NewEnergyNews: WORK ON ALGAE ONGOING

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 31:

  • TTTA Thursday-HOPE EMERGES IN THE CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY CHEAPER, CLEANER THAT NUKES, CLEAN COAL
  • TTTA Thursday-ARIZONA UTILITY PROPOSES ROOFTOP SOLAR LEASING BUSINESS PLAN
  • TTTA Thursday-ENORMOUS NEW ENERGY IN THE GULF STREAM
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: HOW BIOFUELS CAN BE IMPORTANT NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, July 30: SOLAR AND UTILITIES SHAPE EACH OTHER; ‘HIDDEN’ WIND COSTS DWARFED BY ‘HIDDEN’ FOSSIL COSTS; GM’S RUN FOR THE 200 MILE CHARGE
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: A CHRONICLE OF EXTREME CLIMATE IMPACTS
  • QUICK NEWS, July 29: OFFICIAL FORECASTS OVERLOOK NEW ENERGY; NEW ENERGY NEEDS NEW TRANSMISSION; BRITISH COLUMBIA EMISSIONS TAX SUCCEEDING
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: MORE AND SMARTER MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2014
  • QUICK NEWS, July 28: CLIMATE SKEPTICS REACHING ‘CATASTROPHIC’ NUMBERS; THE COST OF THE EPA EMISSIONS CUTS; GEOTHERMAL DRILL SKILL ADVANCES
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: John Oliver On Visiting Antarctica
  • Weekend Video: Warmest May And June Ever And Non-Stop Record Heat
  • Weekend Video: Meet The Microgrid
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- STAR WARS PLANET TATOOINE’S CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-BIG NEW THREAT TO CLIMATE FROM COAL-TO-GAS IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA VILLAGE OF 2,400 GOES 100% SOLAR WITH BATTERIES, MICROGRID
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-GERMANY IS WORLD’S MOST EFFICIENT MAJOR ECONOMY
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    WORK ON ALGAE ONGOING

    In 1996, when oil and gas prices plummeted, the Department of Energy cut back or abandoned promising research projects on alternative liquid vehicle fuels such as the development of algae-based biofuels. A few years later, the best electric vehicle experiment ever done by a major carmaker – the EV1 project – was abandoned.

    The payoff: In 2008, when oil and gas prices were at an all-time high, there was no alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) liquid fuel vehicles and no alternative liquid vehicle fuel available. The U.S. and the world were at the mercy of oil speculators.

    Last summer, promising plug-in vehicle technology was a mere 2 years from showrooms and R&D on algae, one of the most promising sources of alternative liquid vehicle fuels, was the 3rd biggest application of venture capital in the New Energy sector last summer.

    Greg Mitchell, biologist, Scripps Institution at UCSD: “Algae yields five to 10 times more bioenergy molecules per area, per time, than any terrestrial plant…Nothing else comes close.”

    With petroleum products now at an inflation-adjusted near record low and sources of investment capital disappearing, is history – as acted out in 1996 – about to be repeated?

    If so, it is worth noting a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report showing the world’s biggest oil fields running dry at an unprecedented rate and predicting oil prices will likely be back to $100+/barrel by 2015, a mere 6 years from now.

    If battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are not brought to market and R&D on algae biofuels does not go forward now, the summer of 2008 – with all its attendant drama over vehicle fuel costs – is merely a predictable 2nd act of a repeated, if ill-advised, historical farce whose next act can be expected in the middle of the next decade.

    By 2015, the Obama administration promises to have 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on U.S. roads. They will need liquid fuel for their longer trips. There will still be something like 240 million ICE vehicles on the road. They will need liquid fuel.

    A moment of dark humor: If there was no need to grow crops for food or animal feed (and no global climate change), it would presumably be fine to use farmlands for AGROfuel source crops. Such a plan, though, is unworkable until world populations get large enough to go the
    Soylent Green route and use people for food. (That would also solve the global climate change problem.)

    Seriously: A better plan is development of algae. Algae are immensely promising. They consume atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to grow and can be grown in waste and ocean waters, leaving all clean, fresh water for human uses. The algals that comprise more than half of their weight can be harvested in tens of thousands times greater volumes per space used than any other biofuel source. And, unlike most other biofuels, algals can be refined into anything petroleum can be refined into.

    Challenges definitely remain. Commercial-scale growing and production facilities have yet to be established. Cost-competitive algal fuels for cars, trucks, and airplanes remain an exciting but unaccomplished hypothesis.

    Greg Mitchell, biologist, Scripps Institution at UCSD: “Given their advantages, I believe marine algae are not only the most promising option for bioenergy fuel, but the only option that can scale up massively at the global level…Most scientists who understand these processes are concluding that algae has the best chance. There is no silver bullet when it comes to energy, but there is a green bullet, or rather a green missile.”

    It is fortunate indeed that – whatever happens to the BEV projects during this anomalous period of economic downturn, compromised financing and atypical oil prices – some of the biggest money in Silicon Valley remains pledged to the development of algae.


    click to enlarge

    Biofuel Development Shifting From Soil To Sea, Specifically To Marine Algae
    December 20, 2008 (University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography/Newswise via ScienceDaily)

    WHO
    Scientists, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego (Greg Mitchell, biologist; Ralph Lewin, Professor Emeritus; Mark Hildebrand, biologist); William Gerwick, professor and researcher, Scripps’ Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine; Bernard Raemy, executive vice president, Carbon Capture Corporation

    WHAT
    Scientists at UCSD are fervently pursuing research on marine algae as a source of biofuels with a variety of San Diego institutions and a combination of public and private funding. They see the potential as so great they call it a “green bullet” or “green missile.”

    click to enlarge

    WHEN
    - The scientists believe a new algal biofuel industry could be established within 10 years.
    - Professor emeritus Lewin grew marine algae for biofuel in experimental ponds at UCSD in the 1980s.
    - Mitchell has been at Scripps since 1987.
    - Funding for algae research evaporated in the 1990s,

    WHERE
    - Algae can be grown in a desert with salt water, eliminating the need for cropland or fresh water.
    - Algae are carbon neutral, consuming CO2 from pollution sources.
    - Algae can feed off the nutrients in wastewater.
    - Carbon Capture Corporation maintains ponds for algae biofuel research in California’s Imperial Valley desert.

    WHY
    - Marine algae are the most efficient organisms on Earth, absorbing light energy and converting it into a natural biological version of petroleum oil.
    - The nutrient-rich protein left after the algal is harvested can be used for animal feed.
    - The first formative facilities are emerging, farms with huge ponds producing hundreds of pounds of algal biomass per day. The best species of algae must still be chosen. Airborne contaminants are a threat. Many growth scenarios and production models are being tested.
    - Algae’s energy is in their algals, a type of lipid similar to human fat.
    - Refining: A simple chemical process turns lipid globules to liquid. Further chemistry turns the liquid to biodiesel fuel for cars, trucks, and jet fuel.
    - Algae produce more oil per acre than any other plant source because they double daily but with adequate nutrition they produce more carbohydrates than algals.
    - It is considered a matter of economics and the engineering to produce alge biofuels at scale.
    - The secrets of algae are a matter of the manipulation of plant photosynthesis.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Bernard Raemy, executive vice president, Carbon Capture Corporation: “There is still a lot of work to do, but algal-derived biofuels have the potential to become a major source of transportation fuel…”
    - William Gerwick, professor and researcher, Scripps’ Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine: “Algae are my life…There is an amazing transformation happening at the moment with a groundswell of interest in new energy sources…We have tested about 15 different ways for eliciting (lipids)… We see some evidence in which we were able to greatly expand their growth rate and production of oils. It’s early but I’m excited.”
    - Mark Hildebrand, biologist, Scripps: “We know almost nothing about how lipids are synthesized and where the gene regulation is occurring. It’s like proposing to develop agriculture without understanding how plants grow…We’ll need to keep studying new areas and coming up with new solutions because new problems will need to be addressed. That’s the beauty of basic research.”

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