Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Grass May Surpass Corn as Ideal Biofuel

Soya and corn are the crops usually mentioned in discussions about biofuels, but a group of Minnesta researchers found that grasses, such as wild lupine and goldenrod, offer a carbon-negative alternative. In a special report in New Scientist, Humble grasses may be the best source of biofuel, the research team focused on mixed-species agriculture plots left fallow. The more grass species present, the higher the potential energy yield.

Friday, October 13, 2006

How to Save Trillions of Dollars

While the few remaining global warming skeptics always cite costs as the reason for not immediately imposing measures to reduce global warming gases, a recent study by Tufts University indicates that the savings of taking action now could be enormous when weighed against the costs of catastrophic effects of climate change. Reuters summarized the potential savings indicated by Tufts in this piece, Climate Change Inaction Will Cost Trillions: Study.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Honda Fuel Cell Prototype Breaks Stereotypes

Always an innovator in fuel efficiency, Honda has some new tricks that clean up diesel power and advance fuel cell technology: Honda Shows Off Cleaner Diesel, Streamlined Fuel-Cell Cars.

105 MPG Moonbeam

Out of Camden, Maine comes a homebuilt 105 MPG microcar demonstrating that Yankee ingenuity is alive and well as the downslope of the peak oil era approaches. Powered by a 150cc four-stroke engine, the Moonbeam was fabricated by Jory Squibb for $2339 in materials and a 1000 hours worth of labor. For hauling groceries or traveling around town, this microcar, based on a Honda Elite motor scooter, has a lot going for it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Action on global warming

Bill McKibben, one of the earliest and most articulate writers on the issues of global warming, notes that Haggling Over Global Warming may be finally giving way to direct action in a number of areas. The question is: which are the best directions to devote our attention given the magnitude of the crisis and the divergence of opinion. As always, Mr. McKibben provides a sound rationale for moving forward on the central issue of our day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Methane from Permafrost Raises Global Warming Ante

A new phenomenon that affects calculations about increasing greenhouse gases is causing concern about climate scientists. As permafrost melts in various locales around the world, methane is released, a greenhouse gas that has 23 times the heat-trapping capability of carbon dioxide. The risk of dramatically accelerating temperatures is considerable.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Vermont Walk Against Global Warming

Vermonters get involved in the movement to do something real about global warming, as described in this Burlington Free Press story, Vermont Walk Against Global Warming.

Honey, We Killed the Planet

Nicholas Von Hoffman writing for The Nation speculates on the day (maybe only 40 years hence) when the last remaining stores of oil will sit in the basements of the rich, like vintage wine, as the planet becomes a vastly different place for humans. Read it and weep: Honey, We Killed the Planet.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Not on my ridgetop

Even in places where there is a strong environmental ethic in play (such as Vermont), the resistance to wind turbines on ridgetops is a highly contentious issue, as discussed in this Wired article. Even when developers try to place the turbines in remote settings, local folks often rise up in protest, not wanting to impair the aesthetics of the region. In fairness, however, consider the aesthetics when global warming pushes the temperatures a few degrees higher and turns forests into wastelands. Or, consider the aesthetics of mountain-top removal for coal or the impact statewide of a nuclear power plant mishap that contaminates a sizeable portion of the state. Wind turbines are clearly the preferable choice.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cities, States Act Alone to Thwart Global Warming

Given the lack of federal leadership on the global warming issue, cities and states across the country are engaging in direct action, enacting legislation and mandates that collectively are making progress in areas long neglected. This article from the Washington Post, Cities, States Act Alone to Thwart Global Warming, illustrates a number of encouraging examples.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ocean Power Can Be a Global Warming Cure

A demonstration is ready to launch in the San Francisco Bay, an area where an enormous tidal flow offers the potential for electricity generation near the Golden Gate bridge, as described in this article, Ocean Power Can Be a Global Warming Cure.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tesla Roadster outperforms Jaguar XKR

Well, it might be a bit expensive ($80,000), but it's fast and has a 250-mile range. Welcome a new electric-powered car on the scene that is capable of outrunning a Jaguar XKR: Electric car gets speed boost with the Tesla Roadster.

Coastal homeowners may feel heat of global warming

Coastal homeowners may feel heat of global warming as insurance companies re-evaluate the potential costs of extreme weather events. A company that forecasts the risk of natural disasters for the insurance industry, Risk Management Solutions, updated their computer model recently and determined that average annual insurance losses will increase 25 to 30 percent in the coastal Northeast, primarily because of hurricane activity.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Wood-burning plants gain power

Wood-burning facilities for generating electricity are getting fresh consideration throughout New England as oil prices rise and other options are struggling for traction: Wood-burning plants gain power - The Boston Globe.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Time to Get Serious About Climate Change

Quasi-scientists and pseudo-scientists (aka oil industry flacks) have industriously worked to deflect the judgment and knowledge of genuine scientists and climatologists, often elbowing their way into the media and purporting to offer an alternative view to the 98 percent of the scientific community that recognizes human-induced climate change is real and threatening the survival of many different species (including the short-sighted creatures causing the problem). Lately, however, the media seems to be shining a light on more responsible viewpoints, as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle illustrates; Time to Get Serious About Climate Change.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Behind The Blackouts

Blackouts being experienced once again across America, resulting in deaths and disruption as heat waves sizzle from New York to St. Louis to California, are a distinct byproduct of electric power deregulation, Tyson Slocum argues in this article, Behind The Blackouts, published on TomPaine.com.

The best cure for the disease: locally controlled power systems...

Friday, July 28, 2006

European Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy

The nuclear power plants that are supposed to save us from the effects of global warming have one small problem: they don't work very well when it gets warm. France, heavily reliant on nuclear power, was forced to shut down many plants during the recent heat wave in Europe as drought-impacted rivers couldn't supply the volume of cooling water needed to keep the plants operating safely. If you can't see the irony here, you should spend some more time listening to the nuclear power boosters, who still haven't strayed that far from their original cheerleading slogans and their promises of "power too cheap to meter." For the full story: European Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy.

No More Oil Wars; Clean Energy Now!

Prevaricators and rationalizers of every stripe snort at the notion that there could be any relationship between our oil gluttony and the spiraling cycle of warfare in the Middle East, but, for those willing to take a hard look, the evidence is abundant. Spreading democracy is a convenient banner for ensuring control of the known oil reserves--60 percent of the world's total--buried in the Middle East.

Ted Glick, in a special for Truthout, builds a compelling case around the link between the bottomless quest for oil and the endless cycle of war in the Middle East: No More Oil Wars; Clean Energy Now!.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wildfires are raging -- why isn't concern about climate change?

One more harbinger of the ultimate impact of global warming on the planet: uncontrolled wildfires increasing in prevalence and intensity, as discussed in this article from Grist:

Wildfires are raging -- why isn't concern about climate change? |
By Maywa Montenegro |
Grist Magazine | Soapbox | 25 Jul 2006

More Weird Weather

The recent heat wave throughout California was distinctive not because of record-breaking temperatures, but because of duration of high temperatures over an extended period, as discussed in this San Francisco Chronicle article, THAT WAS THE WAVE THAT WAS / Bay Area's string of hot days is longest on record -- odd weather patterns blamed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cooling the Mall, Heating the Planet

For 99 percent of the span of human history, people managed to get by without air conditioning. The fact that we no longer seem to be able to function without air conditioning in our homes, businesses, and autos adds one more factor to the energy consumption equation and also contributes significantly to global warming. Stan Cox of the Land Institute makes the case in this article, Cooling the Mall, Heating the Planet.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

NASA Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet

Now what might compel this (odd and twisted) administration to remove mention of protecting the home planet from the NASA mission statement? Perhaps a fear of putting too much focus on the issue of global warming, as implied by this New York Times article.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

EUROPE: Global Warming, Not Just Heat Wave

Another summer, another slate of record-breaking temperatures across Europe as more meteorologists and climate scientists weigh in on the numerous indicators pointing to global warming. In this Inter Press Service News Agency article, EUROPE: Global Warming, Not Just Heat Wave, Hervé Le Treut, meteorologist at the French Centre for Scientific Research, stated, "We are observing and suffering the first effects of global warming."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New temperature record in Britain

Great Britain has the longest continuous set of temperature records anywhere in the world. None of those temperatures come near those seen in the last few years, a point noted by the two writers of this article in The Independent. And today is predicted to break all records. Of course, global warming is just an invention of liberal doomsayers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Innovative Autos Hit the Road

With dinosaur SUVs still rumbling en masse across the roads of America, on the fringes of the mainstream automotive world innovative new vehicle designs are beginning to appear, many of them from smaller firms willing to deviate from the cast-in-iron model that still dominates much of the world. Alternative fuel vehicles, hybrids, tri-brids, urban autos, and other eye-catching form factors are gaining the attention of investors as oil prices top $75 a barrel. In this reprint posted by Obvio, a Brazilian company with some remarkable auto designs, the investment possibilities and future of transportation are considered: Traveling the Highway to a Renewable Energy Future.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More Atomic Bomb Balm From the New York Times

Harvey Wasserman, author of several books on renewable energy, knows his way around the slippery arguments of the pro-nuclear power crowd. So, when presented with the usual misleading and unsupportable line of reasoning in a piece in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, his instinctive response was to dice the article to shreds, point by point, in a strong critique, More Atomic Bomb Balm From the New York Times, As Wasserman points out, referring to a draft report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, nuclear power is clearly a boondoggle:

"To begin with, this very long article fails to mention that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has issued a draft report showing that between 99% and 124% of the nation's electricity can be supplied by renewable means by the year 2020. Since nuclear power supplies only electricity, this simple fact makes complete mincemeat of any pretext for bringing it back. If we can get the juice cheaper, safer, cleaner and more quickly from nature, why build sitting ducks for terrorists that have only 50 years of failure to show for a trillion dollars invested?"

Why, indeed?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why Nuclear Power Cannot Be A Major Energy Source

The growing chorus of nuclear power advocates, energized by what they see as an opportunity to revive a dead industry, have become more vociferous as of late, claiming that building a new generation of nuclear power plants is the only effective way to contend with global warming and oil depletion. Masquerading as environmentally concerned, scientifically grounded rationalists condescendingly setting the romanaticists of the environmental movement straight, flacks such as Stewart Brand, Patrick Moore, and james Lovelock, have become enthusiastic boosters for the technology, casting it as our only hope for the future. However, if you look at nuclear power at a system theory level, from one end of the fuel cycle to the other, the vision can be seen as fatally flawed. In this piece, Why Nuclear Power Cannot Be A Major Energy Source, David Fleming explains why nuclear power is not a "clean" fuel, not a viable option for the future, and not the only choice in town.

The opening to the article, published on the site of FEASTA--The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability--does a great job in framing the argument:

"It takes a lot of fossil energy to mine uranium, and then to extract and prepare the right isotope for use in a nuclear reactor. It takes even more fossil energy to build the reactor, and, when its life is over, to decommission it and look after its radioactive waste."

"As a result, with current technology, there is only a limited amount of uranium ore in the world that is rich enough to allow more energy to be produced by the whole nuclear process than the process itself consumes. This amount of ore might be enough to supply the world's total current electricity demand for about six years."

Read this article. Pass it on to friends. We only have a few years to start making smart energy choices and adopting a sane approach to our patterns of energy consumption as they affect global climate change. Nuclear power is a dead-end choice wiith the emphasis on "dead."