The Cutting Edge

Should we drive on natural gas?

What would it mean to convert most of our vehicles to run on compressed natural gas? The question crossed my mind after reading a release announcing that Chesapeake Energy, the largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., is promoting a switch to compressed natural gas as the primary fuel for ground transportation.

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African microbes charge up fuel cells

A young company out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is rolling out its off-grid energy system across regions of Tanzania and Namibia. With its microbial fuel cells, which harness the natural reactions in micro-organisms that convert chemical energy into electrical energy, Lebônê Solutions has developed a small-scale portable energy system that can power an LED to provide up to five hours of light or can charge small electronics or appliances, such as cell phones or radios. MIT’s Technology Review reports that the fuel cells are easier to produce and cheaper to install than solar panels or small-scale wind turbines.

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Japan preps for electric vehicles with speedy charging stations

Tokyo Electric Power, a Japanese utility giant, says it has developed a recharging device that can give a small electric car enough charging during a five-minute stop to travel 40 kilometers – a substantial improvement on existing technology. Ten minutes would allow it to travel 60 kilometers. 

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Outsourcing to Colorado

It’s the double-edged sword of global economics: when Vestas, a Danish wind turbine maker, decided to open another production plant in the United States, calls of “outsourcing” gleefully greeted it. Has the U.S., as the claim implies, become so cheap and appealing as a production site that foreign businesses flock over the pond to set up shop? Or is Vestas’ move a sign of the strength of the renewable energy market, an endorsement in the wind-harnessing future of the American West? 

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Is Bloomberg’s New York energy plan dreamy or dubious?

With about 500 days left in his term, New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, would like to see ocean windfarms, rooftop wind turbines and solar panels, and more geothermal heat systems peppered throughout the city. As the fifth anniversary of the great Northeast blackout nears, Bloomberg chided the city and utilities on Tuesday for the lack of progress made in the intervening years on improving infrastructure and security of the nation’s electric grid.

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Issue 25

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