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U.S. Navy Tests Boat Powered by Algae

Fleet sails towards sustainability with biofuel-powered gunboat

by Suzanne Goldenberg,

Oct 31, 2010

It looked like a pretty ordinary day on the water at the U.S. naval base in Norfolk, Va.—a few short bursts of speed, a nice tail wind, some test maneuvers against an enemy boat.

But the 49-foot gunboat had algae-based fuel in the tank in a test hailed by the navy yesterday as a milestone in its creation of a new, -saving strike force.

The experimental boat, intended for use in rivers and marshes and eventually destined for oil installations in the Middle East, operated on a 50-50 mix of algae-based fuel and diesel. "It ran just fine," said Rear Admiral Philip Cullom, who directs the navy's sustainability division.

Senators Assail Clinton Over Tar Sands Pipeline Comments

Concern that State Department is pre-judging the outcome of a pipeline permit without adequate analysis

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 29, 2010

Leading Senate Democrats are scolding the State Department for hastily moving to approve a Canada-to-Texas pipeline that would nearly double U.S. oil sands imports and cut through the nation's largest underground aquifer.

Eleven senators, led by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), fired off Friday morning to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton set off a firestorm earlier this month when she at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that the agency is "inclined" to approve the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, after 50 House Democrats, the Environmental Protection Agency and the all recently raised serious concerns about the project.

Clinton said that piping Canadian crude is preferable to creating more dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The senators said it is premature to signal support for the 1,700-mile pipeline while the agency's legally mandated environmental review is in progress.

"We believe the Department of State (DOS) should not pre-judge the outcome of what should be a thorough, transparent analysis of the need for this oil and its impacts on our climate and clean energy goals," they wrote.

Concern Over Ocean Acidification Ramps Up Research Dollars

National Science Foundation announces more than $24 million dollars for 22 research projects

By Lisa Song

Oct 29, 2010

Mounting concerns over ocean acidification—a consequence of CO2 emissions—has accelerated research funding aimed at understanding the process potentially endangering marine life in ocean waters all across the earth.

In early October, the National Science Foundation awarded over $24 million dollars to 22 projects through a new grant program targeted to study how ocean acidification affects marine environments. While the NSF has funded ocean acidification in the past, it is the first time the agency has created a special program aimed at the field of study.

As CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increase, much of the gas is absorbed by the oceans, where it dissolves in the water. As a result, the oceans are getting more acidic over time. However, the long-term effects of the process are poorly understood.

Greens Rally for Oil Magnate with Clean Energy Platform in N.M. House Race

Harry Teague and Steve Pearce both made their fortunes in the state's oil and gas industry, but they differ on the future of energy

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 28, 2010

Editor's Note: SolveClimate News political reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to New Mexico to cover the 2010 elections there. This is the second installment in a three-part series. Read part 1. 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—An apparently resurgent GOP is intent on upsetting New Mexico’s seemingly shaky Democratic apple cart on Election Day.
Some New Mexico handicappers are predicting Republicans have the momentum to gain at least two or perhaps all three U.S. House seats, as well as the governorship. If a total turnover happens, it would leave only two federal legislative positions in Democratic hands because neither Sen. Jeff Bingaman, in his fifth term, nor Sen. Tom Udall, in his first term, is up for re-election this year.

A three-seat sweep in the Land of Enchantment also would give the GOP a significant boost in netting the 39 seats it needs to wrest control of the House away from the Democrats.

Study: Weak Coal Ash Regs in Tenn. Highlight Need for Federal Law

"Tennessee has failed to become a leader in setting strong standards for coal ash disposal," green groups say

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 28, 2010

In the two years since the Tennessee coal ash disaster, the largest industrial spill in U.S. history, the state has failed to beef up laws to handle toxic waste from its coal-fired power plants, according to by an environmental coalition.

The study, led by (SACE), could provide ammunition for proponents of federal regulation of coal waste, who allege the current patchwork of uneven state policies is too weak to ward off future disasters.

"Given that states like Tennessee have failed to accept regulatory responsibility for coal ash in the past, it is unwise to rely solely on states to ensure that electric generators safely dispose of their coal waste," the report said.

The is currently crafting a decision on a federal coal ash rule and is considering national enforcement for the first time. A hearing was held yesterday in Knoxville, Tenn. on the matter.

Sparks Fly in Big-Dollar Shootout For New Mexico House Seat

The candidates—both with long careers in the oil and gas industry—are locked in a fierce, tight contest

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 27, 2010

Editor's Note: SolveClimate News political reporter Elizabeth McGovern is in New Mexico to cover the 2010 races there. This is the first installment in a three-part series.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Outside corporate money is fueling a high-dollar New Mexico television advertising campaign that bashes Democratic incumbent for his cap-and-trade energy bill vote.

But that doesn’t mean environmental organizations are standing idly by.

Statistics compiled through mid-day Tuesday, Oct. 26 by the —a nonprofit organization that favors government transparency—show that the has poured more than $799,000 into an advertising effort to defeat GOP challenger who is trying to regain the seat he lost to Teague two years ago.

The candidates—both with long careers in the oil and gas industry—are locked in a fierce, tight, back-and-forth contest to represent the sprawling and largely rural southern half of New Mexico, the 2nd Congressional District.

CA Student Delivers Prop. 23 Debate Challenge to Koch HQ in Wichita

Student and Marine vet asks CEO Charles Koch to publicly explain why he's trying to "wreck" California's green sector

By Jennifer Pinkowski

Oct 27, 2010

Yesterday outside Koch Industries’ headquarters in Wichita, Kan., in front of local media, a California college student, ex-Marine and student leader got on a cell phone and called CEO Charles Koch.

“This is Joel Francis,” he told Koch’s secretary. “He knows who I am.”

If that’s true, it’s because the national media does as well, thanks to a released on Oct. 20 in which Francis, a 31-year-old senior and former student president at California State University-Los Angeles, challenges Charles Koch to a debate: “I say, if you are going to try to hurt the economy in a state that you don’t even live in, that you ought to have the courage to explain yourself in person."

Canadian Agency Urges Stricter Rules for Oil Sands Water Removal

Study reflects concern that industry's massive appetite for water threatens the health of Alberta's Lower Athabasca River

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 26, 2010

A new study is raising questions and exposing flaws in the way Canada and the province of Alberta are managing the oil sands industry's massive appetite for water.

The federal (DFO) evaluated technical reports on the health of the Lower Athabasca River, the main source of water for oil sands mines in the northern half of the province.

The , released last week, said oil sands operators should limit water withdrawals from the river when flows are low or risk causing "serious or irreversible" harm to fisheries.

Congress Awakening to Renewables on Native Lands, Advocates Say

Two pending bills show policy progress but tricky obstacles remain

By Autumn Spanne

Oct 26, 2010

 Twenty-five wind turbines line the dry, rugged ridges on the Indian reservation east of San Diego, Calif. As the first large-scale wind farm on tribal lands in the United States, the 50-megawatt array has become a model for other tribes looking to develop their renewable energy resources.

Two separate pieces of federal legislation introduced this year have advocates cautiously optimistic that there is growing will in Washington to aid tribes in developing renewable energy resources to their full potential.

The 95 million acres of tribal lands across the U.S. contain about 10 percent of the nation’s renewable energy supply, according to the . More than a hundred tribes have been awarded grants through the U.S. Department of Energy’s , a major source of funding for tribes looking to establish renewable energy projects. Many others are lining up to get their own projects off the ground.

South Africa Unveils Plans for "World's Biggest" Solar Power Plant

Giant mirrors and solar panels in Northern Cape would reduce carbon emissions and generate one-tenth of the country's energy needs

by David Smith,

Oct 25, 2010

is to unveil plans this week for what it claims will be the world's biggest plant—a radical step in a coal-dependent country where one in six people still lacks electricity.

The project, expected to cost up to 200 billion rand ($28.9 billion), would aim by the end of its first decade to achieve an annual output of five gigawatts (GW) of electricity—currently one-tenth of South Africa's needs.

Giant mirrors and solar panels would be spread across the Northern Cape province, which the government says is among the sunniest 3 percent of regions in the world with minimal cloud or rain.