June 22 News: Mercedes Makes Hybrid Popemobile; Transocean blames BP for Deepwater Disaster

Mercedes Makes Hybrid Popemobile For Upcoming Germany Trip

Pope Benedict XVI has a lot of ground to cover when he heads back home to Germany this September, but thanks to a new popemobile from Mercedes, at least 30 of those kilometers (18.5 miles) will be on the greener side.

The Vatican has contracted with Mercedes for the first-ever hybrid popemobile, according to a report by business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. Citing company sources associated with the top-secret project, the magazine reported that the vehicle, based on Mercedes’ M Class, would come with both a battery and a gasoline engine.

It was never considered, according to the report, to resort to an entirely battery-powered car since security threats require the pope to always have the option of a quick getaway.


The new hybrid engine would allow the popemobile to go 30 kilometers (about 18.5 miles) purely on battery power, which would require a one-hour plug-in charge. The car reportedly runs on a lithium-ion battery and a 60-horsepower hybrid engine.

Mercedes has been providing vehicles for the Vatican for eight decades. The iconic popemobile was first used in the 1980s, when Pope John Paul II yearned for a vehicle that would let him have closer contact to people during his overseas visits.

Transocean report pins oil spill blame on BP

Transocean Ltd, the owner of the oil drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last year, blamed BP Plc in a report released on Wednesday for decisions that led to the disastrous oil spill.

Transocean and BP are locked in a legal battle over which company was responsible for the worst-ever maritime oil accident, which killed 11 workers and poured crude oil into the Gulf for three months.

The report issued by Transocean said BP failed to properly assess the risks around the troubled well and did not communicate the danger to Transocean.

BP also used a poor well design which led to the failure of cement around the well casing, allowing gas to escape and reach the rig, causing the explosion, the report said.

Transocean also said its blow-out preventer, a device designed as a last resort to close off a well, was properly maintained, but the extreme pressure from the well forced drill pipe to bend, preventing the shears from cutting the pipe.

BP declined to make an immediate comment on the report.

CREW accuses David Vitter of ‘bribery

A Washington watchdog group is singling out Sen. David Vitter, accusing the Louisiana Republican of attempted bribery.

Vitter last month blocked a proposed pay raise for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in order to pressure the Obama administration to approve more offshore drilling permits. On Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate whether Vitter’s actions amounted to attempted bribery.

“I will end my efforts to block your salary increase” only when the rate of permits for deepwater wells had been increased by Interior to six per month, Vitter wrote in a letter to the Interior secretary.

Salazar makes about $19,600 less than other Cabinet secretaries because the Constitution prohibits a House or Senate member from being appointed to an executive branch job whose pay has risen during the lawmaker’s term. As a senator from Colorado, Salazar had voted to increase the salary for the Interior secretary. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted a lower salary for her post for the same reason.

But when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested raising Salazar’s salary from his current $180,000, Vitter balked and tied it directly to the offshore drilling issue.

Artificial meat could slice emissions, say scientists

Lab-grown meat would generate a tiny fraction of emissions associated with conventional livestock production

Meat grown artificially in labs could be a greener alternative for consumers who cannot bear to go vegetarian but want to cut the environmental impact of their food, according to new research.

The study found that growing meat in the lab rather than slaughtering animals would generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.

The researchers believe their work suggests artificial meat could help feed the growing world population while reducing the impact on the environment.

According to the analysis by scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown tissue would reduce greenhouse gases by up to 96% in comparison to raising animals. The process would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef, or lamb, and could be engineered to use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional meat.

“The environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower than those of meat produced in the conventional way,” said Hanna Tuomisto, the researcher at Oxford University who led the study.

Fukushima Crisis Gives GE, BYD Opportunity in LEDs, Power Packs

The video screen at the Marunouchi subway entrance in Tokyo Station asks passing commuters to “Please Help Us Save Energy,” a plea repeated throughout Japan in television advertisements warning of summer power shortages.

More than three months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, lights are dimmed and escalators remain shut off in subways and shopping centers. The push to save energy is also creating opportunities for companies making long-lasting light-emitting diode bulbs and backup power packs.

General Electric Co. and China’s BYD Co. — the maker of electric cars and appliances backed by Warren Buffett — are going up against Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Panasonic Corp. (6752) to win a bigger share of Japan’s $120 billion appliance market. As summer approaches, the government has asked industries to cut power use by 15 percent following the nuclear disaster.

Solar-powered plane sends a green message

Solar Impulse founders aim to promote renewable-energy use.

The plane is the brainchild of two Swiss men with a passion for flying and for raising awareness about renewable energy.

Bertrand Piccard, who has flown around the world in a balloon, and Andre Borschberg, a former Swiss air force military pilot, officially founded Solar Impulse in 2004 and started work on building a solar plane.

“We want to demonstrate that the technology we have available can allow us to keep the same quality of life by spending much less energy,” Borschberg said at a briefing this week at the Paris Air Show. “If we can do it in an airplane, we can certainly do it on the ground. The goal is to motivate people to change their decisions.”

The solar plane completed its first flight in April 2010, which was followed by several successful day-time flights. Then, last July, Borschberg flew the plane for 26 hours, proving that it could keep flying during the night using solar energy gathered during the day. The goal now is to fly around the world in 2014 using only solar power. Construction of a second plane will start in July.

EPA sets 2012 renewable fuel standard proposal at 15.2 billion gallons

For 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is once again upping the level for how much renewable fuel the U.S. should use in the Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (aka RFS2). The EPA’s proposed targets are:

Biomass-based diesel (1.00 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)Cellulosic biofuels (3.45 to 12.9 million gallons; 0.002–0.010 percent)Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.21percent)

China’s `Solar City’ Rushes To Catch Power Boom

Solar panels jut out of streetlights in China’s self-proclaimed Clean Energy City. Tiny wind turbines twirl atop public buildings. Schools are due to teach students about “green living.”

In the scramble to profit from demand for clean energy, this city southwest of Beijing is promoting itself as a manufacturing center for solar, wind and other gear by transforming into a living showcase of environmental technology.

“Baoding is following a path of ecological civilization,” a deputy mayor, Zhou Xingshi, told a group of visiting reporters.

Baoding illustrates the intensity of Chinese government efforts to profit from rising global demand for clean energy. Communist leaders are promoting solar, wind and hydropower to curb surging demand for imported oil and gas and see technology exports as a route to cleaner growth and higher-paid jobs.

Chinese utility companies are required to install wind turbines and Beijing has promised to pay part of the cost of solar equipment — a strategy that is driving the rapid growth of Baoding and other supply centers.

China led the world in clean energy investment last year at $54.4 billion, up 39 percent from 2009, according to a March report by the Pew Charitable Trust. Worldwide, investment rose 30 percent to $243 billion.