Posts Tagged ‘University of Texas at Austin’

algae-open-pondChlorella sp. is a species of algae that has a significant proportion of fatty acids to its body mass. For humans, this can be a problem. But, in a world needing more clean energy, fatty biomass is considered a promising option by many scientists and engineers.

Why algae? Algae can grow in a body of water almost anywhere. We don’t need to use any of our precious farmland to grow it. Water conservationists may initially be concerned, but a group of scientists found that Chlorella sp. thrives in our waste water. Not only that, it cleans up the water, removing ammonia and a host of toxic metals. According to their report, the algae could be used to help clean up waste water at municipal water treatment plants then harvested for biofuels.

graph_algaeI had a chance to speak with Dr. Martin Poenie, Associate Professor in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology, at The University of Texas at Austin. The Poenie Lab is helping to develop a technique for harvesting the oils from algae that could greatly reduce cost. Dr. Poenie also told me algae can be a significant source of phosphates, which we use in fertilizers. One of the most significant things about algae biofuels, is their small carbon footprint and high energy content. CO2 is sequestered during the growth phase of the algae and it is not released until the fuel is burned. On the whole, biofuels from algae look promising, and the variety of products that can be derived from it will make algae farming even more profitable.

Texas could do more to capture the energy and job benefits from this home grown energy source. Texas Legislature should act to strengthen renewable energy goals. HB 303, SB 1239, and HB  723 would all be good steps in the right direction.

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Dr. Carey King of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin

In a paper published this November in the journal Environmental Research Letters by energy expert Dr. Carey King of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, a center based at the  University of Texas at Austin’s  Jackson School of Geosciences, he concluded that an overlooked cause of the economic recession in the United States is a decade long decline in the quality of the nation’s energy supply, often measured as the amount of energy we get out for a given energy input.

King suggests the real estate bubble burst because individuals were paying a higher percentage of their income for energy — including electricity, gasoline and heating oil — leaving less money for their home mortgages.  He goes on the state that economists don’t think of energy as being a limiting factor to economic growth that, in fact, they believe continual improvements in technology and efficiency have completely decoupled the two factors.  His research, however, is part of a growing body of evidence that says energy still plays a big role. 

The paper focuses on a new way to measure energy quality, the Energy Intensity Ratio (EIR), which measures how much profit is obtained by energy consumers relative to energy producers. The higher the EIR, the more economic value consumers (including businesses, governments and people) get from their energy.  Further, King’s analysis suggests if EIR falls below a certain threshold, the economy stops growing.

To get the U.S. economy growing again, Americans will have to produce and use energy more efficiently as the U.S. did after the last energy crisis by raising fuel efficiency standards for cars, increasing use of natural gas for electric power generation and developing new technologies like the distributed energy sources of wind and solar.

“If we aren’t fundamentally changing the way we produce or consume energy now, don’t expect the economy to grow as much as the past two decades,” he says.

Dr. King is engaged areas of study that include the economics of carbon capture and sequestration, the design of beneficial combinations of renewable energy and storage systems, and the creation of tools to help the public and policymakers understand the tradeoffs among different electricity generation sources.  To read Dr. King’s paper, click here.

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The general public townhall meeting regarding the release of this audit will be held tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:00 in the Sanchez Building on the UT Campus.

After a long and grueling wait, UT is finally set to release an audit of its carbon footprint today. UT is having a student only event tonight and is planning a full fledged town hall meeting tomorrow that will be open to the general public. The university plans to announce results and analysis from a carbon audit that was conducted in 2008 and then to open up the floor for questions.

The student event begins at 6:00 p.m. today in Wagner Hall and the town hall meeting is tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in Sanchez Room 104.


The locations of both Sanchez and Waggener Hall can be seen below: (more…)

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