Friday, November 30, 2007

Well said

From the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) "Deeper Luxury" report found here (it's a 52-page PDF, FYI).

If everyone were to live like the average European, three planets would be needed to provide adequate quantities of natural resources – for the average North American, five planets would be required.13 It would be physically impossible for all the world’s poor to achieve greater wellbeing in the same ways that Europeans and North Americans have managed so far. Such wasteful development is possible only for a minority, and for a limited time. This is neither morally nor environmentally sustainable. Our challenge is to find ways to improve human wellbeing within natural limits; to stop living as though we had another planet to go to.

So freakin cool

Neat lightbulb from Hulger
Man, it took a while for someone to do this... so neat!!! Just a regular CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb in a gorgeous shape. Ever just see something that makes you stop for a second and appreciate? It doesn't have to be as ostentatious as a Ferrari or cliche as a model... it can be something simple, like this.

Dig a little deeper into the producer and you'll find some rather disturbing other products: a lizard-skin bluetooth handset that makes it look like you're on a normal phone. Can we PLEASE, as a species, move beyond killing animals just to make things like pretty? Totally senseless and unnecessary, IMHO.

Light bulb is still sexy though...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Maybe E85 not a miracle? Shocker...

Link is here:

A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that biofuels "offer a cure [for oil dependence] that is worse than the disease." A National Academy of Sciences study said corn-based ethanol could strain water supplies. The American Lung Association expressed concern about a form of air pollution from burning ethanol in gasoline. Political cartoonists have taken to skewering the fuel for raising the price of food to the world's poor.

They have this very telling little graphic as well:

Ethanol prices 2004 2005 2006 2007
^^^ That says a lot to me. It says beware of fads, particularly green ones. It says don't have the "short sell" mentality and try to make that fast buck if you have no idea what you're doing.

I found this to be quite interesting... did you know this?
The U.S. gives oil refiners an excise-tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of ethanol they blend into gasoline. And even though it's the oil industry that gets this subsidy, the industry dislikes being forced to use a nonpetroleum product. The U.S. ethanol industry is further protected by a 54-cent tariff on every gallon of imported ethanol.

How did ethanol get all of this help so fast? It was interesting to see how fast the idea of ethanol made it into our collective consciouses. At first it was rarely talked about, then it was all over the place, and now people are asking questions.

But here is what REALLY bugs me:
Ethanol's opponents also began to highlight reasons why ethanol might not be such a boon to the environment, citing some recent research studies.

Look at ANY objective research and this will be blatantly clear to anyone. I spent a total of maybe 20 minutes going through scholarly journals (electronically of course) and found that ethanol not only frees up 10% extra energy (i.e. if it takes 100 joules to make a gallon, that gallon produces 110 joules), it uses a whole lot of fresh water, something else we need to conserve, and really does a number on the soil. It has been a total mystery to me why people were pursuing this fuel. Now I know, it was probably...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hybrid Choo-choo

Taking us one step closer to that hybrid jet I've been designing on the weekends, GE announced that they are working on a hybrid powered locomotive. "Wow, cool," you might be saying and I am saying the same except it's more like "HOLY SH*T! COOL!" and it's probably for a different reason. First, an interesting fact from their site:

The energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton locomotive during the course of one year is enough to power 160 households for that year.

That fact is probably one of the coolest I've heard in a while (and I live an existence bombarded by facts). First, that is a helluvalotta energy which makes sense because trains, because of their weight, generate a lot of momentum (the product of speed and mass). Now add in deceleration (reducing speed) and you have energy, joules of power. Second, the comparison to 160 households is simply incredible. I'm floored... in a good way.

But here's why I'm so excited:
GE's hybrid locomotive's lead-free rechargeable batteries will be able to provide superior performance by allowing operators to draw an additional 2,000 horsepower when needed.

What a great way to test, research, and develop high-horsepower and high-torque applications for electric motors! Right now, there's not a lot of propulsion methods that will work for a semi-truck or a bulldozer or, well, a train simple because big, heavy things need a big push. It is difficult to get an electric motor to push that mind of weight around which is why you'll find a lot of weight-saving features on hybrids and EVs. GE is going to have a fantastic, constant lab to try new things in the high-load realm.

GE General Electric hybrid locomotive, train
Getting big, thirsty, heavy, dirty diesels off of the road, whether we clean up diesel fuel and engines and replace everything or find a new method, is an important piece of the sustainable transportation puzzle. You better BELIEVE that if these hit tracks, I will replace some/all of my air travel with them.