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News articles on alternative energy
Mongabay.com news articles on alternative energy in blog format. Updated regularly.
Living up to the Pope's words: the Vatican turns to solar power
(11/28/2008) In his three years since being inaugurated, Pope Benedict XVI has made the environment one of his central issues, proclaiming that "God entrusted man with the responsibility of creation". He has described the need to confront climate change as a “moral obligation” and spoken eloquently on the destruction of arable soil, forests and marine life.
Limiting global warming to 2-degree rise will require $180/t carbon price says energy think tank
(11/13/2008) In a report released Wednesday the International Energy Agency warned that a business-as-usual approach to energy use would result in a 6°-degree rise in temperatures putting hundreds of millions at risk from reduced water supplies and diminished agricultural production. But the agency said that limiting temperature rise to 2-3°-rise by the end of the century would be "possible, but very hard."
Biodiversity of rainforests should not be compared with oil palm plantations says palm oil council chief
(11/11/2008) Scientists should compare the biodiversity oil palm plantations to other industrial monocultures, not the rainforests they replace, said Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), in a post on his blog. Basiron's comments are noteworthy because until now he has maintained that oil palm plantations are "planted forests" rather than an industrial crop.
First RSPO-certified ("eco-friendly") palm oil shipment to arrive in Europe
(11/10/2008) The first shipment of palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is expected to arrive in Europe Tuesday, but an environmental group is already criticizing the initiative's credentials.
EU's sustainable biofuels push angers Malaysia, Brazil
(11/07/2008) Eight developing countries threatened to file a World Trade Organization complaint against the E.U. for its proposed legislation to require imported biofuels to meet environmental standards, reports Reuters.
Rainforest fungus generates biodiesel, may drive energy of the future
(11/04/2008) A fungus recently discovered in the Patagonian rainforest has shocked biologists and environmentalists: the fungus produces gas almost identical to diesel. In a paper announcing the discovery in Microbiology, scientists state that they believe the fungus, called Gliocladium roseum, could become an incredibly efficient green energy source.
Green New Deal will spark global economy, create jobs
(10/22/2008) A "Global Green New Deal" that focuses the world economy "towards investments in clean technologies and 'natural' infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom," according to a new initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Challenges of starting a green business
(10/20/2008) While green design offers the potential to greatly improve the sustainability of new goods and services without sacrificing performance, developing and bringing such products to market is a challenge, said a panel of innovators from companies using nature as inspiration for new technologies. Speaking at the 2008 Bioneers conference in San Rafael, California, Stephen Dewar of WhalePower, Charles Hamilton of Novomer, and Jay Harman of PAX Scientific told biomimicry expert Jane Benyus that radically new approaches to solving design and engineering problems is often met with skepticism from the existing market.
Financial crisis could pave way for greener economy inspired by nature
(10/20/2008) Biomimicry — the use of nature to inspire design — could serve as a model for a greener economy that rises out of the ashes of the financial crisis, said experts meeting at a sustainability conference in the San Francisco Bay Area. Speaking at the three-day Bioneers conference in San Rafael, Janine Benyus, a leading voice in the emerging field of biomimicry, said that nature offers lessons that can be applied to build better and more sustainable products and services as well as economic models.
U.S. needs environmental standards for biofuels
(10/02/2008) The U.S. lacks criteria to ensure that cellulosic ethanol production will not harm the environment, warn scientists writing in the journal Science. The researchers say that with proper safeguards, cellulosic ethanol can help the U.S. meet its energy needs sustainably.
U.S. Congress passes legislation to boost solar, wind, and geothermal energy
(09/24/2008) Tuesday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that will extend tax credits on solar power installations through 2016. The House approved the measure Wednesday.
Europe cuts biofuel targets to 4% in 2015, 6% in 2020
(09/12/2008) The E.U. voted to relax biofuels targets following widespread criticism of their social, economic, and environmental impacts. Thursday the European Parliament's Industry and Energy Committee said it would push a plan calling for a 5 percent share of renewables in transport fuel by 2015 and a 10 percent target by 2020, a reduction from the 20 percent target set forth in March 2007. The plan effectively cuts targets for biofuels produced from conventional feedstocks to four percent in 2015 and six percent in 2020.
Biofuels 200 times more expensive than forest conservation for global warming mitigation
(08/27/2008) The British government should end subsidies for biofuels and instead use the funds to slow destruction of rainforests and tropical peatlands argues a new report issued by a U.K.-based think tank. The study, titled "The Root of the Matter" and published by Policy Exchange, says that "avoided deforestation" would be a more cost-effective way to address climate change, since land use change generates more emissions than the entire global transport sector and offers ancillary benefits including important ecosystem services.
How do wind turbines kill bats?
(08/25/2008) Numerous studies have shown that migratory bats are undergoing large fatalities due to wind turbines. Far more bats die due to wind turbines than birds, though they generally receive less attention. Now, researchers writing in Current Biology believe they know why bats are more susceptible to wind turbine fatalities.
Google, Australia give big boost to geothermal power production
(08/20/2008) Geothermal energy got a big boost this week with Google and the Australian government announcing multi-million initiatives that make use of Earth's heat as a clean and renewable source of power.
PG&E will build the world's largest solar power plant
(08/15/2008) California electricity producer PG&E Thursday announced a plan to build two giant solar photovoltaic power plants that will cover 12.5 square miles and have a peak generating capacity of 800 megawatts.
Algae could yield 30 times more biofuel than soybeans, while cleaning the environment
(08/15/2008) Algae could be used as a biofuel while simultaneously cleaning up the environment, report researchers at the University of Virginia.
Facing criticism, biofuels industry forms new lobby group to influence lawmakers
(07/25/2008) Under attack by politicians, aid groups, and environmentalists for driving up food prices and fueling destruction of ecologically sensitive habitats, some of the world's largest agroindustrial firms have formed a lobby group to influence consumers and lawmakers to support continued subsidies for biofuel production, reports Reuters.
Biofuels can reduce emissions, but not when grown in place of rainforests
(07/22/2008) Biofuels meant to help alleviate greenhouse gas emissions may be in fact contributing to climate change when grown on converted tropical forest lands, warns a comprehensive study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Analyzing the carbon debt for biofuel crops grown in ecosystems around the world, Holly Gibbs and colleagues report that "while expansion of biofuels into productive tropical ecosystems will always lead to net carbon emissions for decades to centuries... [expansion] into degraded or already cultivated land will provide almost immediate carbon savings." The results suggest that under the right conditions, biofuels could be part of the effort to reduce humanity's carbon footprint.
Gore launches second campaign... for Earth
(07/17/2008) In a speech Thursday, Al Gore challenged the U.S. to generate 100 percent of its electricity from zero carbon emission sources within 10 years. Speaking at Washington's Constitution Hall, Gore said America's security, environmental and economic crises are all related, and that measures to rein in greenhouse gas emissions will make the U.S. stronger, safer, and cleaner. "The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk," Gore said. "I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously."
Breakthrough in solar energy: ten times more effective solar power may be available in three years
(07/10/2008) The breakthrough scientists have been waiting for to make solar power cheaper, more efficient--and therefore a more effective replacement for traditional energy sources--has been made by a group of MIT researchers.
Oceans hold vast potential for wind power
(07/09/2008) The North Pacific, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tierra del Fuego in South America, and the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are potential locations for wind power generation, according to new satellite data from NASA.
Whale biomimicry inspires better wind turbines
(07/07/2008) By studying and mimicking the characteristics of the flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins, engineers have devised more a efficient way to generate wind power, reports a researcher presenting at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille, France.
Britain urges 'cautious approach' on biofuels
(07/07/2008) Britain and the E.U. should exercise caution in pushing for wider use of biofuels, warns a new study commissioned by the U.K. government.
Clean energy gold rush in 2007
(07/01/2008) New investment in renewables and energy efficiency surpassed $148 billion in 2007, rising 60 percent rise from 2006, according to an analysis issued Tuesday July 1 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). High oil prices drove the trend.
Louisiana signs non-corn ethanol law to produce a better biofuel
(07/01/2008) Louisiana has signed into law legislation to develop an advanced biofuel industry that excludes corn as a feedstock, reports Biopact.
Brazil signs sustainable ethanol deal with Sweden
(06/27/2008) A group of Brazilian ethanol producers has signed the first deal to export certified sustainable ethanol, reports Reuters.
94% of Americans support solar energy development
(06/11/2008) 94 percent of Americans say it's important for the U.S. to develop and use solar energy, according to a new poll that found support for solar power runs across the political spectrum.
Cellulosic biofuels may be viable alternative to gas within 5 years
(06/02/2008) A new institute in the San Francisco Bay Area is seeking to make cellulosic biofuel an economically viable alternative to corn ethanol and gasoline within the next five years. The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a partnership between three national laboratories and three Bay Area universities, was formed in June 2007 after the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the institute a $125 million grant to develop better methods for making liquid biofuels from the natural cellulose in trees and grasses. JBEI researchers expect cellulosic biofuels to yield more energy, produce less greenhouse gases, and have less impact on the environment than other alternatives to gasoline, such as corn ethanol.
Next gen biofuels could decimate rainforests
(05/27/2008) Next generation biofuels could decimate tropical forests says a leading ecologist from the University of Minnesota.
Will earthquake slow dam-building spree in China?
(05/14/2008) Monday's 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan province left more than 15,000 dead, 26,000 missing, and 64,000 injured, according to state media. The quake also "seriously damaged" two hydroelectric stations in Maoxian county, leading authorities to warn that the dams could burst. More than 2,000 troops were sent to work on the Zipingku Dam, a dam said to be in "great danger" of collapse upriver from Dujiangyan, the city at the quake's epicenter.
46% of Brazil's energy comes from renewable sources
(05/13/2008) Preliminary data from Brazil's energy ministry shows that bioenergy derived from sugar cane surpassed hydroelectric power as Brazil's secondary largest source of energy in 2007, reports Biopact.
China aims for 100 gigawatts of wind power by 2020
(04/29/2008) China aims to expand its wind power generating capacity to 100,000 megawatts by 2020, more than doubling the current world's installed capacity, according to the Shanghai Daily and The Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog.
Arizona seeks to become the 'Persian Gulf' of solar energy
(02/22/2008) With a Spanish company's plans to dramatically expand solar capacity in the desert southwest of Phoenix, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano said Arizona could become the "Persian Gulf of solar energy," according to the Associated Press.
Private sector pumping hundreds of billions into cleantech
(02/21/2008) The private sector is "pumping hundreds of billions of dollars" into cleaner and renewable energies, says a new publication released yesterday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Carbon tax would make China greener and reduce warming risks
(02/07/2008) Driven by booming economic growth and rapid urbanization, China's carbon dioxide emissions are surging. At the same time, forecasts suggest climate change will have an immense impact on the country, with rising sea levels projected to swamp key industrial areas and diminished rainfall reducing agricultural output. Given this outlook, a new policy paper published in Science argues that China will need to embark on a cleaner path to growth, one that is less dependent on coal. The authors say that international assistance in the form of carbon funds could help persuade Chinese leadership to move towards more environmentally-friendly energy technologies.
Biofuels are worsening global warming
(02/07/2008) Converting native ecosystems for production of biofuel feed stocks is worsening the greenhouse gas emissions they are intended to mitigate, reports a pair of studies published in the journal Science. The studies follow a series of reports that have linked ethanol and biodiesel production to increased carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of biodiverse forest and savanna habitats, and water and air pollution.
Sustainability mandated for biofuels used in the EU
(01/24/2008) Biofuels used in the European Union will have meet strict environmental requirements said the head of the E.U.'s energy program on Wednesday.
Indonesia seeks to cut fuel subsidies via biofuels
(01/15/2008) Biofuels will make up 10 percent of Indonesia's fuel transport consumption by 2010 under a plan announced Monday by a senior government official, according to Reuters. The initiative could ease the economic impact of fuel subsidies - currently some of the highest in the world - in Indonesia, while boosting demand for locally produced bioenergy crops including palm oil, jatropha, sugar cane and cassava.
E.U. may ban palm oil biodiesel
(01/15/2008) The E.U. may ban imports of certain biofuel feedstocks that damage the environment, reports The New York Times. Environmentalists say some biofuels like palm oil are driving the destruction of biologically-rich rainforests and may produce more emissions than conventional fossil fuels.
Switchgrass a better biofuel source than corn
(01/07/2008) Switchgrass yields more than 540 percent more energy than the energy needed to produce and convert it to ethanol, making the grassy weed a far superior source for biofuels than corn ethanol, reports a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
New process turns chicken fat into biodiesel
(12/20/2007) Chemical engineers at the University of Arkansas have devised a way to convert chicken fat into biodiesel fuel. The process advances efforts to "develop commercially viable fuel out of plentiful, accessible and low-cost feedstocks and other agricultural by-products," according to the researchers.
Google aims to make renewable energy sources cheaper than coal
(11/28/2007) Tuesday Google announced an initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal.
Termites may produce cleaner biofuels
(11/23/2007) Termites may be the key to greener, more effective biofuels, report scientists writing in the November 22 edition of the journal Nature.
Wind could supply baseline electrical power
(11/22/2007) Wind power, long considered to be as fickle as wind itself, can be groomed to become a steady, dependable source of electricity and delivered at a lower cost than at present, according to scientists at Stanford University.
Carbon-negative bioenergy to cut global warming could drive deforestation
(11/06/2007) A proposed mechanism for generating carbon-negative bioenergy -- an energy source that reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide levels -- could drive large-scale deforestation in the tropics and undermine efforts to conserve forests for carbon offsets says a biofuel expert.
Wind power takes a toll on migratory bats
(09/12/2007) The danger of wind turbines to birds has long been known and well documented. Most recently several studies and articles have attempted to place the level of bird casualties in perspective: "More birds killed by cats than wind turbines". But lesser known--and lesser studied--is the effect wind turbines have on bat populations. Collisions between groups of bats and wind turbines have been observed at numerous turbines in America, Australia, and Europe. While these fatalities, sometimes killing hundreds of bats, have been seen for years, their cause remains unknown.
Clean energy will improve health of the world's poor
(09/12/2007) Clean energy will help people live longer and healthier lives reports a study published in The Lancet. The research recommends a switch from fossil fuels towards renewable energy and improved access to electricity for the world's poor.
Guidelines to ensure biofuels production won't hurt the environment
(08/30/2007) Environmentalists have long seen biofuels as a means to improve the sustainability of transportation and energy use since they are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change. Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been considerable backlash against biofuels, which are increasingly viewed as a threat to the environment. Green groups now point to large-scale land conversion for energy crops, higher food prices, and a spate to studies that suggest net emissions from corn ethanol are little better than those from fossil fuels, to caution that biofuels can cause more problems than they address.
With Corn ethanol more costly than oil, is Jatropha a better biofuel?
(08/24/2007) Jatropha may be a more economic biofuel than corn-based ethanol, reported the The Wall Street Journal on Friday, citing research from Goldman Sachs.
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