Thursday, June 29, 2006

10 Technologies to Save Us

Expect to see a lot more of these...Popular Science has an interesting special section geared around various alternative energy technologies. The piece details how many different options we can explore:

1.) Wind - the price of wind energy has dropped 85% in the past twenty years. Imagine if this administration actually tried to help out.

2.) Enhance the energy grid's efficiency (ie, move smaller power generation closer to a source)

3.) Hybrid cars - if all American cars were switched to plug-in Hybrids, oil consumption would drop 70-90% overnight

4.) Ethanol - only this country could look to a process (corn) that makes things worse. Sugar, cellulosic, that's where we need to go

5.) Solar - two things need to happen - improve energy efficiency (currently only 15-30%) and make it portable (no, not watches)

6.) Hydrogen power - already twice as efficient as gas combustion engines

7.) Ocean - this was awesome. Portugal will soon start powering 15,000 homes; tidal currents are 10 to 40 times as energy dense as wind

8.) Geothermal - tap the earth's internal heat...although knowing us, we'll find a way to turn it off

9.) Biomass (waste) - 1500 cows can produce 1.8 million KW of energy

10.) Negawatts - turn out the lights when you leave the room dammit!!!

Global Warming's a Huge Problem, But I'm Not Planning on Actually Doing Anything

So says a very interesting poll by the Center for the New American Dream. A representative sample of 1,000 adults said:
- Our nation's dependence on oil is a problem: 84%
- Gasoline prices are a problem: 94%

"Effective Actions I could Take":
- Buy a car that gets better gas mileage: 79%
- Take more public transportation: 71%
- Drive less: 69%
- Use AC less: 52%
- Tax gas prices higher: 39%

[this is the depressing part] "Things I'm actually willing to do":
- Buy a car that gets better gas mileage: 44%
- Take more public transportation: 31%
- Drive less: 37%
- Use AC less: 31%

Sigh...I shouldn't be surprised. And such will be the problem for an extended period of time, I suspect, until the next fact catches up with the above. For hidden in the report is a very exciting number, and perhaps light at the end of the tunnel (provided its not an oncoming train):

"Global Warming is becoming a major threat to our country and this world:"
- 77% strongly agree
-17% somewhat agree

[So basically 94% agree its at least becoming a threat...I see your dis-information campaigns and raise it cataclysmic worldwide devastation]

If you plan on buying a car in the next five years, how likely are you to consider hybrid
- 39% very likely
- 36% somewhat likely

[I bet GM/Ford wish they knew back in 2000 that in six years, 75% of drivers would consider hybrid]

This study spells some progress to me. No idea of the stat, but I imagine five years ago, global warming didn't rank half as highly a concern, and hybrid cars were probably popular only in ultra-green communities. Maybe I should find that stat, seeing as this is my blog and all. Some other day.

One final thing, perhaps useful in the future. When asked what would lead them to consider hybrid, the respondents indicated an interesting mix of altruism, patriotism and self-interest.
- Higher gas mileage: 77%
- It would help lessen our dependence on oil: 58%
- Helps the environment: 41% (interestingly a large gender split - 30% male, 52% female)
- Their design is appealing: 12%
- Cost less in the long-term: 7%

And he's back

Been away for a bit, but am back now, raring to go. I know I, and consistent posting on this blog, were sorely missed.

In any event, a couple small things to get going before I head off to work:

1.) U.S. Emits Half of Car-Caused Greenhouse Gas, Study Says:

"American cars and pickup trucks are responsible for nearly half of the greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles globally, even though the nation's vehicles make up just 30% of the nearly 700 million cars in use, according to a new report by Environmental Defense. Cars in the U.S. are driven more miles, face lower fuel economy standards and use fuel with more carbon than many of those driven in other countries, the authors found."

One surprising finding was that small cars emitted more carbon dioxide than SUVs, 25% of the total compared with 21%. That is because there are more older small vehicles with higher emissions still in service, said lead author John DeCicco, a mechanical engineer specializing in automobile research.

2.) Rep. Henry Waxman's Safe Climate Act:

The actual act can be found here.
Science tells us that we face a grave risk of irreversible and devastating global warming if global temperatures increase by more than 3.6°F.

The bill sets greenhouse gas emissions targets that aim to keep temperatures below the danger point. The level of emissions is frozen in 2010 and then gradually reduced each year through 2050.

The bill achieves these targets through a flexible economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, along with measures to advance technology and reduce emissions through renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cleaner cars.
Interesting they use the 3.6 degree (F) threshold. The James Hansen piece I read (see below) uses either 2 or 5 degrees as his baseline for damage comparison. One of the challenges, in terms of selling this concept to Americans worried about economic damage, "uncertainty" in the science, etc., while be nailing down the number and rallying behind it. Sounds silly, but the media, and the public respond to a specific, a 3 degree difference will lead to 100 million deaths and 5 billion in economic losses...or something along those lines. From experience, I know that the big, easy to read numbers are what get the media's attention (and thus the public).

The Act is very specific in its targets, although it waits a couple years before actually getting going in 2010...
Beginning in 2011, the quantity of United States greenhouse gas emissions shall be reduced by approximately 2 percent each year, such that the quantity of such emissions in 2020 does not exceed the quantity of United States greenhouse gases emitted in 1990.

Also, the act lays out seven separate ways to determine if global warming is occuring, including, substantial slowing of Atlantic thermohaline circulation, sea level rise of more than 8 inches, ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer, decrease of 50% in the permafrost, and loss of 40% of coral reefs.

Finally, the bill provides for a market-based system of trading emissions.