As part of an ongoing series of conversations about building America's energy future, the Monitor hosted a roundtable discussion in Washington on Dec. 12, 2012, with several clean-energy experts. The video below is an excerpt from panelist Alec Hoppes, director of congressional affairs at Areva, a Paris-based energy company. Mr. Hoppes speaks about his vision for moving clean-energy policy forward in America. The discussion was sponsored by Areva.
In its new 787 "Dreamliner," Boeing has brought a new level of fuel efficiency to the skies by borrowing a page from earth-bound hybrids: battery power.
So when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Friday it would launch an investigation into the Boeing 787 because of a recent small electrical fire and fuel leaks, it raised a question if Boeing has pushed reliance on electric power too far too fast.
Boeing officials insist the plane is safe, and industry experts downplay the errors as typical growing pains for a new technology. The Airbus A380, now a staple of commercial flight, suffered an exploding engine and cracked wings in its early years.
RECOMMENDED: 6 stories from a veteran flight attendant
The "Dreamliner" is propelled by fuel, but many of its onboard features depart from typical planes by using electrical power. The 787's engine start, auxiliary power unit, wing ice protection, and other units rely on electrical systems, instead of traditional pneumatics. This "no-bleed," electrical architecture allows the plane to produce thrust more efficiently as energy is not diverted away from the high-speed air produced by the engines. ( Continue… )
Matt Damon's new fictional movie about natural gas development in a rural township was being lambasted by the natural gas industry even before it premiered. And yet, the film shows no tanker trucks laden with toxic fracking fluid. It depicts no roughnecks descending on a small town unprepared for the influx of new workers. It features no ghastly wastewater ponds and not even one drilling pad or derrick. In fact, drilling has yet to begin in the fictional township of McKinley.
As a result there are no wheezing people made sick from fumes associated with the drilling. There are no flaming water taps--first seen by many in the documentary Gasland, a film which displays devastation which it attributes to hydraulic fracturing and other processes associated with natural gas drilling in America's deep shale deposits. In Promised Land there is not even one dead farm animal unless you count the ones pictured on a yard sign distributed by an environmental activist who opposes the drilling.
So why is the natural gas industry having such a hissy fit over the film? I think the answer lies in its premise: That the people of this small community ought to have a public discussion about whether they want the drilling--one informed by all the facts, not just the ones the natural gas drillers want them to hear--and that the community should then take a vote. God knows that in corporate America, democratic governance should never, ever take precedence over corporate imperatives. Could things be any more infuriating than that?
Well, yes they can. We are treated to acts of perfidy on the part of Steve Butler (played by Damon) who believes that everyone has a price, one that his company is only too willing to pay. Butler is a landman for a large drilling company though he is never referred to using this industry term. His job is to lease the mineral rights from landowners in the township quickly and cheaply. But a well-informed high school teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) challenges Butler at a meeting of townsfolk that was designed to close the deal. After that things get complicated. Butler and his partner, Sue Thomason (played by Frances McDormand), must abandon the playbook that has worked so well for them in the past and improvise. ( Continue… )
As part of an ongoing series of conversations about building America's energy future, the Monitor hosted a roundtable discussion in Washington on Dec. 12, 2012, with several clean-energy experts. The video below is an excerpt from panelist Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. Ms. Wysham speaks about her vision for a bipartisan clean-energy policy in America. The discussion was sponsored by Areva, a Paris-based energy company that works primarily in nuclear power production.
If Royal Dutch Shell has learned anything from its Alaskan drilling venture, it's that the road to Arctic oil is a bumpy one.
Critics have sharpened attacks on the company after one of its oil drill ships came aground in late December while being towed through stormy Arctic waters. The accident capped off a series of setbacks in the company's multibillion-dollar effort to extract oil from Alaska's outer continental shelf.
So far no major leakage or serious injuries have occurred. If successful, Shell's foray into Arctic drilling could produce nearly 10 billion barrels of oil and 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 50 years, according to a University of Alaska study prepared for Shell Exploration and Production.
Given the Arctic's notoriously harsh environs, however, opponents doubt the project's chances of safely supplying fossil fuel energy.
“The implications of this very troubling incident are clear – the oil industry is no match for Alaska’s weather and sea conditions either during drilling operations or during marine transit,” said Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, in a statement. ( Continue… )
Jack Lew is not headed to the Department of Energy, but President Obama's pick for Treasury secretary has long experience in energy efficiency and clean energy and could prove a helpful ally to the energy industry.
Best known for his budgetary finesse as a two-time director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Lew also knows energy.
From 1988 to 1993, Lew was a partner at Van Ness Feldman, a Washington-based law firm focusing on energy and environment law. While at the firm, Lew specialized in issues related to power plant development, according to a White House press release.
When he was tapped to replace Bill Daley as Obama's chief of staff last January, the Alliance to Save Energy praised Lew as a "friend of energy efficiency and clean energy." The energy efficiency advocacy group pointed to Lew's work in helping to develop the Electric Transportation Coalition, an industry organization now known as the Electric Drive Transportation Association. ( Continue… )
Production at the world's third largest source of oil has polluted surrounding waters with toxic substances, according to a new study. The findings add fuel to a fiery debate over a proposed pipeline connecting Canadian oil sands with US refineries.
Lakes as far as 56 miles away from production facilities near Fort McMurray, Alberta, show unnaturally high levels of substances linked to cancer. Researchers say they are the result of roughly half a century of development at the Athabasca oil sands.
While concentrations of carcinogens remain low compared with those found in urban lakes, scientists at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, called the findings, released Monday, "worrying" and warned of future effects from the spread of oil sands contaminants.
“We’re not saying these are poisonous ponds,” John Smol, a professor and the study's lead author told The New York Times. “But it’s going to get worse. It’s not too late but the trend is not looking good.” ( Continue… )
During the recent Total Energy USA Conference in Houston, I had a chance to interview Mr. Jan Koninckx. Mr. Koninckx is the global director of biofuels for DuPont Industrial Biosciences – an arm of DuPont that has a strong focus on biofuels. Also present was Wendy Rosen, DuPont’s PR director.
The interview was focused around DuPont’s efforts in 2nd generation biofuels. DuPont is currently engaged in two major projects to commercialize advanced biofuels.
The first is a 30 million gallon per year corn stover-fed facility in Nevada, Iowa. DuPont has been working on this technology for about 10 years. They focused on corn stover because it is one of the easiest feedstocks to process, and because it is already there as a byproduct of ethanol production. DuPont broke ground on this facility on November 30, 2012 and start-up is planned for mid-2014. The facility has about 100 farmers under contract to provide 360,000 tons per year of corn stover (dry mass basis) for DuPont’s enzymatic process.
RECOMMENDED: Cheapest way to heat your home? Four fuels compared.
The stover will be gathered in a 30 to 40 mile radius around the facility. Mr. Koninckx said that the yields of stover have been increasing over time, and they expect these yield increases to continue. He also said that they can sustainably remove some stover from the fields without lowering the soil quality, and that the lignin-rich byproduct of the process could be used to replace coal. ( Continue… )
Some environmentalists and clean-energy advocates like the sound of "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel."
It might seem a curious stance, given Mr. Hagel's past. He's been skeptical of claims that humans have had that much impact on global warming. As a Republican senator from Nebraska, he cosponsored a 1997 resolution to stop US participation in the Kyoto Protocol, which passed the Senate 95 to 0.
But the new Chuck Hagel is sounding a different theme – that energy, environment, and economic security are inextricably intertwined. For activists worried about climate change and clean-tech companies eager to sell their technology, the prospect of having Hagel head the nation's biggest energy consumer – the Department of Defense – is intriguing.
"I would expect that [Hagel] would respect the analyses that show, from the military's point of view, the threat multiplication from climate change impact," David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air Program, told ClimateWire. "Nothing tells me that he would be in any way hostile to those positions." ( Continue… )
Cyberattackers zeroed in on computer systems run by power grid operators and natural gas pipeline companies last year, paying less attention to infiltrating networks belonging to water, chemical, and nuclear facilities, a new federal report shows.
Energy companies were clearly in the cyber bullseye in 2012, targeted in 41 percent of the malicious software attack cases reported to a special Department of Homeland Security (DHS) team that responds to cyberattacks on industrial computer networks.
The overall number of attacks remained flat at 198 incidents for the year, the same as 2011. But energy sector companies reported 82 cyberattacks last year, a sharp increase over the 31 cases reported in 2011, according to a report released last week by DHS's Industrial Control System-Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).
Among those energy-sector cyberattack cases, 23 involved oil and natural gas companies hit by a persistent months-long targeted spear-phishing campaign first reported by the Monitor in May. Also on the upswing were attacks on commercial manufacturing facilities that leaped to 19 last year from 2 in 2011. ( Continue… )