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Gerar eletricidade com o calor do interior da Terra é meta de pesquisadores. Tecnologia renovável ainda é cara e precisa ser melhor desenvolvida.

Desenvolvedores da energia geotérmica, tecnologia que gera eletricidade com uso do calor proveniente do interior da Terra, realizam experimentos nos Estados Unidos à beira de um vulcão adormecido na região de Oregon, com o objetivo de impulsionar a metodologia considerada renovável e testar sua aplicabilidade.

Para isso, 907 milhões de litros de água serão bombeados para próximo do vulcão por um consórcio de empresas através de maquinário preparado para isso, que levará o líquido a fendas do vulcão, para que ela retorne rapidamente, e quente, possibilitando a geração de energia limpa e barata.

A iniciativa apoiada pelo governo federal, pela companhia Google, além de outros investidores, recebeu US$ 43 milhões para reaproveitamento do calor do vulcão Newberry, que fica a 20 quilômetros de distância da cidade de Bend, no Oregon.

“Sabemos que o calor está aí, mas a grande questão é que precisamos saber se podemos circular a água pelo sistema de formar que torne a operação viável economicamente” disse Susan Petty, presidente da AltaRock, uma das empresas do consórcio.


Maquinário instalado próximo ao vulcão Newberry, que vai explorar o calor do fundo da Terra (Foto: Ryan Brennecke/AP)

Novo campo
O calor na crosta da Terra é utilizado para gerar energia há mais de um século, com engenheiros utilizando água quente ou vapor. Porém, a nova fronteira são as pedras quentes, que, para serem exploradas, dependem de novos sistemas.

Poços são perfurados na rocha profunda e a água é bombeada para o interior. A água fria é bombeada de reservatórios para este local e o vapor é retirado.

Entretanto, o progresso tem sido lento, segundo os engenheiros. Duas pequenas plantas funcionam na França e na Alemanha, com um terceiro projeto em andamento na Suíça. Essa atividade só não é melhor explorada porque tem sido criticada devido ao risco de terremotos provocado pela rachadura nas pedras.

Segundo o governo dos EUA, a utilização de recursos geotérmicos gera atualmente 0,3% da energia consumida no país. Entretanto, um relatório divulgado em 2007 pelo Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts (MIT, na sigla em inglês), projeta que este índice pode aumentar para 10% em 50 anos, com preços competitivos aos combustíveis fósseis.


Vista do vulcão adormecido Newberry, localizado no estado do Oregon, nos EUA (Foto: U.S. Geological Survey/Lyn Topinka/AP)

Fonte: Globo Natureza, com agências internacionais
Original: http://glo.bo/wzNZh5


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An oil refinery in Bahrain (Photography: Jose Fuste Raga / Corbis)

Here’s the thing that forecasts about energy use and production tend to have in common: they’re probably wrong. From the predictions in the 1950s that nuclear energy would one day be too cheap to meter, to the belief in the 1970s that the world would run on solar power by the end of the 20th century, would-be energy prophecies have seemed to come from very cloudy crystal balls. Today the biggest trend affecting global energy markets is the explosive growth of shale natural gas — something that virtually no one thought was even viable 20 years ago. Technological advances, new discoveries, unexpected economic crises, environmental concerns — all of these factors can skew our expectations about how we’ll be powering our homes, cars and industries tomorrow. So when you listen to the gloomy forecasts from peak-oil theorists or hear the sunnily optimistic scenarios of energy executives, keep this in mind: the future is really, really hard to predict.

That’s one reason Fatih Birol — the Turkish-born chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) — has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Birol helps put together the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook, a much anticipated report that gathers trends in global energy use and tries to project them into the future. And a lot of those trends are very worrying. The IEA has said that current global-energy-consumption patterns put the earth on a trajectory to warm by nearly 11°F (6°C) above preindustrial levels by 2100 if we do nothing to change them — climate change that would in effect mean an entirely different planet. “That would be a catastrophe for all of us,” Birol said last week at a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

The IEA’s warning on climate change has gotten more attention than most — in part because it came just before the U.N. launched its annual climate summit, still underway in the South African city of Durban. But the report also contained a number of other surprising facts about the future of energy — and I sat down with Birol after his talk to go over them.

1. Shifts in Oil Security
For decades now, the U.S. has been the world’s No. 1 importer of oil, buying 11 million barrels a day in 2010. That imbalance has cost Americans money — over $300 billion last year — and it has an impact on our foreign policy, putting the U.S. in the position of acting as the world’s oil cop. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t only been about oil, but that’s not to say that keeping the crude flowing from the Middle East wasn’t an important side effect.

The good news is that thanks both to improved energy efficiency and new sources of crude in the U.S., Americans are beginning to import less and less oil. The IEA expects American oil imports to be half their current level by 2035 while European oil imports will continue to rise. By 2015, Birol projects that the European Union will be importing more oil than the U.S., and by 2035 China may be importing twice as much as the U.S. “This has implications for oil security,” says Birol. “Will others step forward?”

2. The Future Is Gas — Unless Industry Screws Up
We often assume that oil-and-gas supplies are essentially fixed, that technological development is something that happens only in clean tech. But that’s not the case. Oil-and-gas exploration is high tech, and new methods can allow industry to tap new supplies. That’s the case with hydraulic-fracturing and shale gas, which has significantly expanded natural-gas supplies in the U.S., with knock-on effects around the world. As a result, generally cleaner natural gas is poised to compete with coal on price. “We’re entering a golden age of gas,” says Birol.

But that golden age could be tarnished by concerns over pollution from hydrofracking. Environmentalists worry that fracking and drilling may be spoiling nearby groundwater, while residents in areas with gas are increasingly unhappy with the industrialization and disruption that comes with drilling. Most of these environmental problems are manageable with the right kind of regulation — especially compared with burning coal — but without better rules, there’s a real chance that the dash for gas could go awry. “The U.S. has given a major present to international energy with shale gas,” says Birol. “But if you want a golden age of gas, you need a golden age of regulations.” The gas industry would be wise to listen.

3. We’re Getting Dirtier
If there’s one relatively uncontroversial truth in energy, it’s that we need to improve efficiency. Wasted energy is wasted money — all the more so at a time when oil prices are high and unlikely to drop. In the U.S., energy efficiency has been one of President Obama’s successes in environmental policy, pushing for greener buildings and mandating better gas mileage.

Too bad, then, that the world as a whole is getting less and less energy efficient. IEA numbers have shown that globally over the past couple of years, we’re emitting more carbon per unit of economic output. That’s mean we’re traveling in the exact opposite direction from where we need to be going, recarbonizing instead of decarbonizing, thanks chiefly to increases in dirtier energy such as coal and inefficient manufacturing in rapidly growing countries like China and India. It’s a sign of just how difficult the clean-energy transition will be.

4. Coal: The Once and Future Energy Source
Industry insists that the Obama Administration has launched a “war on coal.” Environmental groups are trumpeting campaigns to push the U.S. beyond coal. Solar and wind and natural gas get all the good press. But the truth is that coal has generated most of our electricity in the past, it’s generating much of our electricity right now — and barring technological or regulatory change, it will generate much of our electricity in the future. “We rarely talk about coal,” says Birol. “But over the last 10 years, 50% of the growth in global energy consumption has come from coal.”

That fact, more than any other, explains why we’re currently on a track for a much hotter world. The developed world is already moving away from coal, but countries like China are using more and more, as you can see in the smoggy skies of Beijing. Coal is cheap and coal is plentiful — but if we can’t turn away from it, our fate is pretty much sealed.

5. Energy Access: The Forgotten 2 Billion
For all the worry over peak oil or climate change, there are nearly 2 billion people on the planet who lack any access to modern energy. They are, quite literally, in the dark — and while we plot a cleaner, greener energy future, we can’t forget about them. Lack of access to energy essentially dooms whole populations to grinding poverty. “I’ve been trying to push this agenda for 10 years,” says Birol. “It needs to be part of the energy conversation.”

To help bring attention to this needy and underserved part of the human family, the U.N. has designated 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, which should help energy access rise on the global development agenda. But if we’re really going to figure out a way to switch on the lights in places like sub-Saharan Africa, we’ll need the participation of big corporations. “We need major energy companies looking at this issue much more closely,” says Birol. The future is hard to predict, but that’s one thing we can be sure of.

Author: Bryan Walsh
Source: TIME Science
Original: http://ti.me/rVQvhi


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(Fotografia: Divulgação)

De olho no meio ambiente e também na sua imagem, a Porsche vai trazer para o Salão do Automóvel, que acontece de 28 de outubro a 7 de novembro em São Paulo, o Cayenne S Hybrid, utilitário esportivo recém-lançado na Europa movido a gasolina e eletricidade.

O modelo é equipado com um motor 3.0 V6 a gasolina, de origem Audi, com 333 cavalos de potência, associado a um motor elétrico de 52 cavalos. Segundo a empresa alemã, o consumo médio do motor é inferior a 9 litros e tem emissões de CO2 de 210 g/km – 100 a menos em comparação com o Cayenne S V8 a gasolina, cujo consumo médio de combustível é superior aos 15 litros/100 km.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://bit.ly/wfoY0x


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A Lombok villager cooks with mercury to extract gold from rock under a sign urging people to buy the precious metal. (Picture: Deborah Cassrels Source: Supplied)

THE Indonesian island of Lombok is yet to become Bali’s nemesis as a tourist destination, but locals have found there are other ways to make a buck.

Gold fever has gripped parts of the island, particularly the southwest peninsula of Sekotong, transforming areas prized by many Australians for their superb surfing and scenery into hotbeds of discontent and environmental disaster.

Over lunch, served poolside at Cocotinos Resort, the only luxury destination in Sekotong, there’s scant evidence all is not well.

Dubbed an eco resort, it is encircled by pristine white sand beaches, verdant rolling hills, coconut groves and development torpor. Such is life on Lombok, a paradise in waiting.

Foreign guests tuck into fresh salads, hamburgers and seafood, unaware that the produce is not from the crystal-clear waters in which they were recently diving, or from the lush vegetation or the local animals.

Resort owner T. M. Wong whispers conspiratorially: ‘We are not buying local produce, as a protection for clients. We get food and water from Mataram (Lombok’s capital) or Bali.” The coral reef, a stone’s throw away, has also faded from a rich, brilliant hue to a bleached aberration.

Of paramount concern is the threat of mercury contamination in water, soil and food as locals engage in rampant small-scale illegal goldmining using toxic processing methods. Mercury, used to extract gold from the rock, causes neurological disorders, trembling and fever, and produces shocking deformities in children.

But with no regulations, nor education on the dangers, the toxic substance is vaporised or dumped, along with other mining waste including cyanide, on to land or into rivers and then flushed into the sea.

Since 2008 the gold rush has been driving once sleepy villages in Sekotong. Government attempts to stop illegal miners have been ignored, while hundreds have died in collapsing mines and landslides. Earning up to $200 a day, the new rich earn substantially more than the few dollars they picked up as fishermen or farmers.

Clashes with police, the military and mining companies — with corrupt officials fuelling resistance — are common; this week on neighbouring Sumbawa island police shot dead two locals protesting over the Australian Arc Exploration gold mine.

In an incident on Lombok in October, violence erupted between miners and Southern Arc, the Canadian parent of Indonesian subsidiary PT Indotan, which was granted a mining permit earlier in the year. Miners blocked staff and equipment from entering the exploration site before demanding permits to continue mining. Southern Arc countered by offering to recruit 400 local miners in November. Earlier a local was killed by police, and two were arrested for burning the PT Indotan facility. In response, locals attacked the police office.

What they are fighting for is 1395 tonnes of gold in the hills of Sekotong. The spoils have attracted about 6000 illegal miners, who are digging up 12,000ha in 18 areas, much of which is protected forest and private land, according to the West Lombok Energy and Mineral Resources office.

Drive round the winding, picturesque coastline and the telltale tarpaulins dotted over Sekotong’s hills — where locals live and die digging for gold — signal the locals’ desperation to do better.

Sacks overflowing with ore are piled outside houses and processing plants, waiting to be crushed. The rock has been removed by hand and delivered by women carrying the sacks on their heads, ignorant of the gold content.

New concrete houses are replacing traditional thatched huts in the villages, and it’s de rigueur to sport multiple gold crushing machines in the front yard where water, high concentrations of mercury and tailings slosh about, frequently spilling on to soil where children play and animals wander.

When Inquirer visited the area, villagers without protective clothing were extracting ore, inhaling mercury fumes over naked flames. Despite suffering dizziness, villagers say they are OK. They might be sick five years down the track but they don’t care. “It’s no big deal; we drink coconut juice, that fixes it,” says one.

Sekotong is close to Lembar Harbour, the jumping-off point from Bali to spectacular diving and surfing spots, including the world-renowned Desert Point, so named by Australian surfers for its isolation. The town attracts foreign investors and visitors from Bali who cherish Lombok’s natural beauty. Authorities have their hopes pinned on the pristine Lombok mainland as their ticket to a booming tourist economy.

It has plenty going for it: its long-awaited international airport opened this year; beleaguered development processes in the south are finally progressing; and Bali’s overdevelopment and overpopulation, along with a recent flurry of negative publicity, mean many are seeking an alternative. But gold fever, with its toxic by-products, may kill the industry before it’s born.

The head of the West Nusa Tengarra (a region that comprises Lombok and Sumbawa) Foreign Investment Board, Lalu Bayu Windya, thumbing through a list of 87 foreign investments in Sekotong, despairs that most land is “inactive”, with tourism development flat. Much of the land was bought in 2008 in the heat of the gold rush.

“The government has a plan to build marinas for cruise ships and yachts next year,” he says. “Foreigners have bought a lot of land, but they haven’t started building yet.”

An exception, the European-owned Palm Beach Garden guesthouse in Pelangan, embraces mining as a tourist attraction. Operations manager Bukran, although he still takes eager tourists to pan for gold, has lost many friends killed in the pits.

“One year ago there were many accidents, and in 2009, 200 people died in a big hole,” he says.

“It was easy to get gold then. It paid rupiah 450,000 ($50) for one gram.” Now gold ranges in value from R425,000 for 24-carat to R280,000 for 18-carat. It’s still worth the effort in a country where the official minimum wage is $100 a month, although many earn less than that. Much of the ore is transported to Mataram, famous for its jewellery stores, where the same perilous mercury techniques are used in processing.

Perth and Bali-based developer David Pillinger was drawn into Sekotong’s environmental mining concerns a couple of years ago by a group of Australians who own land there but haven’t built. They share a love of surfing and diving, and an attachment to the spectacular landscape. Pooling resources and know-how, they tried to facilitate a sustainable plan, but Pillinger says corruption stymied it.

“It’s like the wild west gold rush,” he says of the charged atmosphere. “Literally, it’s like walking into a saloon.” Their idea was to form a co-operative operating under its own licence with security of tenure, with the local government receiving royalty payments. “It didn’t seem to be what the government wanted. Everyone had their little gold assay plant,” Pillinger says of the villagers’ archaic processing methods. “They were crushing the gold down to a superfine slurry, then (panning) it. They were burning mercury over an open Bunsen burner. Then they get their wives to do it. They sit there with a wok, burning this mercury.

“Some of the best snorkelling is in these beautiful reefs,” he says. “There used to be farming and fishing: it’s gone. The big prawn farms are empty; no one wants to do it. They get paid more for risking their lives doing goldmining. It’s really dangerous and the by-product is killing and deforming everything of the future of that area.”

Pillinger became involved with the regent of southwest Lombok, Zainy Arony, who has advocated a zoning plan for Sekotong with designated community mining.

Consultations between the provincial government and the national Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources are in flux. Meanwhile, the government overturned Lombok’s tourism zoning last year to allow 1500ha of traditional small-scale mining.

Despite health and environmental alarms, local government lethargy appears solid. “There are no reports of environmental monitoring carried out stating that the goldmining activities have shown a significant adverse and large impact,” investment board head Bayu says. That is no surprise, given the government’s aversion to funding studies, a lack of initiative to monitor effects of chemical use and an entrenched culture of corruption.

A study undertaken last year by the head of the physics department at Mataram University, S. Hiden, found unsafe levels of mercury in Sekotong soil, but that “it’s normal, according to the city council”. Government research funding was a paltry R5 million ($500). “We wanted to measure the water,” Hiden says, “but there is no more funding.”

Contradicting this, the head of the government-run Environment Agency, Tadjuddin Erfandy, claims no independent study has been undertaken. He cites a government study on mercury and cyanide contamination about two years ago that “found the quality of water in Sekotong — in sea, rivers and creeks — was safe, with no indication of mercury contamination in the fish”.

Although annual checks are scheduled, they are irregular because of funding shortages.

Environmental engineer Yuyun Ismawati, a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2009, is completing a master’s degree at Oxford University on mercury in artisanal small-scale mining in Indonesia. She cites evidence that mercury levels in Sekotong’s water and fish far exceed the World Health Organisation’s safe standard of 0.001 parts per million. Mercury in river sediment is 600 to 3500 times higher than the WHO standard, according to a 2010 study conducted by Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta.

Mercury in fish in Glodok, a downstream area of West Lombok where several rivers flow to the southern coast, was up to 2000 times higher. Hair samples of local children also showed unsafe mercury levels.

“Sadly, in hair samples from children aged 0 to 4 years mercury concentration was up to 20.07ppm,” says Ismawati, who featured in Time magazine’s 2009 list of environmental heroes. “In the next two to three years I believe there will be many children with congenital diseases as the mother eats mercury-contaminated fish.”

Compounding the problem is the sale of illegal mercury brought into Lombok and Bali.

“One of the big mercury illegal importers told me he imported mercury under the table, paying off customs and police officials to import 200 tonnes of mercury,” Ismawati says. “While the official figure of mercury importation from the Ministry of Trade in 2010 and 2011 is only two tonnes: that is the total amount used by manufacturing companies to make compact fluorescent lamps and sphygmomanometers (blood pressure meters).”

To make matters worse, in Indonesia there are no laws banning the use of mercury or cyanide, which are sold openly in shops and on websites. Ismawati sees Sekotong as a looming tragedy similar to that of Minamata in Japan, which claimed nearly 2000 lives after a mercury poisoning outbreak 55 years ago.

Among the 900 hot spots in Indonesia, miners suffering tremors and fever indicative of mercury poisoning have been misdiagnosed as having dengue fever, malaria or stomach cancer. Reports have not been released.

Regional autonomy, a legal quagmire, also hampers the regulation of small miners who slip through myriad gaps into unprotected territory. “It’s cowboy country. There’s cheating at every stage, with no records of gold trade or of gold produced at hot spots,” says Ismawati, adding that child labour is common. “Many shaft openings are so narrow only a child could get in. Some have died in landslides.”

When Pillinger opted out he was pushing for the banning of mercury: “I thought I could bring some expertise from Western Australia. I took some geologists and a couple of people from public mining companies who were willing to do something.”

He suggested a community processing plant with sealed units that recycled waste and water, but “you can’t stop them mining, it’s like their god-given right. Indonesia could have safe, Australian environmentally approved processes, but it’s too hard. You put your money in and they steal it.”

Author: Deborah Casserls
Source: The Australian
Original: http://bit.ly/t8ze7K


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Um estudo revela que a redução das emissões de metano e carbono negro na atmosfera seria uma forma mais rápida e menos dispendiosa de travar o aquecimento global do que o simples combate às emissões de dióxido de carbono.

Tal medida, segundo o estudo publicado na quinta-feira na revista científica Science, evitaria numerosas mortes precoces devido à poluição do ar.

O metano, um dos principais componentes do gás natural, e o carbono negro, essencialmente fuligem, são responsáveis pela degradação da qualidade do ar e pelo aquecimento global, explicou, citado pela agência AFP, Drew Shindell, climatólogo da NASA e coautor do estudo.

Fonte: Expresso
Original: http://bit.ly/wgVDDT


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According to the EPA, most of us spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. That seems about right to me, especially in the wintertime (though in the summer, I’m able to work outside on some days, so it’s much lower then). And although there are plenty of laws and regulations about outdoor air pollution, most of us don’t give a second thought to the air in our homes.

But we should: “… a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors,” advises the EPA.

You could choose to invest in an air purifier or filter (I added one when I upgraded the forced-air heating system in my home a couple of years ago), but getting significantly cleaner, healthier air in your home doesn’t have to come from making big changes or even spending any money. Starting with the simplest idea:

List and captions courtesy of Mother Nature Network. Images courtesy of credited Flickr users.

Clean your pet’s bed

Pet hair and dander can add allergens and particulates, including dust, to your indoor air. And if you have an animal that goes outside and comes in with wet fur or paws, their bed might be a bit moldy too. Be sure to regularly wash your pet beds (I clean mine every time I wash my sheets) to keep the flying fur to a minimum.

Source: HuffPost Green
Original: http://huff.to/xK6Wcz


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(Fotografia: Divulgação)

A Ford, assim como todas as empresas do setor automotivo e por razões diferentes, demonstra especial interesse pelos chamados veículos verdes. Ela vai aproveitar o Salão de Automóvel de São Paulo, que começa no dia 27 de outubro, para lançar, aqui no Brasil, o Fusion Hybrid, o primeiro veículo da marca com um motor elétrico e outro a gasolina.

Só na eletricidade, o Fusion alcança a velocidade de 76 km/h. A partir daí a propulsão fica a cargo do motor a gasolina, que possui um sistema capaz de otimizar a queima de combustível. Graças a esta motorização especial, ele pesa menos no bolso. Segundo a fabricante, o sedã híbrido é até 30% mais econômico que um popular 1.0.

A Ford afirma ainda que o carro faz 17 km/l na cidade e 15 km/l na estrada, tendo um consumo médio combinado de 16.6 km/l e velocidade máxima de 180 km/h. No início deste ano, o híbrido da Ford foi eleito o Carro do Ano no Salão de Automóvel de Detroit pela imprensa especializada.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://bit.ly/AAetyp


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