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Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

DAVID HELVARG, Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2010

President Obama’s decision to have Interior Secretary Ken Salazar open vast new areas of federal ocean waters to offshore oil drilling is no surprise. In his State of the Union address, the president explained that his vision for a clean energy future included offshore drilling, nuclear power and clean coal. Unfortunately, that’s like advocating a healthy diet based on fast-food snacking, amphetamines and low-tar cigarettes.

If the arguments you hear in the coming days for expanded drilling sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been repeated for generations. We’ve been hearing promises about safer drilling technologies since before Union Oil began drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel. And if you don’t remember what happened that time, you should. Soon after the wells were bored, one of them blew out in January 1969, causing a massive oil slick that slimed beaches and killed birds, fish and marine mammals. The resulting catastrophe helped spark the modern environmental movement.

The president has promised no new drilling off the West Coast, and it’s no wonder. Opposition was unified and vociferous during Salazar’s public hearing on offshore energy development in San Francisco in April 2009. More than 500 people – including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, California’s lieutenant governor and four House members – testified and rallied for clean energy and against any new oil drilling.

Boxer noted that the coast was a treasure and a huge economic asset “just as is,” generating $24 billion a year and 390,000 jobs.

Still, in the new Department of Interior announcement, one can hear echoes of President Reagan’s Interior secretary, Don Hodel, who warned us in the 1980s that if we didn’t expand offshore drilling, we’d be “putting ourselves at the tender mercies of OPEC.”

We did expand offshore drilling then, not off the stunning redwood coastline of Mendocino, Calif., as Hodel wanted, but where the oil industry knew most of the oil and gas actually was and is: in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We even created a royalty moratorium for the oil companies that went after those huge deep-water fields.

But offshore drilling has done little to wean us from Middle Eastern oil. And with less than 5% of our domestic oil located offshore, more ocean drilling won’t help now either.

The only real way to quit relying on foreign oil is to wean ourselves from oil, and that’s something our leaders are unlikely to fully embrace until we’ve tapped that last reserve of sweet crude.

Nor is it likely that oil-friendly politicians in Louisiana, Alaska and Virginia, where new drilling will take place under the Obama plan, are going to embrace administration-backed climate legislation that recognizes drilling as a temporary bridge to a post-fossil-fuel world.

The only real difference in the drilling debate from 30 years ago is that back then the issue was energy versus marine pollution. Today we know it’s even more urgent. Oil, used as directed, overheats the planet.

Plus, any new platform drilled is a structural commitment to at least 30 more years of fossil fuel extraction – assuming it’s not taken out by a big storm like the jack-up rig I saw washed onto the beach at Alabama’s Dauphin Island after Hurricane Katrina.

I’ve visited offshore oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel and the Gulf of Mexico and was impressed by the oil patch workers I met there. The innovative technologies they use for extracting ever more inaccessible reserves of oil and gas are also impressive.

But now we need to direct that can-do spirit of innovation to large-scale carbon-free energy systems, including photovoltaics, wind turbines, biomass, hydrogen fuel cells and marine tidal, wave, current and thermal energy. The difficulties of producing energy with those technologies will make today’s drilling challenges seem simple.

I respect the roughnecks and roustabouts I’ve met who continue to practice a dangerous and challenging craft, and the contribution they’ve made to our nation’s maritime history. But I believe it’s time for them to exit the energy stage. Apparently the president does not.

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 16, 2009

For centuries humanity has gazed at the sea, rivers and rambling brooks in awe of water currents and the energy potential they hold. With increasingly critical demand for safe renewable energy solutions, our ability to capture water power has been an abstruse, distant choice for mitigating our dependence on fossil fuels.

Now with Peak Oil and Climate Change concerns igniting our interest in renewable energies, our brightest, most creative thinkers the world-over turn their attention and intention toward creating efficient, sustainable and safe renewable energy capture devices. It’s understood best bets for generating constant electricity straddle natural energy sources: the sun, the wind and the tides, with the energy captured from water and the tides currently garnering longest odds.

Water power, known more formally as hydrokinetic energy, is based on hydro, meaning water, and kinetic with roots in Greek, κίνηση, or kinesis, meaning motion. The motion of water and study of it includes capturing its power. At the heart of this energy is spinning and flowing, ironically a strikingly dissimilar concept from capture.

Whether extracted, converted, captured or transformed, hydrokinetic energy may well be the ‘holy grail’ of renewable energy, especially when considering the math:

  • ‘One foot of tidal change, when funneled through the natural orifices of the coastal inlets, has the potential to generate pure, clean, green energy and all with absolutely no carbon footprint.’
  • Thus, as an example, one Florida inlet having an average tidal change between 2” up to 1’ carries 75 trillion Cu-Ft of fast moving water every tide.

Furthermore, hydrokinetic energy offers consistent yields and potentials unknown and possibly undiscoverable from other naturally-sourced energy. Wind power faces insufficient, constant wind to return the capital investment, even with government subsidies, and robust solar energy opportunities are mostly located in far, off grid locales.

Traditional hydrokinetic solutions include tidal turbines, wave buoys, wave hubs, tethered ocean, buoyant/flexible wave snakes and tidal stream machines that generate electricity yet also create gross negative impacts on marine wildlife and the environment.

These solutions must overcome fundamental issues like potential fish or turtle kill, corrosion and tethering issues, repair distance and processes, long-term durability in water/weather, noise pollution and super expensive grid connections that are also environmentally damaging.

Seems that when we embrace and mimic nature in creating organically-derived energy capture tools, the harmonious capacity of the design inherently overcomes the problems of other inelegant hydrokinetic systems.

Over the last two years, W. S. “Scotty” Anderson, Jr. may have either consciously or unconsciously designed along these lines as he victoriously led his team to invent and build the ECO-Auger™. You’ll find information on this and other cool inventions at Anderson’s laboratory, www.smartproductinnovations.com.

As a lifelong fisherman, Anderson designed his hydrokinetic system to convert energy from moving water, delivering renewable, sustainable energy, while completely safe for fish and marine wildlife.

The tapered helix permits fish and other marine life to pass through with absolutely no sharp edges to injure them. Even turtles can swim through or are gently pushed aside as the ECO-Auger generally rotates under 100 rpm. The tapered design also permits debris to pass.

First thoughts of the ECO-Auger came to Anderson in 2008 as he was fishing the waters of the fast-moving Kenai River in Alaska. His mind focused on capturing the river’s energy; here are his notes: “I got the vision of a screw turning in the river current and generating electricity on the river bank. The screw would turn a flexible shaft and drive an electric generator outside the water.”

The ECO-Auger is a double-helix, auger-shaped spinner regulated by the size of the radius and the strength of the water current. “It’s easy to array, bi-directional and housed in an individual, streamlined single form,” Anderson points out.

Anderson originally envisioned the ECO-Auger “simply installed under bridges between the arches of bridges, housed on the ECO-Sled, a sort of a pontoon boat like a floating dry-dock.” This permits easy launch and retrieval for maintenance or if/when the ice gets too thick.

Over the next year Anderson built and tested prototypes, refining his hydrokinetic system completely from U.S. materials, requiring that each generation of the ECO-Auger be “very reasonable to build, deploy, easy to service and inexpensive to array.”

In describing his invention, Anderson said, “the ECO-Auger does not have blades, straight or twisted like other devices, and is environmentally-friendly to all marine wildlife. The fish are not harmed and swim through the organic design. With no electrical generation under or in water, there also is no danger to transmitting vibrations or naval sonar to whales and dolphins.”

This novel approach is so very different to existing technology. So very different and innovative that in late September 2009 Anderson’s team won First Place in the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative of ConocoPhillips and Penn State University recognizing new ideas and original, actionable solutions that help improve the way the US develops and uses energy.

The prize-winning ECO-Auger was described as “a hydrokinetic energy capturing device that converts moving water from river and ocean currents to renewable electric energy using the constant hydraulic pressure and storage to maintain continuous energy output regardless of tidal current strength.”

How the ECO-Auger Works:

The ECO-Auger rotates in either direction from the moving water and current and is directly transferred through planetary gears to a high-pressure hydraulic pump located in the machine’s nose cone. The nose cone, which is physically tethered to bridges by cables, or anchored in moving water, stabilizes the torque generated from the rotation and transfers it to a hydraulic pump. The pump supplies variable volumes of high-pressure fluid at controlled, set pressure, regardless of the direction or speed of rotations. This pressure turns an oil-driven electric generator that delivers stable electrical current. Thus, constant power is generated through the ECO-Auger’s unique hydraulic circuit.

As the ECO-Auger rotates, the high-pressure oil flows through check valves to an array of standard air oil accumulators that are connected directly in line to the oil motor driving the electric generator. The oil to the electric generator is sized below the maximum gallons per minute of the ECO-Auger’s hydraulic pump, allowing the pumped oil to be supplied to the motor, while the excess volume is stored in the accumulator. A computer-monitored storage system assures maximum energy stability, storing energy and supplying the generators during the slow down of tidal flow.

Guide for Installation Opportunities:

Since the ECO-Auger is bi-directional, it is well-suited for high velocity, coastal ocean and bay locations. Near the ocean, the generation hydraulic system uses nitrogen-over-oil accumulators to maintain power generation during ebb tides or slack tidal movement under 1 knot (0.5m/s).

Each potential installation of the ECO-Auger is unique, requiring the water velocity and profile or depth of the installed area to be fully studied and documented. Anderson recommends a month-long study to support 30-year energy capture forecasts and projections.

River installations of the ECO-Auger are successful when current is in excess of 3 kts (1.5 meters/sec). The accumulators mentioned above are not required in mono-flow installations and installation reflects this cost savings. With the mono-directional ECO-Auger, electricity can be generated already existing power dams, downstream in any dam outlet, discharge from municipal water treatment facility, cooling water discharge and many river bridge options.

The ECO-Auger in its recent First Place win in the 2009 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative of ConocoPhillips and Penn State University — won specifically for its new, original idea improving the way the U.S. creates and uses energy.

Anderson and his team are up to this important challenge and set their sights on installing this remarkable fish-friendly, economical, high-yielding hydrokinetic solution in a river, alongside a bridge or coastal inlet near you.

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SustainableBusiness.com News, April 30, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoA bill introduced in the Senate aims to encourage development of renewable ocean energy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the legislation as a companion to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), that would authorize as much as $250 million a year to promote ocean research.

The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 and a companion tax provision would expand federal research of marine energy, take over the cost verification of new wave, current, tidal and thermal ocean energy devices, create an adaptive management fund to help pay for the demonstration and deployment of such electric projects and provide a key additional tax incentive.

“Coming from Alaska, where there are nearly 150 communities located along the state’s 34,000 miles of coastline plus dozens more on major river systems, it’s clear that perfecting marine energy could be of immense benefit to the nation,” said Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It simply makes sense to harness the power of the sun, wind, waves and river and ocean currents to make electricity.”

The legislation would:

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to increase its research and development effort. The bill also encourages efforts to allow marine energy to work in conjunction with other forms of energy, such as offshore wind, and authorizes more federal aid to assess and deal with any environmental impacts. 
  • Allow for the creation of a federal Marine-Based Energy Device Verification program in which the government would test and certify the performance of new marine technologies to reduce market risks for utilities purchasing power from such projects.
  • Authorize the federal government to set up an adaptive management program, and a fund to help pay for the regulatory permitting and development of new marine technologies.
  • And a separate bill, likely to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, would ensure marine projects benefit from being able to accelerate the depreciation of their project costs over five years–like some other renewable energy technologies currently can do. The provision should enhance project economic returns for private developers

 The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity–6.5% of America’s entire electricity generation–if ocean energy gained the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.

“This bill, if approved, will bring us closer to a level playing field so that ocean energy can compete with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies to generate clean energy,” Murkowski said.

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COLIN SULLIVAN, The New York Times, April 14, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPalo Alto — Technology for tapping ocean waves, tides and rivers for electricity is far from commercial viability and lagging well behind wind, solar and other fledgling power sectors, a panel of experts said last week during a forum here on climate change and marine ecosystems.

While the potential for marine energy is great, ocean wave and tidal energy projects are still winding their way through an early research and development phase, these experts said.

“It’s basically not commercially financeable yet,” said Edwin Feo, a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, during a conference at Stanford University. “They are still a long ways from getting access to the capital and being deployed, because they are simply immature technologies.”

Ocean and tidal energy are renewable sources that can be used to meet California’s renewable portfolio standard of 10 percent of electricity by 2010. But the industry has been hampered by uncertainty about environmental effects, poor economics, jurisdictional tieups and scattered progress for a handful of entrepreneurs.

Finavera Renewables, based in British Columbia, recently canceled all of its wave projects, bringing to a close what was the first permit for wave power from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And last fall, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) denied Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s application for a power purchase agreement with Finavera Renewables, citing the technology’s immaturity.

Roger Bedard, head of the Electric Power Research Institute’s wave power research unit, said the United States is at least five and maybe 10 years away from the first commercial project in marine waters. A buoy at a Marine Corps base in Hawaii is the only wave-powered device that has been connected to the power grid so far in the United States. The first pilot tidal project, in New York’s East River, took five years to get a permit from FERC.

Feo, who handles renewable energy project financing at his law firm, says more than 80 ocean, tidal and river technologies are being tested by start-ups that do not have much access to capital or guarantee of long-term access to their resource. That has translated into little interest from the investment community.

“Most of these companies are start-ups,” Feo said. “From a project perspective, that doesn’t work. People who put money into projects expect long-term returns.”

William Douros of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expressed similar concerns and said agency officials have been trying to sort through early jurisdictional disputes and the development of some technologies that would “take up a lot of space on the sea floor.”

“You would think offshore wave energy projects are a given,” Douros said. “And yet, from our perspective, from within our agency, there are still a lot of questions.”

‘Really exciting times’

But the belief in marine energy is there in some quarters, prompting the Interior Department to clear up jurisdictional disputes with FERC for projects outside 3 miles from state waters. Under an agreement announced last week, Interior will issue leases for offshore wave and current energy development, while FREC will license the projects.

The agreement gives Interior’s Minerals Management Service exclusive jurisdiction over the production, transportation or transmission of energy from offshore wind and solar projects. MMS and FERC will share responsibilities for hydrokinetic projects, such as wave, tidal and ocean current.

Maurice Hill, who works on the leasing program at MMS, said the agency is developing “a comprehensive approach” to offshore energy development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar himself has been holding regional meetings and will visit San Francisco this week to talk shop as part of that process.

Hill said MMS and the U.S. Geological Survey will issue a report within 45 days on potential development and then go public with its leasing program.

“These next couple of months are really exciting times, especially on the OCS,” he said.

Still, Hill acknowledged that the industry is in an early stage and said federal officials are approaching environmental effects especially with caution.

“We don’t know how they’ll work,” he said. “We’re testing at this stage.”

‘Highly energetic’ West Coast waves

But if projects do lurch forward, the Electric Power Research Institute’s Bedard said, the resource potential is off the charts. He believes it is possible to have 10 gigawatts of ocean wave energy online by 2025, and 3 gigawatts of river and ocean energy up in the same time frame.

The potential is greatest on the West Coast, Bedard said, where “highly energetic” waves pound the long coastline over thousands of miles. Alaska and California have the most to gain, he said, with Oregon, Washington and Hawaii not far behind.

To Feo, a key concern is the length of time MMS chooses to issue leases to developers. He said the typical MMS conditional lease time of two, three or five years won’t work for ocean wave technology because entrepreneurs need longer-term commitments to build projects and show investors the industry is here to say.

“It just won’t work” at two, three or five years, Feo said. “Sooner or later, you have to get beyond pilot projects.”

Hill refused to answer questions about the length of the leases being considered by MMS.

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ISABEL ORDONEZ, Dow Jones News Service, October 6, 2008

Surfers aren’t the only ones itching to jump in the water and catch some big waves.

Dozens of companies, from oil giant Chevron Corp. to smaller firms like Ocean Power Technologies Inc., have invested in or are evaluating the potential of technology designed to harness electrical energy from waves, tides and currents.

Ocean Power, of Pennington, N.J., and Verdant Power Inc., of New York, are among the firms that already have built or plan to build wave and tidal power stations in oceans or adjacent waters. Others, such as Chevron, are seeking government approval to study the feasibility of such projects. All are in a race to harness what some scientists contend is among the nation’s largest unexploited sources of renewable energy.

“Chevron is monitoring ocean energy technology and considering how it might be integrated into our operations,” says Kim Copelin, a spokeswoman for the San Ramon, Calif., company, which is seeking a permit from the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to start researching a possible tidal-power project in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

These projects represent a rebirth of interest in the ocean and other waters as a source of energy, which intensified during the 1970s oil crises but fizzled in the 1980s when the price of oil dropped. Now, with concerns growing about global climate change, foreign oil dependency and rising commodity prices, companies and governments are taking another look.

Ocean-energy technology is in its infancy, and big hurdles to its widespread use remain. Among them: figuring out how to economically produce power on a large scale without harming marine life, and navigating a permitting process that companies say is lengthy and cumbersome but that some government agencies say is necessary to protect the environment.

Despite the hurdles, supporters believe there is an abundance of energy sitting off the U.S. coast just waiting to be tapped. While the amount of energy currently being produced by ocean-energy projects is minuscule, the Electric Power Research Institute — the research arm of U.S. utility companies — estimates that oceans eventually could supply about 10% of the electricity consumed in the U.S.

“Oceans are an enormous resource that should be seriously considered as part of the U.S. renewable energy portfolio,” says Sean O’Neill, president of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, a national trade organization. Oceans “have waves, tides, currents, even offshore winds that don’t need to compete for precious land resources to generate plenty of electricity.”

Predictability of Tides

Companies are using a variety of devices to create electricity from moving water.

Ocean Power, for example, uses a network of buoys. The up-and-down movement of the ocean’s waves is converted into hydraulic pressure by pistons and cylinders located inside the buoys. That pressure spins a turbine, which turns a generator. The resulting electricity is sent ashore via an underwater cable. The company has a contract with the U.S. Navy to install and test its devices off the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. It also is working with a utility company in California and Oregon to build four wave-power stations, pending federal approvals.

verdantVerdant Power, meanwhile, produces power for a supermarket and parking lot using six underwater turbines in New York’s East River. The movement of water from the river’s tides turns blades on the turbines, creating a rotary motion that runs a generator. The company says it has a list of customers waiting for it to get the necessary approval to start generating electricity on a larger scale.

The prime territory in the U.S. to harvest energy from wave power is in the Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and northern and central California. The optimum spot for tapping into ocean currents, which are steady flows of water going in a prevailing direction, is off the shores of south Florida, while parts of the Alaska coastline, including the upper Cook Inlet around Anchorage, have some of the strongest tides in the world. The edges of Maine, New York, San Francisco and Washington state’s Puget Sound also look to be ideal for tidal energy, researchers say.

Tidal energy is drawing special interest because, though intermittent, it is more predictable than wind, solar or wave energy. While those energy sources rely on the weather, tides depend on the position of the sun, Earth and moon and gravitational forces that can be accurately predicted years in advance, says Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader at the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.

Regulatory Jockeying

New York, Maine, Alaska and other coastal states are investing in ocean energy projects, as is the U.S. Department of Energy, which spent $7.5 million in fiscal 2008 and could spend as much as $35 million in fiscal 2009 to help advance the viability and cost competitiveness of ocean water driven power systems.

“We need everything we can get to try to address energy supply issues,” says Steven Chalk, deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at the Department of Energy. “If we have a true supply diversification, we will be less vulnerable to, say, rising oil prices.”

But proponents of ocean energy say private investment is being deterred by what they call an overly lengthy and complicated permitting process. Companies sometimes need more than 20 local, state and federal regulatory permits to start ocean energy research, says Mr. O’Neill of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition. As an example, Verdant Energy says it has spent more than $2 million on environmental research and waited more than five years to get to the final stages of obtaining the permits it needs to install more underwater turbines and produce electricity on a larger scale.

“In a perfect world, the U.S. will have a fast way to deal with new emerging technologies that allow companies to get into the water and start testing how efficient the equipment is and to measure the environmental impacts,” says Mr. O’Neill. “But that is just a dream.”

The projects facing the biggest logjams are those proposed for federal waters on the outer continental shelf, which generally begins three miles beyond the U.S. shoreline. Companies interested in generating energy from that part of the ocean need approval from both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the U.S. agency that regulates interstate natural gas and electricity transactions — and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, a branch of the Interior Department that oversees offshore energy development.

An effort to end what many companies say is a jurisdictional overlap was unsuccessful, and last month, the Minerals Management Service unveiled a set of proposed permitting rules, including environmental regulations, that it expects to have in place by later this year.

Mark Robinson, director of the office of energy projects at FERC, says his agency believes the Minerals Management Service’s proposed process is too long and costly and “will work to the disadvantage of an industry” that is trying to get on its feet.

The Minerals Management Service says that it is still evaluating comments on its proposed rules but that it has two main responsibilities when it comes to offshore energy production: securing the nation’s energy resources and protecting the environment. “We take both very seriously,” says David Smith, the agency’s deputy chief of public affairs. “We work to try to find that balance.”

In the meantime, the Minerals Management Service is granting interim leases that allow companies to test the energy potential in various spots in the ocean. More than 10 companies have obtained interim leases to begin work along the coasts of Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida and California. Still, there are no guarantees that those businesses will be able to obtain approval to work the patches of ocean they are researching.

Moving Too Fast?

Ocean-energy projects are also making surfers and fishermen nervous. Those groups say they want to be consulted on any proposed projects because the impact on ocean recreation, ecology, public safety and fishing remains mostly unknown.

“What we want is that any company who wants to put a project in waters used by commercial fishermen contact the local fishermen group and work with them so they don’t harm the fishing industry,” says Linda Buell of the Fisherman’s Advisory Committee of Tillamook, a large coastal county in Oregon. “Nothing right now is written into the rules.”

Marine scientists, meanwhile, want more research done on the unintended consequences that large ocean-energy structures could have on marine organisms. These structures could possibly conflict with migratory pathways of great whales, says George Boehlert, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University. “But this is largely unknown,” he says.

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RICHARD MORGAN, The New York Times, September 2, 2008

TOOLIK FIELD STATION, Alaska — As Anne Giblin was lugging four-foot tubes of Arctic lakebed mud from her inflatable raft to her nearby lab this summer, she said, “Mud is a great storyteller.”

Dr. Giblin, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., is part of the Long Term Ecological Research network at an Arctic science outpost here operated by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Public discussion of complicated climate change is largely reduced to carbon: carbon emissions, carbon footprints, carbon trading. But other chemicals have large roles in the planet’s health, and the one Dr. Giblin is looking for in Arctic mud, one that a growing number of other researchers are also concentrating on, is nitrogen.

In addition to having a role in climate change, nitrogen has a huge, probably more important biological impact through its presence in fertilizer. Peter Vitousek, a Stanford ecologist whose 1994 essay put nitrogen on the environmental map, co-authored a study this summer in the journal Nature that put greater attention on the nitrogen cycle and warned against ignoring it in favor of carbon benefits.

For example, Dr. Vitousek said in an interview, “There’s a great danger in doing something like, oh, overfertilizing a cornfield to boost biofuel consumption, where the carbon benefits are far outweighed by the nitrogen damage.”

Soon after Dr. Vitousek’s report, the journal Geophysical Research Letters branded as a “missing greenhouse gas” nitrogen trifluoride, which is used in production of semiconductors and in liquid-crystal displays found in many electronics. According to the report, it causes more global warming than coal-fired plants. Nitrogen trifluoride, which is not one of the six gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the celebrated international global warming accord, is about 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Its estimated worldwide release into the atmosphere this year is equivalent to the total global-warming emissions from Austria.

“The nitrogen dilemma,” Dr. Vitousek added, “is not just thinking that carbon is all that matters. But also thinking that global warming is the only environmental issue. The weakening of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers, these are local issues that need local attention. Smog. Acid rain. Coasts. Forests. It’s all nitrogen.”

Dr. Vitousek’s summer report followed a similar account in May in the journal Science by James N. Galloway, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia and a former chairman of the International Nitrogen Initiative, a group of scientists pushing for smarter use of nitrogen.

Dr. Galloway is developing a universal calculator for individual nitrogen footprints. “It’s Goldilocks’s problem,” he said in an interview. “Reactive nitrogen isn’t a waste product. We need it desperately. Just not too much and not too little. It’s just more complicated than carbon.” He continued, “But we’re not going to get anywhere telling people this is simple or easy.”

Dr. Giblin of Woods Hole spent the summer at the field station here, midway between the Arctic Circle and the Arctic Ocean, researching the nitrogen content of lakebed sediment — not the inert nitrogen that makes up 80& of air, the reactive nitrogen that Dr. Galloway referred to. In forms like nitric acid, nitrous oxide, ammonia and nitrate it plays a variety of roles.

Nitrogen is part of all living matter. When plants and animals die, their nitrogen is passed into soil and the nitrogen in the soil, in turn, nourishes plants on land and seeps into bodies of water. Dr. Giblin is pursuing her research because as the Arctic warms, the tundra’s permafrost will thaw, and the soil will release carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere.

When an ecosystem has too much nitrogen, the first response is that life blossoms. More fish, more plants, more everything. But this quickly becomes a kind of nitrogen cancer.  Waters cloud and are overrun with foul-smelling algae blooms that can cause toxic “dead zones.” Scientists call this process eutrophication, but the laymen’s translation is that the water gets mucked up beyond all recognition. A recent such plague bedeviled China when its Yellow Sea was smothered in algae at Qingdao, the planned site of Olympic sailing events this summer. More than mere inconvenience, such problems routinely threaten many coastal areas and riverside communities.

Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, is known as Queen of the Dead Zone. She cruises around the Gulf of Mexico every summer in the research vessel Pelican to look for damage from nitrogen-rich river flows into the gulf. This year, she expects a dead zone that will beat the Massachusetts-size 8,500-square-mile bloom of 2002.

One of the problems, Dr. Rabalais said, is that the Mississippi River involves so many communities that it requires stronger federal guidance, which she said was not a part of the Bush administration’s policies. She is part of a national research committee financed by the Environmental Protection Agency and run by the National Academies of Science, but, she said, “it’s so much talk and not enough action.”

She continued: “Because you’re not just going up against the agribusiness lobby, but also the livelihood of farmers. It’s not exactly popular in the Midwest.”

Fertilizer use is largely inefficient. With beef, only about 6% of nitrogen used in raising cows ends up in their meat; the rest leeches out into air or water supplies. With pork, it is 12%; chicken, 25%. Milk, eggs and grain have the highest efficiency, about 35%, or half of what, in the metric of report cards, is a C-minus.

“Look,” she said, “you just can’t have all these states and all these communities knowingly overfertilizing their land because they want a bumper crop every year. That’s just all kinds of bad. But Des Moines, for example, is willing to filter their drinking water to an extra degree just to be able to flood their water supply with more-than-normal levels of fertilizer.”

Reactive nitrogen competes with greenhouse gases that have greater public awareness. “But it’s like looking at malaria and AIDS in Africa,” Dr. Rabalais said. “They’re both problems. And they both need vigilant attention.”

Environmentalists face the puzzle of how to deal with multiple problems at once. And some worry that after the hard-fought campaign spotlighting carbon, turning to focus on nitrogen could upset that momentum.

The tension can plague even the most informed and articulate campaigners. “One of the many complexities that complicate the task I’ve undertaken is complexity,” said Al Gore, the former vice president who won a Noble Peace Prize for his environmental work. Mr. Gore added, “Look, I can start a talk by saying, ‘There are 14 global warming pollutants, and we have a different solution for addressing each of them.’ And it’s true. But you start to lose people.”

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ED HENRY, RICHARD GREENE, BRIANNA KEILER, HUSSEIN SADDIQUE, ALI VELSHI, CNN, June 18, 2007

Washington — President Bush asked Congress Wednesday to permit drilling for oil in deep water off America’s coasts to combat rising oil and gas prices.

“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a Rose Garden statement.

Bush also renewed his demand that Congress allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, clear the way for more refineries and encourage efforts to recover oil from shale in areas such as the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Bush said that the basin potentially contains more than three times as much recoverable oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, and that the high price of oil makes it profitable to extract it.

“In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil, and that means we need to increase supply here at home,” said Bush, adding there is no more pressing issue than gas prices for many Americans.

The White House estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil offshore that have not been exploited because of state bans, 10 billion to 12 billion in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Basin. However, much of the U.S. oil is difficult or impossible to extract under current law.

As for gas prices, resuming offshore exploration would not be a quick fix.

“If we were to drill today realistically speaking we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division. But it almost certainly would be profitable.

Candida Scott, an oil industry researcher at Cambridge Research Associates, said oil needs to be priced at $60 a barrel or more to justify deep-shelf drilling. With oil now selling for $134 a barrel, companies are almost assured of profiting from offshore drilling, Scott said.

“For years, the president has pushed Congress to expand our domestic oil supply, but Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked such action,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told CNN before Bush spoke. She added, “As with several existing Republican congressional proposals, he wants to work with states to determine where offshore drilling should occur, and also for the federal government to share revenues with the states. The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.” Democrats were quick to reject Bush’s proposal.

“After eight years, President Bush and [Vice President] Dick Cheney have turned the GOP into the Gas and Oil Party. That’s the legacy that they are going to leave,” said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“The White House has become a ventriloquist for the oil and gas industry, repeating the requests of the oil and gas industry — that they be allowed to destroy the most pristine areas of our country,” Markey added.

Congressional Democrats last week introduced a bill to compel oil companies to begin utilizing federal land they already lease.

“Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres they have already leased from the American people for the purpose of oil and natural gas production,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey.

“It is about time they use these resources already at their disposal instead of waiting for more federal handouts and pushing to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or up and down our coasts,” he added.

Bush’s request came a day after presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain issued the same call at a campaign event in Houston, Texas.

“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States,” he said. “But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.” He said lifting the ban could be done “in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection.”

Opponents of offshore drilling say it would harm aquatic ecosystems by eroding wetlands, contaminating the water with chemicals, polluting the air, killing fish and dumping waste.

McCain made clear that he favors continuing the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason,” he said.

McCain’s plan would let individual states decide whether to explore drilling possibilities.

According to his campaign, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to establish a green energy sector, create a national low-carbon fuel standard to ensure that the fuel is more efficient, and invest in clean energies +50 miles off the Florida coast – by Cubans, not Americans, with help from China and other allies. A rich undersea oil field stretches into Cuban waters near the Florida Keys.

“The people I represent can’t understand how we can possibly let China end up with rights to our oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico because we say we’re not going to do it and they say, ‘OK, we’ll do it and we’ll work with Cuba, if we have to, to do it,'” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tennessee. “That’s really asinine.”

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