by Frank Ling
Waste to Oil
Think you need special enzymes to convert plant materials into fuel? It looks like science is getting closer to eliminating that step. Pretty soon we might be able to directly convert crop residues, waste paper, and pretty much anything organic into bio-crude, which is essentially oil.
The secret ingredient? Heat. It turns out that raising the temperature breaks the bonds of organic materials (in fact heat pretty much breaks any bond at a high enough temperature) through a process known as pyrolysis.
Jim Fraser, in a recent article at the Energy Blog, explains how this works:
Fast pyrolysis is a process in which the organic materials are rapidly heated to 450 – 600 °C at atmospheric pressure in the absence of air. Under these conditions, organic vapours, pyrolysis gases and charcoal are produced. The vapours are condensed to bio-oil. Typically, 70-75 wt.% of the feedstock is converted into oil.
The product can be used not only to replace gasoline and diesel, it can be used as feedstock for the chemical industry.
Geothermal power is coming to a resort near you. At least the ones in Alaska.
At the Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks, Alaska engineers have created a breakthrough hydrothermal system that generates power using “low-temperature” reservoir water at 165 F, in contrast to conventional systems that required at least 300 F.
Jack Moins writes in EcoGeek:
The plant cost a mere $2.2 million to build as it uses all off the shelf parts. It produces 200 kw at a cost of 5 cents per kwh, compared to the former costs of 30 cents per kwh when using diesel. The design is projected to pay for itself within four to five years. Hydrothermal power is very promising, as it is estimated that the water beneath the Earth’s surface holds 50,000 times the amount of energy in the remaining gas and coal resources
Among its innovations, the system uses a three-pressure system and ammonia-water cycles, which limits the use of toxic coolants. With this early success, the entire town of Chena is adopting hydrothermal for its buildings and a greenhouse for food production
U.S. Climate Legislation
All the major US presidential candidates are making global warming a part of the their platform. Whoever wins, policy for energy, environment, and even agriculture are bound to change significantly.
But democracy is not always a fast process. Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives for Google.org and former U.S. assistant energy secretary, says that the next president will indeed push for change but any regulations will take time to phase in.
Rachel Barron, in Green Tech Media, writes:
2009 could bring a dramatic increase in support from Congress for R&D and more favorable approaches to clean-energy incentives.