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Earth Day E-Book Examines The Future of Energy: Earth, Wind and Fire

Scientific American E-Book: The Future of Energy: Earth, Wind and Fire

Since the Industrial Revolution our civilization has depended on fossil fuels to generate energy—first it was coal; then petroleum. But there are two problems: the first is that petroleum isn’t an infinite resource; and the second is that burning coal and oil puts billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat. Temperatures [...]

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Observations

SA Author Tells David Letterman How to Power the World on Renewables [Video]

How do you convince the American public that the entire country, and indeed the entire world, could generate all of its energy from the wind, the sun and water? Go on The Late Show with David Letterman, be earnest, present the plan you published in Scientific American and have Letterman smile at you. That’s what [...]

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Observations

Earth Day Begs the Question about the Future of Energy

Yes, today is the 43rd annual Earth Day recognition worldwide. A number of live and online events are taking place; see a list below for some unusual items. But in 2013, to me, the day raises a central question about how to power the human race without killing the planet in the process. Two recent [...]

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Observations

How Obama Plans to “Double Down” on Clean Energy

wind and solar energy

Early in his state of the union speech, President Obama renewed his call of last year for investments in clean energy. Unbowed by the troubles with Solyndra, Obama said he would direct the defense department to throw its buying power behind clean energy supplies for the U.S. military. The U.S. military constitutes a huge market [...]

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Observations

More Dangerous Than Nuclear Power: The Floods Caused by Aging Dams [Video]

As the U.S. and China endure record-breaking floods this spring, there is a risk that is being overlooked amidst the inundated towns, evacuations and rising waters. Dams in the U.S. boast an average age of 50 years, and the American Society of Civil Engineers continues to give the nation’s dams a D grade overall in [...]

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Observations

Where Will Our Energy Come from in 2030?

It may seem slightly ridiculous to consider the prospects for a future solar-hydrogen economy at an institute for theoretical physics in Waterloo, Canada. After all, Canada is the capital of unconventional oil, also known as oil sands, also known as tar sands, which supply more than a million barrels of oil per day to the [...]

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Observations

What is the smart grid anyway? [Video]

The smart grid. Sounds good, right? But what exactly is it? And does that mean we have a dumb grid now? "The grid, it is smart today," Laura Ipsen, a senior vice president at Cisco, told the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-e) conference on March 2. "The weaving of IT [information technology] and [...]

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Observations

Hu’s your frenemy: U.S. and China will talk energy and emissions during state visit

obama-jintao-meet-in-south-korea

China and the U.S. combine to spew a whopping 43 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, so it’s no surprise that presidents Obama and Hu will spew a bit more CO2 talking about climate change and energy during the state visit this week. It’s the latter that’s responsible for the two countries’ outsized emissions: [...]

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Observations

White House to get (more) solar panels

jimmy-carter-solar-thermal-panel

Following the lead of presidents from George W. Bush to Jimmy Carter, the Obama White House—or specifically the Obama family’s living quarters—will get solar panels. While Carter’s solar thermal panels are long gone (one of them is in China and the Obama White House last month rebuffed the return of another), photovoltaics installed by President [...]

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Observations

Charge of the light brigade: How quantum dots may improve solar cells

Photovoltaic cells remain woefully inefficient at converting sunlight into electricity. Although layered cells composed of various elements can convert more than 40 percent of (lens-concentrated) sunlight into electricity, more simple semiconducting materials such as silicon hover around 20 percent when mass-produced. And, at best, such cells could convert only a third of incoming sunlight due [...]

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Observations

A vortex of fire erupts at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Take a good look at the intense power of the oil spill.     That’s right. Setting a small patch of it ablaze was enough to create a vortex of fire—a tornado of flame that makes the ships fighting the slick look like toy boats. Nor is that the only way this spill boggles in [...]

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Plugged In

Will Germany really phase out nuclear by 2021?

800px-Nuclear_plant_at_Grafenrheinfeld

Germany’s electricity mix is rapidly changing, with renewables on the way in and nuclear (potentially) heading out. But, given nationwide concerns regarding energy affordability and fairness, the future remains unclear. Today, approximtley 15% of Germany’s electricity comes from nuclear power. But, under the country’s national energy transition plan (Energiewende), nuclear power will be phased out [...]

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Plugged In

Even Counting Votes too Scientific for North Carolina

I don’t have time for this. I am busy. I am on deadline for a project that actually pays the money that puts the macaroni and cheese in my children’s mouths. So as much as I love this blog I don’t have time to update right now. Except here goes. North Carolina? You remember: the [...]

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Plugged In

Joining Forces on Renewable Energy Development

A partnership between the Interior and Defense departments will reopen 16 million acres of land to renewable energy development. The goal? To help ensure reliable energy supplies for the nation’s military bases, while protecting the environment and saving taxpayer money. In a conference call earlier today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the signing of a [...]

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