The Week: Most Recent Energy:Energy and the Environment recent posts.en-usThu, 20 Dec 2012 17:01:00 -0500http://theweek.com Recent Energy:Energy and the Environment from THE WEEKThu, 20 Dec 2012 17:01:00 -0500Would you eat meat made from ground-up mealworms?<img src="" /></P><p>Hope you're hungry. As populations continue to grow and global warming makes the land grab for resources more of a concern, researchers from the Netherlands are proposing a creative solution to the world's food problems. A new study, published in the journal <em>PLoS One</em>, suggests that&nbsp;mealworms (the squirmy brown larvae of the mealworm beetle) might help alleviate some of the world's hunger issues.</p><p class="p1">Researchers found that the production of one kilogram of edible mealworm protein generated significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable amounts of beef, pork, and poultry. Raising mealworms...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/chris-gayomali" ><span class="byline">Chris Gayomali</span></a>Thu, 20 Dec 2012 17:01:00 -0500The massive amount of energy powering your wireless storage: By the numbers<img src="" /></P><p>Every letter or number you type online takes up approximately one byte of storage in the cloud. And all your tweets, emails, and other assorted pieces of data end up being stored in vast centers requiring unfathomable amounts of energy. <em>The</em> <em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;investigated&nbsp;the huge amounts of power that go into the sprawling server farms that backup your emails, Dropbox, Pinterest, and everything Google, all of which require equally massive and expensive cooling systems to keep them humming along. Here, a brief look at the eye-popping numbers:</p><p><strong>1</strong><br />Bytes used to store a single letter or number...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 25 Sep 2012 08:52:00 -04002025: The year mankind hits the point of no return?<img src="" /></P><p>The most important news of 2012 won't be the Wisconsin recall, the European financial meltdown, or the possibility of Iranian nukes, says James Fallows at <em>The Atlantic</em>. It'll concern a sprawling new report in the journal <em>Nature</em>, which claims that Earth may very soon hit a tipping point that could trigger huge, disastrous planetary changes &mdash; bad news for Earth's occupants. Here's what you should know:</p><p><strong>What does the paper say?</strong><br />The argument goes that humans have already converted roughly 43 percent of the planet's usable land area into farms, livestock ranches, and cities. As many studies have...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 12 Jun 2012 07:53:00 -0400Has mankind outgrown Earth?<img src="" /></P><p>We're gobbling up the planet's resources at such an alarming rate that by 2030, even a second Earth wouldn't be enough to sustain us, claims the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) 2012 Living Planet Report. The research will be presented next month at a United Nations conference in Rio de Janero, where world leaders will walk the delicate tightrope of trying to figure out how to help the world's poorest countries without doing further damage to the environment. Here's what you should know about the eye-opening study:</p><p><strong>Which resources are we depleting?</strong><br />Renewables like fish, water, timber, and food are being...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffThu, 17 May 2012 07:43:00 -0400The green laser that can erase printer ink<img src="" /></P><p>The recycling industry's goal is to make the world a greener place, but the actual process comes at a price &mdash; namely in gas and carbon dioxide emissions. But a promising new technology from the University of Cambridge aims to cut down on excessive energy use by employing lasers to remove ink from used paper, allowing it to be reused. Here, a quick guide to this experimental concept:</p><p><strong>What is this new device, exactly?</strong><br />Its creators are calling it a "laser unprinter," and it works by vaporizing the toner from traditional printers without damaging or discoloring the paper underneath. The device...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffMon, 19 Mar 2012 07:00:00 -0400When the winter cold kills<img src="" /></P><p>WITH THE DARKENING approach of another ice-hard Saturday night in western Maine, the man on the telephone was pleading for help, again. His tank was nearly dry, and he and his disabled wife needed precious heating oil to keep warm. Could Ike help out? Again?</p><p>Ike Libby, the co-owner of a small oil company called Hometown Energy, ached for his customer, Robert Hartford. He knew what winter in Maine meant, especially for a retired couple living in a wood-frame house built in the 19th century. But he also knew that the Hartfords already owed him more than $700 for two earlier deliveries.</p><p>The oil...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffFri, 17 Feb 2012 11:54:00 -0500The mutant bacteria that turns seaweed into fuel<img src="" /></P><p>Experts have long hoped that the ocean's plentiful stores of seaweed could be turned into renewable biofuels. Now that goal is one step closer: Scientists have engineered a special bacteria to break down the previously inaccessible sugar in seaweed, which can then be transformed into biofuels similar to ethanol. Here's how they did it:</p><p><strong>First off: Why seaweed?&nbsp;</strong><br />Kelp is appealing as a fuel alternative for several reasons. Environmentally sustainable, it doesn't require farmland or freshwater to grow and it boasts a naturally high sugar content, says Wendy Koch at <em>USA Today</em>. And harvesting the...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffMon, 23 Jan 2012 13:01:00 -0500The clothes that clean themselves in sunlight<img src="" /></P><p>Hate doing laundry? Here's some good news: A team of Chinese scientists from Donghua University has developed a special fabric that rids itself of dirt and germs when exposed to sunlight. Gross? Or a good idea? Here, a brief guide to this potentially time-saving breakthrough:</p><p><strong>What's the secret?</strong><br />The key is a compound called titanium dioxide &mdash; "the white material used in everything from white paints to foods to sunscreens," says <em>PhysOrg</em>. When exposed to certain types of light, like ultraviolet rays, it kills microbes and breaks down dirt. The compound is already used in a number of self-cleaning...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 20 Dec 2011 14:20:00 -0500Get ready for... poo-powered lights?<img src="" /></P><p>The hunt for the most eco-friendly way to light your home didn't end with the creation of compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lights. Dutch electronics giant Philips has developed a lighting system that follows the example of the humble firefly, producing a green glow that uses no electricity at all. The fuel source? In part, human waste. Here, a guide to this new "bio-light" technology:<br /><br /><strong>How does this light work?</strong><br />Philips harnessed the same source of illumination that makes fireflies and certain algae glow at night. The company's Microbial Home system creates light by putting bioluminescent bacteria...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 29 Nov 2011 15:32:00 -0500The furnace of the future: Computer servers?<img src="" /></P><p>As we do more and more of our computing online and in the cloud, we're requiring more and more server space to keep our Netflix streaming and our iPhones' Siri assistants obeying our every command. As a result, computer data centers are increasingly gobbling energy &mdash; both to keep them powered up, and to keep them cool. Some researchers have proposed an interesting scheme to take advantage of all the warmth that servers generate: Why not use it to heat people's homes? Here, a brief instant guide:</p><p><strong>What is this computer-server heater?</strong><br />Four researchers from Microsoft Research and two from the...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffMon, 28 Nov 2011 13:05:00 -0500Can fracking cause earthquakes?<img src="" /></P><p>On Nov. 5, a 5.6-magnitude tremor rattled Oklahoma &mdash; one of the strongest to ever hit the state. Oklahoma is typically seismically stable with about 50 small quakes a year. But in 2009, that number jumped up to more than 1,000. Some people say the increasingly common use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking &mdash; the controversial practice of blasting underground rock formations with high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals to extract natural gas &mdash; may have put stress on fault lines. Can human activity really cause the earth to move? Here, a brief guide:</p><p><strong>So humans can cause earthquakes...</strong></p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffMon, 14 Nov 2011 08:30:00 -0500Could Mount Everest be the future of solar power?<img src="" /></P><p>Sun-baked deserts may seem like the obvious choice for harnessing solar power, but new research from Japan suggests quite the opposite: Cold, high-altitude destinations like Mount Everest have immense potential for capturing solar energy. The findings are set to be published in the journal <em>Environmental Science &amp; Technology</em>, and could have major implications for powering nearby regions in the future. Here's what you should know:</p><p><strong>Why a location like Mount Everest?<br /></strong>Two factors are at play: First, the study found that, thanks to thinner atmospheric conditions, high elevations can provide more...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffFri, 14 Oct 2011 15:17:00 -0400Coming soon: Solar cells you can wear?<img src="" /></P><p>Imagine: Shirts and jackets capable of harvesting solar power. Your iPhone might never run out of juice again (just plug it into your vest). Such scenarios might become reality sooner than you think. Researchers from Northwestern University have created a new type of solar cell capable of bending &mdash; and, conceivably, being integrated into fabric. Here's what you should know:</p><p><strong>How do traditional solar panels work?</strong><br />Light enters a transparent cell, and thanks to a complicated process in which the sun's photons travel through a semiconductor, electricity comes out.&nbsp;This photovoltaic cell technology...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffFri, 30 Sep 2011 12:48:00 -0400BP's new oil spill in Alaska: 'Reckless'?<img src="" /></P><p>BP, the petroleum giant responsible for last year's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is under scrutiny for yet another spill, this time in Alaska. The latest mishap is one more stain on a company that's struggling to polish its reputation after the April 2010 disaster, which was the worst spill in U.S. history. Here, a brief guide to the latest spill:</p><p><strong>What exactly happened in Alaska? </strong><br />On Saturday, an 8-inch pipeline in BP's Lisburne oil field &mdash; near Alaska's Prudhoe Bay &mdash; was being pressure-tested when the pipe burst, releasing crude oil, methanol, and water across a gravel...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 19 Jul 2011 17:53:00 -0400The new gas boom<img src="" /></P><p><strong>How much gas is there?</strong><br />About as much, in terms of available energy, as Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s remaining oil reserves &mdash; enough to change America&rsquo;s energy equation for decades. The largest deposit is in the Marcellus Shale, which extends from New York&rsquo;s Finger Lakes region through Pennsylvania and as far south as Kentucky. The Marcellus Shale, a brittle layer of rock more than a mile underground, is the geological remnant of an ancient sea, and is laced with pockets of trapped gas, which is mostly methane. Penn State geologist Terry Engelder, a lifelong student of the Marcellus Shale...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffFri, 15 Jul 2011 12:07:00 -0400Exxon's 'disastrous' Yellowstone oil spill<img src="" /></P><p>An Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured Friday in Montana, spilling up to 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) of oil into the swollen Yellowstone River before the company could shut off the spigot. After initially saying the spill only sullied about 10 miles of the pristine waterway, about 100 miles downstream from Yellowstone National Park, Exxon on Monday acknowledged that the damage could be much more extensive. More than 280 people from Exxon, federal agencies, and the Clean Harbors environmental waste company are in Billings, Mont., to work on the cleanup effort. How bad will this "disastrous" spill be...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffTue, 05 Jul 2011 13:38:00 -0400