Stories by Sarah Hunt

Expert Voices

Tech and utilities clash over proposed FCC broadband rule

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 17, 2018.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 17, 2018. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The FCC recently proposed a new rule that will allow unlicensed users to access the 6 GHz band — a frequency on the radio spectrum — for Wi-Fi connectivity, causing a disagreement between broadband companies that would benefit from the rule and utility companies that currently rely on the frequency to communicate.

The big picture: The FCC and utility companies are on two different pages. Utility leaders say the FCC focuses more on the needs of the telecommunications sector and does not understand the negative effects their decisions might have on critical infrastructure operations. Since the FCC controls the radio frequency that grid operators rely on to communicate, utilities are frustrated their needs are being overlooked.

Expert Voices

Trump administration pushes clean coal, but wavers on investment

Antonio Guterres, Patricia Espinosa and Luis Alfonso de Alba at COP 24 in  Katowice, Poland on 14 December, 2018.
Antonio Guterres, Patricia Espinosa and Luis Alfonso de Alba at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 14. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Trump administration again used the UN’s annual climate change conference as a platform for its controversial advocacy for clean fossil fuel and nuclear technology as climate change solutions. Speakers at the Trump administration's event in Katowice argued that future coal plants should be built with advanced clean coal technology from the U.S., which includes carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The big picture: The U.S. has spent $56 billion on fossil fuel research and development from 1948 to 2018, including early support for hydraulic fracturing. The development of affordable clean coal technology could theoretically become another fracking-style game-changer, growing economies while cutting greenhouse emissions and making the U.S. and its European allies less dependent on fossil fuel imports.

Expert Voices

How fossil fuels could become a zero-emissions energy source

 Smoke rises from a natural gas power plant into the sky outside of Dallas, Texas, United States on January 04, 2018.
Smoke rises from a natural gas power plant outside of Dallas, Texas, on January 04, 2018. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A 50 megawatt, zero-emissions natural gas demonstration plant near La Porte, Texas, had its first successful fire in May. NetPower, the company that owns the plant, has set a goal to deploy 300-megawatt commercial-scale plants around the world beginning as early as 2021, and says its technology should work with coal, too.

Why it Matters: Researchers have sought for decades to realize the potential of carbon capture technology to make fossil fuels into a cost-competitive, zero-emissions power source. If NetPower's technology keeps working, this dream could become reality. Implementing such a technology could make a significant dent in global carbon emissions, given that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects fossil fuels to account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.

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