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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ACS podcasts on the future of clean energy: from artificial photosynthesis to biomass co-firing

Meeting the world's growing energy needs while responding to global warming during the 21st Century will be one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, say scientists in a set of interesting but basic podcasts produced by the American Chemical Society for its Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions series. However, there are many renewable energy solutions and revolutionary energy concepts that are becoming ever more feasible, they say.

Raymond L. Orbach, Ph.D., the U.S. Department of Energy's Under Secretary for Science, notes that meeting this challenge will demand "transformational breakthroughs in basic science," meaning revolutionary discoveries rather than common step-by-step scientific advances.

Orbach cites as one example the development of artificial versions of photosynthesis, the natural process that plants use to produce energy from water and sunlight. Artificial photosynthesis — "photosynthesis without the plant" — could theoretically open the door to fueling cars of the future with water rather than pricey gasoline. Artificial photosynthesis units would split water into hydrogen and oxygen, producing clean-burning hydrogen fuel, the podcast explains.

Other scientists featured in the climate-change podcasts include:
  • William Morrow, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University, who describes new technology that mixes switchgrass with coal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Co-firing biomass with coal is interesting because it makes use of existing energy infrastructures. New processing techniques, like torrefaction, can produce a renewable fuel that can displace all coal in an existing power plant. Interestingly, using switchgrass for the production of electricity to be used in electric vehicles, reduces 2 to 3 times as much CO2 than if this switchgrass were to be used for the production of cellulosic biofuels to be used in cars with internal combustion engines.
  • Harry Gray, Ph.D., of the Caltech Center for Sustainable Energy Research, who discusses the potential of solar energy.
  • Jerald L. Schnoor, Ph.D., editor of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, and a professor at the University of Iowa, who predicts that nuclear energy may play a larger role in meeting future energy needs.
  • Michaël Grätzel, Ph.D., of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, who describes achieving a record light-conversion efficiency of 8.2 percent with solar cells that in certain ways mimic plants.
The "Confronting Climate Change" podcasts focus on stopgap and permanent solutions to the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Those solutions range from revolutionary scientific advances such as artificial photosynthesis or seqestering biogenic carbon, to simple societal changes such as consumers foregoing red meat once a week for chicken, fish or vegetables.

The podcasts are available without charge for listening on computers and downloading to portable audio devices at iTunes (requires iTunes software) and other podcasting sites. They also can be accessed on ACS's Global Challenges web site. The site provides audio links and full transcripts of each podcast. Additional resources on each Global Challenges topic also are available, on the site, including information for consumers, students, and educators.

The American Chemical Society — the world's largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.


American Chemical Society: Confronting Climate Change - Part 1.

American Chemical Society: Confronting Climate Change - Part 2.

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