MAE 124/ESYS 103:
Class Topics in the News
3 June 2010: China is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in
the world. A report from Linfen, a manufacturing city in a coal-mining
region, documents the oppressive smog levels.
report from VICE media company.
3 June 2010: As BP continues to struggle to stop the oil gushing from
their failed drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico, the company's
top executive now acknowledges that BP had not been not fully prepared
for a deepwter oil leak. Associated Press article.
3 June 2010: The possibilities are endless for biofuels: cow
manure, coffee grounds, disposable diapers, and chocolate waste
have all been used as feedstocks, as reported in a Business Week
3 June 2010: With the Tesla, the Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Volt all
coming on the market, the question of how you charge a vehicle is becoming
really relevant. In California, there's now a growing effort to build
electric vehicle charging stations. Chicago Tribune article.
2 June 2010: In the road to efficient vehicles, one of the most unusual
ideas that's actually being tested is a wind-powered car (which actually
manages to travel almost 3 times faster than the wind.) Autopia blog.
2 June 2010: If we want to burn fossil fuel, then we have to extract
it, and that poses serious issues for worker safety. The Massey coal mine
accident has led to quite a bit of concern about the role of federal
mine safety inspectors and the impact that mine closures might have
on the workers themselves. Washington Post article.
1 June 2010: A new round of climate talks have started in Bonn, Germany,
with a goal of fleshing out the details that were left undefined by
the Copenhagen Accord Reuters article.
1 June 2010: Scientists studying the oil in the Gulf of Mexico report evidence
of underwater oil plumes, but BP denies that possibility, saying that oil
is lighter than water and should rise to the ocean surface. The disagreement
is just the tip of the iceberg for a host of issues related to assessing
BP's liability in the Gulf of Mexico spill. Guardian (UK)
27 May 2010: Last week the Venter Institute announced its first success in
creating a synthetic genome. In testimony this week to Congress, this
sparked a lot of interest in the potential for new biofuels. Reuters article.
27 May 2010: Efforts to staunch the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico
may be working, according to a New York Times report.
27 May 2010: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that a full
23% of electricity in the western US could come from solar and wind
power, without requiring new transmission lines or significant backup
power. In the eastern US, new transmission lines would be required.
25 May 2010: The largest solar power plant in North America has just opened
at Victor Valley College. The plant, which uses a contentrator photovoltaic
array, should generate about 2.6 million kilowatt-hours annually. Soberingly
that represents just 30% of the college's electrical need. San Jose Business
24 May 2010: Ford Motor Co. is announcing plans to produce the next generation
of hybrid-electric vehibles, with an aim to put them in production
starting in 2012. Detroit Free Press article.
24 May 2010: China has proposed to build the world's largest
hydro-electric project on the Yarlung Tsangpo river in Tibet (which
changes name to the Brahmaputra downstream in India.) Guardian (UK) article.
24 May 2010: Cow manure releases the potent greenhouse gas,
methane, so managing manure is an important step for controlling
global warming. Hewlett-Packard is working on a combined data farm/dairy
farm concept that would use cow manure to generate electricity to
power highly air-conditioned data centers. Sunday
Times (London) article.
20 May 2010: New opportunities for tax fraud appear to be one side
effect of cap-and-trade carbon emissions programs. In Europe, 22 people were
arrested in April for tax evasion associated with reselling carbon emissions
permits and failing to pay the appropriate value added tax (VAT).
20 May 2010: We talked in class about tidal energy and some
of the challenges associated with it. A new tidal turbine
is being developed that offers a much less ecologically disruptive
means to generate some tidal energy. Popular Science
20 May 2010: Tesla Motors, the electric car manufacturer, has bought a
recently closed assembly plant from Toyota to make its Model S
electric sedan. The car has a starting price of about $50,000.
York Times article.
20 May 2010: The newly opened One Bryant Park building is the first
New York City skyscraper to achieve a LEED Platinum rating from the United
States Green Building Council. For information about the building,
see Crains New York article, and for skepticism about its long-term
viability, here's a New York Times OpEd piece.
19 May 2010: The National Research Council has released three reports from a
series entitled America's Climate Choices. The reports address the
science of climate change, limiting the magnitude of climate change,
and adapting to impacts.
19 May 2010: Last month's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hasn't yet
stopped spewing oil. Engineers are now trying to staunch the flow using
so-called drilling mud. NPR article
19 May 2010: In a pilot program to reduce air conditioning costs for
California government offices, municipal utilities are retrofitting
buildings with a system that makes ice using cheap nighttime electricity
and uses the ice to cool air supplying the air-conditioning system.
18 May 2010: Heat pumps are a wonderful example of how you can use
technology to make gains in efficiency. They work like a refrigerator
in reverse, typically drawing heat from the air or from ground, and using that
heat to warm a building. The Olympic village in Vancouver was built with an
innovative type of heat pump that extracts heat from sewage and waste
water and uses it to warm the building. For the Olympics, the heat
pump provided 70% of the heating needed for the Olympic village.
New York Times article.
17 May 2010: After pesticide manufacturers rejected voluntary bans,
the EPA is now planning to institute mandatory limits on pesticide
use near salmon streams, according to an Associated Press article.
16 May 2010: Some of the biggest producers of solar energy in San Diego
county turn out to be water agencies, who have lots of space and need
plenty of electricity to pump water around. San Diego Union-Tribune
15 May 2010: The big push for green buildings is providing an opportunity
for some shady contractors to defraud consumers, according to a Toronto Star report.
14 May 2010: Want to know how much energy your appliances are using?
A new startup has developed a kit to help you connect household
appliances to a wireless network in your home (though you'll have
plenty of engineering work to do in order to make it work.) Wired Gadget Lab
14 May 2010: Senators John Kerry and Joe Libermann have introduced
the American Power Act, proposed legislation that will reduce greenhouse
gas emissions (by over 80% by 2050) and improve energy independence.
web site for the bill.
14 May 2010: Science magazine suggests that water supply issues are likely
to lead to a broad range of career opportunities to address water shortages
and changing climate. Career
Advice, Science Magazine.
13 May 2010: BP is still struggling to stop their oil leak in the Gulf of
Mexico. Associated Press article.
12 May 2010: We talked in class about the term "Green Revolution" as applied
to agricultural development. The National Science Foundation has recently
borrowed the term for a series of online videos about clean energy and
other GreenTech technology according to an EarthTechling report.
12 May 2010: Efforts continue to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico, and BP officials think they may finally have a solution that
will work. New York Times article.
12 May 2010: At present solar power supplies less than 0.1% of global
electricity, but estimates suggest that it could reach 25% of global
electricity needs by 2050 according to Los Angeles Times Greenspace blog entry. Even better,
pricing for solar electricity might reach parity with pricing for
other electricity generation methods as soon as 2020.
11 May 2010: Hydrogen-powered cars have been slow to reach the market
(largely because it takes quite a bit of energy to produce hydrogen), but
a new scheme by General Motors and The Gas Co. in Hawaii will develop a
network of hydrogen fueling stations that take advantage of an existing
gas pipeline and existing gas refining capabilities according to an Associated Press story.
11 May 2010: Federal funds in the US will support the construction of
several high speed rail routes, and overseas builder of high-speed trains
are rapidly moving to get in on the act. Japan, which has never marketed
its bullet train technology, is now thinking about how best to
sell its know-how, according to a New
York Times article.
11 May 2010: One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with
transportation is to move more people out of their cars and onto their
bicycles. But bicyclists and drivers don't always see eye to eye about
sharing the roads. CNN Living article.
11 May 2010: Cement is a big source of greenhouse gases (amounting to 5% of
global emissions), and there's not a big push to developing low-emission
or carbon-absorbing cement, as reported by the
New Scientist Green Machine column.
10 May 2010: Electric cars are generating a lot of interest. For example,
52,000 people are wait-listed for the GM Volt which will become available
in November, but the carmaker expects to release about 8000 in the first
year. And 56,000 people are wait-listed for the first 4,700 Nissan Leafs,
initially be available in only 5 states. Despite the apparent demand, production
is expected to be slow and it's not clear how quickly they'll really be
able to transition from niche market to mainstream.
Christian Science Monitor article
10 May 2010: General Motors says that in plants that carry out
43% of its global production, they now send zero waste to the landfill.
This follows the "nil to landfill" concept promoted within the European
New York Times Wheels blog entry
9 May 2010: China is planning to become the world's top wind-power producer
within the next five years according to a Bloomberg News report
8 May 2010: Efforts to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been
thwarted again, this time by gas hydrates---ice-like crystals of methane and
water---that blocked the dome opening intended to channel the oil up to the
ocean surface where it could be collected. New York Times article
6 May 2010: How green can you get? In Hudson, Wisconsin, one individual is
testing the limits by
building a super-insulated, house that is passively heated by the sun
and should generate more energy than it consumes. Hudson Star Observer article
5 May 2010: Green job opportunities are growing, according to an AOL Money and Finance news report, although perhaps
not as quickly as you might imagine.
5 May 2010: Globally, population is shifting from rural areas to cities,
and this poses big concerns for urban planning. How can cities meet
basic human needs in a sustainable way, in the face of rapidly growing
Science Monitor article
5 May 2010: The North Dakota Bismarck Tribune has run an article that
nicely analyzes the broad range of energy sources available to
provide future electricity, along with the challenges of transmitting
power from North Dakota to consumers in other states.
4 May 2010: We may think we have water problems in the American
West, but ours may be nothing compared with those along the Jordan River,
which defines the border between Israel and Jordan, and which may dry
up in the next year because of requirements to stop dumping waste into
the river. New York Times article
4 May 2010: Paper Mate has announced a line of compostable pens and
mechanical pencils that will break down in home compost in about a year.
Atlanta Business Chronicle article
4 May 2010: Traditional coal or natural gas power plants generate a lot
of waste heat, which could be used to heat buildings, if the power
plants were near buildings, but often they aren't. A new effort is
aiming to channel the waste heat into a thermodynamic Rankine cycle to
generate electricity. New Scientist article
3 May 2010: One of the benefits of planting genetically modified herbicide
resistant crops has been the possibility of using no-till agricultural
methods to preserve top-soil, but as the New York
the rapid evolution of herbicide resistant weeds has made this strategy
difficult to continue, and it may have real consequences for food
prices and crop yields.
3 May 2010: The New York Times Green blog
reports on the Offshore
Technology Conference taking place in Houston this week, where oil drillers
are all talking about the now uncertain future of off-shore oil drilling.
3 May 2010: Decomposing garbage in landfills produces methane, which
we know if a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is essentially the same
as natural gas, and is a valuable source of energy, so some landfills and
waste-water treatment plants are building facilities to harvest that methane
and generate energy. Assessments suggest that this is a cost effective
source of renewable energy. Greenville News article
3 May 2010: In recent years, corn-based biofuels have made headlines, but
the oldest biofuel must come from trees, so perhaps it's not surprising that
researchers at the University of Maryland are suggesting that trees
(in this case fast-growing poplars) might have strong potential as
a source of biofuel. Baltimore Sun article
1 May 2010: Struggles continue to control the environmental damage associated
with the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Now chemical dispersants
are being deployed underwater to try to break down the oil and keep it
from rising to the surface. New York Times article
1 May 2010: We talk a lot about desalinating ocean water to produce
drinking water, but in Yuma, Arizona a new desalination plant is opening
to treat salty irrigation runoff. The treated water will be sent on to
Mexico to meet Colorado River water treaty obligations. Arizona Daily Start article
30 April 2010: Scientists in Bangladesh have released a study disputing the
IPCC projections that global warming might flood their country. Counter to
the arguments of the IPCC, the Bangladeshi scientists argue
that the sediment carried by rivers onto their deltas should shore up
coastlines and mitigate global warming. Greenwire report
19 April 2010: It's easy to assume that all corporations are oblivous
to greenhouse warming, but a report from Slate magazine's Climate Desk evaluates
how large companies are anticipating making or losing money as a
result of climate change.
29 April 2010: All the news about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,
not to mention the recent coal miner deaths, might have you thinking
about the true costs of burning fossil fuel. Are these costs really
reflected in what we pay at the pump or in our electric bill? Some of
the societal issues are explored in New York Times set of commentaries
on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
29 April 2010: Singapore receives a lot of rain, but with a dense population and limited
reservoirs, the country has relied on water imports from neighboring Malaysia. The
country is pushing water recycling facilities in a drive to cut its reliance on imported
28 April 2010: China relies heavily on coal to power its burgeoning economy,
but China is also pushing hard on green energy, developing carbon capture
technology and closing the least efficient of its coal power plants, as
profiled in Technology
28 April 2010: After years of litigation, offshore wind turbines are finally
going to be erected near Nantucket, a few miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
These will be the first offshore wind turbines in the US and will expand
the US portfolio of alternative energy. Associated Press article
28 April 2010: New advances in solar photovoltaics offer the promise of better capturing sunlight
and better concentrating it in the part of the solar cell generates electricity, as discussed
in a Technology Review article.
27 April 2010: The city of Masdar, in the United Arab Emirates, was originally conceived as
a zero-carbon emission, zero-waste operation. Four years into construction, designers are
scaling back their ambitions, but still showcasing some interesting technology. New York Times Greenwire blog.
27 April 2010: Wind power has a reputation for being the affordable form
of alternative energy, with costs per kWh that are not wildly different
from the costs of burning coal or natural gas. Thus it might seem surprising
to realize that the technology used to generate wind energy continues to
evolve. Two leading turbine manufacturers, Siemens and GE, have announced
a move towards a direct-drive system that replaces a more conventional
gearbox in their systems, resulting in more reliable power generation at lower
26 April 2010: The oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico runs the
risk of becoming a major environmental disaster as it spews
42,000 gallons of crude per day. Operators are scrambling to cap the
leaks as rapidly as possible. New York Times article
26 April 2010: Iceland is the world's leader in geothermal power, but
Indonesia, home to more than 200 volcanoes, is hoping to rapidly expand
its geothermal energy according to an
Associated Press article
26 April 2010: The push towards a smart electrical grid requires smart
appliances, and one of the biggest users of power coud turn out to be
electric cars. Nissan and GE have announced that they are teaming together
to develop "smart charging" technologies that will allow plug-in cars to
recharge themselves at a point in time when they will impose the smallest
load on the electrical grid. Green Tech, cnet.com article
25 April 2010: One vision for reducing requirements for oil and
cutting congestion on highways is to make better use of rail
transportation. Plans are evolving for high-speed rail links in
several key corridors in the US, including the San Francisco to Los
Angeles route. Washington Post artcle.
25 April 2010: Maybe the most extreme example of the new electrical
grid comes from the small town of Fowler, Colorado, which is making
plans to generate all of its electricity using renewables and remove
itself entirely from the grid. Associated Press article.
24 April 2010: Power companies are preparing to upgrade residential customers
with "smart meters" which will make it easier for consumers to manage
their electrical usage to be cut usage at times when electricity is
most expensive. Associated Press article.
22 April 2010: On Earth Day, the National Research Council released a report
analyzing the gradual acidication of the world's oceans as a result of
increased carbon dioxide concentrations. An Associated Press article
summarizes the findings, or you may want to look up the full report.
22 April 2010: While there's a lot of talk about green-tech start-up
companies, a Green Eye blog entry on the CBS News web site suggests 10
really big entities (governments and countries) that are likely to play
a big role in developing environmentally sustainable technologies.
22 April 2010: In class we spoke about the Green Revolution, which boosted
food production through most of the world but never had much impact in
Africa. A new announcement from the White House proposes to add $408
million to a global fund supporting agricultural development, particularly
in Africa. New
York Times article
21 April 2010: We've just been discusssing water in this class. Not surprisingly,
it's hard to blink without finding water rights in the news.
Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens has just filed a lawsuit to try to prevent
pumping from the Ogallala Aquifer that would reduce the water available
on his Texas Panhandle ranch. Associated Press article
21 April 2010: With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd, all the
news reports are on environmental issues. The New York Times has run a
series of commentaries contemplating why solar photovoltaic systems
are not more prevalent here in sunny California.
21 April 2010: The May/June issue of Technology Review reports on an effort to
make liquid fuel directly from carbon dioxide, without an intermediate
plant-growing stage. The motivation comes in part from a projection from
the International Energy Agency than in 2050 biodiesel and ethanol will
be able to meet just 26 percent of transportation energy requirements.
20 April 2010: Ford motor company is making an effort to build cars
that use renewable resources and are recyclable at the end of their lifetimes.
This commitment to the "reduce, reuse, recycle" concept was profiled by
WWJ radio in Michigan.
20 April 2010: One of the more innovative experiments with biodiesel fuel
comes from Amtrak, which is experimenting with using beef tallow (normally
used to make soap or animal feed) to power passenger trains. Associated Press article
20 April 2010: University campuses are making a big push towards
sustainability, and in line with this effort, The Princeton Review has issued
a new free guidebook to green colleges. See article in Crain's New York
20 April 2010: It's one thing to identify cases where the tragedy of commons
has led to environmental degradation, but quite a different thing to get them
cleaned up. A Washington Post article reports on the
$1.7 billion estimated cost to clean up the Anacostia River, which runs
through Washington, DC and its Maryland suburbs. So far none of the clean-up
money has been allocated.
16 April 2010: Coal mining is dangerous to the miners, and burning coal
leads to substantial pollution. A new proposal from German scientists
advocates leaving the coal in the ground, heating it to extract natural
gas, and ultimately sequestering carbon dioxide in the resulting void.
New York Times Greenwire article..
16 April 2010: As electric cars become more common, one challenge will be
making sure that they recharge when the electrical grid actually has
extra capacity. California electric car maker ZAP is not preparing to market
a Smart Charger Controller to do exactly that. Tri-City Herald
(Hanford, Washington) article.
15 April 2010: The floating garbage patch in the Pacific has had a lot of
press in the last year or so, but now sampling in the Atlantic Ocean shows
that it has a similar garbage patch, as reported in Associated
15 April 2010: Although this class may seem unusual sometimes,
the US News and World Report
notes that sustainability
and green design are permeating US education, particularly in engineering
14 April 2010: Electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars might
eventually place a large demand on the nation's electric grid, but
the director of advanced customer technologies for utility company
Duke Energy says that utilities have ample time to prepare, according
to an article in the The Detroit News.
13 April 2010: Water rationing in Los Angeles appears to be
hard on the aging infrastructure of the city, leading to some
serious pipe failures, as
reported in the Los Angeles Times
13 April 2010: Crops that are genetically engineered to be weedkiller
resistant can be great for farmers, but a new National Research Council
report points out weeds are rapidly evolving to be weed-killer resistant
as well, requiring more harmful chemicals, as reported in the New York Times
13 April 2010: Solar cell technology is fast evolving. As reported in
the New Scientist, light-weight thin solar cells are becoming more efficient
with prospects for supplanting more material-rich traditional solar cells.
13 April 2010: As a diversion from any serious issues,
one of your classmates, Josh Almelda, located a
1956 video cartoon
in which an alien from mars travels to earth and discovers the "wonders" of oil. It's an interesting commentary on the world prior to
12 April 2010: Trash may be discarded, but it still contains a lot
of energy. Incinerating it is one way to generate electricity, as a
New York Times article reports is happening in Denmark, but not in the US
where environmental groups have pushed for zero waste instead.
12 April 2010: One challenge in relying on wind power is that
it is intermittent, and one strategy to work around that is to link
together wind turbines that span a broad range of meteorological
conditions, as discussed in a New York Times article.
12 April 2010: California's Ocean and Coastal Policy effort puts out
a regular "Thank You Ocean Report" podcast. The latest one celebrates
the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
8 April 2010: Saudia Arabia is energy rich and water-poor, so the country
meets much of its drinking water requirements through desalination. A
new desalination plant is being built to be powered with solar energy
according to an
article in Technology Review
7 April 2010: Andrew Revkin of the New York Times Dot Earth
has clear words about energy and climate that speak directly to
issues in our class. article
7 April 2010: Austin, Texas has pioneered new strategies for
promoting energy conservation and for carrying out tests to
determine how best to implement a smart electrical grid ready
to handle plug-in electric cars, price sensitive electrical usage,
and wide-spread solar photovoltaic system. (You might notice that some
of the strategies
implemented in Austin have also been put into action in California.)
New York Times article
6 April 2010: Petroleum geologist and peak oil doomsayer Colin Campbell
now speculates that peak oil may ultimately lead to reduced demand, thus
resulting in a "peak price".
6 April 2010: Highly reflective cool roofs are one simple strategy for
fighting global warming, by reflecting heat from the sun back into space rather
than absorbing it into the building. St. Louis, Missouri, residents
who have had cool coatings applied to their roofs report substantial
savings in an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
5 April 2010: Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has a
lucid discussion of the economics of global warming policy in this
week's New York Times Magazine.
4 April 2010: A Chinese coal freighter hit the
Great Barrier Reef and risks falling apart in an environmentally
sensitive ecosystem. The event has broad environmental implications,
both because of the potential damage to the reef and because what it
tells us about the amount of fuel being transported across the planet.
New York Times article.
4 April 2010: Green buildings are proving attractive for
commercial and office buildings, and in Sacramento developers
report using the official green designation, LEED certification, to
draw in tenants for their buildings, according to a report
in the Sacramento Bee.
2 April 2010: For a long time the federal government planned to
put nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The government has
abandoned that plan, and with no nuclear waste depository in view,
the federal fund intended to pay for waste storage has grown
to $31 billion according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
2 April 2010: Off-shore wind farms have the potential to provide a steady
source of renewable energy. In Massachusetts a proposed wind farm has
been mired in controversy for the past six or seven years. Next door
neighbor Rhode Island is moving forward, according to a New York Times
2 April 2010: The new automobile efficiency standards announced
earlier this week are expected to make cars cost more to purchase but
to reduce fuel costs at the pump. New cars coming on the market include
electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and cars that use turbocharged engines
Associated Press article
2 April 2010: The EPA has announced new regulations that will change
coal mining practices in the Appalachian mountains, with a view to
reducing toxic waste in mountain streams.
Washington Post article
1 April 2010: The Obama administration's decision to open new
regions for off-shore oil drilling is stirring up a variety of opinions
ranging from objections to the fact that oil rigs will ruin scenic views
to enthusiasm about reducing reliance on imported oil.
Associated Press article
1 April 2010: New research has shown that conductive plastics can
be processed to make efficient and flexible solar cells.
Design News article
31 March 2010: New fuel standards will push automakers to produce cars with an
average fuel efficiency of 35.5 miles per gallon, starting in 2016. This
is spurring development of new technology. Associated Press article
31 March 2010: Green building codes are attracting more attention.
The Dallas Morning News reports that occupancy of green buildings is
higher, and utility costs are significantly lower. article
31 March 2010: Desalination is increasingly perceived as a viable means
to supply water to dry regions of the world, and a recent article in
the South African Mail & Guardian reports on a number of new
desalination efforts. article
31 March 2010: Energy issues are constantly in the news. Today Obama
has announced opening of Atlantic and easter Gulf of Mexico areas for
off-shore oil drilling for the first time, in a move touted to
reduce dependence on imported oil according to a New York Times article.
30 March 2010: James Lovelock, renowned for Gaia theory, was interviewed
on the BBC about climate change. His comments are decidedly disarming.
He expresses doubt about our ability to do anything about global warming,
and he suggests that scientists working on global change may be trying
to deliver what their bosses want.
From my perspective here in the trenches, Lovelock's concerns don't ring true.
We struggle with data reliability, but we don't fudge data. And at this
juncture, if someone did want to fudge data, it seems like it would make
more exciting news to fudge the data to show that global warming wasn't really
happening as rapidly as expected. It's sort of old hat to say that global
warming is continuing apace. Some colleagues in fact wrote a paper a few
years ago in which they reported evidence of recent cooling. Unfortunately
for them, it turned out that there were some flaws in the raw data that they
were using, and they had to publish a retraction admitting that in fact there
was still ample warming taking place. (STG)
30 March 2010: Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested that one strategy
for fighting global warming is to encourage small-size nuclear reactors
that can ben mass-produced but that might also pose risks for nuclear
proliferation. Christian Science Monitor
28 March 2010: Genetically modified crops are controversial for a
variety of reasons. Herbicide-resistant rice is now posing particular
problems, and farmers are in court suing the company that developed
the genetically modified varieties. Associated Press article, Chicago
27 March 2010: Guidelines for living a greener life all advise
using Energy Star applicances, but a recent analysis by the US
Government Accountability Office showed that the Energy Star rating system
(run by a different government agency) is flawed, and bogus or non-existent
products can be granted Energy Star ratings purely on the basis of
officially reported data. LA Times article
26 March 2010: Smart power meters are supposed to help electricity
consumers manage their power consumption to minimize usage at times
of peak demand when costs are high. But computer security experts
say that are a number of flaws in the way the meters are designed
and installed. Associated Press article
26 March 2010: Diesel cars are known for polluting, though newer versions
pollute a lot less thanks to costly platinum catalyst systems. A new
report from General Motors research and development labs reports
on the development of cheaper materials that are able to clean up
diesel exhaust. Nature article