Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is indoor air pollution really a problem?

[] How safe is the air we breathe inside our homes and workplaces? contaminants are many and varied, including off-gassing of toxic chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from building materials and furniture; carbon monoxide; radon; spores and mycotoxins from mold; pesticides; allergens from pets, insects, dust mites and other sources, and tobacco smoke. The cost of ignoring this issue is steep: a recent study by William Fisk of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concluded that losses due to sick leave, medical treatment, and lowered productivity may be as high as $48 billion annually in the U.S. More>

To Make Clean Energy Cheaper, U.S. Needs Bold Research Push

[Brookings Institution] To renew the U.S. economy, respond to global climate change, foster the nation’s energy security, and help provide the energy necessary to sustainably power global development, America must transform its outdated energy policy. And the national government must play a more active role. To fully mobilize the entire national research enterprise — universities, federal laboratories, and corporate R&D centers — the nation needs to begin creating a network of energy innovation institutes. One such enterprise is the Energy Biosciences Institute, a renewable energy research group involving the UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Berkeley Lab, and the oil giant, BP. More>

Solar Tech: Not Just on the Roof Anymore

Photovoltaic cells are already a familiar sight on rooftops. But one day, miniature cells may also be found in more unconventional places: power-generating windows, car sunroofs or even awnings. The new technology is the work of a researcher and his colleagues who developed a way to print ultrathin, semitransparent and flexible cells on plastic, cloth and other materials. approach offers a unique strategy for making highly efficient, flexible solar cells for large-scale production, said Berkeley Lab materials scientist Ali Javey, who co-wrote a review of the work for the journal Nature Materials. More>

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Invisibility cloaks go optical

Two independent groups of physicists claim to have demonstrated invisibility cloaks that operate for light at optical wavelengths. Until now researchers had only been able to create invisibility cloaks for the microwave part of the spectrum. But last week Michal Lipson and colleagues at Cornell University uploaded a preprint on arXiv in which they describe the first demonstration of a cloak that can disguise objects from light in the near infrared to the far red. The following day Berkeley Lab's Xiang Zhang uploaded a preprint in which they describe a cloak for just the near infrared. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in Technology Review and BBC News Online.

Berkeley Lab's Role in the Transit Rearrangement

Letter to the Editor:

I would like to clarify information included in the Daily Cal article "Campus Buses, Night Shuttles May Be Given Up to AC Transit" that ran on April 20.

While UC Berkeley is considering turning over the management of its bus service to AC Transit, Berkeley Lab is not part of these negotiations, and is not involved with the campus's decision.

In a separate effort, Berkeley Lab is seeking to provide a more efficient and safer bus service for employees. We are considering the possibility of subcontracting bus services to an outside vendor. This potential move is not a cost-saving measure, and the current level of service will be maintained if not enhanced. As part of the subcontracting process, the Lab will be requiring that vendors provide a plan for hiring all current Lab-career bus drivers. Our intent is to keep our drivers while improving service for our employees and the many students and faculty who come to Berkeley Lab each day.

Paul Alivisatos Interim Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Solar synergy Dot-com meets green in Sun Microsystems’ Blackbox

The computing industry likes to brag about how much power it puts at our fingertips, but what it doesn’t mention are the megawatts all those computers draw off electrical grids. Jonathan Koomey, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, announced in a February 2007 report (funded by Advanced Micro Devices) that the servers and associated infrastructures that run US data centers consumed about $2.7 billion in energy bills in 2005. More>

Efficient cooking

Which is better: a gas or electric range? Most serious cooks prefer gas, because it delivers heat instantly and is highly controllable. I used to be in the gas cooking camp. But I switched to electric nearly 20 years ago when my two daughters were very young, and I've been surprised at how satisfactory the electric cooking has been. My decision was fueled by studies I read back in the 1980s about possible long-term impacts of breathing gas combustion products in homes, particularly by children. With gas cooktops, it turns out that a lot of the energy content of the gas is not transferred to the food, so cooking efficiency is fairly low: about 40 percent, compared with 74 percent for electric, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). More>

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eye on the Bay Highlights Glenn Seaborg

In a segment of the documentary series “Eye on the Bay,” KPIX CBS-5 TV producer David Stoelk interviews physicist Richard Muller and visits the “super-secret” laboratory (well, not at the time—the secrecy came later) on the UC Berkeley campus where, early in 1941, Glenn Seaborg and his colleagues chemically separated plutonium from artificial isotopes they had created with the 60-Inch Cyclotron. View the segment (it starts eight minutes into the video) and take a plutonium trivia quiz on series producer Brian Hackney's blog.

Two Cal professors to get $30M from DOE for carbon capture work

The Department of Energy will pay $30 million over five years to two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, for research on cleaning up power plant pollution.Professors Berend Smit and Donald DePaolo will get $2 million and $4 million a year, respectively, to seek better ways to clean carbon out of the emissions from power plants and natural gas wells and to put it underground.

This “carbon capture and sequestration” technology will keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, where it is believed to add to global warming.Smit is a chemist and DePaolo is a geologist and head of the Earth Sciences unit at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the hill above U.C. Berkeley’s campus. More>

This story also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley News Center, Lab Manager Magazine, and the Daily Californian.

Air flow control can yield more efficient data centers

You don’t necessarily have to spend money to save money on data center power use. The Energy Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is engaged in several projects with industry partners to demonstrate how cooling and information technology systems can work together to more effectively manage air flow in data centers, thus improving energy efficiency. More>

Friday, April 24, 2009

Al Gore Speaks at Groundbreaking for Blum Center

The success of the three-year-old Richard C. Blum Center for Developing Economies and the explosion of student interest in addressing global poverty through its programs were points of pride for Vice President Al Gore, Blum, and others at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the center's new campus home, with each speaker lauding student commitment as the key to alleviating poverty and, in turn, preserving the planet. The center's work to date has included bringing safe water and sanitation to people in eight countries; deploying energy-efficient technologies across Africa and Asia, including the highly efficient "Darfur stove" that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory helped develop. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

From green leaves to bird brains, biological systems may exploit quantum phenomena

Until a century or so ago, nobody had any idea that there even was such a thing as quantum physics. But while humans operated for millennia in quantum darkness, it seems that plants, bacteria and birds may have been in the know all along. Now, with growing evidence that quantum weirdness indeed exists in biological systems, scientists are looking for ways to tell how, or even if, nature exploits these effects to confer an advantage. "We can't tell nature to ignore quantum mechanics, so we might need to measure it and see what happens," says Berkeley Lab's Graham Fleming. More>

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Riding the Giant ‘Solarcoaster’

[Site Selection] How rosy is the outlook for solar energy? On the one hand, the stimulus bills represent the largest national commitment to clean energy in U.S. history. On the other hand, the renewable energy industry is not immune to the trends dragging down the global economy. A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that tax equity yields increased by up to 200 basis points, which would translate into a 7-cent per kilowatt-hour spike in the price of solar electricity. More>

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

World's First Hard X-ray Laser Achieves "First Light"

The world's brightest X-ray source sprang to life last week at SLAC. The Linac Coherent Light Source offers the first-ever glimpse of high-energy or “hard” X-ray laser light produced in a laboratory. When fine tuning is complete, the LCLS will provide the world's brightest, shortest pulses of laser X-rays for scientific study. The LCLS project is a DOE Office of Science-funded collaboration among several DOE National Laboratories, including Berkeley Lab. More>

Optical Antimatter Structure Shows the Way for New Superlens

[insciences] Scientists at Berkeley Lab and the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems-CNR in Naples, Italy have experimentally demonstrated-for the first time-the concept of optical antimatter, in which light travels through a material without being distorted. By engineering a material that focuses light through its internal structure, a beam of light can enter and exit unperturbed after traveling through millimeters of material. More>

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Better Way to Wire Up Cells

[Technology Review] Understanding how brain and heart cells process and generate electrical signals could lead to a new understanding of neurological and heart disease. Until a few years ago, however, it simply wasn't possible to make electrical recordings at the level of single cells. In 2006, Harvard researchers used nanowire transistors to measure electrical signals at 50 points along a single neuron. Now the same research group has developed a new nanowire recording system and have used it to capture some of the most precise, high-quality electrical recordings ever made from heart cells." The modular approach is quite elegant," says Peidong Yang, with Berkeley Lab. Yang has used nanowire arrays to study the effects of electrical inputs on stem-cell development. More>

Can Small Cars Overcome Crash Fears?

The U.S. government's push to decrease the nation's output of greenhouse gases by increasing the fuel efficiency of the cars Americans drive is rekindling an emotional debate: Does driving a small, fuel-efficient car make you more likely to die on the road? Tom Wenzel, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley national laboratory who analyzes vehicle crash data, says better fuel economy and safety can be compatible, provided car makers make smart use of technology and policy makers take steps to reduce the disparity in the size of vehicles on the road. More>

Reduce your environmental footprint

Americans consume a disproportionate amount of the world's energy, according to the National Wildlife Federation. But we can make a difference by conserving energy in our daily lives and by supporting the production of renewable energy. Home Energy Saver - Enter your zip code and some details about your home and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab's Energy Advisor will show you how to save an average of $500 annually in energy bills. The site also offers the resources you'll need to make it happen. More>

Have the Energy Munchies? Curb your “Snackwell Effect”

[Green Options] Recent articles in USA Today and California’s Flex Your Power e-Newswire discussed the phenomenon known in energy efficiency circles as “take back” or the “Snackwell Effect.” The example given in both articles is a West Virginia couple that bought an energy efficient washing machine, but their energy bills were no different because they were doing more loads of laundry, lulled into complacency by their energy efficient purchase.I asked Jim McMahon, the head of the Energy Analysis Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), about the Snackwell Effect and appliance energy use. I recently heard him speak about the great efficiency gains made between the first energy crisis brought on by the Arab oil embargo in 1973, and today. More>

Monday, April 20, 2009

Goodbye to the Bevatron

[KQED] Fifty-five years after its construction, the Bevatron, a landmark particle accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs that helped pioneer physics discoveries and win several Nobel prizes, is about to be demolished. Why was it so important? Stewart Loken, with Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division, was quoted in the story. More>

JBEI researchers develop new technique to assess feasibility of biofuel microbes

[Ethanol Producer] Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a California-based scientific partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have developed a new technique to complete metabolic studies that could greatly accelerate the search for new biofuel microbes. To date, this research has focused on the microbe Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius for three reasons: it is a bacteria that can grow at high temperatures, it can utilize both C5 and C6 sugars, and it has been shown to have a higher tolerance to ethanol than any other known bacteria. More>

Friday, April 17, 2009

CellScope Transforms an Ordinary Cell Phone into a Clinical Microscope

[Invention and Technology News] While most every middle school science classroom in the United States owns one (if not many) microscopes for kids to experiment with, this is not the case for most doctors practicing in developing countries. Berkeley Lab's Daniel Fletcher has been working with his team to develop CellScope, which turns an ordinary cell phone into a clinical-quality microscope. The CellScope has magnification of 5-50X that captures images of samples that can then be sent to any lab in the world for analysis. More>

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Habitat for Human Stem Cell

[Science Matters] Scientists hope someday to be able to transplant stem cells into the body to repair injured nerve cells, regenerate diseased organs, and replace defective tissues. But stem cells are also prima donnas, tricky to keep alive in the lab and difficult to control. Berkeley Lab’s David Schaffer is developing ways to mimic their natural habitats and cultivate stem cells for tomorrow's medical therapies. More>

The Membrane Metro

[Science Matters] 
Cells are nature's protein factories. They build enzymes, antibodies, and a host of other critical molecules on a nanoscale assembly line. Berkely Lab’s Randy Schekman has devoted his career to researching the intricate systems that pack and transport these proteins between organelles and beyond the cell walls. More>

Unraveling the Mysteries in Sorghum’s ‘Simple’ Genome

[Ethanol Producer] Mapping out a genetic blueprint involves determining several short sections that would make up a gene, and sequencing those in bulk. Then, scientists take all of those pieces and put them together like a puzzle—a difficult puzzle, according to Dan Rokhsar, with Berkeley Lab and the Joint Genome Institute. Rokhsar says the JGI employs an almost factory-like setting to gene sequencing, using 50 sequencing instruments into which material is fed day and night. More>

UC Santa Barbara Collaboration Gets $6.1 Million for Diamond-based Quantum Information Processing and Communication

According to scientists at UC Santa Barbara, diamonds could revolutionize the field of quantum mechanics in computing by leading to ultra-secure communication, lightning-fast database searches, and code-cracking ability. Two government funding agencies are putting $6.1 million into a pair of research projects aimed at utilizing diamond for quantum communication processing. The funding will go to a research collaboration that includes Berkeley Lab. More>

County of Santa Clara Installs Wireless Pneumatic Thermostat

Cypress Envirosystems, a subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE:CY), announced today that the County of Santa Clara has completed a major retrofit of County buildings to save energy using Cypress Envirosystems’ Wireless Pneumatic Thermostat (WPT) system. The County has received over $300,000 in incentives from PG&E for enrolling in the Auto Demand Response Program. The WPT system uses the Open Automated Demand Response Communication Standard, developed by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Earth Day aims to vanquish energy-sucking home vampires

Does your home have "energy vampires" -- appliances and other items left plugged into wall outlets even when they are not being used but that continue to use energy? This standby power is built into items with remote control, such as TVs and stereos, and into items with digital displays, like microwave clocks and DVD players. Consumers Energy spokesman Terry DeDoes said a 2000 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers found that standby power accounted for as much as 10 percent of household power consumption. More>

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Straight Route To Nanorings

[Chemical & Engineering News] Nanoscale rings have been a challenging architecture to synthesize. Now, Caltech and University of California, Berkeley, chemists report a direct catalytic route for making these rings, which could have applications in drug delivery or organic photovoltaic devices (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja901658c). Robert H. Grubbs, a chemistry professor at Caltech, UC Berkeley chemistry professor Jean M. J. Fréchet, Caltech postdoc Andrew J. Boydston, and colleagues used ring-expansion metathesis polymerization with ruthenium-carbene catalysts to generate toroidal structures from dendrimers. They then examined the topology of the rings with atomic force microscopy (AFM). More>

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Big Bang Theory comedy gets Nobel Laureate

So much for the stereotype that seriously smart people can’t have a sense of humor. The acclaimed CBS prime-time comedy Big Bang Theory had a guest appearance by a Nobel Laureate on its March 9 show. George Smoot, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, research physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a confessed fan of the show, agreed to appear in the episode. More>

Monday, April 13, 2009

CellScope Aims to Diagnose, Monitor Diseases

[CNet News] What's this gizmo? Another ridiculous lens thing for bolting on the front of your phone to beef up that pitiful 2-megapixel camera? Actually, no: it's the CellScope, which turns a normal mobile phone into a microscope. Limited access to microscopy in the developing world makes this a handy tool for diagnosing diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. The cellscope was developed by Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Daniel Fletcher. More>

Promise Technology, RAID, Cloud Computing

I happened on a number of blog posts about a company called "Promise Technology" and became more interested. Promise Technology (according to its website) is "a global leader in the storage industry and as an innovator in RAID technology." It was created by Berkeley Lab computer scientists David Patterson and some UC Berkeley colleagues, opening the door to the creation of the kind of web servers used today. More>

New Help for a Green Data Center

When it comes to greening up the data center, there are two basic elements to a comprehensive strategy. One is to invest in the newest technologies, like virtualization and SSDs, that maintain performance levels while cutting back on energy usage. The other is to rework existing infrastructure to make it more efficient. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is also working directing a number of projects designed to find the most effective and efficient means of reducing energy costs. One program being carried out in conjunction with Intel, IBM and HP is looking into linking servers' internal temperature sensors to air-conditioning units to help guide air to where it's needed most. More>

A story on this also appeared in

Arizona carbon sequestration project first of its kind in the Southwest

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued permits authorizing the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (WESTCARB) to inject 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide into an underground
saline formation in Joseph City, west of Holbrook.The carbon dioxide injection will occur on Arizona Public Service Company's Cholla Power Plant property in Navajo County at a depth of about 3,500 feet. The WESTCARB injection project is sponsored by APS and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with funding from the Department of Energy. More>

Friday, April 10, 2009

Decoded algae could aid biofuel, climate work

Scientists in laboratories at Moss Landing and Walnut Creek (Joint Genome Institute) have decoded the genes of two widely varied species of ocean-dwelling algae, finding promising evidence of their ability to resist global climate change and clues to new sources of biofuels for an energy-short world. The algae are called Micromonas, and they are among the vast and varied tribe of microscopic ocean plants whose evolutionary ancestors were among the very first organisms that populated the Earth, more than 3 billion years ago. More>

2009 Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum

On April 26, hundreds of students, staff, and faculty from premier Bay Area research universities and laboratories, as well as scientists and businesspeople from industry will converge at the 6th annual Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum. The Forum is the premier venue to learn about the latest in nano research directly from the Bay Area's top research community, to hear about research and development priorities, and to discuss some of the social, economic and political implications of nanotechnology. Sponsors include Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry. More>

Global warming will hit corn yields, costing US over a billion dollars annually

Corn is the staple crop of the US. Its annual yield is more than twice that of any other American crop, covering an astounding 125,000 square miles. However, this behemoth crop is not without threats. A new analysis by Environment America, shows that lower yields of corn due to global warming will cost farmers 1.4 billion every year. Research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution shows that corn yields are already being affected negatively by warming. More>

A story on this also appeared in the Tech Herald, Digital Journal

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Hybrid Nano-Energy Harvester

Researchers have combined a nanogenerator with a solar cell to create an integrated mechanical- and solar-energy-harvesting device. This hybrid generator is the first of its kind and might be used, for instance, to power airplane sensors by capturing sunlight as well as engine vibrations. It combines two previously developed technologies, both of which rely on zinc oxide nanowires, in a layered silicon substrate. The top layer consists of a thin-film solar cell embedded with dye-coated zinc oxide nanowires. The large surface area of the nanowires boosts the device's light absorption, a design based on work by Berkeley Lab's Piedong Yang. More>

Local scientist revolutionizes cell research

Much of the research underway in finding an alternative to gasoline is being conducted in the Bay Area. Behind one of the largest projects in an East Bay scientist who is trying to make a difference in the world. Berkeley Lab's Jay Keasling went from life on the farm to be a scientific superstar in the Bay Area. Keasling is as smart as smart gets. He's developed many of the methods for a new area of science, synthetic biology. It's a field that's allowing scientists to turn single celled organisms like the bacteria in yeast into microscopic factories that churn out compounds from scratch. More>

Study shows how algae may cope with environmental change

[] Scientists from two-dozen research organizations led by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have decoded genomes of two algal strains, highlighting the genes enabling them to capture carbon and maintain its delicate balance in the oceans. These findings, from a team led by Alexandra Z. Worden of MBARI and published in the April 10 edition of the journal Science, will illuminate cellular processes related to algae-derived biofuels being pursued by DOE scientists. More>

A story on this research also appeared in RedOrbit

West Berkeley: A Future Property Hot Spot?

The area of west Berkeley that borders the marina is currently a mix of light industry, residential property and craft workshops. It is also the focus of proposed developments that could see high-rise buildings in the neighborhood for the first time. UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have their sights on West Berkeley as the home of start-up labs and businesses -- a vision backed by the city's mayor, Tom Bates, who is promoting the area as part of a "Green Corridor" concept that envisages stretches from Oakland to Richmond becoming an East Bay version of Silicon Valley. More>

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sewage Spills Increasing

[KQED] How much sewage makes its way into our water? Plenty. Statewide, it's likely that last year's record number, 20 million gallons of raw sewage dumped in California waterways, is going to be broken this year. Decrepit pipes, lack of money and the growing severity of storms could all add up to a disaster of septic proportions. Berkeley Lab earth scientist Norm Miller is quoted in the story. More>

Era of Personalized Medicine Awaits

[BBC News] A revolution in genome screening has been promised by a biotech company in the US. Complete Genomics, says it will sequence one thousand complete genomes between June 2009 and the end of the year and one million over five years. "We don't understand much about the genome yet despite all the years we've been studying it, although new technologies are enabling us to learn about it faster and faster,” says Steven Brenner, with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division. More>

Team uses puppets to demystify nanotech

The arcane world of nanotechnology has a chance to become transparently clear to the uninitiated, thanks to a troupe of Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers who in song and puppetology explain it all in a video that has won a national award from the American Chemical Society. They won hands down with their delightful and tuneful video, "The Nano Song." More>

East Bay Tries to Take Lead in Green Economy

More than a year ago, four East Bay mayors joined the heads of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to announce their intention to make the East Bay "the Silicon Valley of the green economy." In June, the corridor's membership will double to 12 partners with the addition of four more cities and two community college districts. Yet obstacles remain for the partnership, which has been somewhat shaken by the economic earthquake that has made venture capital less venturesome in many fields, including clean tech. More>

A story on this also appeared in the Daily California

Has global warming really stopped?

[New Scientist] According to some records of past temperatures there has been no significant surface warming between 1998 and 2008. "Now the world is COOLING!" the bloggers scream. As if this means we can all stop worrying about global warming. There was also no significant warming trend from between 1977 and 1985, or between 1981 and 1989 - and those periods certainly weren't the end of global warming. Now, as if more evidence were needed, two climate scientists — including Berkeley Lab's Michael Wehner — have produced more data showing that the current lull in no way contradicts the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing long-term warming. More>

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sea Mollusks Taste Memories to Build Shells

[UC Berkeley News] UC Berkeley graduate student Alistair Boettiger, Berkeley Lab biophysicist George Oster, and a University of Pittsburgh mathematical neuroscientist have written a computer program that generates the complex patterns of seashells using simple principles developed to explain how the brain works and how memories are stored. The "neural net" model explains how mollusks build their seashells based on the finding that the mollusk's tongue-like mantle, which overlaps the edge of the growing shell, senses or "tastes" the calcium carbonate layer laid down the day before in order to generate a new layer. More>

Termites Rear Their Heads, But It's Not All Bad News

[San Diego Union-Tribune] Ah, spring! A time when the air is redolent of flowers and budding greenery, filled with the buzz and promise of new life and, uh-oh, termites. In 2007, researchers at the Joint Genome Institute announced they had sequenced and analyzed the genomes of microbes found in termite guts. That research continues at JGI and elsewhere, but progress is slow, in part because of the inherent difficulty of converting a natural digestive process operating on a microscopic scale to one capable of producing millions of gallons of biofuel. More>

Energy Secretary Chu ‘Agnostic’ on Pickens Plan

Don’t count Energy Secretary Steven Chu among the pols cheerleading for oilman T. Boone Pickens’ plan for overhauling U.S. energy policy. Asked by journalists on the sidelines of an energy conference Tuesday morning what he thought of proposals to expand the use of natural gas as a transport fuel, Mr. Chu paused a beat, said “I’m agnostic,” then explained why he prefer biofuels and vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. He also listed some of the drawbacks associated with encouraging a shift to natural gas-powered vehicles. Chu’s support of biofuels harkens back to his own days as head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he helped spearhead research into advanced biofuels. More>

Op-Ed: Will Misleads Readers on Climate Science - Again

During the past three months, George Will has written three columns on global climate change, each of which has been controversial. Will's climate change columns are a case study in how one can cherry pick scientific data to fit their own agenda. He fails to accurately convey a fundamental facet of the global warming story, which is that human influences on the climate system take place within the context of the planet's natural climate variability. As a forthcoming scientific study — coauthored by Berkeley Lab's Michael Wehner — makes clear, man made global warming is not likely to take place in a monotonic manner, instead, as can be seen throughout the observational climate record, there will be zigs and zags in the temperature graph. More>