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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blinded by the glare of green energy — a threat to over 40 million airplane passengers

The Washington Times -- Thanks to a $1.6 billion green energy loan from the feds, pilots are being blinded by glare as they fly over the Mojave Desert. It’s a safety hazard that affects over 40 million airplane passengers a year.

The culprit is the Ivanpah solar energy project, with more than 300,000 giant mirrors spread over 5 square miles of public land provided to BrightSource/NRG Energy. The $1.6 billion loan is only part of $5.2 billion extended to the company by the Obama administration — 10 times what taxpayers lost from loans to the failed Solyndra fiasco.

Since Ivanpah went online in December, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued warnings to pilots of commercial and private aircraft who fly in and out of Las Vegas and destinations in Southern California. They’re told to be aware of this dange  (read more)

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Turning natural gas to gasoline — at $1 per gallon

SFGate -- Bay Area startup Siluria Technologies has developed a way to make gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from natural gas — not crude oil.

And the oil industry has noticed.Today, the 6-old-company will announce that its latest $30 million financing round was led by Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company.

“Their business isn’t just oil,” said Ed Dineen, Siluria’s chief executive officer. “It’s oil and gas and petrochemicals and power. And when they look across that spectrum, they have a strong interest in increasing the value of their gas. This will allow them to do that.”

Aramco has also put together a team studying ways to deploy the technology in Saudi Arabia. Based in San Francisco, Siluria has now raised $99 million from such investors as Bright Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Bye  (read more)

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McLaren’s $3.3M Hypercar Comes With Two Years of Training for Wannabe Racers

Wired -- The $1.15 million McLaren P1 hypercar is one of the best cars ever built. It ran Germany’s famed Nurburgring Nordschleiffe in less than seven minutes. It’s got 903 horsepower, it hits 60 mph in under 3 seconds and it’s drop-dead gorgeous. Oh, and it also gets 31 mpg.

But even that is not enough for some of the 375 people dropping the cash to buy a P1. For them, McLaren offers the P1 GTR, a track-dedicated version with more power that it unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. More is never cheaper, especially in the hypercar realm, and the P1 GTR is priced accordingly: £1.98 million, or $3.29 million.

For all that, though, the big spenders—who must already own a P1 to be eligible—get more than a car. They get an experience.  (read more)

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Transparent solar panels may be a window into the future

Tech Times -- Clean solar power may be the future of energy. Transparent solar panels that seem just like normal glass may make that future real.

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a solar panel that resembles typical glass, which can be placed on top of a window to collect solar energy, while still providing an unobstructed view.

Called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, the panel uses organic molecules made to absorb invisible wavelengths of light, such as ultraviolet and near infrared light. The material moves this unseen light to the edges of the panel, where strips of photovoltaic solar cells pick it up and convert it to electricity.

There have been past attempts at similar tech, but the results that have been produced were not transparent enough or were tinted.
 (read more)

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Solar Energy Less Dangerous to Birds Than Cats or Cars

Bloomberg News -- Solar-thermal power plants in the U.S. are less likely to kill birds than cars, cats or mobile-phone towers, despite reports that say the facilities pose a significant threat to avian life.

There were 321 “avian fatalities” in the first half of this year at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar project in Southern California, according to a statement yesterday from NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), which co-owns and operates it. Of those, 133 were scorched by heat produced by the plant.

That’s far fewer than reported in an Associated Press article on Aug. 18. It cited federal wildlife investigators who estimated that one bird was burned every two minutes by concentrated sunlight at the Mojave Desert power plant. [...]

A greater risk comes from cats, which are estimated to kill hundreds of millions ...  (read more)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Will EPA Kill Texas’ Energy Revolution?

The Houston Chronicle -- Texas and the entire country stand at an historical crossroad of two conflicting, incompatible forces. On one side is the game-changing upsurge in oil and gas production achieved through technological innovations first developed in Texas. On the other side is federal policy to supplant oil, natural gas and coal – now supplying over 80 percent of U.S. energy.

We have the transformative power of energy facing off with the coercive power of government. If not denied by political powers, the energy opportunities created by the shale revolution would confer multiple genuine benefits for human welfare and peace: jobs, increased income, rebirth of “made in America” manufacturing, national security and even the basis for geopolitical security in Europe – now perilously dependent on oil an  (read more)

Submitted Yesterday By:

Michelin’s Clever New Tires Stay Just as Grippy as They Wear

Wired -- The more you drive on your tires, the more they wear down. After a while, the grooves that improve traction, particularly in the wet, wear away. Eventually, you either buy a new set or risk running off the road next time it rains. But thanks to some clever engineering, Michelin has made tires that don’t age the way they usually do. As the rubber wears off, new grooves emerge to keep you on the road.

Modern street tires have radial grooves—the ones that go around the circumference of the tire—that channel water so the rubber can make solid contact with the road. The more water that can be channeled, the more traction the tires have to do things like turn and stop the car. Typically, these grooves get shallower and less effective as the tire wears.  (read more)

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Millennials Move from Cars to SUVs – Just Like Their Parents

The Detroit Bureau -- Conventional wisdom would suggest that Millennials would rather sit at home playing videogames and texting, and if they do buy a car, they’re likely to opt for something small, preferably with a battery.

As is so often the case, however, the prevailing sentiment is wrong, as several new studies reveal. Not only are Millennials buying cars in ever-larger numbers, but they’re opting for roomy crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, much like their parents.

One likely explanation, according to Chris Travell, a vice president at Maritz Research, is that they want vehicles that can carry more of their stuff.

And, with the oldest of the generation now entering their early 30s, many are starting families — moving back to the suburbs Gen-Y had initially rejected – so they need to carry “stuff” f  (read more)

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Federal lease sale to open waters on U.S.-Mexico border for drilling

The Times-Picayune -- The federal government on Wednesday plans to open 21 million acres off the coast of Texas for oil and gas drilling. It includes areas that are along the U.S. and Mexico nautical border and previously off limits to companies.

The sale is scheduled at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It is the sixth under the Obama administration's current leasing plan, which extends through 2017.

The federal government has offered more than 60 million acres for development. It has generated more than $2.3 billion in bid revenues during previous sales under its five-year plan.

Oil and gas companies bid more than $872.1 million for tracts spanning more than 1.7 million acres in the central Gulf of Mexico during the most recent federal lease sale. That was in March.

Sales in the western gulf cov  (read more)

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Rail CEOs to Investors: "Bomb Trains" Safe At Almost Any Speed

Huff Post -- BNSF's announcement came merely a week after the Obama Administration announced its proposed regulations for trains carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin.

The rail industry's position on speed limits for "bomb trains" is simple: they continuously claim velocity has nothing to do with oil-by-rail accidents or safety.
 (read more)

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dash-Cam Captures Truck Driver Saving Two from Fiery Crash -- Truck driver David Frederickson's dashboard-mounted camera captured his heroism as he saves a woman and her one year-old from a fiery crash. After a car t-bones a semi-truck, the semi's fuel tank ignites, causing a huge explosion on the I-10 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Watch below.

As Frederickson pulled up to the scene of a horrific crash, the explosive collision was so intense, most would assume the worst for the vehicle occupants.

"That guy's dead, dude," said the man sharing Frederickson's truck cab.

When Frederickson asked whether he felt they should try to help the crash victim out of their car, his partner responded, "No! What are you gonna do?"

"I got a fire extinguisher," said Frederickson, before exiting the cab and trotting down the smoke-filled highway.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 19, 2014 By:

Brent Falls as Iraqi Kurds Retake Mosul Dam; WTI Drops

Bloomberg -- Brent crude slumped to the lowest level in almost 14 months after Kurdish and Iraqi forces seized control of Iraq’s largest dam from Islamic State militants. West Texas Intermediate also declined.

Kurdish forces and government anti-terrorism units took over the Mosul Dam after receiving air support from the U.S., reversing gains made by the Sunni-Muslim insurgents in the north, according to Iraqi military spokesman Qassim Ata. Prices also fell as Libya’s oil production increased. Front-month WTI futures’ premium over the next month widened to the highest since 2008.

“The anti-ISIS forces are gathering strength and making progress,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “The threat has peaked, and the risk premium is declining.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 19, 2014 By:

GM Uses This 24-Foot 3-D Screen to Eyeball Photorealistic Prototypes

Wired -- Developing a new car is a time-consuming process. Designers and engineers and executives can spend months or years hashing out the look of a car, crafting renderings and models and prototypes to get the styling just right.

To speed things along, GM has built a 24-foot screen called the PowerWall. The screen, hidden deep within the company’s Vehicle Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan, is used to show execs and design teams life-size photorealistic renderings of vehicles. The screen works in 2-D or 3-D, though viewing the next Caddy in three dimensions requires donning those weird glasses.

It allows executives and designers to examine cars throughout the development process and make changes quickly and easily, without the need to craft full-size clay models for each design.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 19, 2014 By:

Here’s a Terrible Idea: Robot Cars With Adjustable Ethics Settings

Wired -- Do you remember that day when you lost your mind? You aimed your car at five random people down the road. By the time you realized what you were doing, it was too late to brake.

Thankfully, your autonomous car saved their lives by grabbing the wheel from you and swerving to the right. Too bad for the one unlucky person standing on that path, struck and killed by your car.
 (read more)

Submitted Aug 19, 2014 By:

Enbridge’s midwest pipeline between Oklahama and Illinois can proceed, U.S. federal court rules

FINANCIAL POST -- Enbridge Inc.’s pipeline to carry tar sands oil between Oklahoma and Illinois can proceed, a federal judge ruled, as companies expand their capacity to move petroleum in the U.S.

“Because a private company is constructing the 589-mile pipeline on mostly privately owned land that is entirely within the territorial borders of the United States, no federal statute authorizes the federal government to oversee or regulate the construction project,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington said today in a written ruling.

The judge rejected arguments by the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation that the failure to conduct an environmental impact review of the pipeline violated the National Environmental Protection Act.

 (read more)

Submitted Aug 19, 2014 By:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Promise of a ‘clean coal’ future far from reality

Seattle Times -- In 2003, President George W. Bush unveiled plans for the world’s first zero-emissions coal plant, a project that would serve as a global showcase of America’s ability to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

This FutureGen plant would be “one of the boldest steps our nation takes toward a pollution-free future,” declared Spencer Abraham, Bush’s energy secretary. The knowledge we gain from the plant “ ... will help turn coal from an environmentally challenging energy resource into an environmentally benign one.”

More than a decade later, there has yet to be a groundbreaking for FutureGen 2.0.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 18, 2014 By:

Claims of Australia's biggest oil discovery in 30 years

The Sydney Morning Herald -- US oil and gas player Apache has made what is being heralded by some as Australia's largest oil discovery in the past 30 years, potentially pointing to a new oil province off the north-west coast.

The field found by the Phoenix South-1 well, which had been seen more likely to find gas than oil, could have potentially up to 300 million barrels of oil, Apache reported on Monday.

Only a portion of that volume, however, would be recoverable, analysts said.

While still in the early stages of evaluation, Apache's chief operating officer for its international business, Thomas Voytovich, said the results from the drilling so far "point to a commercial discovery".

"If these results are borne out by further appraisal drilling, Phoenix South may represent a new oil province for Australia,"...  (read more)

Submitted Aug 18, 2014 By:

China faces buyer’s remorse in Canada’s oil patch

The Globe and Mail -- Chinese companies have shelled out more than $30B in Canada’s energy industry, but many of those investments have been hit with operational problems, delays and weak returns, leading to growing impatience in some quarters in China

PetroChina, Sinopec, CNOOC, China Investment and other state-owned enterprises made a raft of big bets on oil sands projects, shale developments and domestic companies since 2005 and many have yet to pay off

There is “absolutely” some buyer’s remorse stemming from many of China’s big-ticket acquisitions

Some problems were the result of purchases made during a rush on assets across the industry, when competition from both domestic and foreign buyers was brisk. Eventually, assets in the best geological regions are likely to pay off, and those further from the ea  (read more)

Submitted Aug 18, 2014 By:

Refinery Breakdowns Boost Gasoline as Labor Day Nears

Bloomberg News -- Refinery breakdowns from Kansas to Texas are giving gasoline a boost, spurring speculators to increase bullish bets for the first time in six weeks as the Labor Day holiday approaches.

Hedge funds raised net-long positions by 13 percent in the week ended Aug. 12, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. The wagers slumped 56 percent in the previous five weeks, while gasoline futures dropped 10 percent since the Memorial Day holiday on May 26, the traditional start of the driving season.

Bets on rising prices reached this year’s high in late April on speculation that peak summer demand would reduce supply. Inventories expanded to a four-month high in July, as refineries produced a record amount of fuel and consumption was stuck at the lowest seasonal level since 2012.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 18, 2014 By:

Ex-CEO Of Red-Light Camera Company Indicted On Corruption Charges

AOL Autos -- A federal grand jury returned a 23-count indictment against the three, alleging that ex-Redflex CEO Karen Finley provided approximately $570,000 in cash and other improper benefits to an assistant transportation commissioner in exchange for inside information that helped the Phoenix-based company win contracts in Chicago worth as much as $124 million  (read more)

Submitted Aug 18, 2014 By:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Cost of Owning a Car in America, a List of All States

AotoEvolution -- While we’re all the same while sitting on Cobo Hall’s floor and watching the latest unveil brought by the Detroit Motor Show, when it comes to going out there and actually buying a car, some states are more equal than others. We are here to bring you a map of the places where you should move if low car cost ownership is what you guide your life by.

This was put together by Brankrate, which took into account the cost of gasoline, servicing and insurance. It covers 50 states together with the District of Columbia and, yes, you should expect frightening differences.

For one thing, the least favorable state, Wyoming, makes its residents $2,705 sorry for owning a car per year. At the other end of the list, we have Iowa, with $1,942 per year.

And for all those celebrities living in Califo  (read more)

Submitted Aug 17, 2014 By:

The Most Powerful Range Rover Ever Is Surprisingly Fuel Efficient

Wired -- If you think of SUVs as slow, lumbering vehicles, you haven’t seen the Range Rover Sport SVR. The fastest and most powerful Land Rover ever, an exercise in excess, debuts at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this weekend. It hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and its top speed is 162 mph. That’s approaching supercar territory, in a rolling leather-lined vault that weighs 5,148 pounds and has room for five and cargo.

Jaguar Land Rover hasn’t released a price for its latest creation, but if you’re reading this at work instead of on your yacht, don’t expect to take one home. But the things that make the SVR so absurdly over the top are relevant to less loaded car shoppers. Forget about touches like the “Santorini Black contrast roof” and racing-inspired back seats.  (read more)

Submitted Aug 17, 2014 By:

All is not well with the economy

NEW YORK POST -- Riddle me this: The Middle East is in turmoil, Libya is burning, Russia is saber-rattling again — and oil is at a six-month low.

In fact, crude prices are down 10 percent since mid-June when global tensions mushroomed.

Yes, oil continues to fall right smack in the middle of summer driving season.

It falls despite the US posting a respectable second-quarter GDP number.

It falls while Israel and Hamas are in an all-out war and the rest of the Middle East is burning and being taken over by violent Islamist extremists.

Well, here is one fact that we do know: During recessions and weak growth, energy prices do fall.

Look no further than during our own financial crisis; crude got down into the high $30s a barrel at the end of 2008.

Perhaps nobody is buying the first look at second-quarter  (read more)

Submitted Aug 17, 2014 By:

Why automakers will build more hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Detroit News -- Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could soon gain ground on electric cars in the race to develop zero-emission cars, according to a new report.

The auto industry is seeing a convergence of factors that make fuel cell cars more viable, according to the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Davis.

Major automakers are pushing the technology. Hyundai began leasing its Tucson fuel cell crossover in Southern California earlier this year, targeting the handful of communities that have hydrogen fueling stations. Toyota and Honda plan to bring out their first mass-market fuel cell vehicles next year.

UC Davis transit experts say the key to this rollout is building clusters of hydrogen stations in urban and regional markets.

"We seem to be tantalizingly close to the beginni  (read more)

Submitted Aug 17, 2014 By:

Mexico prepares for oil privatization

The Wall Street Journal -- MEXICO CITY--Mexico on Wednesday set aside the bulk of its currently active oil fields for Petróleos Mexicanos but said private companies will be allowed to bid on four-fifths of prospective resources as the government ends the national oil firm's seven-decade monopoly.

Officials hope that the bidding, starting as soon as next year, will spark an energy boom.

Pemex's chief executive said the new competition will help the company, making it more efficient. "Pemex has been waiting for these changes for decades," CEO Emilio Lozoya said in an interview at its headquarters here. "We're committed to making sure that Pemex continues to be not only the largest company in Mexico, but to regain the largest spot in Latin America and be also one of the leaders worldwide."

Pemex lost the top spot in  (read more)

Submitted Aug 17, 2014 By: