Friday, January 11, 2008

Me = energy saving machine

I checked out my energy usage rating on the SDG&E (the power company here in San Diego) web site and was pleased with the results.

I'm in the 97th percentile in terms of electricity usage which is awesome. This is compared to similar households (in terms of size, location, and build date).

I think those CFL bulbs I "installed" made a big difference. If you look at my usage below, you'll see that it flat-lines during the summer months (everyone else's goes down too) but it is not going up like everyone else's during the winter (when you use lights more often). Check it out:

With respect to gas usage, it's not as great as electricity, unfortunately.

There really isn't much I can do about it though. We have the dubious title of "Couple Using the Oldest Known Stove on Planet Earth." This thing probably weighs close to a ton and has a pilot light that, for all intensive purposes, burns with a constant flame the size of a butane lighter. The metal on the top of the stove stays constantly warm, this thing is a total energy sink. We don't use the gas heater hardly ever simply because it burns so much gas but, to be honest, we live in San Diego so how bad could it be, right? Thankfully, that thing does not have a constant pilot light (which makes it a PITA to start)

So, the consumption that I can control easily is really low and the one that I cannot easily control is at least above average. I think I'm going to look into cutting that pilot light off and just light the damn thing with a lighter. It might sound primitive but, trust me, the word is "romantic." Anna would say it's "charming."

Oh, speaking of places to live, we might be moving... into something we own! Look forward to Anna and I super-greening our own house! Hope I didn't just jinx it ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cool Loremo pics @ Inhabitat

Man, they always have the cool stories... they're looking for passionate writers living in San Fran or NY. Time to give up the school track? Ha ha... no.

I've talked about this little guy before. The great MPG comes from low air resistance and light weight. The looks are definitely growing on me:


But more importantly, the Loremo LS is designed to achieve a stunning 157mpg. It will go up to 160km/h [about 100mph, JC] on a 2 cylinder turbo-diesel engine, though the company is also exploring an all electric version of the vehicle. The vehicle weighs about 450kg [not even a half ton or about a third of what my little VW weighs, JC], and will cost around 13,000 euros [or 19,110 USD, JC]. Expect the vehicle to go on sale in Europe, China and India in 2009

Via Inhabitat

Words of advice from Mr. MacLeod

A "purpose-idea" just doesn't land on your lap because you're lucky, smart and good-looking. A sense of purpose only comes your way usually because you've been working your ass off over a long period of time, intensely cultivating it. And yeah, sometimes that will appear to more mainstream people as "Having no life". To hell with them. They don't know or care about you. Successful people get that way by doing the stuff unsuccessful people aren't willing to do. Harsh but true.

And isn't that what we're all looking for? An idea to be purposeful? A reason to live? A mission? Isn't that what we look for in religion? Isn't that what we want when we have a family?

Hugh is talking less about the biggest picture and more about how we choose to spend our time and make a living. A sense of purpose in a job truly is cultivated and created, it doesn't just happen. Does a position of great responsibility and high visibility instill purpose? It might for a minute, then you actually have to own it.

And that's what this all comes down to: what do you own? I'm not talking about possessions, I'm taking about accountability. Do you own what you do? Do you own everything you do at work? Do you own what you create? Do you even own your own life?

Owning who you are and where your going is, simply put, a lesson you learn and understand or one you avoid until you die.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Green Vocab WotD #002: Biodiesel

Thought the WotD was a one-time thing, huh?


Before anyone gets up in arms about my reduction of such a cool technology to a simple vocabulary word, realize that there are not a lot of people out there who really know what biodiesel is. And, who better to explain it to the people than me, right? My readership, at this point, must be in the low millions, my delivery style is smart but accessible, and I almost have a degree so... yeah.

First thing is first - let's consult Wikipedia on the matter:

This article is about transesterified plant and animal oils.For thermally processed biodiesel, see Biomass to liquid. For hydrogenated alkane renewable diesel, see NExBTL. For organic waste to light crude production, see Thermal Depolymerization. For unmodified vegetable oil used as motor fuel, see Vegetable oil used as fuel.

What the...? Already we have a problem: there are a bunch of different kinds of biodiesel. Maybe that is where some of the common confusion comes from. We'll get into a technical description of all of that in a bit.

For a more general description, I went to They tell me that there are three different kinds of "biodiesel" happening in the world today (I assume these are the pirmary types with many other variations)...

-> The fuel with the true Biodiesel moniker is one made of "mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats." Long chain fatty acids are components of fat (yes, that fat) and it is what gives them their greasy feeling and ability to cling to your dishes. This also means they are "hydrophobic" or do not mix with water (for all of you that thought 'non-polar,' that's right too). Calling something a 'mono-alkyl ester' means that, instead of an acid group (making it a 'fatty acid'), there is an ester group (the acidic hydrogen of the acid is replaced by one carbon and three non-acidic hydrogens). This process basically makes the compound more energetic and easier to burn.

-> The next fuel that is more or less biodiesel but doesn't get the name is Renewable Diesel. This is described as "fuel produced from biological material using a process called 'thermal depolymerization.'" Polymerization is a process (natural and otherwise) where small molecules are turned into larger molecules. As an example, plastics are polymers - 'poly' indicating many repetitions and 'mer' indicating a unit. So, reverse it and think about what happens when you depolymerize something thermally - you change the temperature enough so that large (in this case biological) molecule break into smaller ones to be used. As molecules polymerize, they typically become more stable and less likely to combust. Break them down and you might get something that can burn.

-> Last but not least (and possibly more likely to be popular for the time being) is co-produced renewable diesel which is generated "when an oil company adds small amounts vegetable oils or animal fats to the traditional petroleum refining process when producing diesel fuel (coprocessing)." Think E85 but, like, B15. A portion of the diesel fuel being produced is replaced with something renewable, likely similar to the biodiesel defined above. This, IMHO, is a nice gesture but too little too late.

Here are the FAQs (that I've heard at least)

Can any diesel car run on biodiesel?

This is a great question and the answer, through the reading that I have done, is yes. I've read that it may have a better solvent effect (meaning that material is more easily transported by biodiesel compared to regular diesel) which actually would lead to a cleaner engine and fuel system. This, however, may also "degrade natural rubber gaskets and hoses in vehicles [mostly found in vehicles manufactured before 1992]" (Wiki). All-in-all, you shouldn't have to worry about it too much but, to be safe, I would probably recommend taking your car to a good diesel mechanic and consulting him/her about it (JIC).

Does biodiesel have a greater or lesser impact on the environment?

A very important question, especially when you start talking about a fuel that is known for being, in the past at least, quite dirty. Here's what has to saw about the matter (in their FAQ section):
A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study, jointly sponsored by the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture, concluded biodiesel reduces net CO² emissions by 78 percent compared to petroleum diesel. This is due to biodiesel’s closed carbon cycle. The CO² released into the atmosphere when biodiesel is burned is recycled by growing plants, which are later processed into fuel..Is biodiesel safer than petroleum diesel? Scientific research confirms that biodiesel exhaust has a less harmful impact on human health than petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel emissions have decreased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and nitrited PAH compounds that have been identified as potential cancer causing compounds.

Brilliant! I, honestly, never realized how green that fuel really is. A diesel hybrid running off of biodiesel fuel is a great way to drastically reduce your carbon footprint and save a bit of cash!

FYI, EPA says a 67% reduction... a bit less

Is it hard to find? Does it cost more?

There are over Does biodiesel have a greater or lesser impact on the environment?">1,200 places pumping biodiesel fuel in the United States so, no, not too hard to find if you're near a major metro area. Cost-wise, it's hard to say... I want to swing by Pearson Fuel nearby my place to see what it goes for. There is not a lot of current, accurate information on how much biodiesel costs; I've seen $1 to 2 or $3 to more in my random Google search.

There is certainly much more to know and learn... this is a technology I'm going to keep my eye on.