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A Carbon-Negative Fuel
Jeremy Faludi, WorldChanging
“Impossible!” you say. “Even wind and solar have carbon emissions from their manufacturing, and biofuels are carbon neutral at best. How can a fuel be carbon negative?” But listen to people working on gasification and terra preta, and you’ll have something new to think about.
We’ve mentioned terra preta before: it’s a human-made soil or fertilizer. “Three times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous, and twenty times the carbon of normal soils, terra preta is the legacy of ancient Amazonians who predate Western civilization.” Although we don’t know how it was made back then, we do know how to make it now: burn biomass (preferably agricultural waste) in a special way that pyrolisizes it, breaking down long hydrocarbon chains like cellulose into shorter, simpler molecules. These simpler molecules are more easily broken down by microbes and plants as food, and bond more easily with key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. This is what makes terra preta such good fertilizer. Because terra preta locks so much carbon in the soil, it’s also a form of carbon sequestration that doesn’t involve bizarre heroics like pumping CO2 down old mine shafts.
(16 October 2007)
High hopes for renewable power from Earth’s depths
Elizabeth Douglass, Los Angeles Times
What do Icelanders know about heat?
Quite a lot, it turns out. For 70 years, the chilly island nation has been tapping the Earth’s warmth — using geothermal energy to heat buildings and swimming pools, melt snow and generate more than a quarter of the country’s electricity.
And now they’ve come to California to share the knowledge.
The effort will be formally launched today in downtown Los Angeles, where Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and a handful of city and state officials will openthe new headquarters of Iceland America Energy, the company that will lead Iceland’s geothermal push in North America.
“It’s really kind of unusual when you have this small country that’s coming in and helping the United States develop this resource,” said Curt Robinson, executive director of the Geothermal Resources Council, a nonprofit educational and scientific group based in Davis, Calif. “But they’ve been using geothermal in applied ways for several decades, very successfully. . . they have a fully developed energy economy and we don’t.”
While California struggles toward its ambitious goal of deriving 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2010, Iceland has already accomplished that and more, albeit on a much smaller scale. The country is almost completely powered from renewable sources — 73.4% of it hydropower and 26.5% geothermal.
(12 October 2007)
Why Global Warming and Peak Oil are Irrelevant
Dan Shapley, The Daily Green.
Peak Oil is a “distraction” and global warming? Well, global warming will take care of itself.
It’s the bottom line, stupid.
Amory Lovins makes these arguments, (without actually calling you stupid, and with a breathtaking whirlwind of statistics that he has – miraculously – cached in his brain) in the course of explaining why the energy source of the future is clean and limitless.
Because it’s no energy at all.
Lovins, the winner of the 2007 Leadership Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics and the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, calls it “radical efficiency.” He’s used it to transform Wal-Mart from an environmental villain into a pioneering green innovator, improving its bottom line substantially in the process. He’s applied it to the U.S. military to save lives on convoy lines (a very important bottom line), since the safest way to transport fuel in a war zone is to eliminate the need to transport all that fuel. Lovins and the team at the Rocky Mountain Institute have applied radical efficiency to help redesign more than $30 billion worth of facilities in 29 sectors.
Here’s the trick of radical efficiency: Math.
“Efficiency,” Lovins told an audience at Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Conference today at the Hearst Tower in New York City, “is cheaper than fuel.”
(11 October 2007)
Contributor Rod Campbell-Ross writes:
Intriguing idea. Not sure I agree, but I do respect Amory Lovins.