- If the amount of news you can find on the internet is any indication of a trend’s popularity, then it would seem that there is real interest in emerging biofuel technologies. The Department of Energy recently awarded $5.7 million to study guayule as a new source of biofuel. Guayule is a drought-tolerant plant that is native to the US and can be grown on marginal lands, thus it is not competing for the limited space available for agriculture. Guayule is a particularly economically-attractive two-for-one plant as latex can be extracted before a powdered biofuel is created which can yield approximately the same amount of energy to charcoal on a pound-by-pound basis.
Scientist at Stanford and Pennsylvania State Universities have taken a different approach to the production of ‘biofuels.’ They use a biofilm containing a mixture of microbes known as methanogens to take electricity and convert it to methane gas. By connecting the methanogens to an electric current created by renewable wind or solar power, they are able to convert this energy – with an impressive ~80% efficiency – into ‘green’ methane, the key ingredient in natural gas which we commonly use to heat our homes, cook our meals and could use to drive our cars.And finally, a research team at Michigan State University has developed a technique that could significantly improve the efficiency of ethanol production. The team has developed a custom blend of bacteria that are able to breakdown corn stalks, stems and husks (i.e. corn stover) more efficiently through a biochemical fermentation process. This process also releases byproducts that can be used to generate hydrogen gas. By combining these two steps, the team believes it can capture up to 73% of the energy contained in corn stover versus a maximum capture rate of up to 4.5% with current fermentation technologies.
- Have you checked out ArcGIS Online recently? If not, you should do so the next time you open up ArcGIS as the amount of free geospatial data that you can access with a few mouse and keyboard clicks is truly astonishing. You can access ArcGIS Online very easily by going to the File Menu in ArcGIS 10.x and then to ArcGIS Online. For instance, the very specific search, “Colorado schools,” yielded 34 results with a wealth of information on school district boundaries, demographics and universities located in the state. Admittedly of these 34 results, only about 2/3 were actually on topic so be sure to look at the descriptions of each layer before you spend the time loading it through streaming services.
This map was created with free demographic data offered in ArcGIS Online. Once the map layer is loaded, you are able to query each school district polygon to discover a wealth of demographic information on its students.
- How much energy does the internet use? Guessing that is not a question you have asked yourself recently but the answer is rather shocking. A single 10-megawatt data center which houses a very tiny portion of the total information on the internet can use as much energy as a small American town. When you consider that there are 500,000 data centers in the world, that puts total energy use at approximately 406 terawatts per year, or ~2% of the total power used each year in the world. And with the explosion of the internet and the amount of data on it, this figure will only increase in the coming years.
- Whether you think humans are the main cause of global climatic change or not, there is absolutely no question that our planet has warmed during our lifetimes with drastic impacts on our Arctic regions. This year has seen two more record lows set in the Artic Sea as we have reached the minimum ice extent (just under 4 million square kilometers) and volume ever seen. If this trend continues, we will see completely ice-free summers in the Arctic by 2030, which is far sooner than the end of the 21st Century as scientists had predicted in 2007. While the melting of the Arctic ice mass in of itself will not have a major impact on global sea levels, it could accelerate a similar trend we are seeing in Greenland which would have a major impact. In fact, many major metropolitans around the world are already planning on the continued rise of sea levels, for instance engineers in New York City are studying how it could impact the Subway system.
- For many Americans, the goal of energy independence has both economic and global security implications. In order to achieve independence, we obviously need to generate the power we consume right here in the US through a mixture of non-renewable and then increasingly renewable resources. While increased fossil fuel production is one way to achieve energy independence in the short term, another important factor to consider is the average fuel economy of the nation’s fleet of cars and trucks. To that end, the Obama administration made a major stride forward as it finalized regulations which will require automakers to sell a combination of cars and trucks with an average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by Model Year (MY) 2025. Those purchasing MY2025 cars will save a combined $1.7 trillion and this change alone will reduce oil consumption by 2 million barrels per day.
Brock Adam McCarty