• Carbon emissionsCarbon Law, modeled after Moore’s Law, a pathway to halve emissions every decade

    Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While it is neither a natural nor legal law, this simple rule of thumb or heuristic has been described as a golden rule which has held for fifty years and still drives disruptive innovation. Research say that a carbon roadmap, driven by a simple rule of thumb, or Carbon Law, of halving emissions every decade, could catalyze disruptive innovation. Following a Carbon Law, which is based on published energy scenarios, would give the world a 75 percent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, the target agreed by nations in Paris in 2015.

  • Oil spillsReusable sponge could revolutionize oil spill and diesel cleanup

    When the Deepwater Horizon drilling pipe blew out seven years ago, beginning the worst oil spill in U.S. history, those in charge of the recovery discovered a new wrinkle: the millions of gallons of oil bubbling from the sea floor weren’t all collecting on the surface where it could be skimmed or burned. Some of it was forming a plume and drifting through the ocean under the surface. Now, scientists have invented a new foam, called Oleo Sponge, that addresses this problem.

  • EnergyCoal and oil demand to peak by 2020: Report

    A boom in the popularity of solar panels and electric cars could spark irreversible changes in the energy sector within three years. By 2020, the global demand for coal and oil could peak and start to decline, according to a new report. The power and road transport sectors account for approximately half of fossil fuel consumption, so growth in the solar panel and electric vehicle markets can have a major impact on demand. The findings of this report could have serious implications for businesses and governments that supply these fossil fuels.

  • Emerging threatsElectricity costs to surge in a warming world

    Climate change is likely to increase U.S. electricity costs over the next century by billions of dollars more than economists previously forecast, according to a new study. The study shows how higher temperatures will raise not just the average annual electricity demand, but more importantly, the peak demand. And to avoid brownouts and absorb these surges, utilities will need to spend between $70 billion and $180 billion in grid upgrades—power plants and futuristic energy storage systems for which ratepayers would ultimately foot the bill.

  • Manmade earthquakesEarthquakes triggered by humans pose growing risk

    By Gillian Foulger, Jon Gluyas, and Miles Wilson

    People knew we could induce earthquakes before we knew what they were. As soon as people started to dig minerals out of the ground, rockfalls, and tunnel collapses must have become recognized hazards. Today, earthquakes caused by humans occur on a much greater scale. Events over the last century have shown mining is just one of many industrial activities that can induce earthquakes large enough to cause significant damage and death. Filling of water reservoirs behind dams, extraction of oil and gas, and geothermal energy production are just a few of the modern industrial activities shown to induce earthquakes. The only evidence-based way to limit the size of potential earthquakes may be to limit the scale of the projects themselves. In practice, this would mean smaller mines and reservoirs, less minerals, oil and gas extracted from fields, shallower boreholes and smaller volumes injected. A balance must be struck between the growing need for energy and resources and the level of risk that is acceptable in every individual project.

  • Radiation risksNY’s Indian Point nuclear plant to close after many “safety events”

    New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by April 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. “For fifteen years, I have been deeply concerned by the continuing safety violations at Indian Point, especially given its location in the largest and most densely populated metropolitan region in the country,” Cuomo said. “I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy [the plant’s operator] to responsibly close the facility fourteen years ahead of schedule, to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.”

  • Nuclear energyFuture of nuclear energy unclear

    Despite a turbulent history, the allure of nuclear energy — electricity production on a massive scale with minimal emissions — remains attractive. Its low emission rate is why the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change recommends doubling the world’s nuclear capacity by 2050. Yet the bulk of the 100 nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S., which continue to produce about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, are reaching retirement age, and energy market forces don’t always favor nuclear.

  • Killer fogMystery of historic 1952 London killer fog, current Chinese haze solved

    Few Americans may be aware of it, but in early December 1952 a killer fog that contained pollutants covered London for five days, causing breathing problems and killing more than 12,000 people of all ages, sending more than 150,000 to hospitals, and killing thousands of animals in the area. It is still considered the worst air pollution event in the European history. The exact chemical processes that led to the deadly mix of fog and pollution have not been fully understood over the past sixty years – until now. Scientists have now established that coal burning was the main culprit: sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning, and this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning. The study shows that similar chemistry occurs frequently in China, which has battled air pollution for decades.

  • Nuclear powerMeeting global energy demands with nuclear power

    An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. The team suggests that beginning in 2020 we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels.

  • EarthquakesSome early 20th century L.A. earthquakes might have been man-made

    Some early twentieth century earthquakes in southern California might have been induced (man-made) by past practices that were used by the oil and gas industry. During the early decades of the oil boom, withdrawal of oil was not balanced by injection of fluids, in some cases leading to dramatic ground subsidence, and potentially perturbing the sub-surface stress field on nearby faults.

  • Manmade earthquakesWastewater disposal induced 2016 Magnitude 5.1 Oklahoma earthquake

    Distant wastewater disposal wells likely induced the third largest earthquake in recent Oklahoma record, the 13 February 2016, magnitude 5.1 event roughly thirty-two kilometers northwest of Fairview, Oklahoma. at the time, the Fairview earthquake was the largest event in the central and eastern United States since a 2011 magnitude 5.7 struck Prague, Oklahoma.

  • Energy securityBolstering energy security with homegrown energy sources

    The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal to develop and demonstrate transformative bioenergy technologies to fuel a more sustainable nation. Reaching that goal will require roughly a billion tons of biomass, so we will need to rely on a variety of resources to get the job done.

  • EnergyCoal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • EnergyCoal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • Water securityAbnormalities found in drinking water in Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region

    Chemists studying well water quality in the Texas’s Eagle Ford Shale region found some abnormal chloride/bromide ratios, alongside evidence of dissolved gases and sporadic episodes of volatile organic compounds, all indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area.