Massachusetts company claims it can make fuel with sun, water, CO2

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Massachusetts biotechnology company says it can produce the fuel that runs Jaguars and jet engines using the same ingredients that make grass grow.

At Joule Unlimited’s ethanol and diesel production testing facility in Leander, Texas, arrays of bacteria gather sunlight and carbon dioxide and convert them to fuel.

Joule Unlimited has invented a genetically engineered organism that it says simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.

What can it mean? No less than “energy independence,” Joule’s website tells the world, even if the world’s not quite convinced.

“We make some lofty claims, all of which we believe, all which we’ve validated, all of which we’ve shown to investors,” said Joule chief executive Bill Sims.

“If we’re half right, this revolutionizes the world’s largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry,” he said. “And if we’re right, there’s no reason why this technology can’t change the world.”

The doing, though, isn’t quite done, and there’s skepticism Joule can live up to its promises.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Philip Pienkos said Joule’s technology is exciting but unproven, and their claims of efficiency are undercut by difficulties they could have just collecting the fuel their organism is producing.

Timothy Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Joule must demonstrate its technology on a broad scale.

Perhaps it can work, but “the four-letter word that’s the biggest stumbling block is whether it ‘will’ work,” Donohue said. “There are really good ideas that fail during scale up.”

Sims said he knows “there’s always skeptics for breakthrough technologies.”

“And they can ride home on their horse and use their abacus to calculate their checkbook balance,” he said.

Joule was founded in 2007. In the last year, it’s roughly doubled its employees to 70, closed a $30 million second round of private funding in April and added John Podesta, former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, to its board of directors.

The company worked in “stealth mode” for a couple years before it recently began revealing more about what it was doing, including with a patent last year for its production of diesel molecules from its cyanobacterium. This month, it released a peer-reviewed paper it says backs its claims.

Work to create fuel from solar energy has been done for decades, such as by making ethanol from corn or extracting fuel from algae. But Joule says they’ve eliminated the middleman that’s makes producing biofuels on a large scale so costly.

That middleman is the “biomass,” such as the untold tons of corn or algae that must be grown, harvested and destroyed to extract a fuel that still must be treated and refined to be used. Joule says its organisms secrete a completed product, already identical to ethanol and the components of diesel fuel, then live on to keep producing it at remarkable rates.

Joule claims, for instance, that its cyanobacterium can produce 15,000 gallons of diesel full per acre annually, over four times more than the most efficient algal process for making fuel. And they say they can do it at $30 a barrel.

A key for Joule is the cyanobacterium it chose, which is found everywhere and is less complex than algae, so it’s easier to genetically manipulate, said biologist Dan Robertson, Joule’s top scientist.

The organisms are engineered to take in sunlight and carbon dioxide, then produce and secrete ethanol or hydrocarbons — the basis of various fuels, such as diesel — as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

The company envisions building facilities near power plants and consuming their waste carbon dioxide, so their cyanobacteria can reduce carbon emissions while they’re at it.

The flat, solar-panel style “bioreactors” that house the cyanobacterium are modules, meaning they can build arrays at facilities as large or small as land allows, the company says. The thin, grooved panels are designed for maximum light absorption, and also so Joule can efficiently collect the fuel the bacteria secrete.

Recovering the fuel is where Joule could find significant problems, said Pienkos, the NREL scientist, who is also principal investigator on a Department of Energy-funded project with Algenol, a Joule competitor that makes ethanol and is one of the handful of companies that also bypass biomass.

Pienkos said his calculations, based on information in Joule’s recent paper, indicate that though they eliminate biomass problems, their technology leaves relatively small amounts of fuel in relatively large amounts of water, producing a sort of “sheen.” They may not be dealing with biomass, but the company is facing complicated “engineering issues” in order to recover large amounts of its fuel efficiently, he said.

“I think they’re trading one set of problems for another,” Pienkos said.

Success or failure for Joule comes soon enough. The company plans to break ground on a 10-acre demonstration facility this year, and Sims says they could be operating commercially in less than two years.

Robertson talks wistfully about the day he’ll hop into the Ferrari he doesn’t have, fill it with Joule fuel and gun the engine in an undeniable demonstration of the power and reality of Joule’s ideas. Later, after leading a visitor on a tour of the labs, Robertson comes upon a poster of a sports car on an office wall, and it reminds him of the success he’s convinced is coming. He motions to the picture.

“I wasn’t kidding about the Ferrari,” he says.

It’s All Over: Green `Gold Rush’ In U.K. Dying Fast

Marc Roca, Bloomberg

“You won’t get offshore wind money, you won’t get tidal energy money, you won’t get carbon capture and storage money because it’s all got to come from these same pension funds and they won’t trust the government.”

Cornwall, the poorest county in England, said five months ago it expected a “gold rush” of $1.6 billion in solar energy investments. Now, the U.K. government may get in the way.

The central government said this month it’s considering cutting incentives and reducing the size of projects, concerned that the above-market rates it promised through April 2012 may lead to too many solar farms.

Britain is moving faster than any other European country to contain a surge in solar power and prevent the boom-and-bust seen in Spain and predicted for the Czech Republic. The risk is scaring off the investors who would create the “green jobs” Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to revive the economy.

“It’s going to completely kill the market,” said Tim German, renewable energy manager for the local government in Cornwall at the U.K.’s southwest tip. “Investors are starting to get cold feet.”

Sharp Corp., the Osaka-based electronics maker which employs 1,100 U.K. workers after doubling the size of its panel factory in Wales, says the government may cripple the industry. Already, companies are scaling back. Matrix Group Ltd. and Ingenious Media Holdings Plc suspended solar funds seeking 55 million pounds ($89 million). Low Carbon Solar Ltd. says it can’t spend the 70 million pounds it secured from pension funds.

At Good Energy Group Plc, a clean electricity retailer based in Chippenham, England, Chief Executive Officer Juliet Davenport says she may only get 4 percent of the 100 megawatts of solar power-purchase agreements she wanted.

‘Rug Has Been Pulled’

“It was an industry that for the first time was moving fast and attracting investment,” Davenport said. “Suddenly, the rug has been pulled and everybody’s saying ‘What’s the future? Should we go off to North Africa and develop there and forget about the U.K.?’”

The solar surge began April 1, when the government brought in so-called feed-in tariffs guaranteeing prices as much as 12 times the market rate for electricity generated from the sun. Last year, developers doubled the capacity of solar power generation in the U.K. to 66 megawatts, enough for 9,000 homes.

That’s a fraction of the 16,800 megawatts installed in Germany, 3,700 megawatts in Spain and 2,500 megawatts in the U.S. Only one of last year’s 26,000 U.K. projects had a capacity greater than 50 kilowatts. It was the bigger ground-mounted projects in the works that triggered alarm bells in London, not families tacking solar panels on their roofs.

‘Gold Rush’

The council in Cornwall, where per-capital economic output is a third below the national average, in September predicted a solar “gold rush” worth up to 1 billion pounds. By February, local authorities were scoping 150 sites for about 50 companies planning solar farms. Nineteen had applied for planning permission, and seven had been granted it.

“What has spooked people is the 150 planning applications in Cornwall,” Daniel Guttmann, director of renewable energy at global accountancy firm PwC in London. “If you multiply that up, it’s a reasonably large number.”

The renewable-energy subsidies, paid by utilities, were designed to spur not only roof-mounted panels. Wind turbines, small hydroelectric plants and biomass projects were also covered — all intended to generate jobs. The Renewable Energy Association said the solar industry would employ 17,000 people by the end of this year, up from 10,000 in 2010.

Projects as large as 5 megawatts were eligible for the incentives. That left room for solar farms on open land.

Surprising Speed

On Feb. 7, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said it’s reviewing tariffs. The surprise was the speed and scale of the probe: By July authorities plan to decide on new rates for solar plants bigger than 50 kilowatts, or just 1 percent of the 5-megawatt eligibility maximum. Projects for wind, hydropower and the smallest solar plans will be reviewed by year-end, with new rates coming in April 2012.

“I don’t want large-scale solar installations to be claiming money meant for householders, small businesses and communities,” U.K. Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in an e-mailed response to questions.

It’s the earliest formal review of feed-in tariffs by any European nation, said Martin Simonek, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In Slovakia, authorities stopped issuing licenses after six months, though prices weren’t reviewed until 15 months after the program began. The Spanish system lasted a year before being scaled back.

Scaling Back

In the Czech Republic, about 1.7 gigawatts of panels were installed last year. After tariffs were cut, New Energy Finance forecast about 400 megawatts this year. In Spain, installations fell to 69 megawatts in 2009 from 2.8 gigawatts in 2008 after incentives were changed.

Already, U.K. investors are retreating. At NextEnergy Capital Ltd. in London, Chief Executive Officer Michael Bonte- Friedheim scaled back plans to develop solar farms, saying three are in the works, down from as many as eight.

Low Carbon Solar CEO Mark Shorrock said that of a planned pipeline of 80 megawatts, the Cirencester-based company can now only develop 3 megawatts. Two funds worth up to 30 million pounds that his company was working on with asset manager Ingenious are suspended. Six solar farms planned for Cornwall can’t be built, and there’s nowhere to invest the funds he has from pension plans, he said.

“It’s absolute sabotage,” Shorrock said.

‘Huge Shrinkage’

The 50-kilowatt threshold would cause “huge shrinkage” in the market, Ian Lucas, the lawmaker who speaks on business for the opposition Labour Party, said in an interview. A limit that low would “cripple” the industry, said Andrew Lee, the head of European sales for Sharp solar.

“This puts a hole in school installations, small community installations, social housing installations — all of which the feed-in tariff was originally intended for,” Lee said in an interview in Wrexham, where Sharp in the past year boosted capacity to 500 megawatts of panels, adding 300 jobs and a training academy for installers.

Some companies are less concerned about the review. Robert Goss, solar panel maker Conergy AG’s head of U.K. sales, said the Hamburg-based company hasn’t downgraded its forecast. Jamie Richards, a partner at Foresight Solar, said the company will spend all 20 million pounds it’s raised on rooftop projects.

In Cornwall, German is less sanguine, saying “the so- called solar gold-rush will not happen.”

The danger for the government is investors won’t have confidence in other incentive programs, said Good Energy’s Davenport and Shorrock at Low Carbon Solar.

“You won’t get offshore wind money, you won’t get tidal energy money, you won’t get carbon capture and storage money because it’s all got to come from these same pension funds and they won’t trust the government,” Shorrock said.

“That’s the kind of seed of doubt the government has now sown, and it’s very, very damaging.”

Native American Groups Sue to Stop Solar Projects

BLYTHE, Calif. — Native Americans are clashing with the federal government over plans to fast-track approval and construction of massive solar energy projects that the Indians fear will harm sacred and culturally significant sites in Western deserts.

Recent lawsuits by two native groups pose a threat to half dozen proposed solar developments that the Obama administration has identified as a high priority in its quest for more clean energy production. One suit already has halted work on a major solar farm in Southern California.

Land use and legal experts say the lawsuits mark a new phase in a historically troubled relationship between the federal Bureau of Land Management and American Indians, who in the past have gone to court to block oil, gas, mining and other energy projects on public lands managed by the agency.

Alfredo Acosta Figueroa, of La Cuna De Aztlan, stands next to a rock edged with Aztec sun calendar at Black Rock hill next to I-10 Freeway in Blythe, Calif., on Feb. 9. The Native American group La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle, which Figueroa founded, has joined with environmentalists in a federal lawsuit to block six mammoth solar projects approved by the Department of the Interior.
“There is this sense that there is this rush to renewable energy that’s politically motivated and when tribes are consulted their concerns aren’t being taken seriously,” said Michelle Raheja, interim director of the California Center for Native Nations. “There’s no guarantee that once the project starts that they won’t harm something.”

President Barack Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 has led to numerous projects proposed on millions of acres of federally owned lands, most in Western states. The administration has put some of the most promising, shovel-ready projects on the fast track for BLM permitting, although the process still could take years of environmental studies and public scrutiny.

Federal officials say they have consulted with multiple tribes and have either made sure the massive solar projects will not harm any historic works or have determined that certain sites are not worthy of protecting.

“The BLM takes very seriously its responsibilities to ensure that these projects are sited and developed in the right way and in the right places, and that we honor our responsibilities to Indian nations and the law,” said Kendra Barkoff, a Department of the Interior spokeswoman, who could not comment specifically on the suits because they are active litigation.

Dave Singleton with the California Native American Heritage Commission, which advises local, state and federal agencies on issues involving indigenous communities, said he’s heard from at least 10 tribes in the Colorado River area concerned about various renewable projects. The problem is in part cultural: while a site may not be registered as historic, some tribal leaders say they know it’s sacred because of oral history accounts.

“The tribes are saying you’ve consulted us, we’ve identified sites and you’re saying it doesn’t matter,” Singleton said. “There’s a rising anger that they’re being treated with disrespect.”

While the concept of using renewable sources of energy such as sunshine aligns with nature-based principles that have historically guided Native communities, members say the projects are simply in the wrong place. Some of 56,000 acres proposed for fast track solar projects in California are near abandoned villages, native drawings and other cultural landmarks.

Southern California, for example, has one of the most significant collections of geoglyphs in the world. In order to communicate with their ancestors, certain tribes created drawings, some as big as football fields, by scraping the dark gravel back to reveal pale dirt below. The wide lines of the drawings were often used for ceremonial dancing.

“There’s plenty of desert out there to build solar panels,” said Boma Johnson, a former archaeologist who worked for the BLM in Yuma for 25 years studying the drawings. “We have something in the Southwestern desert not matched almost anywhere in the world except southern Peru and northern Chile. We really have a national treasure here in this lost area.”

Read much more.

“Panel: Green jobs company endorsed by Obama and Biden squandered $535 million in stimulus money”

The Energy Department estimated in a March 20, 2009 press release that the loan guarantee would create 3,000 construction jobs and a further 1,000 jobs after the plant opened.

Instead, Solyndra (the Fremont, Calif.-based solar panel manufacturer) announced on Nov. 3 it planned to postpone expanding the plant, which put the taxpayers on the hook to the tune of $390.5 million taxpayers, or 73 percent of the total loan guarantee, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It also announced that it no longer planned to hire the 1,000 workers that Obama and Biden had touted in their speeches and that it planned to close one of its older factories and planned to lay-off 135 temporary or contract workers and 40 full-time employees.

A closer look at the company shows it has never turned a profit since it was founded in 2005, according to its Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings.

And Solyndra’s auditor declared that “the company has suffered recurring losses, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders’ deficit that, among other factors, [that] raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a growing concern” in a March 2010 amendment to its SEC registration statement.

“While we understand the purpose of the Loan Guarantee Program is to help private companies engaging in clean energy products to obtain financing by providing loan guarantees, subsequent events raise questions about Solyndra was the right candidate to receive a loan guarantee in excess of half a billion dollars,” Upton and Stearns wrote.

A June 2010 Wall Street Journal report indicating that Solyndra’s majority owner, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, was a major fundraiser for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign has stimulus opponents such as Citizens Against Government Waste crying foul.

“We have said this is pork-barrel spending since the beginning,” Leslie Page, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, told The Daily Caller. “And the one thing about pork is its corruptive influences.”

Kaiser flatly denied he had anything to do with the loan guarantee when he was asked by the Journal, but Page nonetheless sees cronyism in the loan guarantee because personal involvement of the president and vice president in the project.

“This seems like a quid pro quo, and it raises a lot of questions,” Page said.

Other stimulus critics say Solyndra shows just how flawed the program has been from the beginning and how it has failed to create jobs and needs further oversight.

Read more.

Environmentalist fraud and manslaughter

In the name of banning DDT, GEF bureaucrats are consigning millions to death from malaria

By Paul Driessen

Many chemotherapy drugs for treating cancer have highly unpleasant side effects – hair loss, vomiting, intense joint pain, liver damage and fetal defects, to name just a few. But anyone trying to ban the drugs would be tarred, feathered and run out of town. And rightly so.

The drugs’ benefits vastly outweigh their risks. They save lives. We need to use chemo drugs carefully, but we need to use them.

The same commonsense reasoning should apply to the Third World equivalent of chemotherapy drugs: DDT and other insecticides to combat malaria. Up to half a billion people are infected annually by this vicious disease, nearly a million die, countless survivors are left with permanent brain damage, and 90% of this carnage is in sub-Saharan Africa, the most impoverished region on Earth.

These chemicals don’t cure malaria – they prevent it. Used properly, they are effective, and safe. DDT is particularly important. Sprayed once or twice a year on the inside walls of homes, DDT keeps 80% of mosquitoes from entering, irritates those that do enter, so they leave without biting, and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, can do this.

Even better, DDT has few adverse side effects – except minor, speculative and imaginary “risks” that are trumpeted on anti-pesticide websites. In the interest of saving lives, one would think eco activists would tone down their “ban DDT” disinformation. However, that is unlikely.
Anti-DDT fanaticism built the environmental movement, and gave it funding, power and stature it never had before. No matter how many people get sick and die because health agencies are pressured not to use DDT, or it is totally banned, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network, and allied activist groups will never reform or recant.

Government agencies – including the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, and Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry – will likewise continue pouring hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into anti-DDT research, in futile attempts to prove DDT causes some sort of meaningful harm. And the malaria death toll will continue to mount.

Worse, they have now been joined by the United Nations Environment Program, Global Environment Facility and even World Health Organization Environmental Division – all of whom share the avowed goal of ending all DDT production by 2017, and banning all use of DDT in disease control by 2020.
A recent GEF “study” demonstrates how far they are willing to go, to achieve this goal, no matter how deadly it might be. The study purported to prove DDT is no longer needed and can be replaced by “integrated and environment-friendly” alternatives: for example, mosquito-repelling trees, and non-chemical control of breeding sites and areas around homes that shelter insects.

The $14-million study claimed that these interventions resulted in an unprecedented “63% reduction in the number of people with [malaria], without using DDT or any other type of pesticide.”

However, as analyses by malaria and insecticide experts Richard Tren and Dr. Donald Roberts clearly demonstrate (see Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine and AEI Outlooks), the study, conclusions and policy recommendations are not merely wrong. They are deliberately misleading and fraudulent.

GEF did its 2003-2008 study in Mexico and seven Central American countries – all of which had largely ceased using DDT and other pesticides years before the GEF project. Instead of chemical sprays, these countries now employ huge numbers of chloroquine and primaquine (CQ and PQ) pills to prevent and treat malaria: 2,566 pills per diagnosed case in Mexico; 22,802 pills (!) in El Salvador; 50 to 1,319 pills per case in the other countries, according to 2004 health records.

It was these powerful drugs, not the “environment-friendly” GEF interventions, that slashed malaria rates.

Indeed, they had begun to do so before GEF even arrived. This terribly inconvenient reality was further underscored by the fact that malaria rates were the same in “study” areas and “control” areas, where GEF did nothing – and that the number of malaria cases increased when the number of pills per case decreased. In other words, GEF could have gotten its same results using one bed net or one larvae-eating fish.

GEF’s fraudulent claims were then compounded by its insistence that the results and conclusions are relevant to other malaria-endemic regions. They are not. Malaria parasites in Latin American countries are Plasmodium vivax; in Africa and Southeast Asia, they are the far more virulent P. falciparum.

CQ and PQ are effective in preventing and treating vivax; they rarely prevent or cure falciparum malaria. Moreover, the eight Latin American countries have 140 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa has 800 million and a woeful medical and transportation infrastructure; Southeast Asia has 600 million people. Both have infinitely more malaria. Getting adequate medicines that work (far more expensive Artemisia-based ACT drugs) to 1.4 billion people would be a budgetary, logistical and medical impossibility.

But apparently none of these facts occurred to the bureaucrats who did this study. That’s hardly surprising, since the project was designed and directed, not by disease control experts, but by the UNEP and radical environmental groups – which also spent millions distributing and promoting the study and other anti-DDT propaganda all over the world, ensuring that they received substantial media attention.

Anti-pesticide fanatics know this “study” is fraudulent. They just have a very high tolerance for how many malaria cases, brain-damaged people and dead babies are “acceptable” or “sustainable.” They just don’t care enough to bother learning basic facts about malaria, CQ versus ACT, vivax versus falciparum. They need to get out of the malaria control policy business and let medical professionals do their jobs.
(To learn more about stopping malaria, see Tren and Roberts’ book The Excellent Powder, Dr. Rutledge Taylor’s documentary film “3 Billion and Counting,” and the website for Africa Fighting Malaria.)

The final report claims its authors submitted manuscripts to prominent peer-reviewed medical journals. However, nothing was ever published. That suggests that they lied, and never submitted any manuscripts; or they did submit papers, but the manuscripts were rejected as being shoddy, unprofessional, unscientific, or even on par with Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent vaccine-and-autism work.

To cap it all off, the bogus GEF project appears to have been conducted using funds diverted from already insufficient malaria control budgets. The GEF, UNEP, Stockholm Convention Secretariat and radical environmental groups are using money intended for malaria control to launch anti-pesticide programs in countries plagued by malaria, and gain control over public health policies, insecticides and programs.

Overall, the GEF has spent over $800 million on efforts to eliminate DDT and other “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs). It budgeted nearly $150 million in 2007 alone on its campaign to ban DDT production and use – but spent a lousy $22 million researching alternatives to DDT for vector control.

Until an equally effective and long-lasting substitute for DDT is developed – one that repels, irritates and kills mosquitoes – this vital weapon needs to remain in the disease control arsenal.

The GEF, UNEP, POPs Secretariat and WHO need to withdraw the study; discipline the people who perpetrated this fraud; retract World Health Assembly Resolution 50.13, calling for malaria-infested countries to slash their use of public health insecticides; and issue a statement making it absolutely clear that this “study” was erroneous and deceptive, and should not be considered in setting malaria policies.
Donors to the GEF and radical groups must be exposed. For activists and agencies to continue promoting this study or demand that malaria-endemic countries stop using DDT and insecticides, and adopt bogus “eco-friendly” GEF “solutions,” is gross medical malpractice – and deliberate manslaughter.

Malaria can be controlled, and even eradicated in many areas. We simply need to use every available weapon – including DDT, pesticides, nets, window screens, drugs and other interventions – in an orderly, coordinated and systematic manner; and ensure that mosquito infestations, disease outbreaks, malaria control successes and problems are monitored and evaluated accurately and honestly.

If we do that – and end the anti-pesticide hysteria – we can get the job done. PDF

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Jaguar wow press and public with a daring hybrid supercar concept built to celebrate their 75th year

Running gas turbines in road cars is not a new idea. Think back to the 50′s-60′s when Chrysler ran a fleet of turbine cars, and BRM fielded a Le Mans racer. These were short lived experimental projects that followed the motor show dream concepts of the time. Interesting ideas but flawed in many ways and connected mechanically to the drivetrain. Using gas turbines to generate electricity for electric drive motors solves the immediate problem of reducing the phenomenal RPM and throttling of a turbine down to the low rotation needed for your wheels and tyres. It also allows the turbine to run at optimum speed for the efficiency that eluded earlier iterations. If Jaguar have solved the remaining problems of heat and emissions, then we have the recipe for an interesting vehicle. 4 wheel drive, infinitely controllable for traction and yaw, electric drive supplemented by turbine generators, bring it on Jaguar. Lets hope this is not just pie in the sky and points the way to a new and exciting future for supercars.

Propulsion system

The 330km/h (205mph) four-wheel drive supercar is capable of running in purely electric (zero tailpipe emissions) mode for 110km (68 miles) on a six-hour domestic plug-in charge. The innovative, lightweight micro gas-turbines are also capable of very quickly and efficiently recharging the Lithium-ion batteries, giving the car a theoretical range of 900km (560 miles).

This remarkable range-extension system is a result of Jaguar’s research engineers adopting a clean-sheet approach to the question of powering the supercars of the future. The C-X75 turns to the very latest evolution of a pioneering British technology: the gas turbine.

Developed in partnership with Bladon Jets, the miniaturised turbine blade – the first viable axial-flow micro-turbine – increases the compression and efficiency of micro gas-turbines to the point at which they can be viewed as a realistic power source. Each of the micro gas-turbines weighs just 35kg and produces 70kW of power at a constant 80,000rpm.

Paul and Tyler MacCready and solar powered aircraft and walk-along glider

Paul MacCready (born 1925), known as the “father of human-powered flight,” first gained fame when he won the Kremer Prize for inventing an aircraft powered solely by human effort. He went on to develop a solar-powered plane and car and a radio-controlled replica of a giant pterodactyl. MacCready helped develop the Impact demonstrator electric vehicle, which, in 1991, inspired California’s zero-emissions mandate.

Through his life, Paul MacCready turned his mind, energy and heart toward his two passions: flight and the Earth. His early training as a fighter and glider pilot (glider pilots still use the “MacCready speed ring” he developed after World War II) led him to explore nontraditional flight and nontraditional energy sources.

In the 1970s, he and his company, AeroVironment, designed and built two record-breaking human-powered planes: the Gossamer Condor, the first human-powered aircraft to complete a one-mile course set by the Kremer Prize, and the Gossamer Albatross, the first to cross the English Channel. The planes’ avian names reveal the deep insight that MacCready brought to the challenge — that large birds, in their wing shape and flying style, possess an elegant secret of flight.

He then turned his wide-ranging mind toward environmentally responsible design, informed by his belief that human expansion poses a grave threat to the natural world. His team at AeroVironment prototyped an electric car that became General Motors’ pioneering EV-

1. They explored alternative energy sources, including building-top wind turbines. And they developed a fleet of fascinating aircraft — including his Helios solar-powered glider, built to fly in the very top 2 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, and the 2005 Global Observer, the first unmanned plane powered by hydrogen cells.

Tyler MacCready appeared on a PBS Scientific American Frontiers program that mostly paid tribute to his late father Dr. Paul MacCready who is also the father of human-powered aviation and a huge inspiration to anyone aspires to creative engineering. In the segment about walkalong gliding, son Tyler uses his head–and I mean that literally–and his hands to keep his invention aloft. Viewing that amazing program was my first exposure to surfing with air and it blew me away. Dr. Tyler MacCready educates the program’s host Alan Alda a bit about how it works as well as speaking a little about its early development.

Environmental regulation and death

It’s the correlation no one wants to acknowledge

By Paul Chesser – The Washington Times

Last week brought the latest installment in the environmentalists’ “how can we fool ‘em next” series of scares. You’ve heard them: global cooling, the population bomb, DDT, global warming, energy security, global weirding, ocean garbage patches, etc.

Last week, Politico reported the latest environoia memo: death by greenhouse gases.

“That’s what makes people sit up and pay attention,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. “If you’re talking about more environmental impacts broadly, it does not pack the same punch as saying, ‘This polluter might hurt your grandmother.’ ”

It’s a unified effort, with eco-regulators trying to pre-empt House Republican scrutiny of their job-killing rules and policies.

Read the rest here.

Oil has joined the Past… Natural Gas is the Future!

Jack H. Barnes, Confessions of a Macro Contrarian | Feb. 5, 2011,

The natural gas cartel, a dream of Russia’s just a few years ago, is dead. It died when a natural gas revolution broke out and Gazprom lost. Energy importing nations around the world are evaluating their own geology, currently, to see if they have shale reserves that can be tapped. Nations like Argentina, Germany, Poland, France, and Sweden are looking into their national shale reserves.

The shale gas revolution is changing the world we live in, and the power structures of the past. It is also quickly changing the politics of future energy relationships. Nations that had to be nice to an exporter, due to energy supplies, will be freed of their need for discretion.

Shale gas is quite simply changing the whole energy paradigm in real time. The unlocking of source rock, has altered the future history of mankind. The world has discovered and unlocked its newest true world changing source of stored energy.

In the 1700’s, the world used wood for its energy source. The great mansions were heated with wood.

In the 1800’s, coal provided the go-to source of transportable fuel. It allowed railroads to rapidly move people at a pace faster than a horse. Coal powered the Industrial Revolution.

In the 1900’s, crude oil became the primary fuel. It was refined into fuel for aircraft, for ships at sea and into gasoline and diesel. Crude oil provided the necessary cheap energy to fuel the rapid expansion of civilization to the rest of the world.

The 2000’s arrived with the onset of peak light sweet crude oil. The US had peaked in overall oil production decades before, and as the new century started its reserves in both oil and conventional natural gas where shrinking.

It was in this situation, that a group of small O&G companies, starting with Mitchell and working separately to start, but building on knowledge learned in the field, figured out how to unlock the natural gas in the Barrett shale formation in Texas.

The technology was soon adapted to oil shale wells in the Bakken formation along the Montana/North Dakota border. These two events have changed how the oil & gas industry looks at resources today. Shale, depending on type, can be a provider of long life high flowing oil wells, or it can produce as much natural as from one shale well, as a small conventional field would produce. The dynamics of on-shore energy production has been the biggest change in the underlying economy unnoticed by most people.

In simple terms, a natural gas or oil well is engineered to have an extremely long horizontal leg. The idea is to provide as large of a circular surface as possible in the productive zone. They are drilling these legs a mile long or more now. The long horizontal leg is stimulated with extremely high pressured water, sand and proprietary particles into the zone around the pipe.

This process opens up crevices in the rock, opening up cavities with larger surface areas than you would get normally around the pipe. This allows the hydrocarbons to be pulled into the well at higher than normal flow rates for the type of rock. The combining of long legs with extremely high pressure multi stage fracturing unlocked the hydrocarbons bound in the rock itself. Normally, fields are traps with accumulations in a sandy area. That is the oil or gas can be trapped in a location that allows it to move. The shale rock is called a source rock because the hydrocarbons found in those other pools may have leaked out of it and moved hundreds of miles laterally.

The world has shale fields spread around the globe in locations famous for oil production, and some not so famous. The new technology will change the basic political power structures that exist today. The era of Russia controlling Europe’s natural gas future is drawing to a close.

“The size of reserves is mind boggling,” he said. “It makes a huge argument for a gas economy going forward.”Annop Poddar, Partner, Energy Ventures

If the shale fields in Poland and Germany can be brought online at the same level of production seen in the US, Europe on shore will be energy independent via their own production. France has shale oil and shale gas locations.

The good news about the geology of shale is that a zone is productive typically over extremely large area’s covering tens or hundreds of miles in different directions. This means that wells are almost never dud’s. The actual hit rate on the new shale wells is extremely high. This is because the horizontal leg allows the whole length to be produced as a whole.

Exxon realized this technology had the capacity to change the world. They purchased the largest player in the new techno revolution. XTO has given Exxon a significant new position in the US, the new technology, and view towards changing the world’s energy view.

The current strangle hold on hydrocarbons by national oil companies is coming to an end. New large pools of hydrocarbons are being released in the middle of western nations with hydrocarbon reserve ownership available for commercial exploitation.

The US has grown its own internal natural gas supplies to the point that it is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world. The renaissance in production shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the US is trading the same BTU content as a barrel of oil, for less than the equivalent of $30 per barrel.

In natural gas terms, 1 MCF of NG is worth less than $5.00 in the US. That same MCF is worth $14 or so on the world market. This is a price differential caused by a surplus of NG in the US, without the capacity to export it easily. We’ve built a number of LNG importing facilities, but the only exporting location for LNG is Alaska.

The US is now growing its overall hydrocarbon production profile again. This is after many years of “experts” pontificating that the US was always going to be an importer of energy. The US was supposed to be trapped importing larger levels of energy from abroad forever. No one expected the US to quickly become the largest producer of natural gas in the world.

Currently, companies like LNG are looking to spend billions of dollars converting LNG import plants into export plants. The US could, once again, become a major exporter of hydrocarbons. This is not a joke. The era of the US being dependent on Middle East oil, is also ending.

Exxon is quietly buying up shale rights in Germany, as is Shell in Poland. Australia and Argentina both have massive potential new reserves. In short, there appears to be the equivalent of new Saudi Arabia’s in BTU totals now popping up in western nations. The US natural gas reserves are thought to be equal to 2x new Saudi Arabia’s. It will take decades to unlock this gas, and make it commercially viable in the market place.

The EIA, a US Government organization that tracks energy statistics, reports that the US total reserves of oil increased by 8.6% in 2009. The natural gas reserves of the US increased by 11.3% in 2009. The official natural gas reserves of the US as of Dec 31st, 2009 were 283 TCF.

Shale gas development in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania drove the increase in proved reserves of natural gas. Louisiana led the nation in wet natural gas proved reserves additions with a 77 percent net increase of 9.2 Tcf owing primarily to development of the Haynesville shale. Both Arkansas (Fayetteville shale) and Pennsylvania (Marcellus shale) nearly doubled their reserves with net increases of 5.2 Tcf and 3.4 Tcf respectively. Shale development in Texas and Oklahoma wasn’t far behind, giving these two States proved reserves increases of 3.2 Tcf and 2.1 Tcf. These increases occurred despite a decline in natural gas prices relative to those used in assessing reserves at the end of 2008. This underscores the role of more efficient and effective shale gas exploration and productive technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The US currently consumes about 23 TCF per year for context of total US demand. The above 283 TCF includes the very first of the new shale gas, helping to increase total national reserves.

The increase in total potential reserves based on shale development is expected to be upwards of 1500 – 2000 TCF, once the shale basins have been fully developed.This gives the US a century at current energy consumption levels.

In locations like Argentina, mature developed basins are now being relooked at as a possible source for cheap NG to be exported for industrial use. While the world is watching Egypt, and the Suez Canal, the era of oil fears from the Middle East is drawing to a close.

Natural gas is significantly cleaner, and now that it is about to be available in very significant quantities in the developed world, the emerging markets will be impacted too.

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Jack H. Barnes is a former trader and hedge fund manager who blogs at

Anger Over Prince Charles’s Climate Change Blast

Prince Charles was accused of endangering his reputation yesterday
By Richard Palmer, Royal Correspondent

PRINCE Charles was accused of endangering his reputation yesterday after claiming climate change sceptics were “playing a reckless game of roulette” with the world’s future.

In a speech to Euro MPs and business leaders in Brussels, he lashed out at those urging caution in response to apocalyptic warnings about the effects of global warming.

The Prince suggested climate change sceptics were having a “corrosive effect” on public opinion by saying that hundreds of scientists around the world were somehow conspiring to present a false image of man-made global warming in an attempt to destroy the world economy.

But Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank concerned about the costs of fashionable green policies, said: “He shouldn’t really take such a strong political position on such a contentious issue that divides public opinion, as polls show.

“I think he’s really risking his reputation. He’s not really helping the situation,” he said.

In his speech to the Low Carbon Prosperity Summit, Charles said of the sceptics: “I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they actually failed their future; that they ignored all the clear warning signs by passing them off as merely part of a ‘cyclical process’ that had happened many times before and was beyond our control.”

“I wonder, will such people be held accountable at the end of the day for the absolute refusal to countenance a precautionary approach? For this plays, I would suggest, a most reckless game of roulette with the future inheritance of those who come after us.”

The Prince travelled to Brussels by Eurostar after facing accusations of hypocrisy when he flew in a private jet to address the Copenhagen climate change summit in December 2009.

He met European dignitaries, including European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy.

In front of a packed European Parliament, he warned against the pursuit of economic growth at the expense of the environment and challenged politicians to break the link between growth and high carbon emissions.

He said a “business as usual” approach to increasing national wealth was just a short-term remedy.

“I cannot see how we can possibly maintain the growth of GDP in the long term if we continue to consume our planet as voraciously as we are doing,” he added.

But his speech provoked a furious response from critics more concerned with encouraging growth to bring the global economy out of a downturn.

Dr Peiser said the Prince was wrong on the key issue that the West’s economic model was flawed.

“More advanced societies in Europe and North America have a much better track record on environmental policies than other parts of the world,” he said.

“But also the prescriptons he is promoting, such as biofuels, are part of the problem and have been the cause of food riots around the world.”

Charles uses biofuels in his official cars and on the Royal Train, but the race to turn crops into green fuel has caused rainforests to be chopped down, and land formerly used to grow food in the Third World to be switched to its production.

Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion, which seeks to debunk climate change science, said: “It isn’t sceptics who have eroded public opinion – climate scientists have destroyed their own credibility by hyping global warming and cheating the scientific process. More hype from Prince Charles will merely turn people off further.”

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Meanwhile its Prince of Wales versus the children of Wales.
THE health and education of children in Wales’ poorest areas is suffering because their families can not afford to heat their homes. Around 26% of all households in Wales are in fuel poverty, having to spend 10% of their income heating their home. Recent Consumer Focus Wales research found more than half the population (54%) are worried about paying for their winter energy bills. –David Williamson, Wales Online, 8 February 2011