Improve the Fuel Economy of Your Car in 11 Easy Steps

February 27, 2017 by  
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Although you may dream of buying a hybrid or an electric vehicle, many of us have to drive the cars we already have, at least for the time being. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do with driving habits and car maintenance to boost fuel…

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Improve the Fuel Economy of Your Car in 11 Easy Steps

New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax

February 27, 2017 by  
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The world’s largest publicly traded oil company appears to be more concerned about climate change than the President of the United States . While Donald Trump works on rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations and wants to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, new ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods recently said in a blog post that the Dallas-based energy company supports the Paris climate deal and a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those positions are in line with his successor Rex Tillerson, who is currently serving in the Trump Administration as the nation’s 69th secretary of state. “At ExxonMobil, we’re encouraged that the pledges made at last year’s Paris Accord create an effective framework for all countries to address rising emissions; in fact, our company forecasts carbon reductions consistent with the results of the Paris accord commitments,” Woods wrote, citing increased natural gas replacing coal and greater energy efficiency as important tools in reducing CO2 emissions. Woods also mentioned the company’s research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and advanced biofuels such as algae, saying that the company has invested $7 billion in lower-emissions energy solutions. However, Woods did not mention renewables such as solar and wind as solutions to man-made global warming. Related: Trump to sign executive orders rolling back Obama’s climate protection policies A price on carbon is gaining appeal among some conservative circles. Recently a group of Republican elder statesmen called for a tax on carbon emissions to fight climate change. The proposal would substitute former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the carbon tax. In his blog post, Woods said that a national revenue-neutral carbon tax would increase energy efficiency, boost the economy and incentivize the market to move toward low-carbon energy solutions. “Governments can help advance the search for energy technologies by funding basic research and by enacting forward-looking policies,” Woods said. “A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction.” Via Washington Examiner Images via Exxon and Wikimedia

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New Exxon CEO supports Paris climate deal, carbon tax

NASA releases images of the world’s largest solar farm from space

February 24, 2017 by  
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China is home to the world’s largest solar farm , which is so immense, it is visible from space. With around four million solar panels , Longyangxia Dam Solar Park has a capacity of 850 megawatts (MW) – pushing the country closer to its ambitious renewable energy goals. NASA recently shared satellite images of the solar park as seen from space – and they are admittedly impressive. The award for world’s largest solar farm has switched hands rapidly in the last few years. In 2014, California’s 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm was the biggest, but a year later the state’s 579 MW Solar Star claimed victory. The next year, 2016, saw India’s 648 MW Kamuthi Solar Power Project topple the throne, only to be ousted by the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park this year. Related: India just fired up the world’s largest solar plant to power 150,000 homes NASA Earth Observatory’s satellite images of the Chinese solar park reveal immense growth over four years. By early January of this year, the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, which is in the high desert of the Qinghai province, covered 10 square miles. China became the largest producer of solar power in the world after the country’s total installed capacity increased to around 77 gigawatts in 2016, even though other countries like the United States and Germany produce more solar energy per person. Rapid progress has marked China’s renewable energy industry in recent years. According to Climate Central, drawing on preliminary 2016 data released by Greenpeace’s Energydesk , the country “installed the equivalent of one and a half soccer fields of solar panels every hour.” Such advancement means China could hit their 2020 renewable energy targets as soon as 2018. NASA doesn’t expect the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park to retain the crown for long. The Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai is still growing – phase 3 will add 800 megawatts to the farm. And another solar farm planned for China’s Ningxia region in the northwest is slated to have a capacity of 2,000 MW. Via Climate Central Images via Jesse Allen/NASA Earth Observatory

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NASA releases images of the world’s largest solar farm from space

Dakota Access Pipeline 99 percent finished, says Energy Transfer Partners

February 24, 2017 by  
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After months of protests by Native Americans and supporters worldwide, the Trump administration ignored the pleas of so many American citizens and gave permission for the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward. And Energy Transfer Partners didn’t waste much time doing just that. The group said in a recent statement that the oil pipeline is now 99 percent finished. Federal authorization came earlier in February and Energy Transfer Partners got to work. In March or April, oil could start flowing through the $3.8 billion pipeline, which will transport Bakken crude oil from North Dakota oilfields through the Midwest. The oil will end up at refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. The part of the pipeline that runs so close to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is the last to be completed. Related: Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that the White House is communicating with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In a press briefing yesterday, a reporter asked if the President had been briefed on the Standing Rock situation, and Spicer replied, “Our team has been involved with both the tribe and the governor there, and so we are not only – we are constantly in touch with them. And I think we feel very confident that we will move forward to get the pipeline moving.” But tribe chair Dave Archambault II said Spicer’s claims aren’t true. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement yesterday and quoted Archambault II as saying, “[Spicer’s] claim is absolutely false. We repeatedly asked for meetings with the Trump administration, and never received one until the day they notified Congress that they were issuing the easement. I was on a plane to Washington, D.C. when the easement was issued. It was an insult to me and to the Tribe. I cancelled the meeting upon hearing this news. We have since filed a lawsuit for the immoral and illegal issuance of the easement and suspension of the environmental impact study.” Via Reuters Images via Standing Rock Rising Facebook

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Dakota Access Pipeline 99 percent finished, says Energy Transfer Partners

Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

February 24, 2017 by  
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Yesterday police in riot gear evicted Standing Rock protesters after an evacuation deadline passed. Though the majority of demonstrators left the Oceti Sakowin camp before the February 22nd deadline, about 50 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters remained. Most of these passive resistors – including veterans and tribal elders – were arrested at gunpoint by officers clad in full riot gear. The raid was livestreamed on Facebook over the course of 4 hours throughout the day. The initial evacuation was ordered on the pretext of protecting demonstrators from seasonal floods, which could potentially affect the area. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, the fact that over 200 police officers were sent to clear the area, armed with rifles and military-style equipment, makes it clear that the protesters’ safety isn’t Governor Doug Burgam’s main priority. Related: Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told ABC News in a statement, “I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp. I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.” For many of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, there is no “normal life” to get back to. Now that the pipeline construction is slated to go forward , they live in fear that a catastrophic oil spill could put their community’s access to clean water at peril. The “violence, trespassing, and property crimes” they’ve been subject to at the hands of police in the past year include being attacked by security dogs , blasted with water cannons at hypothermia-inducing temperatures, and having land they claim was granted to them as part of a 1851 treaty given away to oil companies by the federal government. Related: Trump claims he received no calls about the Keystone and Dakota pipelines Though the protests are Standing Rock have been ended by force, the movement to force banks to stop supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline continues. Oakland , Los Angeles , and New York City are just a few of the local governments urged to divest from the pipeline. Seattle has already voted to end all financial support of the project by moving $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo. Via ABC News Images via Kelly Hayes , Unicorn Riot , Jamil Dakwar , Standing Rock Rising

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Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

See how banana trees are recycled into vegan leather wallets in Micronesia

February 24, 2017 by  
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Forget plastic and leather, your next wallet could be made from a more ethical and eco-friendly alternative—banana fiber. Kosrae, Micronesia-based startup Green Banana Paper tapped into banana tree waste, upcycling the unlikely material into stylish and sturdy vegan leather wallets. Green Banana Paper launched a Kickstarter to bring these eco friendly wallets to the global market and help improve the lives of local farmers. Bananas may be easy to eat, but the trees they grow on need a surprising amount of work. There are approximately 200,000 banana trees spread across the island and after harvesting, local farmers must cut down the plant every year to promote fruit production. The mass amounts of banana fiber waste are typically left on the ground to biodegrade, but Green Banana Paper saw an entrepreneurial opportunity with environmental and social benefits. Founded by New England native Matt Simpson, the social enterprise produces strong and water-resistant wallets with designs inspired by the coconut palms, ocean life, and people of Micronesia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSM_TYaT5Kg Related: Thai Building Facade Handmade From Natural Banana Fiber “Green Banana Paper wallets are not only ecofriendly; they are helping to provide a living wage to Kosraean families,” says the company. “Matt hopes to continue to scale up production, and get even more people on the island involved in this truly community-oriented business.” Green Banana Paper has launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for hiring more people and improving the quality of their products. Supporters of the project can also receive their own banana fiber wallet, which can be shipped around the world. + Green Banana Paper Kickstarter

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See how banana trees are recycled into vegan leather wallets in Micronesia

Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

February 22, 2017 by  
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What if fossil fuels could be burned without pouring emissions into the air? Many people consider that idea to be wishful thinking, but chemical engineer Rodney Allam doesn’t. He’s been working on carbon capture technology on and off since the 1970’s, and with the help of venture capital incubator 8 Rivers , recently put the finishing touches on the Allam Cycle , an electric-generation system that captures all the carbon dioxide (CO2) made from burning fossil fuels. Allam investigated bolt-on methods during his decades of searching for a way to capture CO2 from fossil fuel plants, but found those methods too expensive. He aimed to make carbon capture affordable, but gave up in the 1990’s. Then 8 Rivers came along in 2009 with a plan to make use of Recovery Act money from the federal government. When Allam returned to the issue, he was at last able to develop the Allam Cycle. Related: Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder The Allam Cycle doesn’t utilize steam to create electricity . Instead, CO2 under pressure and in a supercritical state spins the turbines powering the generators. Combustion adds CO2 to keep the process going, and any excess is sent into a pipeline. NetPower , 8 Rivers’ portfolio company constructing the first Allam Cycle plant, describes the technology as truly clean, saying plants that utilize the Allam Cycle are able to “inherently eliminate all air emissions.” That means no particulate matter, mercury, nitrogen oxides, or sulfur oxides either. Plus, Allam’s technology can generate electricity at the same six cents per kilowatt-hour as other gas-fired turbines. NetPower is working with Exelon and Toshiba on the first plant. According to Forbes, such a full-size plant costs around $300 million to construct and can generate 300 megawatts yearly. Once the plant is built, it will take a few months before NetPower can show the cycle is stable. Allam told Forbes they might know for sure in a year. The first plant will run on natural gas ; 8 Rivers says on their website they are also developing a coal -based system. Via Forbes Images via Wikimedia Commons and eutrophication&hypoxia on Flickr

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Groundbreaking technology affordably captures CO2 from fossil fuel plants

New silicon nanoparticles could finally make solar windows commercially viable

February 22, 2017 by  
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The trend toward integrating solar into homes and buildings seems to be taking off. First Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled his rooftop solar shingles that are invisible when viewed from the street. Now, researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Milano-Bicocca have developed technology that could usher in a future with photovoltaic windows harvesting renewable energy from the sun. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Photonics, demonstrates that high-tech silicon nanoparticles embedded into luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) can make the performance of solar windows more efficient, comparable to flat solar concentrators. “In our lab, we ‘trick’ nature by shirking the dimension of silicon crystals to a few nanometers, that is about one ten-thousandths of the diameter of human hair,” said University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor Uwe Kortshagen, one of the senior authors of the study. “At this size, silicon’s properties change and it becomes an efficient light emitter, with the important property not to re-absorb its own luminescence. This is the key feature that makes silicon nanoparticles ideally suited for LSC applications.” Related: Revolutionary new solar windows could generate 50 times more power than conventional photovoltaics Photovoltaic windows could be a game changer in the race to power cities with renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Modern glass office towers could be retrofited with photovoltaic windows that wouldn’t change the aesthetics of the building and yet would be able to meet the structure’s electricity needs. According to the US Department of Energy, turning the windows at One World Trade Center into solar collectors could power more than 350 apartments. The researchers say that silicon nanoparticles could make solar windows commercially viable for the building-integrated photovoltaic market. The silicon nanoparticles, which are produced using a plasma reactor and formed into a powder, could realize flexible LSCs that efficiently capture more than five percent of the sun’s energy. One day soon the sun shining on skyscrapers in cities around the world could also be the source of their energy. + Highly efficient luminescent solar concentrators based on earth-abundant indirect-bandgap silicon quantum dots Via Phys.org Images via University of Minnesota

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New silicon nanoparticles could finally make solar windows commercially viable

Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

February 22, 2017 by  
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In this first address to the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency , newly-appointed chief Scott Pruitt didn’t give any rousing remarks about fighting global warming or protecting the planet. Instead, he used the opportunity to strike back at everyone who opposed his controversial candidacy for the position over recent weeks, and laid out a vision that seems to undermine everything the agency stands for . In an address lasting less than 20 minutes, Pruitt described his vision of an EPA that works closely with industrial companies before enacting anti-pollution regulations in order to make it easier for them to comply. (That sound be simple for Pruitt’s EPA – it’s much easier to comply with regulations that simply don’t exist, such as the stream protection rule recently repealed by Congress.) He made no mention of climate change or environmental destruction at all. He did, however, address one unsurprising topic: the EPA’s staff and their opposition to the Trump administration . He bashed the agency for its past actions, which he sees as outside of its legal mandate, and for denying states the right to set their own legislation. Considering that Pruitt has made his name suing the agency 13 times , the verbal assault was more or less to be expected. Related: PA workers openly fight against potential Pruitt confirmation EPA staffers aren’t taking their new boss’s word lying down. One has already blasted it as “condescending and hypocritical” in an anonymous interview with Mother Jones . One Obama-era communications staffer, Liz Purchia, agreed, saying, “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment.” Considering that EPA workers are already in open revolt against Pruitt’s leadership and have already been talking anonymously to the press to undermine Trump’s pollution-friendly agenda, it should be interesting to see his approach over the next four years. Via Huffington Post Images via Gage Skidmore

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Scott Pruitt attacks critics and EPA employees in first speech

Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

February 21, 2017 by  
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No discussion of a post-carbon future can be complete without raising the specter of nuclear power. Although it’s a contentious subject, any concerns about large-scale adoption have been largely rendered moot by the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are finite—and dwindling. Stanford researchers are convinced, however, that the solution may lie in seawater, which contains trace amounts of the radioactive metal. “Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water,” said Yi Cui, a materials scientist who co-authored a paper on the subject in the journal Nature Energy . “But the oceans are so vast that if we can extract these trace amounts cost effectively, the supply would be endless.” Wind and solar power are gaining traction, but some experts say that they’re still too intermittent to be truly reliable in the long term. “We need nuclear power as a bridge toward a post-fossil-fuel future,” said Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former U.S. secretary of energy who championed seawater extraction research before he left the Department of Energy for Stanford. A co-author of the paper, he noted that nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 13 percent worldwide. A practical way of extracting uranium from seawater, he added, could go a long way to bolstering the energy security of countries that rely on nuclear power but lack uranium reserves of their own. “Seawater extraction gives countries that don’t have land-based uranium the security that comes from knowing they’ll have the raw material to meet their energy needs,” he said. Related: Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years Although many have attempted to harness the oceans’ uranium before, previous efforts have failed to yield sufficient quantities in a fiscally meaningful way. Till now, anyway. Uranium doesn’t bob freely on the waves, of course. In seawater, the element combines chemically with oxygen to form positively charged ions called uranyl. Building on years of prior research, the Stanford team refined a technique that involves dipping plastic fibers containing a uranyl-attracting compound called amidoxime in seawater. When the strands become saturated with the ions, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which can be refined for use in reactors – much like you would do with ore. By tinkering with different variables, the researchers were able to create a fiber that captured nine times as much uranyl as previous attempts without becoming saturated. Sending electrical pulses down the fiber collected even more uranyl ions. “We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui said. + Stanford University Via Engadget Top photo by apasciuto

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Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

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