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09 May, 2013

Patent Filing Claims Solar Energy ‘Breakthrough’
By Greg Gordon

In a U.S. patent application, a little-known Maryland inventor claims a stunning solar energy breakthrough that promises to end the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels at a fraction of the current cost – a transformation that also could blunt global warming. Inventor Ronald Ace said that his flat-panel “Solar Traps,” which can be mounted on rooftops or used in electric power plants, will shatter decades-old scientific and technological barriers that have stymied efforts to make solar energy a cheap, clean and reliable alternative

07 November, 2012

The Great Transition, Part I: From Fossil Fuels To Renewable Energy
By Lester R. Brown

The old energy economy, fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas, is being replaced with an economy powered by wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The Earth’s renewable energy resources are vast and available to be tapped through visionary initiatives. Our civilization needs to embrace renewable energy on a scale and at a pace we’ve never seen before

The Great Transition, Part II: Building A Wind-Centered Economy
By Lester R. Brown

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution began, we have an opportunity to invest in alternative sources of energy that can last as long as the Earth itself. The choice is ours. We can stay with business as usual, or we can move the world onto a path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on Earth for all generations to come

28 April, 2012

Can Renewable Energy Sustain Consumer Societies?
By Samuel Alexander

With little recognition, Dr. Ted Trainer has spent the best part of a decade tirelessly surveying the best available data on renewable energy and other technologies, and he has recently published the culmination of his efforts with the Simplicity Institute. Contradicting widely held assumptions, Trainer presents a formidable case that renewable energy and other ‘tech-fixes’ will be unable to sustain growth-based and energy-intensive consumer societies, with implications that are as profound as they will be unwelcome

24 March, 2012

Space-Based Solar Power
By Tom Murphy

I’ll take a break from writing about behavioral adaptations and get back to Do the Math roots with an evaluation of solar power from space and the giant hurdles such a scheme would face. On balance, I don’t expect to see this technology escape the realm of fantasy and find a place in our world. The expense and difficulty are incommensurate with the gains

Tom Murphy Interview: Resource Depletion Is A Bigger Threat Than Climate Change
By James Stafford

Rising geopolitical tensions and high oil prices are continuing to help renewable energy find favour amongst investors and politicians. Yet how much faith should we place in renewables to make up the shortfall in fossil fuels? Can science really solve our energy problems, and which sectors offers the best hope for our energy future? To help us get to the bottom of this we spoke with energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California

05 March, 2012

Amory Lovins Lays Out His Clean Energy Plan
By Fen Montaigne

For four decades, Amory Lovins has been a leading proponent of a renewable power revolution that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels and usher in an era of energy independence. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his latest book, which describes his vision of how the world can attain a green energy future by 2050

29 February, 2012

Our Great Hope For The Future
By Tom Murphy

If we elect to abandon growth as a central tenet of our existence, we would immediately veer from our collision course. We would still likely need to reduce our physical throughput of natural resources and services, but adopting a steady state economic platform would be a vital first step

22 February, 2012

The Peak Oil Crisis: Technology Update
By Tom Whipple

While waiting to see how the latest settlement of the EU's debt crisis or any of the ongoing Middle East confrontations turn out, it seems like a good time to review a few of the hundreds of announcements of new energy technology that have made in the last few months

The Way Is Shut
By Tom Murphy

When I first approached the topic of societal energy in 2004, I became aware for the first time that our energy future was not in the bag, and proceeded to explore alternative after alternative to judge the viability and potential pitfalls of various options. I have retraced my steps in Do the Math posts, exposing the scales at which different energy sources might contribute, and the practical complexities involved. My spooky campfire version of the story, a la Tolkien: The Way is Shut

17 February, 2012

The Alternative Energy Matrix
By Tom Murphy

When I first approached the subject of energy in our society, I expected to develop a picture in my mind of our grandiose future, full of alternative energy sources like solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, geothermal, tidal, etc. What I got instead was something like this matrix: full of inadequacies, difficulties, and show-stoppers. Our success at managing the transition away from fossil fuels while maintaining our current standard of living is far from guaranteed. If such success is our goal, we should realize the scale of the challenge and buckle down now while we still have the resources to develop a costly new infrastructure. Otherwise we get behind the curve, possibly facing unfamiliar chaos, loss of economic confidence, resource wars, and the unforgiving Energy Trap

Fossil Fuels: I’m Not Dead Yet
By Tom Murphy

My cynical prediction is that concerns over climate change are unlikely to hold sway over energy scarcity. Heck, climate change has had little influence over our current energy mix even when energy is cheap and abundant. In some sense, this track record only highlights the difficulty we have in finding suitable alternatives to fossil fuels. Maybe declining fossil fuels will provide the impetus that climate change has not succeeded in delivering: for us to finally embark in earnest in a deliberate departure from our old friends

03 February, 2012

Nuclear Fusion
By Tom Murphy

Our energy future is highly uncertain. Commercial fusion may come along decades down the road—mid-century at the earliest—but even then it is yet another source of heat that we can use to make electricity. Another step (mobile storage) must accompany fusion development to replace petroleum functions, and even then at significant disadvantage in energy density using current technologies. So yeah—I hope it helps us out one day. But I’m not sure we can wait that long

25 January, 2012

Is The Ocean An Alternative?
By Tom Murphy

As I cast about looking for reasons why I should not worry about our energy future, I find little solace when I look to the sea

12 January, 2012

Warm And Fuzzy On Geothermal?
By Tom Murphy

The Earth started its existence as a red-hot rock, and has been cooling ever since. It’s still quite toasty in the core, and will remain so for billions of years, yet. Cooling implies a flow of heat, and where heat flows, the possibility exists of capturing useful energy. Geysers and volcanoes are obvious manifestations of geothermal energy, but what role can it play toward satisfying our current global demand? Following the recent theme of Do the Math, we will put geothermal in one of three boxes labeled abundant, potent, or niche (puny). Have any guesses?

09 January, 2012

The Myth Of Renewable Energy
By Dawn Stover

There are now seven billion humans on this planet. Until we find a way to reduce our energy consumption and to share Earth's finite resources more equitably among nations and generations, "renewable" energy might as well be called "miscellaneous."

05 January, 2012

Nuclear Options
By Tom Murphy

Nuclear is likely to play an increasing role in our energy story. Energy hardship will trump concerns over waste, proliferation, and safety. As long as such hardship does not bind us in an Energy Trap or plunge us into dysfunction, we will likely build more plants. But because nuclear does not smack the primary problem right on the kisser (fossil fuel substitute), I doubt it will be heralded as the answer to our prayers, and imagine that its role will be correspondingly modest

21 December, 2011

How Much Dam Energy Can We Get?
By Tom Murphy

’m a fan of hydro power, and I’m glad nature does most of the work for us. Nonetheless, my mind is not much eased by the joint facts that it falls far short of our current demand and that it’s yet another way to make electricity. It’s a gift from nature, but much like getting yet another tie for Christmas to add to the pile, I’m not getting excited about the prospect of more dams

16 December, 2011

Can Tides Turn The Tide?
By Tom Murphy

We need a few solid, scalable, reliable solutions to fall back on. And tidal is not one of those. It’s more like a decoration than a foundation. Let’s use it where we can

23 November, 2011

A Solar-Powered Car?
By Tom Murphy

So solar powered cars fall solidly on the reality side of the reality-fantasy continuum. That said, pure solar transport (on board generation) will suffer serious limitations. More reliable transport comes with nuances that may be irritating to the purist. You can apply a bumper sticker that says SOLAR POWERED CAR, but in most cases, you will need to put an asterisk at the end with a lengthy footnote to explain exactly how you have realized that goal

14 November, 2011

The Biofuel Grind
By Tom Murphy

What about biofuels? To what extent can they solve our problem? We’ll dip our toes into the math and see where a first-cut analysis leaves us.

19 September, 2011

Got Storage? How Hard Can It Be?
By Tom Murphy

The lesson is that adequate storage appears at first-blush to border on impossible under the current profile of consumption in the U.S. But cut consumption down by a factor of five or so, and I become optimistic. Such deep cuts are not impossible: I can personally still participate in a western lifestyle at a fifth of the energy cost at home

19 July, 2011

Galactic-Scale Energy
By Tom Murphy

No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years. A word of warning: that power plant is going to run a little warm. Thermodynamics require that if we generated sun-comparable power on Earth, the surface of the Earth—being smaller than that of the sun—would have to be hotter than the surface of the sun!

08 July, 2011

Global Investments In Green Energy Up Nearly A Third
To US$211 Billion Says UNEP

By Marianne de Nazareth

According to the latest news released by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), China along with a number of developing countries are now the biggest investors in large-scale renewables while Germany surges ahead on rooftop solar. Last year, investors pumped a record US$211 billion into renewables -- about one-third more than the US$160 billion invested in 2009, and a 540% rise since 2004

24 April, 2011

Renewable Energy: No Solution For Consumer Society
By Ted Trainer

It would be difficult to find a more taken for granted, unquestioned assumption than that it will be possible to substitute renewable energy sources for fossil fuels, while consumer-capitalist society continues on its merry pursuit of limitless affluence and growth. There is a strong case that this assumption is seriously mistaken. Following is a summary of the discussion in my forthcoming book Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain Consumer Society

06 April, 2011

A Solar Transition Is Possible: Report
By Peter D. Schwartzman & David W. Schwartzman

Arguably no challenge is more serious for the world’s future than bringing about a rapid decarbonation of the energy infrastructure with the possibility of preventing the onset of catastrophic climate change. With a mathematical model we demonstrate that this transition is technically plausible using modest inputs of existing fossil fuel reserves in the creation of a global solar power infrastructure even with existing solar technologies such as wind turbines

22 March, 2011

Wind: The Center Of The Plan B Economy
By Lester R. Brown

For many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts

03 February, 2011

WWF Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy By 2050
By Stephan Singer

Energy Report released by WWF claims that all the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly, sustainably and economically by the year 2050

25 January, 2011

Green Energy’s Big Challenge: The Daunting Task Of Scaling Up
By David Biello

To shift the global economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will require the construction of wind, solar, nuclear, and other installations on a vast scale, significantly altering the face of the planet. Can these new forms of energy approach the scale needed to meet the world’s energy demands?

16 September, 2010

The Limits And Potential Of Plant-Based Energy
By Lester Brown

As oil and natural gas reserves are being depleted, the world's attention is increasingly turning to plant-based energy sources. The potential use of plant-based sources of energy is limited because even corn -- the most efficient of the grain crops -- can convert just 0.5 percent of solar energy into a usable form. In contrast, solar PV or solar thermal power plants convert roughly 15 percent of sunlight into a usable form

28 July, 2010

Wind Power Can Change The World --Why Aren't We Investing In It?
By Melinda Burns

A lack of continuous federal support cripples emerging clean energy industries in the United States

Net Energy Of Ethanol Minimal: Study
By David Murphy

The EROI values for counties with biorefineries ranged from 0.64 in Stark, North Dakota, to 1.18 in Phillips, Kansas. Our analysis of 127 biorefineries indicated that of 31.6 billion liters of ethanol produced in the United States, only 1.6 billion liters were net energy (roughly 5%)

09 July, 2010

Can The World Run On Renewables,
Nuclear Energy And Geo-Sequestration?
The Negative Case

By Ted Trainer

For many years I have been arguing that consumer-capitalist society is so grossly unsustainable that technical advance cannot solve the problems it is generating. I have especially developed the case against the dominant belief that alternative energy sources can substitute for fossil fuels. This is not an argument against transition to renewables. We must do that, and we could live well on them, but not at anything like the levels of consumption we have today

12 February, 2010

It’s Time For A Solar Revolution
By Senator Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders and 10 others (Senators Whitehouse, Cardin, Gillibrand, Merkley, Lautenberg, Leahy, Boxer, Menendez, Specter, and Harkin) has introduced the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act. The legislation will rapidly increase production of solar panels, driving down the price of photovoltaic systems. It also would mean the creation of over a million new jobs. The passage of this bill would dramatically reorient our energy priorities and would be a major step forward toward a clean energy future for the United States

23 January, 2010

A Global Push For Renewable Energy
By Alice Slater

With 142 member nations already signed on, the new International Renewable Energy Agency is promoting a fast, global transition to clean, safe, and renewable energy.
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05 August, 2008

Solar Power Breakthrough
By ENS

Within 10 years, homeowners could power their homes in daylight with solar photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water to power a household fuel cell. If the new process developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds acceptance in the marketplace, electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past