The Secret of Buckminister Fuller’s World-Changing Idea: Serendipity  

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Nautilus has a interview with the author of a new-ish book on Bucky Fuller - The Secret of Buckminister Fuller’s World-Changing Ideas Was Serendipity.

The review notes the underlying motivation for one of Fuller's projects, the flying car ("The reason he wanted to make a flying car was because his first daughter died of meningitis."), which Airbus are now apparently looking to make a reality by 2018.

In his 2016 book, You Belong to the Universe, Jonathon Keats sets out to release Buckminister Fuller from “the zany sci-fi designs that made him notorious, and rescue him from the groupies who have impounded him as a cultish prophet.”

Keats, a writer and artist who whips up his own world-changing ideas through trickster gallery and museum exhibitions, comes to Fuller’s rescue by venturing beneath the veneer of his infamous inventions—the geodesic dome, flying car, world peace games, and dome over Manhattan—to expose their broader significance.

That significance can be summed up in the unwieldy title that Fuller gave himself: “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist.” The most succinct definition of the title is Fuller’s determination, he said, “to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” ...

One of the qualities Keats most admires in Fuller, who was born in Massachusetts in 1895, is the inventor’s conviction that people learn through serendipity. His bewitching inventions, books, and lectures were designed to spur serendipitous thinking in others. Fuller knew, Keats writes, that “new ideas might emerge from the chance meeting of disparate information in a curious mind.”

Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018  

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Nafeez Ahmed has an article at Medium looking at the HSBC global oil supply report, declaring "80% of the world’s oil has peaked, and the resulting oil crunch will flatten the economy" - Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018. He seems to be the one remaining actively writing peak oil doomer still out there - positioning himself for the next peak oil cycle...

But what if the HSBC supply forecast is correct?

Firstly, oil price spikes would have an immediate recessionary effect on the global economy, by amplifying inflation and leading to higher costs for social activity at all levels, driven by the higher underlying energy costs.

Secondly, even as spikes may temporarily return some oil companies to potential profitability, such higher oil prices will drive consumer incentives to transition to cheaper renewable energy technologies like solar and wind, which are already becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

That means a global oil squeeze could end up having a dramatic impact on continued demand for oil, as twin crises of ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak demand’ end up intensifying and interacting in unfamiliar ways.

Ahmed has another article at Medium covering similar ground - Why the United States is at war with itself.

And perhaps the biggest symptom of the dire state of this crisis is the inability to agree on what the crisis is, or whether it even exists. Consider the fact that the President-elect of the United States plans to appoint Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as his Secretary of State. ExxonMobil is the giant oil conglomerate which, despite its own scientific research confirming the reality of climate change in the 1970s, went on to fund climate denialism to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Trump wants to burn as much fossil fuels as he can to ‘make America great again.’

And this, at a time when scientists warn that even if the Paris Agreement is implemented in full, we may still be on track for a catastrophic rise of at least 4C by 2100, continually rising to 10C by 2300: an uninhabitable planet for hundreds of years.

This risk is well-known, but as might be expected in the Age of Confusion, its relationship to net energy decline — and how the latter will permanently transform the geopolitical order within our lifetimes — is not.

While fracking companies rejoice at the heyday of accelerating shale oil and gas production, they ignore the fact that these meteoric production levels have come at an increasing cost: the dirtier, polluting environmental impacts of unconventional fuels; the higher cost of the new technologies to extract and refine these fuels — costs which are permanently transforming the economics of energy.

Over the last few decades, the Energy Return on Investment — the amount of energy we can extract compared to the energy necessary to enable that extraction — has dramatically declined. In fact, between 1960 and 1980, while oil, gas and coal production was rising, the world average value EROI declined by more than half from 35 to 15.

It continues to decline. In the US, for instance, the EROI value of shale oil and gas is about 11. In other words, the total value of energy we are able to produce from the global fossil fuel resource base is decreasing. The more we produce, the faster we produce, the more we accelerate the problem.

Bird flocking inspires technology that cuts plug-in hybrid fuel use by 30 percent  

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TreeHugger has an article on a biomimicry based approach for reducing car fuel consumption by introducing flocking behaviour - Bird flocking inspires technology that cuts plug-in hybrid fuel use by 30 percent.

Plug-in hybrid cars are far more fuel efficient than internal combustion engine cars, but it turns out that the way the cars' energy management systems balance the energy load between the battery and gas engine isn't always the most efficient.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside looked to nature evolutionary systems for inspiration, particularly how birds flock and fly in formation in order to improve their energy efficiency, and came up with a new technology that improves that balance and reduces fuel consumption of plug-in hybrids by 30 percent.

The university says that while not all plug-in hybrids work the same, many of them have energy management systems (EMS) that first put the car in all-electric mode until the battery is drained and then switch into hybrid mode. Research has found that this split is not the most efficient way to balance the two power sources in the plug-in hybrid, but that blending the two power modes and using the battery throughout a car trip minimizes fuel consumption.

Australian zinc refinery to build 100MW solar plant  

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RNE has a report on a Queensland zinc refiner that is building its own solar power plant - .

Australian zinc metals producer Sun Metals is to build a 100MW solar PV plant to supply its refinery located near Townsville, in northern Queensland, in a landmark development in the Australian renewable energy landscape.

The project marks the biggest intervention yet in Australia by a major energy user to source some of its electricity needs from renewable energy. While major international corporate players – such as Google, Apple, Amazon and others – have long had a 100 per cent renewable energy target, little has been done in Australia.

China To Pump $360 Billion Into New Renewable Energy Projects by 2020  

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The Globe and Mail quotes a Reuters report on Chinese renewable energy investment plans - U.S. and Canada falling behind China in race for renewable energy.

Last year, Chinese firms invested a record $32-billion (U.S.) in overseas renewable energy and electricity transmission assets, including a $13-billion acquisition by China’s State Grid Corp. of Brazil’s CPFL Energia SA, an electricity generation and distribution company, and Tianqi Lithium’s $2.5-billion purchase of Chile’s Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), a major lithium producer.

In the domestic market, Chinese companies invested $103-billion in renewable energy and associated low-emission technologies – a 17-per-cent increase over 2015 and two and a half times the amount spent in the United States which was the second leading investor in the renewable sector, said the IEEFA report, which is being released Friday.

It notes the International Energy Agency forecast last year that, between 2015 and 2021, China will account for 36 per cent of all hydroelectric capacity growth, 40 per cent of wind and 36 per cent of solar capacity growth. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts the world will invest $7.8-trillion in renewable power over the next 25 years, compared to $2.1-trillion in fossil-fuel electricity.

IEA Global EV Outlook 2016  

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The IEA has freed their 2016 report on the EV market - Global EV Outlook 2016.

This report aims to provide an update on recent EV developments, providing detailed information on the recent evolution of EV registrations (vehicle sales), the number of EVs on the road, their modal coverage across the most relevant global vehicle markets. The analysis also looks at the availability and characteristics of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), reporting on the evolution of deployment rates. The report includes a review and a discussion of key elements on policy support, both for EVs and EVSE. The analysis is also providing insights on the encouraging signs that characterized the recent evolution of battery costs and energy density.

East Timor tears up oil and gas treaty with Australia after Hague dispute  

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Rather surprisingly, the most read post from this blog this week is an old one from 2013 - East Timor Complains About Australian Spying On Oil And Gas Negotiations / Australia Detains Whistleblower.

Presumably interest has been piqued by East Timor's recent decision to abandon an earlier agreement on oil and gas revenue sharing from Timor Sea fields - East Timor tears up oil and gas treaty with Australia after Hague dispute. The SMH has an article outlining the case for a better deal for the Timorese - Australia's unscrupulous pursuit of East Timor's oil needs to stop.

East Timor will tear up an oil and gas treaty with Australia that has been at the centre of espionage allegations, international arbitration and a bitter diplomatic dispute. The 2006 treaty relates to a temporary maritime border in the Timor Sea, and access to oil and gas deposits worth an estimated $40 billion. The agreement had outlined a 50-year freeze on negotiations for a permanent border.

But East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, had claimed the treaty was invalid given Australian intelligence operations in 2004. Diplomatic relations have been tense since East Timorese officials accused Australia of spying on cabinet ministers amid negotiations on the treaty to divide the oil and gas fields.

HSBC Global Oil Supply Report (September 2016)  

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HSBC produced an interesting report on oil production decline rates and their implications for the long-term oil supply outlook - Global oil supply: Will mature field declines drive the next supply crunch?.

1. The oil market may be oversupplied at present, but we see it returning to balance in 2017e

2. By that stage, effective spare capacity could shrink to just 1% of global supply/demand of 96mbd, leaving the market far more susceptible to disruptions than has been the case in recent years

3. Oil demand is still growing by ~1mbd every year, and no central scenarios that we recently assessed see oil demand peaking before 2040

4. 81% of world liquids production is already in decline (excluding future redevelopments)

5. In our view a sensible range for average decline rate on post-peak production is 5-7%, equivalent to around 3-4.5mbd of lost production every year

6. By 2040, this means the world could need to replace over 4 times the current crude oil output of Saudi Arabia (>40mbd), just to keep output flat

7. Small oilfields typically decline twice as fast as large fields, and the global supply mix relies increasingly on small fields: the typical new oilfield size has fallen from 500-1,000mb 40 years ago to only 75mb this decade

8. New discoveries are limited: last year the exploration success rate hit a record low of 5%, and the average discovery size was 24mbbls

9. US tight oil has been a growth area and we expect to see a strong recovery, but at 4.6mbd currently it represents only 5% of global supply

10. Step-change improvements in production and drilling efficiency in response to the downturn have masked underlying decline rates at many companies, but the degree to which they can continue to do so is becoming much more limited

EIA forecast errors for natural gas prices and production  

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Forbes has a graphic showing the size of the errors in EIA gas production forecasts and actual values. It would be useful to have this sort of data (and some better visualisations) for all energy production forecasts (if nothing else it would bring clarity to which organisations produce useful forecasts and which don't) - Got A Favorite 2017 Energy Forecast? Technology Will Make It Obsolete.

We can take this logic to data, and, fortunately, the EIA has made this exercise easy to do. Since 1996, they have published retrospective analyses of their predictions. In this useful and under-appreciated effort, the EIA compiles 20 years of forecasts into a single report and compares those forecasts to what actually happened. The last of these analyses was published in May 2015, comparing forecasts as far back as 1994 to realized outcomes through 2013. For U.S. natural gas markets, I have extended this data (both forecasted and realized) through 2015 and characterized the forecasting error of each report year, prediction year combination as driven by unexpected shocks to supply or demand. I have plotted this data in the figure below, separating forecasts made before the start of the recent shale boom in 2005 and after.

What reduces women's rights more - Oil or Islam ?  

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Interesting theory - Oil, Islam, and Women.

This paper suggests that Middle East women are underrepresented in the workforce and in government because of oil—–not Islam. Oil and mineral production can also explain the unusually low status of women in many countries outside the Middle East, including Azerbaijan, Botswana, Chile, Nigeria, and Russia.

Oil production affects gender relations by reducing the presence of women in the labor force. The failure of women to join the nonagricultural labor force has profound social consequences: it leads to higher fertility rates, less education for girls, and less female influence within the family. It also has far-reaching political consequences: when fewer women work outside the home, they are less likely to exchange information and overcome collective action problems; less likely to mobilize politically, and to lobby for expanded rights; and less likely to gain representation in government. This leaves oil-producing states with atypically strong patriarchal cultures and political institutions

20 Electric Cars  

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CleanTechnica has a summary of 20 electric cars on sale in the northern hemisphere - The 20 Electric Cars For Sale In The USA, Canada, & Europe.

We now have way, way more electric car models on the market than we had a few years ago. … Yet, so many more EV models will flood the market in the coming few years — and wash gasoline cars down the drain in the process. My typing fingers are tingling with excitement … or maybe that’s just the late-night coffee.

Below are the 20 fully electric cars currently for sale in the US and Europe. It’s fun to reflect on the progress of the past few years, dwell over the current offerings, and ponder the future, so I encourage you to join in and do that with me.

Comedy Gold  

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There's a part of me that think that the new revelations that Putin has videotape of Trump indulging in golden showers with Russian prostitutes are probably made up - but as I can't prove they aren't true and I can't see why the CIA / NSA et al would make it up I'm going to assume they are on the level.

Truer than stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were anyway.

If nothing else they are providing a comedy fest on Twitter and after all the ridiculous nonsense Trump supporters made up about Hillary (there are enough true bad things about Hillary they could use if they wanted to have an honest debate rather than making up stories about satanic abuse at pizza parlours) that I can't say I feel any pity for him whatsoever.

Hopefully the impeachment process begins soon.

Tesla Gigafactory Commences Production  

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Bloomberg reports that Elon Musk has met his first deadline for Gigafactory production of lithium ion batteries - Tesla Flips the Switch on the Gigafactory.

The Gigafactory has been activated. Hidden in the scrubland east of Reno, Nev., where cowboys gamble and wild horses still roam—a diamond-shaped factory of outlandish proportions is emerging from the sweat and promises of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. It’s known as the Gigafactory, and today its first battery cells are rolling off production lines to power the company’s energy storage products and, before long, the Model 3 electric car.

The start of mass production is a huge milestone in Tesla’s quest to electrify transportation, and it brings to America a manufacturing industry—battery cells—that’s long been dominated by China, Japan, and South Korea. More than 2,900 people are already working at the 4.9 million square-foot facility, and another 4,000 jobs (including temporary construction work) will be added this year through the partnership between Tesla and Panasonic.

By 2018, the Gigafactory, which is less than a third complete, will double the world’s production capacity for lithium-ion batteries and employ 6,500 full-time Reno-based workers, according to a new hiring forecast from Tesla.

Platts Five commodity themes to watch closely in 2017  

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Platts has a look at trends to watch in 2017, including oil prices and production levels, the emergence of a global gas market and the rise of electric vehicles and peak oil demand - Five commodity themes to watch closely in 2017.

Against the dramatic political and economic surprises of 2016, S&P Global Platts President Martin Fraenkel lays out his five themes to focus on in commodity markets in 2017. It’s not just oil markets that could provide big shifts in the new year; LNG and electric car markets also deserve attention as commodities markets continue to change.

Ford Upshifts To Electric Vehicles  

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Electrek has an updates on Ford's moves to being manufacturing electric vehicles - Ford says electric vehicles will overtake gas in 15 years, announces all-electric 300-mile SUV, hybrid F-150, Mustang, and more.

Ford is making a big announcement in electrification today. CEO Mark Field confirmed several new models will receive electric drivetrain options, including its flagship F-150 pickup truck that will double as an on-site generator. In 2015, Ford announced a $4.5 billion investment in electric vehicles in order to introduce 13 new models. Today, it confirmed 7 of those 13 new models and the list will surprise a few: a new all-electric SUV with “at least” 300 miles of range, a hybrid F-150 and a hybrid Mustang, a Transit Custom plug-in hybrid and 2 new electric police vehicles.

If you were counting, that’s 6 vehicles. The 7th vehicle will be the “high volume” autonomous car that Ford plans to produce by 2021. Ford confirmed today the vehicle will be equipped with a hybrid drivetrain. ...

It looked like was Ford was falling behind in electrification over the past few years with not many vehicles on the roadmap, but today’s announcement give us a better idea of the company’s commitment to EVs. It’s a lot of hybrids, some plug-in hybrids, and one all-electric vehicle so far.

Ethiopia opens Africa’s tallest and most controversial dam  

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The Economist has a look at Ethiopia's new 1870 MW Gibe III dam on the OMO river which has the capacity to double the country’s electricity output - Ethiopia opens Africa’s tallest and most controversial dam.

Dubbed “the water tower of Africa”, Ethiopia has long sought to harness the power of the rivers that tumble from its highlands. Flagship dam projects were central to the modernisation plans drawn up by the Italian administration of 1936-1941 and by the former emperor, Haile Selassie, in the 1960s. Gibe III is the latest in a series being built along the Omo River by the government, which is also constructing what will be the largest-ever dam in Africa when it opens, in theory, next year: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. Together these projects are intended to turn Ethiopia, which has scarce minerals but enormous hydropower potential, into a renewable-energy exporter. Gibe III alone is expected to generate as much electricity as currently produced by the whole of neighbouring Kenya, which has enthusiastically signed up to buy some of its power. The export earnings will help to plug Ethiopia’s gaping current-account deficit, while the cheap power will provide a timely fillip to its nascent manufacturing sector.

Why is the Arctic so warm in winter ?  

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The Independent has an article by Chris Mooney on the melting Arctic and research into how this affects the weather patterns in North America an Eurasia - The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why.

Last month, temperatures in the high Arctic spiked dramatically, some 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal -- a move that corresponded with record low levels of Arctic sea ice during a time of year when this ice is supposed to be expanding during the freezing polar night.

And now this week we're seeing another huge burst of Arctic warmth. A buoy close to the North Pole just reported temperatures close to the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), which is 10s of degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. Although it isn't clear yet, we could now be in for another period when sea ice either pauses its spread across the Arctic ocean, or reverses course entirely.

But these bursts of Arctic warmth don't stand alone -- last month, extremely warm North Pole temperatures corresponded with extremely cold temperatures over Siberia. This week, meanwhile, there are large bursts of un-seasonally cold air over Alaska and Siberia once again.

It is all looking rather consistent with an outlook that has been dubbed "Warm Arctic, Cold Continents" -- a notion that remains scientifically contentious but, if accurate, is deeply consequential for how climate change could unfold in the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The core idea here begins with the fact that the Arctic is warming up faster than the mid-latitudes and the equator, and losing its characteristic floating sea ice cover in the process. This also changes the Arctic atmosphere, the theory goes, and these changes interact with large scale atmospheric patterns that affect our weather (phenomena like the jet stream and the polar vortex). We won't get into the details yet, but in essence, the result can be a kind of swapping of the cold air masses of the Arctic with the warm air masses to the south of them. The Arctic then gets hot (relatively), and the mid-latitudes -- including sometimes, as during the infamous "polar vortex" event of 2013-2014, the United States -- get cold.

World's Biggest Windmills Now Make Jumbo Jets Look Tiny  

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Bloomberg has an article at the increasing size and efficiency of wind turbines - World's Biggest Windmills Now Make Jumbo Jets Look Tiny.

As they got bigger, the units became more efficient, boosting global installations 23 percent last year to a record 63.5 gigawatts, which at full tilt would be about as much as what flows from 63 nuclear reactors. ... “The doubling of turbine size this decade will allow wind farms in 2020 to use half the number of turbines compared to 2010,” said Tom Harries, an industry analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “This means fewer foundations, less cabling and simpler installation -- all key in slashing costs for the industry.”

The average turbine installed in Europe was 4.1 megawatts last year, 28 percent larger than in 2010, according to the London-based researcher, which expects 6.8 megawatts to be the norm by 2020. Harries said Siemens has hinted it’s working on a 10 megawatt turbine.

Airpocalypse Now 2 in Beijing  

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The ABC has a report on Beijing's appalling air pollution problems (something DOnald Trump apparently hopes to see return to the skies of US cities) - . Perhaps they need to ban cars on alternate days again in order to see blue skies.

Heavy smog has engulfed large parts of northern China for a fourth straight day, with the environment ministry warning that some firms in the region were continuing to flout emergency restrictions and dozens of flights out of Beijing cancelled.

Donald Trump's Energy Nostalgia and the Path to Hell  

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Michael Klare has a look at "Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come" - Donald Trump's Energy Nostalgia and the Path to Hell.

“American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” he declared at the Williston forum in May. “We will become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.” He seems firmly convinced that the accelerated extraction of oil and other carbon-based fuels will “make America great again.”

This is delusional, but as president he will undoubtedly be able to make enough of his energy program happen to achieve both short term and long term energy mayhem. He won’t actually be able to reverse the global shift to renewable energy now under way or leverage increased American fossil fuel production to achieve significant foreign policy advantages. What his efforts are, however, likely to ensure is the surrender of American technological leadership in green energy to countries like China and Germany, already racing ahead in the development of renewable systems. And in the process, he will also guarantee that all of us are going to experience yet more extreme climate events. He will never recreate the dreamy America of his memory or return us to the steamy economic cauldron of the post-World War II period, but he may succeed in restoring the smoggy skies and poisoned rivers that so characterized that era and, as an added bonus, bring planetary climate disaster in his wake. His slogan should be: Make America Smoggy Again.

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