May 24 news: Siemens says efficiency policies are “thousand-dollar bills lying on the ground”

First green development bank to open in U.K.

Siemens executive says bipartisan clean energy push could start with efficiency bill

With Congress bogged down over high gasoline prices, the head of U.S. operations for Siemens AG said proposals to increase energy efficiency are a “no-brainer” and a doable next step to advance U.S. energy policy.

It’s thousand-dollar bills lying on the ground. People just need to bend over and pick them up,” said Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens Corp., the U.S. arm of the Munich-based conglomerate.

Short of a national clean energy standard that incentivizes wind, solar, gas and nuclear power, Spiegel said measures encouraging efficiency upgrades across the economy could have the greatest immediate boost for job creation while slashing energy use and carbon pollution.

As a starting point, Spiegel pointed to a bill introduced two weeks ago by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that would create loan programs and expand existing ones for energy efficiency. It would strengthen building codes aimed at homes and businesses, set energy standards for various products and encourage upgrades in the power and industrial sectors.

“We need to start with something that’s hard to disagree with,” he said. “It makes economic sense, and it makes sense for reducing energy [use] and reducing greenhouse gases. Most of it is a no-brainer.”

First-ever national green development bank to open next year in U.K.

The United Kingdom’s Green Investment Bank will begin distributing loans for clean energy-efficient projects as early as next April, said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Clegg, the leader of the left-leaning Liberal Democrats, said the Green Investment Bank would be the first development bank in the world dedicated to financing green projects. The bank could leverage up to £15 billion ($24 billion) of private-sector investment over the next four years.

“The Green Investment Bank will go from an idea to a flow of investment in under two years, and quickly grow into an independent investing, and then borrowing, institution,” he said, “a real legacy of the coalition government’s green commitment.”

The government will kick-start the fund with a £3 billion ($4.8 billion) investment, said Clegg. The bank will not be able to borrow money until April 2015, contingent on whether the economy has met its target for reducing debt as a percentage of gross domestic product by that time. This block on borrowing has angered environmental groups, which say the bank should be allowed to accept funds from private investors as soon as it opens.

“A strong, independent bank is crucial if the U.K. is able to compete seriously in the rapidly growing £3.2 trillion global market for low-carbon goods and services,” said Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven. “But it will be hamstrung from the outset by keeping the restriction on borrowing powers until at least 2015. Britain’s ability to attract new industries and create new jobs could still be derailed by Treasury accounting rules.”

Southern Company Rated Worst of Seven Major U.S. Utilities

Southern Gets Straight “F”s in Grading of “The Dirty Seven” Utilities, Also Home to Three of 10 Worst-Polluting Power Plants in U.S.

On the eve of Southern Company (NYSE: SO) holding its annual meeting of stockholders in Pine Mountain, GA., the nonprofit Green America released a report today ranking the major U.S. power producer as “the United States’ most irresponsible utility.”

Titled “Leadership We Can Live Without: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for Southern Company,” the Green America analysis assigns letter grades to seven major U.S. utilities on four fronts: reliance on coal; pollution; reliance on and expansion of nuclear power; and lobbying expenditures. Southern came in dead last with straight “F” grades in all four of the categories.

The rest of “The Dirty Seven” were ranked as follows: (1) Exelon; (2) Entergy; (3) Dominion; (4) TVA; (5) Duke and (6) AEP (Southern Company is 7th). Green America’s full report is available online at

Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen said: “Southern Company is one of the nation’s largest utilities, with 4.4 million customers in the American Southeast. Southern Company prides itself on its relatively low rates and its consistent payment of dividends to shareholders. But while ratepayers and shareholders may appreciate these limited economic benefits, they come at a high price: the extraordinary pollution produced by Southern Company, which harms the communities it operates in, as well as fueling global warming, and the risks posed by the company’s increasing use of nuclear power and growing coal ash ponds. The real price of Southern Company’s strategy include: asthma, heart disease, lung disease, air and water pollution, global warming, and the potential for catastrophic accidents.”

U.K. panel approves shale gas drilling

A key U.K. parliamentary committee has concluded that drilling for shale gas in the country should be allowed to go ahead because of the potential benefits it could bring to energy supplies and reducing carbon emissions. It noted that, in contrast to the United States, shale drilling in the United Kingdom would not be a game changer.

The all-party Energy and Climate Change Committee, which monitors the activities of the Department of Energy and Climate Change as well as holding its own inquiries, said there was no evidence that the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing to release the gas posed a danger to underground aquifers as long as the well casing itself was intact.

That risk, it said in a report yesterday, came instead in cases when the well was damaged.

“There has been a lot of hot air recently about the dangers of shale gas drilling. But our inquiry found no evidence to support the main concern — that U.K. water supplies would be put at risk,” said committee Chairman Tim Yeo.

“There appears to be nothing inherently dangerous about the process of ‘fracking’ itself, and as long as the integrity of the well is maintained, shale gas extraction should be safe,” he added.

There have been reports of damage to local water supplies in parts of the United States. The recent documentary “Gasland” appeared to show people in shale gas extraction areas being able to ignite their tap water. In France, there have been calls for a complete ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas.

Fight over natural gas vehicles bill intensifies

The political battle over legislation that would offer tax incentives to promote natural gas vehicles is heating up, as supporters launch an ad campaign and conservative critics of the bill in a public letter yesterday chided co-sponsors for backing the “misguided” plan.

The new jockeying over the “NAT GAS Act” suggests that its 186 House supporters in both parties could struggle to win a vote on the bill during the pre-August window that sponsors once eyed. What’s more, the emergence among the bill’s foes of the American Energy Alliance — a pro-drilling nonprofit with ties to the oil industry — signals the potential for stronger pushback in the future from oil companies.

AEA President Thomas Pyle, previously a lobbyist for Koch Industries and aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), joined 16 other groups yesterday on a letter to lawmakers that blasted the natural gas bill as a wasteful subsidy.

The letter’s signatories, including the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation’s separate political arm, and the tea party group Americans for Prosperity, warned that backing the bill would amount to shrugging off voter opposition to subsidies that became clear in the midterm elections.

“Co-sponsoring this misguided legislation is a sign that you have not heard the message [of 2010] and are not serious about eliminating expensive, counter-productive energy subsidies,” the groups wrote.

Yet proponents of the “NAT GAS Act,” which would offer tax benefits to buyers and producers of the alternative cars and their infrastructure, contend that limiting vehicle fleets’ fuel mix is a subsidy unto itself — effectively routing taxpayer money to the oil industry and overseas.

White House rolls out plans to boost alternative vehicles

Today a slew of top White House energy and environmental officials will roll out new presidential directives that, among other things, will put the federal government on track to purchase 100 percent alternative fuel passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks by 2015.

The effort is not only being touted as a smart way to save on fuel costs but also a key component of a larger goal announced by President Obama to reduce federal agency petroleum fuel use by 30 percent by 2020.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, General Services Administrator Martha Johnson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley will be on hand at the Department of Energy for today’s announcement. Also expected at the announcement is Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transport Association.

Additionally, GSA today will announce a new pilot project that will incorporate the first electric vehicles and technologies into the 600,000-vehicle federal fleet.

Congressmen seek to block pollution controls on Navajo coal plant

The massive coal-powered Navajo generating station in Page, Ariz., spews tens of thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide a year into Western skies, spreading haze across the Grand Canyon and other national parks. By law, the 40-year-old plant is supposed to install the “best available retrofit technology” to scrub emissions from its smokestacks.But two Arizona Republicans have called a congressional hearing for Tuesday in an effort to block the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring the retrofits, which they say would cost $1.1 billion and could force the plant, which employs 1,000 people at the power station and a nearby coal mine, to close.

In a letter to the chairmen of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks said the electricity generated by the plant, which pumps water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix, “is essential to supplying water to 80% of the state’s population. We must carefully examine regulations that could threaten the state of Arizona’s water and power supply.”

The EPA is scheduled to decide this summer whether to require pollution controls for the plant, which is one of the biggest sources of nitrogen oxide emissions in the country. “Our job is to decide, ‘Are the parks adequately protected?’ ” said Colleen McKaughan, associate director of the EPA’s air division in San Francisco. “And if they’re not, does the facility need additional pollution controls?”

Environmentalists say the plant, besides obscuring the views in parks, is also a health hazard, responsible for high levels of asthma and respiratory disease on the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations. It is also a major source of toxic mercury emissions into the air and rivers. With Arizona in the midst of building several large solar-powered plants, conservationists say the coal generator could be replaced by clean, renewable energy.

21 Responses to May 24 news: Siemens says efficiency policies are “thousand-dollar bills lying on the ground”

  1. prokaryotes says:

    The climate change threat to nuclear power

    THE accident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan has led to much discussion about the future of nuclear power. I believe one important lesson of the accident has been overlooked. Nuclear power is often touted as a solution to climate change, but Fukushima serves as a warning that far from solving the climate problem, nuclear power may be highly vulnerable to it.

    Two facts that everyone should now know about nuclear power are that it needs access to large volumes of water to cool the reactor and a supply of energy to move the water. For this reason nuclear power plants are typically sited near large bodies of water, often seas or estuaries. It is this attachment to water that makes nuclear power vulnerable to climate change (Energy Policy, vol 39, p 318).

    First of all, coastal areas are highly dynamic: storms batter, sea levels rise, and land shifts. This already poses problems for the safety of nuclear plants, and is only going to get worse. Secondly, nuclear power can be disrupted by water scarcity and rising water temperatures.

    Many climate models predict an increase in hurricane intensity. Even if they are wrong, existing reactors were built (along with most coastal developments) during a period of historically low hurricane activity and a return to baseline seems likely.

    This is not to say an accident will happen every time a hurricane passes by a nuclear power plant. Unlike earthquakes, hurricanes can be predicted, allowing time for preparation. Still, preventative measures are not always taken. For instance, during hurricane Francis in 2004 doors designed to protect safety equipment from flying debris at the St Lucie nuclear power plant in Florida were left open.

    Another cause for concern is floods. All nuclear power plants are designed to withstand a certain level of flooding based on historical data, but these figures do not take climate change into account. Floods due to sea-level rise, storm surges and heavy rain will increase in frequency.

    This isn’t a hypothetical future scenario. In 1999 the Blayais nuclear power plant on the Gironde estuary in France flooded due to a high tide and strong winds that exceeded anything it was designed to withstand. Two of the reactor units on site were severely affected by flooding.

    Heat waves are another serious concern, for two reasons. One, the colder the cooling water entering a reactor, the more efficient the production of electricity. And two, once the cooling water has passed through the system it is often discharged back where it came from in a much warmer state.

    During the 2003 heat wave in Europe, reactors at inland sites in France were shut down or had their power output reduced because the water receiving the discharge was already warmer than environmental regulations allowed. Citing “exceptional circumstances”, the French government relaxed the regulations to maintain the supply of electricity. After subsequent heat waves it became a permanent measure during the summer months.

    The relaxing of the regulations causes thermal pollution that reduces the ability of aquatic ecosystems to adapt to warmer temperatures. Some may argue these regional impacts are insignificant compared to the global ramifications of climate change, but they illustrate that nuclear power can actually worsen its impact.

  2. Some European says:

    Threatened Pacific Island Nation makes legal history by challenging European carbon emitter

    New York, 23 May 2011 — The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has made legal history by challenging the development of one of Europe’s largest coal-fired power stations, opening the door for climate-stricken nations to use international law to take action against major carbon emitters that pose a significant risk to their survival.

    The landmark legal paper, written by FSM, Greenpeace and the Environmental Law Service, and presented today at the Threatened Island Nations Climate Conference in New York’s Columbia University, offers hope to vulnerable countries on the frontline of climate impacts. FSM is one of many nation states experiencing environmental disasters, such as flooding, tidal surges and destruction of food crops, which are already exacerbated by climate change.

    continue reading at: international/ en/ press/ releases/ Threatened-Pacific-Island-Nation-makes-legal-history-by-challenging-European-carbon-emitter/

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Cold shoulder for climate change

    They have never been more certain about what they know. Powerful new satellites can hone in on mountainous regions to measure ice melt. Stronger computers model changes in disruptive weather patterns. Scientists are even more comfortable attributing climate change to visible effects around the globe, from retreating Himalayan glaciers to southwestern U.S. droughts and acidifying oceans.

    Yet scientists are still stuck in the mud trying to get that message out in Washington, where House Republicans made one of their first orders of business passing legislation to zero out research budgets for domestic and international climate efforts and unraveling a key EPA declaration that humans have played a critical role in changing the planet.

    For instance, National Research Council members got a collective shrug earlier this month when they went to Capitol Hill to share their work — a congressionally mandated, 18-month review of the nuts and bolts of global warming science and ideas for what U.S. policymakers could do about it.

    Only a small group of House and Senate aides showed up for private briefings on the study. And while a couple of staffers asked parochial questions about how climate change affects their districts and states, the authors also got the second degree on whether there is even a problem.

    “They said, ‘There are those who believe it’s a bit of hogwash. And not only hogwash, but a fraud,’” said Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles and chairman of the NRC panel.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming from Arctic methane emissions

    The magnitude and feedbacks of future methane release from the Arctic region are unknown. Despite limited documentation of potential future releases associated with thawing permafrost and degassing methane hydrates, the large potential for future methane releases calls for improved understanding of the interaction of a changing climate with processes in the Arctic and chemical feedbacks in the atmosphere. Here we apply a “state of the art” atmospheric chemistry transport model to show that large emissions of CH4 would likely have an unexpectedly large impact on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and on radiative forcing (RF). The indirect contribution to RF of additional methane emission is particularly important. It is shown that if global methane emissions were to increase by factors of 2.5 and 5.2 above current emissions, the indirect contributions to RF would be about 250% and 400%, respectively, of the RF that can be attributed to directly emitted methane alone. Assuming several hypothetical scenarios of CH4 release associated with permafrost thaw, shallow marine hydrate degassing, and submarine landslides, we find a strong positive feedback on RF through atmospheric chemistry. In particular, the impact of CH4 is enhanced through increase of its lifetime, and of atmospheric abundances of ozone, stratospheric water vapor, and CO2 as a result of atmospheric chemical processes. Despite uncertainties in emission scenarios, our results provide a better understanding of the feedbacks in the atmospheric chemistry that would amplify climate warming.

    Found this bit here, comment #81, thanks for providing it Leland Palmer

    Yes, it happend before, it will happen again, only this time the magnitude has at least tripled. The system is designed to boot itself, from an unhealthy, unsustainable virii called humanity. Systems seek equilibrium and a new state will appear.

  5. sault says:

    Re. the 1st story: Improved energy efficiency may enable us to pick up those $1000 dollar bills, but they’re not just “lying on the ground”. They’re actually streaming into the pockets of our incumbent energy producers and they’re NOT going to let us interrupt their revenue stream without a fight. They’ll make up all sorts of crappy arguements, like the Pruis harms the environment more than a Hummer, or the Jevons paradox means energy efficiency is pointless, to keep those $1000 bills coming in.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Climate scientists reveal new candidate for first habitable exoplanet

    The planetary system around the red dwarf Gliese 581, one of the closest stars to the Sun in the galaxy, has been the subject of several studies aiming to detect the first potentially habitable exoplanet. Two candidates have already been discarded, but a third planet, Gliese 581d, can be considered the first confirmed exoplanet that could support Earth-like life.

    While the more distant planet, Gliese 581d, was initially judged to be too cold for life, the closer-in planet, Gliese 581c, was thought to be potentially habitable by its discoverers.

    However, later analysis by atmospheric experts showed that if it had liquid oceans like Earth, they would rapidly evaporate in a ‘runaway greenhouse’ effect similar to that which gave Venus the hot, inhospitable climate it has today. A new possibility emerged late in 2010, when a team of observers led by Steven Vogt at the University of California, Santa Cruz, announced that they had discovered a new planet, which they dubbed Gliese 581g, or ‘Zarmina’s World’. This planet, they claimed, had a mass similar to that of Earth and was close to the centre of the habitable zone.

    Although it is likely to be a rocky planet, it has a mass at least seven times that of Earth, and is estimated to be about twice its size.

    At first glance, Gliese 581d is a pretty poor candidate in the hunt for life: it receives less than a third of the stellar energy Earth does and may be tidally locked, with a permanent day and night side. After its discovery, it was generally believed that any atmosphere thick enough to keep the planet warm would become cold enough on the night side to freeze out entirely, ruining any prospects for a habitable climate.

    To test whether this intuition was correct, Wordsworth and colleagues developed a new kind of computer model capable of accurately simulating possible exoplanet climates. The model simulates a planet’s atmosphere and surface in three dimensions, rather like those used to study climate change on Earth.

    However, it is based on more fundamental physical principles, allowing the simulation of a much wider range of conditions than would otherwise be possible, including any atmospheric cocktail of gases, clouds and aerosols.

    To their surprise, they found that with a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere – a likely scenario on such a large planet – the climate of Gliese 581d is not only stable against collapse, but warm enough to have oceans, clouds and rainfall.

    One of the key factors in their results was Rayleigh scattering, the phenomenon that makes the sky blue on Earth. In the Solar System, Rayleigh scattering limits the amount of sunlight a thick atmosphere can absorb, because a large portion of the scattered blue light is immediately reflected back to space. However, as the starlight from Gliese 581 is red, it is almost unaffected.

    This means that it can penetrate much deeper into the atmosphere, where it heats the planet effectively due to the greenhouse effect of the CO2 atmosphere, combined with that of the carbon dioxide ice clouds predicted to form at high altitudes. Furthermore, the 3D circulation simulations showed that the daylight heating was efficiently redistributed across the planet by the atmosphere, preventing atmospheric collapse on the night side or at the poles.

    Scientists are particularly excited by the fact that at 20 light years from Earth, Gliese 581d is one of our closest galactic neighbours. For now, this is of limited use for budding interstellar colonists – the furthest-travelled man-made spacecraft, Voyager 1, would still take over 300,000 years to arrive there. However, it does mean that in the future telescopes will be able to detect the planet’s atmosphere directly.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Free solar panels are slashing electricity bills

    Families in Aspley could save a third on their electricity bill with free solar panels.

    E.ON and the Council are working in partnership with Nottingham City Homes (NCH) to install solar panels on up to 600 suitable homes in Aspley. In April, the Hobster family on Allendale Avenue become the second family to benefit from this scheme and they’re already seeing the benefits.

    Based on the type of house that they live in, the Hobster family should save around a third off their electricity bill over the next 12 months. However early meter readings indicate that they may well save much more

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie
    ScienceDaily (May 24, 2011) — A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a “high-definition picture” of climate-caused changes on the island.

    And the picture isn’t pretty.

    In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    ‘ONDOY’ 2 , ‘Chedeng’ has super typhoon potential like unforgettable ‘Ondoy’

    The storm has the potential to grow into a super typhoon and bring the unprecedented torrential rains “Ondoy” unleashed on Metro Manila.

    Based on the report of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration to Malacañang, “Chedeng” is predicted to bring heavy rains like “Ondoy” which devastated Luzon and Metro Manila in 2009.

    Barely 24 hours after entering Philippine territory, tropical storm “Chedeng” (Songda) has affected over 8,000 people and caused P10.906 million in damage to property, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said Tuesday night.
    ‘Chedeng’ affects 8,418, causes P10.906M in damage

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Songda to Threaten the Philippines, then Japan

    The main threat to the Philippines from Songda will likely be the heavy rain that will fall over northern areas of the country, especially in the mountainous regions where orographic lifting will enhance the rainfall. Rainfall amounts of more than 1 foot are possible through Friday in these areas.

    Songda is expected to then threaten Japan over the weekend and early next week. There is a slight chance that Songda could re-curve enough that it would spare much of Japan and only bring rain and wind to the Ryukyu Islands. However, it appears that the storm will track close enough to bring at least some heavy rainfall and gusty winds to southern and eastern parts Japan, including Kyushu, Shikoku and portions of Honshu.

    The threat even remains for the storm to bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the areas devastated by the recent tsunami and nuclear radiation. This storm system bears close watching as even the slightest change in track will have significant ramifications for these areas.

  11. Ziyu says:

    Normally, I support natural gas as much as ethanol, very little while acknoledging it’s somewhat better than oil. But seeing that big energy companies and Koch is against it, it must mean that it will hurt their interests, which is polluting the world. I’ll throw my support behind that bill.

  12. Ziyu says:

    @#5 Sault,
    The $1000 bills are lying on the ground not moving. But there are hired goons trying to pull us away from it. Once you get past the goons, everything’s easy. Who will win? The clean energy lobby, energy users, and consumers, or the energy lobby? We’ll find out soon.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Climate change may be linked to allergies

    Increased prevalence of two allergens — mold and ragweed — linked to climate change may account for an increase in U.S. allergies, researchers suggest.

    “We believe this is the first large national study to show that the growing prevalence of allergies, suggested by other studies, is largely due to increases in environment-based allergens previously associated with climate change,” Naides says in a statement.

    During a four-year period, sensitization to common ragweed grew 15 percent nationally while mold grew 12 percent vs. sensitization to the other allergens combined increased 5.8 percent, Naides says.

    A study published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined ragweed season was nearly a month longer in 2009 than in 1995 in northern parts of North America, possibly as a result of climate change. Mold, affected by precipitation, may also increase in prevalence with a warmer climate, Naides adds.

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Hey, Business! Cities Are Planning for Climate Change While the Feds Fiddle

    Some cities — tired of waiting for Congress to decide whether global warming is real — are busy preparing for the coming storm with a slew of projects designed to lessen the effects of climate change. Investors and entrepreneurs, listen up: These cities are willing to spend money now in hopes of preventing the steep economic costs of tomorrow’s droughts and floods.

    That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, or any less controversial. And in some regions, it may mean traditional businesses like builders may lose out to environmental consultant firms and shoreline restoration companies.

    Still, the movement to adapt cities to climate change is underway. And in almost every case, it’s being driven by activist mayors and city councils. That’s spurred a change within the investment community over the past year, according to Deutsche Bank. Investors are now more willing to pour money into state and local projects than those driven by federal policy.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    VIDEO Fifty years ago today (May 25), President John F. Kennedy presented NASA and the nation with a historic challenge: To put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s.

    Kennedy’s dramatic 1961 speech jump-started NASA’s Apollo program, a full-bore race to the moon that succeeded when Neil Armstrong’s boot clomped down into the lunar dirt on July 20, 1969. The moon landing was a tremendous achievement for humanity and a huge boost to American technological pride, which had been seriously wounded by several recent space race defeats to the Soviet Union.

    The impact of Kennedy’s words lingers still, long after Apollo came to an end in 1972. The speech fundamentally changed NASA, ramping up the space agency’s public profile and creating a huge infrastructure that continues to exist today.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    NASA Unveils New Spaceship for Deep Space Exploration

    NASA on Tuesday announced a plan to develop a new deep space vehicle, one based on an earlier capsule concept, in order to send astronauts on expeditions to an asteroid, and then on to Mars.

    The spaceship, known as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), will be based on designs originally planned for the Orion spacecraft, NASA officials announced today (May 24). Orion was part of NASA’s now-canceled Constellation program, which aimed to return astronauts to the moon by the 2020s.

  17. prokaryotes says:

    Japan’s ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has spawned some rapid-fire developments for future energy production. This weekend, plans to initiate the compulsory installation of solar energy panels on every building in the country by 2030 were announced, along with a proposed plan that promises to be the largest public infrastructure in human history: the LUNA RING.

    Though the “very optimistic forecast” for the project’s launch is 2035, the necessary components for building LUNA RING are already in wide use: photovoltaic panels, remote controlled robots, laser and microwave transmitters are utilized in innumerable capacities right here on the ground. In this sense, LUNA RING seems not-so-far fetched. However, when trying to determine the economic requirements for such a massive undertaking, CSP’s Tetsuji Yoshida answers with a non-answer: ”[P]rice is a human tool for exchanging goods. Maybe this type of project could be out of range of cost considerations. We would have to find a new word for it?” Certainly this is indicative of the incalculable ambition of LUNA RING’s enormousness. It rings a bit of Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact; perhaps for a project like LUNA RING, one with such sweeping goals and in need of seemingly impossible resources, a global cooperative is the only means by which Shimizu Corporation’s vision can be realized.

  18. prokaryotes says:

    Much of the world learned about Apollo 11 through the Voice of America sessions, recorded by the United StatesÂ’ official broadcast station. But due to the public and private clause of broadcast law, to this day, these tapes have never been heard across American airwaves. Here are selected sound bites from the never-before-broadcast sessions (in the U.S.), including thoughts from Isaac Asimov, Wernher Von Braun and the astronauts who made history aboard Apollo 11.

    Audio: Asimov on Colonizing the Moon
    “I look forward to a time when humans will colonize the moon …”

    Audio: Asimov on Colonizing the Solar System
    “It will be our task to colonize the Solar System …”