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michael e. webber

Highlights of 2012: Outlook on natural gas

Natural gas’s bright future in the United States

Thanks to new developments, we now can affordably produce natural gas from rock formations that previously were inaccessible. And thanks to these developments, we now have more natural gas than ever before. The glut has decreased prices for at least a little while. If recent trends continue — namely if those prices stay low and various political, environmental and economic pressures to transition to a cleaner, domestic source of energy remain in place, it’s likely that over the next decade or two, natural gas will overtake petroleum to become the most popular primary energy source in the U.S.
09 Dec 2012

Trash-to-treasure: Turning nonrecycled waste into low-carbon fuel

Americans produce more than four pounds of trash per person per day, amounting to 20 percent of the world’s waste. Although recycling rates have increased over the past few decades — out of the 4.4 pounds of trash (per capita) that we produce in the U.S. each day, we compost or recycle about 1.5 pounds and incinerate another 0.5 pounds — more than 50 percent of our waste still ends up buried in landfills.

31 Jul 2012

Where the rubber meets the road

Lessons Learned From a Cross-country Road Trip in a Natural Gas Vehicle

In what seems like a replay of a bad 1970s movie — with high oil prices, prominent energy security risks, and fluctuating emissions regulations — Americans are looking for alternatives to gasoline. But this time around, many industrial proponents, investors, experts and energy enthusiasts claim they have a solution: natural gas

08 Nov 2011

How oil and water helped the U.S. win World War II

World War II U.S. Gen. Omar Bradley is often cited as the originator of the famous military quote: “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.” Irrespective of its origins, the adage holds true for most extended conflicts — and World War II is no exception. Managing logistics for the production, movement and consumption of energy was one of the critical determinants of success during the war.

15 Feb 2011

Highlights of 2010: Offshore wind in Texas and the curious case of Massachusetts

Humans have harnessed wind energy throughout history for milling, pumping and transportation — in a way you could say it’s the “original” form of industrial energy. But only recently have we built massive, powerful turbines to convert that wind into electricity. As concerns about pollution, carbon emissions, resource depletion and energy security mount, wind farms are an increasingly attractive alternative for meeting growing energy demand.

07 Dec 2010

A Dirty Secret - China's greatest import: Carbon emissions

The U.S. and much of the Western world have a dirty secret.

While we claim to be working diligently to decrease our emissions and switch to cleaner, non-fossil fuel energies, we are actually just exporting emissions to other countries, most notably China. We don’t talk about it. We get on our soapboxes at international meetings and claim to be making great progress to halt ever-increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. And we complain vociferously about developing countries — again, most notably China — not doing the same.

22 Nov 2010

Voices: Greening the Gross Domestic Product

When measured in terms of annual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, the United States is the richest country in the world, followed at a distance by China and Japan, and then several European countries, including Germany, France and the United Kingdom. The GDP — the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during a given year — is a simple computation that allows a direct comparison of wealth between countries.

01 Apr 2010

Voices: Redefining humanity through energy use

What is it, exactly, that distinguishes us from other species? The definition of humankind has perplexed scientists, philosophers and theorists for centuries. DNA composition differentiates species in a technical sense, but that definition is hardly satisfying. Certainly there must be something more ethereal that separates us from “lower” forms of creatures. Over the centuries, several definitions have emerged — from using tools to speaking — but have then been proven insufficient in some heuristic way. So I propose another option: manipulating energy.

24 Mar 2010

Crystal Ball EARTH: Energy: A fool's look into the future

In the 1985 classic “Back to the Future,” Doc Brown, the mad scientist played by Christopher Lloyd, queries his time-traveling visitor, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), in 1955 about the future of America with the simple question of who was president. The answer of Ronald Reagan appeared astounding and ridiculous, as his name was on a movie poster at the time.

04 Dec 2009

Breaking the Energy Barrier

Can the Department of Defense solve the world's energy crisis one jet at a time?

18 Sep 2009