President Obama seems to have scored a hit with the nomination of Seattle recreational equipment CEO Sally Jewell (above) as the new Secretary of the Interior. The 54-year-old executive has worked as an engineer in the oil industry but has a long history of conservation activities in the Seattle area. Both the Sierra Club and the American Petroleum Industry have given tentative approval. You can’t do much better than that. Jewell will be under conflicting pressures in her new job but that’s what the Department of Interior is all about.
“Clean coal” may not be as illusory as the Sierra Club would like everybody to think. (Remember those ads that were funded by Aubrey McClendon at Chesapeake?) An Ohio State researcher has come up with a “chemical looping” process that is able to extract the latent energy from coal without emitting much carbon dioxide. The system captures gases from chimneys and recycles them. The plant has been a success on a 200-hour demonstration run. At the same time the Department of Energy has announced it will fund the second stage of FutureGen, the carbon capture experiment that is being conducted in Illinois.
Europe’s decision not to frack for natural gas has left the continent scrambling for energy. EU leaders are meeting this week and already bickering over who will shoulder the costs of major energy projects. French businesses are complaining that their nuclear edge is fading as the United States begins to beat it with cheap natural gas. Paradoxically, the Ukraine wants to up its gas imports from Europe, mainly Poland, in order to avoid dealing with the Russians. In the midst of this, solar demand has fallen off a cliff as government subsidies are beginning to dry up. The truth is Europe is getting left behind by new energy developments.
Finally, crowdfunding and online sources of funding are doing great things for energy startups. Nanolight, a new energy-efficient light bulb invention, has been able to raise $130,000 on Kickstart, a crowdfunding Internet site. Famed entrepreneur Tom Siebel has gone a more traditional route and has raised $100 million in venture capital for C3, his mega-data operation for grid analysis. Leyden Energy announced it has raised $10 million for a lithium-ion battery startup (apparently the news about the Boeing Dreamliner hasn’t affected its efforts). And the San Francisco Energy Cooperative is offering the opportunity to go green through cooperation. Who says the dot-com bust ended it all?