Sustainability and Environment Headlines - 12 July, 2005
SOLUTIONS & SUSTAINABILITY
'BioWillie' emerges as energy alternative to fuel costs
Jeffrey Ball, Patriot News/Wall Street Journal
FORT WORTH, Texas - "This is my first time," Eddie Rogers, a 36-year-old heavy-equipment mechanic, said as he reached to pump some "biodiesel" into his heavy-duty Dodge pickup one afternoon. "It's supposed to be good stuff. And they say it's a little cheaper."
Sticker shock at the gas station, where the average price of gasoline has surged to $2.23 a gallon and diesel fuel to $2.39, has energy-addicted Americans looking for alternatives. Some are buying gasoline-electric hybrid cars.
Rogers and thousands like him are taking a more tentative step. They're sticking with the big, diesel-powered trucks they love, but they're filling them up with a new-fangled fuel. ...
For the last few months, a Texas investor group that includes country singer Willie Nelson has been peddling to truck stops what it calls the nation's first branded biodiesel blend -- "BioWillie." A week ago, Nelson touted his product in a concert at a truck stop an hour's drive south of Dallas called Carl's Corner. This week, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, which is based in Oklahoma City, plans to announce that it too will start selling BioWillie at a station south of Dallas. ...
This fix isn't likely to significantly dent U.S. oil consumption anytime soon. An Energy Department study last year concluded the U.S. is producing enough oil from plants and animal fats to make 1.6 billion gallons of biodiesel annually -- only about 4 percent of the diesel fuel used on the nation's roads. ...
(10 July, 2005)
Interview of Jules Dervaes of Path to Freedom (VIDEO)
David Room (interviewer), Global Public Media
Jules Dervaes of Path to Freedom speaks to David Room of Global Public Media about their urban homestead project which incorporates many back-to-basic practices, permaculture methods, and appropriate technologies.
On a typical small city lot, they produce 6,000 pounds of food per year. Jules talks about how they got started and where they are now, interactions with the community, and the challenges they encountered. He also gives advice for others that want to start down the path.
(24 September 2004)
This interview was apparently just put up on the Global Public Media site, though it was conducted laste year.
Cheap and clean Emissisions-neutral vehicle getting rave reviews
Jeremy Loome, Edmonton Sun
Harry Bradbury's new toy is a motorcycle that could run on sunflower oil, is nearly silent at 80 kmh and produces no emissions save drinkable water.
It looks like something from a James Bond movie, minus the front-mounted machine guns. And Bradbury sounds more like Hugh Grant on the phone than 007. He's shaken by a viciously sore throat, although not stirred at the prospect of defending his baby one more time. Bradbury is the CEO of Intelligent Energy, creator of the ENV (it's pronounced 'envy') motorcycle. The ENV gets its name from being an Emissions-Neutral Vehicle. It earns the title by running on hydrogen removed from bio fuels - anything from hemp oil to ethanol. ...
"It's going to be disruptive in the ways big business deals with oil and gas, particularly in the area that oil and gas would least like to hear, which is pure economics. It's much cheaper and completely clean."
The bike is sleek, sporty and makes about as much noise as the fan on a PC. It's been ridden extensively by the British press, to raves. It will retail, he expects, for about $7,500 and be available in North America by 2007. ...
"We have in something the size of a shoebox a device that converts any biofuel into hydrogen. So for $300-$400 for the converter it is possible for people to produce their own fuel." Alternately, for the less-handy consumer, "there's absolutely no reason why we couldn't take our filing cabinet-sized refueller and have Wal-Mart dispense hydrogen, for example. It really is wide open."
He realizes the implications for his firm are considerable. Short of a disastrous recall, Intelligent Energy has proven the fuel cell can be practical in a two-wheel commuter vehicle, which represents 80% of the Asian driving market. ...
(10 July 2005)
Investors along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park are pouring money into solar nanotech startups, hoping that thinking small will translate into big profits.
Both inventors and investors are betting that flexible sheets of tiny solar cells used to harness the sun's strength will ultimately provide a cheaper, more efficient source of energy than the current smorgasbord of alternative and fossil fuels.
Nanosys and Nanosolar in Palo Alto -- along with Konarka in Lowell, Mass. -- say their research will result in thin rolls of highly efficient light-collecting plastics spread across rooftops or built into building materials.
These rolls, the companies say, will be able to provide energy for prices as low as the electricity currently provided by utilities, which averages $1 per watt.
(11 July 2005)
Emissions: It's Time to Go on a Low-Carbon Diet
Mayer Hillman, Independent via Common Dreams
Last summer, substantial extracts from the newly published book How We Can
Save the Planet (Penguin Books), which I wrote with Tina Fawcett, were
featured inThe Independent Review. All that has happened since then
reinforces its emphatic conclusions.
Current fossil fuel-based lifestyles must be drastically changed to limit
the harsher impacts of climate change. A blind eye is being collectively
turned to the gross insufficiency of action being taken. The only policy
that can prevent the relatively "safe" concentration of carbon emissions
accumulating into the atmosphere from being exceeded is the Contraction &
Convergence programme proposed by the Global Commons Institute, which aims
to lessen emissions at the same time as working towards an equal per capita
ration for the world's population. Rationing will have to be mandatory -
reduction of CO2 emissions on this scale cannot realistically be achieved on
a voluntary basis.
Yet the public is in denial. We delude ourselves that our current energy
profligacy - let alone its spread, as reflected in the continuing rise in
road, rail and air travel - does not have to stop. Ask anyone what they
intend to do in retirement, and the great majority will say "see the world".
Ask anyone whether they think government will be prepared to curtail choice
to that end, and they will say "no", glibly and outrageously implying that
we are too selfish to save the planet.
Most of the green lobby plays along, with campaigns clearly designed to
avoid alarming the public too much. The current Friends of the Earth
campaign, "The Big Ask", calls for an annual 3 per cent reduction in CO2
emissions without indicating that, for it to be in any way meaningful, the
reduction has to be set within a global context. Moreover, at that rate, the
target of emissions reduction that it agrees to be essential would be
reached far too late to avoid catastrophe.
The media, while featuring alarming evidence of climate change, brazenly
promotes fuel-intensive attractions, such as second homes overseas, the
Olympics (in any city), international tourism and gas-guzzling cars.
Industry continues to act as if investment in energy-efficiency programmes,
the development of a hydrogen-based economy, carbon sequestration and a
renaissance in nuclear power will deliver sufficiently reduced emissions. ...
(8 July 2005)
China: The good life means more greenhouse gas
Robert Collier, SF Chronicle
Beijing -- (First of two parts)
Pi Heyang gingerly closed the door of his first car-to-be. Then, he ran his
hand slowly along the shiny hood, touching the Chinese-made Tianjin Weizi
sedan as delicately as if it were made of gossamer.
"This will change our lives," the Beijing bus driver said solemnly while his
wife and young son stood at his side in the dealer's showroom.
Several miles away through Beijing's smoggy streets, an exhibition hall was
jammed with thousands of people perusing booths with displays for new homes
in suburban subdivisions. Videos played, dancers gyrated, and neon signs in
English touted developments with names such as "Rich Garden" and "Canal Side
Upper Strata Life."
"We want space, greenery, freedom," said Han Yu, a mobile phone salesman,
after he and his wife signed papers to buy a three-bedroom condominium on
Beijing's eastern outskirts for $105,000. "This is it."
This is the new Chinese Dream: cars and suburbs. Like the American
counterpart, it is good news for many people -- but perhaps bad news for
Planet Earth. The same economic boom that is catapulting millions of Chinese
each year into the middle class has made their country the world's fastest-
growing source of the greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
As China's thirst for fuel helps push world oil prices to record highs, the
country is emerging as a key factor in the debate over climate change -- as
well as a wild card that could determine the health of the world's economy.
(6 July 2005)
China: Where coal is king, everything else is sacrificed
Jehangir S. Pocha, SF Chronicle
Xia Shi Gou, China (Second of two parts) -- For miles in every direction from this dusty
coal-mining village, the soil, plants and trees are gray with soot, as if a
light fall of black snow has just fallen. The air is heavy with eye-stinging
fumes, and the land is rutted.
This is the dark underbelly of modern China, the industrial reality that
everyone knows exists, but no one wants to see.
China's miracle economy -- the world's fastest-growing, at about 8
percent -- is largely fueled by coal, which provides roughly three-fourths
of its energy. Villages just like this one in Shanxi province produce a
quarter of the 2 billion tons of the coal China will burn this year. That's
almost 20 percent more than last year -- and China's demand for energy is
expected to double over the next decade.
Over the last 10 years, reckless mining by two massive, rusty, smoke-
spewing state-owned coal companies has fill the air here with particulates.
As the companies have dug into the earth, they have damaged underground
water supplies that have drained away, depleting the local water table.
"The gap this left in the earth has caused the topsoil to crack and
collapse," said Guo Ai Mi, 43, a local farmer. Lengths of highways and
entire fields have fissures running through them, and more appear all the
Since Shanxi is one of the driest places in China, and the Fen River, a
local tributary of the mighty Yellow River, ran dry years ago, farming here
is now almost impossible, Guo said. ...
(7 July 2005)
It's not just the days that are getting hotter, but also the planet's waters, according to a new Fisheries and Oceans report.
In the sixth annual DFO State of the Oceans report, researchers note that since the 1970s land temperatures have increased a full degree, representing a greater increase (0.7 degrees) than the temperature difference between The Little Ice Age (circa 1600 B.C.) and the Medieval Warm Period (circa 1050 A.D.), a period of more than 2000 years.
Researchers also found that last year ocean temperatures fluctuated in some places to as much as a full degree higher than normal.
"Although short term changes like this can be viewed as noise on a long-term record, the size of the change is extraordinary. If the ocean continues to warm as the land has, we can expect to see invasions of warm water species, coral reef damage and loss of habitat for cold water species such as salmon," reads the report.
(8 July 2005)
Second article on that Canadian Dept.Fisheries & Oceans report.
North Atlantic Ocean Temps Hit Record High
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) - Ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic hit an all-time high last year, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on one of the most sensitive and productive ecosystems in the world.
Sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador was below normal for the tenth consecutive year and the water temperature outside St. John's Harbor was the highest on record in 2004, according to a report released Wednesday by the federal Fisheries Department.
The ocean surface off St. John's averaged almost two degrees Fahrenheit above normal, the highest in the 59 years the department has been compiling records. ...
"A two-degree temperature anomaly on the Grand Banks is pretty significant in the bottom areas, where temperatures only range a couple of degrees throughout the year," said Eugene Colbourne, an oceanographer with the Fisheries Department.
Water temperatures were above normal right across the North Atlantic last year, from Newfoundland to Greenland, Iceland and Norway. ...
(8 July 2005)
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