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Speculations mounts that both Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be on the way out for the second Obama Administration. Both have played key roles in energy development during the first four years, Chu is the development of new technologies, Salazar in opening federal lands to wind and solar energy projects. Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter is frequently mentioned as the new Energy Secretary but California hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who was a bundler for Obama during the election, is also apparently in the running. Meanwhile, the President inked a new bill promoting energy efficiency in household appliances.

Water’s role in energy generation is beginning to draw attention as the inaugural International Water Summit prepared to convene in Dubai in January. The availability of water resources are an often overlooked problem in energy generation and Triple Pundit asks just what is the water-energy axis? Delegates at Dubai will be talking about sustainability and 2013 may become the year when the water-energy issue is finally addressed.

Hydrogen fuel cells continue to make steady progress as the European Union has issued a report on its hydrogen-powered buses and Scotland launches a fuel-cell ferry. Qatar revealed a gas-hydrogen hybrid last week at the Doha Energy Summit. The car uses the waste heat from gasoline combustion to generate electricity through fuel cells and cuts emissions by 50 percent. Fuel cells require platinum, which makes them expensive, but MIT has developed a new ultrathin deposit technology that may minimize the requirements.

In company news, Fitch has issued a report on the Edison Mission bankruptcy filing. BrightSource reports that its California utility-scale solar project is 75 percent complete. Frustrating people who hope that price signals can encourage energy conservation, however, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission is considering a report encouraging it to allow NV Energy to recover $10 million from consumers for electricity the customers didn’t use because of conservation measures. If you can’t save money, why save energy?

Finally, Peter Thiels, the PayPal founder has invested $300,000 to the possibility of creating "man-made tornadoes" to generate electricity. Canadian entrepreneur Louis Michaud (above) posits that warm exaust air rising out of an operating power plant can bedirected into a 130-foot column in such a way as to create an “atmospheric vortex engine” that can be harnessed to run more electrical turbines. By capturing this exhaust heat, a 500-MW power plant can be upgraded to produce 700 MW. Although the first-day stories have generated the usual jokes about Thiels as high-tech's"favorite crazy uncle," in fact the idea is not as implausible as sounds.

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