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Posts from the ‘Energy’ Category


New Embassy Groundbreaking

Rodney Evans, OBO Project Director, New London Embassy; Lydia Muniz, OBO Director, Department of State; Matthew Barzun, U.S. Ambassador to the UK; Ravi Govindia, Leader, Wandsworth Council

Rodney Evans, OBO Project Director, New London Embassy; Lydia Muniz, OBO Director, Department of State; Matthew Barzun, U.S. Ambassador to the UK; Ravi Govindia, Leader, Wandsworth Council.

As you may have noticed from our Embassy twitter site, we have officially broken ground on our new Embassy building. The attached pictures show our Ambassador at the groundbreaking (along with Rodney Evans, OBO Project Director, New London Embassy; Lydia Muniz, OBO Director, Department of State; and Ravi Govindia, Leader, Wandsworth Council), where he helped heave some dirt, and the architect’s rendering of the new Embassy. We will be sad to leave our current home bordering Grosvenor Square and the nice park there, but it is exciting that we will move into a new Embassy building.

 The new Embassy building is very green, designed to be something like an environmental diplomat. We are seeking to be carbon neutral and produce renewable energy in the building, and have sought building certifications from industry standards like Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) and (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) BREEAM.

But it is the little details that I find the most interesting. For example, if you look at each side of the building, you see these curious diamond shapes. These include photovoltaic cells to capture solar energy when the sun happens to pop out in London, but they also reflect a uniform distribution of light into the building. Moreover, the shape of the envelope makes the building visible to birds, so that they don’t fly into it, and it reduces downdrafts to the park below.

Artist's vision for the new U.S. Embassy.

Artist’s vision for the new U.S. Embassy.

Another interesting aspect is the pond around the Embassy (don’t call it a moat!). All of the storm water is collected from the site and flows into the pond. The water from the pond then drips back into the landscape to irrigate the park, so you don’t need as much water to keep up the grass and flowers. The planting terraces are designed for bio-filtration to remove pollutants, and finally, waterfalls help cool the pond.

Construction is just starting, and we plan to let you know when some cool stuff happens along the way. Until then, we will happily remain in Grosvenor Square.



COP19 Started This Week

The 19th annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference kicked off in Warsaw, Poland on Monday! Join us at the U.S. Center for discussions on climate science, renewable energy, climate adaption and mitigation, and much, much more. All events are open to Q&A, so don’t forget to ask your questions on Twitter using #AskUSCenter!

The conference will last for two weeks. If you missed Monday’s presentation by NOAA on The Latest on the State of Our Climate and Drought Monitoring, or Tuesday’s discussion with NASA about Climate Change and the World’s Oceans. You can still catch REDD+ Results: Real Stories from the Forest with the Department of State and the Nature Conservancy at 13:30 CET/7:30am ET.

Other exciting topics for Thursday and Friday include The U.S. Goes Renewable: Cities, Universities, and Individuals from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at 16:00 CET/10am ET, and Health Adaptations in the U.S. and Around the World with the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and the WHO/CDC.

More information on next week’s topics can be found at the conference website.


West Coast Climate Pact

I saw a news item today that might be of interest to our blog readers. I know that there is a great deal of focus on international climate-change negotiations and targets, so this would qualify as it also includes British Colombia. But at least in the U.S., it is also important to follow what is happening on the state level. That is especially true when California alone would be the 12th largest economy in the world.

That sizable state will be aligning its climate and cleaner energy policies with its West Coast neighbors, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Governors from the northern states and the environment minister from B.C. met in San Francisco on Monday to sign a climate-change agreement.

Ben Chin, Communications Director for the Office of the Premier, said, “In many ways the three states and the province are continental leaders when it comes to putting a price on carbon and setting ambitious goals in greenhouse-gas reductions, promoting and fostering growth and clean energy alternatives.”

Cutting carbon emissions will be one of the main goals of the plan. California has taken an aggressive approach to this through the implementation of a carbon cap-and-trade system. And British Columbia has levied a $30-per-tonne carbon tax for the past five years. They will also encourage people to use alternative fuels and electric cars and try to find ways of dealing with the problem of the rising and deadly carbon dioxide levels in the sea.

The four regions, plus the state of Alaska, are members of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which was formed in 2008 as a forum to share ideas on climate policies.

For more information, here’s a great article in the San Francisco Chronicle.



On June 25, President Obama, in a much anticipated speech before a receptive audience at Georgetown University, announced his Climate Action Plan. This plan includes the first federal carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants, further develops greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, prepares the nation for the impacts of climate change and supports U.S. efforts to assist with international global climate change programs.

Climate change is a complex problem that can no longer be ignored. The President’s Climate Action Plan states that, “While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged.  Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.”  Read more here.


UK Highlights: Climate Action; EU 2030 Climate & Energy Framework; Energy Bill; and Fracking

The President’s Climate Action Plan has been welcomed by HMG and UK green groups.  In other recent news, DECC Secretary Davey has set out his vision for the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, the Energy Bill has moved to the House of Lords, Scotland has hosted the UK’s largest renewable energy event, and HMG has announced measures to encourage the development shale gas in the UK.

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Looking Towards a Safer and Greener Future

Nuclear engineer Kurt Terrani and lab technician Stephanie Curlin at the controls of an ion-beam milling machine used to prepare samples of both new and irradiated TRISO fuel for study. Photo: Jason Richards

Nuclear engineer Kurt Terrani and lab technician Stephanie Curlin at the controls of an ion-beam milling machine used to prepare samples of both new and irradiated TRISO fuel for study. Photo: Jason Richards

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working to improve the safety and efficiency of nuclear fuel. TRISO fuel has been developed over the past decade to create FCM (fully ceramic microencapsulated ) fuel, which provides two additional layers of protection for nuclear fuel which, the ORNL scientists say, would result in improved safety of nuclear fuel, particularly in extreme conditions such as those that occurred in the 2011 Fukushima accident. Materials Science and Technology Division Associate Director Lance Snead spoke for ORNL stating that “our goal with FCM is to show that TRISO fuel is safer and more efficient for both current-generation reactors and next-generation designs.” Learn more at


Is it a bird? Or a plane? It’s a solar plane!

2013_05_03_AcrossAmerica__Flight_Moffett_to_Phoenix_Merz_005 (1)


Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA prototype is starting the crossing of America. First leg is Moffett Airfield at the Ames Research Center of NASA to Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. Solar Impulse will fly across America in stages from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York City. | Photo by Fred Merz, Solar Impulse.  Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA prototype.

This month the Energy Department introduced the coast-to-coast flight of a solar aircraft. With the wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 747, the Solar Impulse is crossing the United States using roughly 12,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) cells made by Silicon Valley-based SunPower to power its four electric engines.  By pushing the boundaries of innovation, Solar Impulse is demonstrating solar’s potential to Americans from California to New York City. This ambitious aircraft incorporates advanced solar and battery technologies that enable it to fly both day and night. Read more »


Carbon Pollution Being Captured, Stored and Used to Produce More Domestic Oil


What if we could capture carbon dioxide waste from industrial plants and use it for something else — rather than have it contribute to air pollution?

A breakthrough, first-of-its-kind project in Port Arthur, Texas, is doing just that.  The full-scale operation at Air Products and Chemicals’ Port Arthur hydrogen production facility is capturing carbon dioxide from two steam methane reformer hydrogen-production plants, and then using this would-be by-product to increase the efficiency of oil extraction from the West Hastings oil field in eastern Texas.

The Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facilities use a technique known as “steam reforming of methane” to produce hydrogen used in many industrial processes, including oil refinery operations. Unfortunately, like many industrial processes, the steam reforming process generates carbon dioxide as a byproduct. But by employing innovative carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies supported by Energy Department investments, the Port Arthur plant will now capture approximately 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Once captured, the carbon dioxide is then sent to the oil field where it will increase production by an estimated 1.6 to 3.1 million barrels — all while being safely and securely stored underground. Read more »


Technicolor Solar Activity Captured

748859main1_20130515-ar1748-670Solar activity continued on May 14, 2013, as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare and it is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar cycle. The flare caused a radio blackout – categorized as an R3, or strong, on NOAA’s space weather scales from R1 to R5 — which has since subsided.

The flare was also associated with a non-Earth-directed CME. CMEs and flares are separate but related solar phenomena: solar flares are powerful bursts that send light and radiation into space; CMEs erupt with billions of tons of solar material. They often, but do not always, occur together.  Any time we can see a solar flare from Earth’s view, than at least some of its light and radiation must be directed at Earth. CMEs on the other hand may or may not be Earth directed. NASA observes CMEs, however, even when they are not traveling toward Earth, because they may impact spacecraft.

Experimental NASA research models show that this CME left the sun at around 745 miles per second, beginning at 10:18 p.m. EDT. It is not Earth-directed, however it may pass the Spitzer and Epoxi orbits, and their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material



Office of Nuclear Energy Launches New Website





 The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is pleased to introduce our new, updated public website:

The new site was designed to help facilitate users’ access to NE documents, reports and program descriptions, with an emphasis on up-to-date, easily accessible information. The new homepage features our activities and initiatives, as well as links to most recent publications and press releases. The rest of the NE site is structured to match our organization — and enable easier navigation and more direct access to information about our programs.

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