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michael e. webber

Comment: A pitch to study BREW: The beer-renewable energy-water nexus

The food-energy-water nexus has become trendy for multidisciplinary research. The author proposes another such multidisciplinary field thirsting for study.

06 Sep 2017

Shale boom could fuel batteries

Independent energy trends — namely a shale revolution and a push toward electronic vehicles — are connected in nonobvious but synergistic ways. In fact, the shale revolution may be a helpful partner for the electric vehicle industry.
09 Apr 2017

Comment: How 'Frankenstein' prevents us from tackling climate change

During the unusually dark and stormy summer months of 1816 following the eruption of Mount Tambora, Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein.” The story has continued to shape the public’s distrust of scientists and the scientific method.

09 Mar 2016

Comment: Pipe Dreams: What have we learned from the Volkswagen Clean-Diesel scandal?

It came to light this fall that Volkswagen had emplaced so-called defeat devices in millions of clean-diesel cars, thus allowing the cars to pass emissions tests but still drive the way consumers wanted. Many questions remain, but the scandal has already provided important lessons about consumer behavior, markets and the temptation to cheat in this new era of environmental anxiety.

18 Nov 2015

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

Racing to the future of automotive efficiency and performance

High-performance, environmentally friendly race cars used in endurance races are serving as prototypes for the electric and hybrid cars that will soon make their ways to a car lot near you.
19 Jul 2015

Crystal ball science: In the energy sector, follow the money in 2015

Five years ago this month, in these pages, I and a number of other contributors looked deep into our crystal balls to predict what the following year might bring. This year, I thought I’d try it again. As I did then, I’ll add this caveat now: Due to the intertwined relationship of energy with every sector in the economy and the complicated behavior of commodity prices and financial markets, only a fool would be bold enough to put pen to paper to add his or her predictions about energy to the permanent written record. I am one such fool.

05 Dec 2014

Can renewable energy and desalination tackle two problems at once?

In an era of extended droughts combined with increasing water demand, water-scarce areas of the world are considering expensive and far-flung water sources. At the same time, electric grids are straining to meet surging demand for electricity. Could wind- and solar-powered desalination plants be the solution to both problems?

26 Oct 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

The energy-water nexus: Managing water in an energy-constrained world

Water can be tricky. With too little, crops die, industries move away, power plants fail, ecosystems suffer and people go thirsty. With too much, floods ruin infrastructure, destroy crops, spread waterborne diseases, and disrupt flows of clean water, wastewater, power and transportation. We want water at the right time and in the right place because moving and storing water require effort. We also want it at the right quality and the right temperature. If we had unlimited clean energy at our disposal, we could desalinate the ocean, providing enough potable water for everyone, everywhere. Energy provides a constraining factor on the world’s management of water issues; likewise, water is a constraining factor on the world’s energy supply. This interdependence is the energy-water nexus and the way we manage the delicate relationship between energy and water will have major implications for the future of both critical resources.

30 Jun 2013