oil

Big Factories Go To Work On Biofuel. Emmetsburg, Iowa — Charlie Kollasch, a farmer supplying raw material to a huge new ethanol factory here, stood inside a big red shed on his property, showing off the V-shaped metal frame studded with prongs that he and his son had installed on top of a flatbed truck. The contraption — “our little Star Wars deal,” he called it — is meant to grip tightly packed bales of corn cobs, husks and leaves, known as stover, on their journey from field to refinery, one of the many logistical tasks that has proved unexpectedly difficult in transforming agricultural waste into biofuel. Read more at www.nytimes.com.

Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors: Part Of America’s Long-Term Energy Future? In the coming decades, an increasing number of coal and nuclear baseload electricity plants will be retired. Coal is under growing environmental pressure and a significant number of plant retirements are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the hoped-for nuclear renaissance has fallen short of the initial anticipations, a casualty of concerns raised by the catastrophe at Fukushima, as well as low natural gas prices that have rendered uneconomic operation of even some current plants. (In the United States a plant previously held in abeyance, Watts Bar, is about to be licensed and four other plants are under construction. However, the future pipeline is limited.) However, this leaves many to wonder what will replace the power lost by these plant shutdowns. Read more at www.forbes.com.

Testing Future Conditions For The Food Chain. Savoy, Ill. — From afar, the three young men tramping through a corn field here looked like Midwestern farm boys checking their crop. And a fine crop it seemed to be, with plump ears hanging off vibrant green stalks. But as they edged deeper into the field, the men — actually young scientists, not farmers — pointed to streaked, yellowing leaves on some of the corn plants. “You’re definitely seeing some damage,” said Tiago Tomaz, a biochemist from Australia. The injured leaves signaled trouble down the road, and not just for a single plot of corn a few miles from the main campus of the University of Illinois. By design, the scientists were studying the type of damage that could put a serious dent in the food supply on a warming planet. Read more at www.nytimes.com.