Archives for March, 2011

The historic March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which cost untold number of lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and mourning, was an object lesson on the unpredictable and often violent planet that we are fortunate enough to inhabit. The news media, however, quickly shifted their focus to coverage of the…

As heroic workers and soldiers strive to save stricken Japan from a new horror—radioactive fallout—some truths known for 40 years bear repeating. An earthquake-and-tsunami zone crowded with 127 million people is an unwise place for 54 reactors. The 1960s design of five Fukushima-I reactors has the smallest safety margin and probably can’t contain 90 percent…

Eat you heart out, King Ozymandias. Our CO2 monument will last longer than yours. Oh the folly of humankind, the hubris. How many of our forebears have striven for immortality only to have their works crumble like so many grains of sand. It’s a sad story that’s oft been told, perhaps no better than by…

It may come as a surprise to know that half of the global population uses biomass (wood, agricultural wastes and dung) and coal for cooking. For Sub-Saharan Africa where electrification rates outside of South Africa are only 28 percent, biomass and coal are the primary cooking fuels for over three fourths of the population. Combustion of…

It’s natural that the nuclear crisis in Japan is causing people to rethink nuclear power. Frankly, it would be crazy if it didn’t. But the problem with energy choices in general is that it’s actually pretty hard to  change your mind once you’ve chosen a direction.  Nuclear power proves the point. For most of the…

The Scotland government has just started the prize period for a renewable energy competition, the Saltire Prize, which will reward a team of innovators with more than $16 million if they can demonstrate a commercially viable wave or tidal stream energy technology that can provide 100 GWh of energy over a continuous two-year period, just…

A group blog by Yale students. The topic: Many of the world’s nuclear power plants are reaching the end of their expected lifetimes, and policymakers are divided on what to do. Safely decommissioning such plants is costly, and funding for doing so is scarce. Compounding the problem, there are worries about nuclear proliferation, particularly regarding…

While there may be good reasons for nuclear power to be used as a bridge fuel to a renewable energy future, I am confident that nuclear power is politically dead in the United States. This makes the research and development of alternative energy and carbon capture and storage that much more important and urgent. It…

It’s an unfortunate fact that stress has a way of making people crazy. At the moment, rising oil prices are creating a lot of stress. One of the problems with our deep dependence on oil is that oil prices can (and do) swing wildly in relatively short periods of time. Between January 2007 and July…

A nuclear power station is built around a tiny little reaction reaction that happens as atoms are split apart. This tiny process is contained in several protective layers that are built to protect the outside environment from radiation emitted from the process and the breakdown. When the earthquake hit Japan last week, these protective measures…

Post by Charles E. Cooke Deputy Director, Energy Institute The University of Texas at Austin Congress has reached what amounts to a stalemate in its consideration of climate change legislation, and it’s not clear how long this self-imposed hiatus will last. Proponents of a cap-and-trade approach to limiting CO2 have failed to make a compelling…

Among the challenges facing technicians struggling to contain the meltdown at the Daiichi Japanese nuclear power units is getting enough water to cool them down. In Japan’s case, the overheating was caused by explosions triggered by the earthquake. Nuclear—as well as fossil-fuel and biomass-fired and some renewable energy systems are impacted by changes in ambient…

For the past 35 years, the U.S. energy supply condition can be described as “precarious”, at best. But, over the past 5 years the Energy Sector in the US has been undergoing unprecedented change, spurred by a number of factors including a revolution in new energy technologies, rapid shifts in consumer attitudes, and the discovery…

The loss of Arctic sea ice has done more than herald the extent of global warming. It has opened up the prospect of new shipping routes and new access to natural resources. As the ice has retreated, nations and private interests have advanced on the wild, remote region that affects the world–both as home to…

Nuclear Crisis in Japan

A game-changer or the price of doing business? At first there was the shock — the unbelievable devastation wrought first by Japan’s largest recorded earthquake (recently upgraded to a magnitude of 9.0) and then by the tsunami. Then, as the focus shifted to the daunting cleanup and recovery, another crisis hit — this one at…

The disaster in Japan, which threatens to worsen as the country’s officials struggle to contain what is being called the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl meltdown 25 years ago, is having repercussions on nuclear policy worldwide. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a three-month moratorium on extending the operation periods for its nuclear…

For those who always suspected that the automakers could produce a more fuel-efficient car if they wanted, well, you’re right, and the proof is going on sale this year. We’re not talking about electrics, although they’ve been getting all the attention in green circles lately. We’re talking about old-fashioned internal combustion engines in perfectly conventional…

Update: Japanese officials said Saturday that radiation levels within one reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are now 1,000 times above normal, and some radiation has leaked outside the plant. Though evacuation of local residents has been expanded, officials said the leak posed “no immediate health threat.” (Read more at The New York…

This is the second installment of a group blog by Yale students.  Multi-disciplinary and across the university, this blog aims to bring you different perspectives on a common problem. This week’s topic: Some 1.5 billion people around the world live without electricity, another 1 billion people have unreliable power, and nearly half the global population…

Ethanol’s gotten a bit of a bad rap here in the States of late, largely due to the billions of dollars of federal subsidies that are paid to the oil companies each year to blend this renewable domestic fuel into our gasoline. There’s been plenty of rumblings from Washington to up the percentage of Ethanol…

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the problem of identifying energy subsidies. If you want to cut them, you have to know what they are first, and while it may seem obvious at times, it’s not always so clear what really is a subsidy and what isn’t. The discussion at least implicitly assumes that…

The December 2011 Climate Conference (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, presents a tremendously important opportunity to advance both the globally critical goal of climate protection, and to do so synergistically with a local agenda of sustainable development and poverty alleviation. The COP 16 meeting in Cancun last year, while in many ways an important…

Americans have watched the recent unfolding drama of political and social change in the Middle East with deep ambivalence. Our better selves find hope and some measure of gratification in the collective expression of shared aspirations for individual autonomy and economic opportunity: these ordinary people clearly deserve better. Of course, our keen interest in Middle…

Later this week, the U.S. Senate will consider H.R. 1, the federal budget bill approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month. The bill calls for $60 billion in budget cuts, including massive reductions within the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. Left intact, the cuts would effectively end America’s status as the…

Guest post by Michael Schmitz, ICLEI USA California Director The Golden State offers great promise for the country when it comes to forward-thinking climate policy. Even Big Oil didn’t have the juice to stop California’s growing clean energy economy when Prop. 23 went down decisively in November. But if we want to turn this promise…