Entries in Energy (28)


Chemist Hopes 'Artificial Leaf' Can Power Civilization

SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Imagine an artificial leaf that mimics photosynthesis, which lets plants harness energy from the sun. But this leaf would have the ability to power your homes and cars with clean energy using only sunlight and water.

This is not some far-off idea of the future. It’s reality, and the subject of a jury-prize-winning film in the GE Focus Forward Film Competition.

Jared P. Scott and Kelly Nyks’ short film, The Artificial Leaf, showcases chemist Daniel Nocera, the inventor of the artificial leaf, a device that he says can power the world.

“The truth is stranger than fiction,” Kelly Nyks, a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. “What I think is so exciting is that Dan has taken this science and applied it in a way that makes bringing it to scale to solve the energy crisis for the planet real and possible.”

Nocera’s leaf is simply a silicon wafer coated with catalysts that use sunlight to split water to into hydrogen and oxygen components.

“Essentially, it mimics photosynthesis,” Nocera told ABC News.

The gases that bubble up from the water can be turned into a fuel to produce electricity in the form of fuel cells. The device may sound like science fiction fantasy, but Nocera said he hopes one day it will provide an alternative to the centralized energy system — the grid.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people live without access to clean sources of fuel for cooking.

“This is the model: We’re going to have a very distributed energy system,” Nocera told ABC News. With the leaf, “using just sunlight and water, you can be off the grid. If you’re poor, you don’t have a grid, so this gives them a way to have energy in the day and at night.”

With just the artificial leaf, 1.5 bottles of drinking water and sunlight, you could have enough electricity to power a small home, but the cost is still a problem, though Nocera said he believes that will come down with time and research.

The artificial leaf is cheaper than solar panels but still expensive. Hydrogen from a solar panel and electrolysis unit can currently be made for about $7 per kilogram; the artificial leaf would come in at $6.50.

Nocera is looking for ways to drive down the costs make these devices more widely available. He recently replaced the platinum catalyst that produces hydrogen gas with a less-expensive nickel-molybdenum-zinc compound. He’s also looking for ways to reduce the amount of silicon needed.

In 2009, Nocera’s artificial leaf was selected as a recipient of funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), which supports energy technologies that could create a more secure and affordable American future.

Nyks and Scott said they hope The Artificial Leaf will bring awareness to the public that sustainable energy solutions do exist.

“We make films for social action,” Scott, also a partner at PF Pictures, told ABC News. “We see films as a tool for social change. And what I think Dan sketches out is that we start with energy. And if we solve the energy crisis, we’ll solve the climate crisis, and then we’ll solve the water crisis, and then we’ll solve the food crisis. But it starts with energy.”

The directors were one of 30 filmmaking teams asked to make a movie that could highlight an innovation that could change the world as part of GE Focus Forward, a series of three-minute films created by award-winning documentary makers including Alex Gibney, Lucy Walker, Albert Maysles and Morgan Spurlock.

Anyone with an Internet connection has access to the videos online. The winning entries are featured at

So far, total media impressions for GE Focus Forward have exceeded 1.5 billion. In addition, the films are screening at all the major film festivals around the world and have played on every continent, including Antarctica.

Nyks and Scott said they hope to take the success of the short and turn it into a feature-length documentary.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Report: Natural Gas to Top Coal as World's No. 2 Energy Source

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Natural gas looks set to replace coal as the world's second biggest energy source by 2025.  The forecast comes from oil giant ExxonMobil in its latest energy report. 

Oil and Gas Journal reports demand for gas will grow by 65 percent by 2040, and 20 percent of global production will be in North America.  

According to ExxonMobil's 2013 outlook, "electricity demand will account for more than half the global energy demand increase over the next few decades, with gas, nuclear, and renewable energy meeting more power generation demand as coal and oil meet less," the Journal says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Your TV Set-Top Box Never Sleeps, and It Costs You

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Not many of us watch television 24 hours a day — but we might as well.

Even when people’s TVs are turned off, the set-top boxes from our cable company, telephone company or satellite provider keep on running, gobbling energy and jacking up our electric bills. The worst offenders are digital video recorders (DVRs), which are essentially always on.

On Thursday the industry announced a voluntary program to try to rein in those power-hungry devices.

“It’s really an unprecedented agreement,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of Technology for the Consumer Electronics Association. “We estimate that consumers are going to save once this agreement is fully implemented over the next five years $1.5 billion dollars annually, so it’s a significant agreement in terms of its energy savings.”

The move comes as federal regulators debate whether to impose national energy standards on the box-top sets.

Also, last year, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, released a report citing the boxes for energy waste, estimating they consume $2 billion dollars a year in electricity when they are not in use.

NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz Thursday told ABC News, “The industry is taking some initial, modest first steps which we support, but they are not going far enough.” He said most consumers have no idea that “new DVRs typically consume as much or more energy than the 42-inch TVs that they might have connected it to.”

The industry insists that Thursday’s announcement is a “significant” move. Big cable providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, will take the first steps. They’ll send software changes to the 10 million cable boxes already in homes, to put them in a “light sleep” mode when they’re not in use. That could cut power use by 20 to 30 percent.

Under the agreement, cable companies will also develop and test “deep sleep” devices to see if they are feasible. The industry also promised that starting next year, at least 90 percent of the new boxes it buys and gives to consumers will meet tougher EPA energy savings standards.

Fifteen companies that have signed onto the agreement: Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Century Link; and the manufacturers Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar Technologies and Arris.

According to the CEA, the consumer electronics in your home today account for about 13 percent of your energy bill. The top three offenders: the TV, computer, and those set-top boxes.

The NRDC’s Horowitz said pay-TV providers need to take a page from today’s smartphones, “which sip rather than gulp power when not in use.” He said he sees today’s move as an industry attempt to head off government regulation. He said mandatory energy standards would be “the best way to ensure that these new boxes will be more efficient.”

The CEA’s Johnson disagreed, arguing that “the voluntary agreement really represents the best way to meet the government’s goal of saving energy” by protecting “innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

The industry promises to release regular reports detailing the future energy savings generated by the new agreement, something the NRDC will be keeping a close watch on.

For consumers, there’s little they can do to stop the energy drain on their own. The only way to “reduce the stand-by powers in the middle of the night is to unplug (the boxes),” said Horowitz, “and that’s not an attractive option for most consumers.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


7 Ways to Save Money and Energy This Winter

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While many parts of the United States might still be experiencing the near-record heat waves of summer 2012, in other parts temperatures have plummeted.

The Environmental Protection Agency has offered ways to save money -- and energy -- this winter, and protect your health too.

Here are seven of the EPA's tips for money-saving households bracing for cold weather:

1. Pay attention to your heating equipment to lower utility bills.

Heating and cooling costs account for about $1,000, or nearly half, of a home's total annual energy bill, the EPA says. Dirt and neglect can affect the efficiency of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, and are among the top causes of heating-system failure.

The EPA recommends that homeowners schedule an HVAC checkup with a licensed HVAC contractor to keep the system operating at peak performance. Also, the system's air filter should be checked every month and changed when it's dirty, or at a minimum of every three months.

2. Decorate for the holidays with Energy Star light strings.

Energy Star light strings can last up to 10 times longer and use about 65 percent less electricity than incandescent light strings, and they are available in a variety of colors, shapes and lengths. If every decorative light string sold in the United States this year was Energy Star qualified, Americans would save $80 million in utility bills and prevent 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the EPA.

3. Lower the temperature in your home.

Programming the thermostat to turn the temperature down 8 degrees for seven hours each night, and an additional seven hours each weekday, could result in a seasonal heating savings of approximately 12 percent. The EPA states that this could result, on average, in savings of about $180.

4. Check for water leaks and install WaterSense-labeled products.

The average household spends as much as $500 a year on its water and sewer bill. But the EPA says installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances that carry the EPA's voluntary WaterSense label can save about $170 per year.

5. Reduce your food waste.

Americans disposed of approximately 33 million tons of food waste in 2010, making food the largest type of waste in landfills and incinerators, according to the EPA.

When excess food is disposed of in a landfill, it decomposes and becomes a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

6. Look for the Design for the Environment label.

The EPA's Designed for the Environment, or DfE, logo on more than 2,800 products differentiates those that use the safest components to protect people, pets and the environments. In 2011, Americans using DfE products cut the use of harmful chemicals by more than 756 million pounds, the agency said.

7. Test your home for radon gas.

One in 15 homes may have elevated levels of radon, a colorless odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Levels can increase during colder months. The EPA suggests purchasing an affordable do-it-yourself test kit online or at a local hardware store to determine the level of radon in your home. Addressing high levels often costs the same as making other minor home repairs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Blowing Smoke at Coal Industry?

Saul Loeb/AFP/J.D. Pooley/GettyImages(BEALLSVILLE, Ohio) -- Mitt Romney went to coal country today to accuse President Obama of not telling the truth about how he feels about the coal industry and to tout his own support for the workers, many of whom lined up in hard hats to hear him speak.

“How in the world can you go out there and just tell people things that aren’t true,” said Romney in talking about a recently released radio ad from the Obama campaign that drew on comments Romney made regarding the safety of a coal plant in Massachusetts back in 2003.

The Obama radio ad, released last week, seeks to highlight the president’s support of clean coal and new technology, while also drawing on a quote from a 2003 press conference in which Romney said of a Pacific Gas and Electric coal plant, “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant kills people.”

“This is a time for truth. If you don’t believe in coal, if you don’t believe in energy independence for America, then say it,” said Romney, turning the criticism on Obama. “If you believe that the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar, why say that. Because I know he says that to some audiences out west. But it’s time to tell the people of America what you believe.”

Romney drew on comments the president made back in 2008, when he suggested those who sought to build coal plants would go bankrupt because they would be “charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” The Obama campaign at the time suggested those comments were taken out of context, but that didn’t stop Romney from bringing the remarks to the forefront in his speech here today.

“One promise he kept was with regard to energy. He said if he’s elected president and his policies get put in place the cost of energy would skyrocket. That’s one he’s kept. He also said you can go out and build a new coal plant if you want but if you do you’ll go bankrupt,” said Romney. “That’s another promise he’s intent on keeping.”

“His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that?” said Romney, the crowd erupting into “boos,” as the candidate referenced a 2007 remark by Biden in which he listed coal before terrorism when asked which was more likely to contribute to the death of  your average American.

“This tells you precisely what he actually feels and what he’s done and his policies over the last 3.5 years have put in place the very vision he had when he was running for office. But now he wants to get re-elected,” Romney said of Obama. “And he knows to do so he’s got to win Ohio and to win Ohio he’s got to win Eastern Ohio and he’s got to get the votes of the people in these communities all around us here. And you’re not going to let that happen.”

Asked about Romney’s remarks about coal in 2003 that the Obama campaign pointed to again today in a statement as an example of Romney not being honest about his views on coal, spokesman Kevin Madden said that “any time you’re dealing with any sort of energy exploration, safety is important – no change to that.”

“I think he’s made very clear where he stands on this position, that he believes that it’s an important part of an all of the above energy policy,” said Madden. “If we’re going to bring back the manufacturing sector in this country and continue to grow the economy, that sources of energy like coal – and coal which is very important to this economy and this region of Ohio and other states, that it’s important to be supportive of the coal industry.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gas Price Average Lower

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The average price of a gallon of regular gas is $3.87, down a nickel from a week ago and down nearly a penny from a year ago, according to the Department of Energy.

So it now costs less than it did a year ago to fill up your tank of gas.

The price of gas in the U.S. is coming down because the worst-case scenarios that had been pushing crude oil higher have not come to pass, while worries about growth in Europe have worsened.

Denton Cinquegrana, executive editor with the Oil Price Information Service, says that a lot of the increase in prices was “based on an assumption that we are going to have logistical problems, so far none of that has been seen.”

Oil settled at $103.11 a barrel in New York trading Monday, down 77 cents.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gas Prices Decline for Second Week

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gas prices have shown signs of leveling off in the last two weeks, with the average price of gas down for the second week in a row.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas is $3.92, down nearly two cents from a week ago and up 8 cents from a year ago, according to the Department of Energy.

The most expensive gas in the country is on the West Coast, where the average price for a gallon of regular is $4.17.

The least expensive gas is in the Rocky Mountain and Gulf Coast regions, with the average price for a gallon of regular at $3.80.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


In Oil and UFO Country, Obama Says, ‘I Come in Peace’

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(MALJAMAR, N.M.) -- President Obama had a simple greeting for his New Mexico hosts when he arrived at a Roswell airfield Wednesday afternoon: “I come in peace,” he said.

The words -- a playful reference to the famous 1947 Roswell UFO incident that continues to capture imaginations -- could have as easily been directed to skeptics of his energy policy.

Obama’s visit to an active oil field on federal lands was squarely aimed at countering criticism from the right over rising gas prices and claims that domestic oil production is declining on his watch.

“We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. More than 70 of those rigs are right here in this area,” Obama said in a speech before a ConocoPhillips rig, idled for the event.

“In fact, business is so good that today the biggest problem is finding enough qualified truck drivers to move all the oil that’s coming out of these wells down to the refinery.  Too much oil -- that’s a good problem to have,” he said.

Domestic oil production overall in the U.S. is at its highest level in the past eight years, according to the Energy Department.

But production on federal lands was down 14 percent year-over-year in 2011, and overall remains 13 percent lower than it was in 2003.

Still, Obama -- who has made renewable energy a hallmark of his administration -- insisted he’s not backing away from drilling or searching for more oil.

“You wouldn’t know it from listening to some of these folks running for office, but producing more oil here in our own country has been, and will continue to be, a key part of our energy strategy,” Obama said. “We’re drilling all over the place.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Head to Oklahoma Site of Southern Portion of Keystone Pipeline Project

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(CUSHING, Okla.) -- President Obama will visit Cushing, Okla., on Thursday, where he will visit the southern part of the Keystone Pipeline project -- the portion that is proceeding with Obama administration support, as opposed to the northern section that the president blocked out of environmental concerns.

The Obama administration has been playing defense on energy issues, with skyrocketing gas prices threatening to hurt the fragile economic recovery and undermine consumer confidence. Accused by Republicans of not doing enough to encourage domestic oil production, President Obama has given three speeches on energy in the last three weeks. The president has heralded how domestic oil production has increased, and domestic consumption has decreased, during his administration, but energy experts say his policies have little to do with those developments.

“The president has talked about that while there’s no silver bullet to solve this problem, where there are steps we can take to address the real problem we’re going to take those steps,” a senior administration official told ABC News. “In Cushing, there’s a bottleneck, a glut of oil, and this pipeline will solve that problem.”

White House officials hope this trip to Cushing will erase political damage done to the president by his opposition to the larger Keystone project by heralding his support for part of it. In February, the Pew Research Center indicated that 63 percent of the public had heard at least a little about the Keystone project. Of those individuals, 66 percent believe that the government should approve the project.

Oklahoma will be one stop in a four-state trip next week in which the president will herald what he describes as an “all of the above” approach to energy. The other visits will include a solar power plant in Boulder City, Nev. along with oil and gas fields in Carlsbad, N.M. on Wednesday. On Thursday, the president will visit Cushing, ending the trip with an energy-themed speech at Ohio State University in Columbus, a university that White House officials describe as being home to some of the country’s most advanced energy-related alternative energy vehicle research and development.

Last month TransCanada Corporation announced it would seek approval for the part of the Keystone Pipeline project leading from Cushing, Okla., to Texas refineries in the Gulf. The company said constructing that part of the pipeline would create roughly 4,000 jobs, both in construction and in supporting those workers, and cost $2.3 billion. The company said it hoped this smaller portion would be working by 2013.

In a statement at the time, White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama welcomed the news.

“As the President made clear in January, we support the company’s interest in proceeding with this project,” he said, “which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production. We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary Federal permits.”

The political twists and turns of the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL oil pipeline have woven their way through the debate about energy policy in the past six months. In November, the State Department announced it would delay a decision on the proposed Keystone project to allow for further study of the environmental impact along its 1,700-mile route. The president was stuck between environmentalists and many residents of Nebraska, who opposed the project due to concerns about how it would impact its water supply, and labor unions and others who heralded the jobs the pipeline would create.

TransCanada has said the project would create “more than 20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 spin off jobs during construction.” The State Department had a more conservative estimate, saying “the construction work force would consist of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 workers.”

Last November, President Obama told ABC Omaha, Neb., TV station KETV, that “folks in Nebraska like all across the country aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health.' We don’t want, for example, aquifers to be adversely affected. Folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted.”

In December, House Republicans inserted in a bill extending the payroll tax cut, a priority of the president’s, a requirement that the president officially make a decision on the pipeline within two months. The president did so in January, rejecting the project because of the “rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans” which he said “prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”

Republicans have seized on the issue as an example of the president putting the environment ahead of jobs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Touts Energy Progress

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Facing attacks on his energy policies amid rising gas prices, President Obama has gone on the offensive, touting the progress his administration has made in reducing reliance on foreign oil.

The White House Monday released a new “progress report” spotlighting the administration’s “historic achievements” and successful efforts to make the country more energy independent and save Americans money at the pump.

“When President Obama took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By the end of last year, that number dropped to 8.4 million barrels per day,” the report states.

The 20-page report, which marks the one-year anniversary of the president’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” highlights the administration’s efforts to expand domestic oil and gas production, implement new fuel economy standards and develop alternative fuels.

“Despite the gains we’ve made, today’s high gas prices are a painful reminder that there’s much more work to do [to] free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil and take control of our energy future. And that’s exactly what our administration is committed to doing in the months ahead,” the president said in a written statement.

The renewed push by the White House to sell its energy strategy comes as a new poll shows rising gas prices are becoming an increasingly critical issue on the campaign trail.

Spiking gas prices have surpassed the federal budget deficit as Obama’s single weakest issue, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, which shows 65 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the rising price of gas, while just 26 percent approve.

“With this report, the president is celebrating his recipe for four or five dollar gas,” a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Poll after poll show Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the president’s work on gas prices. And rather than embrace Republican efforts to increase American energy production, all he’s offering is a history lesson of how we got here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio