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Flaring our way out of a water crisis

The production of oil and gas consumes and produces vast amounts of freshwater and wastewater, respectively, and burns tons of natural gas, emitting potent greenhouse gases and wasting a potential energy source. However, with some clever engineering, we could solve all three of these environmental concerns at once.

31 Oct 2015

Ultraviolet lights the way for rare earth recycling

The 17 rare earth elements, widely used in everyday devices from cellphones to magnets and fluorescent lights, aren’t all that rare. They are just finely dispersed in small quantities around the world, making them difficult to mine in substantial quantities. Recycling rare earths is an attractive means to supplement freshly mined stocks, but it remains technically and logistically difficult. Now, a team has developed a more efficient method of recycling two rare earth elements — europium and yttrium — using ultraviolet (UV) light instead of traditional methods involving chemical solvents.
03 Sep 2015

Calculating America's energy landscape

Studying the landscape-scale impact of energy development requires working at the interface where policy, business, activism, scientific research and stakeholders overlap.

02 Sep 2014

Mineral Resource of the Month: Niobium

Niobium, also called columbium, is a transition metal with a very high melting point. It is in greatest demand in industrialized countries, like the United States, because of its defense-related uses in the aerospace, energy and transportation industries. Niobium is used mostly to make high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steel and stainless steel. HSLA steels are used in large-diameter pipes for oil and natural gas pipelines and automobile wheels.

09 Jul 2014

Staking a claim: Deep-sea mining nears fruition

At seafloor hydrothermal vents, high-temperature fluids precipitate deposits of minerals and metals beyond any prospector’s wildest dreams. Attempts to tap that mineral wealth are now underway, but questions remain about the environmental consequences of deep-sea mining.

27 May 2014

Mix of acid mine drainage and fracking fluid a recipe for remediation?

Mixing contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, operations with acid mine drainage (AMD) may sound like an ecological disaster in the making. But according to the authors of a new study, such a toxic brew may actually be a recipe for remediation. And, if some hurdles are cleared, researchers say, it could relieve stress on precious freshwater resources by offering companies drilling for natural gas a cheaper alternative to those resources.

21 May 2014

World War G: Zombies, energy and the geosciences

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. In this commentary, EARTH contributing editor Michael Webber draws parallels between zombies and the geosciences.

22 Nov 2013

Think differently: renewable hydrogen generation

Most of the existing solutions for renewable energy storage represent riffs on our current energy infrastructure. They are either inherent to existing fuel sources (concentrated solar power), or linked directly to the grid (flywheels, pumped storage and compressed air energy storage). But what if the future looks radically different from today, as history has often shown it can? What if the future of energy is based on hydrogen produced by renewable energy sources?

29 Sep 2013