Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

FutureGen Clean Coal Plant May Get New Life

June 15th, 2009

Posted by: admin

Wired notes that the FutureGen clean coal plant, which had been shuttered in part due to perceived cost overruns (which were a result of bad math), may rise again. The plant is intended to demonstrate carbon capture and storage at levels and costs that would encourage other power plants to follow suit.

On Friday the Department of Energy issued a press release indicating it had reached an agreement with the FutureGen Alliance (the private part of this public-private partnership).  The agreement would allow the project to move forward with needed planning, research, and design activities, with a final decision on building the plant in early 2010.  Most of the DOE contribution will come from Recovery Act funds.

NOTE: FWIW, I will continue blogging after the pending retirement of this siteUnlike Roger, my shingle is not yet ready.  Once it is (and it should be soon), I’ll post the link here.

A National Climate Service?

May 27th, 2009

Posted by: admin

The House Science and Technology Committee will consider H.R. 2407, the Climate Service Act of 2009, during a markup hearing on June 3.  The bill was introduced by the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon, so it stands a decent chance of passing out of committee.  I have no idea how far it might move after that.  An open question is how closely the fate of this bill is tied to the fate of Waxman-Markey.

The bill would establish a stand-alone National Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The purpose of the service would be to:

(1) advance understanding of climate variability and change at the global, national, and regional levels;

(2) provide forecasts, warnings, and other information to the public on variability and change in weather and climate that affect geographic areas, natural resources, infrastructure, economic sectors, and communities; and

(3) support development of adaptation and response plans by Federal agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and the public.

More specific functional responsibilities of the proposed Service are in Section 4(c)(5) of the bill.  If the bill is passed, the NOAA Administrator would have to develop an implementation plan that would provide more detail about the responsibilities for the NCS and how it would fit with the rest of NOAA.


Green Chemistry Infiltrates EPA’s Office of Research and Development

May 24th, 2009

Posted by: admin

Amongst the recent appointment announcements is the news that Paul Anastas, a synthetic chemist who coined the phrase ‘green chemistry,’ was nominated to head the EPA’s Office of Research and Development (H/T ScienceInsider).  As the EPA’s green chemistry efforts are in a different part of the agency, the choice of Anastas was not necessarily expected.  While currently at Yale, Dr. Anastas has worked at the agency before, and just might shift some of the research and development initiatives at the EPA to incorporate green chemistry.  This might prompt a scenario where there is greater attention paid to designing and innovating new products that reduce environmental impact.  It would be nice to have additonal policy choices besides traditional limits on exposure and similar regulatory restrictions.

EPA Issues Its Own Scientific Integrity Memo

May 19th, 2009

Posted by: admin

On May 9, EPA Administrator Jackson issued a memo to all EPA employees about scientific integrity in the agency (H/T OSTP Blog).  Keeping in line with the Obama Administration’s scientific integrity memo, scientific integrity is not defined in this memo.  While referencing the agencies previous efforts in this area, including whistleblower protections, Administrator Jackson notes that she has asked the EPA Science Council to assess EPA efforts and gaps in this area:

“The SPC at my request is inventorying all our guidelines and policies that relate to scientific integrity to look for gaps and possible areas for improvement. One SPC focus, for example, will be updating and reaffirming EPA’s Peer Review Handbook and recommending how we can improve implementation of our peer review policies across our programs and regions. I also have asked the SPC to work the National Partnership Council to reaffirm the Agency’s Principles of Scientific Integrity and update the Principles of Scientific Integrity online training.”


A request – 100 MPG Cars?

March 23rd, 2009

Posted by: admin

I’m responding to an off-topic request from one of the comment threads on a recent post.  For the record (and others can ding me if I get this wrong), you can put those kinds of requests into writing after clicking on the Ask link in the right-hand column.

At any rate, the request, paraphrased, asked me about whether or not we would see a 100-mpg car with the same kinds of features that we see in cars today.

I was (and am still) reluctant to answer this for a few reasons.

Ultimately, my answer is I don’t know, but I doubt that’s satisfactory to some.

I’m nowhere near a gearhead/petrolhead, as I never mastered a standard shift, and the bulk of my automotive knowledge comes from a combination of Car Talk, Top Gear and Wired’s Autopia.  While I minimize my driving, and try and maximize fuel efficiency as best I can while driving, I know I have more car than I need.


Where are the eggs that were in this basket?

February 3rd, 2009

Posted by: admin

The Pew Center released poll results of which topics were important to Americans.  Turns out, on the list of things Americans are concerned about, “Energy” ranks sixth.  In the complete report, it appears that “Energy” is short for, “Dealing with US energy problems” as a top priority.  But because nowhere are the “energy problems” defined, they can be anything from the price of gas, to the importation of oil, to the lack of energy Americans have to exercise at the end of the day.

As one looks farther down the list of the top 20 priorities, “Global Warming” ranks last (i.e. “Dealing with Global Warming”).    Yet, what I found noteworthy is that the “environment” is ranked sixteenth (i.e. “Protecting the Environment”).  The Pew Center (and thus, suggesting Americans) finds global warming, the environment, and energy to be separate issues.

Evidently, the White House feels differently then the American people. lumps together energy and the environment.  The agenda lists many things that would, in theory, reduce greenhouse gases and “Make the US a Leader in Climate Change.”  Interestingly, the website’s only mention of the environment is that foreign oil wreaks “havoc” on it.  Further, it appears that to speak of energy is to speak of climate change is to speak of the environment (or vice versa I suppose).

However, it’s not that energy, climate change, and the environment has been lumped together as one issue that I find interesting.   It is that climate change has been pushed onto the policy agenda relinquishing all other environmental issues… even with Americans’ concern for protecting the environment to be greater then that for dealing with climate change.

International Renewable Energy Agency in the Works

February 1st, 2009

Posted by: admin

Nature News is reporting on the early organizing efforts of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an organization of member states that was born from a conference held in Germany one week ago.  The specific tasks for the organization will be determined at a meeting this June, but the general focus will be on promoting renewable energy development around the globe.

This agency is being created by multilateral agreement, with more than 75 countries currently signed on.  As of this moment, the United States, United Kingdom, China and Brazil are not signatory to the agency.  Given the energy usage of those countries, hopefully that changes by the time the agency holds its first formal conference next year.

Reminder: Just Because The Person’s a Scientist…

December 29th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Doesn’t mean they’ll be a good scientific appointment.

The best (or worst, depending on how you frame this) example remains career scientist and current EPA head Stephen Johnson.  For evidence, take a gander at this recent profile in the Philadelphia Inquirer (H/T: Reality Base).  Saying anything more might just be piling on.

Unfortunately, the harder sell is the inverse: that just because someone isn’t a scientist doesn’t mean they’d be a bad scientific appointee.

House Science and Technology Committee Outlines Plans for 111th Congress

December 19th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Yesterday House Science and Technology Committee chair Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tennessee) held a press conference outlining plans for the next Congress.  Given the energy emphasis of Presidential science appointments and the current economic debacle, Rep. Gordon emphasized those issues.  Topics covered included plans to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), science investment recommendations for the stimulus, R & D for possible cap and trade legislation, and a balanced portfolio for NASA.

I’m not sure how instructive Gordon’s comments will be, as it seems that he was jumping on the energy and climate bandwagon driven by the appointment of Dr. Chu as Energy Secretary.  Once subcommittee assignments are finalized in January, the agenda of the committee might become more clear.

Full List of Obama Policy Groups Available

December 6th, 2008

Posted by: admin

The transition website has updated the lists of policy working groups to include all members, and not just the leads.  Readers will probably be most interested in the groups for Technology, Innovation and Government Reform; and Energy and Environment.  I’ve listed all of the names for Technology, Innovation and Government Reform policy working group, and what current affiliations National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose has cobbled together.