- Obama Administration Reverses Largest Appalachian Mountaintop Removal Permit in US History
- Chevy Volt Owners Will Say Buh-Bye to Car Chargers in 2012
- U.S. Fiddles While Others Work for New Energy Future
- DOE Develops New Flexible Glass Stronger than Any Known Material
- New Google Earth Map Lets Homeowners Predict Solar Power
Posted: 13 Jan 2011 08:44 AM PST
Word is just coming down via Coal Tattoo that the Obama administration EPA has just vetoed the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history. The permit was initially awarded during the previous very fossil-friendly Bush administration, after a fractious decades-long court battle.
By retracting the Clean Water Air permit for Arch Coal's 2,300-acre mine proposed for the Blair area of Logan County, West Virginia, the EPA is effectively suspending most major activity.
The decision comes after it reviewed more than 50,000 public comments and held a major public hearing in West Virginia, and is part of the Obama administration EPA crackdown on mountaintop removal.
EPA officials this morning were alerting West Virginia's congressional delegation to their action, and undoubtedly preparing for a huge backlash from the mining industry and its friends among coalfield political leaders, including new “Democratic” Senator Joe Manchin, an EPA foe.
As the EPA faces a real battle this year with a new Tea Party House clutching the purse strings that control environmental decisions, and a more fossil-friendly Senate that could vote to reduce EPA power; it is a brave move – and the right one.
The EPA noted in its ruling that it has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation's water, but that Arch Coal has refused to make any changes to its operations.
“EPA's final determination on the Spruce Mine comes after discussions with the company spanning more than a year failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities. The action prevents the mine from disposing the waste into streams unless the company identifies an alternative mining design that would avoid irreversible damage to water quality and meets the requirements of the law. Despite EPA's willingness to consider alternatives, Mingo Logan did not offer any new proposed mining configurations in response to EPA's Recommended Determination.”
The decision represents a huge win for Appalachian groups such as I Love Mountains which has been fighting an uphill battle for what should be a basic human right of drinkable water in the region.
Posted: 13 Jan 2011 07:00 AM PST
Next year, GM will introduce wireless charging cords in the Chevy Volt electric-gasoline vehicle along with other GM models. The new equipment, courtesy of wireless expert Powermat, will be capable of charging cell phones and other small devices, which means that the owners of these cars can eliminate at least one pesky little item from their consumer electronics inventory – the car charger. Hmmm…a car that actually simplifies your life instead of complicating it…weird…
Phone Chargers and Sustainability
Yes, cell phone charging cords are relatively small pieces of equipment but on a global scale they add up to an enormous amount of waste. One problem is the lack of uniform standards, which means that you keep adding to that bag of out-of-date chargers in your closet every time you get a new phone. The industry is nearing a universal charger at least in Europe, but that still leaves a good measure of needless duplication for people who need one charger to keep at home and one to keep in the car. Eliminate the need for a car charger and there you go.
Electric Vehicles and Sustainability
The sustainability equation goes to a whole new level when it comes to electric vehicles. Say, for example, that your home doesn’t provide a suitable site for a solar power installation, but you have access to one of those cool new parking lots with solar power canopies. You could charge up your EV battery at the parking lot, along with any number of other devices in your car. In other words, your car could function as a portable solar power collector, enabling you to gather and store solar energy while you’re out and about, and use it to power the electronic equipment that populates your home.
Chevy Volt and Green Jobs
It’s fitting that GM is kicking off the new wireless charger in the Volt, because this vehicle is emerging as a sort of avatar for every green dream you can think of, even to the point of making lemonade (well, car parts) out of the booms left over from BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster. The Volt is also creating new green jobs and it may serve as a platform for GM’s new thermoelectric technology, which captures the waste heat from car exhaust in order to boost fuel efficiency.
Image: Phone chargers by matthewvenn on flickr.com.
Posted: 13 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST
You would think that a high profile international trade show with a name like “World Future Energy Summit” would be held deep in the heart of the U.S., given our long and influential track record of innovation. However, it’s not. The event is being held in the United Arab Emirates, deep in the heart of oil country. Which brings up the question, if other nations that are rich in fossil fuels are embracing a clean energy future as a matter of national policy, what is holding us back?
Future Energy and the U.S.
Though certain legislators in the U.S. Congress have been busy obstructing a national clean energy policy, President Obama has devoted a considerable amount of resources to pushing the nation forward and supporting clean tech companies, including a strong green jobs component in the Recovery Act, new funding for the ARPA-E research program, and a Rust Belt revival in new green manufacturing to dovetail with the introduction of electric vehicles.
Future Energy in Abu Dhabi
The guide for U.S. exhibitors at the World Future Energy Summit also includes a letter of support from President Obama, and to highlight the significance of the event for U.S. clean tech companies, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Abu Dhabi and toured the sustainability research center Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The institute is partnered by MIT, and its building in Masdar City was designed to be fully powered by solar energy and use half the amount of potable water as conventional buildings of its type.
Fossil Fuel Business as Usual
In contrast to the efforts of President Obama to create new green jobs in the U.S. and new opportunities for U.S. clean tech companies overseas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent a considerable amount of energy – and money – to foster a legislative framework that is unsupportive of new green technology.
Image: UAE export plate by woody1778a on flickr.com.
Posted: 12 Jan 2011 08:49 PM PST
This glass can bend, if subjected to stress, rather than shatter. The new kind of strong glass material is a microalloy with palladium, a metal with a high “bulk-to-shear” stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials.
The initial samples of the new metallic glass were microalloys of palladium with phosphorous, silicon and germanium that yielded glass rods approximately one millimeter in diameter. Adding a fifth metal, silver, to the mix enabled the Cal Tech researchers to expand the thickness of the glass rods to six millimeters.
“The rule of thumb is that to make a metallic glass we need to have at least five elements so that when we quench the material, it doesn’t know what crystal structure to form and defaults to amorphous,” says Robert Richie, the lead author of “A Damage-Tolerant Glass” just published the research in the journal Nature Materials.
Ritchie holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Materials Science and Engineering Department.
Co-authors were Cal-Tech’s William Johnson; one of the pioneers in the field of metallic glass fabrication, and Marios Demetriou, who actually made the new glass with funding from the National Science Foundation, and Maximilien Launey, Glenn Garrett, Joseph Schramm and Douglas Hofmann who joined Ritchie and Johnson in characterization and testing at UC Berkeley, funded by the DOE.
In earlier version, the Berkeley-Cal Tech collaboration stopped microscopic cracks from becoming “shattered” glass fragments, by building micro-structural barriers with the metals.
In this new phase, the group takes it a step further. By making the glass able to bend, it can’t even develop a crack to lead it to eventually shatter.
In the process, they have created a new kind of a glass that is stronger and tougher than any material known.
Potentially, a solar roof protected within a glass that’s stronger than steel would need a great deal less roofing infrastructure to hold it up, reducing both solar (and roofing) prices. The research was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
Posted: 12 Jan 2011 10:00 AM PST
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have harnessed the power of Google Earth to fine-tune a free solar map that works like a kind of crystal ball for solar power. The map helps homeowners and other photovoltaic installers to determine the most effective angle for solar panels in different parts of the state. It also helps to predict the amount of power a solar installation could generate. Tools like this are going to become increasingly important as solar energy competes for installation dollars with other emerging small-scale alternative energy technologies including micro wind power and fuel cells.
Predicting Solar Energy
According to an article from the UC Jacobs School of Engineering, Professor Jan Kleissl and his research team have correlated solar production with demand, in order to squeeze the most valuable power out of an installation. Electricity rates generally go up during periods of peak use, so it makes sense to build a solar installation that takes the best advantage of the sun’s location during these times.
Distributed Solar Energy and Green Jobs
Along with making solar energy a more economical choice for individual homeowners, the new map could help speed the development of more distributed solar networks. Distributed solar can help reduce the need to build new central power plants, while spreading more green jobs in local communities. As demonstrated by President Obama’s job-creation record in the first two years of his term, green jobs are an economic powerhouse despite the obstruction of legislators with an interest in preserving the dominance of fossil fuels. If legislators are serious about getting this nation on the right fiscal track, it’s time to stop coddling out-of-date, destructive energy sources.
Image: Crystal ball by Bitterjug on flickr.com.
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