How Germany Phased Out Nuclear Power, Only to Get Mugged by Reality

Aaron Wiener Berlin, Germany—For years, environmentalists in America have looked longingly to Germany. There, across the Atlantic, lay a small, cold, gray country whose solar energy production dwarfed big, sunny America’s, a nation that last year pledged to get 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by mid-century while Americans proved unable to agree … Continue reading

China doesn’t need a big navy

Steve LeVine The Philippines is engaged in a muscle-flexing row with China over oil drilling in the South China Sea, writes Andy Higgins at the Washington Post. So are India and Vietnam, reports Ishaan Thardoor at Time, who wonders whether war is possible between China and India. The South China Sea is one of the … Continue reading

Fresh water + salt water + bacteria = renewable energy

John Timmer Most of the renewable energy sources that are under consideration involve an obvious source of energy—light, heat, or motion. But this is the second time this year there has been a paper that has focused on a less obvious source: the potential difference between fresh river water and the salty oceans it flows … Continue reading

Biofuel from bacteria? Running fat-burning cycle in reverse

John Timmer The majority of plant matter we have available to produce biofuels comes in the form of cellulose, a long polymer of sugars. It’s easiest to convert this material to ethanol, but that creates its own problems: ethanol is less energy dense than petroleum-based fuels, and most vehicles on the road can’t burn more … Continue reading

Hot Air

Naoto Kan’s statement taking on Japan’s nuclear industry isn’t likely to accomplish anything. BY ROBERT DUJARRIC This week, Japan’s lame duck prime minister, Naoto Kan, surprised some observers by coming out against nuclear power, announcing that Japan should scrap its target of 53 percent nuclear dependency in 2030 and focus instead on fostering renewable energy … Continue reading

Renewable energy tops nuclear power in the US

John Timmer Plunging prices and booming investments are beginning to reshape the energy market, according to a couple of reports that were released this week. A report produced on behalf of Bloomberg says that investments in renewable energy have gone up by roughly a third over the last year, to $211 billion. Led by China’s … Continue reading

The Hoover Dam and Venezuela’s Electricity Crisis

By Freddy Núñez … although great works of civil engineering can surely weather earthquakes and other natural disasters, they are no match for inept, corrupt and irresponsible governments. Translated By Adam Zimmerman Edited by Patri­cia Simoni Venezuela – Tal Cual Digital – Original Article (Spanish) The Hoover dam is located on the Nevada-Arizona border. The … Continue reading

Clean, cheap hydrogen production from water using cobalt catalyst

Kyle Niemeyer For years, proponents of the hydrogen economy have argued that hydrogen will replace traditional hydrocarbon fuels for transportation purposes. But, so far, a lack of new, inexpensive methods for hydrogen production and storage has impeded this goal. Over the last several years, an MIT professor has been pushing cobalt catalysts as a cheap … Continue reading

China’s Port in Pakistan?

China’s dream of Indian Ocean ports — the so-called string of pearls — is heightening geopolitical tensions in a rough neighborhood. BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN Pakistani officials have announced that the Chinese look favorably on taking over the operation of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar close to the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, … Continue reading

Replacing Batteries May Become a Thing of the Past, Thanks to ‘Soft Generators’

Battery technology hasn’t kept pace with advancements in portable electronics, but the race is on to fix this. One revolutionary concept being pursued by a team of researchers in New Zealand involves creating "wearable energy harvesters" capable of converting movement from humans or found in nature into battery power. A class of variable capacitor generators … Continue reading

The Gas Revolution

Amazingly, an era of energy abundance is upon us, unless politicians and environmentalists get their way. By STEVEN F. HAYWARD When Andrew Liveris took over as CEO of Dow Chemical at the end of 2004, the company was in the midst of a wrenching reorganization that saw it shed 7,000 jobs​—​14 percent of its workforce​—​and … Continue reading

International Support Is Needed in Conquering the Nuclear Power Plant Crisis

Translated By Nathan Biant Edited by Gillian Palmer Japan – Chunichi Shimbun – Original Article (Japanese) The support of various countries was soon offered to Japan after the disaster at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant. Both developed countries and developing countries are strongly reliant on nuclear energy and thus, cannot just sit back and … Continue reading

Green China Rising

By:  James Fallows I had the pleasure of visiting a clean-energy project just outside of Shanghai last year. The project installed brand new equipment on a large coal-fired power plant to capture 120,000 tons of CO2 each year. Dr. Liu, our guide, impressed us with a few facts — The new equipment was designed, built … Continue reading

Smart Thermostats Outwit Users

Programmable thermostats may be making it harder to save energy By Joey Peters and ClimateWire TOO SMART?: Programmable thermostats may be proving too difficult to program correctly to save energy Image: Programmable thermostats, which now make up about half the U.S. sales of all thermostats, could be more trouble for some than they’re worth. … Continue reading

Shaken to the Core

I’ll feel safer about nuclear power when the industry looks more shaken by what happened in Japan. By William Saletan Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory CommissionOn Wednesday, Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, testified before a Senate subcommittee about the nuclear crisis in Japan. He assured the committee of … Continue reading

Nuclear power to go underground?

Phil McKenna, contributor Nuclear power is going to be a tough sell going forward given the ongoing radiation leaking from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, but what if future reactors were buried underground? It may sound like a crazy idea, but Singapore, a tiny island country whose population would have no place to go in … Continue reading

Fukushima’s radioactive plume reaches the UK

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent For the first time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, a radiation plume from a crippled nuclear power station has been detected over the British isles. Although the radiation levels in the UK are way too low to cause any health concerns, the news will bring back alarming memories … Continue reading

"Artificial Leaf" Might Provide Easy, Mobile Energy

Can an artificial system to turn sunlight into storable energy? By Tiffany Stecker and ClimateWire MIMICKING NATURE: An artificial leaf might be able to turn sunshine into storable energy Image: WeFt via WikiMedia Commons An artificial "leaf" that collects energy in much the same way as a natural one could provide a day’s worth of … Continue reading

U.S. drops to 3rd in clean-energy investment

The United States fell one spot to third place in clean-energy investment last year as the lack of a national energy policy hurt purchases in wind and solar power and other technologies, a report said on Tuesday. U.S. drops to 3rd in clean-energy investment San Diego uses innovative solar trees to collect renewable energy from … Continue reading

Plutonium no worry

(yet) at Fukushima, but beware the puddles By John Timmer Today, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which runs the Fukushima nuclear power plant, announced that environmental samples taken a week ago indicate the presence of plutonium in the soil near the plant. The levels remain low, and pose little threat to those working … Continue reading

China Syndrome

Going Nuclear to Cut Down on Coal Burning China pauses its plans to build the most new nuclear reactors in the world in the wake of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan–but will not halt them By David Biello CHINA SYNDROME: China is building nearly half of all the new nuclear reactors in the … Continue reading

Merkel Gambles Credibility with Nuclear U-Turn

Photo Gallery: 6 Photos DPA In the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an astounding political U-turn. She went from being an enthusiastic supporter of nuclear energy to arguing for phasing it out as soon as possible. Many feel her new course is not credible, and it … Continue reading

What Happens During a Nuclear Meltdown?

Not what’s happening in Japan. BY JOSHUA E. KEATING Technicians are scrambling to contain the damage after March 11’s devastating earthquake and tsunami knocked out power at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Seawater is being flooded into the reactor core to prevent overheating, and radioactive gas is being periodically vented to prevent pressure from … Continue reading

5 myths about nuclear energy

KIM JAE-HWAN/ Getty Images – Smoke billows from fires raging at the port in Tagajo, Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011 following a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11. By Michael A. Levi Explosions. Radiation. Evacuations. More than 30 years after Three Mile Island, the unfolding crisis in Japan has brought back some of … Continue reading

Understanding Japan’s nuclear crisis

By John Timmer Following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan has been challenging. At best, even those present at the site have a limited view of what’s going on inside the reactors themselves, and the situation has changed rapidly over the last several days. Meanwhile, the terminology involved is somewhat confusing—some … Continue reading

What Happens During a Nuclear Meltdown?

Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi station in Japan are critically endangered but have not reached full meltdown status. Our nuclear primer explains what that means and how the situation compares with past nuclear accidents By John Matson BEFORE THE QUAKE: The Fukushima Daiichi plant as it looked before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Image: … Continue reading

Hauling manure from the farmyard to the power plant

By Jonathan M. Gitlin Meeting the 21st century’s energy needs is a frequent topic at the annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In the past we’ve covered many sessions on a range of topics from solar to nuclear and beyond. One thing is quite evident at this point: there … Continue reading

Biorefineries challenge petrochemicals with engineered yeast

By Matt Ford The first session I attended as part of this year’s AAAS meeting focused on the state of the art in, and technological hurdles that limit, biorefineries. An analog to common petrochemical refineries, biorefineries are facilities that create fuel, power, and chemicals from biomass precursors, as opposed to the more traditional petrochemical precursors. … Continue reading

Crude Questions

With the upheaval across the Middle East throwing the global energy market in turmoil, here are five questions that all oil traders are frantically trying to answer. BY STEVE LEVINE The turbulence across the Middle East provides us with unique insight into the behavior of a rare and unusual species: The oil trader. Over the … Continue reading

Turn Your Bags and Bottles Into Oil

By Chuck Squatriglia Plastic shopping bags are, of course, made of plastic, which is made from petroleum. A Japanese inventor has figured out how to convert them into fuel. The gadget essentially melts plastic bags and bottles and condenses the vapors into crude oil that can be used for home heating, according to The … Continue reading

Crude reality

Will a Middle Eastern oil disruption crush the economy? New research suggests the answer is no — and that a major tenet of American foreign policy may be fundamentally wrong. By Jeremy Kahn  For more than a month, the world has been riveted by scenes of protest in the Middle East, with demonstrators flooding streets … Continue reading

Get ready for genetically modified biofuels

By John Timmer Switchgrass, with a USDA researcher shown for scale. The cell wall of plants is made of a network of cellulose, a polymer of the simple sugar glucose, and a complex polymer called lignin. Lignin is tough enough to support everything from buildings to the largest living thing on the planet, a giant … Continue reading

Efficiency could cut world energy use over 70 per cent

by Helen Knight  Simple changes like installing better building insulation could cut the world’s energy demands by three-quarters, according to a new study. Discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions usually concentrate on cleaner ways of generating energy: that’s because they promise that we can lower emissions without having to change our energy-hungry ways. But whereas … Continue reading

Coal’s dim future

By Steve LeVine Duke Energy’s proposed $13.7 billion purchase of Progress Energy announced this morning could be a blow to Big Coal, which has ambitions to remain the planet’s preeminent fuel for electric power. Both Duke and Progress have big ambitions for nuclear-fueled power plants, and Duke CEO Jim Rogers is among corporate America’s loudest … Continue reading

The Easiest Way To Make $50 Million

Alexander C. Hart   It’s always an exciting opportunity when the federal government can raise revenue and protect the environment while simultaneously increasing profits at private businesses. That’s why a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on waste from the energy production processes is encouraging, even if it’s irritating. When energy companies like Shell, BP … Continue reading

More on Energy Efficiency

by Michael Levi We can’t decarbonize economy unless we decarbonize our energy supplies, so how can energy efficiency ever solve our problems? It can’t, alone. But energy efficiency matters when economics and politics collide. Say my monthly electricity bill is $100. If policymakers want to force me to use renewable power, that bill might double … Continue reading

The Energy-Poverty-Climate Nexus

Diana Gitig Alex Barth A man walks past a diesel generator in Nicaragua.   Almost two-thirds of the poorest people in the world inhabit rural areas. A Policy Forum in this week’s Science points out that using the appropriate analytical tools to evaluate methods for helping them could reduce poverty while confronting climate change, too. … Continue reading

The inevitable rise of Chinese clean coal

Steve LeVine One truth that few people watching the energy space seem to grasp is that the world will not shift away from its absolute dependence on coal any time soon — certainly not in the first half of this century, and probably not in the second, either. Coal provides half the U.S. electricity supply, … Continue reading

Silicon Nanopores Pack More Punch Into Batteries

Researchers at Rice University have found a way of using silicon to boost the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by a factor of 10. The discovery could increase the performance of the batteries in everything from laptops to electric vehicles. By Chuck Squatriglia The technique provides a more effective way of using silicon as the anode, … Continue reading

What Solar Needs: Its Own Karl Rove

By Michael Kanellos, greentechmedia  The open question is whether the industry has the stomach to fight back — which is where Karl Rove comes in. The industry needs to outline in clear, sound-bite-like blurbs how solar will become the affordable best option in the future. More importantly, the spokesman needs to dig up dirt on … Continue reading

Rare Earths: Elemental Needs of the Clean-Energy Economy

So-called rare earths are not rare, but with no current domestic source the essential trace elements can be harder to come by than U.S. makers of wind turbines, hybrid cars, weapon systems and other technology would prefer By David Biello RARE EARTH MAGNET: The properties of rare earths find uses ranging from powerful magnets to … Continue reading

How the U.S. learned to stop worrying and love the Chinese oil behemoth

By Steve LeVine For the Chinese National Offshore Oil Co., otherwise known as CNOOC, the summer of 2005 must seem like ages ago. That’s when the entirety of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, the state of California and all good American patriots arose in unison and said no, a Chinese company could not buy the … Continue reading

Back from the Dead

Europe’s scramble for nuclear energy is making for radioactive politics. BY AARON WIENER At the dawn of the 21st century, nuclear power appeared to be drawing its last breath across much of Europe. Italy had shut down its last reactor in 1990. The Netherlands had closed one of its two reactors in 1997, and the … Continue reading

How to Ruin OPEC’s Birthday

The Middle Eastern oil cartel celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. Here’s how to keep it from running our lives for another half-century. BY GAL LUFT Fifty years ago this week, five of the world’s top oil-producing countries convened in Baghdad to form the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The goal of the … Continue reading

Bacterial light-harvesting proteins make a regenerating solar cell

By John Timmer  NIH Photovoltaic cells are becoming cheaper and more efficient each year, but there are still some questions regarding their long-term sustainability. Most technologies involve the use of elements that may be limited in supply, toxic, expensive, and difficult to recycle, which may ultimately limit our ability to produce them on the sorts … Continue reading

Review: Microsoft Hohm and a whole-house power monitor

By Nate Anderson | Last updated about 2 hours ago Microsoft’s Hohm energy efficiency and tracking service, still in beta, has a unique sense of style. Who expects a discussion about insulation R-values to involve pirate jokes? "What do pirates look for in attic insulation?" Hohm asks. "The arrrr value! Insulation R-value measures how well … Continue reading

How the Pentagon is Attacking Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Defense’s first director of operational energy plans and programs is tasked with weaving energy considerations into war-fighting strategy By Dina Fine Maron and Climatewire US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE In the heat of battle, troops may not have time to think about making the most energy-efficient moves. That’s where Sharon Burke comes … Continue reading

Harness lightning for energy, thanks to high humidity?

By David Biello Why do the roiling, black clouds of a thunderstorm produce lightning? Ben Franklin and others helped prove that such lightning was discharged electricity, but what generates that electricity in such prodigious quantities? After all, storms generate millions of lightning bolts around the globe every year—even volcanoes can get in on the act … Continue reading

LED light bulbs may not be magic bullet for energy savings

By Casey Johnston  Using more efficient lights like LEDs will not necessarily lessen human impact on the environment, according to a perspective published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. Though artificial light sources are increasingly efficient, scientists point out that people may even the keel on energy costs by using light sources more … Continue reading

Carbon "onions" make for rapid-discharge capacitor

By John Timmer. We tend to focus on charge storage in terms of the batteries that power our electronic devices and, increasingly, our cars. But charge storage devices now make an appearance on scales ranging from tiny implanted medical devices to on-grid electrical storage. No single technology performs well across that range of applications, so … Continue reading