Posts Tagged ‘doc Babad’

By Harry Babad, © Copyrigght 2010, All right Reserved. 

——— The most interesting & eclectic of what I read.


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

Let me reemphasize on more bias. Research does not create sustainable jobs despite politician claims, neither does piloting (scale-up testing} of new technology. Going commercial, without subsidies, and making a profit does. More customers, the more jobs, and making a profit for their creators are the only sustainable path.

Remember, governments have an almost perfect record of picking failure relative to commercialization and new technology based job creation. It does and should support R&T, Scaleup efforts and guaranties for capital-intensive projects and the higher cost/risk to keep the NIMBY wolves eating projects by legal tactics in the courts. Alternatively, if the messiah comes soon, let the challengers and their lawyers pay the undiscounted out of pockets costs for any delays they cause.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).


Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY
  • The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production
  • The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine
  • New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon Credits — Growing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep
  • Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration
  • Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters /// US National Academy of Sciences Clears Climatologists of Wrong Doing.
  • Nuclear Micro-reactors Could Supply Jobs, Energy to South Dakota
  • Algae Might Be a Viable Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel
  • Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

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The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY

“For the past 25 years, virtually anyone who opposed the construction of some kind of major energy facility, such as an oil or gas storage tank, electrical transmission line, power plant, or wind farm in his or her area has been labeled, derisively, as a “NIMBY,” an acronym standing for “Not In My Back Yard.”

I do in principal agree with Glenn Scheede that “it’s time to shed light on the NIMBY issue, identify provable NIMBYs associated fears, and challenge those who use the epithet in an attempt to avoid dealing with real, substantive issues raised by energy projects. Those fears – concerns, as described by their author, are found later in this article.

“Citizens have long been concerned about adverse health, safety, noise, environmental, and ecological impacts of energy and other facilities located near them, including projects that impair scenic, property, and other values they consider important. Federal, state and local governments have enacted a variety of measures to protect private property rights and to limit adverse impacts extending beyond property lines. Governments have also exercised powers of eminent domain to permit construction of facilities that government authorities believe have public benefits that should override private property rights.

“Objections to the location of energy facilities is not a phenomenon that begins with people living in rural areas or those who wish to protect scenic areas or the value of privately owned property. Instead, objections to the location of energy facilities really begin with people living in urban and suburban (“metropolitan”) areas and organizations located in those areas.

“People and organizations in these areas account for a majority of the nation’s energy demand. These people and organizations want the convenience of having reliable energy supplies — electricity, gas or oil — immediately available for their homes, offices, shopping centers, and cars.

“However, they don’t want storage tanks, electric generating units (whether powered by coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or wind) located anywhere near their homes and offices or impairing their parks or scenic areas or impairing their views or life styles. Also, they want the pipelines and electric transmission and distribution lines needed to bring the energy to their homes and offices to be as nearly invisible as possible – preferably buried underground.”

However I also believe many of those whose hue and cry stop energy related projects are fueled by either misinformation, selfish self interests and/or at time the dupes of the circulation seeking media and vested interest naysayers. On a case-by case basis, just keep reading and dissecting the protests against energy projects, and see who gains at general societies loss. Then make up your own mind

I also strongly believe that in a democratic society, the common good must prevail, and that those who cause delay or actually stop well conceived, technically defensible and commercial viable energy project need to be forced to pay the piper for cost they cause to be run up.

“So, while they want the convenience of immediately available energy, they also want any adverse environmental, health or safety impacts kept away and out of their sight! They insist that adverse impacts associated with the facilities should be borne by someone else — as far away as possible.

“For example —

  • People in California object to power plants in their area, but are quite willing to import electricity generated in Utah or Arizona using coal or nuclear energy. They also want oil and gasoline for their vehicles (even from insecure or hostile nations!) and natural gas for generating plants but do not want any production from oil and gas reserves located off California’s coast.
  • People in the New York City metropolitan area demand electricity but also want necessary generating plants and transmission lines that serve their needs to be built in upstate or western New York – or even in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia.
  • People in New England want adequate and reliable electricity but prefer that it be generated elsewhere, perhaps in Canada, and moved to them over long transmission lines.
  • Political leaders are eager to override citizen and local government opposition to electric generating plants, wind farms, and transmission lines but would be aghast if a 400+ foot wind turbine with blades covering an area larger than the length and wingspan of a 747 aircraft was placed on the front lawn of a capitol building or executive mansion in Washington DC or a state capital, or if a transmission line with 125 foot towers were to be placed near their private residences.”

How should people who object to energy or other facilities respond when developers or others seek to dismiss their objections by labeling them “NIMBYs”? Glenn Scheede suggest the following five steps to factually substantiate you claims and concerns.

  • First, learn the details of the proposed project and its true costs and benefits, both for the owner, the area, and the nation.
  • Second, those objecting to a proposed facility should have a sound, substantive case for objecting to the facility.
  • Third, identify and understand the motives of those promoting construction of the facility, particularly those people using the “NIMBY” label in a derisive way.
  • Fourth, those who are labeled “NIMBYs” should not be embarrassed and should not “back off” when they are pressured.
  • Fifth, citizens should not be intimidated by government pronouncements concerning the energy technologies and facilities that should be constructed.

The article concludes with the question — What should be done about necessary energy facilities < emphasis added>?

“Are some of these facilities clearly necessary and in the national and public interest? Certainly they are, but that doesn’t diminish the critical questions: (a) where should they be located, (b) who should bear the adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts, and the health and safety risks, (c) how should those who are adversely affected be compensated, (d) should eminent domain laws be changed to give greater protection and/or compensation to those adversely affected, (e) how should people in rural areas be protected, particularly if they are not protected by zoning laws, and/or they have inadequate political representation because legislatures are dominated by representatives from urban areas?

Alternatives should be evaluated. Perhaps, more facilities such as electric generating plants should be located near or IN the heart of metropolitan areas that are being served so that long transmission lines with attendant losses of electricity are not needed. Many cities have blighted areas that could be restored with properly constructed generating plants – perhaps not as large as those plants would be if located at a distance, but still large enough to supply a significant amount of electricity for people in the urban area.” Read further to find out about a nuclear alternative that proposes the use of micro scale nuclear reactors so you can get only the amount of power you want/need at lower cost and risk.

There’s more detail in Glenn’s fine analysis – please check out the link and read on!

I found this article written by Glenn R. Schleede, and posted on March 2, 2009 by accident. This one speaks for itself. Although the UltraNIMBY, as an individual or grouped in protest may have valid reasons for their concern, they must prove them and let the review process determine whether their individual good, out weight that of their regional neighbors, the country and the world.

I have in this and other articles and books shared how things like nuclearphobia or radiophobia cause cost in siting and building a nuclear energy generation plant to be 3 to 5 time that in other no-less safety conscious countries. How many of our children will die of small pox, once eradicated, because of fears, which are scientifically demonstrated and peer supported, of unproven dangers of vaccination?

“Schleede is semi-retired after spending more than 35 years dealing with energy related matters in the federal government and private sector. He writes frequently about wind and other energy issues, particularly government policies that have adverse impacts on taxpayers and consumers.”

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The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production

— Burning Water: A Comparative Analysis of the Energy Return on Water Invested

A short tidbit… In comparing competing sources of energy, many recent analyses have focused on relative conversion efficiencies and associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, other potentially limiting factors also contribute to the value of a given approach. Based on the prediction that fresh water will become one of the most limited resources in the future, Mulder et al. [] estimated the energy return on fresh water input (for production and processing) across a range of energy technologies.

Mulder and the team found “while various energy-producing technologies have been analyzed to assess the amount of energy returned per unit of energy invested, this type of comprehensive and comparative approach has rarely been applied to other potentially limiting inputs such as water, land, and time. We assess the connection between water and energy production and conduct a comparative analysis for estimating the energy return on water invested (EROWI) for several renewable and non-renewable energy technologies using various Life Cycle Analyses. Our results suggest that the most water-efficient, fossil-based technologies have an EROWI one to two orders of magnitude greater than the most water-efficient biomass technologies, implying that the development of biomass energy technologies in scale sufficient to be a significant source of energy may produce or exacerbate water shortages around the globe and be limited by the availability of fresh water.”

One of the more striking outcomes of the analysis is that the most efficient petroleum-based energy source (diesel fuel) yields over two orders of magnitude more energy per volume of fresh water used than does biomass. Such a vast difference in return on water invested suggests that policies striving to replace fossil fuels with biomass resources—their many other appealing characteristics notwithstanding—may exacerbate the increased burden on a global fresh water supply already stressed from the higher agricultural demands of a more populated world (though feedstock shifts may relieve some of this pressure). Solar and wind technologies show potential advantages in this context. — NW

By Nicholas S. Wigginton, Science Magazine VOL 327,        26 MARCH 2010

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The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine?

Startup Cyclone Power thinks it has a way to replace internal combustion engines.

The gasoline-powered, internal combustion engine dominated transportation during the 20th century, but during the early years of the automobile it wasn’t obvious that it would beat out two alternatives: batteries and steam

The Cyclone Engine is a Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion, otherwise known as a “Schoell Cycle” engine. In short, the Cyclone is a 21st century, high efficiency, compact and powerful steam engine.  It is capable of running on virtually any fuel (or combination of fuels) including today’s promising new bio fuels, while emitting far fewer pollutants than traditional gas or diesel powered internal combustion engines. To date, Cyclone has over 1,000 hours of running and testing our engines, has achieved verified thermal efficiencies above 30%, and is very close to putting the first of these engine models into small-scale commercial production.

The movement to cut carbon emissions and petroleum consumption has of course renewed interest in electric vehicles. But there’s also an effort to revive the steam engine.

Today I got a letter (speaking of antiquated technologies) from the president of the Steam Automobile Club of America, Tom Kimmel, directing my attention to Cyclone Power Technologies, a startup based in Pompano Beach, FL. A few days ago, the company demonstrated its new steam engine, which generates 100 horsepower. The company has also posted some videos of the engine here. It can run on just about any source of heat: the sun, wood pellets, biofuels, diesel, or waste heat from other engines. Basically anything that can be used to produce a head of steam. The first application would be generating power from waste heat, the company says, but the engine could also be used to power vehicles.

Kimmel writes that steam engines can run directly on biomass, without the need to convert it into biofuels, with the energy losses that this entails. But there’s a reason why liquid fuels beat out the alternatives before–they store more energy. It’s hard to imagine this being a real alternative–outside of some nice applications. Anyone think otherwise?

In reading the feedback on this hard science based blog, I was again made aware of how both uninformed and scientifically unknowledgeable most readers are about even simple scientific concepts. Many of the feedback items noted that water can’t burn and therefore the idea was absurd. Of course water can’t burn and obviously it contains NO carbon…duh! , But any carbon based fuel from pelletized wood to the oil from MacDonald’s potato fryers makes a great source of energy of a boiler converting water to steam with less energy overall need to concert it to a biodiesel. No I’m not going to hang a list references to life cycle costs for the conversion of used oil to biodiesel for burning in an internal combustion engine.  Perhaps burning such ‘waste’ efficiently in a diesel engine, to burning that fuel directly in a modern steam engine to run the boiler.

Google it your self to get the input pieces and do the calculation for yourself. But just maybe as ‘dancrisso’ noted in the blog feedback, steam engines can do away with gearboxes. It is a great idea to work on steam engines and find a way to power generators & cars. We can perhaps directly convert all combustible our waste and reduce consumption of imported oil. [Emphasis provided by doc.] Ah the sweet <???> smell of success.

Another set of feedback to Kevin Bull’s blog stated, “Steam is a significant source of CO2. Water vapor of any kind produces a lot of carbon dioxide. Oceans, for instance, are the number one cause of CO2 emissions. Goodness knows, if we were trying to cut back on CO2, steam would be counter- productive. We should be more like Mars- though desolate, it has halted its CO2 production by drying up all its water and consolidating all its carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice at its polar caps. Have you seen any steam cars on Mars? No, because they know its bad for the environment. It would take a page or two to point out the incorrect assumptions in this puppy — you count the ways.

Information for the rebuttal argument can be found at: [], or in the Wikipedia Articles on Carbon Dioxide

By Kevin Bullis

Technology Review, December 15, 2009

Will Your Next Car Be Steam Powered? RideLust  Blog,

Cyclone Power Web Site See a video and read bout how the engine works  —

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New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon CreditsGrowing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep

…Is this another potential case of unintended consequences related to short-term gains tied to long-term losses?

In New Zealand, where the sheep outnumber humans 9 to 1 and National Lamb Day is celebrated every Feb. 15, a carbon emission trading system that kicked off in July is upending the economics of sheep farming, a once crucial sector of the economy. Sheep farmers are walking away from the business of selling wool and lamb chops and are converting their grazing lands into tree farms that could prove valuable when the country’s agricultural sector is forced to pay for greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2015.

Home to alpine glaciers, massive mountain ranges, and rolling green farmland, New Zealand would seem the last place on earth with a greenhouse gas problem. (The country actually ranks 51st in such emissions with only 0.2 percent of the world total, according to the U.N.) Yet sheep and other livestock do have carbon foot (or hoof) prints. Sheep emit methane when they belch and nitrous oxide through their waste.

Prime Minister John Key’s government in Wellington has said a carbon trading regime probably won’t have a big impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet will boost the country’s green credentials and clout in global climate talks. The government’s carbon program is also a welcome opportunity for some sheep farmers, struggling against slumping wool prices, drought, and competition for land from the dairy and lumber industries, to diversify, says Neil Walker, a forester in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Farmers who convert their land from sheep grazing to planting trees could add $172 per acre in value each year to their land holdings, says David Evison, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s New Zealand School of Forestry. Forests planted for carbon credits may increase to 74,000 acres, or about 0.27 percent of all pasture and grass land a year, compared with about 8,650 acres in 2009, the government estimates. “It turns forestry into a cash-flow business,” says Evison.

Some New Zealanders aren’t convinced carbon farming is a wise move. Communities that rely on the farm economy are losing jobs once held by shearers, mechanics, and veterinarians. Farmers may not understand the risks involved in forestry, says Don Nicolson, president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. And while the loss of sheep farms is likely permanent, the carbon-trading program may only be temporary, and its benefits illusory, Nicolson says.

Nicolson estimates carbon forests could replace 20 percent, or 2,800, sheep and beef farms and put the economy in danger. He says farmers are being sold on carbon trading without understanding that they could lose trees to fire or disease or that the government might cancel the program at any time. “The trouble is, it comes with massive risk, and that’s not what’s being talked about,” says Nicolson.

The bottom line: New Zealand sheep farmers are converting pastureland to forests, driven by a carbon-trading plan whose benefits some doubt.

By Stuart Biggs, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 26, 2010

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Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration

As disastrous as the oil spill has been, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is just the latest affliction for wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. For decades this productive coastline has been sliced apart by navigation channels and chewed through by invasive rodents. Worse, engineering of the Mississippi River has starved the delta of the sediment needed to keep it above sea level. All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though about $1.2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem.


Tough choices. Louisiana’s coastal plan includes a proposal (left), recommended by scientists, to divert river water and maximize new land. Another concept (right) would disrupt fisheries less and better protect downstream infrastructure.

All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though more than $2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem. But now advocates have hopes for new momentum. In a primetime speech about the oil spill, President Barack Obama last week called for long-term restoration and put the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, in charge of developing a plan.

By Erik Stokstad, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, pp. 1618 – 1619

Full story at

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Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters

A new analysis of 1372 climate scientists who have participated in major climate science reviews or taken public positions on their main conclusions confirms what many researchers have said for years: Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change rank, on average, much higher in the scientific pecking order than do those who take issue with the idea.

The co-authors examined lists of scientists who have signed statements in support or opposition to the main findings over the years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, namely that the planet is warming and humans are largely responsible. They categorized the scientists as either “convinced” or “unconvinced” and then analyzed how many papers involving climate they had published. “Unconvinced” scientists comprised only 2% of the top 50 researchers ranked by number of climate publications and 3% of the top 100. Among scientists with 20 or more papers on climate, the so-called convinced group had an average of 172 citations for their top paper compared with 105 for the unconvinced.

But the paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, faces several criticisms. The first is that the grouping of researchers into “unconvinced” and “convinced” fails to capture the nuances of scientific views on the subject. That makes the paper a “pathological politicization of climate science,” says Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Pielke also objects to applying the “unconvinced” label to anyone who signed a paper opposing immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “So you are a ‘climate skeptic’ if you have a certain view on climate policy?” he asks. “Bizarre.”

Critics say the results reflect the cliquishness or biases inherent in peer-reviewed science. “We are being “black-listed,” as best I can tell, by our colleagues,” says John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who was in the “unconvinced” group.

On a generally similar climate studies related subject, a pat of the infamous email blame game, US Panel(s) Faults IPCC Leadership But Praises Its Conclusions.

The world’s most authoritative climate science bodies, the U. S. National Academies of Science and Engineering, noted that based on it’s studies and has performed well enough so far, says a new independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is also supported by scores of individual papers in recent months have confirmed the bottom line of the IPCC assessments: The world is warming due to release of greenhouse gases from human activities, and the emerging consequences are severe.

But the report, from a panel convened by a coalition of national science academies, says the increased public scrutiny IPCC is facing and the growing importance of its work means that it must do better than that.

“Overall, IPCC’s assessment process has been a success and served society well,” says Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University and head of the review carried out by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC). But “it’s not as agile and responsive as it needs to be,” the report says.

Both by Eli Kintisch, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, p. 1622


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Nuclear micro-reactors could supply jobs, energy to South Dakota — An Op-Ed Piece

A new generation of small, low-cost nuclear plants soon might be producing climate-friendly energy. Known as micro-reactors, they could be built at factories in the United States for a fraction of the cost of conventional nuclear plants.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently said that micro-reactors could be licensed, built and generating electricity by 2020. Some utilities might prefer micro-reactors instead of a large nuclear plant. Others might see a need for both.

Artist’s Rendering — Toshiba 4S Reactor Design Hyperion Power Generation’s Mini Nuclear Reactor

If micro-reactors no larger than semitrailers can be deployed within a decade, a significant reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions could occur. Small modular reactors capable of producing 45 megawatts to 140 megawatts of electricity could be manufactured quickly at a factory and transported by rail or barge to a nuclear site for one-tenth the cost of 1,200-megawatt designs being planned. Utilities could use them to replace coal-fired power plants that face future restrictions and penalties for carbon.

The article continues with (1) discussions of barriers to introducing micro reactors, (2) general descriptions of such reactors, (3) Potential benefits to South Dakota by using this form of nuclear power generation, and finally described the industrial players who are leading the micro reactor efforts.

Most micro-reactor designs are simplified versions of large reactors, requiring fewer pumps, valves and moving parts but using the same conventional light water technology. But unlike traditional plants, micro-reactors would be small enough to be located underground for added safety.  Moreover, many micro-reactors are being designed to refuel every five years instead of every 18 to 24 months as nuclear plants are today. Since they also could either be cooled by water or air, there is no need to locate them near lakes, rivers or the ocean. States in the arid West and the semi-arid Great Plains might find this appealing.

I agree, but with the proviso that the licensed reactors be installed and refueled in a mode that protects them from proliferation risks and potential terrorist attacks. — Doc.

Robert McTaggart • September 1, 2010, The Aurgus Leader Website (Sioux Falls) {Robert McTaggart, 41, of Brookings is associate professor of physics at South Dakota State University.}

More Reading

Micro Nuclear Reactor and references/links therein, Wikipedia – 2010

Mini Nuclear Plants to Power 20,000 Homes, by John Vidal and Nick Rosen, The Observer (UK, Sunday 9 November 2008

Traveling Wave Reactors, Wikipedia, 2010

Traveling-Wave Reactor, Technology Review, March/April 2009

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Algae Might Be a Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel

“At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels.

When researchers conceived of turning algae into diesel fuel three decades ago, the idea sounded like something out of the old sci-fi movie Soylent Green. But in July, ExxonMobil teamed up with biologist Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to take algaebiofuel to the marketplace. ExxonMobil has invested $600 million to design better strains of algae and to convert them into fuel. Meanwhile, several start-up companies—including Aurora Biofuels and Solix Biofuels —have built pilot plants that prove it is possible to brew algae-derived diesel fuel in large quantities. “At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels. “But with the Exxon Mobil investment, algae is entering the mainstream.”

Traditional biofuel crops such as soybeans yield 50 to 150 gallons of fuel per planted acre per year, but Solix’s facility near Durango, Colorado, is producing more than 2,000. The centerpiece is a sealed growth chamber, or photo-bioreactor, made from a clear polymer to let sunlight through; inside is a strain of algae selected for its high rate of oil production. (Closed reactors are less susceptible to contamination by out side algae than are open-pond systems.) After the algae are harvested, their oils are extracted and refined into renewable diesel. Besides sunlight, the algae require little more than carbon dioxide from nearby power plants, so operating expenses should be low.

Willson predicts his company’s algae fuel (and its co-products, which are to be sold for animal feed) will be cost-competitive with petroleum diesel within five years. “It represents a large-scale solution to a global problem,” he says.

Doc Sez, this area is becoming more interesting as a possible achievable technology since it has move d from laboratory, to pilot plant and soon to scaled up further. At that point we’ll, as will ExxonMobil, whether the whole effort will be cost effective. An issue I’d like to learn more abut is how such a product will be distributed into the normal fuel (e.g., gas station, heating oil supply chain) and whether it is will need to be dispensed separately or can be mixed with petroleum diesel fuel.

This is an area worth following closely, but always being reminded that diesel, like any alternative fuel such as biodiesel, must be compatible with the existing distribution-user devices systems chain or will need to sustain the costs of modifying it in a cost effective manner. I’ve not had the time to check out the general chemistry of such algal oils to see how they compare with the hydrocarbons used in diesel engines. Feedback of course is welcome.

By Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine, January-February 2010 Special Issue;

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Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

— Despite numerous studies on the potential health risks of using coal ash in products many members of the public are exposed to daily.

We know that the EPA {was?} is considering classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, and we’ve heard that the process is a bit lacking in transparency. The EPA wrote initially “maintaining a [nonhazardous] approach would not be protective of human and the environment.” Now, here’s at least one clue into what’s holding the EPA back on taking the leap to recognizing coal ash, the waste produced at coal-fired power plants, as hazardous waste.

First, 31 members of the House energy committee, nine of them Democrat and 22 Republican, sent a letter to the EPA denouncing such a classification. Fine, mostly Republicans and all members on the energy committee — to be expected. But Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both Democrats, sent a separate letter (coauthored by Sam Brownback—definitely not a Democrat) to the EPA pressing the agency to continue to treat coal ash as a non-hazardous material. . Read more from the Center for Public Integrity.

From their letter, which Conrad posted online and which the Center for Public Integrity points out echoes “almost word for word the utility industry’s letters to the EPA opposing its coal ash waste plan”: “Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste is simply not warranted. Doing so would fly in the face of years of research and force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences.”

The letter also says, “Federal policies should encourage greater recycling of CCRs by facilities that use coal,” despite numerous stories from around the country illustrating the potential health risks of using coal ash (CCR is “coal combustion residue”), which contains and leaches toxic metals like arsenic, in products that people use in their daily lives, including roofing shingles, fertilizers, even kitchen countertops. It is also used in highway de-icing and can be mixed into resurfacing compounds.

By Rachel Cernansky, Green Blog, Aug 16, 2010 Also See —the Center for Public Integrity web site.


EPA Proposed Rule: RIN – 2050-AE81; Hazardous And Solid Waste Management System; Identification And Listing Of Special Wastes; Disposal Of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities

Opens Public Comment Period on Coal Ash. What Happens If It’s Not Regulated as Hazardous Waste? By Rachel Cernansky, Green, Jun 30, 2010

EPA Backed Off ‘Hazardous’ Label for Coal Ash After White House Review

By PATRICK REIS (of Greenwire) to the New York Times Published: May 7, 2010

As an aside I wonder whether is rulemaking will move to the same inaction that in the past lead to classify radioactive coal clinkers (furnace bottoms) as non-regulated from a radwaste perspective while treating less highly radio- active nuclear waste materials as if one exposure, however slight will possibly cause you cancer.  Yes I know I’m mixing cats and dogs here, but it’s my column. In addition, I have no idea how well ground water regulation pertain to such burned coal bottom hills which are also loaded with toxic materials.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the duplicated material with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.


I’ll continue posting articles for attract your interest and at times anger you in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Thanks for Reading – Feedback is welcome.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable, and make an unsubsidized profit for their investors, including the taxpayer.

If you Google new technologies in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often, as many studies that are skeptical — Beware, think out of the box, and search for unintended consequences.

What I now know, and truly hold to be true about energy and climate change — For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

…Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about things {climate change} are all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, facing that possibility is better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, that “G_d Does Not Play Dice With the Universe” (Einstein) – and mankind is far from perfect. Remember, there’s no free lunch — as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper. The most recent example is corn based ethanol… for which you twice {as noted above} both as a taxpayer and as a driver.

May your world get greener and all creatures on G_d’s green Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their destinies
in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad


Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved


Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest.

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]. from the American Nuclear Society [ANS] magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news C&EN from the American Chemical Society [ACS],.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequences. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and you must always end up paying the piper!

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).


Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, My New Nine Snippets

——— A List of Their Titles ———

  • Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US
  • Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities & Challenges
  • Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science
  • Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit
  • The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid
  • No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell
  • U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics
  • Success Of US Green Industry Could Hinge On China
  • New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

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Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has widened its investigation into radiation overdoses that patients have received from a type of brain scan, suggesting the problem may be nationwide, it was reported today.

The agency says it is looking into possible overdoses at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and a hospital in Alabama, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Providence St. Joseph is now the third hospital in Los Angeles County under investigation for problems with CT brain perfusion scans, a procedure used most often to diagnose strokes.

Unlike the other cases, which involved scanners made by General Electric, the scanner at Providence St. Joseph was made by Toshiba — adding a new dimension to the investigation, The Times reported.  
Angelo Bellomo, head of environmental health for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said 34 patients appear to have received excessive radiation at Providence St. Joseph over a 20-month period ending in October, The Times reported. The problem was discovered by Los Angeles County radiation safety inspectors and reported to the FDA last week, FDA and county officials told the newspaper.

Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told The Times she was unaware of any problems with the scans and that the hospital had always complied with dosing standards.

The first indication that anything was wrong with the scans came in August when Cedars-Sinai discovered that it had accidentally exposed more than 200 patients to eight times the normal radiation for the procedure. In November, a similar problem was discovered at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

As I have noted previously, any technology is capable of getting out of control, and only eternal vigilance is the price of safety. <No I’m not sorry for the mixed metaphor and fractured quote…  – Doc.

Written by Los Angeles Sentinel News Service, on 12-10-2009

For More Current Details on Medical Overdoes Issues Check Out:
A Spate Of Radiation Overdoses In the U.S. 

The Hindu Newspaper, August 5, 2010.

Hear That Drumbeat About CT Scans and Radiation Exposure? It’s Growing Louder. Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2010… and the links therein.

Clamping Down On CT Scans For Kids

The Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2010,0,6285822.story

After Stroke Scans, Some Patients Face Serious Health Risks

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, July 31, 2010

Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, January 25, 2010

IAEA Enhances Patient Radiation Safety in Medical Diagnosis & Treatment

Concerns of Developing Countries Given More Importance

July 29, 2010

Some Things To Know About Radiological ProceduresTips and Suggestions for Ensuring Patient Safety

IAEA Staff Report, By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information, July 29, 2010.

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Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities And Challenges — Experts discuss possible solutions to climate change

McGill graduate and benefactor Lorne Trottier established the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium in 2004 to hold public discussions on important scientific topics. In this year’s edition of the symposium, three climate scientists and one historian of science discussed today’s climate problems and possible solutions to prevent rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

Organized by professors in the Earth System Science program and the symposium office, the event, titled “Avoiding dangerous climate change: Geoengineering or mitigation?” brought together Professors David Keith of the University of Calgary, James Fleming of Colby College, Alan Robock of Rutgers University, and Philip Rasch from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Image from the Economist Magazine – I couldn’t resist — Doc.

McGill geography professor and symposium moderator Nigel Roulet initiated the discussion by presenting alarming statistics concerning global warming. Roulet cited a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting worldwide temperature levels to be 1.4 to 4.8 degrees warmer by 2100 compared to conditions in 1850. “There is a large body of literature that suggests that these kinds of changes in climate will have a profound effect on society, including things like the global economy, environmental resources, and water,” said Roulet.

Roulet introduced the two main policies for dealing with climate change: mitigation of greenhouse gases to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and geoengineering, or the “deliberate manipulation of the physical chemicals and the biological aspects of the Earth system.”

Roulet then cleared the podium for Professor David Keith, a climate scientist who has worked closely in energy technology and public policy. While Keith argued that mitigation alone will not dramatically reduce CO2 concentrations, he also reasoned that current geoengineering strategies such as solar radiation management, the practice of reflecting sunlight to cool the planet, are not reliable enough to be implemented.

“Even if we cut emissions to zero today, we cannot eliminate the possibility of really horrific climate change,” said Keith. “I think we need a serious research program to develop the capability to do [geoengineering].”

While Keith expressed optimism in future uses of geoengineering, other panelists were more guarded about its applicability. Professor James Fleming, a historian of the American Meteorological Society, referenced failed attempts by the U.S. to control the weather. Fleming likened geoengineering to pulling a lever to move the earth.

“Where would the [Earth] roll if it were tilt?” asked Fleming. “I’m not in favor of technocratic, pulling the lever type of activities. I’m [also] not against [geoengineering research], I’m just in favor of indoors, peer-viewed research. Climate change is extremely complex and deserves attention from many people.”

Professor Alan Robock, the next speaker in line, cited experiments where sulfate aerosol was injected into the stratosphere to determine the effects on climate change. Upon compiling the results, Robock explained climate, political, and ethical reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea.

“While geoengineering may result in a cool planet, and reduce or reverse sea ice melting and sea level rise, there are seventeen reasons why it might be a bad idea [such as ozone depletion and drought in Africa and Asia],” said Robock.

Dr. Phil Rasch, a renowned expert in climate modeling, followed Robock and similarly criticized modern geoengineering as an unreliable method to control the climate. However, Rasch urged scientists and policymakers to shed any preconceived notions when discussing the future capabilities of geoengineering

“Geoengineering [techniques] require funding and systematic study, and we are far from a time when we can depend upon them,” said Rasch.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session between the panelists themselves, which was later extended to the audience.

For more about geoengineering, an overview it’s methods and potential risk check out: 

A little bit of goggling would also inform and hopefully delight you.

Oh if this scares you, I suggest you create a full self-sufficient place well above sea level and close to the arctic then you now likely live.

Alternately, help colonize the moon. Otherwise, get educated, get involved and help make appropriate risk based decisions before you have to learn to either breath water, or worse, after a greenhouse trip-over, carbon-dioxide and methane. Doc

Article by Trip Yang in The McGill Tribune, November 24, 2009

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Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science

The Obama administration’s push to solve the nation’s energy problems, a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project, is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science.

The government’s multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are ramping up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.

In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18%, to $4.76 billion, to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at another seven. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending, as well, much of which it will also channel to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year’s staffing levels. It estimates it created another 1,400 science jobs at universities. In addition, it says, funds from the Obama administration’s stimulus package created hundreds more government lab jobs. As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shading a few degrees — away from the pure research typically practiced at universities, and toward applied science.

These efforts mark a third wave of spending at national labs such as Oak Ridge, a vast complex of woods and research facilities not far from Knoxville, Tenn. Oak Ridge was one of three labs set up to help build the atomic bomb during World War II. It boomed again during America’s energy-independence push in the 1970s. Oak Ridge plans to increase its staff by 25%, or 800 positions, over the next 18 months — even as its neighbor, the University of Tennessee, has lost state funding and pared back faculty searches.

“We have a renewed sense of mission and urgency,” says Oak Ridge’s director, Thom Mason.

Critics of big government say the Obama energy plan gives politicians too big a role in how the nation conducts science, just as they fret about the government’s increased role in the financial sector. They also question whether the government’s funding push is sustainable amid mounting budget deficits. Others, in academics and industry, say that while government-funded research has made big gains, including advances in DNA mapping and magnetic-resonance imaging, the cost of administering such research is unnecessarily high. University-funded pure research has its own string of successes in areas from physics and chemistry to biomedicine and genetics, they say, including breakthroughs that led to the laser, pacemaker, ultrasound technology and rocket fuel.

In California, the Lawrence Berkeley lab says it will receive about $240 million for research in alternative energy sources, computing, energy efficiency and other areas.

“Most of our great breakthroughs have not been through [top-down government] funding,” says Michael Witherell, a former head of the government-funded Fermilab and now vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Diffuse Challenge — Even some of those involved in the energy push acknowledge its challenges. While a federal plan proved successful for building the atom bomb and putting a man on the moon — both clear-cut tasks — the energy problem is more diffuse, with hard-to-measure outcomes.

Link Up – Read On!

Article by Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2009

Doc’s afterthought — It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

Alternatively — “Having limitless amounts of clean energy would do wonders for this world in terms of political stability, development, and quality of life. The second Renaissance so to speak.” — Robin Djang”

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Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit

IAEA Uses Sterile Insect Technique to Tackle Olive Fruit Fly

Homer wrote about olives in his Odyssey, Hippocrates praised olive oil for its medicinal purposes and olive tree leaves were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

But despite being revered by kings and symbolizing peace, this ancient tree is being attacked by Bactrocera oleae, more commonly known as the olive  fruit fly. This small, innocuous-looking pest, which only lays its eggs in olives, can infest up to 90% of a farmers fruit, damaging the crops and the livelihoods of the olive growers and exporters. The fly poses a serious threat to the olive and olive oil industries in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the USA. However, help could be at hand for farmers affected by these olive-eating pests in the form of nuclear technology.

Scientists from the Joint Division of the IAEA and the UN´s Food and Agriculture Organisation are working on a project to control the fly using the proven and environmentally-friendly Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which uses radiation to sterilize pests. This technique, also known as “birth control for insects”, suppresses populations by breeding large numbers of sterile males. When released into the wild, they breed with females who in turn produce eggs that do not hatch.

FAO/IAEA entomologist, Andrew Jessup, said: “SIT has worked in the past with other fruit flies and it’s now being put to the test to combat the olive fly in southern Israel.”

I hope you won’t be bugged by linking the original article to read on!

IAEA Staff Report, November 25, 2009

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The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid The smart grid will save energy and money, but implementation may prove costly

Only one thing is worse than the lights not coming on when the switch is flicked—and that’s the lights going out right afterward. The fact that the problem is most often a burned-out light bulb is testimony to the reliability of what’s sometimes called the world’s largest machine—the U.S. transmission and distribution grid for electricity.

But that reliability is tenuous at best and perhaps temporary: the machine needs an update to meet increasing demands for more electricity and to deliver it reliably and safely, according to the Obama administration and others. “If Alexander Graham Bell returned to Earth today, the progress in telecommunications over the last 125 years would be mystifying,” said Robert Catell, chairman of the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, at a smart grid event in New York City at New York University (NYU) in February. “If Thomas Edison came back today, not only would he recognize our electricity system, he could probably fix it” when problems arise.

That’s no surprise: Today’s grid was largely finished by the 1970s and contains mostly the same system of devices in use since the 1920s. And, after the wholesale power market was deregulated in 1992, many utility companies stopped investing in the grid—leaving it in a perilous state of disrepair today. An update could cost, according to some estimates, as much as $1 trillion over the next several decades—the stimulus plan alone provided $11 billion for a smart grid, including 32 demonstration projects in 21 states administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

What exactly a smart grid is depends on who you ask.

“What really makes a grid smart?” asked electrical engineer Farshad Khorrami of Polytechnic Institute of New York University at the February event. His answer: “the control system in that grid.” In essence, it’s the telecommunications and information technology industries applying their innovations to the infrastructure that made computers possible, in large part, or overlaying the utility infrastructure with communications and control systems that will allow energy technology to be more productive.

There’s lot’s more to read in the article, so check it out. Hoever the bottom line is…

Bumps in the Grid But the smart grid has already run into resistance. Class-action lawsuits have been filed in California, alleging inaccuracy in the 5.5 million smart meters installed by PG&E, resulting in electricity bills as much as 300 percent higher. The company contends that such increases are a result of already approved rate hikes as well as a hotter than average summer in 2008—but also admits that thousands of meters were improperly installed and have manifested various problems, including communication malfunctions. Such growing pains can literally turn off customers: a smart homes pilot program in Westchester County, N.Y., lowered bills for almost all participants, but still 30 percent quit the program entirely.

Ultimately, the customer pays for all the fixes through rate increases. Whether a consumer with the smart grid saves money or, at least, breaks even “remains to be proven,” admitted Aubrey Braz, Con Ed’s corporate vice president in charge of smart grid technology.

Balance of Power — Another key challenge for a smart grid is the fact that electricity is an instantaneous commodity—it is consumed at the exact same moment that it is produced. Running an electric grid is “harder than rocket science,” says Stephen Wright, president of the Bonneville Power Authority based in Portland, Ore., simply because supply and demand must be so closely matched and both vary throughout the day…

By David Biello, Scientific American, May 10, 2010

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No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell

Northwest Oregon’s dry winter and spring will mean a tight summer for the region’s hydroelectric system. The Bonneville Power Administration announced Friday that the region is experiencing the fifth driest season since dams were built on the Columbia River.

A lack of snow in the mountains means less water this summer to turn the turbines. BPA spokeswoman, Katie Pruder-Scruggs says there’ll be plenty of electricity for Northwest customers – but not for anyone else.

Katie Pruder-Scruggs: “We will meet the needs of our customers. The shortfall is that surplus. Like, for instance, in the summertime, the California folks turn their air conditioners on and if we have surplus power, we can sell that at market rates, and use it to keep our rates low here in the Pacific Northwest.” Pruder-Scruggs says no surplus snow means no surplus power, and no surplus power means nothing to sell.

Without electricity sales, BPA anticipates it may have to raise rates – though ratepayers wouldn’t see those increases for more than two years.

Doc Sez: Whether you blame climate change of the laws of averages; we’re only seeing the tip of what’s likely to be a challenge for those who only want to relay on renewable energy – Draught happen, the wind blows too hard or not at all and the vagrancies of nature, forget unintended consequences, are real. In addition relative to this article – in the US –there are few damned few places left to build large dams and alas mini-dams don’t produce enough power.

By Rob Manning, Oregon Public Broadcasting News,  May 10, 2010 | Portland.

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U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics

Developing the technology to reduce carbon emissions from the use of coal may be easier than persuading the public that fossil fuels remain a viable and environmentally friendly energy source, a Department of Energy official said Tuesday.

Speaking at the ninth annual conference on carbon capture and sequestration, James R. Markowsky, assistant secretary for fossil fuels, said “developing the technology will be much less difficult than developing the kind of confidence” needed to win public support for the idea.

Carbon capture and sequestration — also referred to as carbon capture and storage or CCS — is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them a mile or more underground so that they do not escape into the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is committed to the approach, Mr. Markowsky said, with $4 billion earmarked for making the process commercially viable. The money is helping to fund a series of projects to demonstrate techniques for capturing, storing and even reusing carbon dioxide. There’s more, enjoy!

Doc Sez, so what’s new! –  On the technically tough side, the quest for the holy grail of fusion power, of course my current favorite findings an acceptable way to geoengineer climate. But even before the research is proven, politics and vested interest will again raise their ugly heads – mankind gains someone individually loses is an essential as the ten commandments, and politics will continue to overcome reason  and evidence and any thought of a universal good.

By Elwin Green, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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Success of US and Western World Green Industry Could Hinge On China

The future of green industry in the U.S. rests in large part on the world’s supply of rare earth minerals, 97 percent of which currently come from China. The situation has sparked calls for action by lawmakers and is under review by the Department of Energy, which expects to issue a report later this year.

Rare earth materials, which comprise 17 metallic elements, are critical to the production of clean-energy technologies, specifically hybrid cars that require rare earth magnets, along with wind turbines, energy-efficient light bulbs and solar panels, whose reliability without the precious materials would be severely reduced.

Most troublesome is China’s decision in the last three years to reduce exports and increase export taxes on all rare earth materials by 15-25 percent due to its own surge in consumption. A Government Accountability Office report released in April warned that the U.S. is vulnerable and incapable of supplying rare earths on its own…

There certainly is a dependency, and yes, there are risks involved any time you’re dependent on a single source,” said Belva Martin, GAO’s acting director for the Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, who oversaw the report.

“In essence, China has become the Saudi Arabia of rare earths,” Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colo) wrote in a recent op-ed. Coffman is the author of the Rare Earths Supply-Chain Technology and Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act, which he hopes will re-establish a competitive domestic supply chain to “break away from our reliance on China.”

Coffman’s RESTART Act requires the Department of Energy, which was awarded funds under the stimulus bill and houses a loan program for energy-efficient producers, to write specific guidance for rare earth mining companies hoping to win government loans.

The U.S. wasn’t always so dependent on China. The Mountain Pass mine in California once “produced the majority of the global supply of rare earth materials,” according to the GAO report. But digging came to a halt in 2002 due to a combination of permitting issues, cheap Chinese competition and environmental worries…

Environmentalists remain skeptical of the pollution caused by mining. In Inner Mongolia, rare earths are dissolved by way of extremely corrosive acids, ammonia and other chemicals, including the radioactive element thorium. The Chinese dump the waste into ponds along the Yellow River, polluting the water downstream to the point where local authorities have warned it is unsafe even for irrigation.

Environmentalists share Coffman’s concern over rare earth mineral dependency but argue that proper regulation can alleviate the potential for pollution. Environmentalists “want to develop technologies that are less reliant on these precious heavy metals,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress. Weiss is looking to lithium mines in Bolivia, which he says have developed more environmentally responsible mining techniques.

Molycorp Minerals, the company that owns the Mountain Pass mine, is eager to reopen its facility and is trumpeting a new model for responsible mining by eliminating wastewater. To process the loads of byproduct salt water without dumping it or resorting to pipelines that could leak or rupture, Molycorp has developed a way to reuse the waste by pumping it back into the mine.

“Basically our salt is just going in a loop,” said Chief Technology Officer John L. Burba. “We’re not putting any out into the environment.”

This innovation is expensive from a capital standpoint, and Molycorp estimates it would cost around $500 million to restart mining. Along with filing for an initial public offering to help generate revenue, Molycorp applied for a DOE loan through the wind turbine loan program, arguing that turbines can’t be made without rare earths, but was denied on the grounds that the project “went too far upstream,” according to CEO Mark A. Smith. Last year the company received a $3 million earmark by way of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., but more money is needed.

Because rare earth materials are “strategic and critical” in manufacturing numerous weapons, according to the GAO report, the Department of Defense has begun assessing the national defense threat caused by dependency on China and is scheduled to publish its findings in September. “We see these resources as vital to our operational needs” and the report will suggest ways to “obtain and store these materials for the future,” said DOD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.

Doc Sez, this is another example of a real problem that is being politicized.  If my reading on the use of such scarce metal in areas ranging from chemical catalysis, photovoltaics, hydrogen from water, enhancing the performance if lithium batteries and a myriad if other technology areas is correct; we are making difficult to achieve but great strides in potentially replacing or minimizing the use of such materials. No not a done deal, and of course making China the villain (it may indeed be) is great politics.

By Ashlie Rodriguez, National, May 11, 2010

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New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

Law enforcement authorities seeking to detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors diagnosing diseases and regulatory agencies checking product safety may find a new ally in a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detection technology.

The advance, known as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), could enable law enforcement, medical professionals and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array’s probes.

Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide. The current operational version of the LLMDA contains probes that can detect more than 2,000 viruses and about 900 bacteria.

The next version of the array, which is being prototyped as you read this, will be able detect or identify within a 24-hour period any of the approximately 60,000 viruses or 2,500 bacteria worldwide that have been sequenced.

“The ability to detect the major bacterial and viral components of any sample can be used in countless different ways,” said Tom Slezak, LLNL’s associate program leader for Informatics. “This is important because it fills a cost-performance gap that is relevant to many missions: biodefense, public health and product safety.”

In the area of biodefense, current systems are centered upon the detection of smaller prioritized sets of high-risk pathogens, rather than testing for a much broader spectrum of organisms.

Beyond its application in the early detecting of a bioterrorism incident, “One result of this research is that it demonstrates how modern technologies could change and drastically improve product safety,” Slezak said.

There’s more – check on!

Doc Sez – Wow! Years ago, while teaching at Denver University, he worked, almost, on a project proposal to detect nerve gas with the Denver Research Institute (DU). Why almost? Our team wasn’t low bidder, but our wives were pleased.

For nerve gases, your protective-suited outside-observer masks up, enters the ‘containment laboratory and immediately stabs {you} the exposed person with an atropine injector. It keeps them alive; however if you had a heart attack or just a fainting spell the cure kills you. At least that was the theory at the time.

ScienceDaily, May 6, 2010

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for you comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical. All I know is this: for green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

– Harry, aka doc Babad


Previous Greening Columns

  • A Technology Reviewers Code: I’m not being picky, vengeful or ornery – It’s just that I am a “closet” iconoclast and bad science pushes my buttons,  … and …  Of course it’s in my “genes.”
  • Second Law of Recipe Collection Management: Recipe collection sizes will double every 18 months.  A consequence the law is that if you don’t have the right software  most of what you’ve collected will be invisible to you. or gather dust on a shelf or hard drive.