'Pandora's Promise': why greens are warming to nuclear power (Sponsor content)
What would happen if everything you knew about nuclear energy was wrong? This is the question raised by environmentalists interviewed in the blockbuster documentary hit Pandora’s Promise, which airs tonight on CNN at 9 p.m. eastern time (8 p.m. central time).
The groundbreaking film by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone follows the path of several leading environmentalists as their research convinces them to shift from opposing to supporting nuclear energy. In the film, environmentalists Stuart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens, Mark Lynas, Michael Shellenberger, and other experts discuss the important role that nuclear energy plays in combating climate change.
Stone has been making the talk show rounds in advance of tonight’s broadcast premiere, debating Robert Kennedy Jr. on the Piers Morgan show and also Van Jones from the program “Crossfire.” There is even a good conversation with Stone in the Huffington Post. There are also good discussions under way at NEI’s Nuclear Notes and CNA’s TalkNuclear.
As the world leader in nuclear energy, it’s no surprise that AREVA’s technologies and facilities figure prominently in the film. In the summer of 2011, Stone and cinematographer Howard Shack filmed the Chalon-St. Marcel equipment fabrication facility, La Hague fuel recycling plant, the Flamanville EPR™ reactor construction site, and other locations in France.
Even if you are skeptical about nuclear energy, you owe it to yourself to consider this film’s point of view. According to the Sundance Film Festival where the film debuted in January: “Whatever your stance, Stone’s compelling film opens Pandora’s Box and promises to change the conversation for years to come.”
A group of scientists from the Queen Mary University of London and the Imperial College London have made quite an amazing discovery: solar cells like pop and rock music, but they’re not too keen on classical.
Obviously I am not talking about actual conscious preferences, but rather that by playing high pitched sounds, often found in pop and rock songs, the performance of the solar cells increased remarkably.
In their experiments the researchers grew tiny zinc oxide nanorods and then covered them with an active polymer that created a photovoltaic device to turn the suns light into electricity. The high frequencies and pitches in the songs played caused vibrations in the nanorods which increased the efficiency of the solar cells by 40%.
Zinc oxide is a well-known piezoelectric material, meaning that when a pressure or strain is applied it produces voltage. These experiments were designed to test the effect that this piezoelectric phenomena would have on solar cells. The results were very unexpected. (Related article: Ceramic Converter Tackles Solar Cell Problem) ( Continue… )
Three Tesla Motors (TSLA) Model S electric cars have caught fire after crashing in the past five weeks. It's an electric car company's worst public-relations nightmare.
The advanced lithium-ion batteries used in modern electric cars are prone to overheating, and early generations suffered high-profile fiery battery incidents that didn't help electric carmakers make their case to the driving public.
Up until a little over a month ago, Tesla Motors' Model S had avoided major battery complications. But now the Palo Alto, Calif., company has three battery fires on its hands, and is scrambling to assure investors and the public that these fires are isolated incidents resulting from collisions – not the spontaneous eruptions caused by overheating.
"For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid," Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote in a blog post after the first fire last month.
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Shares of Tesla stock were down 7 percent to $142.04 in afternoon trading Thursday, after reports of the third Model S fire emerged. That's after sinking 14.5 percent Wednesday, triggering a "circuit breaker" on the Nasdaq exchange after its third-quarter sales didn't meet analysts' expectations. Limited battery supplies hampered sales. ( Continue… )
The US oil and gas industry's trade association is contemplating a push to lift a decades-old ban on US oil exports.
The 1970s era law is no longer relevant, critics of the ban say, since oil production in the United States is booming and demand is waning. Lifting the ban would spur job growth at home and create efficiencies in the global oil market, they say.
It will be a tough case to make to politicians and consumers who still see high prices at the gas pump, despite the hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil flowing each day out of shale rock formations in Texas, North Dakota, and elsewhere across the US. Why send those barrels overseas, they might ask, and open up the US to further dependency on foreign oil?
“Export issues are something we’re going to have to address,” John Felmy, the chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas trade association, told Bloomberg Wednesday. “It’s a debate we have to have.” ( Continue… )
At one time it was thought that fuel cells had such promise, that they were going to be the power source of the future. George W. Bush, when president, even said that fuel cells would one day replace the internal combustion engine. However, the technology never lived up to the hype, and whilst other new energy technologies such as solar and wind grew in popularity, fuel cells were left by the wayside.
Now, it seems as though fuel cells are beginning to establish themselves in niches that show promise for the future, and that they might even be on their way to achieving grid parity, without the need of government subsidies. (Related article: The Cube – New Breakthrough Set to Alter the Energy Landscape Forever)
Fuel cell technology is starting to play a bigger part in the world for several reasons: developments in the technology now allow it to work at 90% efficiency on a combined heat and power setting; low natural gas prices in the US offer an abundant source of cheap fuel; and the fuel cells can provide sources of electricity generation that have a low environmental footprint and need very little room, allowing them to be located close to the end consumer. ( Continue… )
Tuesday wasn't a great day for hydrocarbons.
Energy from fossil fuels isn't likely to disappear anytime soon, and supporters of the carbon-heavy fuels say curbs on emissions threaten to stymie economic growth. But election day 2013 served as a sort of referendum on Americans' attitude toward the country's changing energy mix, with bans on fracking, coal exports, and tar sands up on the ballot in a handful of states. In most cases, the results did not favor the status quo of US energy.
Environmental groups see election day 2013 as a microcosm of a broader public trend toward favoring clean energy as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change. In particular, they point to the defeat of pro-coal Ken Cuccinelli by pro-regulation Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor of Virginia, a state that has long profited from the region's coal industry. ( Continue… )
Tesla Motors (TSLA) sold a record 5,500 of its Model S electric cars in the third quarter of 2013. Investors sold the stock in droves, triggering a Nasdaq "circuit breaker" designed to slow sales of the stock.
Analysts have come to expect a lot out of the luxury electric carmaker, which has continually defied expectations in a tight automotive market. When sales numbers came in under most analysts' expectations late Tuesday, Tesla Motors' stock price took a big hit.
But Tesla's earnings report suggests the company's fundamentals remain strong, and Elon Musk, its chief executive, isn't one to think small. Investors can continue to expect a lot from the company in the coming months and years. Among other plans, Mr. Musk is contemplating building a factory to produce the lithium-ion batteries needed to power the company's electric cars.
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“This will be a giant facility. We are talking about something that is comparable to all of the lithium-ion battery production in the world — in one factory,” Musk said during a conference call with analysts late Tuesday, Forbes reported. “It’s big.” ( Continue… )
[Editor's note: This story was updated to include the voting results.]
By a narrow 47-to-46 percent margin, voters across Virginia elected Democrat Terry McAuliffe governor over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in a hotly contested race.
On coal, the two candidates offered starkly different paths forward for a state with a long history of extracting and exporting the carbon-heavy fossil fuel. Both candidates had the attention – and money – of interest groups on either side of the debate over America's energy future.
"The politics of energy and climate change have fundamentally shifted in Virginia," Navin Nayak, senior vice president of campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, which backed Mr. McAuliffe, wrote in a memo Monday, ahead of election day. "This continues a national trend that started in 2012, and previews how energy issues will play in the 2014 electoral landscape."
"Virginia used to be a state where the coal industry shaped the political landscape," Mr. Nayak added. "That’s no longer the case"
RECOMMENDED: Election Day 2013: six of the most riveting votes
McAuliffe broke ranks with other coal-state Democrats to openly support new regulations on power plants from the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a bold move for a region where EPA is sometimes mockingly spelled out as "Employment Prevention Agency," and the Obama administration is seen as waging a "war on coal." His election deals a blow to coal on its own turf, further dimming the outlook for a source of energy already threatened by cheap, plentiful natural gas. ( Continue… )
Europe’s answer to saving energy by imposing blackouts on the streets may be avoided with the commercialization of smart street lights that sense when they are needed and dim when they are not.
The intelligent streetlight system, designed by Dutch Delft University of Technology, using motion sensing technology that automatically dims streetlights to 20% power when no pedestrians or vehicles are in the vicinity—and the idea is ready to go commercial.
Europe pays over $13 billion a year powering streetlights, and this massive sum accounts for more than 40% of government energy bills. From another perspective, we’re talking about 40 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, equal to that of 20 million cars. (Related article: IKEA Tries to Simplify Solar)
For now, European cities are contemplating the imposition of blackouts on the streets after midnight in rural and residential areas. But the new smart lighting technology could avoid this. ( Continue… )
Talk about range anxiety.
India launched its first spacecraft to Mars Tuesday on a trip that will last over 300 days at a cost of $72 million. The 3,000-pound orbiter named Mangalyaan – or "Mars orbiter" in Hindi – faces the unenviable task of traveling 485 million miles through space to visit the dusty, lonesome Red Planet.
It will take a lot of fuel, but perhaps not as much as you might think. In nearly half a century of flights to Mars, engineers have developed techniques for cutting down on fuel and harnessing the natural celestial movements of Earth and its neighbors to propel crafts through space.
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To say it's a complicated journey is an understatement. You can't just aim a rocket at Mars and fire away. The Red Planet is a moving target, and so is the pad from which you launch. Instead, scientists must aim for where Mars will be once the orbiter has finished its journey. ( Continue… )