For anyone who has ventured into the Stargate News thread, I post periodic updates about what is going on there, and it occurs to me that I have almost as many sources about new developments in Green energy as I do about Stargate, and there's probably a lot more people here interested in Green energy developments than in Stargate anyway, so why not keep everyone up to date on the latest Green news?
quote: Intel Corporation and Google Inc. joined with Dell, EDS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HP, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, PG&E, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and more than 25 additional organizations today announced the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (www.climatesaverscomputing.org). The goal of the new broad-based environmental effort is to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by setting aggressive new targets for energy-efficient computers and components, and promoting the adoption of energy-efficient computers and power management tools worldwide.
“Today, the average desktop PC wastes nearly half of its power, and the average server wastes one-third of its power,” said Urs Hölzle, senior vice president, Operations & Google Fellow. “The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is setting a new 90 percent efficiency target for power supplies, which if achieved, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons per year -- and save more than $5.5 billion in energy costs.
The goal of the Initiative is to both educate people about using the energy saving software already on their computers, and to make computers more efficient in general to save power, since so many people live and die by their computers these days, increasing efficiency could make a dent in the problem
PG&E, a California based energy provider, is causing a buzz talking about using old hybrid car batteries to supplement the energy grid. This has a lot of implications. Hybrid batteries are generally replaced in cars after they drop below a certain efficiency level, but that level is generally 80%, which means they are still very useful. PG&E wants to take all those batteries and put them in power plants and substations around renewable energy plants. The idea is centered around wind energy, because the power from wind plants is often wasted during the night.
Night time for wind power is peak time, wind is blowing the hardest and they produce the most power, but demand is at an off-peak time. So most of that energy is wasted, and not stored. Using thousands of these batteries, PG&E proposes to store all that energy and then release it during the day at high peak hours, therefore relieving the stress on the energy grid, as opposed to having coal fired plants and their brethren ramp up their CO2 producing efforts for a short while.
The benefits, other than capitalizing on wind energy and relieving the stress on the grid, inclue a new market for used hybrid batteries. Increasing their usefulness increases their value, and by way of that, is a boon to consumers. Knowing that batteries have a much longer usable life than we previously thought should lower the price of the car, knowing that the battery inside, when it needs to be replaced, will probably be sold and still be functional. The price would especially drop, because the battery is the most expensive part of the hybrid, more especially so in the case of a pure energy car like a Tesla. PG&E would get the used batteries at a discount, and their plants are already in place, so it's a modest investment for a big gain.
Of course, now we must wait for the automakers to really latch onto plug-in hybrids before this becomes a reality, but it's promising. ................
A new car in France, the diesel/electric powered Pugeot, is being touted as a 70mpg+ car, which beats even the outlandishly high fuel economy claims for the Toyota Prius.
Like most hybrids and plug in hybrids, the problem is the cost of the batteries, which the company is trying to work on currently. They hope to launch the car around 2010, when we're probably see a LOT of plug in hybrids released, possibly including a version of the Chevy Volt. ..............
Stay tuned for more news in the coming days. Not every story will have a link to it, it depends on my source (which isn't always an online source, I read a lot of print media on the subject too).
Posts: 21018 | Registered: Nov 2004
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Great idea for a thread! The PG&E news makes me even prouder to be a native Californian, even if I'm going to be stuck in Massachusetts for the foreseeable future.
Posts: 1321 | Registered: Sep 1999
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quote:Originally posted by Tarrsk: ...PG&E news makes me even prouder to be a native Californian...
quote:Originally posted by Tarrsk: ...sunny, green California.
Not as green as you think. Sure, they haven't built any new coal-fired, oil-fired, or nuclear power plants in California in ages. The tree-huggers won't let them. So to avoid the rolling black-outs, they've tapped into power from coal-fired and oil-fired plants in other states. We get the smoke here; you get the power there. And our electric bills here have doubled. Now they want to put a remote-controlled box on my A/C to cycle it off during peak hours, so they can send the juice I save to CA.
If Paris Hilton is so hot, why don't you guys hook her up to a steam turbine and make your own darn electricity?
Posts: 2655 | Registered: Feb 2004
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This thread is already making me happy. Great idea Lyrhawn!
quote: Of course, now we must wait for the automakers to really latch onto plug-in hybrids before this becomes a reality, but it's promising.
I'm not going to hold my breath for that. First, ever since 'Who Killed the Electric Car?' I've lost all faith in automakers. And second, I'm not sure if I like where the plug-in hybrid energy comes from any better than regular cars.
quote: If Paris Hilton is so hot, why don't you guys hook her up to a steam turbine and make your own darn electricity?
Because the world would end. Anyone see the Invader Zim when Gir plugs himself into the power amplifier, and nearly ruins everything with the vast waves of stupid coming from his brain? Yeah, I think that would happen.
(Although I guess that it was those very same waves of stupidity actually saved the day in the end...but what's a silly cartoon know anyway? )
Posts: 1694 | Registered: Jun 2004
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quote:And there's this air-powered car that they showed recently on the Discovery Channel.
Someone should tell them, though, that if they want to attract Americans to the validity of their work, they might want to correct the spelling of "research" on the main page, which is currently spelled "reserch."
Not that I think it's a reflection on the product - it's a natural hazard when translating documents.
Posts: 4343 | Registered: Mar 2003
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I read about the AirCar awhile back, there were a few articles about it, but it's still years away from even coming close to being a mass produced car. They still need to build test fleets, drive them, actually make sure they can mass produce them for a decent price, though I did hear they are now partnered with India's Tata Motors, which would probably help bring the price way down. Still, it's a tiny car, from the looks of things, and Americans by and large abhor tiny cars. I expect a big market, possibly, in Europe for it. ..................
Poland Spring Water has announced that they will switch their tanker fleet to B5 Biodiesel, which will save 1.8 million pounds of carbon a year.
This is good news, but I should emphasize that bottled water, by and large, is incredibly wasteful and unnecessary. If you're on the go or in a restaurant and you want something handy, it makes sense, but tests have shown bottled water by and large is no cleaner than tap water, and in many cases is actually dirtier. It's a waste of time and money, and when you consider the waste that goes into producing those billions of bottles, the oil and carbon emissions, regardless of recycling efforts, the 1.8 million pounds is just a drop in the bucket. Save your money and skip the cases of water at Costco, if you really want to, grab a filter for your tap and fill your own bottles. Poland Springs should be commended for the effort though, they also have a 91% internal recycling rate. .........................
It's looking pretty certain that automakers are going to have to swallow new, tougher CAFE standards when the next energy bill passes. The Big Three even said that they would accept it, but not to make it riduculously hard, as the struggling autogiants will already have to spend billions to research new cars.
The new standards could be anywhere from 30mpg to 45mph, fleetwide, anywhere from 2015 to 2025. CAFE, stands for Corporate Average Fleet Efficiency, which means if they have a sweet car that gets 50mpg, it cancels out the crappy car that only gets 20, so they balance out to 35.
There's a big debate right now on whether or not to combine all vehicle under ONE CAFE standard. Auto makers want two separate standards, one for SUVs and one for cars. They'll work this out over the next month, but an increase in standards, a fairly dramatic one, is almost a done deal. The Big Three's advocates in Washington have given up trying to kill the bill, now they are just trying to influence the bill to minimize the damage, but when Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens and Detroit's Congressman John Dingell are on board, you have to know something is going to happen. Those two are Big Oil and the Big Three's biggest allies. ......................
Last week was the World Naked Bike Ride in Europe and parts of North America. The ride was for many reasons, and warning btw, that link contains little bits of nudity. The ride was to enhance awareness of the dangers that bikers face on the road, the fragility of the human body, the savings from emissions that riding bikes would garner, and the health impact of vehicle emissions.
Some bikers were arrested in Barcelona for indecent exposure, otherwise the ride was considered a success. ...................
Ford has created a small 20 vehicle Ford Escape Hybrid E85 Flex Fuel vehicle. It is the first hybrid flex fuel vehicle, and though there are no plans at the moment to turn it into a production vehicle, this is a vital testing period that might lead to production someday. This vehicle has 25% less greenhouse gas emissions than the regular hybrid, but don't expect to see one on the streets any time soon, not until E85 becomes more prevelant anyway.
In related news, the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition has announced that the US now has 1,000 E85 gas stations in the US, and 300 of those are in Minnesota, the Brazil of the USA. Minnesota, over the weekend, is offering a bunch of deals on E85, with gas as cheap as 85 cents a gallon as part of the promotion. ......................
This week, Google was asked to reveal their carbon footprint, that is, to publicly disclose how much carbon they produce as waste. Google declined to answer directly, but instead gave a rather thorough explanation of the efforts they are making to be Greener (for example, they offer subsidies to employees who buy hybrids, and have the world's biggest corporate solar panel array at their headquarters). I take them at their word on why they don't want to reveal the actual numbers, but they might not have a choice in the future. As part of California's carbon cap system, companies based there might be forced to disclose their carbon footprint, which may be published in a huge list online. The US Congress might not be that far behind. ...................
And finally, last night in Ann Arbor there was an Alternative Fuel Cars lecture. Five leaders of the industry got together at U of M to talk to and answer questions from 500 people. You can read the article in full here. But there's some concerning ideas. First off, none of the experts could really pinpoint why E85 is a good thing for consumers. They also showed concern for the price of oil. If oil were to suddenly drop to 10 dollars a barrel and the price of gas bottomed out, there would be zero economic incentive to producing all the green tech that is being developed for cars. It's ironic, but the insanely high gas prices are what is spurring all this investment, and for the sake of our future, it's probably best that they remain as high as they are.
Thanks for posting these. It's been interesting seeing greenness enter into the public consciousness over the last few years, though I'm sure part of that for me has been living in San Francisco.
Incidentally, I was accosted by a Greenpeace worker this afternoon. Seems like they're mostly on the right track, but I have problems supporting organizations like that. There's always some issue that I don't quite agree with them on.
Posts: 1809 | Registered: Jan 1999
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Oh I wanted to add a little bit to what I was saying before.
quote:They also showed concern for the price of oil. If oil were to suddenly drop to 10 dollars a barrel and the price of gas bottomed out, there would be zero economic incentive to producing all the green tech that is being developed for cars. It's ironic, but the insanely high gas prices are what is spurring all this investment, and for the sake of our future, it's probably best that they remain as high as they are.
This story goes a bit further. Ever since the price for a barrel of oil skyrocketed a few years ago from the mid teens in the late 90's to where it is now, OPEC is deadset on keeping the price of oil in the mid 60's, they think it is sustainable, and a fair price, so they will decrease production when necessary to keep the price high.
But, they also realize that if the price spikes too high, to the 80's or 90's, that that will only spur nations like the US to ween themselves off oil faster, thereby killing their longterm profits.
Though, that will be offset in the future by a massive boom in demand for oil from China and India (but then, on top of that, Russia pumping the stuff out as fast as humanly possible, with little concern for the market rate. They are the number two exporter of energy in the world, and that should give the Middle East pause).
Regardless, the high current price of oil is creating the current situation where renewables and the R&D to switch to cleaner cars seems more economically viable. It's estimated that the number of cars in the world will double, from 800 million to 1.6 billion in the next 20 years, and that's a lot of gas that will be needed, unless the third world buys into Green cars from the get go.
But you can't really blame OPEC for trying. The Middle East is drying up. Iran is in real trouble especially, they aren't reinvesting their oil profits in their infrastructure, and their wells are going inactive. They are producing thousands of barrels LESS per day than they are allowed to by OPEC, because their wells aren't being maintained and new ones aren't being built. In 20 years, they will be in big trouble, with low exports and not much cash on hand. They're a net importer of fuel because their refinery capacity is a joke. Saudi Arabia, you'd think would be fine with the population boom in the region, but their wells are like 70% water now, from when they pumped it into wells to increase the yields.
The Middle East, in 20 years, is going to be a hotbed of violence that no one much cares about anymore, and that's largely because of their current unsustainable practices.
Posts: 21018 | Registered: Nov 2004
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Update for today, and there's some potentially great news, especially for the Ethanol haters out there (I'm one of them):
quote:EnergyQuest is announcing plans to start producing butanol while producing hydrogen and electricity at the same time. This announced method uses waste from both feed stocks (like wood waste, trash, cow manure) and lignite coal (the latter being the most predominant one) and creates butanol using a gasification and catalytic conversion process that is claimed to minimse impact on the environment. Current butanol manufacturing procedures are based on fermentation and are more energy-intensive.
This new method, called PyStr (TM) produces butanol synthetically by gasifying any carbon sources to syngas (which in simpler terms is a mix of hydrogen + CO and CO2 gas). This gas is then introduced to a converter where the catalyst process yields liquid butanol.
Now, many of you may not have heard of butanol, and if you want the long version of what it is, what it does, and where it comes from, you can look here. I recommend it, it's a good read.
But here's the short version: Butanol causes less pollution, fewer emissions, can produce more energy per bushel of corn or sack of sugar beats (or whatever you are using), is not as hard on your engine, will mix better with gasoline, and will not corrode pipes like ethanol will. Also it eliminates the evaporation problem that ethanol has. Recent guesses on when butanol would be commercially viable were 2010, because of the required microbes ("Generation two" microbes that big producers thought would make it viable in the US) weren't available yet, but this new process might be a leap ahead.
The bottom line is: Butanol is better in every way than ethanol, yet America is fixed, for some reason, on pumping as much of the stuff into your gas tanks as possible. This only serves to reinforce when I've been saying for awhile: Ethanol is a short term measure, it is NOT a long term solution. Butanol may end up being a short term solution too, but it's a hell of a lot better. Write your congressman about this one. Find out why we aren't putting our tax dollars into something better than ethanol. ...........................
I was talking about the Alternative Fuels forum yesterday, and there's a great interview with David Cole, the Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research here. Seriously read this one, it's a very candid view from the point of view of the auto industry. They're worried about places like Saudi Arabia pulling the rug out from the price of oil and bottoming it out to $10 a barrel and totally killing the entire alternative fuels industry. He even suggested that government impose a permanent floor on a barrel of oil at something like $50, and if it falls below that, to tax it until it reaches $50. Read the whole thing though, I haven't finished it myself but I plan to when I get home from work later. .................................
quote: Giant utility American Electric Power said today it will buy 4.6 million carbon credits to capture methane produced by some 400,000 cows between 2010 and 2017. The Ohio-based utility - one of the U.S.'s largest producers of coal-fired electricity - did not disclose the price of the credits. Farmers in the 11 states where AEP operates will receive payments for participating in the program. AEP's (AEP) deal with the the Environmental Credit Corp. calls for the methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to be captured in covered lagoons and burned off. That still produces carbon dioxide, of course. But if AEP really wants to neutralize the greenhouse gas emissions - and tap some naturally clean power - it could emulate California utility PG&E (PCG) by supporting the conversion of methane into biogas to generate electricity on farms or at natural gas plants.
quote:It's been interesting seeing greenness enter into the public consciousness over the last few years, though I'm sure part of that for me has been living in San Francisco.
Yeah. Growing up in L.A., it was quite normal to have conversations about "going green", "green power", my sister who works at DWP had a "Green Power for a Green L.A." cap and t-shirt. Topics of conversation regularly included who was getting solar panels, the development of hybrid cars, and alternative energy sources' efficiency vs. traditional sources-- at school, at home, even the grocery store, everywhere, for the past, oh, 12 years or so. Then I started interacting with people from other communities; wow, many of them had never heard of this stuff or were talking about stuff that was old news. The funny thing was that for all the talk in L.A. , not a lot seemed to get done. People couldn't even follow the usage guidelines.
Just an observation I made, growing up.
Posts: 21180 | Registered: Sep 2004
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I don't really have anything to add (except a brief mention of an article, maybe in Time about gourmet bottled water - it might be silly but someone is trying hard to keep bottled water in business) but I just wanted to thank the people contributing to this thread. I always feel like I don't know enough about this stuff, so this is a great place to start (and stay on top of it) thanks to Lyr's updates.
I read the fancy water article, it was in Time.
Water like that is in rather small quantities anyway, I mean, you can only bottle and sell so much Tasmanian Rain (I'm not kidding), but I still don't like it. It's water for the wealthy anyway, so it's easy to rail against
Incidentally, I found the plethora of different waters rather stunning. The guy in the article went to a place where the H20 Sommelier (basically) had 350 different kinds in his "water cellar." From Tazmanian Rain, to Hawaiian Volcanic water and more. And all of them cost $3+ a glass. And they vary in acidity, mineral content and bubblyness, and the variations apparently can totally change a dining experience. I guess the difference there is that it isn't bottled water, they could probably serve it in kegs, which wouldn't bother me as much, as I'm not arguing against wine or beer. But there you go, some people will pay for anything.
Posts: 21018 | Registered: Nov 2004
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So I just finished reading the full interview with David Cole, and it's really some interesting stuff. I figured a lot of you might not to read the main article, so I read it and pulled the highlights for you:
Possible 20-25% low cost increase in fuel economy for advances diesel and regular internal combustion engines.
Exciting advances in store for fuel cells.
Cole sees cellulosic biofuels as potential game changer in alternative fuels. Not corn, sugar or starch based fuels like corn fueled ethanol, but wood chips, lingo and other cellulosic materials. Costs are coming down, and he believes in the next few years they could be produced in significant quantities at a good enough price to compete with petroleum based fuel. He says the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) will soon be releasing a report that says by 2012, cellulosic ethanol will be available in the $1.30/$1.40 range, and when that gets ramped up to mass production, it’s a game changer.
He thinks the same thing about lithium ion batteries. LIONs are on the verge of a major breakthrough. And that’s in the next 5 to 10 years, not 20 or 50. LIONs could make plug in hybrids a reality, and combine that with better alternative fuels, and driving as we know it is changed.
Cole believes that hydrogen powered cars are more than a decade away at least. The problem isn’t in the cars, which he sees as viable much sooner, the problem is the fuel. How are we going to get and transport the hydrogen? Currently, there isn’t enough cheap, clean energy to produce the hydrogen, and until we solve that problem, hydrogen cars are decades away.
The greatest concern to Cole, and the rest of the industry, is the price of oil bottoming out to 10-15 dollars a barrel. He said so long as there is a floor on the price, in the 40-45 dollar a barrel area, there is still an incentive to continue developing alternative fuels. He said a friend of his worked for Aramco, the main Saudi national oil company, and they are very concerned with the enthusiasm in Europe and the US for alternative fuels, and haven’t ruled out flooding the market in an attempt to kill the price and the value in developing them.
The attack won’t come from oil giants like Chevron and Exxon though, they’re energy companies who will produce whatever energy is we want to use, but rather from home countries with the oil.
He said corn will never be a competitor, the real meat is in cellulosic materials. He said LION battery advances and cellulosic bio fuels are coming down the pipeline a hundred miles an hour, and it’s very exciting to see these developments come to fruition.
He thinks CAFÉ protections are silly, as they don’t really address market forces. Forcing an automaker to make a different kind of car, rather than letting the automaker respond to what people say they want, is poor regulation. Instead, he thinks they should be forcing production and development of alternative fuels, it will put us further ahead over the long term. He also supports government setting a permanent floor on the price of oil, backed up with taxes. It’s good for a number of reasons, but the best one is that doing so lets companies know for a fact that their investments in alternatives are safe, that low prices won’t kill them and lose them all that money. When they know they are safe, they will invest more, and we’ll make progress faster.
And finally, his closing thoughts:
quote:But what happens now if the industry collectively has invested fifty billion dollars of technology that has now become too expensive, it's taken away what people wanted in their larger vehicles for larger families for their lifestyle and what happens then if Congress says "Oops we made a mistake." Now you have really put a lot of people out-of-business because you in a sense changed the game very quickly. And what is a concern with CAFE is that you can make any kind of regulation, one hundred miles per gallon. The fact is today a consumer.. actually the number that they're talking about is 35 miles per gallon in the next decade. You can buy a 35-mile per gallon car today. There's a lot of them on the market. The problem is that people don't want them. On a high a level it compromises their needs, their lifestyle and even at $3.00 a gallon they don't buy them. Well what happens if we implement so all vehicles, say all passenger cars have 35 miles per gallon in a few years and the fuel ends up being $1.50 a gallon, what are consumers going to say about that product. They're going you know be very upset about it. And the reality is a year from now we could be seeing fuel that is $1.50 a gallon or $4.00 a gallon or anywhere in between. That's probably a realistic range. And even this year, in six months I paid less than $2.00 a gallon for fuel less than six months ago.
So where is this gain and the problem with CAFE is is that it says industry you have to do this but there's no incentive for the market to follow what the industry has to do. If fuel prices are high there is an incentive. If fuel prices are low there's not and you've got a real problem in this disconnect between the market and what the manufacturer's can do. Product development times are in the area of two years versus five years, 10 or 15 years ago, the cost of developing a product or even more expensive the cost of developing a power train and you're into billions of dollars very very quickly and if you don't have some assurance that you can recover that from consumers that buy your products and you can sell them profitably you've got a problem in staying in business.
So CAFE in general, the way I look at CAFE and I listen to people talk about it, my general conclusion is the less people know about economics and technology the more optimistic about what what you can do. The more you understand economics and technology, the more reserved you are because you have to live with a set of restraints that are very real and that you understand. If you don't know anything about it it's no big deal. Like I don't know much about heart surgery and it's a piece of cake you know you just cut a guy open, you saw the breastbone and it's trivial because I don't know anything about it. If I knew something about it it would be very, very different altogether.
Do you know anything about biolene? I was at a gas station today that had "drive clean with biolene" written on the pumps. When I googled it though, the results were in languages I didn't understand, or about mulch, which I didn't find enlightening.
Posts: 3420 | Registered: Jun 2002
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First of all, the video link is from Discovery Channel, and it links me to something about alligators. Hopefully it will fix itself.
I just caught this on Discover Channel's 'Building the Future' program, and it looks pretty awesome to me.
The basic need is to turn salt water into drinkable water at a low cost. The current plants (this is coming from my memory of the show I just watched) heat the salt water to steam, which rises, leaves the salt and other minerals behind, and then condenses to clear, drinkable water. These plants burn through 300,000 gallons of gasoline to produce 1 million gallons of water.
This new plant needs no energy input, other than the energy it gets from solar and wind sources. It has a series of columns which are filled with cool ocean water. From the top of these, the water is sprayed onto a absorbent surface, like a sponge. Warm water from the oceans blows through the sponge surface, evaporating the water, leaving the salt and other minerals behind. This moist air then hits the columns of cold sea water, which causes the water to condense onto them. It then runs down the columns and is collected.
It also serves as a great backdrop to a large outdoor theater. (I think verbatim from Discovery Channel).
I am surprised I can't find more online about this. It seems like a really good idea for me, I just wonder what the construction / maintenance cost would be. Seeing this type of project gets me exited and gives me hope that all of the huge technical and architectural advances humans have made can actually be used for something besides looking neat.
Posts: 1694 | Registered: Jun 2004
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Here's the update for the last couple days, there's quite a bit, so this will be the cliffs notes version. If there's something you want more info on, let me know:
Bank of America has fully financed the Redwood Forest Foundation, which will purchase 50K acres of redwood forests in Southern California from a logging company. Logging will still take place there, but at a much reduced rate, and the forest's ecology will be stablized and brought back to a healthy status before any more logging takes place. The RFF will sell off part of the forest to help pay down the debt it owes to the BOA, but just a small piece, the grand majority of the forest will be kept intact for ever and ever. .........................................
After reading reports that Google was asked about it's carbon footprint, Sun Microsystems started calculating their global footprint. Thus far they have only gotten to their national print, here is a chart of Sun's US footprint. They're still working on the world total, but the total of those eight facilities is roughly half their total. ...........................................
Honda has started making solar panels modeled for home and small business use. Honda Soltec has already begun operations. ...
quote:The US Census issued a report about our real American commuting behavior in recent times. Gasoline prices may be high and concern about global warming may be growing, but on the whole, "Green Thinking" is just that, thinking. Eighty-eight percent of people who go to work still drive to work. That includes carpoolers. Of that 88 percent, 77 percent go by themselves. And many are probably going by SUV because they bought them back in the days before 9/11/01 or soon after.
quote:Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the head of the Committee on on Oversight and Government Reform, is curious about a call made by Heideh Shahmoradi, an aide at the Transportation Department, to a member of Congress. Since Shahmoradi left a voicemail instead of speaking directly to that Congressman, Waxman was able to get the transcript of the call, and he says it seems like this DOT aide was lobbying against California's tougher carbon emission standards by saying it would hurt (the exact phrase is "greatly impact") the car factories in the member's district. There's more, including the letter Waxman send to the DOT Secretary, over at TalkingPointsMemo, which is always good for this sort of reporting.
... Avis Budget Group has announced that they will start offering Toyota Priuses for rent through their outlets in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR and throughout California. The rental company is adding 1,000 of the hybrids to their fleet and joins Enterprise Rent-A-Car which already offers more than 3,000 hybrids. Avis will be charging $69.95 or more a day for the Priuses depending on where and when customers rent them. ...
quote:DETROIT – General Motors Corp. is moving more than 500 fuel cell experts from advanced development laboratories to core engineering functions to prepare this technology for future production.
More than 400 fuel cell engineers will report to GM's Powertrain Group to begin production engineering of fuel cell systems. Another 100 will transfer to GM's Global Product Development organization to start integrating fuel cells into future company vehicles. Finally, more than 150 fuel cell scientists and program support will remain as part of GM's Research and Development center to continue advanced research in hydrogen storage, fuel cells and program commercialization.
The transition is aimed at expediting the company's efforts to produce vehicles that displace petroleum through energy diversity.
"Eight years ago we said that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology could make a major contribution to solving the energy and environmental challenges facing the automobile industry," said Larry Burns, GM Vice President, Research and Development. "Today's announcement signals another important milestone as we move fuel cell vehicles closer to future production."
GM shared details about its fifth-generation fuel cell system technology when it unveiled the fuel cell-powered E-Flex version of the Chevrolet Volt at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. This latest system is half the size of its predecessor, yet provides the same power and performance.
Biofuels Corporation, a British biofuel producer has collapsed. They took a 100 million pound loss due to a massive spike in the vegetable oil they use. Food demands in China, and a well subsidied US ethanol industry might just drive the entire European biofuel out of business. ...
quote:For some time now the third generation Toyota Prius was expected to debut in the fall of 2008 carrying a lithium ion battery pack and and very possibly plug-in capability. In the past week it has been reported that neither the lithium energy storage or the plug-in capability would be there and now it looks the timeline has slipped as well.
Of course, since Toyota never officially announced a launch date they are refusing to call the slip to a spring 2009 debut a program slip or even acknowledge the new or old date. By the time the new Prius hits the market there will be several new competitors available including the Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan hybrids and the plug-in version of the two-mode Saturn Vue is due that same year.
It looks like Toyota's decision to stick with their local supplier might have come back to haunt them. Panasonic currently supplies the NiMH hydride batteries that Toyota uses and they have been focusing on LiNiCoAlO2 cathodes which are considered to be the least thermally stable of the currently available lithium chemistries. Other companies like A123 use materials such as doped iron phosphate and other materials that have better thermal stability. At this stage of the program Toyota might actually better off going to a new source for lithium batteries rather than reverting to NiMH.
Three Senators have introduced the FREEDOM Act in Congress, which as you might have noticed is an acronym, for "Fuel Reduction using Electrons to End Dependence On the Mideast." It has three parts, one is a big tax credit for PEDVs, Plug in Electric Drive Vehicles, until 250,000 cars are sold, so get in early for the credit. It also includes tax incentives for the U.S. production of PEDVs and PEDV dedicated parts; incentives for electric utilities to provide rebates to customers who purchase PEDVs; and give utilities producing the greenest energy the largest incentives. ...
GM has announced they've created a new diesel engine for their trucks and SUVs, that will have better performance then previous engines, will saving 25% on fuel efficiency, and a 13% reduction in CO2 emissions. It will be put into production soon, at their Tonawanda plant. ...
That's the report for the 15th, I'll do a separate post about the 16th.
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Here's the report for Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th, sorry I've already fallen behind, but it's a lot of daily information to wade through:
The world's first commercial tidal power station will be installed north of Ireland. The single station will be enough to power a 1,000 homes, and they hope to increase the size beyond this prototype to a 10MW unit, above the current 1.5MW unit. They envision a tidal farm with a 500MW capacity by 2015. The blades move slowly, 10 times slower than ship blades, and are placed in high flowing areas, so they believe damage to marine life will be very, very small. ............
quote:Nissan and NEC created a join-venture not long ago to produce lithium ion batteries specifically designed for use in hybrid and electric cars.
They have just announced that they're supplying those batteries to Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) and Renault in order to make these batteries competitive for mass production. Renault is Nissan's parent company and Fuji is linked itself to Toyota. Would this mean we will get hybrids from Renault, Nissan and Subaru? Surely yes. The press release also mentions that they are speaking with Ford about a possible deal as well.
There are high hopes on the use of lithium batteries for cars instead of current lead-acid or nickel hydride. Lighter, with higher autonomy and no memory-effect, they are currently powering laptops, cell phones, PDAs and were the choice for the Tesla Roadster.
Other important industrial groups and partnerships are spending a lot of money in lithium batteries, such as Toyota/Matsushita or Mitsubishi/GS Yuasa.
Sustainable Development is a website that has just opened its doors. They are there to educate people and businesses in ways to cut costs through green energy, and to be more efficient. Check it out at your own leisure. .........................
quote:A couple of years ago, they (Batscap) introduced at the Geneva Auto Show a benchmark for their energy storage technologies. It was the prototype of a city car, 3.05 meters long (the size of a classic Mini), called the BlueCar.
The announced specifications are quite good. Thanks to the batteries weighing 5 times less than lead-acid ones, the car is surprisingly light (700kg, about 1550 pounds). This helps in making the car able to have a range of more than 200 km (120 miles). The battery technology allows the car to be fully recharged in 6 hours, although with a few minutes there's enough to get over a bad situation. The car is good for 125 km/h of maximum speed (80 miles), just around the European speed limits thanks to the 50 kW motor (equivalent to 65 HP). It seats 3 at the front, optionally an additional pair at the back, although the default combination is keeping the back for storage (up to 800 dm3).
The design was made by a subsidiary of Pininfarina, who also built the car. The company originally announced that they wouldn't make the car but sell it to a carmaker. Later, they announced that their technology has been sold to Valeo and PSA (Citroën-Peugeot).
quote:In an energy policy debate on Capitol Hill this week Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) wanted to introduce an amendment that would require 15 percent of electricity generated in the US to come from renewable sources by 2020. This was contested by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) who offered an alternative amendment that includes coal and nuclear as clean energy
Somehow I don't see that going anywhere. Interesting both the senators are from New Mexico. This might touch off a much bigger debate on whether coal really can be made clean or not. ............................
AWS Ocean Energy plans to install 5 test buoys off the coast of Scotland soon. A different kind of wave energy than the fanblade turbines, these are buoys that bob up and down, capturing the movement of the waves. Eventually the company hopes to install them over Britain's waters. They could be installed wherever wave motions are heavy, such as the US Pacific coast, European Atlantic coast and others.
This is one of the three or four different kinds of wave or tidal energy that I've seen suggested. There's another type of buoy being tested off the coast of Seattle that sits on the surface (the one from AWS is planted underwater to the seabed) and bobs along in the water.
The other kind captures wave power, by laying out in long rows like crops, in the water, bobbing up and down and capturing the water. These are being tested off the coast of England as well.
The fourth kind, that I haven't heard about in awhile, sits off the coast of Scotland, and works when waves crash into it (it's a fixed installation), which turns turbines.
I have the best hope for the buoys. ...............................
The California Air Resources Board has mandated that all refineries in California must blend their gas with 10% minimum of ethanol. This is a boon to ethanol producers, and coincides with the new fuel standards set by the Governator which take effect in 2009. ..............................
This one is some pretty exciting news:
quote:The HAWK 10, invented by the Global Resource Corporation and recently put to use by Gershow Recycling, is 100% emission- and pollutant-free and can reduce landfill waste by close to 65%. In addition, it recycles excess metal that businesses can then reuse and uses a system of high microwave frequencies to convert "autofluff" (i.e. textiles, foams, plastics, etc) into oil and gas.
While most companies tend to dispose of the residue (dubbed automobile shredder residue, or ASR) produced from the recovered steel by dumping it into a landfill, polluting the surroundings and wasting valuable components in the process, the HAWK 10 gasifies the different materials and turns them into 80% light combustible gases and 20% oil. The machine fuels its next round by cycling the gas through a closed-loop system to use it, thus avoiding the production of emissions.
"Imagine running a major industrial process like recycling with negligible fuel costs and zero emissions. It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but it's real, it's proven, and it's available right now to companies like Gershow who grasp the importance of fighting global warming," said Kevin Gershowitz, Executive Vice President of Gershow Recycling
Company officials expect the machine will pay for itself within a year of being put to use by taking advantage of renewable energy tax credits.
Pretty cool stuff there. Reducing landfill waste should be high on our minds, and more efficient use of our waste materials is some great news! I'll try to update tomorrow.
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Ethanol is a polar molecule with a high affinity for the polar "universal solvent" water. It can't be distilled to a higher purity than ~96%alcohol&~4%water, except by distillation with benzene. Benzine is known to be extremely hazardous to health; to long-term health even in trace quantities such as through groundwater contamination.
"Biolene" is some advertising jerks way of making the customer feel good for paying extra to buy gasahol. It just means that they dumped a small amount of ethanol into the gasoline, lowering the fuel value (lowering miles per gallon that you can expect, and lowering horsepower), increasing the price per gallon, and increasing both water and air pollution.
You should care about ethanol percentage because federal ethanol mandates are being used as an excuse by major oil corporations to keep gasoline supplies tight and prices high through failure to build new refineries. That ethanol mandate also drives up your grocery bill. AND you get to pay extra portion of your income tax to subsidize the oil companies buying that ethanol, plus extra tax at the fuel pump because the price per gallon is higher.
David Cole's answers contain more lies than sentences. But then, that's why he's being paid the big bucks to head the "Center for Automotive Research".
Actually, there are other compounds that break the alcohol-water azeotrope. Benzene is just the simplest to use for most purposes. And all the others are toxins as well. Cyclohexane, for example. Or calcium oxide (which becomes calcium hydroxide, a fairly nasty base).
While other methods have been explored, there really is very little reason to push for 100% alcohol that is drinkable. You can get plenty drunk on 190 proof. And since most alcohol at that concentration is for industrial use, it is better that it not be drinkable -- keeps the ATF from taxing it.
And keeps the grad students from drinking it.
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"The greatest concern to Cole, and the rest of the industry, is the price of oil bottoming out to 10-15 dollars a barrel."
I'm not sure I understand this. If the mideast is going to see their oil fields collapsing in 20 years, wouldn't lowering the price make them run out sooner? I would think that the cheaper gas gets, the more desperately we need the alternative fuels.
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Lowering the price won't make them run out sooner, besides, it'd be a temporary venture. The only reason to bottom out the price like that would be to make auto efficiency a moot point, kill all those alternative fuels and kill the auto industry's R&D money spent on hybrids and electric cars. It's the high price of oil that is spurring this research and development drive, and killing the price of oil kills the incentive and profitability for those alternative developments.
If they don't take action now, electric cars, dozens of hybrid models, and billions of gallons of alternative fuels will be available in the next FIVE years. They'll probably still be able to sell to China and India, but Russia is pumping oil by the thousands of barrels to those two countries. They want to make sure they get the most bang for their buck before the wells run dry, and killing the industry that's threatening you is a good way to do it.
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quote:The Toyota Prius is proving to be a good, solid car but as the hybrid approaches 100,000 miles a number of odd problems are popping up that ought to be cause for concern among consumers shopping for a secondhand hybrid.
The Japanese automaker began selling gas-and-electric cars ten years ago and is now the acknowledged hybrid leader in the automotive industry.
But a growing number of ConsumerAffairs.Com readers are reporting that the Prius hybrid technology is not aging well. With some Prius models in the U.S. on the road now for eight years and approaching 100,000 miles, owners are beginning to encounter problems that are unique to the hybrids.
One reader reported to us that in her 2004 Prius the hybrid display began to malfunction and “did not work with the result of being unable to get gas into car."
A California reader told us that the monitor is also failing in his Prius and said that Toyota is unwilling to provide any assistance because the monitor is no longer covered by the Toyota warranty.
“There is a technical service bulletin out on it from Toyota which tells the dealer how to repair the problem but only if the car is under factory warranty,” he said. “My car has 49,000 miles on it and is out of warranty.”
A Texas Prius owner with 91,000 miles on his hybrid said that "the dashboard lit up with multiple warning lights. The dealer picked it up and said that the transmission went out and it would cost $6,000 to fix and the Prius was out of warranty.”
Toyota allowed no coverage, not even partial help even though the transmission was part of the Hybrid Power train covered for 5 years and 100,000 miles.
A southern California Prius owner told us that his car has died on the freeway four times. The second time the dealer had the car for 53 days waiting for parts.
The growing number of complaints and problems owners of aging Prius hybrids are encountering suggest that a wary consumer ought to look long and hard before becoming the second owner of one of these hybrids.
Toyota warrants the hybrid drive system for 100,000 miles, but as Danny in San Antonio discovered, there can be some uncertainty as to which of the Prius components are considered part of the hybrid drive and which are not.
And it was nice to see my Ford Focus was just above the Prius on that list. Coincidentally, one of the most oft heard complaints about the Focus, that the washer fluid pump dies, has happened to me. I've yet to get it fixed, as I just don't have the money, and won't until the fall, but I guess that's what you get for an economy car. .......................
Shell has cancelled one of three requests to Congress for permission to extract oil from shale in Colorado. Like Alberta's tar sands, there is a huge amount of oil in America's west, but it's trapped in shale. Getting oil from shale is like getting blood from a stone. They have to heat the shale to melt the oil out of it, but they also have to freeze the groundwater beneath it to prevent contamination. It's messy, it's dangerous, it's rife with risk for an ecological disaster, and if it was done, the barrels of oil produced would be more than $100 a barrel.
In other words, it's not yet worth it, not until a major breakthrough makes it viable. The money would be better spent on alt fuels. ........................
Greenvolts today announced a deal with Pacific northwest utility giant Avista. Greenvolts will make a testbet solar power plant for them using a unique method of generation. Using mirrors they licensed from Lawrence Livermore, and the world's most highly efficient photovoltaic cells, made by Boeing's Spectrolab. The mirrors focus the sun on the super efficient cell. The company's founder believes they can produce 20MW models soon. .......................
Senate Democrats are going to attempt to remove the tax breaks, numbering at least $14 billion given to oil companies, and to give them to Green energy and alternative fuels. They also want to force oil companies to finally start paying royalties to the federal government for oil they drill for on US territory, that could amount to $10 billion over five years. Good luck Democrats. .........................
quote:WASHINGTON, June 15, 2007 -- Through a new agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers, the Department of Energy will help speed the adoption of energy management programs, clean and efficient technologies and energy-intensity reduction programs.
The partnership is a step to help advance President Bush's Twenty in Ten Initiative, which promotes greater energy security through increased efficiency and diversification of clean energy sources.
"Increasing energy efficiency is not only good practice, but it can also be good business," Energy Secretary Samuel M. Bodman said. "Today's agreement between DOE and NAM represents a significant commitment between government and the private sector to help curb our nation's energy use and enhance energy security while also reducing emissions." ... The DOE estimates that if the U.S. industrial sector were to reduce energy intensity by 25 percent in ten years, the U.S. could save 8.4 quadrillions of energy, an amount equal to heating every U.S. household for one year. As part of DOE's "Save Energy Now" campaign, energy experts using DOE software identified nearly $500 million in potential energy saving at 200 of the most energy-intensive manufacturing plants in the U.S. in 2006.
quote:A new report from the Energy Savings Trust finds that, despite many companies' beliefs, incorporating Green Fleet Management practices will save U.K. businesses 2.6 billion pounds per year at no additional cost.
The Energy Saving Trust's "Behind the Wheel" report, launched today, examines business leaders' attitudes to their company car fleets and their impact on the environment. The report reveals a worrying lack of interest from many companies over their vehicles' impact on the environment and their bottom line. Company car fleets are frequently the second largest overhead a company incurs.
As well as making proven financial sense, running a green fleet can also impact greatly on an organization's carbon footprint and contribute towards greater awareness amongst staff and customers of a company's commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. ... Only half of U.K. businesses believe that running a greener fleet will save them money Only a quarter of companies offer incentives to employees to choose a lower CO2 car. Meaning that the majority of U.K. businesses promote the choice of cars with higher running costs that also increase the companies' carbon footprint.
A fifth of companies (21 percent) still insist that eligible employees drive a car commensurate with their grade, meaning the higher the earner, the higher the CO2 emissions -- despite the range of low CO2 executive cars now available.
Just eleven per cent of U.K. companies that offer company cars have reviewed their fleets' carbon footprint.Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said of the report, "When it comes to company car fleets, the business case is the environmental case. Yet we frequently find that fleets are not being discussed at the right level in companies. Very few organizations discuss their company car fleet as a boardroom agenda item."
Sellwood added that the companies who have shown leadership at a high level are the ones who are implementing green fleet policies with tremendous success in terms of carbon and monetary savings. As with any serious operational restructure, buy-in at the top is essential. He added that in 2006, the Energy Trust helped more than 120 companies run a greener fleet through their "Green Fleet Review" service, which helps organizations improve the environmental performance of company fleets. More News...
quote:Congressmen John Dingell (D-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) said that they will not be pursuing the energy legislation that they have proposed for at least the next two weeks. The Dingell-Boucher bill had fuel economy standards that were not as stringent as those proposed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and had incentives for coal to liquid projects and low carbon fuel standards.
The bill would have also banned states, including California, from regulating greenhouse gases independently of the federal government. Dingell and Boucher will propose alternate legislation that drops the state regulation ban and the coal to liquid while adding incentives for batteries, plug-in hybrids, grid upgrades and renewable fuels.
Dingell had a write up recently in TIME magazine lauding him for standing up to the people (The Big 3) who have traditionally been his staunchest allies. He's proposing strigent CAFE standards and other things that will hurt automakers, and he's their rep in Congress, literally, as he's from southeast Michigan. I like that the reason he is dropping his proposal isn't because he's abandoning his position, but because he wants to remove the restrictions on California, which are patently unfair, and probably unconstitutional, as the Congress doesn't have the power to do that (I don't think anyway). ...........................
Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, is using a piece of their $1 billion seed money to fund efforts to bring more awareness and viability to Plug In Hybrids. They are installing solar panels on their home HQ for people who already bring plug ins to work so they can recharge while they work. The link above details where they are spending a lot of their money, it basically works a bit like the Auto X Prize that's going on. Anyone with a good idea on how to make the technology and infrastructure work better will get a piece of the pie, whatever it takes to make things better. Google has gotten a lot of good press lately with their Green efforts. PG&E, no stranger to Green press lately, was on hand to tout some of their new smart grid technology.
Google has a very small number of plug in Priuses that are shared among Google employees. It's a shared fleet of cars. They are all powered at work at the world's largest business rooftop solar array, a 1.3MW power generating assembly. All in all, pretty impressive.
Google has also announced their intention to go totally carbon neutral by the end of 2008. Like their headquarters, other offices will either build on site renewable power generators, or they will purchase carbon offsets. This is an entirely voluntary move by Google, but using their own green energy and other efficiency tools to reduce consumption will have long lasting monetary gains as well. The operating costs for their facilities will drop like Mike Gravel throwing a rock into a pond. ...............................
As far as the smart grid technology goes, PG&E is fiddling around with modifying plug ins so that they can not only receive power from the grid, but can also give energy back to the grid. It's an interesting idea, but I don't really know it'll work out in the end. The idea, is that companies spend billions of dollars to keep their power plants basically idling by, waiting for peak hours that will demand huge amounts of energy, which amounts to a lot of waste. Drawing power, however, from millions of hybrids that are plugged into the system during peak hours, perhaps while they are at work and those cars are charging under solar carports, it could eliminate thousands of wasteful, polluting substations that exist to feed that need.
Though if the cars give back ALL their energy to the grid, that eliminates the benefits of having a plug in car, as they would just run on gas. But I think the idea in general is tied into solar carports, and other means of powering cars. They could be used for other needs, like say an electical distruption to your house could be softened by drawing power temporarily from your car. LION batteries can be depleted and charged at any time without losing charge capacity, which is one of their major advantages for plug ins. We'll see where it goes, I think a lot of it depends on infrastructure changes, but it's the kind of innovative thinking I like to see at least explored. .......................
Chrysler is teaming up with a German manufacturer, and will be building a big plant in Tipton County Indiana to build a new kind of double clutch transmission, 700,000 annually. Chrysler has announced three other big changes in engine production in recent months, all aimed at improving fuel economy and reducing pollution while increasing performance. It's announcements like this that help stem the tide of naysayers about American manufacturing and innovation. Engineering in the US is alive and well, and they're going Green. ...........................
quote:The General Motors assembly plant in Ellesmere Port in England has been on a major energy efficiency kick for the last four years. The plant that assembles Astras has cut the amount of energy they use to build cars by fifty percent.
Even with the increase in production capacity in that time, the total energy use at the plant is down thirty percent in during that time. The plant has been recognized by the Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme which is part of the Carbon Trust.
quote:E3 Biofuels will open its closed-loop ethanol plant at the end of this month in Nebraska. Closed-loop, in this instance, means that the company is technically able to make ethanol without using any fossil fuels. The idea is that by placing a large cattle feedlot next to an ethanol plant (with an anaerobic digester in between), you can use the cow manure to make biogas and burn the biogas to power the ethanol-making machines. The leftover wet grain from the ethanol plant is then fed to the cows. And so on.
Of course, there are still lots of ways for fossil fuels to enter into this process (the trucks that deliver the ethanol feedstock are the most obvious culprits), but this is a system that does do well in thinking about how to turn waste materials to useful ones. E3 BioFuels admits the process "uses virtually no fossil fuel."
Walmart has announced an effort to save energy during peak hours by reducing their lighting in Canadian stores by 30% during the summer. It will save them a million dollars in energy costs, as well as removing 4,500 tons of carbon emissions that it would have produced otherwise. They are pursuing other ways to do more, such as new designs for stores and new packaging methods and materials. ........................
This doesn't necessarily have to do with energy costs per se, but it does have to do with the environment and wastefulness:
quote:It's no secret that ink printer manufacturers try and make most of their money off the consumables associated with printing. Unlike laser printers, they essentially give away the printer, but then charge a lot of money for the the inkjet cartridges and, to a lesser extent, the paper. Fine, but apparently there is a bit more to the story, as a new study found that more than half of the ink from inkjet cartridges is wasted when users toss them in the garbage. This is because most users huck them when their printers tells them they're out of ink. Turns out the infernal gadget is lying - they may still be over half full!
The findings come from a study, conducted by TÜV Rheinland and commissioned by Epson, that studied the efficiency of both single and multi-ink cartridges from various vendors. Surprise, surprise - Epson's own R360 posted the best numbers, with only 9 percent of the ink wasted. Kodak's, with its EasyShare 5300 came in as the straggler, wasting over 64 percent of its ink in tests. According to the study, some printers have hundreds of pages worth of ink left when they beep that they are 'dry'. And there's another wrinkle as well.
Readers that have followed the printing world for a while know that some printers use multi-ink cartridges (3 to 5 colors all in the same cartridge) and some use separate cartridges (one cartridge, one color.) Obviously, the multi-ink cartridge fare worse in these types of tests because they can be 'emptied' as soon as a single color runs low (like when printing out a Powerpoint presentation.) This unravels the story a little bit more, as Epson (who backed the study) uses primarily single-ink cartridges in their printers; this is almost guaranteed to be more efficient because there's only one color per cartridge, and thus only one cartridge to replace when that color runs out. These still waste ink - up to 20 percent - but generally were better than the multi-ink cartridge models.
The final wrinkle is that the study also did not calculate the total cost per page, which arguably is more important than efficiency. Epson refused to comment on this which suggests, well, you know. Lots of solutions to the problem; First, don't listen to your printer and use your cartridges until they run dry. Second, try an online service like Photobox, or use a continuous flow system. And third, if you are buying a printer, check out cost per page as well
Like the last article, this is branching out a bit from green energy, but I'm finding new sources that have a bit more variety to them, so you get more variety as well.
quote:It was late last year when we brought bark cloth to your attention. Now the stuff has gone an won yet another award. Yep, one those ISPO sports awards we noted last week for the Waldmeister laminated timber bicycle. The fleece garments look like highly texturised versions of the same thing that is normally made from petroleum. But the bark in the cosy garments by Losgeloest of Frieburg, Germany, comes from forests in the Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. How a tree renders up a textile is not dissimilar to how cork is repeatedly harvested from the same tree. In this case it’s the wild Mutuba fig (Ficus natalensis). Once the bark layer is removed in a centuries old process, the 50 to 150 year old trees are protected from drying out by being wrapped in banana leaves, so that within a couple of years new bark is growing. Meanwhile the stripped bark is pounded with wooden pestles of varying coarseness until the desired thickness is obtained. “This labour-intensive process produces an ever-larger, softer, thinner and darker cloth.” Apparently the yearly yield from these trees is about 20,000 square metres (~24,000 square yards.)
In a bit of health news, the entire United Kingdom is going cigarette smoke free on July 1st. Smoking will be illegal pretty much everywhere but your house. Ireland did the same thing in 2004, and instead of seeing a decline in bar sales, they actually saw an increase. Many credit that to non-smokers coming out of the woodworks. It's also credited for 34,000 people stopping smoking that year. England expects as many as 600,000 people could stop smoking as a result. ..............................
Here is a photogallery of different "Green Roofs" from around the world. Green roofs are not only aesthetically beautiful, they also serve a number of functions, from reducing home heating costs, to water conservation, to simple food production, they save the environment and save money while being beautiful. ..............................
Could the polymers of the future be plant based, and not petroleum based?
I suppose this is my best article of the day, and I demand that if you skipped over this entire article, you at least read this. The gist is that long ago, there was a fight over whether or not plastic would be made from plants or oil, and oil won because it was more abundant, and plants had shortcomings. Well 80 years later or so, oil isn't abundant, and plants have more than surpassed their shortcomings. Read the article, and find out how one of our little fears, that even reducing fuel consumption in cars might not stem the need for oil, might be baseless in the end. ..............................
Okay, since this is already a superlong post, you get the last few tidbits in read at your own leisure format:
The Science Channel is looking for Green inventors. They're forming a new show that will showcase average joe inventors who have an invention that will reduce our energy usage or some other Green advantage. No more details on the show yet, they are still looking for the invetors. ..........................
The new energy bill before the senate is stalled as special interests and Senators all squabble over the final pieces of the bill. Michigan's senators are pissed about CAFE standards being so high, senators in coal heavy states are pissed because clean coal wasn't included as a good new green power, and neither was nuclear.
This will stall for awhile, as pissy senators yell back and forth, and Republicans threaten a fillibuster over the issue. ..........................
Delta Biofuels, a biofuel plant that stands in the midst of areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina will raise production of biofuel at their plant from 18 million gallons a year to 80-100 million gallons by switching from a batch to continuous flow method. Pretty amazing upgrade. ...........................
The Association of British Drivers has compared government education about climate change as such:
quote:The 'Carbon Control' project, organised by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA) ... presents as received wisdom the one sided message that climate change is totally man-made. Then, it relentlessly imparts the notion that lifestyle changes are essential to prevent catastrophic climate change. It does this in the hope that children will harangue their parents to reduce their 'carbon footprint' by using their cars less, and other ideologically motivated lifestyle changes.
An RSA press release issued on the 14th June 2007 described children as "influencers on their parents' decisions". This has worrying echoes of the way children were used to exert control over their parents in 1930's Germany.
Apparently, to them, Al Gore is Hitler. Personally I think they'd get a lot further using much less aggressive language. But hey, there's always haters out there. ..............................
The province of Ontario has set up a $311 million fund to develop cleaner cars. They are hoping that the Canadian government will match the funds, but with 39% of Canada's population, Ontario feels it is their duty to take the lead on reducing their carbon footprint. ...............................
San Francisco is teaming up with PG&E to check out the feasibility of putting tidal power stations in San Francisco Bay. A report from the Electric Power Research Institute said in 2006 that SFB could be the biggest producer of tidal power in the world, and has the greatest potential. PG&E is even chipping in a million and a half dollars to help with the study. SFB has some of the strongest currents in the world, which is part of what made Alcatraz so hard to escape from.
In related news, PG&E also hopes that people will start using more efficient, less energy gobbling computers, and they are releasing a lot of press about the new advanced energy grid that I talked about yesterday. ..............................
In more evidence of Wall Street's bright outlook on Green energy, Morgan Stanely will finance and own solar panels arrays at seven Wal-Marts in California. Wal-Mart benefits by getting cheap energy from MS, and also they get the green energy credits from California's carbon cap trading program, which they may sell and keep the money from. Partnerships such as these are springing up all over the country as investors rush to make as much money as they can out of the opportunities that are arising in the Green energy sector. Anyone who said Green would be too expensive didn't know what they were talking about. .............................
Here's your exciting news for the day, a new study from the Brattle Group believes that simple advanced monitoring of energy use could result in a 5% reduction of all US energy use in five years.
quote:CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 20, 2007 -- A new study by the Brattle Group examines how innovative new methods of monitoring electricity demand can dramatically reduce peak energy use and prevent new, polluting power plants from being built.
The report, "The Power of Five Percent," analyzes the results of a $20 million pilot program in California that enrolled 2,500 customers over three years and implemented a variety of measures to try and control energy use.
The report's authors write, "A consensus is forming that the best way to ensure reliability and competitive functioning of markets is to deploy an integrated approach that combines traditional solutions involving the supply-side of the business with demand-side solutions that give customers the ability to control their usage, especially during times when the power system encounters critical conditions."
The report takes a look at the results of the California Statewide Pricing Pilot, which was the largest electricity pricing experiment ever undertaken in the United States. The study examined electricity use patterns for commercial and industrial customers in the Southern California Edison service territory during summer 2004 and 2005.
The customers in the study were all offered the use of smart thermostats, which automatically adjust air conditioning settings during the critical peak pricing hours from noon to 6 p.m. Over the two summers, the average reduction in peak energy use on critical days for small customers was 4.83 percent and for large customers 6.75 percent. But customers with the smart thermostat technology posted the largest peak energy savings -- 13 percent for small customers and almost 10 percent for the large facilities.
Making use of demand response programs based on advanced metering and dynamic pricing could drop the peak load by 5 percent nationwide over the next few years, and if the latest technologies are adopted widely, peak load could be reduced by 20 percent or more.
A reduction in peak energy of 5 percent would, the report's authors say, result in $3 billion in avoided electricity costs, including generation, transmission and distribution. On top of that, it that amount of reduction would eliminate the need for 625 new power plants to handle peak energy demand.
On top of the cost savings, successful demand response programs, the authors note, make for more competitive power markets, reduce price volatility, cut emissions from peak generation, improve system reliability and lessen the chance for blackouts and brownouts, and improve customer satisfaction.
Kind of a big quote box, but I felt this one warranted it. .............................
quote:If one needs yet another excuse why the oil companies are fighting controls and supporting deniers, here it is: the warmer it gets, the less gas they sell you in a gallon. It seems that in the States a gallon of gas is measured at sixty degrees farenheit; when it is warmer out the gas expands but you still are just buying volume, not energy content, so you are getting less. The warmer it gets, the more you are overcharged, by as much as US$ 1.5 billion per year. “People are paying for gasoline they’re not getting,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
The industry says it would be too expensive to change all the pumps, yet in Canada, where the average temperature is colder and the customer benefits from getting more gas per unit volume, somehow the oil companies found the money to change to pumps that automatically adjust volumes based on temperature. Funny how that works.
Okay, let's finish it out with a read at your own leusure format:
I'm a day behind, but luckily June 21st is a light day, so I can do today's later tonight. Hopefully people are still reading. ::taptap:: is this thing on?
The NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) has reported that in the last 8 years, 5.5 million barrels of oil have been saved by the use of hybrids. Sound like a lot? It's a drop in the bucket considering the US imported 8.3 million barrels a DAY in 2003 for fuel. But NREL also reports that for the past five years, sales of Hybrids have increased more than 70% a year. If hybrids became a significant portion of the US market, it COULD make a serious dent in our imports, until then it's just a little blip.
And if you think the US isn't buying enough hybrids, it may interest you to know that 70% of ALL hyrbids sold worldwide are sold in the United States. US automakers believe that within a decade, hybrids will make 10-15% of the US market, and new, clean diesel engine cars will also make up 10-15% of the market. Promising news coming from a US auto industry that is publicly viewed as being stuck in the past. Truth is, the US autoindustry is better than anyone gives them credit for. The Ford Escape Hybrid is the best selling SUV hybrid, and all of the Big Three are coming out with a combined half dozen hybrid models in the next few years, including GM's Volt hybrid plug-in. And their quality ratings match up with the Japanese Big Three, by and large, as well, especially given the large number of Toyota recalls recently. ...................................
The energy bill has been decided by the Senate. Democratic efforts to include billions in tax breaks for renewable energy by taxing billions from the oil companies failed dismally. CAFE standards will be raised, and I'll get you the specifics on that tomorrow. It's something like 35MPG by 2020. ..................................
Speaking of hybrids, they're making their way to Chicago's cab companies. NY Cabbies have had Ford Escape hybrids for the last two years, and save as much as $6,000 a year in fuel costs, which more than makes up for the price of the car. They're also over 175,000 miles, and are still holding up well. The same, as I previously reported, CANNOT be said of the Toyota Prius. ...........................
The Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Center will sport Canada's largest green roof, just in time for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The building will serve as the international broadcast center for the games. ................................
New Jersey has decided to take the lead on reducing carbon output. Their legislature has passed, and their governor will sign, a measure to reduce their carbon output by 15-25 percent of current levels by 2020, and 50% of current levels by 2050. That makes their measures more than twice as stringent as California's, and are matched only by Minnesota. Their legislature said that in the face of a glaring lack of leadership from the federal government, it's time for the states to step up and take the lead. Funny what the green movement is doing for states' rights. ...........................
You've heard me talk recently about ethanol vs. OPEC. Some market analysts are writing that OPEC is rumbling left and right about the US' big drive towards alternative energy, and they aren't happy about it. But their question is, Why hasn't OPEC flooded the world with oil? Seriously, like I said before, if OPEC opened the spigots and flushed us with cheap oil, every ethanol company in the US would collapse, as Americans flocked back to cheap oil. Some analysts, SeekinAlpha in this case, think the reason they haven't is because they simply can't. And they might not be wrong. Iran is already producing less oil than they are allowed to, Iraq is still in shambles, and much of the production from Saudi Arabian oil wells is water. And those are the virtual OPEC Big Three. While I don't think we're necessarily at a global point of peak oil, could it be that OPEC's power and clout in the world of oil isn't quite what it used to be? Only time will tell. ..............................
Chrysler is surging full steam ahead on all sorts of automotive fronts. They've committed to working with Bosch, MSU and Mercedes-Benz to make diesel a serious player in the US automarket. They're lining up advances in big SUV hybirds, new engines, new powertrains, new transmissions and other designs, all will give decent sized boosts to fuel economy and efficiency, and all will be coming out in the next couple years. I'll say it again, the US Big Three aren't going anywhere. .............................
Okay, now I have five developments that are all very exciting, and I'll be quoting them all in full:
New PHEV tax credit could make Volt $6K cheaper
quote:The Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives (the goofy name means they handle tax legislation) has apparently approved a bill proposed by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) that could provide a huge boost to cars like the Chevy Volt. The bill HR 1331 would provide a tax credit of up to $6,000 to people who buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle that has a battery capacity of at least 4kWh.
Folks who have or are considering investing thousands of dollars to upgrade their old Prius or Escape will be out in the cold since the bill specifies "New Qualified" vehicles. The base credit would be $3,000 + $150 for flex fuel capability + $250 for every kWh of battery capacity over 5kWh (up to a maximum of $3,000). That would give a vehicle like the first iteration of the Volt with a flex-fuel engine and 16kWh battery a credit of $5,900.
It's not clear from the wording of the bill if a diesel hybrid that can run off of biodiesel as well as petroleum diesel would qualify for the flex-fuel credit. If this comes to pass, it at least takes the cost of lithium batteries partly off the table when it comes to developing mainstream PHEVs.
Considering GM is aiming to make the Volt an affordable car, meaning less than 30-40K, a 6K slash in the price could be a huge boon to sales, especially considering the vast fuel savings (and considering how friggin sweet it looks).
Vice-President of R&D for A123 (a battery company) is optimistic on the Chevy Volt's new battery.
quote:Today I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Bart Riley, co-founder, VP of R&D and CTO of A123 Systems. We discussed A123’s battery system and how they are going about making the Volt’s battery pack system.
This interview is important in that is reveals the first details available about A123’s plans since the June 5th announcement by GM that battery contracts had been awarded
He indicated that A123 has over the past five years developed a battery system that has “unprecedented safety, power, and life.”
Specifically, they developed a nanophosphate cathode that differs from the cobalt-based system currently used widely in laptop and cell phone batteries. Those lithium cobalt dioxide cathode batteries can become unstable when charged or overcharged or abused and are subject to explosion. A123’s new safer cathode material nanophosphate, uses no cobalt, is not an oxide, and thus has no stability or safety issues. The cells can heat because they are high-power but cannot explode. Indeed the cells are already on the market in power tools.
A123 is collaborating with Continental AG to make the battery pack system which will meet GM’s requirements. Continental will put a large number of A123’s cells into a plastic case designed to handle the “abuse of the vehicular environment” and develop computerized cooling and battery management electronics that will examine each cell insuring that it does not come out of its ideal cycle of operation. There will clearly be a give and take between the two companies.
An important fact, Dr. Riley also noted that cooling the cells is important not for safety reasons, but because it is a “life issue” as he calls it. GM wants the batteries to last for at least 15 years of use and temperature variability can reduce battery life and must be avoided.
He states that the battery science is already complete and can meet the goals of the project, but minor tweaks of cell design may still have to take place for them to interact properly with the pack. Also packs must be able to be assembled on a mass-production scale. Unfortunately, as of this moment in time, he noted that a prototype pack does not yet exist.
Comparing this project to the Hymotion Prius extender pack which uses A123 batteries, Dr. Riley states that the Volt is a whole new platform as opposed to simply extending the battery life as Hymotion drop-in supplement does. That system though, can extend Prius driving range to 20-40 miles electric
Compared to Altair Nano’s system, he states that A123’s has higher energy density. Altair Nano uses a different anode, and winds up with 1/2 voltage and twice the weight per cell.
He stated that A123/Continental has no direct knowledge of the CPI/LG activity and are essentially operating in the dark from one another.
The goal of one year to functioning battery pack is approximate. He indicates GM is setting out a very aggressive time-line, but initial unit delivery for prototype vehicles could come out even in 6 months since A123’s focus is on “making things happen”.
Overall I got the impression that Dr. Riley was highly confident of his batteries scientific merit, safety, power, and durability characteristics. He seemed to indicate creating the pack was more of a second act; just a simple engineering process, and should be pretty straightforward.
We might be a year away from a usable battery, and maybe only a year or two away from a production model of the Volt. Maybe that means I can buy one when my Focus finally dies! Another report I just read says that GM wants to have 1,000 Volts come off the assembly line by the end of the decade, so by December 2009. ......................................
Reinventing the wheel? Looks like the internal combustion engine has a new competitor
quote:NEVIS stands for New Exhaust Valve & Intake System, while it sounds basically like a simple modification to current technology, is actually attempting to reinvent the ICE. From fourteen years of research and testing by Cesare Bortone, the new engine design claims to solve lots of problems. It is smaller and lighter, even though being built of steel, versus the aluminum-magnesium alloy BMW R6 3.0L block they tested it against, and only has two cylinders. The cylinders themselves are not as we know them, as they are apparently donut-shaped. According to its claim, the engine can range in its compression ratio anywhere from 7:1 to 38:1, which seems problematic at best, but likely has the most to do with the large power output from such small displacement. The stroke is considerably shorter, and uses energy of the engine's exhaust vacuum to assist in the combustion cycle, also enabling it to produce six times the number of power strokes per revolution than that of an ordinary four-stroke ICE. Also, the engine is a modular design, which, according to the NEVIS team, enables a manufacturer to easily configure multiple arrays of cylinders (2, 4, 5, 6, 8, etc.) in an engine from the same facility, even on the same assembly line, streamlining construction and production costs.
That's all well and good, you say, but it still burns gas just like everything else, and oil is running out. Well guess what, greenies: the NEVIS engine can apparently burn any type of fuel, from diesel, to any mixture of biofuels, to even hydrogen. The most basic explanation I can make out of the technical overview is that they took elements of both the regular gas combustion cycle and the diesel cycle, added their own innovations, and made the most efficient, versatile engine ever made. Sounds too good to be true, maybe, however the 1.0L prototype was successfully tested and run at the conclusion of the 2.1 million Euro grant-funded phase last year, and NEVIS Engine Company, Ltd. was subsequently formed to further develop and commercialize the engine design, as well as "manage all related intellectual property." Patents have been issued in both Europe and the U.S.
CFLs already on the way out, UK firm invents something better. New bulbs are more efficient, less polluting, and last virtually forever
quote:A UK firm has developed a bulb that is more than 3 times as efficient as CFL bulbs and will burn brightly for decades. They claim that it will burn for so long that the building or appliance that contains it will wear out before the bulb does.
The traditional light bulb remained the way it is for so long because there wasn’t enough of an incentive to change. No one bothered to develop newer, more efficient designs because they were so cheap to produce. They waste 95% of energy and don’t last long.
That is changing now with CFL bulbs, because the green movement is providing an incentive to change. Now they are becoming even more advanced. The Economist is reporting that a team of researchers has developed a bulb that lasts, for all intents and purposes, forever. It’s also far more efficient, converting more energy to light rather than heat.
UK Company, Ceravision, have created a new bulb design that doesn’t use electrodes, so cannot burn out. It uses a magnetometer to bombard a small piece of aluminum oxide with microwaves to create an electrical field. Gas is then passed into a hole in the aluminium, in order to ionise it and create a glowing plasma. Traditional bulbs convert only 5% of energy to light, CFLs make use of around 15%, but this new design converts over 50%.
There are other bonuses as well, both financially and environmentally. The bulbs are expected to last for decades, so will need replacing far less often. This means less carbon emissions from production, and lower costs. It also doesn’t have the traces of mercury that CFL bulbs have, so will be easier and cleaner to dispose of once it does burn out.
Cost of PV cells to drop by 40%
quote:The solar photovoltaic pricing eclipse soon will pass. "The solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years,according to a new assessment by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Prometheus Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41 percent in 2006 alone...This growth, while dramatic, has been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon, the same material that goes into semiconductor chips. But the situation will be reversed in the next two years as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States bring on unprecedented levels of production capacity... Combined with technology advances, the increase in polysilicon supply will bring costs down rapidly—by more than 40 percent in the next three years, according to Prometheus estimates." By roughly 2010, then, electrical utilities will be looking to manage the competitive threat posed to their markets by distributed solar generation. Green ones will invest in it, the "un-green" utils will stay with their old advocacy tricks. Interesting times to come.
Running on E85 drops the mileage for your car by about thirty percent compared to gasoline, since ethanol only has about sixty percent of the energy per unit of gasoline. Running on ethanol also lowers the range of the vehicle as well as the power.
Not very good news for the energy source that is supposed to supplant gas someday. A lot of people are raising noise over the fact that the long term effects of ethanol have not been adequately studied. Ethanol does some funky things to your engine due to heat issues and evaporation. There is no study to date on what constant E85 will do to your car over the course of a half decade and tens of thousands of miles. So I guess you take your chances. ...................
You may remember a rant I had earlier, either on this thread or another environment thread against bottle water. As I said before, bottled water is silly. The water in the bottle is basically tap water, and sometimes it isn't even as clean as tapwater. And yet you're paying a premium for it, while at the same time are creating an environmental nightmare.
Well big names are joining the fight. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order that bans the sale of single serving water bottles on all city owned property and buildings. The city is also banned from using any public funds to purchase said water bottles. Residents who sign an online pledge not to buy plastic water bottles can get a free stainless steel water bottle from the city for free. Banning bottled water isn't a first in SF, Salt Lake City has already taken the same step.
Newsom says that from the studies he has looked at, more money is spent on bottling a transporting water per barrel than is spent on the same thing for oil. Newsom fully expects that Coke and Pepsi, as well as others, will lash out hardcore at the Mayors who join in on the drive, but he says it's a fight he intends to win. It's a bold move, and if he can actually pull it off, weening his city off plastic bottles, he'll be a Green champion. ............................
I'm just getting caught up for the past couple days. I can't decide what's more exciting, the NEVIS engine or the new lightbulbs. Here's hoping htey don't look funny and bother people's eyes like the florescents can.
I almost decided not to do a post today (been a long day of birthday celebrations, though I'm starting to wonder why we celebrate getting older, bleh ), and really I should be going to bed since I have to work in six hours, but there's a mess of news and I didn't want to get bogged down tomorrow night (also didn't want to leave anything out and cheat you guys of great Green info!). So here it is, in a much abriged format:
You'll just have to read this one for yourself. Basically the gist of the article is that ethanol is a horrible, horrible inefficient idea. We should be getting our energy via solar panels and using them in electric cars, as it is much more efficient, and much cleaner, but instead we use ethanol, and to make matters worse, we use the WORST possible material for ethanol; corn. We should at least be using switchgrass, which Bush comically mentioned in the SotU speech a couple years ago, but he wasn't wrong. Cellulosic ethanol is the best we can hope to do, but it's still just a stepping stone. Per acre, solar power is still the best method, and the link has math to prove it. ..................................
GM has a new Diesel engine for it's heavy trucks that could get 30mph. When combined with a two-mode hybrid system, that could raise the MPG up into the mid to high 30's, and for TRUCKS. That, combined with many of their other cars which already get 30+mpg, could blow the new CAFE standards that Congress is setting out of the water MUCH faster than 2020. But there's a hitch, the cost of the truck would be thousands more, as the diesel drivetrain is twice as expensive as the gasoline one. Are truck owners willing to spend thousands more? Will Congress give them a tax break if they do it? Hybrid owners already pay a premium for their gas savings, and considering what fuel hogs trucks are, it might end up being worth it if a moderate tax bonus were tossed in. ......................................
So what's up with Toyota lately? The new Prius (which looks sharp by the way) has been pushed back by a year, other cars have been pushed back as well. The problem? Quality. They're going to start taking more time between prototype and production, more prototypes, more engineers, etc, the whole shabang. The problem is that Toyota's quality has been slipping in the past couple of years, and especially with US quality ratings creeping up on them (some US fleets even exceed Toyota's, but I doubt the average US buyer knows that), they don't want to lose their edge. So they will take longer in development to make sure they are producing a quality product before they bring it to market. Admirable. As a consumer I really appreciate that kind of attention to details and loyalty to a customer. .............................
There's a hullabaloo over Ford India's new ad for the Ford Endeavour 4x4. The ad ( here in a .zip file ) depicts a giant suv on an iceberg with two little polar bears on a thin sheet of ice in the background. Many are apalled, given the fact that many polar bears are drowning and dying because of thinning and disappearing ice sheets, and global warming is to blame, and SUVs being the poster child for global warming...you see where I'm going with this. Personally I think it was just some dumb advertising execs that really didn't even think about it. ...............................
Worried about the aerodynamic nature of your Prius and still want more storage space? Some well thinking individual's solution to this problem is the inflatable roof rack. The idea being that if you have it permanently mounted on your roof it will drag and kill efficiency, but with the inflatable version, you can inflate only when you need it and save those previous drops of gas. Not a bad idea. .................................
A little more news on that lightbulb that never burns out. You can check out their website and read about the bulb for yourself here. If you see anything particularly cool, feel free to post it here. Ceravision, maker of the bulb, estimates the bulbs will get well in excess of 20,000 hours of light time. An incandescent I just checked on Amazon, for 60 watts got 1,500 hours of life. Something about one of their other bulbs promised 50,000 hours of life, but you'd have to read the site more to see what the difference in numbers is. I think you have to buy a specific kind of lamp though to make this work, you can't plug these things into a regular every day lamp like a CFL or incandescent. ..................................
New forest mapping technology, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) will allow conservationists to scan forests more accurately than ever. A laser beam fired at the ground from a plane to measure the distance to the ground can record the exact position of up to 85,000 points on the ground each second. This data is then used to make a 3-D map of the area. This will allow conservationists to pinpoint most at risk areas of forests and allow them to focus their protection attention, as well as many other useful applications for forestry officials. ...........................
You can read and view this one for yourself. It's a map of the current drought situation in the US, and the south is especially getting nailed at the moment. But the scary part is that people don't much seem to care, even the people living in the areas. Water maintenance in this country is sorely lacking, and it could cost us down the road. Read the article for more specifics. ...........................
I'll close with this, because it's something I hope to see myself, and hope you all see as well if you can:
quote:Finally, the film Manufacturing Consent was show in London and the Canadian artist and film director Ed Burtynsky answered questions after the screening. A documentary about landscapes that have been transformed by man, particularly by extraction industries such as coal and strip mining and iron ore, it focuses on China with its massive dams and huge factories employing thousands of people.
Burtynsky, along with the director Jennifer Baichwall, talked about their travels there. In some locations the Chinese were reluctant to let him shoot or talk to the people. The film is not available publicly there, although it is being pirated all over, but his photography book is for sale. Many in the audience were annoyed when Burtynsky said that he "is not overly political so that people will be drawn to make their own decisions". He said that he walked a "razor walk" because if he "was too much on the side of human rights and the environmental issues his work would become less open and he gets painted into a corner". He tells CEO's that he can't prevent a dialogue from going on. But he does perform political actions, for example with the proceeds from some sales, he sent 2,000 safety goggles to a factory along with a translated letter saying that the workers should use them or else they would go blind and insisting that the employer maintain them.
Burtynsky said that his photos and the film are a lament for places lost. The loss is so complete in China that one can drive for four hours there and see no birds or trees because the environment is so stressed. The sky is always hazy, never blue because of the coal burning. He called himself a "subliminal environmentalist" because he is aware of the tension between shooting for beauty and being an undercover reporter. The consequence of urban existence is horror and he is going to the source of it through his photos so that we can comprehend it
The point of the documentary, as focused on in China, is what destruction we've wrought on the environment, and to dispel the notion that Man can't effect the environment on such a grand scale. You can see the website for the video here. And on that site is the trailer, which can be viewed separately here.
I thought the trailer was a bit dramatic, but the subject matter is pretty dramatic, so I guess it's okay. I'll let you know when/if I get information on the film and possible release dates in the US.
Edited to add: I snooped around as quick as I could to see where the movie would be, and apparently it is debuting in LA at a Landmark theater on July 6th. I expect it will make its way around the independent movie house circuit around the US over the next few months.
quote:From CloudCorp- Friday representatives of Horizon Wind Energy, LLC of Houston, Texas visited the CloudCorp office and officially informing <local person's name> that this fall there will be a groundbreaking for a 100 megawatt wind energy farm in Cloud County!! The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the Cloud County electric energy was signed by Empire District Electric Company of Joplin, Missouri on June 19, 2007.
Of course, that's from the Optimist Club e-mail, so take it with their grain of exaggeration. But still, it's good news.
The bad news is, they're more likely to complete the ethanol plant (corn) in this county before the wind farm gets started.
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quote:Originally posted by Lyrhawn: The problem is that Toyota's quality has been slipping in the past couple of years, and especially with US quality ratings creeping up on them (some US fleets even exceed Toyota's, but I doubt the average US buyer knows that), they don't want to lose their edge.
Can you post some linkage to back up your claim that Toyota's quality is slipping?
The top 5 compact cars in Initial Quality, according to JD Powers, are 1. Honda Civic 2. Toyota Corolla 3. Hyundai Elantra 4. Kia Spectra 5. Toyota Prius Source Initial Quality is only the quality for new year model vehicles within the first 90 days, so we should look at Vehicle Dependability Studies as well.("Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS)—VDS measures long-term quality after three years of ownership. Therefore, the 2005 VDS measures the dependability of 2002 model-year vehicles.")
quote:J.D. Power and Associates Reports: The Vehicle Dependability Gap between Luxury and Higher-Volume Brands Narrows Significantly
Lexus and Toyota Models Each Rank Highest in Four Segments; Honda Models Rank Highest in Three Segments
Source. Toyota ranks 5th in the VDS in 2006 (the 2007 one hasn't come out yet). Where was it in the VDS of 2005? 7th.
quote:For 2006, Toyota ranked fifth overall with 179 PP100, up from seventh place in 2005.
Source So going from 7th to 5th means quality is "slipping"?
I appreciate this thread a lot, but I'm taking your editorializing with a grain of salt. Thanks for the Consumer affairs link about the Prius, though! (I own one, and know to save up extra money now or trade it in in a few years)
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Oh I know that I editorialize, but that wasn't from me. Toyota is the one who decided to overhaul their research and production habits because they felt their quality was slipping, not me. Besides, I certainly wasn't dissing them, I even said I laud their efforts to continue making quality cars. Therefore when I said "their quality has been slipping," I really don't think it's that far of a stretch given the reasons proffered by Toyota for why they've decided to make such a change at their company. But, thanks for the research and links on Toyota's quality! If they're doing so well, I wonder why they decided to make any changes at all? (not being snippy, that's an honest question that I don't have an answer to).
You're welcome on the Prius link. I'll try to get you more information on the forthcoming new Prius whenever I come across it, if you're looking to trade up.
Thanks for the story Tstorm. I don't think I posted it yesterday, but I ran across an article that talked about coating giant balloons with solar cells and raising them above big cities, where open space is at a premium, to collect solar power from high in the air and then pipe it back down. An interesting if not totally implausible idea at the moment. Give me an hour and I'll do today's update.
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Cool. I've got a minor update on that wind turbine project. According to more reputable sources I've acquired since yesterday, the deal is done. Construction starts this fall, the land leases are being signed with farmers (one of my sources is a relative of a landowner), and they'll build 33 turbines, initially. At ~3 megawatts (MW) per tower, that's about 99MW total.
So*, the wind farm beats the ethanol plant to the punch, in Cloud County, Kansas. Of course, they've been working on this for four years, whereas the ethanol idea only struck a few months ago. According to the paper, three to four years is about the average startup time for wind farm projects.
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