The Ecologist


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At the New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos scientists are using genetic engineering to improve algae strains for increased biomass yield and carbon capture efficiency. Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Re-engineering life? The dangers of 'next generation' biofuels

Almuth Ernsting

30th September 2015

The biofuels of the future will depend on microbes, writes Almuth Ernsting: algae to produce the biomass, and fungi or bacteria to break cellulose down into useful molecules. Just one problem: wild strains aren't up to the job. So scientists are trying to genetically engineer supercharged 'synthetic biology' variants - which will inevitably enter the environment. What could possibly go wrong? more...
Salisbury Cathedral took 46 years to build. Would Hinkley C be any quicker? Photo: Photo Phiend via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Hinkley Point must be stopped - even if you believe in nuclear

Chris Goodall

19th September 2015

UK support for low-carbon energy technologies is running at £250 million a year, writes Chris Goodall. Yet the government wants to throw four times more, every year for 35 years, at the Hinkley C nuclear power station, that could take almost as long to build as Salisbury Cathedral. more...
Farmers carrying milk to market on their bicycles under the hot sun in Ulttarakhand, India. Photo: Paul Hamilton via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

For climate's sake, let's cut food waste!

John Mandyck

17th September 2015

At least a third of the food the world grows each year goes to waste, writes John Mandyck, most of it in fields, transport and storage. The result is poor farmers, hungry people, and a massive 3.3 billion tonnes of needless CO2 emissions. It should be a key topic for action at COP21 in Paris - but so far it's not even on the agenda. more...
Golden rice may be a marvel of modern technology, but it is consistently outperformed in the field by native varieties. Photo: traditional rice farmer at Budid, Philippines, by Shan Sheehan via Flickr (CC BY).

Golden rice: the 'GM superfood' that fell to Earth

Glenn Stone

2nd September 2015

Golden rice was once hailed as the wonder crop that 'could save a million kids year', writes Glenn Stone. But in the 15 years since that bold prediction, the carotene enhanced GMO has been held back by persistent 'yield drag' and inconclusive nutrition outcomes. It now appears unlikely ever to fulfill its early promise. more...
The protestor is right: GMOs are indeed a science experiment. And we are the guinea pigs. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Growing doubts over GMO safety: a scientist's experience

Jonathan Latham

31st August 2015

Are GMOs safe? Up to a point, writes Jonathan Latham - provided you're not eating them. That's certainly not proven to be safe, indeed the hazards are numerous: protein encoding viral DNA fragments, herbicide metabolites, biotoxins whose operation is not understood, poorly conducted experiments ... and those are just the ones we know about. more...
The 'plonkable heliostats'. doing their job. Photo:

'Plonkable' mirrors promise cheaper solar energy

Jeffrey Barbee / Guardian Environment

26th August 2015

The 'other' solar technology, CSP, which uses mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays, is about to get a lot cheaper, writes Jeffrey Barbee. A South African team has developed a low cost design suitable for mass production that can be 'plonked' on site straight from the factory. more...
Professor 'Jim' al'Khalili presenting BBC4's 'Inside Sellafield' from beside one of the facility's infamous open storage pond.

'Inside Sellafield' and military plutonium - the BBC's nuclear lies of omission

Dr David Lowry

12th August 2015

Professor 'Jim' Al'Khalili's 'Inside Sellafield' programme was a tour de force of pro-nuclear propaganda, writes David Lowry - understating the severity of accidents, concealing the role of the UK's nuclear power stations in breeding military plutonium, and giving false reassurance over the unsolved problems of high level nuclear waste. more...
Kepler's 'ocean fence' tidal power unit. Photo: Kepler Energy.

Revolutionary 'sea fence' promises tidal power price crash

Alex Kirby & Oliver Tickell

11th August 2015

An new design of tidal power turbines will generate power at a third the price of current technologies, write Alex Kirby & Oliver Tickell, even at a lower price than offshore wind - without endangering marine life. more...
Graphene's ultra-high conductivity makes it the perfect material to improve energy storage and delivery devices. Image: courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Graphene unlocks super batteries for a greener future

Mark Douthwaite

5th September 2015

A new generation of energy storage devices is on its way, writes Mark Douthwaite: small, lightweight, efficient, long lived. Just what we need to unleash the potential of renewable energy, electric cars and a decentralised power grid. And it's all thanks to graphene. more...
High-efficiency perovskite crystals produced at Los Alamos that approach silicon in conversion efficiency. Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

New solar tech slashes energy payback time to a few months

The Ecologist

5th August 2015

Solar panels made using perovskite technology pay back the energy used to make them ten times faster than those using silicon. In time, this could lead to similar falls in price. more...
The Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, where two AP1000 reactors are under construction, and subject to long delays and cost overruns. Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Nugen's AP1000 nuclear reactor - is it any better than the EPR?

Chris Goodall

17th July 2015

As nuclear projects using the EPR design run into long delays and huge costs overruns, industry hopes are pinned on the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, writes Chris Goodall. But with eight AP1000 projects around the world going the way of the EPR, is it really a wise choice for the UK's Moorside nuclear site? more...
Normally a nuclear fusion plant looks like this, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. But Boeing think they can do it all in an aircraft engine. Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY).

Nuclear powered aircraft? Nice idea, Boeing ...

Karl Grossman

14th July 2015

Boeing has just been granted a patent on a design for aircraft powered by nuclear fusion, writes Karl Grossman. What a great idea! Apart from the irradiation of plane and passengers with neutrons and gamma rays, the dangers of radioactive contamination ... and the fact that clean, green solar powered flight is taking off. more...

Technology: 1/25 of 340
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The Vandana Shiva Reader (Culture Of The Land), front over (cut).

Green Revolution: wonderful science, catastrophic consequences

Colin Tudge

12th July 2015

In her new book The Vandana Shiva Reader, the celebrated campaigner and scientist deplores the way in which the Green Revolution forced India's poorest farmers off their land, writes Colin Tudge. Now she fears even worse outcomes in Africa where a GMO-fuelled farming revolution is under way. more...
If it's such a good idea to burn real rhino horn, how is making synthetic horn going to help? Rhino horn ready for incineration, 21st September 2014 at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic. Photo: IFAW via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Can 'genetically-identical' synthetic horn save the rhino?

Diogo Veríssimo

6th July 2015

Soon a artificial rhino horn may be on the market that's identical to the real thing down to its DNA, writes Diogo Veríssimo. A boon for rhinoceros conservation? Or an act of biopiracy that will enrich biotech corporations while perpetuating demand for rhino horn and confounding efforts to end its trade? more...
Decoding the cassava genome. Photo: Neil Palmer / CIAT via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

TTIP could open EU to 'new biotech' GMO seeds and foods

Coroprate Europe Observatory & Inf'OGM

7th July 2015

The EU Parliament is voting tomorrow on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated between the USA and the EU. But do MEPs realise that the agreement could force European markets open to 'new biotech' foods and crops using advanced GM technologies that do not meet current definitions of 'GMO' within the EU? more...
Just don't bring a nuclear power plant! Mission to Mars as envisioned by Pat Rawlings in 1985 for NASA. Image: Pat Rawlings / NASA.

NASA's warning - SpaceX crash highlights dangers of nuclear power in space

Karl Grossman

2nd July 2015

Sunday's SpaceX crash sends a powerful warning of the dangers of nuclear power on spacecraft, writes Karl Grossman. But will NASA listen? Despite the success of solar-powered missions, it's planning to use plutonium to power future missions and a new report asserts a continuing need for the technology - even as Russia ditches the idea. more...
Image: Breaking the Frame.

Exposing technocracy - the mindset of industrial capitalism

David King

27th June 2015

Technology is crucial to all the big issues, but criticism is hampered by mythologies and structures of power, writes David King. Designed by and for corporate interests, modern industrial technologies embody a 400-year old technocratic philosophy of control of nature and people which must be confronted. more...
Elephants examine the tusk of a poached sibling. Photo: Karl Ammann, author provided.

Where does ivory come from? Now we know, with forensic DNA analysis

Samuel Wasser

25th June 2015

Forensic analysis of DNA in ivory seized by police and customs officials reveals where it comes from, writes Samuel Wasser, giving valuable information to law enforcers. But this powerful tool is only as effective as the national authorities, and Tanzania, a major ivory hotspot, has been very slow to respond to warnings. more...
'Nullius in verba' (Don't take anyone's word for it) - motto and coat of arms of the Royal Society, used in its bookplate. Photo: kladcat via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY).

The Royal Society's assault on the science of GM foods must cease

Steven M. Druker

25th June 2015

The Royal Society wants us to take its word that GM crops are safe and healthy, writes Steven Druker. But it refuses to retract its errors, apologise to those whose reputations it has impugned, or enter into constructive debate on the issue. To restore its scientific integrity, it must abide by its own motto. more...
The Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site from Drigg Beach, Cumbria, UK. Photo: Ashley Coates via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Civil servants must speak out: 'the time has gone for nuclear power'

Paul Flynn MP

18th June 2015

Despite the PR spin the truth about nuclear power is clear, says Paul Flynn. Current projects are plagued with technical failures, cost escalations and long delays - while renewables power ahead. As tin-eared ministers refuse to get the message, it's time for civil servants to speak out direct to the public. more...
How's that for a battery? Swimming pool at the Roosevelt, Hollywood, La, California. Photo: Bill Keaggy via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Could one million smart pool pumps 'store' renewable energy better than giant batteries?

Sean Meyn

28th July 2015

Batteries may have a big role in balancing future power grids, writes Sean Meyn, enabling more wind and solar generation. But until we go beyond 50% renewables, we don't need them. Instead we can adjust the demand of power hungry appliances to what's available every moment of the day. more...
Sending men to the moon was easy compared to building a green energy future - they hadn't got the world's most powerful and heavily subsidised industry against them. Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

'Global Apollo' programme for renewables cannot take off without political power

James Dyke

4th June 2015

The Apollo Programme proposed this week to make renewable energy cheaper than coal through technological advances is welcome, writes James Dyke. But the real problems are political, not technological. Unless we back the Apollo vision by challenging the power of fossil fuel companies, it can never succeed. more...
The lights may be green - but what about the energy? Photo: Dennis van Zuijlekom via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Coal-heavy utilities stand in the way of a green internet

The Ecologist

12th May 2015

Powered by 100% renewable energy, Apple is maintaining its lead as the internet's greenest company, But others are lagging behind: Google has yet to reach 50% and relies heavily on coal, while Amazon's AWS, the massive 'dark cloud' of the web, won't even answer questions. more...
Aluminum - the metal these cans are made of - could soon be powering our batteries, and propelling the renewable energy revolution forward. Photo:Ishikawa Ken via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

The new battery that could power the renewable revolution

Mark Shwartz & The Ecologist

26th April 2015

A new high-performance 'aluminum-ion' battery could be the technical breakthrough needed to boost the renewable energy takeover. It's safe, uses abundant low-cost materials, recharges in one minute and withstands many thousands of recharge cycles. more...
The Flamanville nuclear plant in Normandy, France, was already years late and billions of budget - before news emerged that its steel reactor vessel contains serious metallurgical faults. Photo: schoella via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

Nuclear reactor flaws raise Hinkley C safety fears

Paul Brown & Oliver Tickell

14th April 2015

A serious flaw in the steel reactor vessel of a nuclear plant under construction in France raises safety fears for the EPR design, write Paul Brown & Oliver Tickell - and casts a dark shadow over the UK's troubled Hinkley C nuclear project. more...


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