December 19, 2013

Buffett's MidAmerican buys $1 billion in wind turbines     Photo: GregC/Thinkstock

Buffett Buys $1 Billion in Wind Power

Purchase marks shift toward renewable energy

Warren Buffett’s utility company, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, has purchased 448 wind turbines for nearly $1 billion. The purchase signifies a move toward making renewable energy more cost competitive with fossil fuels. 

Buffett’s purchase, the largest ever in the land-based wind industry, will be spent on projects across Iowa. The price of wind turbines has dropped nearly 26 percent since 2009, posing a serious threat to coal and fossil fuel utilities, reports Bloomberg.

“If Congress were to remove all the subsidies from every energy source, the wind industry can compete on its own,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. 

Coal-powered plants are slowly leaving the picture and MidAmerican’s purchase will certainly act as another step in the direction of wind power as costs of renewable energy continue to drop. 

Power from an on-shore wind farm costs $82.61 per megawatt-hour, compared to $78.30 for coal, and $69.71 from gas, according to Bloomberg.

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Wayne Carrels setting a world record for water skiing on hands.     Photo: Paul LaMantia/YouTube

Man Sets Two-Hand Waterskiing Record

'Wayniac' water skis 2,000 feet on palms

Eight hundred forty-nine feet: that was the old record for the longest distance water skied on two hands. The new record is more than 2,000 feet farther.

On Lake Petersburg, Illinois, Wayne Carrels, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War, waterskied 2,956 feet on his bare palms on September 1. After three months of review, Guinness World Record officials confirmed that Carrels' feat is valid.

A popular move among trick water skiers, hand skiing looks just as much like waterboarding as waterskiing. During his record-setting run, Carrels hooked his feet around the tow-rope and sustaining a push up on the lake's surface for over a minute while the boat pulled him at 30 miles per hour for more than a half mile. Carrel only stopped because the boat ran out of lake.

"I work out all year long just to stay in shape for skiing," Wayne told Waterski Magazine. "Achieving a Guinness World Record is the thrill of a lifetime."


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    Photo: Thinkstock

Biofuels Created From Algae in Minutes

New, cleaner process could eliminate fears of "peak oil"

Scientists have discovered a process that can turn algae into crude oil, and subsequently a variety of bio-fuels, in less than an hour, fueling widespread speculation that we might see the end of fears over "peak oil."

The process, developed by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), pumps a slurry of wet algae into a chemical reactor that facilitates the transformation in a matter of minutes, producing a crude oil that can be made into "aviation fuel, gasoline, or diesel fuel." The process leaves behind water and a phosphorus-laden byproduct that can be recycled and made to grow more algae.

In addition to being highly efficient, PNNL believes that its process will be cheaper than other algae-to-biofuels processes. "Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel," lead researcher Douglas Elliott told Breitbart. "We believe that the process we've created will help make algae biofuels much more economical." Elliott explained that the team has figured out a way to use wet algae instead of processed (at great cost) dry algae.

They also dispensed with the use of chemicals and solvents to separate the algae and its energy-rich oils, using a high heat and pressure process instead. "It's a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher," Elliott says. "In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We're just doing it much, much faster."

Genifuel Corp., a Utah biofuels company, has already licensed the technology and is attempting to reproduce it on an industrial scale.

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    Photo: Getty Images

Study: Dolphins Suffer After Oil Spill

Many Aren’t Surprised

It's no surprise that the 2010 BP oil spill caused massive damage to the environment, but a new study released Wednesday makes the strongest connection yet between the BP disaster and dolphin deaths, the Wall Street Journal reports.

BP PLC funded the study, but wasn’t involved with the analysis. The study found that almost half of the 30 Bottlenose dolphins released into Barataria Bay, Los Angeles in 2011 for examination had "a guarded or worse prognosis, and 17 percent were considered poor or grave, indicating they weren't expected to live.” The dolphins suffered from lung diseases that the study argues are consistent with toxic exposure to oil. It is also likely that those dolphins affected will likely never reproduce.

"It is related to oil," says Lori Schwacke, the study's lead author and a wildlife epidemiologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The weight of evidence is there."

BP maintains that the study failed to make a direct connection between the spill and sick dolphins.

NOAA "still hasn't provided BP with any data demonstrating that the alleged poor health of any dolphins was caused by oil exposure," BP spokesman Jason Ryan said in an email.

If future studies find a link between the spill and any BP would be expected to pay compensation, though the company can appeal findings in court.

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