Alternative Energy, Energy Independence and Global Warming Reduction

What on Earth Are We Doing to Our Only Home?

PlanetWatch focuses on mankind's threat to what an astronaut called our planet's "thin film of life", on an expanding population's voracious consumption and waste of resources, and on the need for clean energy alternatives both to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to reverse our contribution to climate warming. Shouldn't you join us?

  WHAT WE CAN DO: Conservation can do a surprising amount to reduce energy   consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emission. We've developed a dozen   or so articles on ways you can do your part.                     
ITEMS
Bush-Canceled Carbon Capture Prototype Revived

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has resuscitated FutureGen. Jettisoned after four lost years of unaccomplishment supposedly because of costs, it's been a hot topic with us. See Energy Dept. Cancels Clean Coal Develop- ment and Did a Math Error Really Kill the Nation’s Sole Sequestration Project?.

The Sound of Silence

When you cross a road in the future, how are you going to know a car is coming? Hybrids and electrics running on batteries barely make a sound. Only above 20mph can one can hear the hum of the tires. So the U.S. Congress and the European Commission are both considering laws to require the addition of artificial noise emitters to battery cars. It’s no joke; think of the blind. But what sort of noise? The experts' verdict is in: The same noise made by the old-fangled, gasoline-burning buggy you’re driving right now, of course.

Amsterdam on
Two Wheels

In a city with more bicycles than people, some 40% of Amsterdamers ride them to work. So many bikes in the 10,000 parking slots at the railroad station result in owners forgetting where they put them. Four times a year, orange tags are affixed to every bike. Owners are told to tear them off. After a month, some 500 to 600 still have the tag and are carted away.

The Costs of Warming

Global warming costs $125 billion in economic losses and causes 300,000 deaths annually, according to the Global Humanitarian Forum, an organization with former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as its chief.

What's Inside?
Wind Power: Increasingly Viewed as "Most Cost-Effective and Scalable" Renewable

It's the fastest growing energy alternative, built quickly and producing electricity at costs near those of coal and gas in some areas. But to bring the power from plains to city we've got to extend the grid.
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Getting Real About the Energy Gamble

We've urged Obama and Congress to use stimulus to create clean tech jobs. But this contrarian view says eliminate energy subsidies entirely, because the government has a terrible track record picking winners.Continue

What's Wrong with the Energy Grid?

We continualy hear that the nation's electricity grid needs expansion and modernization. But what does that mean? Here's a primer. Continue

China Intends to Own the Electric Car Market

And they've already produced an economical car with a battery that takes an 80% charge in 15 minutes and will take you 180 miles. As for the Chevrolet Volt: it is running behind schedule and has slipped to 2011.
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Shai Agassi’s Audacious Plan for Electric Cars

First build the infrastructure, then the cars. And sell them without batteries. Let's make today's gas stations will become tomorrow's battery stations, says this entrepreneur.
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Why Termites Could Teach Us a Thing or Two

The quest to find substitutes for imported oil is causing scientists to take school from Nature, even to the point of getting in bed with bugs -- bugs that can produce -- ready for this? -- crude oil.
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Our Updates Are Free
A warming planet, expanding populations, fished out oceans, wasted resources. Conservation and energy innovation are vital. We need to know what the future has in store for us, unless we act. Now that you've found us, why not stay informed with our free updates?
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At Our Landfills: 'No Vacancy' :

Wasteful U.S. Discovers Value in Its Garbage

April 17, 2009
Approximately 230 million tons of total waste will be generated by Americans this year—enough to create a convoy of garbage trucks that could wrap around the earth six times, and reach halfway to the moon.
     At this current American average level of consumption, it would take the resources of four additional comparable planets to support the earth’s six billion-plus inhabitants.
     Americans on the average consume ten times more per person as the average Chinese citizen,
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With Cars Going Electric, There's This Roadblock: The Battery

March 24, 2009
While there have been many positive developments in the search for new energy technology, alternative fuels and more energy efficient products, the single most attractive source of power, electricity, has two major drawbacks: Power loss during its transmission and the limited storage capacity of current batteries.
     Though the former may be resolved through an improved national electric grid or by reducing transmission distance by generating power locally from solar, wind or geothermal sources, current battery storage
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House Passes Climate Bill:

Will the U.S. Finally Do the Right Thing?

June 28, 2009
House passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill was a remarkable accomplishment considering how rooted in parochial interests are so many in the legislature. It was a razor thin margin of 219 to 212 that required intense campaigning from the White House, but a cause for a celebration nonetheless. Congress is finally taking decisive action for change rather than perpetuating business as usual.
     But now it really gets tough. The giveaways necessary to buy the votes have already led to serious weakening of the bill before it goes to the Senate. That’s where it’s just two votes per state, where there is no deluge of votes from populous east and west states to overwhelm the industrial and coal-mining states, where the heartland states have the same heft as the rest, and where the fate of the planet is of remote concern. Those same parochial interests could prove
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Oil Prices Take Off:

Is $4.00 Gas on the Way Again?

June 22, '09
Oil prices are on a tear and gasoline prices are not far behind. Creeping up almost unnoticed, the price per barrel went from $35 at the beginning of the year to just over $50 in early May but has suddenly spurted past $70 this week.
     High oil prices are a drag on a struggling economy, but they’re good news for alternative fuel producers, battery developers, auto hybrids and the manufacturers of the all-electric cars on the horizon, because we are near the price threshold at which these industries become competitive. Economists say that oil from $75 a barrel on up will cause people to look for substitutes. That translates as support of new technologies.
     Cutting edge industries need fuel price stability in the marketplace, else investors scurry elsewhere. A stiff gas
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Controlling Carbon? Using What for a Yardstick?

June 22, '09
Now that a growing majority of thinking people all over the world accept the role humans play in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, the U.S. government is getting serious about limiting these emissions. This is very different from three years ago when we launched PlanetWatch, and it is encouraging.
     We have published articles in which the pros and cons of "cap-and-trade" versus a carbon tax were explored; we came down on the side of "cap-and-trade". Now a bill is working its way through Congress incorporating "cap-and-trade". Remarkable!
     Not that we take credit for these developments, at least not much, but the progress taking place is truly impressive.
     But we are still at the beginning,                    Click to continue

“Clean Coal” Is an Oxymoron; Thinking We Can Do Without It Is Also Not Too Bright

June 9, 2009
The most revolutionary provision of the 930-page bill recently reported out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is the cap-and-trade construct that would force power companies and other industries to emit ever decreasing carbon dioxide over time.

Eco-Driving:

If Only Every American Were to Drive Like This

In the press recently there has been a bit of discussion about "eco-driving". What in the world is that? It is a wonderfully productive approach to driving your car that requires no investment and little training, while saving CO2 emissions, money and even lives. It may consume a little more time, but it might also lower your blood pressure.
     Essentially, what you do is imagine that you need to get the absolute maximum miles out of each tank of gas. To do this, you need to be able to visualize what causes large gulps of fuel to be slurped up by your car. Guess what they are: a) jack rabbit starts, b) high speed travel, c) late up shifting, d) heavy braking at the last minute, versus gliding to a stop,                    Click to continue

Most of America’s power is produced by coal-fired plants, and power plants account for nearly 40% of United States CO2 emissions. Coal is undeniably a dirty fuel, twice as dirty as natural gas. It spews more CO2 into our atmosphere than all our cars and trucks. And then there’s coal waste: California’s Sen. Boxer pictured the disposal problem for us: “the equivalent of a train of boxcars stretching from Washington, D.C. to Melbourne, Australia.” Over 130 million tons of coal combustion waste is produced in the U.S. every year with nowhere to go – except when it bursts from its containment ponds to engulf hundreds of acres, as it did last December at a Tennessee Valley site.

Opposing Forces
    The American Clean Energy and Security Act, as the House bill is named, calls for a 17% reduction in                    Click to continue

Whether from Congress or the EPA Some Form of Emission Control Finally Looks Likely

April 27, 2009
The Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling a week ago that carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gasses are hazardous to the environment and public health means that, one way or another, the United States will finally take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

     One way is that the EPA, moving aggressively under its new chief, Lisa Jackson, will begin issuing over a period of some eighteen months a series of rulings that are expected to impact manufacturing, transportation, and the way utilities generate power. We could witness the most extensive regulatory rule-making spree in decades.
     The other way is that even those in Congress vehemently opposed to doing anything may decide that some form of climate legislation at least gives them a                    Click to continue

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Cap-and-trade is still the right call


The great debate over how — and how much — to reduce the greenhouse gasses we emit while consuming energy is heating up. And in what passes for sport in Washington, wise policy is getting whomped by trivial tax politics.
     The Obama administration and
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« Our In-Depth Background Reports »
trying to keep it simple

We can go on enjoying an undiminished standard of living, but not if we continue to treat energy as if it were nearly free. Certain unrenewable fuels are indispensible for certain purposes, yet we waste them. Here is a plan to get our priorities straight.

solar energy

The most powerful energy source of all — our Sun — offers the tantalizing solution to mankind's energy needs. Costs remain stubbornly high, but demand is soaring, even causing a worldwide shortage of processed silicon. The potential is vast, as this article makes clear.

energy dependence

The prospect of alternative energy development leading to energy independence makes for a comforting view of the future. But we tend to ignore the perils of our dependence — right here, right now. Part I of a series looks at our hazardous reliance on a troublesome world.

energy alternatives

Over the last few months, we've seen an explosion in public interest and business investment in substitutes for fossil fuels. This authoritative article, by an editorial board member of the New York Times (and a founder of PlanetWatch.org), offers a survey of what is happening and what holds promise.