Posts tagged environment
Posts tagged environment
Breakthrough process converts algae into crude oil in less than an hour
Imagine a world where we no longer had to drill for oil, but instead grew it like pond scum. Sound like a fantasy? Thanks to a breakthrough new process developed by scientists at the Department of Energy, concentrated algae can now be transformed into bio-crude oil in less than an hour, reports NBC News.
The raw algal material, which resembles slime, is a mixture containing about 10 percent to 20 percent algae by weight; the rest is water. The gooey concoction is then piped into a high pressure cooker that heats it up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressures around 3,000 pounds per square inch keep the goo in a liquid phase.
In standard government fashion, some of how the process works is top secret, admitted Douglas Elliott, a fellow at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, to NBC News. “Some technology tricks that other people don’t have” are at play inside the cooker to help separate the plant oils and other minerals from the water.
Around an hour later, the sludge that remains after being separated from the water is none other than crude oil.
"We can clean up that bio-crude and make it into liquid hydrocarbons that could well serve to displace the gas, diesel, and jet (fuel) that we make from petroleum now," explained Elliott.Read more here.
Let’s ban the plastic bottles.
The second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is upon us - and looking at the lessons the oil industry got from it, you’d think it never happened. Here are the most important points governments and oil companies didn’t learn:
1) Apparently the oil industry still knows best. Remember all the congressional hearings, recommendations, pledges to do better in the future that immediately followed Deepwater Horizon? It all amounted to essentially nothing. The US Congress has not adopted a single piece of legislation (not one!) to put stricter controls over oil companies to limit the ever-increasing risks they are taking to drill for more oil. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, governments still seem to think that the oil industry knows best and can police itself.
2) Oil spill plans are not foolproof. Remember the surprising tidbits found in BP’s oil spill response plan after the fact? Like how walruses were some of the local wildlife that might be impacted? Well, Shell’s oil spill response plan for their Arctic drilling operations has just breezed through the approval process, and while they did seem to have at least proofread it, it’s not much better: it currently relies on technology that hasn’t been built yet, admits it won’t be able to clean up oil in thick ice and ignores the risks of a Deepwater Horizon-style blowout late in the drilling season, just before ice starts to return.
3) It takes a lot of capacity to clean up an oil spill. Over 6,000 vessels and tens of thousands of people were needed to respond to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Shell is planning to drill in Alaska this summer and has named just nine ships in their oil spill response plan for the Chukchi Sea. Alaska is far more remote than the Gulf, less populated, and the US Coast Guard admitted that there was “no way we could deploy several thousand people as we did in the Deepwater Horizon.”
4) Out of sight does not mean out of the ocean. Life in the Gulf of Mexico has been significantly hit by oil in the past two years. While beaches may look clean, the story at the bottom of the ocean is different. A similar spill in the Arctic would be devastating for local wildlife and Indigenous communities.
5) We need to quit oil. It’s almost a tick-box: after every oil disaster in history, there have been inevitable promises, wide op-eds in newspapers, and consensus that the world can’t stay addicted to oil (other tick-boxes include: saying that everyone will be justly compensated, that nothing like this will happen again because security norms will be reinforced, and finding someone else to blame). Yet, nothing happens. We have technology today to reduce our oil consumption, we know how to spark an energy revolution, but we are held back by those who profit from dirty energy.
As one of the fastest growing sectors, both economically and in their energy consumption, global IT companies and cloud computing companies have a tremendous opportunity and unique responsibility to take greater control of their electricity supply chain, and to manage their energy ecosystem both outside and inside the data centre.
By making better energy choices and demanding more from utility vendors, cloud companies have the opportunity to be a catalyst in driving utilities and governments toward the development of cleaner electricity generation that will ensure a truly green cloud for their long-term sustainability – and a greener grid for us all.
Make up your own consideration.
Why high-carbon investment could be the next sub-prime crisis
This article by Ben Caldecott analyses a report publish on Monday that reveals this risk.
More money is flowing into clean technologies than ever before – a record £150bn of investment last year – but money is also still pouring into coal, oil, gas, mining and other high-carbon sectors at a pace that severely undermines our efforts to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges.
Judging from many recent high-carbon endorsements, “let the good times roll” appears to be the tune to which the high-carbon incumbents across the world are dancing. The implications of locking in high-carbon investments are huge and long term.
I share Ben’s view that the future does not belong to the old high-carbon economy – whether that’s because of climate change, energy security or progress – and that policy and technology will over time significantly reduce the returns from high-carbon sectors while increasing returns from low-carbon ones, then long-term bets on high carbon sectors seem irrational. They are made even more irrational by the fact that these bets will in themselves feed a vicious circle that increases the odds of entire investment portfolios being hit negatively by greater climate and environmental risks.
There’s a contraddiction here, isn’t there?
2011 in pictures
2011 was the year the bottom shook the top, the year the ballerina danced on the bull, and “The Protestor” was named Time Magazine person of the year. The faces in our Year in Pictures pay testament and tribute to our contribution and to the benefit of standing up and taking action.