Archive for July 12th, 2009

New Study Lifts the Curtain on Clean Coal

coal is clean!A new study from West Virginia University exposes one more dirty little secret about America’s favorite fossil fuel, coal.  Though coal mining is touted as an economic boon to local communities, the study reviews mortality statistics to conclude that coal mining communities in Appalachia are among the weakest economies in their home states, and in the country.  The study, “Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions,” appears in the July-August issue of Public Health Reports, the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Services.

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Visit the original post at: Energy News

CSA farms

CSA farms
Worried about what’s going on with your food? Feeling disconnected from how it’s grown or raised and the associated environmental impact? Consider becoming a shareholder or member in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

Visit the original post at: Green living tips

CSA farms

CSA farms
Worried about what’s going on with your food? Feeling disconnected from how it’s grown or raised and the associated environmental impact? Consider becoming a shareholder or member in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

Visit the original post at: Green living tips

CSA farms

CSA farms
Worried about what’s going on with your food? Feeling disconnected from how it’s grown or raised and the associated environmental impact? Consider becoming a shareholder or member in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

Visit the original post at: Green living tips

Living on the Edge: Is Humanity Running Out of Space?
PAREDE A Gentil Carioca Casa by Tiago and Gabriel Primo photo
Image: Tainá de Miranda Soares/VC no G1

Are humans running out of living space? Or just a species that is at home where we find ourselves? These are questions provoked by an exhibit at the Gallery A Gentil Carioca in Rio de Janeiro. Two artists, the brothers Tiago and Gabriel Primo, are living up to 14 hours a day in a “house” mounted high on the wall on the outside of the gallery building. Tiago and Gabriel use mountain climbing equipment and training grips to move bet…
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

US Senators Introduce Bill to Expand Incentives for Natural Gas Vehicles

US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) last week introduced new legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that extends and increases tax credits for natural gas vehicle purchasing, refueling and manufacturing.

Under the NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions) bill (S. 1408), the purchase tax credit cap for a light-duty natural gas vehicle would be increased to $12,500, up from the current $5,000. For the three other covered vehicle weight classes, the purchase tax credit cap would double; the maximum credit would be $80,000 (up from $40,000).

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • A 10-year extension for alternative fuel credits for natural gas used as a vehicle fuel, the purchase of natural gas-fueled vehicle, and the installation of natural gas vehicle refueling property credit.

  • All dedicated natural gas-fueled vehicles would be eligible for a credit equal to 80% of the vehicle’s incremental cost. Only some dedicated natural gas vehicles currently can qualify for an 80% federal tax credit.

  • Makes all bi-fuel natural gas-fueled vehicles eligible for a credit equal to 50% of the vehicle’s incremental cost. This is the first time bi-fuel vehicles would be eligible for a federal tax credit.

  • Includes conversions and repowers. The bill includes a “Sense of the Senate” provision that the Environmental Protection Agency should streamline the process for certification of natural gas vehicle retrofit kits.

  • Increases the refueling property tax credit from $50,000 to $100,000 per station.

  • Allows the natural gas vehicle and natural gas fueling infrastructure credits to be transferred by the taxpayer back to the seller or to the lessor.

  • Allows state and local governmental entities to issue tax exempt bonds in order to finance natural gas vehicle projects.

  • Allows 100% of the cost of a natural gas vehicle manufacturing facility that is placed in service before January 1, 2015 to be expensed and to be treated as a deduction in the taxable year in which the facility was placed in service. This decreases to 50% after December 31, 2014 and is phased out by January 1, 2020

  • Requires that when complying with mandatory federal fleet alternative fuel vehicle purchase requirements, federal agencies shall purchase dedicated alternative fuel vehicles unless the agency can show that alternative fuel is unavailable or that purchasing such vehicles would be impractical.

  • Provides for grants for light- and heavy-duty natural gas engine development, with an annual cap of $30 million.

S.1408 amends the Internal Revenue Code, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. T. Boone Pickens joined the three Senators to announced the introduction of the bill.

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Report: Lexus HS Hybrid Pulls in 1,500 Preorders in Japan

The Nikkei reports that Toyota Motor Corp. has received about 1,500 preorders for its Lexus HS hybrid car (earlier post) in Japan, roughly three times more than the firm’s monthly sales target.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s new Prius hybrid, released in May, has been selling extremely well. The car is so popular, in fact, that delivery now takes eight months after placing an order. Given this, some eager customers may switch their existing orders to the Lexus HS.

About 90% of orders for the Lexus RX, released in April, are for hybrid models, highlighting the surging popularity of such green vehicles.

In the US, hybrid versions of the Lexus RX represented 7.2% of all RX models in June. The 2010 Lexus HS 250h will be available in the US later this summer.

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

ETV Motors Demonstrates Proof-of-Concept Microturbine-Based Range-Extended Electric Prius

Israeli startup ETV Motors Ltd. (ETVM) completed a proof-of-concept test of its Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV) architecture using a gas microturbine for the range-extending generator. The company had closed a $12M Series A round in April. (Earlier post.)

For the test drive, the company modified a Toyota Prius using commercially available components. ETVM replaced the OEM NiMH pack with a large-format lithium-ion battery, and retrofitted a liquid-fueled, gas turbine generator to the car for the range extender.

The proof-of-concept demonstrator REEV will serve as a test vehicle for the company’s ongoing development work, which is focused on developing a new microturbine and a new Li-ion battery, in collaboration with the electrochemistry team at Bar Ilan University.

This milestone is a major pre-requisite for materializing our vision of plug-in EVs equipped with fuel-efficient, low-emission gas turbines for range extension.

—Dror Ben David, ETV Motors CEO

ETVM is developing its own microturbine, based on RQL (Rich-Quench-Lean) principles. The ETVM turbine will have the unique property of achieving optimum efficiency at two operating points. This “dual mode” property will provide a number of degrees of freedom when matching the microturbine to various drive cycles and vehicle categories.

ETVM expects that its first generation of the turbine, with an efficiency that outperforms the present state of the art by approximately 30%, will be fully functional in Q2 2010.

On the battery side, ETVM is working on two cell chemistries: lithium manganese nickel oxide (LMNS)/graphite to form a 4.7V cell; and LMNS/LiTiO to form a 3.2V cell.

Characteristics of the ETV 3.2V and 4.7V cells compared with the chemistries of selected commercial batteries
  Commercial ETVM
Battery chemistry NiMH LiCoO2 LFP Adv. rapid charge LMNS LMNS
Voltage 1.2V 3.7V 3.2V 2.4 3.2V 4.7V
Energy Density
Wh/kg (80-100% DOD)
50-70 180-200 65-110 50-70 120 240
Power Density W/kg 400-500 250-400 2,000-3,000 3,000-5,000 2,000-5,000 1,000-3,000
Cycle-life 300-500 300-500 >1,000 >3,000 >3,000 >3,000
Self-Discharge %/mo. 25% <0.3% <0.3% <0.5% <1% <1%
Projected $/kWh $500-700 $400-500 $200-300 $300-400 $200-$350 $200-$350

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

USDA Trims Forecast of Corn Use for Ethanol by 100M Bushels

The US Department of Agriculture lowered the forecast for corn for ethanol use by 100 million bushels in its 10 July World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report to 3.65 million—still up from 3.026 million bushels last year, and less than the 4.1 million bushels forecast for next year.

The decline in corn prices has boosted ethanol producer margins; however, reduced production of gasoline blends with ethanol in May and June, based on the most recent weekly data, indicate lower-than-expected ethanol corn use.


USDA projects the marketing-year average price for corn at $3.95 to $4.15 per bushel, down 15 cents on both ends of the range reflecting sharply lower summer price prospects.

Corn area planted for this year is 86 million acres, down from 93.5 million last year, and yield is projected at 153.9 bushels per acre, up from 150.7 last year. Total supply, including new production, beginning stocks and imports, is projected to be 13.740 million bushels. Ethanol production will account for 26.6% of that.

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Study Finds That Forest Fire Prevention Efforts Will Lessen Carbon Sequestration

Widely-sought efforts to reduce forest biomass that increases catastrophic fire in Pacific Northwest forests will be counterproductive to sequestering carbon to help offset global warming, according to a study by forestry researchers at Oregon State University.

Even if the biomass was used in an optimal manner to produce electricity or make cellulosic ethanol, there would still be a net loss of carbon sequestration in forests of the Coast Range and the west side of the Cascade Mountains for at least 100 years, and probably much longer, the study showed.

The report was published earlier this year in the journal Ecological Applications. The lead author was Stephen Mitchell, who conducted the work as part of his doctoral thesis while at OSU, and is now at Duke University.

Two forest management objectives being debated in the context of federally managed landscapes in the US Pacific Northwest involve a perceived trade-off between fire restoration and carbon sequestration. The former strategy would reduce fuel (and therefore C) that has accumulated through a century of fire suppression and exclusion which has led to extreme fire risk in some areas. The latter strategy would manage forests for enhanced C sequestration as a method of reducing atmospheric CO2 and associated threats from global climate change.

—Mitchell et al. (2009)

The researchers explored the trade-off between the two strategies by employing a forest ecosystem simulation model, STANDCARB, to examine the effects of fuel reduction on fire severity and the resulting long-term carbon dynamics among three Pacific Northwest ecosystems: the east Cascades ponderosa pine forests, the west Cascades western hemlock–Douglas-fir forests, and the Coast Range western hemlock–Sitka spruce forests.

The simulations indicated that while fuel reduction treatments in these ecosystems consistently reduced fire severity, reducing the fraction by which C is lost in a wildfire requires the removal of a much greater amount of C, since most of the C stored in forest biomass (stem wood, branches, coarse woody debris) remains unconsumed even by high-severity wildfires.

For this reason, all of the fuel reduction treatments simulated for the west Cascades and Coast Range ecosystems as well as most of the treatments simulated for the east Cascades resulted in a reduced mean stand C storage. One suggested method of compensating for such losses in C storage is to utilize C harvested in fuel reduction treatments as biofuels. Our analysis indicates that this will not be an effective strategy in the west Cascades and Coast Range over the next 100 years.

We suggest that forest management plans aimed solely at ameliorating increases in atmospheric CO2 should forgo fuel reduction treatments in these ecosystems, with the possible exception of some east Cascades ponderosa pine stands with uncharacteristic levels of understory fuel accumulation. Balancing a demand for maximal landscape C storage with the demand for reduced wildfire severity will likely require treatments to be applied strategically throughout the landscape rather than indiscriminately treating all stands.

——Mitchell et al. (2009)

Other findings included:

  • On west side Cascade Range and Coast Range forests, which are wetter, the catastrophic fire return interval is already very long, and the additional levels of fuel accumulation have not been that unusual;

  • A wide range of fire reduction approaches, such as salvage logging, understory removal, prescribed fire and other techniques, can effectively reduce fire severity if used properly;

  • Considerable uncertainty exists in modeling of future fires, and some fuel reduction techniques, especially overstory thinning treatments, could potentially lead to an increase in fire severity.

The study authors concluded that fuel reduction may still make more sense in east-side Cascade Range and other similar forests, but that the west-side Cascades and Coast Range have little sensitivity to forest fuel reduction treatments—and might be best utilized for their high carbon sequestration capacities.

The study raises questions about how to maximize carbon sequestration in fast-growing forests and at the same time maximize protection against catastrophic fire.

It had been thought for some time that if you used biofuel treatments to produce energy, you could offset the carbon emissions from this process. That seems to make common sense and sounds great in theory, but when you actually go through the data it doesn’t work.

—Mark Harmon, holder of the Richardson Chair in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society

Using biofuels to produce energy does not completely offset the need for other fossil fuels use and completely negate their input to the global carbon budget, the researchers found. At the absolute maximum, you might recover 90% of the energy, the study said.

That figure, however, assumes an optimal production of energy from biofuels that is probably not possible. By the time you include transportation, fuel for thinning and other energy expenditures, you are probably looking at a return of more like 60-65 percent. And if you try to produce cellulosic ethanol, the offset is more like 35 percent. If you take old, existing forests from these regions and turn them into almost anything else, you will have a net loss in carbon sequestration.

—Mark Harmon

Another recent OSU studied concluded that if forests of Oregon and northern California were managed exclusively for carbon sequestration, they could double the amount of sequestration in many areas and triple it in some.

The new study found that, in a Coast Range stand, if you removed solid woody biofuels for reduction of catastrophic fire risks and used those for fuel, it would take 169 years before such usage reached a break-even point in carbon sequestration. The study showed if the same material were used in even less efficient production of cellulosic ethanol, it would take 339 years.

The researchers did not consider in this analysis how global warming in coming years might affect the increase of catastrophic fire, Harmon said. However, “fire severity in many forests may be more a function of severe weather events rather than fuel accumulation,” the report authors wrote, and fuel reduction efforts may be of only limited effectiveness, even in a hotter future.

Part of what seems increasingly apparent is that we should consider using west side forests for their best role, which is carbon sequestration, and focus what fuel reduction efforts we make to protect people, towns and infrastructure. It’s almost impossible anyway to mechanically treat the immense areas that are involved and it’s hugely expensive. As a policy question we have to face issues of what approaches will pay off best and what values are most important.

—Mark Harmon


  • Stephen R. Mitchell, Mark E. Harmon, Kari E. B. O’Connell (2009) Forest fuel reduction alters fire severity and long-term carbon storage in three Pacific Northwest ecosystems. Ecological Applications, 19 (3) pp. 643-655 doi: 10.1890/08-0501.1

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

New Chrysler Hangs on to the Dodge Viper

Chrysler Group LLC will continue production of the Dodge Viper SRT10, earlier slated to cease production in December 2009. Chrysler Group is no longer pursuing a sale of the Viper business assets.

Introduced as a concept car in 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Dodge Viper was designed and engineered to test public reaction to the concept of a back-to-basics, high-performance, limited production sports car. Customer orders began to flow in even before the auto show was over.

Dodge Viper production began in May 1992. In 2008, Dodge introduced the fourth-generation Dodge Viper SRT10.

For 2009, the Dodge Viper SRT10 offers “outrageous” power, with an 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower (450 kW) V-10 engine contributing to 0-60 mph acceleration of less than four seconds.

To date, more than 25,000 Dodge Vipers have been built.

Chrysler Group LLC was formed earlier this year from a global strategic alliance with Fiat Group.

Visit the original post at: Transportation News

City Living and Urban Retrofitting

City Living and Urban Retrofitting
Advancements in the green construction industry have enabled many new buildings to reduce their impact on the world around them. Yet reaching sustainability goals in cities will hardly be met by constructing all new buildings.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Business

City Living and Urban Retrofitting

City Living and Urban Retrofitting
Advancements in the green construction industry have enabled many new buildings to reduce their impact on the world around them. Yet reaching sustainability goals in cities will hardly be met by constructing all new buildings.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Business

The Daily Dose: Your Guide to the World Today – 12 July 09

The effects of climate change will destroy the great barrier reef within 20 years according to Charlie Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The great barrier reef is currently worth $4.5 billion to the Australian economy, but reef failure carries much larger implications. Read the full article (recommended) for greater detail.

One of the imperfections of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is their mercury, which becomes problematic when the bulbs are disposed. Maine has now become the first U.S. state to pass a law requiring companies who manufacture CFLS to fund recycling programs. It …

Visit the original post at: Environment News

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