Friday, December 09, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released an analysis, “U.S. sets record with a dozen billion-dollar weather disasters in one year.”  They report:
§ To date, the United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters in 2011, with an aggregate damage total of approximately $52 billion. This record year breaks the previous record of nine billion-dollar weather/climate disasters in one year, which occurred in 2008.
§ These twelve disasters alone resulted in the tragic loss of 646 lives, with the National Weather Service reporting over 1,000 deaths across all weather categories for the year.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Society had better pay attention and get cracking:


Published on Monday, December 5, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
The Most Important News Story of the Day/Millennium
by Bill McKibben

The most important piece of news yesterday, this week, this month, and this year was a new set of statistics released yesterday by the Global Carbon Project. It showed that carbon emissions from our planet had increased 5.9 percent between 2009 and 2010. In fact, it was arguably among the most important pieces of data in the last, oh, three centuries, since according to the New York Times it represented “almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution.”

What it means, in climate terms, is that we’ve all but lost the battle to reduce the damage from global warming. The planet has already warmed about a degree Celsius; it’s clearly going to go well past two degrees. It means, in political terms, that the fossil fuel industry has delayed effective action for the 12 years since the Kyoto treaty was signed. It means, in diplomatic terms, that the endless talks underway in Durban should be more important than ever--they should be the focus of a planetary population desperate to figure out how it’s going to survive the century. [350.org] 350.org

But instead, almost no one is paying attention to the proceedings, at least on this continent. One of our political parties has decided that global warming is a hoax--it’s two leading candidates are busily apologizing for anything they said in the past that might possibly have been construed as backing, you know, science. President Obama hasn’t yet spoken on the Durban talks, and informed international observers like Joss Garman are beginning to despair that he ever will.

Who are the 99%? In this country, they’re those of us who aren’t making any of these deadly decisions. In this world, they’re the vast majority of people who didn’t contribute to those soaring emissions. In this biosphere they’re every other species now living on a disorienting earth.

You think OWS is radical? You think 350.org was radical for helping organize mass civil disobedience in DC in August against the Keystone Pipeline?  We’re not radical. Radicals work for oil companies. The CEO of Exxon gets up every morning and goes to work changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere. No one has ever done anything as radical as that, not in all of human history. And he and his ilk spend heavily on campaigns to make sure no one stops them--the US Chamber of Commerce gave more money than the DNC and the RNC last cycle, and 94% of it went to climate deniers.

Corporate power has occupied the atmosphere. 2011 showed we could fight back. 2012 would be a good year to step up the pressure. Because this time next year the Global Carbon Project will release another number. And I’m betting it will be grim.

Originally posted on Daily Kos.
Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the amount of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels recorded the biggest jump in CO2 emissions ever recorded. Emissions worldwide rose 5.9 percent in 2010.
This unprecedented rise makes it difficult, if not impossible, to prevent severe climate change impacts in the coming decades. The longer we do nothing the longer we doom our own existence.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Here is an interesting interactive Climate Data Guide: https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/
I recently did a little research regarding a Solar Lease system (Solar Panel Installation) that services several states in the US.  I know many of you would consider getting solar panels but the investment cost is typically abundant.  This program allows you to get solar as a service for $0 money down (the installation and equipment is built into the lease) and once the system is installed you'll pay less for the energy you currently use every day.  Solar Panels offer many great benefits:  
  • Environment protection
  • Energy independence
  • Green jobs
  • Combat the rising rates of energy
To obtain more information, visit http://www.sungevity.com/home-1c or call 866-SUN-4ALL for free information on the technology, benefits, and this lease service

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why we need to stop burning fossil fuels right now.


We have passed the threshold of abating the consequences of the climate change effects that will come from the 391 Parts per Million (PPM) of CO2 that currently exists in the atmosphere. The extreme heat waves, droughts, wild fires, tornadoes, heavy downpours, and devastating floods that were not only experienced in America, but around the world are a harbinger of what is to come. It can only get worse as CO2 continues to rise. CO2 is going up at roughly 3 PPM per year as we pump 50 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere every 24 hours. Our only recourse is to cut fossil fuel use as soon as absolutely possible. It is imperative that people and politicians listen to the CLIMATE scientists and not the smoke screen so-called scientists paid for by the fossil fuel industries and take this issue dead seriously. Every puff of CO2 adds further to the problem. Take a look at what the weather events looked like so far this year and ask yourself if you want it to look worse than this next year and worse again the year after that and so on. 
European Union climate chief Connie Hedegaard is disposing of diplomatic niceties when describing U.S. political battles over climate change.

“I’m shocked that the political debate in the U.S. is so far away from the scientific facts,” she said, according to The Copenhagen Post. [ ©European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)] "It’s hard for a European to understand how it has become so fashionable to be anti-science in the U.S.,” Hedegaard said. (photo: ©European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

“When more than 90 percent of researchers in the field are saying that we have to take [climate change] seriously, it is incredibly irresponsible to ignore it. It’s hard for a European to understand how it has become so fashionable to be anti-science in the U.S.,” Hedegaard said in the Post account, which reprints comments she made to the Danish paper Politiken.

“And when you hear American presidential candidates denying climate change, it’s difficult to take,” she said.

Her remarks come amid a split in the GOP presidential field, where candidates including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann dispute the mainstream scientific view that the planet is warming and human activities are a key factor.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

While, on the campaign trail, a woman at an Obama rally shouted that American terrorists are left-wing environmentalists! As an environmentalist, I’ve been called a socialist, a communist, a terrorist, and other not so nice things.
While doing a climate change presentation at a movie theater, a group of Tea Partiers burst in and came down the center isle shouting, “global warming is a hoax” over and over until most of the audience left in fear of violence. The police had to escort me to my car. Hey Tea Party whatever happened to freedom of speech?
Perhaps many Tea Partiers’ are too young to remember Love Canal, a toxic dump that increased cancer rates in a New York community, or Ohio’s Cuyahoga River that caught fire from the toxic pollutants being dumped in it by unregulated industries?
Perhaps they forget that it was a Republican President, Richard Nixon, who established the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.
Of course big corporations hate these regulations because it costs them a small percentage of profit that would otherwise go into their pockets so they finance “think tanks” (what an oxymoron) like The American Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, and The Marshall Institute to name a few that feed money to pseudo-scientists to dispel real science to get rid of environmental regulations. 
They bring out “scientists” like Fred Singer who prostituted himself to the tobacco industry clamming cigarettes didn’t cause cancer. An industry memo that leaked to the press said “they wanted to create doubt in the public’s mind.” Then the chemical industry marched Singer out to claim that CFCs didn’t cause of the ozone hole in the atmosphere. Next, Singer came out disputing the science behind acid rain. Now, of course, he is one of the most outspoken “scientists” saying that climate change is a hoax. There are a few other scientists associated with these “think tanks” on the industry doll and it is amazing that they get so much traction in the media. More people get their message than get the true scientific facts.
Over 2,500 climatologists and every National Academy of Science worldwide agrees with the science behind climate change and are very alarmed about it. On top of that, just look around at the extreme weather events that are destroying, crops, livestock, water supplies, and communities to realize something very unusual is going on.
Imagine if the Tea Party and their ilk succeed in getting rid of our terrorist left-wing environmental regulations. What would that be like? 
Let’s begin in western Kentucky and West Virginia where the coal industry, due to very lax regulations, have so far, lopped off over 500 mountain tops destroying the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, removing entire towns, and destroying hundreds of miles of streams – all to get coal the cheapest way possible. Coal is the most dangerous and dirty fossil fuel we can burn and we should stop using it now. Coal Companies claim mountain top removal creates jobs, yet they replace 40 miners with each long-line machine they introduce.
Next, look at the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania New York, and New Jersey. With weak regulations, pristine state forests, game lands, and state parks, and people’s private property values are being destroyed by drilling activities and unsightly drilling pads and slurry ponds. People’s water supplies are being polluted with toxic fracking chemicals because environmental regulations are too weak to force drilling companies to tell people what’s being pumped into their groundwater. Some people set their faucets on fire by holding a match under it as water comes out.
Just because you don’t live in the Marcellus Shale area, don’t think you are exempt from this contamination. Much of that polluted water will seep into the Schuylkill and the Delaware waterways from underground channels and come right to your spigots. Not knowing what’s in the water means that your municipalities will not know how to treat it to make it safe.
These are just two current examples of why environmental regulations are vital to protect public health.  If it weren’t for the Clean Air Act, our air would be like China’s, so dirty that you wouldn’t be able to see from one end of a football field to the other.  God help you if you have a respiratory disease! And shame on President Obama for not having the spine to implement the tighter ozone regulations at the EPA last week.
 So, the next time you turn on your faucet to get a drink of water or make a pot of tea, remember to thank your luck stars for us terrorist commie left-wing environmentalist. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

 On September 3, 2011 243 courageous people were hauled away to jail -- it’s the last day of Phase 1 of the tar sands campaign, and 1,252 North Americans have been arrested, the biggest civil disobedience action this century on this continent.


I was arrest number 129 and got hauled away in a paddy wagon after protesting in front of the White House against the Tar Sands pipe line project. If we burn the amount of oil that the tar sands contain CO2 levels will rise to well over 700 PPM and destroy most life-forms on the planet. We cannot allow this to happen!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This comes from Joe Romm's blog post:


Our  understanding of basic climate science is so strong now that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded its recent review of climate science, saying it is a “settled fact” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”  Last year, Time magazine reported on a comprehensive new review paper of “100 peer-reviewed post-IPCC studies” in an article titled, “Report: The Case for Global Warming Stronger Than Ever” noting:
By looking at a wide range of observations from all over the world,  the Met Office study concludes that the fingerprint of human influence on climate is stronger than ever. “We can say with a very high significance level that the effects we see in the climate cannot be attributed to any other forcings [factors that push the climate in one direction or another],” says study co-author Gabriele Hegerl of the University of Edinburgh.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Global climate change exposes an interesting observation: the great battle between ideologues and politicians against the scientific community about the reality of climate change exposes the confusion between belief and factual understanding. For instance, if a quarter (a 25 cent coin) lies on a table and people observe it there should be a100% agreement that it is a quarter. It is hard factual evidence. Anyone who says it’s not really a quarter would be looked upon with great suspect. The quarter represents a case in fact-based understanding. The person who says it’s not really a quarter bases their position on their belief. We’ll get back to the quarter.
Belief is a very curious phenomenon. For instance, our local Native American tribe, the Lenape, believed that many animals including turtles had sacred powers. They believed that if a turtle wondered into a village containing a sick person, that person would be healed and become very lucky. The Okehocking tribe that maintained a summer hunting camp just east of West Chester on Route 3 was a turtle worshiping tribe.
Beliefs run across religious, philosophical, and ideological divides or can be a combination of these. In the religious community there are ten known non-Christian religions and fifteen recognized Protestant Denominations in the United States who, for the most part, claim that their way is the only way to God. Which one is right and how can they be sure?
The British philosopher Stephen Law described some belief systems (including belief in homeopathy, psychic powers and alien abduction) as "claptrap" and said that they "draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves ... if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again". That describes the extreme “shock jock” news programs of today.
Belief that the economy is the only thing that counts is another example. As much as capitalist like to demonize socialists (I’m not supporting socialism), the fact is Capitalism is a failed system too. Look where we are right now! Capitalists only care about the next quarter earnings. The Marcellus Shale issue is a perfect example.  They are willing to destroy people’s water quality and communities to keep their earnings optimal. One curious thing about the socialist accusation from capitalists is, why won’t they admit that when taxpayers pay over $91 Billion to subsidize big oil companies, at the same time the oil companies are gouging us at the pumps racking up historic profits - that that is socialism? The “people” are supporting the oil industry with our tax dollars. This is not free enterprise market-based business, yet they support the tax subsidies?
Back to the quarter, the scientific facts about climate change are as real as that twenty-five cent peace. The facts come from NASA, The Snow and Ice Data Center, NOWA, and some other scientific organizations. The facts are rock-solid. Skeptics disputing the facts are like someone saying that the quarter isn’t really a quarter.
In my fourteen years involvement with the scientific community researching climate change I have never seen one “peer reviewed” scientific study that disputes the facts about climate change. In addition, there are over 2,500 climatologists that say climate change is a very serious problem that has passed the threshold of stopping some very unpleasant future repercussions. If you pay attention to the droughts and wildfires in the southwest, the floods and tornados in the Midwest, and extreme weather events around the world, you will realize climate change is here now.  The skeptics deliberately promoted unsubstantiated beliefs as fact to keep their quarterly earnings up.  The cost for not fact-checking information will cost us all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Beer drinkers should unite

One of the most essential needs for human survival is clean water; without it you cannot survive.

A watershed area is the foundation of the water supply surrounding a particular stream or river. If you allow it to get polluted, you jeopardize the health of everyone who drinks its water. The best way to describe a watershed is that it looks like a naked tree. The top part of the tree, the canopy, is the headwaters area. The tips and the very top branches of the tree are analogous to the small tributaries that make up the headwaters.

These tributaries flow into bigger streams which are analogous to the thicker branches growing from the trunk. The main river corridor is analogous to the tree's trunk. Where the river meets the bay is analogous to the tree trunk meeting the earth. It is a large hydraulic system.

In the Brandywine Valley, at the beginning of colonial settlement, Lenape Indians and early European settlers could lie on their stomachs and drink from the Brandywine. It was pristine, pure, cold water. Fast forward to 2011; the population in the headwaters of the east branch of the Brandywine north of Downingtown is over 50,000 people.

Now due to lawn treatment chemicals from residential homes and golf courses, and industrial and agricultural pollutants you do not dare drink water directly from the stream. Even though the headwater areas are vital for protecting water quality and quantity, it is important to protect the entire watershed area to ensure safe drinking water. Any dangerous chemicals or pollutants introduced into the stream anywhere in the stream corridor will be detrimental to everyone downstream from that point.

The further from farm fields and housing developments where fertilizers and other chemicals can get into the water, the more pure the water remains.

The focus in this article is on the upper east branch between Honey Brook and Downingtown. This area is targeted for heavy residential development which will threaten the integrity of this water. The bad economy is the only thing that has prevented this area from getting trounced so far. Development converts water filtration areas into water runoff areas by replacing natural land with impervious rooftops and driveways. Protecting this watershed is vital to assure safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Chester County residents.

Over many years conservationists struggled to protect this watershed but industrial and residential development trumped many preservation efforts. There just hasn't been enough public concern or knowledge about the watershed's importance to protect it -- until perhaps now.

What might that be, you ask? Beer! Not just any beer, but possibly the finest beer on the planet. Victory Brewery in Downingtown, an internationally respected brewery, whose Prima Pils, chosen by The New York Times as the number one, world's best Pilsner is totally dependent on the water quality of the Upper East Branch of the Brandywine to maintain its quality.

If every lover of Victory beer realized just how utterly reliant the protection of this watershed is to assure the impeccable quality of that beautiful cold golden-amber flow from the tap to their glass, they would protect this watershed with life and limb. Beer loyalists are like this, you know.

Now this is not an advertisement for Victory Brewery, but knowing how fervent beer lovers are, and considering that nothing else seems to have worked, can you imagine an organization called Beer Drinkers United for Watershed Protection rising up and organizing, raising money, and lobbying the government to designate the upper east branch an exceptional value stream?

Imagine signs along roads that read, "You are now Entering the Victory Brewery Watershed Area." Beer lovers rise up! Protect your watershed! Protect your beer!

(Richard Whiteford of Downingtown is an environmental communications consultant.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

PENNSYLVANIA CAMPAIGN FOR CLEAN WATER

1315 Walnut Street, #1650
Philadelphia PA 19107
215-545-0250 phone  
215-545-2315 fax


June 7, 2011              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:          Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action           412-592-1283
                        Jeff Schmidt, Sierra Club                             717-232-0101
                        Adam Garber, PennEnvironment                973-986-8992

Hundreds at Capitol Rally for Action on Marcellus Drilling
Largest Rally in Harrisburg Calls for Drilling Moratorium and Environmental Protections

(Harrisburg) – Hundreds of Pennsylvania residents rallied at the State Capitol today protesting the state legislature’s inaction on Marcellus Shale drilling.  The coalition of groups holding the rally called it the largest that Harrisburg has seen to date protesting Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

The coalition called for:
1. A moratorium on further drilling in Pennsylvania until a full cumulative impact analysis on gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale is conducted.
2. Improved protections from gas drilling for drinking water supplies and rivers.
3. Ensuring that gas drillers pay their fair share in taxes, and utilizing these funds to restore cuts to the DEP budget.
4. Require full disclosure by gas drillers of all chemicals used.
5. Maintain the moratorium on further leasing of State Forest land for gas drilling.

Groups sponsoring the rally and lobby day included: PA Campaign for Clean Water, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, PennEnvironment, Gas Truth of Central PA, League of Women Voters of PA, Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia, Marcellus Protest, EARTHWORKS Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Green Party of Philadelphia, Mountain Watershed Association, Responsible Drilling Alliance.

Crystal Stroud, a resident of Towanda, PA, in Bradford County, described her health problems caused by drinking water contaminated with barium and other toxins from nearby gas drilling.  “No one is receiving help from our DEP, local, state or federal governments.  Our family has become collateral damage!  We are just 1 of the 33% failure rate of these gas companies. The failure to keep the residents of Bradford County’s wells contaminant free,” she stated.

Other speakers at the rally included Josh Fox, the creator of the film documentary, GASLAND, and Craig Saunter, a resident of Dimock, PA, where considerable water contamination from drilling has occurred.  Also speaking was Jonathan Jeffers, a former worker in Pennsylvania for Bronco Drilling, who described the neglect he saw for health, safety, and the environment while working on gas drilling jobs.

Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action, stated, “Drilling has been going on for nearly four years now, but still our state legislature has taken no action to protect residents from harm.  Legislators should take note that the crowds in the Capitol calling for action keep getting bigger.”  In addition to attending the rally, protesters made over 160 appointments with state representatives and senators, covering almost every corner of the state.

Several legislators attended the rally, many of whom have introduced legislation on the issue.  Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) stated, “We are the only state that doesn't tax them.  70% of Pennsylvanians understand this and want a tax.  Last year and half alone, drillers racked up over 1500 violations.  A severance tax will hold the industry accountable and ensure that the people of Pennsylvania are not left footing the bill.”

"The people of Pennsylvania are alarmed at the growing list of pollution incidents at gas drilling sites across the state," said Jeff Schmidt, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. "They are here today because they know that Pennsylvania's gas drilling law and regulations don't provide enough protection for our health or the environment.  We don't need an industry-dominated Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, whose roll has been to stall the needed reforms.  We call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to immediately enact amendments to our antiquated OIl and Gas Act legislation, such as HB 971, to protect our communities," he concluded.              

“Every day, the gas industry succeeds in making its voice heard, trying to convince us and our decision-makers that Marcellus Shale drilling isn’t the biggest public health and environmental threat to hit Pennsylvania in a generation,” said Erika Staaf with PennEnvironment. “Yet poll after poll tells us that the majority of Pennsylvanians want industry to pay its fair share in taxes and want clean air and clean water. We’re here to make our voices heard and tell our leaders exactly that.”

“The elected officials of Pennsylvania need to listen to the people who live and work here -- we need protection from the gas industry’s out of control violations through a statewide drilling permit moratorium,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

"Elected officials heard loudly and clearly today that they have a duty to protect communities from the rush to drill," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "Citizens are simply asking for health and the environment to be given priority over industry profit."


#          #          #

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One of the most essential needs for human survival is clean water; without it you cannot survive.
A watershed area is the foundation of the water supply surrounding a particular stream or river. If you allow it to get polluted, you jeopardize the health of everyone who drinks water from it. The best way to describe a watershed is that it looks like a naked tree.  The top part of the tree, the canopy, is the headwaters area. The tips and the very top branches of the tree are analogous to the small tributaries that make up the headwaters. These tributaries flow into bigger streams which are analogous to the thicker branches growing from the trunk. The main river corridor is analogous to the tree’s trunk. Where the river meets the bay is analogous to the tree trunk meeting the earth. It is a large hydraulic system.
In the Brandywine Valley, before colonial settlement, Lenape Indians could lie on their stomachs and drink from the Brandywine. It was pristine pure cold water.  Fast forward to 2011, the population in the headwaters of the east branch of the Brandywine north of Downingtown is over 50,000 people. Now due to lawn treatment chemicals from residential homes and golf courses and industrial and agricultural pollutants you do not dare drink water directly from the stream. Even though the headwater areas are vital for protecting water quality and quantity, it is important to protect the entire watershed area to insure safe drinking water. Any dangerous chemicals or pollutants introduced into the stream anywhere in the stream corridor will be detrimental to everyone downstream from that point.
The further from farm fields and housing developments where fertilizers and other chemicals can get into the water, the more pure the water remains. The focus in this article is on the upper east branch between Honeybrook and Downingtown. This area is targeted for heavy residential development which will threaten the integrity of this water. The bad economy is the only thing that has prevented this area from getting trounced so far. Development converts water filtration areas into water runoff areas by replacing natural land with impervious rooftops and driveways. Protecting this watershed is vital to assure safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Chester County residents.
Over many years conservationists struggled to protect this watershed but industrial and residential development trumped many preservation efforts. There just hasn’t been enough public concern or knowledge about the watershed’s importance to protect it - until perhaps now. What might that be you ask? Beer! Not just any beer, but possibly the finest beer on the Planet. Victory Brewery in Downingtown, an internationally respected brewery, who’s Prima Pils, chosen by the New York Times as the number one, world’s best Pilsner is totally dependent on the water quality of the Upper East Branch of the Brandywine to maintain its quality. 
 If every lover of Victory beer realized just how utterly reliant the protection of this watershed is to assure the impeccable quality of that beautiful cold golden-amber flow from the tap to their glass, they would protect this watershed with life and limb. Beer loyalists are like this you know.
Now this is not an advertisement for Victory Brewery, but knowing how fervent beer lovers are, and considering that nothing else seems to have worked, can you imagine an organization called Beer Drinkers United for Watershed Protection rising up and organizing, raising money, and lobbying the government to designate the upper east branch an exceptional value stream? Imagine signs along roads that read, “You are now Entering the Victory Brewery Watershed Area.”  Beer lovers rise up! Protect your watershed! Protect your beer! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

video
This is a very important video that addresses one of the biggest lies that climate deniers continue to perpetuate. Please watch it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Science News

Solar Power Without Solar Cells: A Hidden Magnetic Effect of Light Could Make It Possible



ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2011) — A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.


The researchers found a way to make an "optical battery," said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics.
In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics.
"You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We've all been taught that this doesn't happen," said Rand, an author of a paper on the work published in the Journal of Applied Physics. "It's a very odd interaction. That's why it's been overlooked for more than 100 years."
Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored. What Rand and his colleagues found is that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect.
"This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation," Rand said. "In solar cells, the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source."
What makes this possible is a previously undetected brand of "optical rectification," says William Fisher, a doctoral student in applied physics. In traditional optical rectification, light's electric field causes a charge separation, or a pulling apart of the positive and negative charges in a material. This sets up a voltage, similar to that in a battery. This electric effect had previously been detected only in crystalline materials that possessed a certain symmetry.
Rand and Fisher found that under the right circumstances and in other types of materials, the light's magnetic field can also create optical rectification.
"It turns out that the magnetic field starts curving the electrons into a C-shape and they move forward a little each time," Fisher said. "That C-shape of charge motion generates both an electric dipole and a magnetic dipole. If we can set up many of these in a row in a long fiber, we can make a huge voltage and by extracting that voltage, we can use it as a power source."
The light must be shone through a material that does not conduct electricity, such as glass. And it must be focused to an intensity of 10 million watts per square centimeter. Sunlight isn't this intense on its own, but new materials are being sought that would work at lower intensities, Fisher said.
"In our most recent paper, we show that incoherent light like sunlight is theoretically almost as effective in producing charge separation as laser light is," Fisher said.
This new technique could make solar power cheaper, the researchers say. They predict that with improved materials they could achieve 10 percent efficiency in converting solar power to useable energy. That's equivalent to today's commercial-grade solar cells.
"To manufacture modern solar cells, you have to do extensive semiconductor processing," Fisher said. "All we would need are lenses to focus the light and a fiber to guide it. Glass works for both. It's already made in bulk, and it doesn't require as much processing. Transparent ceramics might be even better."
In experiments this summer, the researchers will work on harnessing this power with laser light, and then with sunlight.
The paper is titled "Optically-induced charge separation and terahertz emission in unbiased dielectrics." The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property.

Friday, April 01, 2011

I am featured on the Climate Project Website.
http://us.theclimateproject.org/
EV Charging Network Coming to PA   
  
350GreenOn March 11, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
announced a partnership with 350Green, a developer of electric vehicle (EV) charging station networks, to design, build, and operate a network of 22 EV fast charging and 44 Level 2 charging stations across the state. A substantial portion of the chargers will be concentrated in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh regions. Construction is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2011 and be complete by mid-2012.

  
If PA DEP projections of EV purchases are correct, 350Green estimates that by 2020 its Pennsylvania charging network can help displace 260 million gallons of fuel, which represents $580 million in avoided costs and 1.6 million cumulative tons of CO2 emissions avoided per year. 
PA DEP