New process turns biomass 'waste' into chemical products
December 17, 2014 03:13 PM - Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue University
A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets. A team of researchers from Purdue University's Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities. Lignin is a tough and highly complex molecule that gives the plant cell wall its rigid structure.
Will more use of natural gas minimize or exacerbate climate change?
December 8, 2014 03:46 PM - Carnegie Science
Natural gas power plants produce substantial amounts of gases that lead to global warming. Replacing old coal-fired power plants with new natural gas plants could cause climate damage to increase over the next decades, unless their methane leakage rates are very low and the new power plants are very efficient.
These are the principal findings of new research from Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and Xiaochun Zhang, and Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures that compares the temperature increases caused by different kinds of coal and natural gas power plants. Their work is published in Environmental Research Letters.
EPA Releases New Energy Star Tool for Homeowners
December 8, 2014 01:49 PM - US EPA Newsroom
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching its Energy Star Home Advisor, an online tool designed to help Americans save money and energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes through recommended, customized and prioritized home-improvement projects.
How dangerous ARE fracking chemicals really?
November 28, 2014 09:17 AM - University of Colorado Boulder
The “surfactant” chemicals found in samples of fracking fluid collected in five states were no more toxic than substances commonly found in homes, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Fracking fluid is largely comprised of water and sand, but oil and gas companies also add a variety of other chemicals, including anti-bacterial agents, corrosion inhibitors and surfactants. Surfactants reduce the surface tension between water and oil, allowing for more oil to be extracted from porous rock underground.
ENERGY STAR's first multifamily properties announced today
November 13, 2014 08:31 AM - ENERGY STAR
Roughly one-third of the U.S. population lives in the country’s 500,000 multifamily buildings, and they spend $22 billion on energy every year. Until this year, apartment and condo managers lacked the tools to measure how much energy they were wasting and compare their performance nationwide. Meanwhile, energy costs for renters have risen by 20 percent over the past decade.
Today, a new era of savings will be ushered in when the U.S EPA announces the first set of multifamily properties to earn the ENERGY STAR certification. The ENERGY STAR first became available to the sector this September, after a three-year partnership with Fannie Mae to develop the scoring system for multifamily properties.
Electric Vehicles and charging systems need to be moving forward in harmony
November 5, 2014 05:51 AM - BOB SHETH, Electric Forum
In many ways electric car technology jumped to far too quickly leaving behind electric vehicle charging systems which for many years have been totally inadequate. There has been major concern amongst motorists around the world that even the most technologically advanced electric vehicle would be unreliable if you are not able to charge it when and where you wanted. This has held the electric car industry for some time although thankfully governments around the world are now focusing upon electric car charging networks.
This then begs the question – could electric car chargers be the next growth industry?
MIT finds switching to higher octane fuel would reduce carbon emissions
October 28, 2014 07:15 AM - MIT News
If the majority of light-duty vehicles in the United States ran on higher-octane gasoline, the automotive industry as a whole would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35 million tons per year, saving up to $6 billion in fuel costs, according to a new analysis by MIT researchers.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team considered a scenario in which fuel is manufactured under a redefined octane rating — the measure of a gasoline’s ability to resist engine knocking during combustion.
Can the corridors under high-tension lines be important opportunities for conservation?
October 17, 2014 08:06 AM - richard conniff, Yale Environment360
Often mowed and doused with herbicides, power transmission lines have long been a bane for environmentalists. But that’s changing, as some utilities are starting to manage these areas as potentially valuable corridors for threatened wildlife. Nobody loves electrical power transmission lines. They typically bulldoze across the countryside like a clearcut, 150 feet wide and scores or hundreds integrated vegetation management in right-of-way scores or hundreds of miles long, in a straight line that defies everything we know about nature. They’re commonly criticized for fragmenting forests and other natural habitats and for causing collisions and electrocutions for some birds. Power lines also have raised the specter, in the minds of anxious neighbors, of illnesses induced by electromagnetic fields. So it's a little startling to hear wildlife biologists proposing that properly managed transmission lines, and even natural gas and oil pipeline rights-of-way, could be the last best hope for many birds, pollinators, and other species that are otherwise dramatically declining.
How Offshore Wind Farms Affect Marine Species
October 17, 2014 06:07 AM - University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Offshore wind power is a valuable source of renewable energy that can help reduce carbon emissions. Technological advances are allowing higher capacity turbines to be installed in deeper water, but there is still much unknown about the effects on the environment. In a recent paper, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researcher Helen Bailey and colleagues review the potential impacts of offshore wind developments on marine species and make recommendations for future monitoring and assessment as interest in offshore wind energy grows around the world.
Which Form of Energy is the Cheapest?
October 16, 2014 10:47 PM - Kevin Mathews, Care2
Which kind of power is the cheapest? Listen to energy companies, and they'll insist that traditional forms like gas and coal are the way to go. Of course, they have money invested in keeping the existing systems in business. That's why the European Union commissioned an independent analysis to study the topic. According to the report, wind energy is the most cost-efficient way to supply power. When proponents of non-renewable energy point to costs, they intentionally overlook the overall economic impact that polluting causes. Once experts start to calculate the costs associated with public health and climate change that coincide with burning coal and gas, the true cost is far higher than initially reported. It's both irresponsible and shortsighted to ignore these environmental and health consequences from the equation.