Size Matters

24 03 2009

The latest car from India’s Tata Motors is worth every penny. In fact, it’s the cheapest car in the world with some models selling at $2,200 a car. The pint-sized Tata Nano also gets outstanding gas mileage, averaging 50 miles per gallon, making it the most fuel efficient car in India.

Tata's Nano

Tata Nano

However, despite the obvious benefit of conserving gasoline, some criticize how easily it can be mass produced and worry that Nanos will only add to India’s traffic problem, even going as far as predicting a “disproportionate impact on greenhouse gas emissions.” Also the vehicle “has minimal exhaust filters and an engine that can burn kerosene, which is even dirtier than gas.”





Making Biofuels More Practical

24 03 2009
Switchgrass

Switchgrass

The basic argument against biofuels is that food sources like corn and wheat should not be used to make fuel. The substitutes for these crops are plants such as switchgrass and miscanthus, but these grasses take longer to break down than corn kernals, making the fuel production process more costly.

Miscanthus

Miscanthus

BUT, researchers at Cal Tech have synthesized several new enzymes that will break down cellulose plants quicker than the current method, ultimately making the process cheaper.

This is also good news for the Obama administration, which continues to advocate funding for alternative energy policies and research.

At the White House on Monday Obama said, “Speaking to entrepreneurs in the fields of energy…Your country will support you. Your president will support you.’ The administration’s $787 billion stimulus package includes $39 billion for the Department of Energy and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy.”

He plans to speak more about the stimulus package in a televised address Tuesday night.





Old News, New Administration

23 03 2009

Not surprisingly, the Environmental Protection Agency sent out a new proposal claiming global warming is a threat to public health and welfare. This same idea was actually rejected in July 2008 by the former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. Apparently the new administrator, Lisa Jackson, will be taking the EPA in a new direction.

Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson

“Frank O’Donnell, who heads the public watchdog group Clean Air Watch said the new proposal, ‘will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution. And it is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving.'”

But some businesses are not as optomistic about the new limits, saying pollution caps will further hinder any chances at economic recovery.





Green Is The New Black

18 03 2009

Can an industrialized nation ever actually be green?

This question was spurred by a conversation I had with a friend about the book, “A Language Older Than Words,” by Derrick Jensen. My friend, and Jensen, advocate that nothing beneficial can come from an industrialized nation, in that every aspect of our society is detrimental to nature and all living beings.

So, has any good come from our globalized society? Which products are classified as “harmful to the earth?” For example, lettuce, vegetarians say vegetables are the way to go because animals aren’t dying, but actually such grandiose farms, as modern agriculture has employed, are diminishing the fertility of the soil. Is this “hurting the earth?”

Iceberg Lettuce Field

Iceberg Lettuce Field

Another example, a bicycle. It’s a great alternative to a car, but the metal was mined, which is a process that usually upsets the ecology of the site. Where does one draw the line at being “green?”

Is it possible to live in our society and not damage the land, and do our current “green” practices encourage or hinder this endeavor to save the planet?





What Is Diesel

6 03 2009

I realized I’ve been writing a lot about biodiesel and diesel engines, but I’m not entirely sure how diesel is different from gasoline. Here’s what I learned:

The diesel engine was created in 1892 by Rudolf Diesel who considered vegetable seed oil as fuel for his invention.

Air Compression in Diesel Engine

Air Compression in Diesel Engine

A diesel engine is different because air is compressed (which heats it up) then fuel is injected. In a gasoline engine, both air and fuel are compressed together then ignited.

The compressed air reaches hotter temperatures in a diesel engine as opposed to a gasoline engine, thereby making the diesel engine more fuel efficient.

Fuel Injection in Diesel Engine

Fuel Injection in Diesel Engine

Biodiesel is very similar to petroleum diesel. It is made when plant oils are combined with methanol and chemically altered to make fatty acids.





Rate My Biofuel

4 03 2009

United States:
Switchgrass

Switchgrass

Switchgrass

Soybeans

Soybeans

Soybeans

Corn

Corn

Corn

Brazil:
Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

Europe:
Sugar Beet

Sugar Beet

Sugar Beet

Wheat

Wheat

Wheat

China:
Cassava

Cassava

Cassava

Sorghum

Sorghum

Sorghum

Southeast Asia:
Miscanthus

Miscanthus

Miscanthus

Oil Palm

Palm

Palm

India:
Jathropa

Jathropha

Jathropha

Learn more about: switchgrass, soybeans, corn, sugar cane, sugar beet, wheat, cassava, sorghum, miscanthus, palm oil and jatropha.





Battle for Jobs, Environment Loses

2 03 2009

Because of staggering unemployment rates coupled with a failing economy, protecting the job market is top on everyone’s list and will come at any expense. In the case of Berners Bay, Alaska, the environment is not quite as important as fixing the economy.

Kensington Mine, Alaska

Kensington Mine, Alaska

In 2004, the Bush administration approved changes in drilling and dumping regulations for Alsaka. Now, the mining company, Coeur d’Alene is using these changes to justify dumping mine waste from Kensington Mine into Berners Bay.

Coeur d'Alene Slogan

Coeur d'Alene Slogan

This waste would be detrimental to fish and marine mammal habitats. The arctic lake would, “become a repository for 210,000 gallons a day of thick slurry, laced with aluminum, copper, lead and mercury — enough to kill all the fish and raise the lake’s bottom by 50 feet.”

Sadly, there is little opposition from the state of Alaska, because many citizens have already been guaranteed jobs with the mining company.

Berners Bay

Berners Bay

But, maybe Coeur d’Alene won’t pollute Alaskan waters because it:
• Adheres to environmentally sound practices for cyanide management;
• Manages mine waste safely and responsibly.

As long as there’s no cyanide!





Bottle Bill Approved!

1 03 2009

Last Thursday, February 26, the bottle bill in Connecticut was expanded to include a $.05 deposit on plastic water bottles! The idea to expand the bottle bill has been around for a few years, but was seriously considered only recently because it could potentially generate much-needed revenue for the state.

Senator Meyer and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams

Senator Meyer and Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams

In theory, the bill will produce revenue because many people don’t bother to return their recyclables for the deposit. In this case the state collects the unclaimed deposits.





Carbon Offsetting…

25 02 2009

I came across this site that told me I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about my carbon footprint if I took part in “carbon offsetting” programs. The site is aptly named “ClimateCare”

The Reduce and Offset Approach
“For the greenhouse gases we cannot avoid emitting, you can buy carbon offsets.”

If this sounds too good to be true, it is. ClimateCare is just another way to warrant the superfluous consumption of resources and energy.

In actuality, “carbon offsetting” is a myth. The damage we’ve caused to our atmosphere by emitting CO2 is irreversible so why would I pay to have my emissions “canceled out” with clean energy production? It makes no sense.

The Reality of Carbon Offsetting

The Reality of Carbon Offsetting

So what are these offsetting programs offered by ClimateCare?

Apparently, I can fund new stoves for the rural people of Cambodia or I can replace diesel-fueled water pumps in India with “treadle pumps,” which apparently use “human power to pump water from wells.”

New Stoves That "Offset Carbon..." Right

New Stoves That "Offset Carbon" Right...

Why not just use biodiesel to fuel the existing pumps instead of creating an entirely new irrigation system?

Not surprisingly, I realized this program was owned by JP Morgan.





Obama: The Future is Green and Bright

25 02 2009

Last night, in an address to Congress, Obama once again stressed the importance of shifting toward a better environmental policy, based on the future development of, “wind power, solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars.”

Unfortunately this means that only about 5.5 percent of the stimulus package funds energy and environmental advancements.

Obama's Stilulus Package

Obama's Stimulus Package

Obama made some good points however, especially when he said, “We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.”

Germany is in fact very far ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental standards. “In 2007 greenhouse gas emissions were down 21.3% in comparison with 1990 levels.

Solar Technology at Berlin-Adlershof

Solar Technology at Berlin-Adlershof

But, the only action Obama has taken in addressing environmental matters so far, was to ask for a, “legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”

I think the carbon cap is a good idea, but I’m wondering how Congress will “drive” this “production”, and production of what exactly?