Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crazy Green Ideas

Check out this video I made for New Scientist on a cool new X-Prize competition challenging people to come up with alternative energy ideas.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Energy From The Deep

[The following is a story I wrote on Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion [OTEC] for]

OTEC only makes sense where the temp. dif. between surface and deep water exceeds 20

FOR a company whose business is rocket science Lockheed Martin has been paying unusual attention to plumbing of late. The aerospace giant has kept its engineers occupied for the past 12 months poring over designs for what amounts to a very long fibreglass pipe.

It is, of course, no ordinary pipe but an integral part of the technology behind Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), a clean, renewable energy source that has the potential to free many economies from their dependence on oil.

"This has the potential to become the biggest source of renewable energy in the world," says Robert Cohen, who headed the US federal ocean thermal energy programme in the early 1970s...

[Get the full story here. Copyright ( ]

It's been fun writing about these once-orphaned renewable energy schemes that got a lot of RnD $ back in the day and are now getting a serious second look. I wrote one a couple years back on algae biofuel that feeds on CO2 exhaust that now looks like it might become a reality. In both cases, retired DOE guys who headed up the research in the 70s are suddenly in hot demand as they are the only ones with any hands on experience.
After this story on OTEC went to press, I heard that Taiwan is going in with Lockheed on their 10MW pilot plant off Hawaii.


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Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Kennedy Back in the White House?

[The following is a blog I wrote for Check out the original here]

President-elect Barack Obama has short listed firebrand environmental lawyer Robert F Kennedy Jr as a potential head of the US Environmental Protection Agency according to the Washington Post and Bloomberg.

As a prosecuting attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and environmental watchdog Riverkeeper, Kennedy - the nephew of former US President John F Kennedy - boasts an impressive track record as protector of the nation's waters, air and open spaces.

One could even argue that he has already served as the de facto EPA head for the last 8 years, as Bush appointees used the Cabinet seat to plunder public lands for oil and gas, gut the Endangered Species Act, and block CO2 emission regulations.

Kennedy is the highest-profile candidate among a number of individuals being considered for the position, including Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles, former Sierra Club president and environmental activist Lisa Renstrom, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.

Yet, surprisingly, considers him the worst possible of the potential picks: "His environmental track record is excellent, but he's clung to the vaccines-causing-autism-hypothesis long after large-scale epidemiological studies have discredited it as anything but a statistically insignificant cause."

Wired goes on to argue that heading such a large organisation as the EPA, with its thousands of employees and a $7.2 billion budget, might be too big a jump for the relatively small potatoes environmental defense lawyer. But then again, imagine what an ace environmental prosecutor could do with a $7.2 billion budget and thousands of staffers. We may yet have an Environmental Protection Agency that is worthy of its name.

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