Archive for the 'Energy' Category

Hybrids cars: a step in the right direction!

A myth moving around the blogosphere reports that a ‘scientific study’ has shown that GMC Hummers are actually better for the environment than hybrids like the Toyota Prius, because of the cost and pollution involved in manufacturing the battery.  “Bunk”, states this analysis in Slate Magazine, which notes that the so-called study has lots of faulty assumptions, such as assuming the lifespan of the Prius is only 109,000 miles, while that of the Hummer is 379,000 miles. 

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Nuclear waste languishes, and we pay

Despite the upsurge in support for nuclear power as a solution to more carbon intensive fuels, no solution has been found to deal with the waste from nuclear plants. Currently, as this report in the NYT indicates, nuclear waste movement and burial from 100 US reactor sites is more than 20 years behind schedule.  Due to legal agreements and court orders, the federal government has been forced to pay the utilities running these plants over $300 million, and will have to pay from $7-$11 billion (or more) in the coming years to decades.  However, the federal waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, will not be ready to accept waste until 2017-2020 (and perhaps never, given other scientific issues and transport lawsuits). For every year beyond 2020, the federal government will have to pay the utilities keeping waste at the site of the nuclear plants an additional $500 million.

Ethanol sucks!

I hate to say I told you so, but two new science articles have made corn-based ethanol, and even more futuristic cellulosic ethanol, seem much less legitimate as an option to combat global warming.  Appearing in the prestigious journal Science, both new papers suggest that switching to ethanol will actually add to net greenhouse gasses in the near term (i.e., for at least 100 years if not more).  One of the reasons is that clearing more land for biofuels will immediately release a large pulse of carbon into the atmosphere. Moreover, as the pressure to both grow food and fuel mount, more land will be cleared, thereby accelerating such a carbon release.  Here are the abstracts for both articles (lead authors were from Princeton University and the Nature Conservancy) and here is some commentary from Grist.  The authors are careful to note that producing fuel from the waste stream (i.e., used cooking oil and grease, etc) does not have this drawback.