Environment

Overestimate fueled state's landmark diesel law

10/8/2010 San Francisco Chronicle - California grossly miscalculated pollution levels in a scientific analysis used to toughen the state's clean-air standards, and scientists have spent the past several months revising data and planning a significant weakening of the landmark regulation. The problem, and the revised counting method, came to light after Robert Harley, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental engineering, and a colleague at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory did their own evaluation, which was published in December in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Harley found that the board's estimates of nitrous oxide were too high by a factor of 4.5 and its estimate of particulate matter was off by a factor of 3.1, an extraordinarily high amount to be off scientifically. "The difference is large enough that it changes policy," Harley said.

Think globally, surf locally

10/5/2010 - Modern surfboards are made with polyurethane foam, fiberglass and epoxy resin, decidedly unromantic and toxic petrochemicals that can harm workers and the environment during manufacture, then languish in landfills at the end of their life. Many manufacturers are making surfboards greener by switching to natural materials. They're doing the right thing, right? Not necessarily, says 26-year-old Tobias Schultz (M.S.'10 ME), a lightly tanned, blond-ponytailed Santa Cruz native who just graduated with his mechanical engineering master's and a certificate in Engineering and Business for Sustainability. He is also the author of an extensive study on the carbon footprint of the surfing lifestyle.

Are batteries bad for the environment?

9/15/2010 Discovery News - The wireless world we live in runs on batteries. That fancy smart phone is nothing more than a few ounces of dead weight in your pocket without a charged battery. But are we paying a high environmental price for all of this battery-operated convenience? "We take into account environmental impact because there is, to a significant degree, a battery recycling industry out there, [and] there are now conferences that deal with nothing but environmental impact and recycling of used batteries," said Elton Cairns, a rechargeable battery and fuel cell expert at UC Berkeley.

Fremont, Livermore have Bay Area's highest risk gas pipelines

9/14/2010 San Jose Mercury News - PG&E's highest-risk gas pipelines in the Bay Area are in the East Bay, according to a regulatory filing last year. The risk was ranked by combining the likelihood they would fail and the consequences to life and property if they did fail. Typically, engineers consider the population density of communities, the age of the pipelines and other factors, such as nearby earthquake faults, when assessing pipeline risk, said Bob Bea, a professor of engineering at UC Berkeley who has worked extensively on natural gas and oil pipelines.

PG&E involved in many gas line breaks in state

9/11/2010 San Francisco Chronicle - Eleven of the incidents on PG&E pipelines in the last 10 years were caused by other people digging into buried lines they didn't know were there. "Someone's doing construction on a site, they may or may not have called PG&E, they're working with a backhoe, they snag the pipeline, and then all it takes is a little ignition source," said Kofi Inkabi, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley's Center for Catastrophic Risk Management.

World Bank appoints clean energy "czar"

9/9/2010 Reuters - The World Bank has appointed Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, as chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Kammen will lead its efforts to foster growth of alternative energy programs in developing countries. The position was created amid unprecedented demand from developing countries for support to address development and climate change as interlinked challenges, the bank said

One engineer's effort to tame a dangerous world

9/8/2010 - Robert Bea's got a problem. In fact, he's got several: The Deepwater Horizon. Hurricane Katrina. California's fragile 100-year-old levees. These are just three of more than 600 disasters or disasters-in-waiting Bea has investigated in his 57-year career as a flood protection engineer, oil and ocean engineer, risk management specialist, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the nation's foremost authorities on disaster mitigation. Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig, the 73-year-old Texan has been traveling from coast to coast, investigating the site, serving on advisory panels, writing reports, and giving abundant media interviews, hoping to make sure nothing like this accident ever happens again.

Can New Orleans' revamped levee system withstand next storm?

8/26/2010 PBS NewsHour - The state of the levee system in New Orleans continues to be a major concern, especially during hurricane season. PBS NewsHour speaks with Bob Bea, civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley, about the current coastal protection system in the city.

Innovative project cleaning sewage the natural way

8/16/2010 Contra Costa Times - Plants, dirt, birds and fish have all been enlisted to clean Discovery Bay's wastewater as part of an experimental constructed wetland project. Facing $100,000 in fines for copper contamination, the town three years ago partnered with University of California Berkeley scientists to determine whether the latest advancements in artificial wetlands could help clean the town's sewage. The one-of-a-kind project was a success - it reduced copper in the test pond by as much as 90 percent. "In Discovery Bay, they're way ahead of everyone - they're really trendsetters," said Alex Horne, professor of ecological engineering at UC Berkeley and an expert in the field.

Lawrence Berkeley Lab taps Ashok Gadgil to head greentech unit

8/10/2010 San Francisco Business Times - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has named UC Berkeley civil and environmental engineering professor Ashok Gadgil as boss of its Environmental Energy Technologies Division. The EETD, which has between 450 and 500 people working for it, does research primarily in energy efficiency for buildings.

Pages