The Debate: Fracking and the Future of Energy

France 24 Energy in 2013 DebateThe Arctic is melting faster than predicted. Is now the time to shut down the low-carbon nuclear power plants in France — the 20th Century’s staunchest proponent of nuclear energy? Is natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ a gift that is buying time for a transition to renewable energy or a curse that reinforces fossil fuel dependence? Will carbon belching heavyweights such as the U.S. and China ever get serious about cleaning up their energy systems?

Such questions are top order in France, whose President kicked off a Grand Débat on energy this month Continue reading

Repowering Wind Farms via Electronic Paper

Journalism is in the grips of a financial crisis, and that should worry us all. Cutbacks in reporting staff, such as CNN’s elimination of its science/environment/technology unit, will deplete the capacity for learning and intelligent decision making that our society so badly needs at this critical energy juncture. Online distribution of news could help by reducing printing costs, but this potential new direction for journalism is currently undermined by several faults: online news tends to fracture readership because readers go only to those stories they know in advance will interest them, and free access to articles combined with slim advertising revenue makes it a poor mechanism for financing quality news gathering.

What if there was a means of reading magazines and newspapers online, in a semblance of their current form, providing the information richness of dozens of pages of varied content (plus the advertising to pay for it)? There are several experiments of this sort underway by major newspapers. I just signed up for a free trial of the New York Times Electronic Edition, which is a digital replica of the printed paper.

There are tech tools available to turn digital newspapers into the portable reading experience we’re accustomed to, and they keep getting better. The NYTimes got excited this fall about a largescreen reader to be released in trial volumes later this year by the U.K.’s Plastic Logic:

The device, which is unnamed, uses the same technology as the Sony eReader and Amazon.com‘s Kindle, a highly legible black-and-white display developed by the E Ink Corporation. While both of those devices are intended primarily as book readers, Plastic Logic’s device… has a screen more than twice as large. The size of a piece of copier paper, it can be continually updated via a wireless link, and can store and display hundreds of pages of newspapers, books and documents.

Richard Archuleta, the chief executive of Plastic Logic, said the display was big enough to provide a newspaperlike layout. “Even though we have positioned this for business documents, newspapers is what everyone asks for,” Mr. Archuleta said.

Software is also improving the online reading experience, such as the Scribd iPaper document reader, which the NYTimes and other news sources use to present primary sources in web stories (thanks to Jim Bruggers for the tip). The January edition of one of the magazines I write for, IEEE Spectrum, is available in Scribd’s iPaper format, complete with full-text indexing (see embedded reader below).

As a preliminary test why not flip to an article in January’s Spectrum that should interest Carbon-Nation readers: my story on the repowering of Europe’s first-generation wind farms — an energy upgrade that could dominate the next decade’s worth of wind installations in pioneering wind-energy states such as Denmark and Germany.

Search for “Europe Replaces Old Wind Farms” and the iPaper reader will take you to the story on page 15 before you’re done typing. Then click this post’s comments link to reply and let us know what you think of the virtual reading experience. Could electronic tools like this save journalism and, in turn, democracy?

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Drilling the Media on Drilling

Food for thought on the power of repetition and omission from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington-based thinktank. Their report, Oil Drilling in Environmentally Sensitive Areas: The Role of the Media, asserts that major TV news outlets are selling Americans on John McCain’s new-found affinity for expanded domestic oil and gas drilling as a response to rising energy prices.

The study shows that most news coverage of proposed drilling for oil in environmentally sensitive zones in the U.S. ignores relevant data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency showing that such drilling would have no impact on the price of oil. It then asserts that this omission has contributed to increasingly widespread public support for expanded drilling.

Kudos to CNN, which stands out as the only broadcast outlet that presented the federal data this media critic thought most relevant.

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All the News That’s Fit to Share

I have to thank Beth Wellington of Newport, VA for helping to share C-N’s reporting on solar thermal energy with a new and discerning audience: the readers of NewsTrust.net. On February 29th Beth reviewed “Solar without the Panels” for NewsTrust, giving it a 4.3 rating out of 5.0 (averaged from a 4/5 overall recommendation, a 4/5 for information content, and a 5/5 for trust).

Beth’s review forwarded the story into the mix available for other readers to browse, read and assess. Six reviews later we’re still batting a 4.1 and holding on to second position on NewsTrust.net’s energy page.  

Which, of course, earns NewsTrust a coveted spot on Carbon-Nation’s list of Credible Reading!

Follow the link for more on what sets NewsTrust apart from other social browsing sites.  

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