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Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy?

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Satellite imagery of the Upper Midwest at night shows a massive cluster of light in western North Dakota, easily dwarfing the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee or even Chicago.

The source of this apparent high plains metropolis isn't a city at all, but rather the Bakken shale oil field, where producers are flaring as much as 266,000 million cubic feet of natural gas each day

Exploring U.S.-Canadian Energy Connections

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BY KATE KNUTH

I've been studying up on Canadian energy resources. The short summary is that Canada has a lot of resources. The other summary is that the United States (including Minnesota, where I'm from) has a lot of interests in Canadian energy. Like most energy issues, it's complex. It's a collision of our modern economy dependent on electricity at the flip of a switch and travel as easy as hopping in a car, with the impacts of developing increasingly hard-to-get, non-renewable energy resources -- all in an increasingly unstable climate with a whole host of impacts on more localized communities.
 
This week I am going to Canada to learn about energy on a Pan-Praire Energy Tour organized by the Canadian government. The places I'll visit are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The energy resources: oil sands, uranium, carbon capture and storage (not a resource, but an important stop), large hydro and renewable resources. We'll also be discussing many issues surrounding these resources, including First Nation relationships and climate change.

Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements

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02-19-Carter.jpgOutdoor air pollution from factories and automobiles seems to dominate the news. But there's another, just as sinister, form of pollution and it's coming from inside the house.

Ellison Carter, a postdoctoral fellow in energy, air pollution and health at the Institute on the Environment, discussed her research on environmental and health impacts of indoor air pollution at Frontiers in the Environment in February.

Turning Wind Into Fertilizer

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Minnesota farmers spend more than $400 million per year on nitrogen fertilizer. To keep more dollars in the Gopher State and reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture, the University of Minnesota's West Central Research and Outreach Center is using wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer. The project was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant. 

Can Cleaner Cookstoves Save Lives?

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A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China.

Indoor air pollution contributes to 4 million premature deaths each year and is the single leading environmental health risk factor globally, according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study. Half the world's people breathe in the dirty smoke from coal, wood and other solid fuels burned in inefficient cooking and heating stoves. In addition to respiratory health impacts like childhood pneumonia and lung cancer, studies point to indoor smoke as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is also a major contributor to regional and global climate warming.

New Life Cycle Assessment Tool Aims to Clean Up Supply Chain

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There you are, hunkered over your sink, hands wrist-deep in hot water, swiping suds over food-crusted dinner plates. That squishy, soapy thing that's helping you do so many daily chores . . . ever wonder where its life began and where it will end?

That sponge, like everything on the planet, has a life cycle, composed of all the materials and energy that brought it to your sink and all the tasks it will help you complete until you've squeezed the last bit of work from it and tossed it into the trash. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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