Archive for December, 2011

Dec 08 2011

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Space Energy

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Science fiction or science? Researchers are currently exploring the possibility of collecting Solar energy in space, National Geographic reports. Orbiting satellites can collect solar energy continuously and beam it down to earth through lasers and microwaves. Collecting sunlight in space also reduces losses suffered as sunlight penetrates the atmosphere. This article is definitely worth a read. Comments welcome.

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Dec 04 2011

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Toyota and BMW to work together to develop batteries

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According to Businessweek, Toyota and BMW are getting together to develop a next generation battery for cars. Toyota has struggled to find good batteries for its hybrid vehicles, and it is hoped that this venture will lead to lower-cost, higher capacity batteries. BMW will begin to supply Toyota with “clean” diesel engines.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9RBJGOO0.htm

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One of the principal difficulties for electric cars since the beginning of the 20th century (when they competed with internal combustion engine vehicles) has been their lack of range. However, even (perhaps especially) with a longer range, many electric vehicles will still have long charging times, and at present charging stations are rare. Even if a better battery is found, will electric cars take off? Will plug-in hybrids become standard? How do you deal with the lack of a charging infrastructure?

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Dec 04 2011

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Carbon Capture and Storage at Durban Climate Talks

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) is occurring right now in Durban, South Africa. Among the events was one organized by the European Commission’s Directorate-General on the future of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – a family of technologies whereby Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emitted through the burning of fossil fuels (or biomass, for that matter) are stored underground. This can be done either pre or post-combustion. The technology is controversial – for some because developing CCS technology may mean diverting resources from the deployment of renewables, for others because of the potentially adverse environmental impacts – but many, especially in the developing world, see it is as necessary, as projections predict that coal will play a major role in the energy mix of developing countries. More information on the meeting can be found here.

http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/CCS_Durban

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Many see CCS as essential to the fight against Climate Change. In the United States, however, where just under half of our electricity comes from coal, there is not a single commercial-scale CCS plant in operation. Is it reasonable to trust in a technology that has not yet shown itself to be commercially viable?

Frederic Hauge, president of Bellona, a Norwegian environmental organization, claims that “Rich countries must look at their historic CO2 emissions as a bank loan, which now must be paid back to the developing countries, with interest.” Is this true? Also, if there is a “Carbon-debt,” why should it generate interest?

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Dec 04 2011

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Complaint against Chinese solar to go forward

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In big news on an issue that has split the solar energy industry, the International Trade Commission, a quasi-independent government agency, has found that U.S. Solar manufacturers have been harmed by imports from China. This finding allows a full investigation of the issue. The complainants argue that China has been “dumping” solar panels on the American market – selling them below cost.  The Commerce department will now take up the issue. A preliminary ruling in favor of the complainants could lead to offsetting tariffs, whereas a further finding that the panels are being subsidized could lead to additional duties on imported Chinese panels. Chinese officials have already said that this is leading them to look into American subsidies for renewable energy.

This New York Times article has more information: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/business/energy-environment/chinese-imports-hurt-us-solar-companies-trade-commission-says.html?_r=1&ref=solarenergy

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There is the possibility that these complaints could lead to a trade war, driving up the price of solar panels at the least. How should the Obama administration balance its support for renewable energy with its responsibilities to American manufacturers? Is it appropriate to subsidize renewable energy, and if so, how should it be done?

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