After years of hype, the battle of the electric vehicle heavyweights is on. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are on the streets. But which one will come out on top? And is only one of them truly electric? In "Battle for EV Supremacy," correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan looks at the showdown between the Volt and the Leaf.Lee Patrick takes both vehicles on extended test drives and visits the Volt plant in Hamtramck, MI, and the factory where Leafs will be made in Smyrna, TN. He talks to the engineers who designed the vehicles as well as the workers on the assembly line.Lee Patrick also examines Nissan's claims that the Volt isn't a true electric vehicle because of its range-extending internal combustion engine. Does the presence of gasoline on board mean it's not an EV? Or does the engine give the Volt an advantage with customers who have anxiety about its 100-mile all-electric range?
Is it possible to burn coal without putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Coal accounts for almost half the electricity generated in the U.S. and up to 80 percent in rapidly growing countries such as China and India. Scientists have warned that carbon dioxide from coal, and other fossil fuels, is heating up the planet and changing the Earth's climate. Correspondent Dan Goldstein takes a look at a new technology for washing out the carbon before it can get into the air.General Electric chemist Bob Perry has developed a chemical for removing carbon from coal emissions based on the same types of materials used in shampoos and conditioners. It's sprayed on the exhaust, or flue gas, absorbs the carbon dioxide and turns it into a powder. University of Texas at Austin Engineer Gary Rochelle is using a similar process on a test scale. Building a carbon capture system big enough for a real coal-fired power plant would cost about $1 billion and may double the cost to generate electricity, Rochelle says.David Hawkins, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council says if the nation is going to continue using fossil fuels, it has to use carbon capture. While the costs may be great, he predicts that utilities can spread them out over time. Pierre Gauthier of Alstom, whose company builds power plants in the U.S., says customers are already paying for pollution controls dealing with other environmental problems, such as acid rain, without complaint. One day the same will be true for carbon capture technology, Gauthier says.Rochelle says his carbon-capture technology won't be used on a commercial scale until utilities have some financial incentive to curb carbon dioxide emissions. A cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, which was defeated in Congress last year, would provide that incentive, Rochelle says.
Correspondent Josh Zepps tells us about innovations for cleaning up the carbon dioxide that's already in the atmosphere. Scientists at Columbia University have developed a kind of “artificial leaf” that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere faster than actual trees. It can be re-purposed, for carbonated drinks, dry ice, even a replacement for gasoline.Zepps interviews Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist with the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University, who says it will tace decades to clean up the excess carbon dioxide that's heating up the atmosphere. But Allen Wright and Klaus Lackner of the Earth Institute's Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University may have an answer: A type of plastic "leaf" that soaks up carbon dioxide from the air – about one ton a day for a piece the size of a large tree. To release the CO2, they the wet the plastic and catch the bubbles. Allen says the carbon dioxide can be used to create a synthetic gasoline that's carbon neutral because its emissions can be soaked up again.The big challenge to deploying these synthetic trees isn't technological, but financial. The researchers say the technology has to be profitable, and for that, they need to be able to sell the carbon dioxide to industry at a competitive price. But they also believe synthetic trees would get a bigger boost if the government taxed carbon dioxide emissions.
Coal-fired power plants are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide, as well as harmful air pollutants such as mercury. Environmental groups say the U.S. needs to move away from coal to wind, solar and other kinds of renewable energy. Coal’s defenders say the fossil fuel supports at least half a million jobs, provides cheap electricity, and new technologies can make it cleaner.Anchor Thalia Assuras talked with the Sierra Club’s Bruce Nilles, head of the environmental group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s Evan Tracey about coal’s future in the U.S. Is it here to stay, or is America ready to kick its coal habit?Nilles said he thinks coal is already declining as a fuel source and job creator. “Wind and solar today are already employing more people than work in coal mining and coal-fired power plants,” he said. “As we're moving away from coal, there are plans to retire as much as 10 percent of the coal fleet.”But Tracey said coal is too important to America to just turn off those plants. “Half the power right now that we use in the country is generated by coal,” he said. “Baseload electricity from coal is essential to our nation’s economic security.”
Vast reserves of natural gas unlocked by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could lower energy prices and reduce emissions across the United States. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says the U.S. now may have enough natural gas resources to power the country for 110 years at 2009 consumption levels. But is the rush to release this new domestic energy source causing environmental and health problems? energyNOW! looked into all sides of Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom, speaking with concerned homeowners, doctors investigating health concerns, industry proponents, and government officials. Watch part one of this special episode to hear from people at the center of a debate that could help decide America’s energy future.
What would happen in the U.S. if a large share of the world's oil supply was suddenly cut off? Former U.S. officials tried to answer that question in the "Oil Shockwave" simulation. The scenario: an attack on an oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia sends crude oil prices skyrocketing, and further political unrest leads to military action. Former National Security Advisor John Negroponte, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister are among the players, filling the roles of cabinet officials who must deal with the unfolding crisis.Negroponte says the scenario played out in the simulation is realistic, based on his experience. He says relatively modest reductions in oil supply on the world market can result in incredible disruptions. Hofmeister says officials should be "ringing the alarm bells and the sirens" to make people aware of U.S. vulnerability to a major shutoff in its foreign oil supply. If America is to be strong, he says, it needs to be in charge of its own energy destiny.
The sun is a big part of the Air Force and Army's plans for alternative fuels. In “Energy Innovations in the Armed Forces,” Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan learns how the Air Force is using the largest solar array in the Western Hemisphere to help reach a 20 percent renewable-energy goal by 2020. Lee Patrick dons full battle gear to find out why soldiers are replacing heavy batteries and generators with smaller, lighter ones. He also takes a ride in a prototype extended range electric vehicle and unrolls a “solar blanket” for charging electronics in a war zone.Cynthia Lundgren of the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland explains how advanced battery research is helping reduce the number of generators and batteries that units need to take into battle. Paul Skalny of the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center tells Lee Patrick how hybrid electric vehicles can give U.S. forces an advantage in the field, and how many fewer lives are put at risk with each incremental increase in fuel efficiency.
The U.S. Department of Defense spends $15 billion a year on energy, mostly on oil-based fuels. Transporting that fuel to the battlefield puts lives at risk, so the military is finding ways to save energy and use alternatives to oil. In “Military Goes Green Part I,” correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan checks out a fighter jet that runs on biofuels and a warship with a hybrid engine.Lee Patrick Interviews Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whose mandate set off the latest green trend in the military. He also watches the newest fighter jet – the biofuel powered “Green Hornet” – take off, and visits the word's first hybrid combat ship, the USS Makin Island and interviews the crew. He also looks at the Marines' latest energy saving practices on base as he visits Camp Pendleton and the Miramar Air Station in California.
Plastic waste is piling up in America's landfills, but there's a solution: bioplastics. Correspondent Dan Goldstein tells us how these products are made, who's helping to put them in wide use among consumers and how they can help both the environment and the economy. Dan also shows us why some people are concerned about both the production and disposal of bioplastics, and what the industry is doing about it.Frederic Scheer, CEO of Cereplast, explains the process for making bioplastic resin, how his products can be safely composted, and how his industry contributes to the green economy. Next, we visit a factory in Mexico, where the resin is molded into plastic tableware. Dan interviews Andrew Hug of the Environmental Working Group, who says he's concerned that growing additional corn for non-food use will use unnecessary land and keep the soil from being replenished with nutrients it needs to sustain food crops. Dan also looks at the industry's response to a study from North Carolina State University that reveals how decomposing bioplastics can release methane into the atmosphere. Finally, we hear how the restaurant industry is adopting bioplastics from George McKerrow, CEO of Ted's Montana Grill.
Most Americans know the price of gasoline better than the cost of almost anything else they buy regularly. But do they know all the factors that go into that price, or even the source of the crude oil used to make their gas? Special Correspondent Josh Zepps takes an inside look at everything that goes into the price of gas -- from the ground to your tank. Josh also explains why crude oil costs so much in the first place, where most of that oil comes from, and why the gas you buy varies from season to season, and place to place.Josh interviews gas station owner Scott Brown, who tells him why he's not responsible for the prices he charges, and why he makes more money on a bag of Cheetos than on a tank of gas. Josh also visits the embassies of some oil producing nations with Energy Strategist Editor Elliott Gue to find out which is the top supplier of oil to the United States. And Jessica Nesterak of the Oil Price Information Service explains the different regional and seasonal variants that keep gasoline from being priced uniformly across the country or around the year.
This segment originally aired April 3, 2011.Engineers are constantly trying to make airplanes more efficient, and there's finally a big push to do so. In “The Future of Flight,” Special Correspondent Josh Zepps takes a look at how the aviation industry is evolving to meet new needs and pressures, with new aircraft designs and advanced fuels.Josh visits NASA's Langley Research Center, where the latest plane designs are tested and gets a rare peek at a wind tunnel test. He also interviews NASA manager Fay Collier, who shows him the space-age materials that will be used to build the planes of the future, how they are already cutting emissions through efficiency, and how the designs of the future will make them even more eco-friendly.Next, Josh heads to Cleveland, where engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center are working on the next generation of jet fuel – from plants. Dan Bulzan tells him algae and fish can help improve the oil content of these plants, and why their habitat in marshes and wetlands helps reduce carbon in the atmosphere even more.Boeing Vice-President Bill Glover weighs in on how all these developments could affect commercial aviation. New planes will increasingly be designed with efficiency and emissions reductions in mind.energyNOW! also looks at how much carbon many air passengers use in a year and how the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen system is looking for GPS technology to make flying more energy efficient.
NASCAR and environmental change rarely are seen together, but that's exactly what's happening during this year's NASCAR season. For the first time, the nation's most popular motorsport is using a blend of 15 percent ethanol in all its cars. In “Corn-Fueled Cars,” Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan takes a look at how the organization and its drivers are adapting to the new fuel, and how it's paying off in performance.Lee Patrick visits Pit Road at the Daytona 500, where his cousin, Scott Wood, gasses up driver Denny Hamlin's car with the new fuel. He also talks to driver Clint Bowyer, who tells him how E15 could be making his car and others even faster.The fuel is blended at Sunoco's Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia, and Lee Patrick is on hand to see workers there truck it out to every track on the NASCAR circuit. He interviews the man who designed the special can used to dispense the fuel at the tracks. Mark Borosky's closed system keeps the fuel from absorbing moisture from the air, which would cause it to separate and possibly damage the cars' engines.Lee Patrick also heads to the world's most famous speedway in Indianapolis. Indy car drivers at the Brickyard have been running on 100 percent ethanol for years. He speaks with IRL driver and team owner Sarah Fisher, who tells him how it works for her circuit.
How does a Midwest town recover from a devastating tornado? When that town is Greensburg, Kansas, it returns to its pioneer roots and rebuilds sustainably. In "Starting from Scratch," Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan looks at how Greensburg residents used the destruction of their own as an opportunity to literally live up to the town's name.From a solar and wind-powered arts center -- the first LEED Platinum building in the state - to the wind farm that supplies all of the town's residential electricity, Greensburg became a model of green living and architecture that will keep the town sustainable for generations to come.Lee Patrick talks to the arts center's manager Stacy Barnes, who explains how that one building inspired the town to require all its large, public buildings to be built to LEED Platinum standards. Mayor Bob Dixson describes how the new city hall incorporated wood and coal ash from the power plant destroyed in the storm. Lee Patrick and School Superintendent Darin Headrick also tour the new school building, which includes a football field made from recycled tires, a naturally lit gymnasium and lockers built using recycled milk jugs and soda bottles.Sustainable building experts and town officials say Greensburg can be a model for communities that want to rebuild themselves after this year's devastating storms.
Our animated correspondent, 'Little Lee Patrick Sullivan,' kicks off our “Energy 101” series with an inside look – literally – at light bulb technology. He goes inside an incandescent, a compact fluorescent and an LED bulb to see what makes them work, and their potential drawbacks.
As the father of our country, George Washington was known as a forward thinker and an innovator. Now, visitors to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia can experience that same spirit when they visit a building that is heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump. Special Correspondent Josh Zepps follows each step as National Park Service workers complete the archeologically sensitive engineering project inside and outside the Memorial House near the site where Washington was born in 1732. Homeowners can get similar systems installed on their own property and qualify for federal tax breaks to help cover the cost.Josh interviews Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, who explains how the government went about putting modern efficiency equipment on the historic building while respecting its 18th Century heritage. Josh also talks to chief engineer Mike Strasburg, who discusses how the system will be installed without interfering with historic artifacts that may be buried on the property. HVAC Specialist Rich Abernathy tells how the equipment will be place inside the home without unnecessarily cutting through walls and floors. Once the drilling and geothermal system are complete, Josh tours the building now that its has air-conditioning for the first time.
Baseball fans have a lot of fun and consume a lot of food at major league games, but they also produce a lot of trash. Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan reveals the Seattle Mariners' novel solution to this problem – getting rid of almost all non-compostable packaging at Safeco Field – and the surprising results it achieved. He also visits the Seattle's area's composting facility, which handles all the ballpark's food waste, and examines its unique process. He also looks at other was the team saves money and energy, and and the one-of-a-kind way it “gives back” to the fans.Lee Patrick interviews Scott Jenkins, vice president of ballpark operations for the Seattle Mariners, who struck out with his plan to get fans to separate compostable waste from trash that would go to a landfill. Jenkins explains how he ultimately made his plan work by making the fans' decisions for them. Jenkins also discusses how the Mariners' other energy efficiency efforts have saved them more than $1 million over three years – despite rising utility rates. Lee Patrick then talks to Susan Thoman of Cedar Grove composting, who demonstrates how a mountain of waste from the ballpark is broken down to dirt in just eight weeks. The Mariners celebrate their success in composting by giving some of that dirt back to their fans for use in their lawns and gardens, and Lee Patrick finds himself in the middle of the fan giveaway.
This episode originally aired May 8, 2011. Correspondent Dan Goldstein starts off this week with a look at advanced engine technology. For more than 100 years, automobiles have relied on the internal combustion engine, despite its inefficiencies and limitations. But a new generation of engineers is working on a better engine, one that runs more efficiently and gets better gas mileage. In "Not Your Grandpa's Engine," Dan looks sat some of the new designs being pitched to auto makers and finds out how they're being received in Detroit. Next, on "Energy Then" -- one of the predecessors to today's electric vehicles was the Both Electric, produced in Australia in 1940. This spunky three-wheeler was used mainly for deliveries and essential transport. But it was touted as an urban transportation solution that was easy to drive and parallel park. On "The Mix," anchor Thalia Assuras talks with Jeremy Anwyl , CEO of car rating website Edmunds.com and Mary Beth Stanek, Director of Environment and Energy at General Motors. They discuss whether electric plug-in and alternative fuel vehicles could replace internal combustion-based cars and trucks. Next up, electric cars hit showrooms this year, but they're not new. Just ask the thousands of drivers who have converted their internal combustion vehicles to run on electricity. In "Electric Car Conversions," Lee Patrick Sullivan meets the people who make it possible and one of their happy customers. Finally, in this week's "Hot Zone," the first ever trans-atlantic biofuel flight. A plane flew from Morristown, New Jersey to Paris, under the power of Honeywell's "green jet fuel." The mixture is made from conventional oil, as well as a derivative of camelina - an inedible plant with high oil content that's cultivated in Montana. The fuel is awaiting FAA approval before it can be sold commercially.
As the father of our country, George Washington was known as a forward thinker and an innovator. Now, visitors to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia can experience that same spirit when they visit a building that is heated and cooled by a geothermal heat pump. Special Correspondent Josh Zepps follows each step as National Park Service workers complete the archeologically sensitive engineering project inside and outside the Memorial House near the site where Washington was born in 1732. Homeowners can get similar systems installed on their own property and qualify for federal tax breaks to help cover the cost.