Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
A U.S. startup has developed a process that uses concentrated solar heat to vaporize biomass into synthetic fuels, a system the company says is cleaner and more efficient and can produce twice as much fuel per ton of biomass as existing systems.
In the process, a network of solar mirrors direct sunlight at a mounted gasifying unit, heating ceramic tubes to 1,200 to 1,300 degrees Celsius. (more…)
Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Two billion people worldwide do their cooking on open fires, producing sooty pollution that shortens millions of lives and exacerbates global warming. If widely adopted, a new generation of inexpensive, durable cook stoves could go a long way toward alleviating this problem.
With a single, concerted initiative, says Lakshman Guruswami, the world could save millions of people in poor nations from respiratory ailments and early death, while dealing a big blow to global warming — and all at a surprisingly small cost.
“If we could supply cheap, clean-burning cook stoves to the large portion of the world that burns biomass,” says Guruswami, a Sri Lankan-born professor of international law at the University of Colorado, “we could address a significant international public health problem, and at the same stroke cut a major source of warming.”
Sooty, indoor air pollution from open wood or other biomass fires has long been linked to health problems and deaths. More recently, scientists have been surprised to learn that black carbon — not only from biomass fires but from dirty diesel engines and other sources — is a far larger contributor to global warming than previously suspected: The dark particles absorb and retain heat close to the Earth’s surface that might otherwise be reflected. (more…)
Monday, March 8th, 2010
A recent report in preparation for the 12th International Energy Forum’s ministerial, scheduled in Cancun, Mexico later this month, studies and assesses the potential and limitations of biofuels.
Criticized by the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) as “self serving,” the report suggests that mounting evidence from research and analysis shows that the demise of the fossil fuel era is nowhere in sight and cautions against the widespread adoption of biofuels.
Authored by Claude Mandil, the former executive director of the International Energy Agency, and Adnan Shihab-Eldin, the former acting secretary general of OPEC, the report examines the extent to which biofuels could contribute meaningfully to meeting a substantial portion of future demand in the transportation sector.
Monday, March 8th, 2010
The U.S. Congress is coming under increased lobbying pressure from the algal organizations to extend tax code parity to algae-based biofuels.
The Algal Biomass Organization and members of the Biotechnology Industry Organization are urging Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) to adopt an amendment offered to the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Jeff Bingaman D-(NM).
The amendment would ensure algae fuels receive the financial and regulatory benefits available to other advanced biofuel feedstocks and promote the development and commercialization of algae fuels. (more…)
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Biofuels in Europe are struggling to meet the most basic thresholds for sustainability, according to the Times of London, which claims to have seen a government study that shows fossil fuels are better for the environment than “green fuels” made from crops.
The findings show that the United Kingdom’s biofuels mandate would result in millions of acres of forest being logged or burnt down and converted to plantations.
The study finds that some of the most basic crops used to make biofuels fail to meet the minimum sustainability standard set by the European Commission. (more…)
Friday, February 26th, 2010
The European Commission confirmed on Thursday that it believes legally binding sustainability criteria for biomass used to generate heat and power are not necessary in Europe, thus ending a long process by which the European Union body has debated the utility of a supranational scheme.
The Commission, however, adopted a report on sustainability requirements for the use of solid biomass and biogas in electricity, heating, and cooling. The report makes recommendations on sustainability criteria to member states and encourages them to introduce schemes at the national level.
This strategy minimizes the risk of the development of varied and possibly incompatible criteria at the national level, leading to barriers to trade and limiting the growth of the bio-energy sector in the European Union. (more…)
Friday, February 26th, 2010
By now, many have heard algae being proclaimed as the fuel source that could potentially replace a large percentage of the petroleum we use.
However, non-fuel uses of algae that can further lessen our dependence on petroleum have not gotten the attention they deserve. One such usage, while far less visible and but whom some would argue is just as important, is creating plastics.
Cereplast , a renewable plastics company, is looking into using algae as a new and renewable source of this seemingly ubiquitous material. In October 2009, it announced that algae-based resins “could replace 50 percent or more of the petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins.”
In a recent interview, Cereplast CEO Frederic Scheer explained that there are several benefits to switching over to algae-based plastics over traditional petroleum based ones. One reason is that it has the potential to help cut down the United State’s reliance on foreign oil.
“Traditional plastics are made from oil and the entire plastic and chemical industry is using up to 8 percent of our fuel and energy resources,” Scheer said. “In diverting to new [plastic] feedstock we are reducing our dependency [on foreign oil] accordingly.”
Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
The burning of solid urban waste, sludge from water treatment plants, and livestock slurry could generate more than 7 percent of Spain’s electricity needs, according to a new report.
Researchers at the University of Zaragoza say incineration of these materials has the potential to produce up to 20.95 terawatt hours annually. In 2008, that would have met 7.2 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, according to the report published in the journal Renewable Energy. (more…)
Monday, February 22nd, 2010
The last several months have seen a flurry of activity in the aviation sector, as fuel price volatility and impending greenhouse gas regulations have goaded major airlines to ink deals for renewable jet fuel.
The latest involves British Airways, which struck a deal with Solena Group for 16 million gallons of jet fuel from waste.
The moves highlight the tremendous pressure airlines are under to keep costs low in an increasingly oil constrained world and regulated marketplace. During the last oil spike, fuel expenses, which historically ranged from 10 to 15 percent of US passenger airline operating costs, averaged more than 35 percent in the third quarter of 2008. According to news coming out of the International Air Transport Association, the marketplace for cheap fuel is about to get much more crowded.
Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Scientists at Imperial College London report that they have invented a polymer, made from non-food sources, that could be used in packaging and then tossed into compost piles or landfills, where it degrades upon contact with water.
The scientists said they worked three and a half years on a biodegradable polymer that is made from sugars known as lignocellulosic biomass, derived from fast-growing trees, grasses, and agricultural and food wastes.
Lead researcher Charlotte Williams said the team accomplished its goal of producing the polymer from non-food sources and using small amounts of water in the process — an advantage over another biorenewable plastic, polylactide, whose manufacture requires large amounts of water and energy.