Fossil fuels

Obama sets fuel economy average at 54.5 mpg

After more than a year of negotiations between government agencies, auto manufacturers, and other interested groups such as the United Auto Workers, the Obama administration has finalized rules that will raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The administration had already set aggressive targets, previously calling for a CAFE of 35.5 mpg by 2016. As new advances in fuel-saving technologies showed that this target could easily be met, rules were drafted for the higher mark.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation devise the formula by which CAFE is calculated. The … Read more

Oceans are acidifying faster than ever

The burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere don't affect just the air--it also impacts the Earth's oceans, according to U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Oceans absorb the carbon dioxide, which in turn changes the water's pH acidity levels. What this means is that coral reefs are growing at a slower rate and the survival of marine species is decreasing, according to NOAA.

Now, the speed at which ocean pH level is changing is faster than any time in the last 300 million years, according to a new … Read more

Clean-tech startup GreatPoint scales up in China

GreatPoint Energy has completed a $1.25 billion deal to build the first large-scale plant for converting coal to natural gas in China, a sign of how U.S. energy technologies are often being commercialized overseas.

The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that China Wanxiang Holdings will invest $420 million in Cambridge, Mass.-based GreatPoint Energy, the largest equity investment by a Chinese company in a venture-backed U.S. company. Wanxiang will finance construction of the plant, with the first phase to be completed by 2015, according to the Journal.

The project in China, which the company has been … Read more

Lovins: How to break the fossil fuel deadlock

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--To those who say the world needs dramatic technology breakthroughs to get off of fossil fuels, energy guru Amory Lovins has a succinct answer: integrated design.

Lovins has been working in the trenches of energy and efficiency for more than 30 years, gaining a reputation as a radical thinker able to imagine possibilities others can't. He was here at MIT yesterday giving a presentation on his latest book, "Reinventing Fire" and speaking to entrepreneurs and investors at an event organized by Xconomy.

The book, written by Lovins and colleagues at his "think and do … Read more

Obama touts alternative energy despite Solyndra's demise

Despite the spectacular collapse of solar panel maker Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy after receiving more than half a billion dollars from the Obama administration, President Obama said this evening that he doesn't want to give up on government-backed alternative energy projects.

The president used the opportunity of his State of the Union address to say it's time to "double down" on the concept but pointedly avoided mentioning Solyndra by name.

"The payoffs on these public investments don't always come right away," Obama said. "Some technologies don't pan out--some companies fail. But … Read more

California EPA to appeal ruling that blocks low-carbon rules

The California agency responsible for protecting air quality says it will appeal a decision by a court that blocks enforcement of rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage alternative fuel technologies.

The Air Resources Board, part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, adopted the landmark Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCSF) last year. The regulation gives producers and refiners until 2020 to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel by 10 percent.

Ethanol producers complained that the rules favor in-state producers and refiners because they take into consideration the carbon footprint impact of the transportation of, as well as … Read more

GE gas plant goes zero to 100 in minutes

General Electric has a customer for its natural gas power plant that nimbly navigates changes in electricity demand.

The company today announced a deal with French energy provider EDF to supply a FlexEfficiency 50 power plant which will be the first connected to a national grid.

GE is touting both the energy efficiency and the flexibility of this new turnkey power plant which it hopes will replace traditional power generators that, like steering bulky ocean liners, take hours to ramp up and down.

The ability to quickly adjust natural gas power production makes the FlexEfficiency well suited to work in … Read more

Global industry CO2 output rises even in weak economy


Global carbon dioxide emissions from industry rose about 3 percent in a weak global economy this year, a study released today showed, adding fresh urgency to efforts to control planet-warming gases at U.N. climate talks in South Africa.

The study by the Global Carbon Project, an annual report card on mankind's CO2 pollution, says a slowdown in emissions during the 2008-09 global financial crisis was a mere speed bump, and the gain in 2011 followed a 6 percent surge in 2010.

"The global financial crisis was an opportunity to move the global economy away from a high-emissions … Read more

Indian Country welcomes renewable energy

JEMEZ PUEBLO, N.M.--American Indian tribes see renewable energy as a way to capitalize on their natural resources.

The Department of Interior last week proposed a rule that would speed up decisions regarding land used for renewable energy projects, many of which have been derailed by bureaucracy. The rule would require decisions within a 60-day limit for business-related leases, such as developing solar and wind projects on Indian land.

"It will require the government to act," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last Monday, according to reports. "The government cannot sit on its hands, as it has … Read more

Startup zaps nasty coal for cleaner burn

Coal is a mainstay in the global energy system, but some types of coal are less desirable than others.

Startup CoalTek today said it has landed its first large contract in China to upgrade low-rank coal with its system of microwave generators.

The company's technology, originally developed by an astrophysicist and geologist, zaps conveyor belts of low-grade coal with a series of microwaves to remove moisture from it.

Drying out the coal before burning it to produce electricity can increase the energy value by 50 percent and have the coal burn cleaner, CoalTek said. By passing it through its … Read more