Archives for August, 2011

Quarterly earnings numbers are out for many publicly traded solar manufacturing companies, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the solar industry is in trouble. Why? Because the global price of solar panels is falling, putting pressure on profit margins, and that spells bad news for manufacturers’ earnings. This is a reminder that what is good…

If there’s a single idea that the oil industry has peddled to persuade the Obama administration to approve the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, it’s this: tar sands oil might be more polluting than even dirty old regular oil, but it’s better to get our energy from our ally Canada than from unstable oil…

The idea that the only way to deal with how humans are changing the climate is to have scientists and engineers figure out a way to change it back again has attracted some clever monikers over the last few years. Journalists and bloggers have called geoengineering everything from “the MacGyver-ish solution” to “Plan B” to…

After rebel forces swept into Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the country may be able to start to ramp oil production and exports again, which many analysts hope will bring down oil prices. Libya claims Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, and was producing about 1.6 million barrels a day when the production suddenly dropped to near zero…

The North Anna nuclear power plant in Louisa, Va., has restored its normal power supply after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake forced it to operate on back-up generators briefly Tuesday, but the plant remains offline as inspections continue. Jim Norvelle, spokesman for plant operator Dominion Virginia Power, said Wednesday that the plant “will be shut down until…

Whether at Christmas time or in the heat of summer, nobody likes a lump of coal. Unfortunately, that’s what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is delivering in its latest report.

In today’s polarized climate, it is not uncommon to hear opposition to anything labeled climate-friendly or green. But confronting inaccurate and unfair arguments requires constant effort, and the trend toward complacency is dangerous. According to Jigar Shah of the Carbon War Room at the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference in Aspen last week, if…

Many conversations at the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference in Aspen focused on what needs to be done, what can be done realistically, and what isn’t being done to transition the United States away from fossil fuels. So it was refreshing and inspiring to hear about something that has been done: retrofitting New York…

The American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference opened Thursday in Aspen, Colorado, with leaders from the sectors of government, industry, activism and science engaging on questions about how the United States can wean itself from dependency on fossil fuels. In an early keynote speech, Lester Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, offered…

Texas has suffered through the worst drought and one of the worst heat waves on record, pushing electricity use to a record high in an attempt to cope. Texas is the state with the recently installed wind farms came through to boost the state’s electricity generation just in time. However, even this jump was not…

A Return to $2 Gas?

It’s a new campaign pledge by Republican presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann, but a close look at the history of U.S. gasoline prices indicates that turning the clock back to $2 gasoline would bring the nation back to some brief, and not- necessarily-prosperous eras. An interactive graphic developed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that…

What motivates people to save energy? This year, the Great Energy Challenge launched a project, the 360º Energy Diet, designed in part to tackle this very question. (Another round of the diet begins this fall.) For some people who joined, it was the idea of living a simpler, less wasteful lifestyle. Others liked the idea…

Micro Hydro: Volts for a Village in Bhutan

The small Himalayan nation of Bhutan is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change, facing glacial lake outburst floods and dramatic shifts in rainfall patterns. Bhutan is nearly unique in the world as a carbon neutral nation, due to its limited industrialization and its dependence on carbon-free hydroelectric power. But it faces great challenges…

For a highly technical drilling technique, the controversy over “fracking” for natural gas has gained a lot of traction. In the past week, a federal advisory panel called for tighter restrictions and disclosure on the process. Meanwhile, House Democrats are pushing for tighter rules on companies using the process to drill for natural gas, and…

The stock market took a beating this week, after the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. bonds—but clean tech stocks have been falling even faster than the market as a whole. Shares in clean energy companies have been hit by a “triple whammy”—producing too much capacity for the demand, problems with government debt, and…

Wanted: Natural gas industry volunteers. The job: Provide the data that will determine if your shale gas operations actually give off a lot more greenhouse gases than your industry “clean skies” image would suggest. That’s one of the main recommendations released this morning by a key U.S. advisory panel that the Obama administration established to…

Among the many reasons for concern about the near future of the global economy, markets are looking at food price inflation in China as a factor that might increase the likelihood of a world recession. The world has actually been under a global food price inflation for a few years, mainly due to a sequence…

A city of 300 in Alaska is at the cutting edge of bioenergy. The Backstory It’s ironic. In resource- and fossil fuel-rich Alaska, Tanana residents are paying more than seven times the national rate for their electricity and are shipping in diesel fuel to heat their buildings and water. Probably the name Tanana (pronounced TAN-uh-naw)…

The price of crude oil is plummeting on world markets, but when do consumers get a break at the pump? The answer: It’s hard to say. Gas prices in the United States actually have risen steadily over the past several weeks, from an average of $3.63 per gallon (about 96 cents per liter) in late…

What wasn’t to dislike about the spectacle of this summer’s recently concluded budget battle? There was the impending economic disaster, the Full Monty on just how dysfunctional Congress has gotten, and the outsized role given by those operating on the political fringe. But for clean energy advocates, there was another reason to throw the remote…

China is already the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, but now it is making a move to become a major solar energy consumer as well, with a nationwide feed-in tariff to pay people or businesses a subsidy for electricity they produce with solar panels. This follows on the heels of the country’s wind energy feed-in…

Ryan Park had an irrepressibly sunny presence on The Bachelorette this season — surely a valuable quality when it comes to both dating and the business of solar energy. Park, director of business development for the California-based REC Solar, competed with 24 other men to win the heart of Ashley Hebert on the ABC reality…

Last week, President Obama announced a plan to boost the fuel economy of vehicles sold in the U.S. from 27.5 to 54.5 mpg beginning in 2017—effectively doubling fuel economy standards by 2025. This important step—agreed upon by the auto industry after some wrangling—to reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil requires annual fuel-economy increases of 5…

At first glance, you might not think the debt crisis and the energy crisis have much in common. But they’ve got two big similarities, either of which can come back to bite us. As we write this, it looks like Republicans and Democrats have reached a deal allowing the United States to raise its arbitrary…

As the Apple iPad and a variety of other electronic wonders become entrenched in our daily lives, it is clear that the world is in the middle of a technology boom, and it is even clearer that we all love it. Technology such as the iPad is built on the back of fundamental scientific research…