Archive for the green energy Category

White House Strongarms EPA Into Lying About Climate Change . . . Again

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on June 26, 2008 by theseep

NY Times article here

It seems that once again, the Bush Administration has taken to distorting facts and even outright lying in order to further their agenda.  Here’s the story:  In 2007, the Supreme Court made a ruling requiring the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases were a danger to human health or the environment. In December of 2007, after gathering data and consensus opinion, the EPA had prepared a report concluding “that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled” and that it would be cost effective to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as well as tough fleet mileage requirements, producing an estimated 500 billion to 2 trillion dollars in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The report says basically what the entire rest of the world has embraced and started taking action about: climate change is happening, it is due to man’s actions on our planet and the burning of fossil fuels, and unless we act quickly to control it, we will see significant global economic, health, and environmental implications.  Sounds pretty on target, right?

Interestingly, this report was sent via email to the White House in December as requested by the Supreme Court. The Bush Administration, however, in an act of childish negligence, has buried it’s head in the sand and has flatly refused to open the email. Because of this and other pressure from the administration, the EPA has “been forced” to water down the report so that it only “reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant, ” rather than actually addressing the issue. This whole kerfuffle is being reviewed by Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as by Representative Edward J. Markey of The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, and the Bush Administration has already once again evoked “executive privilege” to avoid handing over incriminating documents on the matter.

All I can say is, WTF? Why can’t the EPA simply hand over the original report to the Supreme Court and let the Judicial Branch get involved. Or better yet, release it to the public so that we can all see the true reports that our tax dollars pay for rather than a document full of irrelevant discussion and half-truths? I think that Mr. Johnson of the EPA needs to stand up and do what the American people have hired him to do: protect them from environmental hazards with integrity and honor, not bowing down to criminal political pressure. Send out the Global Warming report to the Supreme Court, every Senator and Representative, and the New York Times. I’ll take a copy as well.

What’s worse, it that this report doesn’t even have any revolutionary information in it, the U.N.’s Panel on Climate Change has pages and pages of documentation on the subject and whether or not global warming is real is no longer up for discussion. What is up for discussion is what we will do about it and if we will be a leader, or act like we’re 5 years old and hold our hands over our ears, kicking and screaming, because we don’t want to be told to clean up our mess. This type of attitude by our government simply slows down the necessary changes to deal with climate change and further discredits our country in the eyes of the global community.

Here is a link to the EPA director, Stephen Johnson’s email address and phone number, let’s all drop him a line to let him know that these types of shenanigans will not be tolerated.

via: NYT

treehugger

Advertisements

Increase Your Public Transit Use With Google Maps!

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability on June 6, 2008 by theseep

Google has done it again with a new feature added to Google Maps Mobile – public transit directions and schedules. We have the NYC subway and the Boston T system wireds, but If you’re like me and don’t live in an area with a lot of public transportation, using transit systems, especially buses, when you’re visiting other places can be daunting – unfamiliar stations, unknown schedules, figuring out destinations when you’re not sure where you’re going in the first place. Unfortunately it ends up being easier sometimes to drive and use a map or a GPS.

Google has now solved that problem with the new release of Google Maps Mobile, where a second tab has been added under “directions”, allowing you to choose between “driving” and “transit” options. You can enter your location and your destination and get step by step walking instructions to the bus stop or transit station, schedules for departure, directions to your final destination, and even search ahead for the latest return trip! This should work on iPhones, Windows Mobile, Palm, as well as a good number of regular mobile phones. As a bonus, if you have a “location aware” phone with GPS, you’ll be able to use your current location to start and follow your little blue dot as you go towards your destination.

This is really exciting as it opens up the possibility of using public transportation to an incredible number of people that wouldn’t otherwise, so whenever you can, leave your car behind and get on the bus/train/bike!

via Lifehacker

News Flash: Gas Prices Will Continue to Rise! Stop Whining and Start Acting!

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 31, 2008 by theseep

We’re all tired of hearing everyone complain about gas prices. Besides the everyday complainers, we have truckers protesting, middle class families in suburbia going broke driving to work, and now McCain and Hillary are pushing a summertime “gas tax holiday”. Although it is unfortunate that so many people are being effected by the rising prices of fuel, the reality is that our days of cheap, government-subsidized cabon-based fuels are at an end. To put it in perspective, Germany just hit $8/gallon as the already expensive fuel prices throughout Europe continue to increase.
Peter Schwartz, PhD., a local Cal Poly Professor of sustainability calculated that the true cost of a gallon of gas, when you factor in extraction, refining, the environmental impacts, transport, associated human and health impacts, and every other estimatable cost, is around $12/gallon. As we approach this true cost, people will be forced to reconsider how they are utilizing energy resources.

Because we have manipulated the market for so long and fought wars for “energy security”, the U.S. has enjoyed falsely lowered fuel prices for half a century. This cheap gas market allowed the expansion of suburbia, the cheap transport of goods and services, the rise of the unparalleled American car culture, a booming vacation and travel market, and an incredible number of other unsustainable luxurious activities. It has also allowed us to waste an incredible amount of energy and resources because they have been so cheap. We have built grandiose, inefficient stick houses with poor insulation, installed energy-sucking appliances, and we drive down the street in our image-conscious, 12mpg SUVs, all choices based on what many people call the “free market”, but what is in reality a subsidized, racketeered, bastardized version of capitalism. The oil subsidies unto themselves are incredible, with an estimated $17.8 billion in tax subsidies and between $38 billion and $114.6 billion in government program subsidies, according to an article on treehugger.com.

Many conservative economists, would like us to “stay the course”, saying that this “free market” will direct where our money goes, ie: as consumer demand for renewable energy, efficient and electric cars, and sustainable business increases, we will see more of these products available. Although they are correct in basic theory, their entire paradigm of capitalism has been so twisted by political deals, unfair trade agreements, the aforementioned fuel subsidies, and a lack of accountability for the impacts of industrial production, that the basic tenets of the conceptual free market no longer apply. If not for these modifying factors falsely lowering the prices of certain goods and services, opening access to unsustainable development, as well as the effect of psychologically based marketing to sell us wasteful, often toxic products and foods, we would have likely been well on the way to being sustainable 30 years ago with the first energy crisis. If we had been paying European energy prices as we should have been, we would be living efficiently in closer communities, with less waste, public transportation, and more local food production, the very direction that we need to move in immediately if we are to decrease the looming effects of our self-induced climate change.

I recently saw a few minutes of Glenn Beck on a near-sighted, unthoughtful rant on why we should start drilling in Alaska to get us more cheap oil. This is the same lunacy that brings us the gas tax holiday and the “economic stimulus package”, maneuvers that don’t even prolong the inevitable, they don’t even actually help anyone, except that they make some of the more oblivious public feel like something is being done. For us to actually make any progress, each individual must first take responsibility for their energy use and carbon footprint: If you haven’t dumped your SUV yet, do it! Change your lightbulbs, install solar, bike more, compost, start your garden, stop buying things from China and overseas, buy local, organic foods, consume like you give a damn!

We also need to pass sweeping changes in legislation, here are a few examples:

1. Immediate moratorium on new coal-fired or nuclear power plants with required emissions-reducing equipment on all existing plants.

2. Home and industrial efficiency requirements to meet LEED certification on ALL new construction and a program to require and assist in efficiency retrofitting on existing homes and industrial buildings.

3. Increased support for renewable energy research and infrastructure with

4. Standardization in electric vehicle battery and/or charging units to allow for swappable battery packs and the deployment of universal charging stations.

5. Better subsidies for residential solar and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles with significantly increased fees/taxes on non-industrial/non-farming vehicles getting less than 25mpg (this should quickly increase to 30+mpg)

6. Integrated waste management systems with greywater recycling, green waste reutilization for biomass digestion and composting, extensive recycling programs, and increased tariffs for waste and refuse.

With significant conservation initiatives and continued development of existing renewable energy technologies, we can negate the need for new coal power plants, we can avoid drilling in the arctic, and we can decrease some of the effects of climate change. I doubt that any of our current legislators have the courage to make many of these changes, so it is up to us, the citizens, to first do our part, then support our leaders in taking the steps needed to protect our society, our people, and our environment.

Biofuels Comparison Study – Conclusion: Properly Planned Biofuel Is A Great Transition Fuel, Poorly Designed Is Superbad.

Posted in biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 11, 2008 by theseep

The results of a study by University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy are shown in the chart below, detailing the efficiency and impact of various biofuel production strategies.
Basically it shows what we already know about corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, and other “food-for-fuel” crops – they are extraordinarily inefficient, using large amounts of fossil fuels, water, pesticides, and fertilizer to produce, and directly detracting from food sources. Because of the recent food shortages, these biofuels are getting another look as a potential part of the problem. Unfortunately all biofuels are being vilified by this media hype, and even efficient processes like sugar cane and cellulosic ethanol or waste oil and algae-based biodiesel are getting a bad name as well.

One of our biggest problems is the lack of foresight – the U.S. government has been supporting corn ethanol extensively due to lobbying and special interests even though it is though it actually uses more resources than it produces. If we can put our resources toward developing technologies like cellulosic ethanol and algae biodiesel, we will have bridging biofuels that will allow us to continue to use existing combustion technology as we reach peak oil. This will be a critical phase for further development of the next generation of renewable energy production and infrastructure.

In 20 years, after peak oil has been reached and fossil fuel prices are ridiculously high, our combustion technology will be mostly obsolete and electric cars powered by next-gen battery technology. Once again, for this to happen smoothly, we need strong and wise leadership that will resist corporate and lobbyist influence and be able to encourage the most efficient and promising technologies.

via treehugger and Seattle Post-Intelligencer

NY Times Magazine Green Issue Is Worth The Read

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on April 25, 2008 by theseep
The NY Times just published their “Green Issue” on Sunday with a plethora of articles discussing the movement towards sustainability and the battle against climate change. One of the best articles is “Why Bother“, by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food. In the essay, Pollan discusses the notion of hopelessness in decreasing our personal footprint – why should we change our daily practices when on the other side of the world, families in China are buying cars and firing up refrigerators for the first time, thereby undoing any good we may do on an individual level. Frustrating though it may be, the truth is that it is not hopeless. Everything we do makes a small impact on our earth. Everything we buy supports the system wherein it is produced – from the oppressed laborer in horrific working conditions, to the toxic chemicals used in it’s manufacture and packaging, to the fossil fuels used in shipping, to the local business owner pushed out of work by the corporate machine delivering the product. Every time we don’t speak up to our families, friends, neighbors, and our politicians, we support the status quo rather than being a part of the change. It starts with individuals, and like the proverbial butterfly flapping it’s wings causing a storm across the world, this is what personal action leads to. It is not the only answer, and needs to be done in conjunction with wise and foresightful governmental leadership, but it is imperative that we all contribute what we can to the solution.
photo from NYT Magazine Green Issue

5 Trillion Watt Laser Slated To Make Miniature Star in California: Energy Solution Vs. Total Plutonic Reversal

Posted in clean energy, global warming, green energy, sustainability on April 16, 2008 by theseep

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the Bay Area has built a facility that takes a single 1/billionth of a joule laser, splits it into 48 beams that are amplified, split again into 192 beams and further amplified exponentially, eventually building to “1.8 million joules of ultraviolet energy”, which is 1,000 times as much energy produced by all U.S. power plants, a staggering 5 trillion watts. This energy will be directed into an ignition chamber wherein lies a frozen hydrogen fuel cell in a gold-plated cylinder, dubbed the “hohlarum”. There, the lasers will be transformed into incredibly intense x-rays that will compress the hydrogen almost instantly, fusing the atoms together and essentially creating a small star.

Wow.  Should we be excited that our energy problems are at an end or should we be worried that we’ll pull half the solar system into a laboratory-generated rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum?  This type of research is really exciting, just like nanotechnology, genetic manipulation, and other forays into quantum mechanics, like Cern’s Hadron collider.  As we learn more about our natural world on a smaller and smaller level, and gain the ability to manipulate these properties, we truly begin to have power over our material world.  We have the potential to cure disease, stop world hunger, to solve our energy crisis, maybe eventually to travel across space and time and communicate with other civilizations, and other concepts that thus far have been reserved for science fiction novels.  Unfortunately, our track records as humans has shown that we, in general, lack the foresight and wisdom to properly develop and use these technologies.  Capitalism, greed, and lust for power drives these industries forward, pushing them for marketable results, often without considering the possible ramifications or side effects of the wonders that we create. We’ve created transgenic crops that have both helped to feed starving children, and at the same time left subsistence farmers hopelessly in debt and committing suicide by the thousands after promised engineered cotton crops have failed.  Nuclear fission has powered our homes, yet it has killed hundreds of thousands of people, contaminated soil and groundwater, and caused significant human illness and morbidity.  These technologies are child’s play next to nanotechnology and quantum manipulation.  The potential for good is incredible, yet the potential for disaster is as, if not more amazing.

Should we ban genetic manipulation, nanotech, and quantum physics? No, definitely not. Advancing scientific knowledge is imperative for the human race to survive, especially with the path we’ve taken – we’ll need advanced technologies to either reverse the damage we’re causing, or to make conditions habitable enough in spite of the damage. We should, however, be frightened enough of the potential catastrophies to be wise in it’s use and ensure oversight and regulation of these technologies as they develop.

via Gizmodo

Spark-EV Closed Down – A Torrid Tale of Broken Promises and Vaporware

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on April 11, 2008 by theseep

Edit:  It seems that Spark-EV has shut it’s doors, the owner replacing the former website with a description of events that led to Spark’s downfall.  I’m sorry for posting without researching the company better, but the posted letter is interesting reading!

Previous Post:

I had thought that I was keeping up on the development of this generation of electric vehicles, being completely disappointed by the lack of commitment from American carmakers and the plethora of vaporware from the likes of Zap!, and anxiously awaiting a “new” EV1 that is affordable, practical, and has a decent range. While Tesla has finally started production of their legendary electric roadster, at 100,000 clams, this is still far out of reach of the average eco-conscious consumer. However, I recently came across Spark-EV, a U.S. company that supposedly already has 3 models in production and 2 more pending certification for 75+mph highway operation and over 100 miles to a charge. All that plus a few neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), 2 electric scooters, and a futuristic 3 wheel EV in the works as well!

The largest option currently available is the Qilin, a 5-seater mini-SUV akin to a Honda CRV with a range of 100+ miles/charge, top speed of 80mph, and a price tag of $27,950. Next is the Zotye (pictured) with a range of 110+ miles, top speed of 75mph, and goes for $24,900. The smallest current full-speed option is the Dragon, a compact similar to a VW Golf or Toyota Matrix with a range of 125+ miles, top speed of 80mph, and sells for $24,950. They also have a micro-compact dubbed the Panda, that is pending full-speed certification, but is a 2-seater similar to a SmartCar that will get you 80mph and 125+ miles per charge for $21,950. These all run on LiFePO4 batteries that charge fully in 10 hours, but can get 75% charge in 5 hours.
Let’s do some simple calculations: The average commuter drives 15,000 miles/year, estimate fuel efficiency at a generous 30mpg, and you’re using 500 gallons of fuel per year. Over the next 10 years, with fuel prices climbing, let’s estimate a lowball average cost of $5/gallon. If you add in solar panels for “free” charging at home (the solar installation will pay itself off in 10-15 years as well in savings), by this calculation, your fuel savings alone in the next 10 years will pay for the price of the entire car! If you’re still a skeptic, you can refer to The S.E.E.P.’s New Car Buyer’s Guide, which basically says – don’t buy a new car! Over the next 10 years peak oil, emissions restrictions, and rising fuel prices will force a significant change in our transportation infrastructure. Combine that with the upfront cost of a new vehicle and the incredibly fast depreciation, you’re much better off either buying a used vehicle, preferably one capable of using biofuels, so you can wait for the next generation of electrics and new technology, or buy an all-electric now, which will save you more and more money as fuel prices increase.  For the DIY’er, you can build your own EV with a kit from Electro-Auto, EV USA, or pick up kit plans from Riley Enterprises.  In addition, battery technology will continue to improve at a rapid pace, so by the time your new EV needs new batteries, it is probable that you’ll be able to extend your range by upgrading to an ultracapacitor, hydrogen, or other type of next-generation battery.
We need to stop fearing new technology and think outside of our fossil-fuel box. We still have a chance to change what we have set in motion and preserve much of the planet for our children, but we all need to make some sacrifices and take some risks.