Archives for October, 2013

The greenish sheen that sometimes appears on still water is actually a potential energy powerhouse–cyanobacteria, a microorganism that manufactures its own energy through photosynthesis. Biotechnology companies today are working to develop cyanobacteria, algae, and even municipal waste as feedstocks for advanced biofuels. But these promising abundant non-food sources lack either the government subsidies or the…

A catastrophic, prolonged failure of the electrical grid—the sort of event whose effects are  depicted in National Geographic Channel’s upcoming American Blackout, which premieres Sunday—may seem like just apocalyptic science fiction to some viewers.  Unfortunately, though, the possibility of such a breakdown is all too real.  (See related interactive: “Survive the Blackout.”) Government and utility…

The kidnapping of two American citizens from an oil-supply platform vessel off the coast of Nigeria has put the spotlight on the sharp rise in pirate attacks in West Africa. On Thursday, a U.S. official said the captain and chief engineer of the U.S.-flagged C-Retriever were taken by armed men who stormed the 200-foot ship…

The British government’s long-awaited “policy framework” on the Arctic is not likely to please environmentalists who would like to see an outright moratorium on oil and natural gas drilling. But Clive Archer, emeritus professor and former head of the Manchester Metropolitan University’s European Institute, who has studied Arctic issues extensively, believes it is an important…

Forty years ago this month, Syria and Egypt launched a Yom Kippur surprise attack on Israel to regain land and prestige lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli forces were nearing Damascus and Cairo when a ceasefire took hold. But as the Soviet Union resupplied its Arab clients and President Nixon resupplied Israel, Arab members…

The last effort in the U.S. Congress to tackle climate change head-on died in 2010, amid ferocious lobbying by interests who argued it would wreck the economy. That bill would have cut carbon dioxide emissions 3 percent below their 2005 level by 2012. The actual 2012 figures are now out and in fact, the United…

­­In northern New Mexico the sun shines nearly every day of the year. If solar energy is going to be viable anywhere, it will be here—and a small electric cooperative in historic Taos is taking advantage of it. In addition to supporting new solar projects in its service area, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is offering…

In late September more than 865,000 gallons of Bakken oil spewed from a pipeline onto a North Dakota farmer’s wheat fields.

It’s in the wild places that we do our best thinking. So when I was stepped up to podium to moderate a forum on the Arctic for the National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative, it felt only right to open the session by apologizing for us all being inside. (See related video: Paul Rose and…

This week, the United States faces down the looming deadline for extending its debt ceiling, a line in the sand that economists say could have dire consequences for our nation’s and the world’s economy if the U.S. defaults on its credit obligations. With the federal government shut down for nearly two weeks on top of…

The International Energy Agency made headlines nearly one year ago with its bold forecast that the United States was on track to being the world’s top oil and natural gas producer by 2017. (See related, “U.S. to Overtake Saudi Arabia, Russia as World’s Top Energy Producer.”) It turns out that the United States is fracking…

Another crack in the “fracking is safe” story for the industry to address.

Sometimes our dependency on battery-charging devices seems ironic, considering the abundance of energy around us that is being generated every day by sources as mundane as the human hand, footsteps, and lightning, which strikes the Earth dozens of times per second. (See related photos: “Immense, Elusive Energy in the Forces of Nature.”) A typical lightning…

Of all the potential mishaps that can cause a nuclear plant shutdown, from an earthquake to operator error, the one that you might least expect is a swarm of jellyfish gumming up the works. (See related quiz: “What Do You Know About Nuclear Power?“) But apparently, that’s exactly what happened in Oskarshamn, Sweden, on Sunday,…

OK, with the government shutdown that kicked in at midnight this morning, it should come as no surprise that we have a highly dysfunctional Congress. Still, when Congressional gridlock derails a good, sensible, popular bill on energy efficiency in a country that harnesses less than half of the energy we produce and loses almost 30 percent due to inefficiencies, at least some attention should be paid.