Another Problem for Carbon Storage: Earthquakes

In addition to the high price and the incredibly slow pace of R&D, the technology for capturing and sequestering carbon emissions from power plants is facing another potential hiccup: earthquakes. That’s according to Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback.

Microsoft and Nielsen Partner for 1 vs. 100 Measurement

We’re big fans of the way the Microsoft (s MSFT) Xbox LIVE game show 1 vs. 100 blurs the lines between TV and gaming. As the second season of 1 vs. 100 starts today (at 5 p.m. PT! Rush home and get in the mob!), it will have an added twist that makes this endeavor even more unique — measurement.
The folks in Redmond are teaming up with Nielsen to track how many people are playing (and checking out the ads). From a post on the Microsoft Advertising Community blog post:

The Xbox LIVE advertising group has teamed up with the Nielsen Company to launch a pilot test, beginning with Season 2 of 1 vs. 100, to obtain content, channel and ad specific metrics and identify who was playing the game and saw a particular advertisement. This is the first time content delivered through a video game console network will be capable of being measured by Nielsen’s television, online and video game metering technologies, such as the Nielsen people meter. Our goal is to ultimately provide advertisers with concrete Gross Rating Points (GRPs) and Targeted Rating Points (TRPs) to maximize their media spend.

Given that Microsoft said that it got up to 200,000 players each of the two nights the show aired per week during season one, it’ll be interesting how that number a.) does in season two and b.) compares with what a third-party research firm like Nielsen says. Of course, if Nielsen reports big numbers, Microsoft can charge more for in-game ads.
For more on why we think 1 vs. 100 is a good indicator of where hybrid media is heading, check out Liz’s Long View article on the topic over at our subscription research service, GigaOM Pro.

MacBook vs. MacBook Pro: Which Should You Buy?

AppleGazette’s Kevin Whipps addresses the quandary over how to choose between a MacBook and a MacBook Pro, noting that it used to be that if you wanted a 13-inch Mac laptop (excluding the MacBook Air), the only option was the original MacBook. Now with a 13-inch aluminum MacBook Pro on the market, the decision has become more complex.

Kevin allows that the 13″ MacBook Pro doesn’t give you a lot more value for your dollar, comparatively. I beg to differ, but there’s a large element of subjectivity in any such judgment, with many variables such as how much you value FireWire support (some of us a lot), how important a SD Card slot is to your needs, and whether the premium look, fit, finish, and durability of the Pro’s aluminum unibody construction justifies the 20 percent higher price.

20 Percent Higher Price — 20 Percent More Value?

Personally, I think these factors do add up to 20 percent more real value and then some, although Kevin has a point about the two machines being pretty much clones when it comes to core computing power. For example, it now appears that even Apple’s nominal 4GB maximum RAM upgrade spec for the MacBook is completely arbitrary. OWC is offering 8GB memory upgrade kits for the plastic unibody MacBook.
The MacBook comes with a 250GB hard drive, which is more than respectable for standard equipment, especially since the 13″ MacBook Pro’s base $1,199 model comes with a more modest 160GB drive. With the MacBook, 320GB and 500GB drives are BTO options, but that bumps the price to MacBook Pro levels. Read More about MacBook vs. MacBook Pro: Which Should You Buy?

Utility Wanted: Loss of Coal Giants Ups Pressure On FutureGen, DOE

So much for the “rapid restart” that Department of Energy Chief Steven Chu had in mind for the FutureGen project, a controversial public-private initiative to test experimental carbon capture and storage technology at a new 275 MW coal plant. Less than two weeks after Chu announced plans to contribute more than $1 billion to the project, which had stalled since the Bush administration pulled funding last year, two coal-burning utility partners have backed out of the deal — signaling a still-cloudy future for the project and increasing pressure for private-sector partners to expand their ranks.

futuregen-rendering

Secretary Chu — who envisioned FutureGen as a vehicle for the $1 billion allocated in the stimulus package for “fossil energy research and development” and part of a larger collaboration with foreign energy ministers to create an international surge of research into carbon-management technologies — now sees high hurdles ahead for FutureGen. Late yesterday at the Edison Electric Institute’s conference in San Francisco, he said that while the DOE has put FutureGen “back on the table,” the Alliance still has to get a partner or two, especially a utility partner. “I’m hopeful that they can do this, but it’s not a guarantee,” he said, emphasizing that his agency’s support for the project was conditional to begin with. Read More about Utility Wanted: Loss of Coal Giants Ups Pressure On FutureGen, DOE

Controversial FutureGen Carbon Capture Demo Gets a “Rapid Restart”

Development of the public-private “cleaner coal” demo project known as FutureGen has been anything but smooth sailing. Plans for a 275 MW coal-fired power plant equipped with experimental carbon capture technology ran hugely over budget in the early stages, and hit a dead end when the Bush administration pulled funding. Then back in March Energy Secretary Steven Chu came to the rescue and said he wanted to take a “fresh look” at the project and implement a modified version.

Today we have the results of that fresh look: Chu has just announced plans to complete key planning and funding steps for FutureGen by early next year, and ultimately contribute an estimated $1.073 billion to the project (including $1 billion in stimulus funds allocated for carbon capture research).futuregen-concept

According to a release from the Department of Energy this morning, the agency has made a provisional agreement with the FutureGen Alliance — the group of coal and utility companies that had previously partnered with the feds on the project — to pursue five benchmarks between the end of next month and early 2010: Read More about Controversial FutureGen Carbon Capture Demo Gets a “Rapid Restart”

Congress Digs Up Dirt on Plot to Kill FutureGen Cleaner Coal Project

What a tangled web the federal government has woven with the FutureGen project. Last week, we wrote about a new show of support from Energy Secretary Steven Chu for the scuttled public-private initiative to build a cleaner coal plant with experimental technology for capturing and storing carbon emissions. Today, we have two Congressional reports on just how and why the Bush administration came to drop funding for the R&D project. Among the highlights: A $500 million math error, apparent disregard for federal best practices, and a revelation that the feds ignored internal reports that it would set carbon capture and storage technology back by at least a decade if it went ahead with a restructuring plan.

futuregen-integrated

According to one of the reports being reviewed on Capitol Hill today, this one (PDF) from the Government Accountability Office (the watchdog arm of Congress):

[The] DOE did not base its decision to restructure FutureGen on a comprehensive analysis of factors, such as the associated costs, benefits, and risks. DOE made its decision, largely, on the conclusion that costs for the original FutureGen had doubled and would escalate substantially.

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Back to the FutureGen: DOE Takes Shine to Controversial Carbon Capture Demo

FutureGen, a planned 275 MW cleaner coal demo project, essentially bit the dust last year when the Bush administration pulled funding. But with support from top officials in the new administration, the effort to build a coal-fired power plant equipped with experimental carbon capture technology has gained new life.

A joint effort between the government, coal industry and utilities that faced massive cost overruns, FutureGen was envisioned as a proof-of-concept project for carbon capture and storage technology, which remains untested on a commercial scale. The 2007 proposal to build a federally-backed “cleaner coal” plant put a bee in the bonnets of environmentalists and won big support from lawmakers in Illinois, where the plant was supposed to be built.


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Wii Fit on Track to Outsell GTA IV This Year

The market for video games is changing profoundly, and a comparison of two prominent titles’ recent sales figures shows just how much: Wii Fit, a game largely marketed to women, is outpacing the latest installment of one of the industry’s biggest franchises, Grand Theft Auto.