Global environmental challenges
The Next Big Thing in biofuel might involve genetically engineered plants that digest themselves, making it cheaper to turn them into fuel. That’s one of the new ideas that Arun Majumdar finds fascinating. As the head of the U.S. Energy Department’s ARPA-E – the path-breaking agency that aims come up with efficient, green energy solutions — Majumdar said this concept is one of a few dozen that are in the development stage now.
Majumdar let his enthusiasm show as he described this project at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit on Thursday. He was talking about a project in its early stages at Massachusetts-based Agrivida.
“If you look at biofuels, cellulosic biofuels … you take agricultural waste, you separate out … the cellulose, then you throw a bunch of enzymes at them. And these enzymes are there in the cow’s gut, or termites, that break down this long chain polymer, this cellulose, into small bits and pieces called sugar molecules. And then you take those sugar molecules and feed them into another bug and then you produce gasoline,” he said.
The costly part of this process, Majumdar said, is growing these enzymes in a bio-reactor instead of in a cow.
It’s not been a great year for greens, politicians and companies looking for progress on the fight against climate change. First came the disappointment at the Copenhagen meeting in December, then Senator Lindsey Graham pulled out of the Senate bill, then the Senate climate bill mutated into an oil spill bill — and even that couldn’t get passed before the congressional August recess.
But climate backers might find a bit of happiness in the fact that bits of their lingo have officially made it into modern English discourse. Two climate related entries made it into the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English, which was published on Thursday.
–Andrew Leckey is President of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Any views expressed here are his own.-
Having spent the past two weeks in record high temperatures in Beijing and Shanghai, with global warming being noted publicly by Chinese officials as the primary cause of severe weather, I find the situation faced by U.S. companies somewhat ironic.
– Rona Fried, Ph.D., is CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news and networking site for green businesses: including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter. Any views expressed here are her own. —
Over the past 30 years, four U.S. presidents chose to continue down the fossil fuel path of least resistance instead of investing heavily in energy efficiency and renewable energy – the only long-term solutions that can avoid catastrophic oil spills like the one we are witnessing today.
from Global News Journal:
Biofuels were once seen as the perfect way to make transport carbon-free, but a series of EU studies are throwing increasing doubt on the green credentials of the alternative fuel.
The latest to be released gave a preliminary assessment that biodiesel from soybeans could create four times more climate-warming emissions than conventional diesel.
from The Great Debate UK:
- Joris Melkert, MSc BBA, is assistant professor in aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Despite the announcement that air space could begin to re-open in Northern Europe, the Icelandic volcano eruption could prove to be a major turning point for the global airline industry with short- to medium-term questions already being asked by some about its future financial viability.
from The Great Debate UK:
- Dr Andrew Hooper is an Assistant Professor at Delft University of Technology and is an expert on monitoring deformation of Icelandic volcanoes. The opinions expressed are his own. -
The unprecedented no-fly zone currently in force across much of Europe has already caused the greatest chaos to air travel since the Second World War. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or postponed with millions of travel plans affected.
from The Great Debate UK:
-Graciela Chichilnisky is the Architect of the Carbon Market of the Kyoto Protocol and the author of 'Saving Kyoto', New Holland Publishers, UK, 2009. Chichilnisky is a Professor of Mathematics and Economics at Columbia University in New York, Director of Columbia Consortium for Risk Management and Managing Director of Global Thermostat Inc. The opinions expressed are her own.-
We live surrounded by uncertainty. Tsunamis, the eruption of super- volcanoes, violent floods and storms, asteroid impacts that eliminate entire species as the dinosaurs that went extinct 60 millions years ago, the recent 8.8 earthquake in Chile, not to mention the global financial crisis. Some disasters are worse than others, but they all have one thing in common. They are catastrophic risks. This means risks that occur very rarely – but when they happen they have truly major consequences.
Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. The views expressed are his own.
It’s as though three mammoth challenges facing America are intertwined like the strands of a rope: reducing our dependence on Mideast oil; creating new American jobs from clean energy; and reducing pollution responsible for climate change.