• Switzerland mulls its energy future

    Switzerland has a long history of trying to be as self-sufficient and energy independent as possible. Although its energy supply system has served it well in the past, the country is now looking to turn away from its reliance on nuclear power, at the same time that it is seeking to compensate for the energy lost from hydropower as a result of climate change.

  • Oklahoma Supreme Court: Oil companies may be sued for fracking-induced quakes

    On 30 June the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that oil companies may be sued over quakes if they can be linked to hydraulic shale fracturing methods, or “fracking.” Numerous scientific studies found a direct link between the increase in fracking activity in Oklahoma and the sharp rise in the number of quakes in Oklahoma, a region which until 2009 was considered seismically stable. The number of earthquake in the state has increased from 1.5 tremblors a year before to 2008, to an average of 2.5 a day, according a report from Richard Andrews, the Oklahoma state geologist.

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  • Producing fuel from Canada oil sands emits 20 percent more CO2 than from U.S. crude

    In 2013, the oil industry was producing nearly two million barrels per day from Canadian oil sands. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to just over 4.8 million barrels per day. As the United States takes stock of its greenhouse gas emissions, scientists report that the current oil sands production of fuels from “well-to-wheels” releases about 20 percent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than making gasoline and diesel from conventional crudes.

  • Rising fossil fuel energy costs risk global food security

    Ongoing efforts to feed a growing global population are threatened by rising fossil-fuel energy costs and breakdowns in transportation infrastructure. Without new ways to preserve, store, and transport food products, the likelihood of shortages looms in the future. In an analysis of food preservation and transportation trends, scientists warn that new sustainable technologies will be needed for humanity just to stay even in the arms race against the microorganisms that can rapidly spoil the outputs of the modern food system.

  • A new look for nuclear power

    Many experts cite nuclear power as a critical component of a low-carbon energy future. Nuclear plants are steady, reliable sources of large amounts of power; they run on inexpensive and abundant fuel; and they emit no carbon dioxide (CO2). A novel nuclear power plant that will float eight or more miles out to sea promises to be safer, cheaper, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants.

  • Eco-friendly oil spill solution developed

    Chemists have developed an eco-friendly biodegradable green “herding” agent that can be used to clean up light crude oil spills on water. Derived from the plant-based small molecule phytol abundant in the marine environment, the new substance would potentially replace chemical herders currently in use.

  • Earthquakes in Oklahoma linked to oil, gas drilling

    A new study finds that the recent spike in triggered earthquakes in Oklahoma is primarily due to the injection of wastewater produced during oil production. Geophysicists have identified the triggering mechanism responsible for the recent spike of earthquakes in parts of Oklahoma — a crucial first step in eventually stopping them. The study shows that the state’s rising number of earthquakes coincided with dramatic increases in the disposal of salty wastewater into the Arbuckle formation, a 7,000-foot-deep, sedimentary formation under Oklahoma.

  • U.S. mid-continent seismic activity linked to high-rate injection wells

    A dramatic increase in the rate of earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. since 2009 is associated with fluid injection wells used in oil and gas development, says a new study. The number of earthquakes associated with injection wells has skyrocketed from a handful per year in the 1970s to more than 650 in 2014. The increase included several damaging quakes in 2011 and 2012 ranging between magnitudes 4.7 and 5.6 in Prague, Oklahoma; Trinidad, Colorado; Timpson, Texas; and Guy, Arkansas. “We saw an enormous increase in earthquakes associated with these high-rate injection wells, especially since 2009, and we think the evidence is convincing that the earthquakes we are seeing near injection sites are induced by oil and gas activity,” says one of the study’s authors.

  • Chicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.

  • South Australia needs to look beyond wind for its clean energy

    South Australia cannot complete its move to clean energy through a continued focus on wind energy. This is the conclusion of the most comprehensive review to date of renewable energy in the state, conducted by researchers in the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute. The success of wind power (27 percent of the state’s energy and 3-4 percent nationally) is a credit to SA’s proactive approach and should continue, the review says. However, that success has relied on the reliability of the national grid. There remains no answer to the inherent limitations of wind because of the mismatch between supply variability and demand.

  • State-by-state plan to convert U.S. to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050

    One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs, and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world’s entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy. This is a daunting challenge. Now, researchers for the first time have outlined how each of the fifty states can achieve such a transition by 2050. The fifty individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies.

  • Exciting time ahead for power industry: Energy expert

    New developments in the field of power electronics could lead to greater flexibility for the U.S. electrical power grid, says an expert in power engineering. The key, she says, will be advancements in power electronics — instruments that control and convert electric power, such as semiconductor switching devices. “Power electronics are going to make the power system more flexible, allowing us to really control how the power flows in the system much like you might consider traffic lights controlling traffic flow,” the expert says.

  • New reactor design recycles nuclear waste

    One of the major technological hurdles for nuclear energy is developing systems to dispose of the waste produced by typical reactors. It must be sealed away for hundreds of millennia while the radioactivity naturally decreases. An advanced nuclear reactor under development by Hitachi could help solve the nuclear waste problem. Hitachi’s new design would burn off the longest-lived radioactive materials, called transuranics, shortening that isolation period to a few centuries. This would recycle the nuclear waste to produce yet more energy and reduce the amount that must be stowed away.

  • Testing wave energy generation in rough sea conditions

    Oceans, which cover some 71 percent of the earth’s surface, represent an untapped source of clean, renewable energy. Early demonstrations have already shown that the energy stored in waves can be captured by floating energy converters. Now scientists want to rigorously test this technology on a much larger scale, to see whether the concept is truly viable and whether hardware is capable of surviving rough sea conditions over a period of several years. EU-funded researchers with the CEFOW project are about to put cutting edge wave power technology to the test in real ocean conditions.

  • How best to adapt to the U.S. water shortage?

    The water crisis in the western United States — most notably in California and Washington — may be the most severe and most publicized, but other threats to the nation’s water supply loom, says a water expert. “We have settled in places and undertaken industrial and agricultural activities largely based on water availability,” he says. “When that availability changes, we must adapt. If the change is rather rapid, we often face a crisis.”