The Charlie Brown of Alternative Energy? Why Geothermal Deserves More Support

Read the full story in E The Environmental Magazine.

Among alternative energy, wind and solar get all the media attention, all the glamour.  Yet both suffer from intermittency, from the problem that their power sources wax and wane.  Solar disappears at night and weakens when clouds interrupt, while wind has its own unpredictable schedule.  By contrast, geothermal draws on heat from deep below the earth to provide reliable base load power 24 hours a day. Unlike solar, it’s also currently competitive with conventional energy costs. Yet geothermal remains the Charlie Brown of renewables (or perhaps the Rodney Dangerfield): Although widespread development is often predicted, such hopes are repeatedly jerked away.

Sun In: Solar Tube Lighting Is Easy, Affordable and Energy Efficient

Read the full story in E The Environmental Magazine.

We’d all love to let in a little more sunlight, particularly as the days grow shorter, but that pesky roof keeps getting in the way. While bulky, traditional skylights have been used for years to open up roof space and illuminate interiors, light tubes, also known as solar tubes, are a slimmer, less expensive and more energy efficient way to channel natural light inside.

EPA Releases Final Health Assessment for TCE

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the final health assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE) to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database.  IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates the latest science on chemicals in our environment. The final assessment characterizes the chemical as carcinogenic to humans and as a human noncancer health hazard. This assessment will also allow for a better understanding of the risks posed to communities from exposure to TCE in soil, water and air. It will provide federal, state, local and other policy makers with the latest scientific information to make decisions about cleanup and other actions to protect people’s health. 

“This assessment is an important first step, providing valuable information to the state, local and federal agencies responsible for protecting the health of the American people,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “It underscores the importance of EPA’s science and, in particular, the critical value of the IRIS database for ensuring that government officials and the American people have the information they need to protect their health and the health of their children.”

TCE is one of the most common man-made chemicals found in the environment. It is a volatile chemical and a widely used chlorinated solvent. Frequently found at Superfund sites across the country, TCE’s movement from contaminated ground water and soil, into the indoor air of overlying buildings, is of serious concern. EPA already has drinking water standards for TCE and standards for cleaning up TCE at Superfund sites throughout the country.

  • TCE toxicity values as reported in the assessment will be considered in:
  • Establishing cleanup methods at the 761 Superfund sites where TCE has been identified as a contaminant
  • Understanding the risk from vapor intrusion as TCE vapors move from contaminated groundwater and soil into the indoor air of overlying buildings
  • Revising EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level for TCE as part of the carcinogenic volatile organic compounds group in drinking water, as described in the agency’s drinking water strategy
  • Developing appropriate regulatory standards limiting the atmospheric emissions of TCE – a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act

This assessment has undergone several levels of peer review including, agency review, interagency review, public comment, external peer review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board in January 2011, and a scientific consultation review in 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. Comments from all reviewers are addressed in the final assessment.

EPA continues to strengthen IRIS as part of an ongoing effort to ensure concrete research and science are used to protect human health and the environment. In May 2009, EPA restructured the IRIS program to reinforce independent review and ensure the timely publication of assessments. In July 2011, EPA announced further changes to strengthen the IRIS program in response to recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences. EPA’s peer review process is designed to elicit the strongest possible critique to ensure that each final IRIS assessment reflects sound, rigorous science.

More information on IRIS:

Characterization of Biodiesel Oxidation and Oxidation Products

Download the document.

Technical information pertaining to fatty oil and fatty ester stability chemistry is reviewed. Over 130 references within the open scientific literature are discussed in detail. This review is divided into five major technical sections, followed by conclusions, and a list of the cited references. Two appendices with additional information are also included. The five major technical sections are as follows:


Each of these five technical sections is further divided into sub-sections according to topic. The conclusions are not a condensed re-iteration of the most salient technical points. Instead, they are specifically written to address where the state of the art of biodiesel science and technology is, where the gaps are, and the general approach that is needed to fill those gaps.

Optimized Antioxidants for Biodiesel

Download the publication, funded by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s Sponsored Research Program.

Methods to improve the oxidative stability of B100 biodiesel were studied. A combination of a peroxide destroyer – triphenylphosphine – and a chain-breaking antioxidant – propyl gallate – was found to largely prevent oxidative damage in soy- and waste oil-derived biodiesels. Peroxides were shown to react rapidly with propyl gallate and render it ineffective. Triphenylphosphine alone provided some protection from oxidation, but not to the extent of the combination. Propyl gallate was found to be superior to other potential surface-active or chain-breaking antioxidants tested, such as ascorbyl palmitate, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), Trolox, and other gallate esters.

Online Repository of P2 Data Collection Tools Launched

The Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA) has developed an online repository to enable pollution prevention (P2) and environmental assistance programs to share their P2 data collection tools so that they can learn from each other.  Users can search for P2 data collection tools based on the relevant sector or topic, type of P2 activity, or type of tool used.  They can also add their own data collection tools to the system.  Examples of P2 data collection tools include: surveys, worksheets, self-certification forms, protocols and standard operating practices (SOPs) for follow-up to P2 technical assistance visits, quality management plans (QMPs) and Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPP), and checklists that P2 programs use to collect information from their clients.

Visit the site at:

Coffee-stimulated car smashes speed record

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

You know how so many people rely on endless cups of coffee to fuel them through the workday? One inventor figured that it wasn’t such a bad idea to build a car that can also get a serious jolt from the leftover grinds.

But Martin Bacon’ s vehicle isn’t just your average organic waste-powered car (if there is such a thing); It also recently became the world’s fastest. A few weeks ago, the vehicle set a new Guinness World Record during a run in which it reached speeds of 77.5 miles per hour and sustained an average speed of 66.5 mph. The previous speed record, set last year by the wood-burning Beaver XR7, was 47.7 mph.