Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Car Talk advocates $.50 gas tax

Car Talk is a NPR show where two brothers who are mechanics take caller's questions. This past show Ray renewed his call for a national gas tax, including a new idea for who can reinvent themselves as train manufacturers.

Here is an excerpt from the show and website:

"I think it's an idea whose time has come," he said. "I know most politicians have been too wussy to do it, but I think the logic of raising the gasoline tax right now is unassailable.

"Gas is less than two bucks a gallon. There's never been a better time to do this. If we added a 50-cent national, gasoline tax right now, and gas cost $2.50 a gallon, would that be the end of the world? Hardly.

"This new tax would generate between 50 and 100 billion dollars every year for the treasury. That money could be used to help rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and develop new technologies for more fuel-efficient cars... further decreasing demand for oil. This is a way for us to get on the wagon, and stop sending money to countries that don't like us. We could become energy independent.

"The other thing that the gas tax revenue could fund is high-speed-train infrastructure between major cities. And who would build all of the new high-tech, high-speed trains we'd need? GM and Ford! We'd help them start a mass-transit division, convert some of those factories from building inefficient gas hogs to building high-speed trains."

What do you think? Is Ray on to a genius idea that will point our country towards a sustainable transportation future? Or does he have his headlight firmly implanted in his tailpipe? Is it even a political possibility?

Says our humble co-host, "I'm sick of people whining about a lousy 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline! I think its time has come, and I call on all non-wussy politicians to stand with me, because our country needs us."

Listen to Segment 9 here.

Via Hub and Spokes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tesla Electric Car Smokes Lotus Elise (Top Gear)

"Not bad for a motor that is the size of a watermelon and only has one moving part!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fiat shows solar-panel wrapped 'Panda of the future'

'Leccy Tech Fiat's latest take on the electric car, the Phylla, has been revealed at the Turin Environment Park.

Weighing just 750kg – of which 150kg is the battery pack – the 2+2 Phylla has a quoted range of 145km from a lithium-ion battery pack, or 220km from a lithium polymer unit. Performance? 0-30mph takes six seconds and the top speed is just over 80mph.

Recharge time from a domestic wall socket is said to take between three and four hours, while nearly every available inch of body work is covered in solar panels which are said to generate up to 340W. The electric motor provides drive to all four wheels and has an average power output of 27kW and a peak output of 54kW.

No announcements were made regarding the potential manufacture of the Phylla, so its real importance is an indicator of what Fiat think a 'leccy Panda may look like a few years down the road.

More about the Panda from regharware (pics)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fish-inspired power generator can work in slow-moving currents

Think like a fish not like a bird, say researchers trying to harvest energy from water currents. Their new fish-inspired power generator can work in slow-moving currents where traditional turbines are less effective.

Tidal streams and moving rivers in the United States could generate 140 billion kilowatt-hours per year, or about 3.5 percent of the nation's electricity demand, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Most of the attempts to tap this potential have employed underwater windmills. These so-called tidal turbines use the force of lift to turn their blades.

"We live in air so we are used to lifting surfaces that support birds, sail boats and airplanes," said Michael Bernitsas of the University of Michigan.

In water, however, Nature has devised a different strategy. Most natural swimmers — from tiny sperm to giant whales — create vortices (or little whirlpools) that they push off of to propel themselves forward.

Bernitsas realized that these same vortices could be used to drive a generator. He and his colleagues have created a machine called VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy), whose cylinders oscillate up and down in moving waters.

Read more about the generator at Live Science

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UPS to Test Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

In partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency, UPS will begin testing a small fleet of hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks in the United States. The new vehicles can achieve 50-70% better fuel economy, a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and pay for their extra expense in less than 3 years.

In a series hydraulic hybrid, the conventional drivetrain is replaced with a hydraulic system that stores energy by compressing gas in a chamber using hydraulic fluid. It works in much the same way that a hybrid electric car does — a small, efficient motor generates power which gets stored for later use — only, the way energy is stored in a hydraulic hybrid is in a pressurized chamber rather than in a battery.

More about UPS's Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waterless Composting Toilets

There are no bathroom odors. Our toilet systems feature an easy to clean, sanitary bowl design and trap that easily opens and closes for use. Click here to see the Bowl Trap in action! Waterless systems even have a removable bowl for easier cleaning.

See Envirolet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

10 Year Old Eco-Village Found in Wales

For five happy years they enjoyed simple lives in their straw and mud huts.

Generating their own power and growing their own food, they strived for self-sufficiency and thrived in homes that looked more suited to the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.

Then a survey plane chanced upon the 'lost tribe'... and they were plunged into a decade-long battle with officialdom.

Yesterday that fight, backed by more modern support for green issues, ended in victory.

The eco-community in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up in 1993 and lived contentedly away from the rat race round a 180-acre farm bought by Julian and Emma Orbach.

In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and recycled glass.

When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records, let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village surrounded by trees and bushes.

Read on from the Daily Mail.

10 Electric Cars You Can Buy Today

Ecomodder has an article about 10 cars, from the $6,795 Gem to the $435,000 Venturi that are available to buy today. Read from Ecomodder.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Offshore Drilling is a Non-Issue

A picture is worth 1,000 words... From architecture2030

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ten Ways to Save Green by Going Green

But that doesn’t mean I can’t save money on gas, water, and other living expenses by taking simple—often free—steps to reduce consumption of natural resources. Even if you’re not trying to save the planet, by consuming and wasting less, you’ll save money. And that’s something we all like to conserve.

1. Become Anti-Bottle
A bottle of water usually runs between one to two dollars, which means buying a few bottles every week could add up to over one hundred dollars a year. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider what else it costs: 1.5 million barrels of oil go into making those bottles, and 22 million head to landfills every year.

2. Displace Instead of Replace
Instead of a fancy, new low-flush toilet to replace old large tank toilets, there is a simple, cheap (even free) method: displacement. By placing a brick, a plastic bag filled with water (sometimes called toilet tummies) inside the tank it will reduce the amount of water per flush.

3. Go Low-Flow
Low-flow showerheads will reduce water consumption, and, because they save hot water, energy consumption as well. If you have older pipes and your shower takes a while to heat up, simply put a bucket in the stall to capture the cold stuff and use this to water plants, mop, or wash dishes.

Adding aerators and low-flow faucet adapters (usually less than $5 at hardware stores) on all sinks will save water—and ultimately, money.

4. Move It, Don’t Lose It
Can’t afford a Prius? Not a problem. There are cheap, even free, ways to keep money in your pocket while still getting around town: bike, walk, run, carpool, or use public transit. Since gas prices aren’t likely to drop much from where they are now, getting in the habit of going car-free is not only a cheap way of transport, it’s a long-term habit that will save you money and reduce your carbon output.

If you do have to drive, there are ways to make your dollar go further. Drive laid back—don’t accelerate too fast from green lights and gradually slow down to red lights. And don’t let the tires slow you down. According to the Consumer Reports Web site, properly inflated tires can save up to one mile per gallon.

5. Weather Strip It

6. Wash Smart

For dishwashers, make sure to fill the dishwasher to the brim before washing, and opt out of the “heat dry” cycle...

For the clothes washer, use cold water, and during the summer months, line-dry.

7. Make Your Own
Rather than buying often-overpriced green cleaning products, you can make your own with everyday household items like baking soda and vinegar.

Along the line of simplifying to save, one way to cut back on how much we spend on disposables like paper towels, napkins, aluminum foil, and plastic bags is to use tea towels, cloth napkins, and Tupperware instead

8. Ward off the Vampires
You know those appliances that, although turned off, still have a standby screen that’s lit up or flashing? These are known as “vampire” or phantom electricity loads, and have been estimated to be responsible for 10 to 40 percent of the energy used in homes.

9. Cook Green

10. Buy Less
Divine Caroline, see details there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Message from Al Gore: Call Your Representative

I need your help. Will you make a call?

Congress will consider energy legislation this week. Of course, the oil industry is pushing its "drill, drill" slogan with all its might -- and some are hoping to use this for political advantage.

Meanwhile, tax credits for investments in solar and wind power have not been extended, and the growing renewables business that just made America the largest producer of wind power in the world, is on the verge of shutting down huge planned projects all over the country.

Billions in private investment, thousands of megawatts of new, clean energy, and more than 100,000 new jobs expected for 2009 will be lost.

We face a stark choice: subsidize old, dirty energy or invest in new, clean energy. This should be easy, but the influence of the oil lobby is deep -- they've already spent more than $100 million in lobbying and advertising this year. Please call your members of Congress now and tell them to pass legislation that will Repower America.

Click here to find out how to call.

Washington is being diverted by all the political noise around "drill, drill" away from what really will make a difference -- building a new, clean energy future. Projects in the pipeline that will power millions of homes will be canceled, setting us back for years, if Congress doesn't do the right thing now. Congress needs to hear from all of us.

Thank you so much,

Al Gore

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ford Tests Improve Gas Mileage 24% with EcoDriving

Recently, Ford and a group called Pro Formance decided to take on ecodriving in the form of a 4-day long seminar with 48 different drivers taking part. Using the ecodriving tips taught by Pro Formance, the participants increased their fuel economy between 6-50%, with and average increase of 24%.

Ford Tips are:
1. Slow down and watch speed – Drive 55 miles per hour instead of 65 to save fuel.

2. Accelerate and brake smoothly

3. No idling

4. Check your tires

5. Be kind to your vehicle

6. Travel light

7. Minimize use of heater and air conditioning

8. Close windows at high speeds

9. Choose the right oil

10. Consolidate trips

Via ecomodder.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IKEA to Carry Solar Panels and More

Eponymous big-box colossus IKEA has shown some great green developments lately, from flat-pack bike trailers to eco-friendly lines of housewares. Now the patent purveyor of all things flat-pack has announced plans to invest $77 million into its GreenTech energy fund with the goal of eventually producing solar panels, efficiency meters, and energy efficient lighting. Granted its massive distribution network, IKEA’s uptake of green tech could pose a monumental shift in the accessibility and affordability of these technologies.

Read more from inhabitat.

Google Invests $10M+ in Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy has finally hit the big time., the philanthropic arm of Google, announced today that it is investing $10.25 million in an energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). The funding will also go towards geothermal resource mapping, information tools, and a geothermal energy policy agenda.

And it looks like Google made a wise investment choice. According to an MIT report on EGS, only 2% of the heat beneath the continental US between 3 and 10 kilometers (depths we can reach with current technology) is more than 2,500 the annual energy use of the United States.

Via CleanTechnica.

The US -- a World Leader in Wind Power Generation... Kinda

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the capacity the US has for generating wind power is expected to increase 45% in 2008. America’s currently installed capacity stands at 19,549MW, up a total of 2,726MW from the end of 2007. Thanks to this number, AWEA is announcing that America is now the US world leader in wind electricity generation.

However this is an announcement based on stats that AWEA is hoping the rest of the world won’t look at too hard.

According to AWEA’s second quarter 2008 market report, they bill the US as the new world leader in the generation of wind power electricity. Looking at Germany’s capacity, for example, sees them with a total of 23,000MW, but never using that full capacity. Apparently the winds in America are stronger, and thus max out the US capacity.

But one important little factoid has been left out of this announcement, allowing the AWEA to make a perfectly legitimate statement, but based in marketing reality.

The US may have a capacity of 19,549MW, expected to grow another 4774MW by the end of this year, but it also has a population of 304.8 million people living on a total area of 9.8 million square kilometers of land. Germany, on the other hand, has only a population of 82 million and a total area of 357,000 square kilometers.

Via CleanTecnica

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tesla Founder Martin Eberhard's first impressions in the Roadster

There has been a lot of speculation about how ousted former Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard would feel about the car that became the Roadster in his absence. Well, the speculation is over - his beautiful, custom-painted Roadster saw over 1000 miles of driving in the past few weeks and he wrote a very long blog post about his adventures. The highs (and lows) are as follows:


1. The Roadster can take trips "that would have been completely out of the question for any prior production EV." He means in both distance and terrain - the Roadster handles hills and turns as well as any traditional fuel car on the road as well.
2. He comfortably took the car 125 miles on one charge and would feel comfortable going another 30 - this is with no pampering at all.
3. We need "a new list of expressions" to describe what "full throttle" feels like in the Roadster. He was extremely complimentary of the performance, " I have never driven anything like the Roadster that makes such awesome power so accessible."
4. Once the soft top is in place (he thinks it will take only 1 minute once he's used to it), it feels snug and tight.
5. The Roadster qualifies for "Clean Air Stickers" to enable free bridge crossings (at least in the Bay Area.) Not exactly the biggest concern for someone in a $100k car, but still...

CONS (he didn't pull any punches):

1. "The potholes in SF demonstrated a bit of harshness in the rear suspension – the right sort of pothole causes a very loud clunk that shakes the frame of the car." That said, he also commented that he would definitely not want to make the ride any softer.
2. Visibility is a bit of a challenge - the rear view mirror takes up so much of the windshield that it creates a legitimate blind spot.
3. It's lacking minor ammenities...for example, there is no place to stash change for parking. Small example, but he meant it as representative of minor design failures.
4. Apparently, the "JVC radio-CD player-nav system-vegematic thingy" SUCKS, "The thing runs some Microsoft operating system (really!), and it behaves just like you might expect. Or more like a Mac-righteous Apple fan might expect it to behave." Changing stations is hard, the driving directions are bad, etc.

Read more via greenhome.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Great Global Warming Swindle" is a Swindle

The film's key contention was that the increase in atmospheric temperatures observed since the 1970s was not primarily caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

First aired by Channel 4 in March 2007, the documentary has since reportedly been sold to 21 countries and distributed on DVD.

Dr Wunsch, from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, said he believed he was being asked to take part in a programme that would "discuss in a balanced way the complicated elements of understanding of climate change", but "what we now have is an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance".

The Broadcasting Code requires Channel 4 to show "due impartiality" on "matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".

The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not reflect a range of views, as required under the code.

Read from the BBC.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dyeing to Boost Solar Efficiency by 50%

MIT has perfected a dye technology that could change the solar world as we know it.

The most efficient form of solar technology today is (arguably) extreme concentrated photovoltaics, essentially solar panels placed under a magnifying glass. But the problem with these systems is heat.

Concentrated sunlight can melt silicon solar panels unless you include specialized cooling systems. Cooling technology costs money, and the panels require expensive tracking mechanisms to follow the sun through the day. MIT’s new solar system bypasses the heat and tracking problems all together.

Thin coatings of organic dyes absorb sunlight and redirect favored wavelengths into a pane of glass. The light is aimed and concentrated towards the edge of the pane where small solar panels are located. The concentrated light allows the panels to produce the maximum possible amount of energy all day, every day without cooling systems or complex tracking mechanisms.

“In addition, the focused light increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell “by a factor of over 40.”" According to Marc A Baldo, an associate professor at MIT who helped lead the project. For more technical details, you may need an AAAS membership to read the Science article.
Three Reasons Why This Could Rock the Solar World:

1) It’s Easy: The technology is neither complex or difficult to manufacture.
2) Upgrade Existing Solar
3) It’s Coming Soon: MIT claims this technology could be ready for commercial production within three years.

Read details from Clean Technica

200mph electric car able to zip along a monorail

This working prototype was built for a mere $2500, and spends most of its life as an ultralight 3-wheeled electric runabout. But if its inventors Jay Andress and Andy Webster can raise $10 million, they’re going to create a one-mile test monorail that hooks up to those wheels on the car’s roof.

While riding the electric rails, the car can accelerate to 200mph, and charge its batteries as it goes. All the while, the driver can relax and leave the driving to the computers and rails. Then, once the monorail section of the trip gets the car close to its destination, it can drive the rest of the way under its own freshly charged electric power.

The biggest catch is building the $500 billion worth of rails to accommodate a country full of such vehicles riding along the corridors of Interstate highways. But its developers say the system could pay for itself in energy savings in a year.
MonoMobile, via Autobloggreen

Via Audos.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Japanese sailor first to cross Pacific in wave-powered boat

Japanese sailor and environmentalist Kenichi Horie has completed a 110-day solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean in a boat propelled by wave power to claim another world first.
Weak waves and opposing ocean currents delayed his arrival, which was originally set for late May.

"When waves were weak, the boat slowed down. That's the problem to be solved," the adventurer told reporters Saturday from aboard his catamaran Suntory Mermaid II off the Kii Peninsula in western Japan.

The 9.5 metre (31-foot) boat is equipped with two special fins at the front which can move like a dolphin's tail each time the vessel rises or falls with the rhythm of the waves.

Horie, who will turn 70 in September, reached his destination in the channel between the main Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku just before midnight (1500 GMT Friday) after covering some 7,000 kilometres (3,780 nautical miles) from Hawaii without a port call.


Monday, July 7, 2008

National speed limit pushed as gas saver

An influential Republican senator suggested Thursday that Congress might want to consider reimposing a national speed limit to save gasoline and possibly ease fuel prices.

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.

Congress in 1974 set a national 55 mph speed limit because of energy shortages caused by the Arab oil embargo. The speed limit was repealed in 1995 when crude oil dipped to $17 a barrel and gasoline cost $1.10 a gallon.

As motorists headed on trips for this Fourth of July weekend, gasoline averaged $4.10 a gallon nationwide, with oil hovering around $145 a barrel.

Warner cited studies that showed the 55 mph speed limit saved 167,000 barrels of oil a day, or 2 percent of the country's highway fuel consumption, while avoiding up to 4,000 traffic deaths a year.

"Given the significant increase in the number of vehicles on America's highway system from 1974 to 2008, one could assume that the amount of fuel that could be conserved today is far greater," Warner wrote Bodman.

Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.

From CNN.

Toyota to add solar panels to Prius hybrid

Toyota Motor Corp plans to install solar panels on its next-generation Prius hybrid cars, becoming the first major automaker to use solar power for a vehicle, the Nikkei business daily reported on Monday.

The paper said Toyota would equip solar panels on the roof of the high-end version of the Prius when it redesigns the gasoline-electric hybrid car early next year, and the power generated by the system would be used for the air conditioning.

Toyota plans to use solar panels made by Kyocera Corp (6971.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the Nikkei said.

Via Reuters

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:

* Stages of Denial,
* Scientific Topics,
* Types of Argument, and
* Levels of Sophistication.

Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

Very interesting resource, check it out at Gritsmill.

Genetically Engineered Bacteria May Help Produce Biofuels

Researchers at Duke University are hoping to develop methods to reversibly turn off harmful or unwanted genes in bacteria. If they succeed, gene silencing could be used to treat persistent infections by turning off antibiotic resistance genes in bacteria and in environmental and industrial applications, including water filtration. The technique could also make it possible to engineer bacteria to more efficiently make biofuels and other industrial products.

For details, go to Technology Review.

Motorcycles Pollute More Than SUVs

Motorcycles and scooters are an appealing alternative to shelling out big bucks filling up the family truckster, which is one reason sales are going through the roof. But riding on two wheels may not be any more environmentally responsible than riding on four.

Turns out the average motorcycle is 10 times more polluting per mile than a passenger car, light truck or SUV. It seems counter-intuitive, because motorcycles are about twice as fuel-efficient as cars and emit a lot less C02.

So what gives?

Susan Carpenter lays it all out in a Los Angeles Times column. She found that, although motorcycles and scooters comprise 3.6 percent of registered vehicles in California and 1 percent of vehicle miles traveled, they account for 10 percent of passenger vehicles' smog-forming emissions.

Motorcycle engines are twice as efficient as automobile engines, she notes, so they generally emit less carbon dioxide. But they emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides, which along with hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are measured by state and federal air quality regulators to determine whether vehicles meet emissions rules.

Catalytic converters and other emissions control devices would clean things up, but they're often too big, too heavy or too hot to install on motorcycles.

From Wired.

How To Run Your Car on Free Vegetable Oil in 8 Easy Steps

Wouldn’t it be great to pack-up the car or the SUV for a weekend excursion without fretting over the cost of fuel? Or take that road trip you and your friends keep talking about? All with no concern about pumping all of your hard-earned cash into the gas tank. Heck, it would be great just to drive around town without that concern. Here’s how you can do it.

If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself.

Read from The Traveler's Notebook.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rotating Wind Power Tower to begin construction in Dubai

This self-sufficient, sun and wind powered design is making headlines once again as the Italian-Israeli architect has just unveiled the latest design for his twirling tower, and construction is set to begin this month!

The Dynamic Architecture building has been aptly named Rotating Tower as the floors would be capable of rotating around a central axis. It will be continually in motion, changing shape and giving residents the ability to choose a new view at the touch of a button. The form of the building would constantly change as each floor rotates separately giving a new view of the building as it turns. According to Fisher, the building ensures a very high resistance to earthquakes as each floor rotates independently.

The new tower is the first building of its size to produced in a factory. Each floor, made up of 12 individual units, complete with plumbing, electric connections, air conditioning, etc., will be fabricated in a factory. These modular units will be fitted on the concrete core or spine of the building at the central tower.

The 59-floor building will be powered entirely by sun and wind energy. And, the architect claims that the building will generate 10 times more energy than required to power it, thus making it a positive energy building. Solar panels will be fitted on the roof to harness sunlight, and a total of 48 wind turbines will be sandwiched between the rotating floors, placed so that they are practically invisible. Each wind turbine could produce up to 0.3 megawatt of electricity, and it is estimated that 1,200,000 kilowatt-hours of energy would be generated every year.

From inhabitat.

60% of today’s oil price may be pure speculation

The price of crude oil today is not made according to any traditional relation of supply to demand. It’s controlled by an elaborate financial market system as well as by the four major Anglo-American oil companies. As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. How?

As a result, over the past two years crude oil inventories have been steadily growing, resulting in US crude oil inventories that are now higher than at any time in the previous eight years. The large influx of speculative investment into oil futures has led to a situation where we have both high supplies of crude oil and high crude oil prices.

Compelling evidence also suggests that the oft-cited geopolitical, economic, and natural factors do not explain the recent rise in energy prices can be seen in the actual data on crude oil supply and demand. Although demand has significantly increased over the past few years, so have supplies.

Over the past couple of years global crude oil production has increased along with the increases in demand; in fact, during this period global supplies have exceeded demand, according to the US Department of Energy. The US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently forecast that in the next few years global surplus production capacity will continue to grow to between 3 and 5 million barrels per day by 2010, thereby “substantially thickening the surplus capacity cushion.”

Read explanation from

ZENN Motors Claims Ultracapacitors Is Holy Grail for Electric Cars

Ultracapacitors: the future of electric cars or the ‘cold fusion’ of autovation?

ZENN Motors says its electric car will cruise for 250 miles on a single five-minute charge. Skeptics cry shenanigans.

Ian Clifford wants to start a global revolution by building a practical, everyday car with no gasoline engine, no batteries, and no emissions.

While big Detroit automakers ponder a future plug-in car that goes 40 miles on a battery charge before its gas engine kicks in, Mr. Clifford’s tiny ZENN Motor, a Toronto maker of low-speed electric cars, announced in March that it will build a new highway-speed (80 m.p.h.) model that goes 250 miles on a charge – and can recharge in just five minutes.

Having no batteries, the new “cityZENN” model will use a breakthrough version of a common electrical storage device called an ultracapacitor to store power from a wall socket, the company says. Fuel costs to operate it would be about one-tenth of today’s gas-powered vehicle.

If that astounding claim is real (and there are many skeptics), it could revolutionize automotive travel by making all-electric cars competitive with gas-powered vehicles and easing the world’s dependence on oil.

The reported breakthrough was made by ZENN’s business partner EEStor, a Cedar Park, Texas, firm headed by respected computer industry veteran Richard Weir, who’s named on the company’s patent. The company is now nearing commercial production of its new “electrical energy storage unit” or EESU, Clifford says.

But privately held EEStor has had little to say publicly or to the press – and that secretiveness has inspired incredulity among many debating the topic on Internet forums.

But in a break with that tradition, Tom Weir, the company’s vice president and general manager, responded to e-mailed questions.

“EEStor’s technology has the opportunity to touch every aspect of daily life from very big to very small devices,” Mr. Weir writes. “We also see a whole new generation of products … based around our technology.”

Added credibility arrived with the January announcement by Lockheed Martin, the big defense company, of an agreement to use EEStor technology for military and homeland security applications. It refers to the EEStor “ceramic battery” providing “10 times the energy density of lead-acid batteries at 1/10th the weight and volume.”

In 2005, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sunk $3 million into EEStor. ZENN also invested $3 million and will get exclusive rights to retrofit vehicles with the system – and produce new mid-size cars using EESUs.

Read from the Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is There a Solution to the "Continent of Plastic" that Pollutes the Pacific?

The UN Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter in every square mile of ocean, and a swirling vortex of trash twice the size of Texas has spawned in the North Pacific.

Plastic bags, once icons of customer convenience, cost more than 1.6 billion barrels of oil per year and leave the environment to foot the bill. Each year the world produces 500 billion bags, and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. They take up space in landfills, litter our streets and parks, pollute the oceans and kill the wildlife that eat them.

Eco-friendly legislation that targets the production and distribution of plastic bags has been introduced in Israel, San Francisco, Ireland and China. Addiionally, a recent scientific discovery (see below) offers a potential long-term solution to the global plastic crisis.

Since stories have started surfacing more recently, many have wondered, if the rumors are true. Are there really 'continents', or massive floating garbage patches residing in the Pacific? Apparently, the rumors are true, and these unsightly patches are reportedly killing marine life and releasing poisons that enter the human food chain, as well. However, before you start imagining a plastic version of Maui, keep in mind that these plastic patches certainly aren't solid surfaced islands that you could build a house on! Ocean currents have collected massive amounts of garbage into a sort of plastic "soup" where countless bits of discarded plastic float intertwined just beneath the surface. Indeed, the human race has really made its mark. The enormous Texas-sized plastic patch is estimated to weigh over 3 million tons.

Sadly, marine researcher Charles Moore at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach says there’s no practical fix for the problem. He has been studying the massive patch for the past 10 years, and said the debris is to the point where it would be nearly impossible to extract.

"Any attempt to remove that much plastic from the oceans - it boggles the mind," Moore said from Hawaii, where his crew is docked. "There's just too much, and the ocean is just too big."

"When oil prices soared in 2005, that changed a lot of people's perspective, because bioplastic became quite cost-competitive," she says. "All of a sudden it wasn't just about doing the right thing."

Read from the Daily Galaxy.

Solar-Powered Speedboat

The Dutch have created the Czeers MK1 – the first solar-powered speed boat – which will help bridge a friendship between the love of speed and the love of the environment.

We’ve seen solar-powered boats around here before, but nothing as zippy as this. Reaching speeds of 30 knots and producing far less noise and pollution than its peers, this boat is 33 feet long and is covered in 150 square feet photovoltaic cells.

It’s pricy (a measly $1.1 million), but if you are torn between wanting the wind through your hair and your eco-conscience, then this boat could be worth the extra dough. It is definitely a luxury boat, as the creators added top-of-the-line features like leather interior and touch-screen-based control systems. Okay, so these elements take quite a bit away from the eco-friendliness of it, but still, progress is progress. At least the solar-step has been made to get those conspicuous consumers on board. Now they can start working on better choices for construction materials.

CzeersSolarboats via Eco Geek.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


TRIAC Electric Car. Range: 60-100 Miles. Cost: 2 cents per mile

This little number has been getting some good press lately (see EcoGeek and Inhabit), and for good reason: it’s the first commercially available electric vehicle with a price tag and functionality that could meet the needs of the average city driver (assuming you can afford it).

OK, you aren’t going to fit a family of 5 in there, but that’s not what it’s made for. Green Vehicles, manufacturer of the 3-wheeled TRIAC EV, calls it a “modern freeway commuter,” because the zero-emissions vehicle can reach 80 mph and will get you into the carpool lane with a single driver. Safety-wise, it has a structural steel cage the company says is the “same metal skeleton used in race cars” and a low center of gravity to maintain balance (but surprisingly has no airbags).

Back at home, it takes about 6 hours to charge the car’s lithium-ion batteries at an estimated cost of about 2 cents per mile. Not a bad deal if you can afford the $20,000 price tag. The company website says the TRIAC EV is currently available at dealerships in San Jose and Mill Valley, California, and should be more widely available in the future.

Link via Gas 2.0, for the manufacturer click here.

Wood Waste Ethanol Breakthrough from New Zealand

New Zealand believes it may have discovered a solution to global warming and diminishing energy with its own alternative fuel. Scion, a state owned forestry research corporation, says that can be used for biofuel production. The announcement could presage an alt fuel breakthrough.

The investigation by Scion via bio refineries has been the target and hopes of this company. They are currently able to process waste from pulp and paper mills. There is a processing plant in the Central North Island of New Zealand that has the potential to produce over ninety million liters of ethanol annually. This would surpass the Government’s target of a 3.4 per cent biofuel component of gasoline and diesel by 2012.

Read on from the Cutting Edge News

Eight reasons higher prices will do us a world of good

Americans should be celebrating rather than shuddering over the arrival of $4-a-gallon gasoline. We lived on cheap gas too long, failed to innovate and now face the consequences of competing for a finite resource amid fast-expanding global demand.
A further price rise as in Europe to $8 a gallon -- or $200 and more to fill a large SUV's tank -- would be a catalyst for economic, political and social change of profound national and global impact. We could face an economic squeeze, but it would be the pain before the gain.
The U.S. economy absorbed a tripling in gas prices in the last six years without falling into recession, at least through March. Ravenous demand from China and India could see prices further double in the next few years -- and jumpstart the overdue process of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.
Consider the world of good that would come of pricing crude oil and gasoline at levels that would strain our finances as much as they're straining international relations and the planet's long-term health:
1. RIP for the internal-combustion engine
2. Economic stimulus
3. Wither the Middle East's clout
4. Deflating oil potentates
5. Mass-transit development

From MarketWatch.

Natural Gas Powered Vehicles

I did some research, and found that compressed-natural-gas vehicles are fetching big premiums online in places like Utah and Oklahoma where natural-gas prices are ridiculously low—as low as 60-cents per gallon. When I listed the car on eBay, it sold three days later to someone in Oklahoma for $18,600, about $4,000 more than what I paid for the car when I purchased it from Honda less than a year before, and $2,000 above its Kelley Blue Book value. (The sale price to me reflected various state and federal tax incentives that Honda took when they owned it.)

Who’d have thought that the highest-performing investment of my entire year would be a used Honda Civic? We loved owning the car, and will miss its greenest-car-on-earth cache. But we realized that living five miles from work is probably better for the environment than living 65 miles from work, no matter what you drive.

Via RideLust. Note that this is a common trend in countries like Brazil.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tesla? Ha, who needs it! Here comes AMP!

Tesla has long dominated news of electric cars, with it's sexy Ferrari-like styling, famous customers, and tabloid worthy behind the scenes politics. But what if you don't have in excess of $109,000 for the base model? What if you don't want to wait a year? What if you don't want to settle for a close cousin of the golf cart? What if you'd like to travel further than your commute?

Up until now, your options were pretty well non existent. Now comes the AMP, which looks suspiciously like a Saturn Sky. That's because it is, converted to be a plug in electric, with a 150 mile range, 0-60 in under 6 seconds, at a total pre-tax cost including the car of around $50,000. That's $10,000 less then the deposit alone for a Tesla!

AMP, or Advanced Mechanical Products has created a car power system based around Lithium Phosphate batteries, which are apparently safer than the at times troubled Lithium Cobalt batteries, are non toxic, and weigh 1/3 that of typical car batteries, enabling the overall weight of the car to remain the same from before the conversion, retaining the balance and stability that was engineered into the original Saturn.

Via Triple Pundit.

Landowners getting trampled in gas rights rush

Stories of fast-talking industry representatives using scare tactics to strong-arm people into signing lowball leases are popping up in rural areas and suburbs from New York to West Virginia to parts of Indiana and Texas. All sit atop largely untapped natural gas deposits made suddenly viable — and valuable — by soaring prices and improved drilling techniques.

Castle and his father thought they were getting a windfall when they signed a $5-an-acre lease with a small Michigan company and promise of 12.5 percent royalties for the gas rights to 800 acres they own near Rowlesburg in northern West Virginia. The process started when a landman — an industry term for a person who secures mineral rights — knocked on their door.

"They're very nice people, the ones that come around. You thought you could trust them," said Castle, who adds that he was warned to sign or drillers would siphon the gas beneath his property without paying him a dime.

His feelings of trust evaporated when rival companies started offering $350 an acre and royalties as high as 15 percent.

But Decker held out and formed a pool with other landowners that has grown to more than 40,000 acres. The approach worked: Decker's group agreed to a five-year deal that pays $2,411 an acre and a 15 percent royalty.

"There just aren't a lot of savvy landowners out there," McDivitt said of the calls he gets regularly. "Some of them are just, 'Hey, we just had some slick-talking guy who's just been pounding on us, but we don't understand.'"

Read on the Newsvine.

Truth or Consequences: $4+ for a Gallon of Gas Should be Mandatory?

Imagine for a minute, just a minute, that someone running for president was able to actually tell the truth, the real truth, to the American people about what would be the best — I mean really the best — energy policy for the long-term economic health and security of our country. I realize this is a fantasy, but play along with me for a minute. What would this mythical, totally imaginary, truth-telling candidate say?

For starters, he or she would explain that there is no short-term fix for gasoline prices. Prices are what they are as a result of rising global oil demand from India, China and a rapidly growing Middle East on top of our own increasing consumption, a shortage of “sweet” crude that is used for the diesel fuel that Europe is highly dependent upon and our own neglect of effective energy policy for 30 years.

No, our mythical candidate would say the long-term answer is to go exactly the other way: guarantee people a high price of gasoline — forever.

This candidate would note that $4-a-gallon gasoline is really starting to impact driving behavior and buying behavior in way that $3-a-gallon gas did not. The first time we got such a strong price signal, after the 1973 oil shock, we responded as a country by demanding and producing more fuel-efficient cars. But as soon as oil prices started falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we let Detroit get us readdicted to gas guzzlers, and the price steadily crept back up to where it is today.

We must not make that mistake again. Therefore, what our mythical candidate would be proposing, argues the energy economist Philip Verleger Jr., is a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gasoline tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.

More on the NY Times.

Oil's perfect storm may blow over

The perfect storm that has swept oil prices to $132 a barrel may subside over the coming months as rising crude supply from unexpected corners of the world finally comes on stream, just as the global economic downturn begins to bite.

The forces behind the meteoric price rise this spring are slowly receding. Nigeria has boosted output by 200,000 barrels a day (BPD) this month, making up most of the shortfall caused by rebel attacks on pipelines in April.

The Geneva consultancy PetroLogistics says Iraq has added 300,000 bpd to a total of 2.57m as security is beefed up in the northern Kirkuk region.

"There is a strong rebound in supply," said the group's president Conrad Gerber.

Saudi Arabia is adding 300,000 bpd to the market in response to a personal plea from President George Bush, and to placate angry Democrats on Capitol Hill - even though Riyadh insists that there are abundant supplies for sale.

The signs are already surfacing in global inventories. Opec says that stocks held by the OECD club of rich countries are above their five-year average, with "comfortable" cover for 53 days' use. US stocks have edged up for the last four months, though they fell last week.

The countries that account for the most of the growth in oil demand over the last two years are almost all nearing the limits of easy economic growth.

Read on the Telegraph.

Sweden turning sewage into a gasoline substitute

Chemically, biogas is the same as natural gas from fossil fuels, but its manufacture relies on a process where bacteria feed on fecal waste for about three weeks in an oxygen-free chamber. The result is two-thirds methane and one-third carbon dioxide, as well as a nutrient-rich residue that can be used as soil or construction material.

Once the methane is purified, it is pumped through Goteborg's network of gas pipelines to specialized filling stations, where it is pressurized for delivery. Any car with an engine and tank configured for compressed natural gas can use biogas.

After each fill-up, the corresponding amount of biogas is injected into the natural gas grid as an offset, said Bo Ramberg, chief executive of FordonsGas, which is based in Goteborg and operates the largest chain of biogas filling stations in Scandinavia.

Ola Fredriksson, an engineer at Gryaab, the sewage facility in Goteborg, said that what an average person flushed down the toilet each year created enough biogas to drive 120 kilometers, or 75 miles.

"If the oil price keeps on going up, and people are prepared to pay more for renewable energy, then it will make our company interested in producing more biogas," he said. "We have the capacity.'

More on the Herald Tribune.

The Question of Global Warming

When we put together the evidence from the wiggles and the distribution of vegetation over the earth, it turns out that about 8 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by vegetation and returned to the atmosphere every year. This means that the average lifetime of a molecule of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, before it is captured by vegetation and afterward released, is about twelve years. This fact, that the exchange of carbon between atmosphere and vegetation is rapid, is of fundamental importance to the long-range future of global warming, as will become clear in what follows. Neither of the books under review mentions it.

The main conclusion of the Nordhaus analysis is that the ambitious proposals, "Stern" and "Gore," are disastrously expensive, the "low-cost backstop" is enormously advantageous if it can be achieved, and the other policies including business-as-usual and Kyoto are only moderately worse than the optimal policy. The practical consequence for global-warming policy is that we should pursue the following objectives in order of priority. (1) Avoid the ambitious proposals. (2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop. (3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails. (4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent. These objectives are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.

All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.

By Freeman Dyson at the NY Review of Books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cost of converting entire U.S. to electric cars? Zero.

How much would it cost to convert the entire U.S. fleet of passenger cars, which collectively burn 40 percent of the oil that we use, to electric cars? Let’s look at some numbers:

* total oil consumption in the U.S.: 21 million barrels every day (CIA Factbook)
* cost per barrel: $130
* days in year: 365
* total spent per year: $1 trillion
* percentage of oil consumed by passenger cars: 40
* total spent per year on oil for passenger cars: $400 billion [refining into gasoline, distributing, and retailing add even more to this]
* at 5 interest, how much we could we borrow and pay $400 billion every year in interest: $8 trillion
* number of registered cars in the U.S.: 250 million (Wikipedia)
* cost of a new electric car, if mass-produced: $20,000
* value of a used car, if exported to Latin America or China: $5,000
* cost to upgrade average existing American car to a brand-new electric car: $15,000
* number that could be converted for $8 trillion: more than 500 million cars (i.e., twice as many as we have now)

Instead of sending $400 billion each year to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, we could spend it on electric car production in the U.S., Mexico, and China. At current oil prices, it wouldn’t cost us a dime extra to stop importing and burning oil for passenger cars. In fact, if the goal were to end up with the same number of cars on the road, we would have a few trillion dollars left over. One or two trillion dollars would be sufficient to build nuclear, solar, or wind electric power plants to replace all of our plants that currently burn coal and oil (note that less than 1 percent of current electricity generation in the U.S. is from oil (source); most electricity that we use today is from coal, natural gas, or nuclear).

So… simply by stopping our purchases of oil we could finance the construction of power plants that emit no CO2 and electric cars that emit no CO2.

From Philip Greenspun at Harvard.

How Farting Cows May Help Solve Energy Woes

Could bacteria end our oil woes? A farmer in Georgia thinks so, and the Pentagon is paying attention. And it can’t happen a moment too soon.

The folks at Bell Plantations in Tifton, Georgia are developing a way to convert bacteria into hydrocarbons. By genetically manipulating the bacteria, they believe they can produce different molecular chains to produce the basis for gasoline, diesel, propane and a variety of other hydrocarbon fuels.

In essence, they will be able to turn bacteria into oil – in a matter of months, rather than the millions of years it takes for fossils to degrade into usable fuels.

That’s what cows, termites and lots of other things do. They eat biomass and turn it into hydrocarbon. So Bell started looking for bacteria that could break down biomass into hydrocarbon, and he found lots of them. He found them in snails that eat grass, in the gut of a wood-eating catfish in the Amazon and, of course, in wood-eating termites.

Bell Plantations plans to clone the bacteria and genetically manipulate the biomass to produce hydrocarbon in the various forms needed to supply the market they anticipate. Present plans call for 500 nationwide production facilities within 18 months, which would give Bell Plantations the capacity to produce up to 500,000 barrels a day within two years – based on expected production capacity and a U.S. Department of Agriculture study showing that the U.S. produces 1.1 billion tons of recoverable biomass every year.

How much of an impact would that make? The entire country consumed 20.7 million barrels a day of liquid fuels and other petroleum products in 2007. If Bell can do what he says he can do, he can supply 2.5 percent of the entire country’s fuel needs within two years. And that’s for a brand new technology. Once it matures, who knows what it can do?

Read more here.

An accidental discovery at Vanderbilt University may well be the key to making light-emitting diodes the dominant lighting technology of the century. Up until very recently, the only way to make "white" light was to add yellow phosphors to bright blue LEDs. It wasn't quite right, though, as even the best "white" LED retained a blue tint. This week, we got the news that a chemistry grad student at Vanderbilt has stumbled on a way to make broad-spectrum white LEDs using quantum dots -- and in doing so, he may well have kicked off a revolution.

Michael Bowers was making quantum dots, tiny nanocrystals just a few dozen atoms across. Crystals at that scale often have unusual properties, and the ones that Bowers created were no exception. When he illuminated his batch with a laser, rather than the blue glow he expected, out came a rich white light, similar in spectrum to sunlight.

Bowers then took a polyurethane sealing liquid, mixed in some of his dots, and coated a blue LED. Although the resulting bulb -- pictured above -- is crude, it puts out white light. Its visible spectrum is similar to a typical incandescent bulb, but it puts out twice the light-per-watt, and lasts fifty times longer. One key reason for its efficiency is that it doesn't put out the infrared light typical of a regular light bulb; despite being much brighter, it's still far cooler to the touch. (The LED assembly still gets hot, however.) Completely by accident, Bowers had come up with a technology that possessed the quality of incandescent light, but none of its drawbacks.

Read on from World Changing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Garbage Will Lead the Biofuel Revolution

“Don’t let invasive biofuel crops attack your country” was the warning delivered by concerned scientists yesterday at a UN meeting in Germany. Scientists from the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP), the Nature Conservancy and the International Union for Conservation of Nature all warned that bioenergy crops could prove ecologically and economically disastrous, as many of the proposed energy crops are in fact invasive species.

This warning could easily be aimed at entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and be read as: “Don’t let invasive biofuel crops attack your business plan/investment.” Indeed, while Coskata and other cellulosic biofuel startups are stressing “non-food feedstocks,” perhaps the real next step is “non-crop feedstocks” — to that end, many biofuel startups are targeting garbage, waste and leftovers as feedstocks that are both low-cost and low-risk.

In their new report, “A Risk Assessment of Invasive Alien Species Promoted for Biofuels,” GISP lists 28 plant species already being cultivated for biofuel use that are classified as invasive. And “invasives,” as defined by the National Invasive Species Council, can be subject to stifling federal and state regulations.

This is a serious potential regulatory monkey wrench for the biofuel startups depending on America’s cropland being quickly converted to green waves of energy grasses. But it could be a boon for startups focusing on using waste products as biofuels. Agricultural wastes, like corn stover and sugarcane bagasse, are being targeted in the U.S. by startups like Mascoma and Coskata and in Brazil by Brenco and KiOR.

The logical conclusion of this progression is Craig Venter’s much-vaunted “fourth-generation biofuels.” Venter has said that by next year, his startup, Synthetic Genomics, will be producing octane from the ultimate waste product - carbon dioxide.

GISP recommends risk assessment and information gathering before any country moves full-steam ahead with energy crop plantations. That might be a little late as both the U.S. and the EU have already passed legislation mandating increases in non-food biofuels. In the mean time, we haven’t seen anyone raise objections to using garbage as a feedstock…yet.

Read from earth2tech.

Canadian Teen Isolates Plastic-Eating Microbes

Getting ordinary plastic bags to rot away like banana peels would be an environmental dream come true.

After all, we produce 500 billion a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. They take up space in landfills, litter our streets and parks, pollute the oceans and kill the animals that eat them.

Now a Waterloo teenager has found a way to make plastic bags degrade faster -- in three months, he figures.

Daniel Burd's project won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. He came back with a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment.

He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic -- not an easy task because they don't exist in high numbers in nature.

First, he ground plastic bags into a powder. Next, he used ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water to create a solution that would encourage microbe growth. To that, he added the plastic powder and dirt. Then the solution sat in a shaker at 30 degrees.

Tests to identify the strains found strain two was Sphingomonas bacteria and the helper was Pseudomonas.

Read on from The Record.

San Francisco to Charge Polluting Firms

The rules, due to come into effect on 1 July, could cost big emitters more than $50,000 (£25,000) a year, but most firms will pay less than $1 (50p).

Backers say the move sets an important precedent for the rest of the US.

But opponents say it may interfere with plans to introduce much tougher emissions targets across California.

The state's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a landmark law designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change in 2006.

The California Air Resources Board is due to release its preliminary proposals to implement the law next month, with a final plan to be approved later this year.

From the BBC.

Jay Leno Reviews the Tesla Roadster

Biofuel Thefts Rampant?

A few years ago, drums of used french fry grease were only of interest to a small network of underground biofuel brewers, who would use the slimy oil to power their souped-up antique Mercedes.

Now, restaurants from Berkeley, California, to Sedgwick, Kansas, are reporting thefts of old cooking oil worth thousands of dollars by rustlers who are refining it into barrels of biofuel in backyard stills.

"It's like a war zone going on right now over grease," said David Levenson, who owns a grease hauling business in San Francisco's Mission District. "We're seeing more and more people stealing grease because it lets them stay away from the pump, but it's hurting our bottom line."

Levenson, who converted the engine in his '83 Mercedes to run on straight canola oil, has built up contracts to collect the liquid leftovers from 400 restaurants in the last two years.

Last week when his pump truck arrived at Thee Parkside, a dive bar known for its chili-cheese fries, his driver found someone had already helped himself to their barrel of yellow oil.

But as the price of diesel shoots up, so, too, does the value of grease.

In the last three years, the price of soybean oil -- the main feedstock for biodiesel made in the United States -- has tripled. Last week, a gallon of crude soybean oil fetched 66 cents on the open market, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

Those kinds of numbers have encouraged biofuel enthusiasts to plunder restaurants' greasy waste, and have even spurred the City of San Francisco to get into the grease-trap cleaning business.

"Restaurants and staff are no longer looking at this material as trash, they're looking at is as something that's about to go into city vehicles," said Karri Ving, who runs the city's new waste cooking oil collection program. "Unless you lock down every trash can, thefts are going to happen."

The National Biodiesel Board reports that U.S. production of biodiesel reached 500 million gallons last year, up from just 75 million gallons in 2005.

Read from CNN.

Avoiding Power Vampires

we're talking about vampire power, phantom loads, idling standby current, and wall warts. They all basically refer to the same thing: electronic devices with two sharp, pointy teeth that latch into your wall sockets and suck blood...err...electricity all day, all night, whether on or "off," whether charging batteries or not. These devices include TV's, VCR's, DVD players, answering machines, iPods, cell phones, stereos, laptops, desktops, anything with a remote, anything with a charger, anything with a clock display. They are everywhere. Lurking.

Top 10 ways for you to fight the vampires

1. Unplug your devices
2. Reduce your demand
3. Use the other off switch
4. Plug your devices and chargers into a power strip
5. Remove chargers from the wall when you're not charging
6. If you're in the market for new electronics, buy Energy Star qualified.
7. Get a phone that tells you to unplug it.
8. For your various computer accessories, try a smart strip.
10. If you're up for a whole house project, check out GreenSwitch

Basics of vampire power

Most people think that when you turn something off, it actually turns off. Most people assume that it stops drawing power. Unfortunately, that's not true in the case of most electric devices. Most of them just hover in standby mode, waiting for you to 'turn on' the power again.

A 1999 study in New Zealand conducted by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority indicated that 40% of microwave ovens used more electricity to power the clock and the keypad over the course of the year than actually heating food. Big screen TV's (and their respective cable boxes and satellites) up to 30 watts when off. A computer left turned on can potentially draw as much current as a refrigerator. And what about those chargers? Even when your cell phone (or other battery operated device) isn't charging, even if it's not even plugged in, it's still drawing power. It may even add as much as 10% to your energy bill.

This is bad news for your wallet and bad news for the environment. Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate that standby power consumption in the US accounts for 5% of all residential power consumption. That means Americans spend more than $3.5 billion annually on wasted power. It also means that our standby power is responsible for 27 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that globally standby power is responsible for 1% of carbon dioxide emissions (to contextualize that number, it is estimated that 2-3% of CO2 emissions are from air travel). And let's be honest. Those numbers are probably growing given the affinity many of us have for new gadgets and fancy appliances.

Read from Green Home.

New York’s First Solar Powered Ecoeatery

1. Solar panels
2. Food truck
3. Kids corner
4. Batmobile
5. Rain water collection
6. Place settings
7. Fountain
8. Recycled aluminum
9. Recycling & composting
10. Picnic tables
11. Rain water gutter
12. Reclaimed doors

Created by artist and restaurateur Sean Meenan, Habana Outpost was built on the principle of social responsibility. Our mission is to show respect for the community, the environment and the arts in a setting that is always fun and accessible. With forward-thinking design and business practices we have created a space where neighbors can gather, learn and create.

Click on to the EcoEatery Habana Oupost.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

N. Texan Builds Car That Costs $7 For Every 300 Miles

With gas pushing $4 per gallon, many people are looking for ways to save some green at the pump. One North Texas man found a way to help the environment and commute to work for just pennies a day.

"The most common question I get is, ‘Is this an electric car?’ and then they're like, "Is it a hybrid?’ Nope, it's a real electric (car)," Murray said.

When his car is low on fuel, Murray simply plugs the power cord into the nearest outlet.

"Yeah, just plug it in here. Just a regular old extension cord," Murray said.

The self-described computer geek from Kennedale bought the 1993 Eagle Talon from a junkyard for just $750.

"First thing I did when I got the car home was pull the engine out," Murray said.

He then spent about $4,000 more to convert the gas-guzzler to run on electricity alone, doing all the work himself in his garage at home.

"I bought the electric motor and I was like well, I gotta figure out a way to couple it together with the original transmission,” he said.

The car can hit 55 mph, driving right past the high prices at gas stations.

"I hear people complain about them at work all the time. I just grin," he said.

Murray spends just $7 per month on electricity to charge the batteries -- enough to go about 300 miles.

"I don't even look at the gas prices," Murray said.

More, and video, from NBC.

In a Landfill, How Long Does Trash Really Last?

But how long do things last? These rough estimates, compiled from U.S. National Park Service, United States Composting Council, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Sciences, and the New York City government, give an idea of how long our consumables remain after we’ve kissed them goodbye.

  • Glass Bottle—One Million Years

  • Plastic Bags—Unknown, Possibly 500+ Years

  • Plastic Beverage Bottles—Unknown, Possible 500+ years
  • Aluminum Can—Eighty to 200 Years

  • Cigarette Butt—One to Five Years

  • Newspaper—Two to Four Weeks or Longer

  • Apple Core—One to Two Months or Longer

Via Divine Caroline.

New Light Source Lasts 15 Years Without a Recharge

Disclaimer: We found this article lacking in a lot of basic information, even having typos in it. Albeit an interesting technology, it would be good to know more details like the energy cost for creating this material.

How about a glowing light source that lasts for 15 years instead of the typical 15 minutes of a glowstick? GlowPaint’s newest product does just that and is also non-toxic and inexpensive and doesn’t require a recharge via solar or electrical sources for its entire lifespan. According to the company, “This has potential to save billions in energy costs world-wide. Litroenergy™ surpasses all known available lighting options for cost/durability/reliability and safety.” Their products are expected to be used to replace other forms of safety, emergency and novelty lighting duties normally performed by glow sticks, LEDs and other light sources.

“The Litrospheres are not effected by heat or cold, and are 5,000-pound crush resistant. They can be injection molded or added to paint. The fill rate of Litroenergy micro particles in plastic injection molding material or paint is about 20%. The constant light gives off no U.V. rays, and can be designed to emit almost any color of light desired.”

From PureEnergySystems via Ecoble.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Homemade power banishes the bills

Charmaine Watts hasn't had a power bill for eight years.

Her family of two adults and three children are one of hundreds around the country generating their own electricity.

With power prices on the rise, the $20,000 the Watts spent installing solar panels, a small wind turbine, storage batteries and wiring is starting to look like a good investment.

"I don't need to worry about power cuts," said Ms Watts. "It's just like a normal house. I flick the switch on my computer or my DVD player and away I go."

Watts is the head of the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand, a group representing small-scale wind, hydro and solar power generators. Nobody knows exactly how many families generate their own power, but together it's thought they make between 5 and 6 megawatts of power a year - a drop in the bucket when measured against Meridian's planned West Wind wind farm near Wellington and its 142 megawatt production.

"Anyone with a roof has the potential to make their own electricity."

Mr Prior said solar generation would be affordable for most people only if the Government followed Germany and Australia and subsidised renewable power. "The market exploded in Germany. Manufacturers couldn't make enough panels," said Mr Prior. "The trouble here is the Government gets a return from state-owned renewable generators like Meridian Energy, so there's not much incentive to provide subsidies."

"We've saved something like 10,000 tonnes in carbon dioxide since 2000 by using natural, renewable energy."

More from the NZ Herald.

235 MPG VW of the Future...from 2002

But Volkswagon took that extra step and made a bobsled with a diesel engine. It is, in fact, actually a car. It seats two (arguably), gets roughly 235 miles per gallon of diesel fuel and is perched at the very cutting edge aerodynamic technology. Of course, this comcept car has been around since 2002, and we're still no where near seeing it on our roads.

The car's technology comes from it's unique shape and it's ultra-light body. The frame is actually made of magnesium, an extremely light metal, and the outer skin is reinforced with carbon fiber. The one cylinder engine is made of aluminum and sits on top of the rear axle. The car is only a bit more than three feet high and weighs less than 700 lbs.

It might seem like a death trap and, if you got in a head-on with an SUV, it would be. But the car is surprisingly safe for its size, employing an excellent roll-avoidance system that makes the car virtually impossible to flip.

So...the car of the future was officially here four years ago. It could have been (and maybe still could be) a whole new class of vehicle. But nobody wants the passenger to straddle the driver in what looks to be the child of a VW Bug and a bobsled. The technology is in our hands. We choose not to use it.

From EcoGeek.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Door to Hell" Giant Gas-Filled Hole in Uzbekistan

This place in Uzbekistan is called by locals “The Door to Hell”. It is situated near the small town of Darvaz. The story of this place lasts already for 35 years. Once the geologists were drilling for gas. Then suddenly during the drilling they have found an underground cavern, it was so big that all the drilling site with all the equipment and camps got deep deep under the ground. None dared to go down there because the cavern was filled with gas. So they ignited it so that no poisonous gas could come out of the hole, and since then, it’s burning, already for 35 years without any pause. Nobody knows how many tons of excellent gas has been burned for all those years but it just seems to be infinite there.

More photos and video at English Russia.

MythBuster: Why Electric Vehicles Beat Gas in 5 Extreme Tests

I'm really big on electric vehicles because the total amount of fuel consumption involved is much less than what gas vehicles consume thanks to the efficiencies involved in a power generating plant. But there's a lot of talk out there that electric vehicles just don't perform as well as their gas counterparts—and, because we want to keep the planet intact, it sounded like a good myth to bust. So we decided to put gas and electric models of compact cars, ATVs, motorcycles and go-karts head-to-head on the track and the road to figure out if electric could hold its own.
Besides almost zero emissions, electric vehicles also have some very distinct advantages: An electric ATV is quiet, healthier to have around crops, and you don’t need it to go 300 miles on a charge. Barefoot’s prototype is running 2.5 hours of average use on a charge and is back to 80 percent charge over a lunch break, which is more than adequate run time on a farm or vineyard. Our highways and neighborhoods will be quieter and cleaner with electric cars and motorcycles on them.

Building an electric go-kart or ATV is not any more difficult than making a radio-control electric car. Sure, we’re using welders instead of pre-made plastic parts, but you’ve got an electric motor, a bank of batteries and a speed controller. Look at your racing RC toys—it’s the same thing. The home-built electric car we tested had serious limitations, but I think I could build one that doesn’t have those problems. I fully intend to make a full-size electric car; I figure it’d take about $28,000 worth of components for a plus-300-mile range. It should take me about a week or two to build—tops.

Read from Popular Mechanics.

U.S. Can Boost Clean Wind Power for 2 Cents a Day per Household

May 17, 2008 | A stunning new report just issued by the Bush administration finds that for under 2 cents a day per household, Americans could get 300 gigawatts of wind by 2030. That would:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25 percent in 2030.
  • Reduce natural gas use by 11 percent.
  • Reduce cumulative water consumption associated with electricity generation by 4 trillion gallons by 2030.
  • Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S.

The report doesn't mention that this would require adopting policies the Bush administration opposes. But that's what elections are for.

Wind power is coming of age. In 2007, some 20,000 megawatts of wind were installed globally, enough to power 6 million homes. Sadly, most wind power manufacturers are no longer American, thanks to decades of funding cuts by conservatives. Still, new wind is poised to be a bigger contributor to U.S. (and global) electricity generation than new nuclear power in the coming decades. As I have written earlier, concentrated solar power could be an even bigger power source, and it can even share power lines with wind.

That means we can realistically envision an electric grid built around renewables: electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions, no fuel cost (and no future price volatility) and no radioactive waste. But while it is poised to happen, and other governments are working hard to claim market share, America will need a bold president to ensure leadership in these major job-creating industries of the 21st century.

Read more from Salon.

$2 Billion Wind Turbine Order from Texas Oilman

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has placed an the largest ever order for wind turbines: he ordered 667 wind turbines from GE, each costing $3 million dollars, making the total order $2 billion. Pickens plans to develop the world’s largest wind farm in the panhandle of Texas.

The $2 billion order is just one quarter of the total amount he plans to purchase. Once built, the wind farm would have the capacity to supply power to over 1,200,000 homes in North Texas. Each turbine will produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The first phase of the project will produce 1,000 megawatts, enough energy to power 300,000 homes. GE will begin delivering the turbines in 2010, and current plans call for the project to start producing power in 2011.Ultimately, Picken’s company, Mesa Power, plans to have enough turbines to produce 4,000 megawatts of energy, the overall project is expected to cost $10 billion and be completed in 2014.

Via MetaEfficient.