Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Loan-Guarantee Bailout for New Nuclear Reactors Puts U.S. Taxpayers at Risk as Department of Energy Hands Over Billions of Dollars

New Loan-Guarantee Bailout for New Nuclear Reactors Puts U.S. Taxpayers at Risk as Department of Energy Hands Over Billions of Dollars to 'Poster Child for Cost Overruns'

/PRNewswire/ -- First it was insurance companies, then it was banks and that was followed by auto companies. Now, the federal government is putting U.S. taxpayers and utility customers at new risk under a controversial U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program that is slated to award $18.5 billion, with Atlanta-based Southern Company predicted to be first on the list for program funds to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia.

Ironically, the DOE's "top choice" for the nuclear reactor loan guarantees, which are backed by U.S. taxpayers in the event of defaults, is the very same Plant Vogtle that helped to kill the previous nuclear power boom in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. Huge cost overruns at the original Plant Vogtle - which escalated from $660 million for four reactors to a whopping $8.87 billion for two - likely played a role in putting the brakes on nuclear expansion plans pursued decades ago in the United States.

Will history repeat itself on Plant Vogtle cost overruns?

Higher bills and costly delays may already be in the works at Plant Vogtle. According to news accounts in early December 2009: "The proposed construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro could likely have cost overruns and possibly face delays, according to testimony released by the Georgia Public Service Commission. The group monitoring the progress of the new reactors is also being denied access to crucial information about the process, and Georgia Power is not revising economic evaluations based on a variety of factors that include a reduced demand for electricity and cheaper alternatives to nuclear energy, the document says."

Such developments for the proposed new Plant Vogtle reactors could parallel the current fiasco in San Antonio, Texas, where another would-be DOE loan guarantee is facing local rejection of a new reactor project that is plagued with a $5 billion cost overrun that amounts to 27 percent of the initially projected budget.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, points out: "Nuclear power is most certainly not the best path to clean and low-cost energy for the United States. Instead, the first step should be reducing our energy consumption in this country and efficiently using the energy that we do consume, not spending hundreds of billions of Americans' hard-earned dollars on risky new nuclear reactors that will pad the pockets of the nuclear industry even more. Utilities are doing everything they can to shift all of the risks onto ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers. Why? Because the utilities can't afford to do it any other way. The proponents for new nuclear reactors are essentially proponents for more taxpayer-funded bailouts for irresponsible corporations that continue to make bad energy decisions."

Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, says: "2010 will be the seventh year of the so-called 'Nuclear Renaissance,' but it is shaping up to be a lot like the U.S. nuclear industry of the 1980s, a decade of no new orders, multiple delays and cancellations, hefty defaults, and emerging cheaper alternatives. Of 26 new nuclear reactor license applications submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2007, 19 have been cancelled or delayed and every private sector project has suffered a downgrade by credit rating agencies. The reality is that capital markets will not finance new reactors because demand growth has slowed, reactors cost much more than available alternatives and they face too many technology, marketplace, and policy risks; so nuclear advocates have demanded a massive increase in direct federal subsidies to bail the industry out. What we are looking at is the prospect of 'nuclear socialism' that could only go farther if it involved outright state ownership of the industry."

(For more comments from Cooper and other experts on how loan guarantees will not fix the insurmountable obstacles in the path of a so-called new nuclear "renaissance" in the United States, go to http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/nuclear4.pdf.)

What is the alternative to new nuclear reactors? Stephen Smith says, "We need to fully embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation. Unlike nuclear reactors, solar and wind are truly clean - they are emission free when they're producing electricity, no carbon, no deadly nuclear waste that remains highly radioactive longer than human civilizations have even existed. And don't forget that clean renewable energy creates jobs, lots of jobs, and lots of jobs right here in the United States. Energy efficiency is far, far cheaper than building new nuclear reactors and helps reduce carbon emissions immediately, all while saving consumers and businesses money. And this can be done right here in the Southeast."

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

American energy security could come from trees

(ARA) - You don't have to be an energy expert to realize the challenge ahead if the country is to reach President Obama's goal of reducing 50 percent of America's fossil fuel emissions by 2050. To do that will require several innovative approaches to generating fuel and electricity.

One alternative is to use plant or tree materials, also known as biomass, as an energy source. Biomass trees could be specifically planted for use as bioenergy in regions where available land is well-suited to tree growth and harvest. Although many different types of crops can be used as biomass, trees have particular advantages, including the ability to be harvested year-round. In the Southeast, where the infrastructure to harvest and transport trees to the mill already exists, biomass production could help reinvigorate rural economies.

In addition to poplar, pine and cottonwood, another variety of tree being evaluated for its amazing growth potential is the eucalyptus. One of the fastest growing hardwood trees in the world, eucalyptus is cultivated in more than 90 countries and represents 8 percent of all planted forests. In 2003, global eucalyptus pulp demand was 8 million tons and it represented 40 percent of the world's hardwood pulp market.

"In order to slow climate change, reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil and slash fossil fuel emissions in half by 2050, we must learn how to use regional, purpose-grown resources for bioenergy in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way," says Barbara Wells, CEO of ArborGen, a leading tree research and development company. "Purpose-grown resources, including trees, are the most ideal feedstock for biomass. A purpose-grown tree is specifically planted to be harvested for wood, fiber and energy production, thereby taking the pressure off our natural resources and forests."

For more than 50 years, U.S. pulp and paper companies and government organizations have invested resources and devoted research to identifying the most economically and environmentally sustainable hardwood species. South Carolina-based ArborGen develops seedlings, both through conventional breeding and selection as well as through biotechnology, that improve the productivity and sustainability of well managed, working forests to help meet the needs for wood, fiber and energy. ArborGen's research supports eucalyptus as a top choice for wood, fiber and energy for numerous reasons. Eucalpytus:

* ... is the world's most widely planted hardwood species.
* ... is prized globally for excellence in paper and energy production
* ... grows faster than other hardwood species.
* ... will grow on upland landscapes, reducing pressure on environmentally sensitive areas.
* ... grows commercially with similar management inputs needed for pine.
* ... produces feedstock for fiber and energy in short rotations.
* ... can be well-contained in a managed plantation environment.

The United States contributes a disproportionate amount, 22 percent, of the world's carbon emissions, even though the country houses just 5 percent of the world's population. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, bioenergy provides the country with a major opportunity to generate power from both renewable and sustainable sources like plants and trees, reducing the amount of carbon emissions. The energy department has specifically identified eucalyptus as a potentially viable option for biomass because of "its implications for helping wean the nation's dependence on fossil fuel."

As such, the federal government is currently spending millions of dollars to map the DNA sequence of the eucalyptus - bringing in expert partners on eucalyptus and biotechnology such as ArborGen to help fulfill this mission.

"We want to help create a viable solution to the increasing energy demands at a time when our traditional supply is being depleted," says Wells. "The time for this solution is now, and we continue to examine and test the effectiveness of trees, including the eucalyptus, as a purpose grown source for energy biomass."

For more information on the benefits of Eucalyptus visit www.eucalyptusfacts.org.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 28, 2009

10,000 Companies Prepare to Start Low Carbon Diet Plans on Jan. 1

/PRNewswire/ -- President Obama and the EPA are gearing up to put the nation on a low-carbon diet and their strategy would do Weight Watchers proud: Count first, cut later.

The counting begins on Jan. 1, 2010 when some 10,000 companies and other entities, including municipalities and even some universities, must start measuring their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

And while it's uncertain when mandatory cuts will be announced - and whether Congress or the EPA will act first - the law firm of Plunkett Cooney said today that polluters might want to start dieting sooner rather than later because their GHG emissions, down to the plant level, will become part of the public record after March 31, 2011.

"New regulations to reduce carbon emissions are coming but public scrutiny will come first," said Plunkett Cooney Senior Attorney. "Companies need to understand that from the standpoint of government regulation and public opinion, the debate about global warming is over. That means it's time for them to develop sustainability plans and carbon reduction strategies before regulators, environmental advocates, shareholders and other groups force them to act."

According to Mikalonis, entities that annually generate or emit at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which includes gases such as methane, nitrous oxide or several fluorinated gases, must measure and report their emissions to the EPA or face fines of up to $37,500 per day for each violation. The reporting threshold is equivalent to the annual GHG emissions from approximately 4,600 passenger vehicles.

Entities covered under the new rules include fossil fuel-fired power plants, landfills, fuel production facilities, chemical plants, steel and aluminum works, cement factories and large livestock operations. Data collection for motor vehicle and engine manufacturers begins in 2011.

"The reporting rules will drive a lot of transparency and allow company-to-company and plant-to-plant comparisons," Mikalonis pointed out. "They will create public relations issues and potential legal problems for some companies, especially if they have been marketing themselves as 'green' when the emissions report says otherwise. But they also may speed up the adoption of energy-saving technologies, which can flow straight to the bottom line."

In Michigan, carbon dioxide accounts for the vast majority of GHG emissions, which are due in large part to burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity. Methane is the next largest contributor, mostly from the anaerobic decay of solid waste in landfills. Nitrous oxide, the third largest contributor, comes chiefly from agricultural soil management and mobile source combustion.

In 2002, a study conducted for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality estimated per capita GHG emissions in Michigan were 6.2 million metric tons of carbon equivalents (MMTCE), which is slightly below the national average.

In terms of mandatory GHG cuts, Mikalonis said new rules are a fait accompli now that the EPA has said that rising levels are a danger to present and future populations. Companies must therefore decide how they want to influence the regulatory process.

"The EPA is obligated to enact rules to drive down greenhouse gas emissions if Congress does not act," Mikalonis said. "Congress must decide if it is willing to compromise on issues like carbon cap and trade and energy taxes, or accept the risk that EPA may implement 'command and control' solutions. Businesses may prefer a mix of voluntary and legislative solutions and that approach should inform their overall sustainability strategy."

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Georgia Power Expands Green Energy Partnership with State's Largest Logistics Base

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power recently signed a two-year contract with Robins Air Force Base to increase the amount of renewable energy the base will use. In order to meet challenging federal renewable mandates for military installations, Robins AFB will purchase 5 percent of the base's annual kilowatt-hour consumption, or more than 16 million kilowatt-hours, of Green Energy annually.

Robins AFB, one of three U.S. Air Force Air Logistics Centers and the largest industrial complex in Georgia, employs a work force of more than 25,584 civilian, contractor, and military members. It is now the largest participant in Georgia Power's Green Energy program, purchasing more than 40 percent of the renewable energy sold through the program. The military base made its most recent purchase through the large volume option of the Green Energy program.

"Robins Air Force Base is proud to support the development of renewable generation in Georgia," said Paul Kelley, director of the Civil Engineering Squadron for Robins Air Force Base.

Green Energy is environmentally friendly electricity generated from sources like the sun, landfill methane and biomass. Customers who participate in the program help reduce the environmental impact of energy production, conserve natural resources and support domestic energy self-reliance. Georgia Power is currently getting most of its electricity for the program from a landfill methane-to-energy plant at the Seminole Landfill in DeKalb County.

"Robins Air Force Base is meeting its renewable energy goals through Georgia Power's Green Energy program," said David Dykes, Georgia Power's federal segment manager. "Their participation is a huge commitment toward the development of renewable energy in the Southeast and a clear demonstration of the Air Force's commitment to renewable energy. This action raises awareness of the importance Green Energy plays in protecting our environment now and into the future," said Dykes.

Since Georgia Power began the Green Energy program in October 2006, nearly 4,300 customers have committed to purchase in excess of 3 million kilowatt-hours of green energy, or enough electricity to power approximately 3,100 homes using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month.

Residential customers can purchase 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of Green Energy for $3.50 per block which is added to their monthly electricity bill. They may also choose Green Energy that includes a solar component for $4.50 per block.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility with rates well below the national average. Georgia Power serves 2.3 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

New Nanotechnology Association Established to Address 21st Century Natural Resource and Energy Security Challenges

/PRNewswire/ -- Senior policymakers and experts in the defense and cleantech industries got a boost today with the announced formation of the NanoAssociation for Natural Resources and Energy Security (NANRES). NANRES is a trade organization designed to advance the research, development, and commercialization of innovative energy and environmental-specific nanotechnologies. Among its founding organizations is Lockheed Martin Corporation.

"The nexus between national security and energy and the environment will become increasingly evident as the effects of climate change limit our access to natural resources and issues stemming from our ongoing addiction to oil and other fossil fuels exacerbate," said Erin Ross, Co-Founder and President for NANRES.

Slated to be a 3.1 trillion-dollar industry by 2015, nanotechnology will continue to influence a broad spectrum of industry sectors with new and innovative science-based technologies. While nanotechnology applications will impact many different fields in the long term, it is the energy sector that stands to benefit the most in the early stages. Industry-specific applications now underway range from the way in which energy is captured and stored to mitigating the effects of climate change and strengthening our defense agility.

The formation of NANRES comes at a time when energy and environmental sectors look to technological innovation to address their pressing needs. The newly formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program and infusion of federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, and the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), indicate a critical demand for energy and environmental specific technologies.

"NANRES understands the national security and environmental concerns associated with our current energy landscape. We are pleased to take a leading role in the advancement and commercialization of groundbreaking nanotechnologies, which provide viable solutions to the natural resource and energy challenges ahead, advancing the nation on a path to clean energy innovation and global competitiveness," Ross added.

NANRES will address the key needs of energy security through focused research, development, and commercialization of nanotechnologies that will bring alternative innovative energy solutions to the domestic marketplace, while also working more specifically to address US military alternative energy needs. It will also focus on accelerating environmental nanotechnologies that will strengthen the nation's resource security by enhancing its access to clean, viable, and domestically available natural resources, at the same time supporting nanotechnologies that will address environmental, health, and safety measures.

With its elite Executive and Scientific Council and expected participation of 200+ organizations, over the next decade NANRES expects to be the leading expert membership organization promoting innovative environmental and clean energy nanotechnologies that will provide a more secure and prosperous society. During this formative stage, NANRES will continue to actively foster key partnerships with academic, research, corporate, and scientific institutions. For more information on NANRES, please visit http://www.nanres.org/

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US Home Appliance Industry Issues Principles & Requirements for Achieving a Widely Accepted Smart Grid at Climate Change Conference

/PRNewswire/ -- The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the United States (US) based trade group representing the home appliance industry, today issued The Home Appliance Industry's Principles & Requirements for Achieving a Widely Accepted Smart Grid during the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference. Smart Grid enabled home appliances, through a fully functional Smart Grid, will contribute greatly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, Smart Grid enabled appliances will help to better integrate and coordinate renewable energy resources.

Home appliances are already a success story in terms of energy efficiency and environmental protection. New appliances often represent the most effective choice a consumer can make to reduce home energy use and costs. While new appliance standards will further add to this success story, a much greater opportunity exists with making appliances "smart." Smart Appliances will reduce peak energy demand and make the electrical power grid more efficient. For example, a Smart refrigerator or clothes dryer could defer a portion of its operating cycle to a time of day when true energy costs are lower and power generation is ample. Not only will this save the consumer money through reduced electric bills, but it will help reduce the need for additional peaker power plants.

The Home Appliance Industry's Principles & Requirements for Achieving a Widely Accepted Smart Grid white paper released in Copenhagen and available at www.aham.org/smartgrid emphasizes that consumer choice, control and security must be a priority in the development of a Smart Grid. The white paper outlines the three essential requirements of a widely accepted Smart Grid:

1. Pricing Rate Structure and Incentives to Consumers: In order to
provide the maximum incentive to consumers to take advantage of Smart
Appliances, residential electricity prices must be based on time of
use. Strong consideration should be given to the development of
uniform pricing and usage information standards that provide for a
harmonized way of communicating local rate and timing information. If
done right, time of use electricity pricing will not require people to
change their behavior to save money and help the environment.
2. Communication Standards: Standards and protocols for communications
with Smart Appliances must be open and limited in number across all
utility districts. This will allow appliance manufacturers to produce
for a national marketplace so the same Smart Appliance can contribute
to the Smart Grid whether in a home in Florida or in Oregon.
3. Consumer Choice & Privacy: If consumers do not use Smart Appliances,
then the vision of the Smart Grid is at risk. While Smart Appliances
must work seamlessly with electric utilities in a fully functional
Smart Grid system, the consumer must always have control over the
appliance. If a consumer wishes to override deferral of an appliance
function and incur a higher electricity rate, they should be able to
make such a choice. The boundary of the utility's reach should end at
the smart meter. The purpose of the Smart Grid is to provide more
efficient use of energy, not for utilities to control or monitor
appliance usage.


AHAM is engaged in a number of Smart Grid related groups, including the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, Priority Action Plan (PAP) 3 on Common Price Communication Model, and PAP 9 Standard DR and DER Signals. AHAM also serves as a member of the US Technical Advisory Group to IEC Strategic Group 3 on Smart Grid. In addition, AHAM works closely with other stakeholder groups on the development of the Smart Grid.

AHAM is optimistic that with proper coordination, cooperation and communication among the various Standards Development Organizations, associations, government agencies and companies, the Smart Grid vision can be achieved.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

NGO Says Natural Gas Provides New Option for Immediate U.S. Carbon Cuts

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF), together with the UN Foundation and the Worldwatch Institute, today hosted a major side event in Copenhagen focusing on the ways natural gas -- and, in particular, the discovery of vast reserves of unconventional, or shale gas -- can accelerate the transition to a global low-carbon economy. Natural gas can generate electricity with 50-70 percent less CO(2) than coal per BTU. As is the case in the U.S., many other countries have also recently discovered very large new unconventional reserves of natural gas, primarily in deeply buried shale rock formations.

At the side event, ACSF released a comprehensive new working paper entitled "North America's New Natural Gas Resources and their Potential Impact on Energy and Climate Security." The paper shows why natural gas offers an immediate opportunity for climate action and describes the necessary U.S. legislative policies for pursuing this option. It is authored jointly by ACSF's CEO, Gregory C. Staple, a respected climate policy expert, and Dr. Joel L. Swerdlow, author of the noted National Geographic Society Book titled Nature's Medicine. Copies can be obtained from the Foundation at http://www.cleanskies.org/new-energy/. Event details can be found at www.cleanskies.org/pdf/acsf-agenda-121209.pdf

The Chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp., Aubrey K. McClendon, who also serves as Chairman of ACSF, and Mr. Staple offered the following statements:

"We are in the midst of a natural gas renaissance in the United States -- a renaissance that gives the U.S. an unprecedented means to demonstrate global economic and environmental leadership because gas is a much lower carbon fuel than coal or oil. The U.S. boom in shale gas production also provides a historic opportunity to unite the business and environmental communities, since it may create hundreds of thousands of new jobs while producing large environmental benefits.

There is no longer any debate about natural gas supply in America: we have an abundance of natural gas. Big shale plays have become a key part of America's effort to gain a much greater degree of energy security, and we hope that in the next decade shale gas will also help Europe and Asia do likewise. What we need now is the political will to make sure that natural gas-based fuel switching is a leading part of our country's CO(2) reduction strategy. The more successful we are at producing shale gas in North America, the more likely it is that the U.S. and the world will have a new roadmap for energy and climate security."

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Conference Should Emphasize Building Sector to Fight Climate Change at Low Cost, Experts Say

/PRNewswire/ -- The Copenhagen climate change talks should focus on the existing building sector to create massive reductions in global emissions and create new jobs, say the authors of a new book on property retrofits around the globe.

"The existing real estate sector is typically overlooked at the climate change table," says Leanne Tobias, founder of Malachite LLC, a leading green real estate consultancy. "That stance neglects the UN's own findings on the best ways to fight global warming." Tobias and Malachite colleague George Vavaroutsos are the principal authors of Retrofitting Office Buildings to be Green and Energy-Efficient, the authoritative new guide to sustainable building renovation around the world.

Tobias and Vavaroutsos cite the UN's own data showing that building upgrades are among the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After reviewing over 80 studies on buildings and energy use, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that cost-effective energy efficiency measures in buildings could reduce building emissions by 30% from the 2020 estimated baseline. This would eliminate approximately 3.2 gigatons of CO2 - or a 7 to 10 percent reduction in 2020 estimated total climate emissions.

Fundamental improvements include:

-- Improved building insulation
-- Higher heating and cooling efficiencies
-- Energy-efficient lighting
-- Reduced plug load through energy-efficient appliances


"These strategies rely on proven and easily-applied technologies, whose use would create jobs rapidly," Vavaroutsos says. The book tracks the use of building retrofits around the globe, including China, Australia, the EU, Canada and the U.S. Many projects paid back their costs in less than a year and almost all attained payback in five years or fewer. A sample of U.S. properties paid back their costs in approximately 17 months. "Our research shows that retrofitting buildings results in energy and water conservation, the creation of jobs, and better financial results for owners and investors," says Tobias.

"The Copenhagen Summit should take steps to incorporate property upgrades into the global carbon trading system," say Tobias and Vavaroutsos. To date, few retrofit projects have been undertaken under the Kyoto framework. As of October 2008, only ten projects to reduce building energy use were in the international carbon trading pipeline of over 4,000 projects.

The United Nations' Sustainable Building & Construction Initiative has recommended revising the global carbon trading framework to encourage additional participation by the property sector. Recommended reforms include developing national regulations and standards for building energy efficiency and/or sustainable building; developing common baselines and building benchmarks for carbon trading; and instituting the use of performance indicators, such as energy use per square foot or square meter for ongoing monitoring and verification.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

3-D Solar Cell that Uses "Towers" to Boost Efficiency Wins Patents

A three dimensional solar cell design that uses micron-scale “towers” to capture nearly three times as much light as flat solar cells made from the same materials has been awarded broad patent protection in both China and Australia. Modeling suggests that the 3-D cell could boost power production by as much as 300 percent compared to conventional solar cells.

Because it can capture more power from a given area, the 3-D design could be useful for powering satellites, cell phones, military equipment and other applications that have a limited surface area. Developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), the “three dimensional multi-junction photovoltaic device” uses its 3-D surface structure to increase the likelihood that every photon striking it will produce energy.

“One problem with conventional flat solar cells is that the sunlight hits a flat surface and can bounce off, so the light only has one chance to be absorbed and turned into electricity,” explained John Bacon, president of IP2Biz®, an Atlanta company that has licensed the technology from GTRI. “In the GTRI 3-D solar cell, we build a nanometer-scale version of Manhattan, with streets and avenues of tiny light-capturing structures similar to tall buildings. The sunlight bounces from building to building and produces more electricity.”

The arrays of towers on the 3-D solar cell can increase the surface area by several thousand percent, depending on the size and density of the structures.

“Conventional cells have to be very large to make adequate amounts of electricity, and that limits their applications,” Bacon explained. “The large surface area of our 3-D cell means that applications from satellites to cell phones will be more practical since we can pack so much light gathering power into a small footprint.”

The three dimensional structure also means that the cells don’t have to be aimed directly at the sun to capture sunlight efficiently, Bacon added. Conventional solar cells work best when the sunlight hits them at a narrow range of angles, but the new 3-D system remains efficient regardless of the angle at which the light hits.

The tower structures on the GTRI solar cells are about 100 microns tall, 40 microns by 40 microns square, 50 microns apart – and grown from arrays containing millions of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes primarily serve as the structure on which current-generating photovoltaic p/n coatings are applied.

“The carbon nanotubes are like the framing inside of buildings, and the photovoltaic materials are like the outer skin of the buildings,” said Tom Smith, president of 3-D Solar LLC, a company formed to commercialize the cells. “Within the three-dimensional structures, multiple materials could be used to create the physical framing. Carbon nanotubes were used in the original solar cells, but they are not required for the technology to work.”

The 3-D solar cells were developed in the laboratory of Jud Ready, a GTRI senior research engineer. Tests comparing the 3-D solar cells produced in Ready’s lab with traditional planar cells produced from the same materials showed an increase in power generation, Smith said.

The researchers chose to make their prototype cells from cadmium materials because they were familiar with them from other research. However, a broad range of photovoltaic materials could also be used, and selecting the best material for specific applications will be the goal of future research.

Fabrication of the cells begins with a silicon wafer, which also serves as the solar cell’s bottom junction. The researchers first coat the wafer with a thin layer of iron using a photolithography process that can create a wide variety of patterns. The patterned wafer is then placed into a furnace heated to approximately 700 degrees Celsius.

Hydrocarbon gases are then flowed into the furnace, where the carbon and hydrogen separate. In a process known as chemical vapor deposition, the carbon grows arrays of multi-walled carbon nanotubes atop the patterns created by the iron particles.

Once the carbon nanotube towers have been grown, the researchers use a process known as molecular beam epitaxy to coat the nanotube arrays with cadmium telluride (CdTe) and cadmium sulfide (CdS), which serve as the p-type and n-type photovoltaic layers. Atop that, a thin coating of indium tin oxide, a clear conducting material, is added to serve as the cell’s top electrode.

In the finished solar cells, the carbon nanotube arrays serve both as support for the 3-D arrays and as a conductor connecting the photovoltaic materials to the silicon wafer.

The 3-D solar cells were described in the March 2007 issue of the journal JOM, published by the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, and in the Journal of Applied Physics in 2008. The research leading to their development was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Beyond the patents in China and Australia, IP2Biz has applied for protection in the United States, Canada, Europe, Korea and India, Smith noted. The patents granted so far apply to any photovoltaic application in which three dimensional structures are used to capture light bouncing off them, he added.

“The 3-D photovoltaic cell could be of great value in satellite, cell phone and defense applications given its order of magnitude reduction in footprint, coupled with the potential for increased power production compared to planar cells,” Smith added. “We are very pleased with the level of interest in licensing or acquiring this innovation as means of addressing the world’s growing need for energy.”

John Toon

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EPA Reports Exhaust Harms the Planet. HH2 Hydrogen Water Cell Reduces Greenhouse Gases, Exhaust Emissions Helps Reduce Global Warming.

/PRNewswire/ -- HH2 Hydrogen is the company ready to help the Planet. Patent Pending system creates Hydrogen and Oxygen gas vapors extracted separately from water & input both of the gases directly into Air Cleaner intake. HH2 fits all existing fossil fuel vehicles.

The HH2 system works with gasoline, Diesel and CNG. No on board storage required, no stopping to fill up Hydrogen from a station. Unit licensing will be available to Auto Makers, OEM's and manufacturers' world wide.

The unique HH2(TM) system extracts separated Hydrogen and Oxygen gas vapors from distilled water into small sized devices installed in a vehicle. The unit uses a little of the vehicles excess energy to produce just the right amount of Hydrogen and Oxygen gases required to blend with existing fuel to cause complete combustion of fuel inside the engine combustion chambers.

HH2 HYDROGEN incinerates most fuel toxins, poisons and particulate matter due to catalytic action (Octane 130), resulting in a clean warm moist air exhaust discharge. HH2 is not HHO/Browns gas.

Vehicles that require premium fuels now can use regular fuel when using HH2 Hydrogen systems.

CARB Executive Order D-643 for vehicles using Gasoline and Diesel fuels. CARB is accepted world wide as it is the toughest emissions agency in the world. Big Diesel testing is underway.

The system uses 12 Volt battery power and is very efficient, total burning of fuel results in increased fuel economy, cleaner exhaust and smoother running due to complete burning inside the engine. Please visit the company website at: www.HH2.US for more detailed information. HH2 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Devices have no moving parts and last for years. IRS tax credits of $1000 & $2000 may be available to USA taxpayers, using forms 8911; 3500 and 3800 of section 535 of the IRS code.

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Deloitte Survey: Age of Plenty Predicted for Natural Gas

/PRNewswire/ -- The United States is entering an age of plenty for natural gas, according to a survey of oil and gas professionals conducted by the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

"The survey numbers are striking," said Gary Adams, vice chairman and leader of Deloitte's oil and gas practice. "The overwhelming majority of survey respondents, 84 percent, say the best days for the natural gas industry are still ahead of us, despite today's low prices."

Current industry thinking would attribute this enthusiasm about natural gas to a surge in production from unconventional formations, such as shale and coal bed methane, and to the expectation that climate change legislation will increase the demand for gas-powered electricity generation.

Adams notes the survey confirms the increasingly common perception among many energy pundits that America's energy future will become more closely aligned with natural gas than we thought just a few years ago. In contrast, oil will continue to be a dominant fuel source for transportation for many years to come, but difficulties are expected to continue when it comes to finding and producing the fuel in the future, mainly because oil is increasingly found in challenging environments such as deep water and arctic regions, or in reserves controlled by national oil interests.

"While most analysts agree that oil will remain vital for transportation, the current belief in a vibrant future for domestic natural gas -- driven by significant technological advances in the production of gases from unconventional fuel sources -- stands in contrast to the industry's thinking just a few years ago, which indicated that natural gas supplies in the United States would not grow dramatically," said Adams.

The survey further supports the optimism about a natural gas future by looking at several key perceptions:

-- While oil is expected to remain the single most widely used energy
source in the United States for some time, its usage is expected to
decline over time. The number of respondents that expect oil to remain
the most widely used overall energy source in the United States drops
16 points over the next five years -- sinking to 41 percent who
believe oil will dominate in 2015 from 57 percent who currently think
oil is the most widely used overall energy source.

-- In contrast, expectations that natural gas will be the most widely
used fuel source by 2015 double over the next five years, rising to
almost one quarter (24 percent) who believe it will dominate in 2015
from one in 10 respondents who see natural gas as the currently
dominant fuel source. Current industry thinking would indicate that
much of the rising demand for natural gas will be for power
generation.

-- Additionally, almost one in 10 respondents expects unconventional
natural gas to be the main source of energy in five years -- as well
as an additional 4 percent who think it will be liquid natural gas
(LNG) -- further elevating the status of natural gas in respondents'
views as a critical energy source.

-- When it comes to fossil fuel production, 85 percent of respondents
believe the domestic production of natural gas will increase in the
next five years, compared to only 45 percent who think American oil
production will increase during the same time period.

-- A higher percentage of survey respondents believe oil prices will
increase versus respondents that think natural gas prices will
increase. More than half (51 percent) believe the price of oil will
greatly increase over the next five years. In contrast, only 32
percent of respondents foresee the price of natural gas greatly
increasing in the same time period, probably due to the abundant
supply of natural gas versus increasingly constrained oil supplies.



Climate Change Legislation Expected to Pass; Industry and Consumers to Feel Impact

Survey respondents also were in accord regarding climate change legislation, anticipating some form of the legislation would pass within two years, but that it would penalize oil and gas companies, and increase fuel prices for consumers.

"According to our survey," said Adams, "a solid majority of respondents, 60 percent, think that some form of the climate change legislation currently under discussion in Congress will be finalized and passed within the next two years. A mere 14 percent think Congress will never pass such legislation."

While oil and gas professionals are split on whether or not climate change legislation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are united in their opinions that it will push consumer prices higher and penalize oil and gas companies:

-- More than 90 percent of respondents believe climate change legislation
will lead to higher gasoline and natural gas prices for consumers.
-- Three quarters (75 percent) of all respondents expect climate change
legislation will lead to significantly lower profits for oil and gas
companies and 68 percent say it will lead to more layoffs in the
industry.
-- Most oil and gas professionals (76 percent) believe that climate
change legislation is not likely to create more jobs for Americans.



"All of this speaks to a general concern about the effectiveness of governmental energy policies among oil and gas professionals," said Adams. "The survey reveals that most oil and gas professionals, 76 percent, think the energy industry is heading in the wrong direction and a similar amount, 63 percent, say it is in worse shape now than it was even a year ago."

Despite Concerns about Layoffs and Expense Cutting, Respondents are Optimistic about Exploration and Production Revenues

When the survey looked at recession-related business issues, it found that concerns about layoffs and expense cutting persisted among oil and gas professionals:

-- Almost one in two oil and gas professionals expects that layoffs in
the industry will increase over the next year.
-- Most oil and gas professionals say their companies are reducing
operating expenses (75 percent) and many say their companies are
reducing overall capital expenditures (56 percent) in response to the
recession.



Despite these concerns, respondents do not expect revenues to shrink in the various oil and gas industry sectors in the next year, with the exception of the refining sector:

-- 76 percent expect revenues to grow at national oil companies
-- 76 percent expect revenues to grow at international oil companies
-- 67 percent expect revenues to grow at independent exploration and
production companies
-- 61 percent expect revenues to grow at supply and service companies
-- 58 percent expect revenues to grow at outside energy consultancies
-- 35 percent expect revenues to grow at refining companies



The survey also shows that, contrary to speculation by many analysts about mergers and acquisitions in the energy sector, most oil and gas professionals do not currently see such activity at their own companies. When asked how their individual companies are responding to current oil and gas prices, only 14 percent say their company is pursuing a merger or acquisition.

"What we are seeing here is an underlying confidence in the sustainability of the oil and gas industry," said Adams. "Oil and gas companies have survived severe volatility over the past decades, and despite the current recession, these companies have sophisticated, adaptable business models and believe they can post healthy revenues well into the future."

Energy Independence will be Hard to Achieve in the Near Term

A final area of interest in the survey concerned energy independence. Oil and gas professionals are more or less evenly split on whether or not the United States can realistically achieve energy independence with 53 percent saying the United States can achieve independence while 46 percent say it cannot. Among the half that believes it is possible, most do not expect it for at least 15 years.

Concerns about independence from foreign oil are further complicated by climate change legislation. The majority of oil and gas professionals (62 percent) think climate change legislation will worsen the United States' dependence on foreign nations for oil.

Adams believes the survey responses reinforce the idea that oil and gas professionals are clearly looking to the future and that they see their industry as a vital part of the bridge to alternative energy and renewables. "Oil and gas will continue to be critical to meeting energy demand for many years to come, with natural gas playing an increasingly important role in our energy future. The oil and gas industry is healthy, innovative and enthusiastic about the opportunities before it," he added.

To view a graphic related to this survey, visit www.deloitte.com/us/OilSurvey2009. A high resolution version of the graphic is available upon request.

To obtain the full findings, contact Jon Rucket at 713-819-0712 (mobile) or 713-982-4217 (office) or jrucket@deloitte.com.

Survey Methodology

Deloitte conducted 200 quantitative interviews among oil and gas professionals from Oct. 30, 2009 to Nov. 5, 2009. All respondents were energy sector employees who have worked in the industry for at least five years, are college educated and earned at least $100,000 per year.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mother Nature Network MNN to Report from United Nations' Climate Conference

/PRNewswire/ -- Mother Nature Network MNN http://www.mnn.com/ , one of the nation's fastest-growing Websites devoted to environmental news and information, announced today team coverage of the United Nations' Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

MNN blogger Karl Burkart, a recognized expert on green media and technology, as well as MNN student correspondent Mary Shindler, will be reporting live as ambassadors convene this week in the Danish capital to begin debating ways to protect and preserve the environment.

President Obama will attend and is expected to propose a U.S. emissions target in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation. But the battle for a more sustainable, eco-friendly future goes beyond the key players and the main issues. Burkart and Shindler plan to dig beneath the politics to provide MNN readers a fresh, behind-the-scenes look at what's been called one of the most important international meetings in history.

"It's been suggested that more than half of Americans say they've never heard of cap and trade," said Burkhart, http://www.mnn.com/users/kburkart/profile, who has helped launch several eco-websites and has lectured worldwide on the subjects of digital media, technology, and the environment. "Mother Nature Network has gone the extra mile to raise awareness of cap and trade and other complex climate change issues, and as is MNN's mantra, we'll take all the academic, sophisticated notions from this conference and boil them down in a voice the average person can understand."

Added Shindler http://www.mnn.com/users/mshindler, a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.: "Communicating the urgency of the problem is critical. I want to do all I can to make sure the opinions of young people are heard at this conference. It is our generation and those to come, who will be most affected by climate change, and we should have a voice in what happens. As a reporter on site, I will ask the questions that young people want answers to, and dutifully report them to the MNN audience around the globe."

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Governors Urge EPA to Move Forward on E15 Waiver: Interim Ruling a Step in the Right Direction

/PRNewswire/ -- Governors John Hoeven and Chet Culver, chair and vice-chair of the 36-member Governors' Biofuels Coalition, today (December 4) said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's announcement will likely allow higher ethanol blends, such as E15, and is a step in the right direction. At the same time, they urged the agency to move forward with the waiver as quickly as possible.

The Governors' Biofuels Coalition first called for research and testing on the efficacy of utilization of intermediate ethanol blends - E13 to E20 - in 2005. Hoeven and Culver acknowledged that the EPA signaled the possibility of allowing the use of E15 in all vehicles manufactured after 2001, reflecting the rapidly emerging capacity of newer vehicles to utilize a wide range of liquid fuels.

The two governors also called "significant" EPA's announcement that it would initiate a fuel pump labeling process to ensure that consumers use the proper gasoline for their vehicles and equipment should the use of ethanol blends greater than 10 percent be ultimately approved. Although the EPA labeling initiative seems to signify that further research data expected by May will corroborate these early findings about E15, they urged that any labeling scheme should make access to E15 convenient and simple. They said it should encourage consumers to use blended fuel as part of their normal gas purchases, and one way to accomplish that is with blender pumps, which allow consumers to choose the blend appropriate to their vehicles at the pump.

Jointly, the governors said: "The EPA's final approval of an E15 blend will help to attract the necessary private investment to support the next generation of biofuels, and will usher in an expanded role for advanced biofuels in the transportation fuels market. That will benefit the rural economy, the environment and the nation."

Ethanol's contribution to the American economy at the E10 blend level is well documented by a 2009 study. "In 2008, ethanol displaced the need for 321 million barrels of oil or roughly 5 percent of U.S. oil imports valued at $32 billion - money that stayed in the U.S. economy and supported 494,000 jobs," said Governor Hoeven. "The move to E15 will not only expand the economic and environmental value of biofuels, it will diminish the impact of future gasoline price spikes on consumers," said Governor Culver.

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LG Electronics USA Files Complaint Against U.S. Department of Energy in Federal Court

/PRNewswire/ -- LG Electronics USA today filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

LG is asking the court to stop the DOE from unilateral measures against the company - inappropriately forcing LG to remove Energy Star labels from certain of its refrigerator-freezer models by Jan. 2, 2010. The LG complaint states that DOE should pursue an industrywide approach to new testing standards within the process established in law.

LG and the DOE reached agreement on matters relating to energy testing for French Door refrigerators in November 2008. The DOE does not dispute that LG fulfilled all its obligations under that agreement.

However, the DOE now wants to change the testing standard announced in the binding November 2008 agreement and to require LG to follow a new test procedure that has not been clarified to LG or properly announced to the industry.

LG shares the DOE's objective of improving the rules to provide accurate energy information to consumers, but LG objects to the process which the DOE is following.

Any changes to the 2008 agreement affect the entire industry. Fair notice should have been provided to the entire industry and the notice should have been prospective, with no retroactive effect and should have provided sufficient time for comment and compliance with the new rule. This is what the law requires.

LG had been willing to work with the DOE to find a path that would meet shared goals of providing guidance to the industry and a public announcement of the procedure with sufficient information and a reasonable time to implement that protocol.

LG regrets that it has no option other than to use legal means to defend itself and its customers.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Energy Grasses Lead the Way in Lessening U.S. Dependency on Foreign Oil

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The first guaranteed, university-backed strain of giant miscanthus grass is now available and is being commercialized by SunBelt Biofuels LLC, a leader in biofuel innovation, which has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Mississippi State University (MSU).

MSU has been studying Freedom Giant Miscanthus grass for 12 years. Results of that dedicated research indicate that Freedom Giant Miscanthus is a viable alternative to other biofuel sources, like corn, switchgrass and timber.

The implications of today's announcement are significant. Finding innovative, yet immediately workable, solutions in biofuels lessens U.S. dependence on foreign oil and gas. Freedom Giant Miscanthus is a product that begins immediately to move the U.S. away from foreign energy dependence. Freedom Giant Miscanthus takes only one year to replace, as opposed to timber, which takes 20 years to replace due to the growing cycle.

Freedom Giant Miscanthus also promises to stimulate rural economies, as it takes less land, costs less to grow, and is very profitable for farmers. For example, in the state of Georgia farms that grow Freedom Giant Miscanthus will see income rise more than $2 billion above crops that are grown currently. Freedom Giant Miscanthus produces over 3,000 gallons of ethanol per acre.

According to Phillip Jennings, CEO of SunBelt Biofuels, the state of Georgia needs to plant 2.4 million acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus to become energy independent.

"In Georgia, we can take 10 percent of our commercial timber land or 24 percent of our crop land, and we would be where we need to be to sustain just this one state," said Mr. Jennings. "With 10 million acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus, Georgia would become the number 7 OPEC fuel producer in the world."

Facts about Freedom Giant Miscanthus:

1. Grasses are king in the race to solve the U.S.' reliance on foreign oil. Freedom Giant Miscanthus yields three times more than switchgrass, five times than corn, and six times what timber does, meaning that a farmer can get a 25 ton yield from Freedom Giant Miscanthus per acre.

2. Freedom Giant Miscanthus needs no government subsidy to be profitable.

3. It is branded as "Freedom Giant Miscanthus" to denote its ability to free the U.S. from dependency on foreign oil.

4. Freedom Giant Miscanthus is a non-food biomass.

SunBelt Biofuels LLC, headquartered in Soperton, Georgia, is an innovator in the quest to bring workable solutions for alternative fuels to market and leading the Southeast U.S. into the American consumer fuel market. It was founded three years ago to participate in the research and commercialization of viable non-food biomass solutions that will increase ethanol production, thus decreasing the U.S.' dependency on foreign countries for oil. SunBelt Biofuels has the exclusive license to commercialize Freedom Giant Miscanthus, a biomass source from which ethanol and electricity can be produced effectively, efficiently, and profitably.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Deeply Concerned About EPA Ethanol Statement, Neglects to Address Impact on Millions of Small Engine Equipment

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) today announced that it remains concerned by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to the Growth Energy waiver on 15 percent ethanol as it overlooks the impact on hundreds of millions of outdoor power equipment used by consumers, such as utility vehicles, lawnmowers, chainsaws, snow throwers and other affected equipment, including boats, ATVs, motorcycles and snow mobiles.

“EPA’s letter basically addressed the consideration of E15 for newer automobiles, but ignores the substantial non-automobile product families and the economic and safety issues related to their use,” said Kris Kiser, Executive Vice President at OPEI. “However, we’re pleased that EPA acknowledges more testing is needed.”

Department of Energy testing of mid-level ethanol blends on outdoor power equipment engines demonstrated performance irregularities and failure on tested product. “Should EPA allow higher levels for newer autos, we still face a daunting task of educating millions of consumers and labeling pumps to prevent possible mis-fueling that could potentially harm engine equipment and its users,” added Kiser.

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