• MSU urged to pull the plug on an “eco-terrorism” video game

    Michigan State University’s award-winning computer game development lab has developed a new computer game called “Thunderbird Strike.” Dr. Elizabeth LaPensee, the game’s designer, says that, among other things, the game is designed to “bring awareness to pipeline issues and contribute to the discontinuation of [Enbridge’s] Line 5.” Enbridge’s Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline that travels through Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. In the game, players get to blow up pipelines. Oil industry officials argue that the game, in effect, encourages players to engage in acts of domestic terrorism.

  • Israeli software gives New York power plants “Iron Dome” protection against failures

    An Israeli company that developed the software for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system is working with the New York Power Authority to prevent unexpected shutdowns. New York State Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped-Storage Power Plant, and a 500 MW plant in Queens now have software based on the software that runs Iron Dome.

  • Fire-resistant coating to prevent failure in steel building fires

    A few extra coats of “paint” could be all that the steel in a building needs to prevent itself from buckling and failing in a fire. Scientists came up with this idea when they were figuring out a commercially viable solution to protect reinforced concrete against underground fires. After two years of intensive research and development by the interdisciplinary team, an affordable 3-in-1 coating that offers enhanced fire and corrosion protection was invented.

  • Electricity sector uncertainty requires new decision-making tools

    Before it was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2016, the Clean Power Plan offered state electric utilities and their regulators a degree of certainty as they confronted a rapidly changing market and technology landscape. Although not all agreed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approach, the Clean Power Plan’s predictable long-term emissions reduction targets provided clear goals to evaluate investments in traditional generation sources like coal and nuclear energy and resources on the rise like natural gas, wind, solar, and distributed generation.

  • Battelle completes 15-year CO2 storage project at Mountaineer Power Plant

    One of the first tests for geologic storage of carbon dioxide at a commercial, coal-fired power plant has concluded, more than fifteen years after it began, completing a journey from an initial exploratory well to successful operations and site closure. The Mountaineer project helped establish the technical viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, and to store carbon dioxide in geologic layers with limited prior data.

  • With more superstorms predicted, there’s a dream project to keep New York above water

    Five years ago, on 29 October 2012, the coasts of New York and New Jersey were devastated by a rare late-October superstorm. Superstorm Sandy killed seventy-two people in the United States and caused more than $70 billion in damage. Over the next thirty years, floods of 7.4 feet or more, which used to occur in the New York area once every 500 years and are now happening every 25, could strike as frequently as every five years. Scientists say that sea-level rise caused by climate change is the biggest factor. One big idea to prevent massive destruction from the next, inevitable superstorm: A constellation of giant underwater gates which would rise in New York Harbor and beyond when disaster looms.

  • Why were California’s wine country fires so destructive?

    As of late October more than a dozen wildfires north of San Francisco had killed more than 40 people, burned approximately 160,000 acres and destroyed more than 7,000 structures. The path of the destructive 2017 Tubbs fire in Napa and Sonoma counties mirrors that of the Hanley fire of 1964. Strikingly, though, no lives were lost during the Hanley fire and only 29 structures were destroyed. Why did these two fires, 50 years apart, burn on the same general landscape, under similar extreme winds, with such different human impacts? Fire scientists will study these events intensively to parse out the relative importance of various factors. But it is clear that two factors probably were major contributors: wind and population growth. Drought and warmer climates have made wildfires a year-round hazard in California. Expanded urban development, in tandem with hot winds, seems to be the primary reason for the destruction this year.

  • The “Really Big One”: How a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake could play out

    One of the worst nightmares for many Pacific Northwest residents is a huge earthquake along the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone, which would unleash damaging and likely deadly shaking in coastal Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and northern California. The last time this happened was in 1700, before seismic instruments were around to record the event. So what will happen when it ruptures next is largely unknown.

  • Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

    A new, satellite-produced, high-resolution map of roughly 1,200 mountain glaciers in the lower 48 states shows steady, and worrisome, loss of snow and ice cover. Tracking the status of so many glaciers will allow scientists to further explore patterns in the changes of snow and ice coverage over time, which will help pinpoint the causes — from changes in temperature and precipitation to slope angle and elevation – and also help improve water management in areas dependent on meltwater.

  • Future NYC flooding will be caused by sea-level rise, not stronger storm surge

    Rising sea levels caused by a warming climate threaten greater future storm damage to New York City, but the paths of stronger future storms may shift offshore, changing the coastal risk for the city, according to a team of climate scientists. Future changes in sea level and storms would be smaller if actions were taken to slow climate change, such as the Paris Accord’s goal of limiting warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • DHS, FBI warn critical infrastructure firms of attacks by “Russia-linked” hackers

    DHS and the FBI on Friday have issued an alert that warning critical infrastructure companies of “advanced persistent threat (APT) actions targeting government entities and organizations in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.” DHS said the hacking campaign, labeled Dragonfly, is a Kremlin-sponsored operation.

  • About 2.1 million Americans using wells high in arsenic

    About 44 million people in the U.S. get their drinking water from private wells. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 2.1 million of them may be getting their drinking water from private wells considered to have high concentrations of arsenic, presumed to be from natural sources.

  • North Korea sent spear phishing emails to U.S. electric companies

    Cybersecurity firm FireEye says it can confirm that the company’s devices detected and stopped spear phishing emails sent on 22 September 2017 to U.S. electric companies by “known cyber threat actors likely affiliated with the North Korean government.” The activity was early-stage reconnaissance, and not necessarily indicative of an imminent, disruptive cyberattack that might take months to prepare if it went undetected (judging from past experiences with other cyber threat groups).

  • Concerns about safety of rail transport of energy liquids, gases

    The U.S. increased production of crude oil, natural gas, and corn-based ethanol created unforeseen demands and safety challenges on their long-distance transportation via pipelines, tank barges, and railroad tank cars. A debate is underway about whether the domestic energy revolution was placing stress on the transportation system that would sacrifice safety.  

  • Houston officials let developers build homes inside reservoirs. But no one warned buyers.

    Hurricane Harvey forced many Houston-area residents to realize that their homes were built inside the two massive reservoirs which had been built west of Houston decades ago to protect the city from catastrophic flooding. These homeowners are now coming to terms with the fact that in big enough rainstorms, their neighborhoods are actually designed to flood. Trouble is, nobody told them about it. Today, about 14,000 homes are located inside the reservoirs, or “flood pools,” as city planners call them.