Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org Aug. 21, 2007
|1) Earth's habitability at increasing risk, Gore tells summit|
|Jul 19, 2007||Rocky Mountain News|
|ASPEN - Former Vice
President Al Gore said Wednesday that climate change is a "planetary
emergency" and that many scientists believe there may be less than 10
years to moderate warming's destructive effects.
"There's an African proverb that says if you want to go quick, go alone," said Gore, speaking at the Aspen Institute's Greentech Innovation Network summit. "If you want to go far, go together. We have to go far quickly."
Gore told the gathering of innovators, who hope to boost the development of green technologies, that reversing climate change is still possible, but that "it is a race."
"What we're facing worldwide really is a planetary emergency," Gore said. "I'm optimistic, but we're losing this battle badly."
Gore said that worldwide atmospheric carbon has jumped from 280 to 383 parts per million in the last century, the polar ice caps are melting three times faster than anyone's worst prediction, China is on the verge of surpassing the U.S. for greenhouse gas emissions, and bark beetles and wildfires are sweeping across Western forests.
By some estimates, humans must pull 30 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere to have a shot at reversing such effects, Gore said.
It's going to take a 90 percent decrease in carbon emissions from fossil fuel guzzlers such as the U.S. and a 50 percent decrease worldwide to get a handle on the problem, he said.
Such a massive reduction in greenhouse gases will take major leaps of political will - far beyond what current politicians see as feasible, Gore said.
That reduction could happen through carbon taxes and trades, technological innovations, and energy conservation and efficiency, he said, as long as it is accompanied by a major grass-roots public shift to sustain it at the level necessary.
"The habitability of this planet . . . really is at risk," he said.
So is there room for optimism?
Gore said he thinks so, but that it's not in the current parade of presidential candidates or the slew of climate-related bills moving through Congress - measures that Gore called "baby steps."
"It's going to depend on what's in the hearts and minds of the people," he said.
Gore has been touring with his slide show on global climate change, which became the Oscar winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
He is also on a campaign to teach 1,400 people worldwide how to deliver the global warming message in different languages. Next week, the campaign will be China, then India.
"It's a different kind of campaign," Gore said, one that he said surpasses what he might be able to accomplish in a presidential bid.
"Dealing with this climate crisis is not only what we have to do, it's our chance to get our act together," he said.
"These are not political problems," he said. "They are moral imperatives."
Ian Sample, The Guardian
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.
report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most
comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin
international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the
The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.
sent to scientists in
Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an
attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global
warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation that wants to distort
science for its own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research
Unit at the
"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice," he said.
The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.
"Right now, the whole debate is polarised," he said. "One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever is a denier and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don't think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy."
scientist turned down the offer, citing fears that the report could easily be
misused for political gain. "You wouldn't know if some of the other authors
might say nothing's going to happen, that we should ignore it, or that it's not
our fault," said Steve Schroeder, a professor at
The contents of the IPCC report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. It says there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.
Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific institute, said: "The IPCC is the world's leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that 'business as usual' would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise."
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a think tank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."
another Exxon-funded organisation based in
3) Toyota unveils plug-in hybrid, to
test on roads
Chang-Ran Kim, Asia auto correspondent, Reuters, July 25, 2007; Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/25/AR2007072501039.html?referrer=emailarticle
TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp. <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=TM&nav=el> (7203.T) unveiled a "plug-in" hybrid car based on its popular Prius model on Wednesday, saying it would test the fuel-saving vehicle on public roads -- a first for the industry.
But the world's biggest automaker said the car, called the Toyota Plug-in HV, was not fit for commercialization since it uses low-energy nickel-metal hydride batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries believed to be a better fit for rechargeable plug-in cars. Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars are designed to enable short trips powered entirely by the electric motor, using a battery that can be charged through an electric socket at home.
Many environmental advocates see them as the best available technology to reduce gasoline consumption and global-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel. "It's difficult to say when plug-in hybrids could be commercialized, since it would depend largely on advances in battery technology," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, in charge of Toyota's powertrain technology, told a news conference.
The Toyota Plug-in HV, which is due to be tested also in the
United States and Europe, has a cruising range of just 13 km (8 miles) on one
charge, even with its trunkful of batteries.
Detroit's General Motors Corp. <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=GM&nav=el> (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co. <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=F&nav=el> (F.N) are also working on plug-in hybrids, with cooperation from battery makers such as Germany's Continental AG <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=CTTAY&nav=el> (CONG.DE).
GM in January showed a concept version of the plug-in Chevrolet Volt that would be powered by a lithium-ion battery. It has set 2010 as a target for production.
Ford this month partnered with No. 2 U.S. electric utility Southern California Edison for real-world testing of a fleet of up to 20 rechargeable vehicles to be based on the Escape Hybrid SUV. Ford has said plug-ins could enter showrooms in five to 10 years. Toyota, which launched the world's first mass-volume gasoline-electric hybrid car, the Prius, in 1997, said it would test eight prototypes of the plug-in hybrid to gather data on real-life driving over the next three years after gaining government approval on Wednesday.
Many automakers including Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=NSANY&nav=el>
(7201.T) and Mitsubishi Motors <http://financial.washingtonpost.com/custom/wpost/html-qcn.asp?dispnav=business&mwpage=qcn&symb=MMTOF&nav=el>
Corp. (7211.T), are working with Japanese battery makers to develop
next-generation lithium-ion batteries with improved capacity to store
4) Letter from Secretary
Media Note from the U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
May 1, 2007
U.S. Department of State to Host 2008 Washington International Renewable
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced today that the State
Department will host the Washington International Renewable Energy
Conference (WIREC 2008) March 2008.
WIREC 2008 is the third global ministerial level event on renewable energy.
It will be an important opportunity for world ministers to show their
commitment to renewable energy. The ministers will discuss how renewable
energy advances our shared goals for climate, sustainable development and
energy security. The Secretary noted that, "Diversifying our energy supplies
is a key foreign policy objective of this Administration," and that,
"Renewable energy sources can go a long way toward breaking the 'addiction
to oil' that President Bush cited in his 2006 State of the Union Address."
WIREC 2008 goals include:
- Advancing energy security, climate change, air quality, and sustainable
development goals, including agriculture and rural development;
- Demonstrating global leadership in renewable energy research, policy
development, technology innovation, commercialization and deployment; and
- Fostering industry and government collaboration to help solve global
The U.S. Department of State will host this event, assisted by other
relevant Departments and agencies including; the: U.S. Department of Energy,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency
for International Development, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S.
Department of Commerce. The intergovernmental team welcomes the strong
support of the American Council On Renewable Energy and looks forward to
cooperating with REN-21 and other relevant stakeholders.
For more information about the Washington International Renewable Energy
Conference 2008, please contact William Armbruster at (202) 647-1247.
The American Council On Renewable Energy
1629 K Street, NW Suite 210
Washington, DC 20006 USA
Tel: 202-393-0001 x7582
5) Making Gasoline from Bacteria
Neil Savage, Technology Review, August 01, 2007 http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/19128/
A biotech startup describes how it will coax petroleum-like fuels from engineered microbes within three to five years.
The biofuel of the future could well be gasoline. That's the hope of one biotech startup that on Monday described for the first time how it is coaxing bacteria into producing hydrocarbons that could be processed into fuels like those made from petroleum.
LS9 <http://www.ls9.com/>, a company based in San Carlos, CA, and founded by geneticist George Church <http://www.hms.harvard.edu/dms/bbs/fac/church.html>, of Harvard Medical School, and plant biologist Chris Somerville <http://www-ciwdpb.stanford.edu/research/research_csomerville.php>, of Stanford University, had previously said that it was working on what it calls "renewable petroleum." But at a Society for Industrial Microbiology <http://www.simhq.org/> conference on Monday, the company began speaking more openly about what it has accomplished: it has genetically engineered various bacteria, including E. coli, to custom-produce hydrocarbon chains.
To do this, the company is employing tools from the field of
synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants, and
animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store
energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms strung together in a
particular arrangement, with a carboxylic acid group made of carbon, hydrogen,
and oxygen attached at one end. Take away the acid, and you're left with a
hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.
"I am very impressed with what they're doing," says James Collins <http://www.bu.edu/dbin/bme/faculty/?prof=jcollins>, codirector of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology <http://www.bu.edu/cab/> at Boston University. He calls the company's use of synthetic biology and systems biology to engineer hydrocarbon-producing bacteria "cutting edge."
In some cases, LS9's researchers used standard recombinant DNA techniques to insert genes into the microbes. In other cases, they redesigned known genes with a computer and synthesized them. The resulting modified bacteria make and excrete hydrocarbon molecules that are the length and molecular structure the company desires.
Stephen del Cardayre, a biochemist and LS9's vice president for research and development, says the company can make hundreds of different hydrocarbon molecules. The process can yield crude oil without the contaminating sulfur that much petroleum out of the ground contains. The crude, in turn, would go to a standard refinery to be processed into automotive fuel, jet fuel, diesel fuel, or any other petroleum product that someone wanted to make.
Next year LS9 will build a pilot plant in California to test
and perfect the process, and the company hopes to be selling improved biodiesel
and providing synthetic biocrudes to refineries for further processing within
three to five years. (See "Building Better Biofuels <http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/18827/>.")
But LS9 isn't the only company in this game. Amyris
Biotechnologies <http://www.amyrisbiotech.com/>, of
Emeryville, CA, is also using genes from plants and animals to make microbes
produce designer fuels. Neil Renninger, senior vice president of development and
one of the company's cofounders, says that Amyris has also created bacteria
capable of supplying renewable hydrocarbon-based fuels. The main difference
between the companies, Renninger says, is that while LS9 is working on a
biocrude that would be processed in a refinery, Amyris is working on directly
producing fuels that would need little or no further processing.
Amyris is also working on a pilot production plant that it expects to complete by the end of next year, and it also hopes to have commercial products available within three or four years. (See "A Better Biofuel <http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/18476/>.") Both companies say they want to further engineer their bacteria to be more efficient, and they're working to optimize the overall production process. "The potential for biofuels is huge, and I think theirs [LS9's] is one possible solution," Renninger says.
Indeed, many technology approaches are needed, says Craig Venter <http://www.jcvi.org/>, cofounder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics <http://www.syntheticgenomics.com/>, of Rockland, MD, which is also applying biotechnology to fuel production. "We need a hundred, a thousand solutions, not just one," he says. "I know at least a dozen groups and labs trying to make biofuels from bacteria with sugar."
Venter's company is also working on engineering microbes to produce fuel. The company recently received a large investment from the oil giant BP to study the microbes that live on underground oil supplies; the idea is to see if the microbes can be engineered to provide cleaner fuel. Another project aims to tinker with the genome of palm trees--the most productive source of oil for biodiesel--to make them a less environmentally damaging crop.
LS9's current work uses sugar derived from corn kernels as the food source for the bacteria--the same source used by ethanol-producing yeast. To produce greater volumes of fuel, and to not have energy competing with food, both approaches will need to use cellulosic biomass, such as switchgrass, as the feedstock. Del Cardayre estimates that cellulosic biomass could produce about 2,000 gallons of renewable petroleum per acre.
Producing hydrocarbon fuels is more efficient than producing ethanol, del Cardayre adds, because the former packs about 30 percent more energy per gallon. And it takes less energy to produce, too. The ethanol produced by yeast needs to be distilled to remove the water, so ethanol production requires 65 percent more energy than hydrocarbon production does.
The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of replacing 30
percent of current petroleum use with fuels from renewable biological sources by
2030, and del Cardayre says he feels that's easily achievable.
6) Simple, Printable Solar Panels
Tuan C. Nguyen <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 23 July 2007 http://www.livescience.com/technology/070723_solar_paint.html
Someday, homeowners might need only inkjet printers to harvest solar energy.
Scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed a quick and simple method for do-it-yourselfers to power their homes <http://www.livescience.com/environment/070606_sh_green_home.html> with inexpensive solar cells that can be printed on some computer printers or painted on plastic sheets. Consumers can then stick the instant solar panel on a wall, roof or billboard in order to soak up the energy supplied by the sun's rays.
The new polymer-based technology is detailed in the June 21 issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
Finding affordable ways to take advantage of renewable energy <http://www.livescience.com/environment/top10_power_21stcentury.html> has been a challenge. Windmills or dams that generate hydroelectric power are elaborate projects. Purified silicon, a core material for making conventional solar cells, is too expensive to produce on a consumer level.
"Developing organic solar cells from polymers, however, is a cheap and potentially simpler alternative," said lead researcher Somenath Mitra. "Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless."
The "paintable" solar-cell coating developed at NJIT is made of carbon nanotubes that function like electric wires but are about 50,000 times smaller than a strand of hair. Yet, just one nanotube can conduct current better than typical electrical wiring. "Actually, nanotubes are significantly better conductors than copper," Mitra added.
Mitra and his research partner, Cheng Li, also at NJIT, encased the carbon nanotubes in "fullerenes," protective compounds that can trap electricity <http://www.livescience.com/electricity/> and keep it from escaping.
Then, sunlight can activate a process in which the nanotubes, behaving like copper wires, will run collected solar energy <http://www.livescience.com/technology/070307_sh_solar_power.html> converted to electrical current to power household appliances like your microwave.
"Using this unique combination in an organic solar-cell recipe can enhance the efficiency of future painted-on solar cells," said Mitra. "Someday, I hope to see this process become an inexpensive energy alternative <http://www.livescience.com/environment/top10_emergingenvironment_technologies-1.html> for households around the world."
* Top 10 Emerging Environmental Technologies <http://www.livescience.com/environment/top10_emergingenvironment_technologies-1.html>
* Top 10 Ways to Green Your Home <http://www.livescience.com/environment/top10_ways_green_home-1.html>
* The Real Value of Solar Power for Your Home <http://www.livescience.com/technology/070307_sh_solar_power.html>
7) Physicists have 'solved' mystery of
Roger Highfield, Science Editor, Telegraph, 08/08/2007
Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science
fact, according to a study reported today by physicists.
In theory the discovery could be used to levitate a person
In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that
invisibility cloaks are feasible.
Now, in another report that sounds like it comes out of the pages of a Harry
Potter book, the University of St Andrews team has created an 'incredible
levitation effects' by engineering the force of nature which normally causes
objects to stick together.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St
Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing this pheneomenon,
known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts.
Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with
moving parts that levitate But they say that, in principle at least, the
same effect could be used to levitate bigger objects too, even a person.
The Casimir force is a consequence of quantum mechanics, the theory that
describes the world of atoms and subatomic particles that is not only the
most successful theory of physics but also the most baffling.
The force is due to neither electrical charge or gravity, for example, but
the fluctuations in all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening empty
space between the objects and is one reason atoms stick together, also
explaining a "dry glue" effect that enables a gecko to walk across a
Now, using a special lens of a kind that has already been built, Prof Ulf
Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin report in the New Journal of Physics they
can engineer the Casimir force to repel, rather than attact.
Because the Casimir force causes problems for nanotechnologists, who are
trying to build electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices on silicon
chips, among other things, the team believes the feat could initially be
used to stop tiny objects from sticking to each other.
Prof Leonhardt explained, "The Casimir force is the ultimate cause of
friction in the nano-world, in particular in some microelectromechanical
Such systems already play an important role - for example tiny mechanical
devices which triggers a car airbag to inflate or those which power tiny
'lab on chip' devices used for drugs testing or chemical analysis.
Micro or nano machines could run smoother and with less or no friction at
all if one can manipulate the force." Though it is possible to levitate
objects as big as humans, scientists are a long way off developing the
technology for such feats, said Dr Philbin.
The practicalities of designing the lens to do this are daunting but not
impossible and levitation "could happen over quite a distance".
Prof Leonhardt leads one of four teams - three of them in Britain - to have
put forward a theory in a peer-reviewed journal to achieve invisibility by
making light waves flow around an object - just as a river flows undisturbed
around a smooth rock.
PROFESSOR LEONHARDT IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW
01334 46 3115 OR
EMAIL ulf@ st-andrews.ac.uk
DR PHILBIN IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON
01334 467332 OR
EMAIL tgp3@ st-andrews.ac.uk
Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529,
mobile 07900 050 103, or
email gec3@ st-andrews.ac.uk
St Katharine's West
16 The Scores
Fife KY16 9AX Scotland
+44 (0)1334 462529
Scientist float levitation theory
06 August 2007
St Andrews scientists have discovered a new way of levitating tiny objects -
paving the way for future applications in nanotechnology.
Theoretical physicists at the University of St Andrews have created
`incredible levitation effects' by engineering the force of nature which
normally causes objects to stick together by quantum force. By reversing
this phenomenon, known as `Casimir force', the scientists hope to solve the
problem of tiny objects sticking together in existing novel nanomachines.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin of the University's School of
Physics & Astronomy believe that they can engineer the Casimir force of
quantum physics to cause an object to repel rather than attract another in a
Casimir force (discovered in 1948 and first measured in 1997) can be
demonstrated in a gecko's ability to stick to a surface with just one toe.
However, it can cause practical problems in nanotechnology, and ways of
preventing tiny objects from sticking to each other is the source of much
Professor Leonhardt explained, "The Casimir force is the ultimate cause of
friction in the nano-world, in particular in some microelectromechanical
systems. Such systems already play an important role - for example tiny
mechanical devices which triggers a car airbag to inflate or those which
power tiny `lab on chip' devices used for drugs testing or chemical
analysis. Micro or nano machines could run smoother and with less or no
friction at all if one can manipulate the force."
The pair have worked out how to turn the normally `sticky' quantum force of
empty space from attraction to repulsion using a specially developed lens
placed between two objects.
"In order to reduce friction in the nanoworld, turning nature's stickiness
into repulsion could be the ultimate remedy. Instead of sticking together,
parts of micromachinery would levitate," said Professor Leonhardt.
Though it is possible in principle for humans to levitate, scientists are a
long way off developing the technology for such feats.
"At the moment, in practice it is only going to be possible for
micro-objects with the current technology, since this quantum force is small
and acts only at short ranges. For now, human levitation remains the subject
of cartoons, fairytales and tales of the paranormal," explained Professor
The research is due to be published in the August edition of the New Journal
Editor's Note: This repulsive Casimir force is documented in detail in the book, Zero Point Energy: The Fuel of the Future, by Thomas Valone, with the work of Prof. Jordan Maclay, who obtained a NASA grant to study it and others who discovered its existence. It is valuable to realize that the Casimir force can be manipulated simply by changing cavity size, to create a push-pull machine for useful work. http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Point-Energy-Fuel-Future/dp/0964107023/ref=sr_1_1/104-7693689-5947159?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186958934&sr=8-1
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