Powering the Planet

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    The reports below offer analysis and research on different parts of the energy industry,  such as the potential for wind energy, higher energy efficiency for low-income neighborhoods and the affects of biofuels on the economy.

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    These energy industry events and conferences listed below bring together corporate executives, investors, lawmakers and regular folks looking to learn more about a particular industry.

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    The US Government has been trying to find ways to reduce the country's dependence on imported oil in a number of ways.

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    Geothermal power has not only been getting investor attention recently, but it can lay claim to being perhaps the oldest of renewable energy sources.  It is also genuinely renewable. Estimates vary considerably, but all say the potential is vast compared to what exists today.

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    Even with erratic federal and state subsidies, wind capacity in the US has blossomed since 2000, and there is now enough to serve 5 million homes. The Energy Dept. estimates wind could fulfill 20 percent of our electricity needs by 2020 if the right infrastructure is put in place.

  • With the proliferation of energy-oriented mutual funds over the last ten years, getting a piece of this supercharged, if highly volatile, sector has never been easier. But energy funds have been notoriously hot and cold over the years, so investors should allocate no more than 5 percent of their total portfolio to this sector.

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    Not long ago, it was hard for retail investors to play the oil patch. Not anymore. As the energy bull market rages on, investors looking for a piece of the gains in oil and gas (and alternative energy) need only select from the dozens of energy-oriented Exchange Traded Funds (ETFSs) that are cropping up to meet demand.

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    The future of this renewable energy source is bright,  especially since it's expected to be  cost-competitive within five years. And the US is well-positioned to benefit.

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    Coal’s future role as a key source of US electricity depends on dramatically reducing its carbon emissions.  So-called clean coal is an expensive and technologically challenging endeavor, but given America's vast reserves it may very well be worth it.

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    The US move to biofuels has been a remarkably successful experiment in renewable energy promotion despite its inadvertent, and probably exaggerated, effect on higher agricultural prices.  But the industry's future lies in next generation, non food-derived  biofuels.

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    Nuclear power may indeed be poised for a renaissance as many in the industry hope, but there have been false promises in the past.

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    It's all about energy, these days.   This special report, "Powering The Planet", aims to inform and educate you about the global energy challenge. Now and over the coming months, you'll find useful guides on energy sources and investments, a resource center with related links on a host of subjects, as well as an exhaustive library of videos from CNBC. Users will also be able to access a special collection of podcast videos for downloading. And speaking of taking it with you, take our customized widget, please.

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    As big as it is, the energy industry has a wealth of  organizations to promote its interests and educate the public.  Here's a sampling.

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    With growing talk about peak oil — when the globe’s petroleum reserves begin an inexorable decline — exploration companies are increasingly turning high-tech to delay this eventuality.   There's been stunning advances in the industry's ability to visualize what lies deep underground and to extract more of what's down there.

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    The record run-up in oil prices over recent years is igniting fierce debate over the "peak oil" theory — that once the maximum rate of global production is reached, a steep decline ensues.   Here we present two squarely opposed viewpoints on the issues from rivals who have been sparring for years. 

  • Powering the Planet

    A look at a megawatt solar plant, with CNBC's Hampton Pearson

  • Powering the Planet: Converted Organics

    Turning food into energy, with CNBC's Bertha Coombs

  • Powering The Planet

    Two universities in South Dakota are set to be the first schools in the Midwest to be fully powered by renewable energy.

  • Powering the Planet: Wal-Mart

    The retailer is adapting its trucking fleet to be more fuel efficient by making design changes to the fleet, storing more products in one truck and planning to add hybrid trucks next year.