressing environmental problems ... may seem just too big to be solved with today's technology. But don't despair: A lot of bright minds are working on futuristic projects that promise to make the world greener. It's save-the-world stuff like toxic-waste-eating trees, smart electricity grids, oceangoing robots, and floating environmental sensors. This technology may seem far out - but it will probably be here a lot sooner than you think. 1. Try a solar-powered hydrogen fueling station in your garage. It's about the size of a filing cabinet and runs on electricity generated by standard-issue rooftop solar panels. The first version of the home fueling station is expected to produce enough hydrogen to give your runabout a range of some 100 miles without emitting a molecule of planet-warming greenhouse gas. 2. Environmental sensor networks [provide] real-time data on a variety of phenomena that affect the economy and society - climate change, hurricanes, air and water pollution. 3. Toxin-eating trees ... a technology that uses vegetation to absorb hazardous waste from industrial plants and other polluters. 4. Nuclear waste neutralizer ... a chemical technology called Urex+ that extracts reusable uranium and separates out cesium, allowing four times as much waste to be packed into nuclear burial grounds. 5. Autonomous ocean robots. 6. Sonic water purifier ... a sci-fi solution for an age-old problem that leaves 1.1 billion people without access to clean water: 7. Endangered-species tracker. 8. The interactive, renewable smart power grid ... the electricity grid of the future ... will look more like the Internet - distributed, interactive, open-source - than the dumb, one-way network of today.
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An Associated Press analysis suggests that big oil companies have been crimping supplies ... across the country for years. The analysis, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, indicates that the industry slacked off supplying oil and gasoline during the prolonged price boom between early 1999 and last summer, when prices began to fall. The findings support a conclusion already reached by many motorists. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe gas prices are high because [of] oil companies. Though set back temporarily by the [9/11] attacks, the oil business has profited handsomely since then. The biggest six refiners ... rang up $400 billion in profits since 2001. Though reserves have kept pretty steady, the oil industry taps those resources to varying degrees from year to year. The industry has shelved an average of 21 percent more unrefined oil from the start of 2004 through last June. Last spring, stocks of shelved crude reached their highest level in eight years, despite the fabulous riches at hand in high prices then. The industry also protected profits by not building any new refineries. [And] thanks to mergers, the top 10 companies now control three-quarters of national refining capacity, up from half in the early 1990s. A 2001 study by the Federal Trade Commission reported that some firms were deciding to "maximize their profits" by crimping supply. One executive told regulators "he would rather sell less gasoline and earn a higher margin on each gallon sold." However upsetting to drivers, such tactics are usually viewed as legal. "A decision to limit supply does not violate the antitrust laws," regulators wrote in one FTC report.
Though the 100 mpg car sounds like a myth, it turns out that such vehicles do exist -- only they're built in your neighbor's garage, not a giant production plant. Known as plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles ... they’re basically Priuses or similar hybrids that have been equipped with extra batteries, so that they rarely use their gasoline engines at all. "People are salivating for plug-ins," says Bradley Berman, editor of the site HybridCars.com. A hybrid vehicle today like a Prius has both a gasoline engine and a battery, which is fed by the braking energy produced by the car. It can’t be plugged in. A plug-in hybrid keeps those components, but essentially gets an extra fuel tank, in the form of an added battery bank ... that allows the car to run exclusively off battery power for most driving. Felix Kramer, founder of the California Cars Initiative, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of high-efficiency, low-emission cars, owns the first consumer plug-in in North America. Not surprisingly, he loves it. "Many days I use no gasoline, because I go at neighborhood speeds for under 30 miles, and I’m just all-electric all day," he says. And the mileage? "At highway speeds, you can easily get over 100 mpg." Other plug-in owners offer up similar results. "I used to fill up every 400 miles or so," he says ... "and now I fill up every 800 miles or so." Advocates estimate that it costs less than $1 per gallon to replenish a plug-in hybrid. "Our goal is to have a $3,000 kit," CalCars' Kramer says. (That number, coincidentally, is also what many plug-in evangelists think that the technology would cost for Toyota to add to its hybrids.)
Note: If people are doing this in their garage, why aren't the auto makers already producing them? In fact, a similar vehicle was produced to be marketed in 2002, but then pulled off the market. To find why average car mileage has remained virtually unchanged for 100 years, click here.
One of the more controversial topics involving Nikola Tesla is what became of many of his technical and scientific papers after he died in 1943. Just before his death at the height of World War II, he claimed that he had perfected his so-called "death beam." So it was natural that the FBI and other U.S. Government agencies would be interested in any scientific ideas involving weaponry. The morning after the inventor's death, his nephew Sava Kosanovic hurried to his uncle's room at the Hotel New Yorker. By the time he arrived, Tesla's body had already been removed, and Kosanovic suspected that someone had already gone through his uncle's effects. Technical papers were missing as well as a black notebook he knew Tesla kept — a notebook with several hundred pages, some of which were marked "Government." Just after World War II, there was a renewed interest in beam weapons. Copies of Tesla's papers on particle beam weaponry were sent to Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. An operation code-named "Project Nick" was heavily funded and placed under the command of Brigadier General L. C. Craigie to test the feasibility of Tesla's concept. Details of the experiments were never published, and the project was apparently discontinued. But something peculiar happened. The copies of Tesla's papers disappeared and nobody knows what happened to them.
Rudolf W. Gunnerman has a tiger by the tail--the Exxon tiger. If the technology that the 66-year-old inventor has spent $6 million and the past seven years developing lives up to his claims, cars and trucks could one day be running on a fraction of the gasoline and diesel fuel they now use. Ditto for buses, planes, trains, and anything else powered by an internal-combustion engine--from lawn mowers to huge electrical generators. Gunnerman claims to have a technology that enables engines to burn a mixture of half fuel, half water. Yes, water. What's more, he says, the mixture gets 40% better mileage from the gasoline it contains and emits significantly less pollution because engines run cooler. In particular, tailpipes emit virtually no nitrogen oxides--the principal source of smog. Caterpillar Inc. is so intrigued that in early July it formed a joint venture with A-55 LP, Gunnerman's tiny, nine-person company in Reno, Nev. A-55 is short for aqueous 55%, the amount of water by weight in the patented fuels. But the key ingredient is 0.5% of a secret emulsifier that enables fuel and water to mix--and stay mixed. Gunnerman financed his work with royalties from other patents, especially those covering the making of pellets for woodstoves.
Note: If the above link fails, click here. Why didn't this exciting development make headline news? For lots more showing very promising results on this most intriguing invention, click here. For exciting reports from reliable sources on highly promising new energy developments and technologies, click here and here.
Utilities around the world are supersizing their solar farms. Nowhere is that more apparent than in southern Egypt, where what will be the world’s largest solar farm — a vast collection of more than 5 million photovoltaic panels — is now taking shape. When it’s completed next year, the $4 billion Benban solar park near Aswan will cover an area 10 times bigger than New York’s Central Park and generate up to 1.8 gigawatts of electricity. But Benban probably won’t hold on to its title for long. China is planning to build a two-gigawatt solar farm in the northwestern province of Ningxia, and the state of Gujarat in western India recently gave the go-ahead for a five-gigawatt facility. Japan is even talking about putting a large-scale solar farm in space. “There are huge savings for larger projects,” says Benjamin Attia, a solar analyst. A 2017 report from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the cost of photovoltaic systems shrank by a factor of five from 2010 to 2017. Even the punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panels enacted earlier this year by the Trump administration are unlikely to slow the spread of large-scale solar, which in the U.S. is already cheaper and much cleaner than coal. “Governments have wised up,” says Attia. “They just want the cheapest, fastest way to add new electricity supplies. For nuclear, procurement can take a decade. For gas, it’s up to four years. If you’re talking solar and things go smoothly, you can build a reasonably large project in 18 months.”
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More money was invested in solar power in 2017 than in coal, gas and nuclear power combined, according to a new report for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report says that global investment in solar rose 18% to $160.8 billion, driven by the Chinese market, which was responsible for more than half of the world’s 98GW of new solar capacity. Solar power made up 57% of last year’s total for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion, and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, at an estimated $103 billion. Last year was the eighth in a row in which global investment in renewables, excluding large hydropower, exceeded $200 billion. The $2.7 trillion invested in clean energy from 2007 to 2017 have increased the proportion of electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro globally to more than 12%, from 5.2% in 2007 ... and has avoided the emission of about 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2, about the same as is emitted by the entire US transportation system. UN Environment head Erik Solheim said that “the extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift. Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”
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Identifying a tipping point is not always easy. But when one of the world’s most powerful oil bosses says he is in the market for an electric car, there can be little doubt. Ben van Beurden, the Royal Dutch Shell boss, last week delivered the clearest indication yet that the burgeoning electric vehicle industry is already hastening the decline of global oil demand. For “Big Oil” it is time to adapt or die, and Shell intends to adapt. Within the next year Shell will unveil early plans for a deeper presence in renewable energy and the electrical chain to tap the boom in electric vehicles. “Everyone is repeatedly surprised at how fast electric cars are coming forward,” Professor Dieter Helm told The Telegraph. The number of new registrations of plug-in cars has grown from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 100,000 at the end of May. “But the political pressure to adopt this technology is increasing all the time. It’s not due to concerns over climate change – it’s city air pollution,” he said. And so it was in the UK last week when the Government’s bid to tackle the country’s worsening air pollution followed the example set by France two weeks earlier in pledging to halt the sale of combustion vehicles by 2040. At the same time, government put the battery boom front and centre in its industrial strategy with Ł246m of funding for research and development. Battery Britain may require a fundamental shift for Europe’s oil majors, automotive giants and embattled refineries.
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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.
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Is Steorn’s Orbo technology a non-polluting, supercheap source of power? Steorn emerged at the turn of the century and to date it claims to have attracted €23 million in private investment. Put at its simplest, the “Orbo” technology is a non-polluting, almost cost-free source of power. It is not a battery but offers the same function. At the Steorn premises a table displays rows of heavy crimson skull-shaped boxes, known as power cubes. Each, according to the claims, holds numerous small “batteries” which recharge themselves allowing for a permanent supply of energy. Cube units retail at €1,200 and the first orders are due to arrive with buyers this month. However, the cube is not seen by the company as a mass-market product. They are simply a showcase for the technology. The real focus is on the mobile phone that never needs to be recharged. Explaining his own technology, [company founder Sean] McCarthy dismisses previous suggestions they are claiming to have developed a perpetual motion machine (a hypothetical device that works indefinitely without an apparent energy source) as there [are] no moving parts. “Technically it isn’t a battery at all; you’d call it a battery substitute technology. It’s something that replaces the function of the battery. It is really a generator rather than a storage device,” he says.
Note: Steorn placed a full-page ad in The Economist in 2006 calling for scientists to test its new technology. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing new energy technology news articles from reliable major media sources.
Hydrogen has the potential to fuel incredibly environmentally clean cars. But making that fuel hasn't been so efficient or economical. Pure hydrogen gas does not occur naturally on Earth, so scientists must devise ways to separate hydrogen from naturally occurring compounds, like H2O. Until now, cars that run on water have been out of reach. But a team of scientists have come up with a different mechanism to produce hydrogen fuel from water. These researchers have created a biomaterial that catalyzes the splitting of the water elements, which they describe in a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. The biomaterial, called P22-Hyd, is made up of a modified enzyme, hydrogenase, protected within the protein shell of a bacterial virus. The mechanism goes both ways. P22-Hyd breaks the chemical bonds in H2O to produce hydrogen and oxygen, but it can also combine the two gases to generate power. That reversal is how hydrogen fuel cell cars work. "The reaction runs both ways - it can be used either as a hydrogen production catalyst or as a fuel cell catalyst," study lead author Trevor Douglas, of Indiana University Bloomington said. "You don't need to mine it; you can create it at room temperature on a massive scale using fermentation technology. It's a very green process to make a very high-end sustainable material."
Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea. They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south. It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago. The changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed. The word the Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.”
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The clean-power revolution is for real. Wind and solar have gotten much cheaper, less novel and more predictable. Green electricity is no longer avant-garde; it has produced more than half of new U.S. generating capacity this year. Wind has tripled since 2008, while solar is up 1,200%. This is terrific news–for homeowners who reduce their electric bills by going solar, ratepayers whose utilities save them money by buying wind power, and the planet. But there’s a deeper message. People assume the future of clean energy depends on gee-whiz technological innovations: better solar panels and wind turbines, cheaper batteries and biofuels. And we will need those advances in the long term to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. But the biggest advances in the near term are likely to be boring financial innovations. The innovation that launched the sunshine revolution was the solar lease, which has helped homeowners and businesses install rooftop systems without having to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars up front. Now they can sign 20-year contracts with no money down to lease panels from installers like SolarCity or Sunrun, then make payments out of the savings on their electric bills. Now we’re moving into the next phase of the renewable revolution. Those 20-year leases look a lot like mortgages, auto loans or other financial instruments that Wall Street routinely packages into securities. And Wall Street has begun to package solar contracts into securities. The market for commercial solar securities has grown from less than $1 billion to $15 billion since 2008.
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Imagine making the 19-hour, 1,800-kilometre drive from Toronto to Halifax in an electric car without having to stop for a recharge. That's theoretically possible with a special kind of battery being demonstrated this week in Montreal. The battery ... consists of panels made mostly of aluminum. The battery can extend the range of an electric car by 1,600 kilometres when used in conjunction with the vehicle's regular lithium-ion battery. "We hope that this will increase the penetration of electric cars with zero emissions," said Aviv Tzidon, CEO of Phinergy, ... adding that it should put an end to "range anxiety." That kind of anxiety about how far an electric car can go before needing a recharge has often been cited as a reason the market for electric cars is still relatively small. The regular battery range of electric cars now on the market is a few hundred kilometres at most — 135 kilometres for the Nissan Leaf and 480 kilometres for the more expensive version of the Tesla Model S. That makes those cars unsuitable for extended road trips, unless high-voltage fast-charging stations, which are still relatively uncommon, are available along the way.
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Burlington recently announced that it now produces or gets more power than its citizens use. And it’s all coming from renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and hydroelectric. Ken Nolan helps run Burlington Electric, the local utility company that supplies power to the city’s 42,000 residents. Some might say, of course this is happening in Burlington — the town that’s often cast as a liberal, progressive haven. But Burlington — and Vermont at large — has plenty of economic reasons to try and do their part to tackle climate change: Vermont’s iconic, multi-million dollar industries — skiing and maple syrup — are as dependent on the climate as any industry in the U.S. And the state suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Irene — the type of storm scientists say will grow in frequency unless we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Nolan says that switching from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy will likely save the city about $20 million dollars over the next two decades. What’s more, consumers haven’t been hit with a big price increase: while residential customers across the US have seen small but gradual increases in their utility bills over the years, Burlington’s rates haven’t increased since 2009. There’s nothing magic about Burlington in terms of where it sits. It was just a bunch of decisions made over ten years or more, to get towards renewable energy.
PSA Peugeot Citroen [has] unveiled a pioneering hybrid vehicle concept combining a conventional engine with compressed nitrogen propulsion which it said would halve the cost of cutting emissions compared with current gasoline-electric hybrids. The French carmaker said the so-called "Hybrid Air" system developed with auto parts supplier Robert Bosch would be lighter than a hybrid running on petrol and battery power. Peugeot, which is cutting more than 10,000 jobs as it struggles to stem losses and expand overseas, said the technology would be launched around 2016, with vehicles priced below 20,000 euros ($26,600). Unlike Toyota's Prius hybrid, which supplements a conventional engine with an electric motor, the new Peugeot will use a separate hydraulic motor driven by nitrogen compressed by energy from braking and deceleration. In city driving conditions, the vehicles can travel on the compressed gas power as much as 80 percent of the time with the 3-cylinder gasoline engine cut. Peugeot said a prototype Hybrid Air subcompact emitted 72 grams of CO2 per km, compared with 104 grams for a Peugeot 208 model with the same combustion engine.
Note: For a video and more on this exciting development, click here. Let's hope this doesn't go the way of Toyota's Eco Spirit in 2002, which strangely never made it to market. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on exciting new energy and automotive technology developments, click here.
Four teenage African girls have come up with a urine-powered generator ... which they claim generates one hour of electricity from one liter (about a quart) of urine. The pee-powered product made its debut at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos, Nigeria. Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator. The girls will probably be famous chemists one day, in any case, but they aren't the first to propose urine (or more solid human and animal waste) as a possible alternative fuel. Last year, in one example, researchers from Ohio University came up with their own technology for extracting hydrogen from urine. Doing so, they say, requires less power than plucking it from water, as hydrogen can be separated more easily from the ammonia and urea chemical compounds present in pee. The four African teens likely are the youngest researchers yet to dabble in pee as power. Skepticism aside, can we all just agree that the foursome should be lauded for their efforts to find alternative power sources on a continent that could really use them?
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