Archives for July, 2011

Clean energy could be among the hardest-hit sectors if the U.S. government does not raise the debt ceiling and then defaults on the national debt. If there is a default, it could hurt in direct ways, by stopping payments for cash grants and loan guarantees that support many renewables projects. It could also hit innovation,…

Natural gas drillers in the United States would have to take steps to rein in “fugitive” greenhouse gas emissions under proposal unveiled today by the Obama administration. The emissions that escape during drilling, transporting or storing of natural gas have stirred widespread controversy, forcing a rethinking of whether natural gas is as environmentally friendly as…

Cleanup and assessment efforts continue in Montana after a July 1 pipeline rupture that sent crude oil gushing into the Yellowstone River. On Tuesday, Montana’s environmental agency said that oil was found on 60 percent of the inspected shoreline. The state also said that the spill released 1,200 barrels into the river, up from Silvertip…

Hillary Clinton is in the tar sands hot seat. Is she asking the right questions? The U.S. State Department is in the rare position of having to decide on an environmental issue. TransCanada wants to expand an existing pipeline to bring tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. Because it’s an international project, the…

Can a liberal education prepare you to compete in the Solar Decathlon? In the spirit of Emerson, “Self Reliance,” from Middlebury, will be the only submission from a liberal arts school to the Department of Energy’s architectural competition on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23-Oct. 2, 2011 (Follow on Twitter…

With a large share of their nuclear power plants down at the moment, both Japan and Germany are scrambling to meet energy demand and figure out how to get by without nuclear in the future. Two-thirds of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are currently down, most of them for maintenance and testing. To cope with the…

More than 30 states are under heat advisories and warnings this week as triple-digit temperatures stretch across the Midwest, East Coast and parts of the South. Some states reported deaths potentially linked to the heat, while others reported widespread power outages. Parts of Detroit lost electricity, leaving thousands of residents with no air conditioning in…

Energy poverty cripples development prospects. Where people don’t have access to modern energy services, like reliable electricity, their ability to earn a livelihood is sabotaged. That’s why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called — admirably — for “a revolution that makes energy available and affordable for all” in 2012, designated the International Year of Sustainable…

Across America, people are standing up for clean water. On Saturday, thousands gathered in nearly 60 cities as part of the Green The Block “National Day of Action,” which focused on the nation’s water crisis. From California to New York, people came together to demand clean water for their children and communities. Right now, Americans…

Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with dozens of leaders from all over the Gulf Coast who are working on some really innovative clean economy projects. I’m not one to get overly sentimental, but the commitment of these local leaders to rebuilding sustainable and economically diverse communities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and…

Australia, with the highest per capita greenhouse emissions of any large developed country, will soon take on one of the most ambitious schemes to tackle climate change, with a new carbon-trading system. The planned carbon tax will start in 2012 and apply first to the 500 worst polluting companies responsible for about 60 percent of…

The Future Is Low Carbon

Moving from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy entails replacing the global energy and industrial high-carbon infrastructure over the next decades. UN’s recent Economic and Social Survey 2011 – The Great Green Technological Transformation estimates replacement costs at $15-$20 trillion, or between one quarter and one third of global income. This is a herculean task.…

The U.S. government’s Energy Star program – which says it helped save Americans $18 billion on their energy bills last year – has created a new category to guide consumers to the top tier of energy-efficient models for such common appliances as TVs and refrigerators. The program, run by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department…

Within hours of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s announcement that he wanted to phase out nuclear energy, a special government task force in the United States charted a path forward for nuclear power in the United States Wednesday. The Japan task force of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggested gradual improvements for the 104 U.S.…

One of the big debates in energy today is about the hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of natural gas deposits. Various groups have already taken entrenched positions and the crossfire of arguments pro and con has begun. For the casual observer the arguments and facts must be confusing as they try to form their own informed…

Some Girl Scouts say palm oil in their cookies are leading to deforestation. Cookies, schmookies, the real question is: should we could we put palm oil in our gas tanks? What about algae-based oil? Or the old standby, corn? (Related: “A Rain Forest Advocate Taps the Energy of the Sugar Palm“) Planet Forward brings you…

Ethanol has had its highs and lows. Which way is it headed now? Fermentation. What would we do without it? It’s a little trick that microbes figured out billions of years ago as a way of getting energy from carbohydrates. Then way back in prehistoric times, we humans figured out how to hijack that microbial…

This weekend marked the beginning of an important new chapter of nation-building, with the celebration and formal launch of the world’s newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan.   United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a host of dignitaries were on hand.  The decades-long civil war with the north ended in 2005, and the World…

The rhetoric about energy can get a little apocalyptic, and the latest debate over ethanol subsidies is no exception. According to the Iowa Corn Growers Association, going through with the Senate’s tentative moves to end ethanol subsidies last week would be a huge mistake. Here’s their forecast: “Cutting the legs out from under the corn…

As the summer heats up, energy shortages are striking around the world—including the oil-rich Middle East. Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), stopped supplying gasoline to the other emirates, because the government can’t afford to continue subsidizing gasoline, which it currently sells at far below global market rates. Now a UAE company has…

  Attacking the long-standing problem of coal power plant pollution that drifts across state borders, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized rules that will force a sharp reduction in the smokestack emissions. Here’s a look at EPA’s new regulations, by the numbers: Number of states that will need to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2),…

Flooding and swift river currents have hindered cleanup efforts and attempts to determine the cause of an oil pipeline rupture that caused at least 750 barrels (31,500 gallons/119,240 liters) of oil to spill into the Yellowstone River in Montana, according to pipeline operator ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil president Gary Pruessing said cleanup crews are undertaking daily aerial…

Renewable energy:  Scientists, governments, and significant elements of the business community now are in agreement that it is the basis around which we can build a low-carbon, sustainable, global energy economy. And yet, misinformation is being propagated by interests favoring the status quo. A June 7 op-ed,  The Gas is Greener, by Robert Bryce in…

Cleanup and damage assessment continue Sunday after a pipeline operated by ExxonMobil ruptured Friday night near Billings, Mont., sending an estimated 750 to 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River. The rupture created a plume of oil that stretched some 25 miles, and oil was reportedly sighted as far west as Hysham, 100 miles…