Entries Tagged as 'Environment'

Better late…

It’s been a quarter century after the automotive industry received a wake-up call and they seem to finally get it.

A few auto makers toyed with all electric vehicles in the early 90’s; but Honda introduced us to the hybrid vehicle, and Toyota catapulted it into a business success.

Both Honda and Toyota had hoped to introduce fuel cell technology vehicles, but with the world’s economy in shambles building out the infrastructure for that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

Now we have virtually every auto maker introducing electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid; many are also introducing high efficiency (bio) diesel vehicles.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, GM, Volkswagen — just to name a few — have made a serious commitment to increasing the fuel efficiency of their fleet (and thus decreasing their carbon foot print).

GM announced a 100,000 mile, 8-year warranty on their new Volt — displaying to consumers that they have a great deal of confidence in their offering.  Other companies like Tesla have offered a pre-purchased battery replacement.

I haven’t done exhaustive research on all the offerings; the Prius is likely to continue to be a near term winner, it get’s a plug-in option next year; and the Insight get’s that the following year.  However the Volt goes the other route and is an electric car with a backup generator (giving it over 300 miles range, and a somewhat simpler design since it doesn’t require the complex drive system found in most hybrids).

I’m still driving my 1997 Toyota 4Runner, it’s got 350,000 miles on it and going strong.  I’d considered replacing it during the “cash-for-clunkers” program, but it just didn’t seem to make sense to me since I couldn’t find any suitable replacement vehicle that got better than 30 miles to the gallon — and the math just didn’t work out financially, nor did the impact on the environment for disposing of a perfectly functional vehicle seem right.

It might not be until 2014 or so that we really have a number of good options for vehicles that provide the features and economy we’re looking for… but finally we’re on a path that should reduce the environmental impact of the continuing car culture.

Originally posted 2010-07-27 02:00:24.

Gulf Oil Spill

President Barrack Obama toured the Red-Neck Rivera this past Monday… seeing for himself the damage the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform disaster was wreaking on the Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana coastline.

I appreciate that he used this as a king pin to push (again) for an American commitment to clean and renewable energy… but maybe for the moment we need to focus more on cleaning this mess up, and preventing future mishaps.

Sure, there’s plenty of people in Washington to work on all three agendas (though that in itself is part of the problem — there’s too many people in Washington — and no one seems to be responsible for much of anything)… but let’s put the best public face on dealing with the crisis du jour — and not forget de jure or de facto!

Oil and gas companies (like BP) have been making record profits over the past several years.  They’ve heavily lobbied Congress to get more and more access to public lands for drilling and exploration — all under the moniker that off shore drilling is perfectly safe, and with that they created a public perception that they had contingency plans to handle everything.

Surprise…

Not only is off shore drilling not safe; but oil and gas companies haven’t a clue about how to handle most crisis — and those record profits they make are at the expense of safely maintaining their equipment and staff.

When you look for where to point a finger — point it first at the oil and gas companies (BP would be the right place for the Deepwater Horizon disaster)… then point it at your elected official who accept major campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry — and they are the ones who control the regulations and the regulators (yeah — the regulators are to blame as well, but first vote out the idiot who created the system).

Lot of people are saying that very little (or nothing) is really being done to manage this crisis… but they’re dead wrong.  That might be their perception — but lots is being done — just maybe not the right things, and certainly BP didn’t do enough in the very early days… part of that was because they didn’t have a plan and they didn’t invest time, energy, and money into planning.

Let’s be realistic about this — the oil spill is going to get much worse before it get’s better.

Oil is still leaking from the Deepwater Horizon.

The spill is now large enough that the currents will almost assuredly take it out of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic — where the Gulf Stream will push it North along the Eastern seaboard.

It’s hurricane season; and it’s not a matter of if but rather when a storm will enter hurricane alley (remember — if the oil hits the Gulf Stream almost any storm that comes toward North America will disperse the oil even more).

BP is still clueless as to how to arrest the oil (and still short-sighted I’m sure).

All we can do is move forward and be prepared… and hopefully now the mult-member task-force will be able to do a better job managing all the facets of containment and cleanup.

Originally posted 2010-06-19 02:00:10.

Limited liability resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident?

Right away after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon Swiss company Transocean Ltd moved to have their liability for damages limited to the cost of the “sunken ship” ($27 million) citing an 1851 law that says the owner of a sunken vessel is liable only for its value after the accident.

Transocean expects to receive $560 million in insurance, so subtracting what they consider their maximum liability they’d just about meet their three year revenue projection under the BP contract.

Hmm…

Many of the judges are recusing themselves from hearing cases involving the oil spill; but I’d say if a federal judge in Houston makes a ruling we’ve certainly found a judge that can no longer recuse himeself (though he might be a candidate for impeachment)… my guess is Transocean will not get their ruling quickly, and likely will not get a ruling they like ever.

Transocean CEO Steven Newman told investors in addition that its contract with BP holds BP entirely responsible for all damages and liability from the spill.

I guess Newman isn’t totally confident of the petition filed in federal court, or his contractual liability limits so he’s working both ends… and is probably worried that a review will show negligence on his company’s part — which could cause a judge to throw out any and all liability limits.

BP, Halliburton, and Transocean are each responsible, and each of them should (and hopefully will) be held accountable for this mess — and their massive profits will be used to undo the damage their greed has caused.

As I’ve said before — make the problem expensive enough for them to allow to continue; and any future problem much more expensive for them to clean up — and we won’t have to worry much about the spill continuing… or ever happening again (just take highest quarter’s profits from the last year, divide by 90 — and that’s the daily fine).

Originally posted 2010-06-16 02:00:17.

Puncak Jaya

Puncak Jaya is the name of a glacier in Indonesia that you can literally see melting — not as some would say at a glacial pace, but at a rate of six inches per week.

Puncak Jaya is one of very few tropical glaciers left.  As you might expect, glaciers in a tropical region exist in a delicate balance, and can be devastated by even slight changes to their climate.

Heavy rains throughout the region are responsible for the rapid melting of the glacier, but it’s the slight warming that’s causing the shift.

For those deep in denial who just can’t seem to admit that there’s a global climate change occurring, just open your eyes.

Originally posted 2010-09-06 02:00:16.

The Anti-Green – Architectural Lighting

It’s estimated that US electrical plants burn six million tons of coal daily to power unnecessary outdoor lighting — this estimate doesn’t include the wasted hydroelectric in areas like Las Vegas used to power unnecessary outdoor lighting.  Another estimate puts the waste at three-hundred twenty thousand kilowatt hours per minute!

Often called “light pollution” this unnecessary outdoor lighting could be produced by individuals or businesses and both need to take responsibility for adopting more sustainable lighting policies.

Earth Day this year illustrated just how much “needless” light we humans produce… and just what the potential savings and reductions could be.

Consider that electricity isn’t free; it has the initial cost of purchasing the kilo-watt hour of power and the negative impact it’s generation had on the environment (even in areas where wind or hydroelectric are used there are negative impacts to the environment — and power saved there could be routed to areas using coal or natural gas for power further reducing the carbon footprint).

This is an excellent area where it doesn’t take much to save a great deal.

First, think — if the light doesn’t serve a useful purpose, turn it off; or use it sparingly.  Put it on a timer or a motion sensor if you’re forgetful.

Second, consider the lighting technology.  Lights that need to be on quite a bit should use technology that’s efficient, like LED lighting.  Lights that are on occasionally could use (and recycle your existing CF bulbs — remember production and disposal of those lighting elements have an adverse effect on the environment).  For lights that are rarely on, and heat does not pose a problem re-using your existing incandescent bulbs might make sense.

Third, consider using solar powered LED lighting completely for outdoor lighting.  While the rechargeable batteries in those devices do impose potential environmental impact, properly recycled their impact is greatly mitigated by their years of service lighting without drawing power from the grid.

In commercial applications it’s probably a no win situation unless the business takes directed action to improve their lighting; and that might require local, state, and federal government taking action to make it fiscally desirable — a combination of taxes and tax credits.  Here we as individuals might want to take the initiatives to make heavy consumers of electricity pay a “waste” tax (users who actually produce real goods and services would have a threshold for the tax than those who simply consume it for eye candy effect).

I certainly believe that an individual or company should be able to purchase and use electricity for whatever purpose they desire; however, I also believe that individuals and companies that waste that electricity without providing benefit to society as a whole should shoulder the costs of the impact on the environment more than those who attempt to use resources responsibly.

Originally posted 2010-05-24 02:00:04.

BANG!

In the Summer of ’62 the US military detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space above the Pacific Ocean as part of a project code named: Starfish Prime.

There’s a good article on NPR you can read at:

A Very Scary Light Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space on NPR


Originally posted 2010-07-14 02:00:56.

Northwest Passage

There have been a number of articles recently on the effect of global climate change on the arctic ice pack, and I guess you could say one of the “good” things that is happening is that a (Summer) shipping route North of the Arctic Circle may be a reality within the next few years.

While the melting of the ice pack might be good news for shipping and oil/gas exploration, it might not be a good thing for the world as a whole.

Remember, a large portion of the world’s population lives in coastal regions, not far above sea level — when the ice pack melts, that water goes somewhere — and, of course, that’s fresh water, so not only does the level of the oceans rise, but the salinity of the oceans goes down.

No one can really predict what these changes will have on the habitability of this planet long term, but along with the receding glaciers we have more evidence of rather dramatic climate change.  Whether these changes are a natural event, a natural even being accelerated by emissions, or purely cause by emissions may still be debatable, but whether or not it’s happening… that’s fairly well documented.

Of course, as I always say — many love to do the back-stroke in de-nile; or as other like to day, de-nile isn’t just a river in Egypt…

Originally posted 2011-08-18 02:00:18.

Hurricanes

Meteorology is fascinating, and since weather is something that has thwarted human kind’s attempts to control and harness it since the beginning of time it’s something worth watching [closely].

Hurricanes [also known as tropical cyclones or typhoons] are one of the most devastating of storms Mother Nature throws at us; and on the Eastern Coast of the United States, the Atlantic Hurrican Season has started for this year and I thought I’d gather some information about hurricanes and put it here on my BLOG.

 

Overview

Named for Huracan, the Carib god of evil, the hurricane is an amazing yet destructive natural phenomenon that occurs about 40 to 50 times worldwide each year. Hurricane season takes place in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Central Pacific from June 1 to November 30 while in the Eastern Pacific the season is from May 15 to November 30.

Hurricane Formation

Due to the Coriolis effect, the regions between 5° and 20° north and south of the equator are the belts where hurricanes can form (there is not enough rotary motion between 5° north and south. The term cyclone is used in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and the term typhoon is used in the Pacific Ocean north of the equator and west of the International Dateline.

The birth of a hurricane starts as a low pressure zone and builds into a tropical wave of low pressure. In addition to a disturbance in the tropical ocean water, the storms that become hurricanes also require warm ocean waters (above 80°F or 27°C down to 150 feet or 50 meters below sea level) and light upper level winds.
Growth and Development of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

A tropical wave grows in intensity and then may grow to become an organized area of showers and thunderstorms known as a tropical disturbance. This disturbance becomes an organized area of tropical low pressure that is called a tropical depression based on cyclonic winds (counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere). A tropical depression’s wind speed must be at or below 38 miles per hour (mph) or 62 km/hr when averaged out over one minute. These winds are measured at 33 feet (10 meters) above the surface.

Once average winds reach 39 mph or 63 km/hr then the cyclonic system becomes a tropical storm and receives a name while tropical depressions are numbered (i.e. Tropical Depression 4 became Tropical Storm Chantal in the 2001 season.) Tropical storm names are preselected and issued alphabetically for each storm.

There are approximately 80-100 tropical storms annually and about half of these storms become full-fledged hurricanes. It is at 74 mph or 119 km/hr that a tropical storm becomes a hurricane. Hurricanes can be from 60 to almost 1000 miles wide. They vary widely in intensity; their strength is measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale from a weak category 1 storm to a catastrophic category 5 storm. There were only two category 5 hurricanes with winds over 156 mph and a pressure of less than 920 mb (the world’s lowest pressures ever recorded were caused by hurricanes) that struck the United States in the 20th century. The two were a 1935 hurricane that struck the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Only 14 category 4 storms hit the U.S. and these included the nation’s deadliest hurricane – the 1900 Galveston, Texas hurricane and Hurricane Andrew which hit Florida and Louisiana in 1992.

Hurricane damage results from three primary causes:

  • Storm Surge. Approximately 90% of all hurricane deaths can be attributed to the storm surge, the dome of water created by the low pressure center of a hurricane. This storm surge quickly floods low-lying coastal areas with anywhere from 3 feet (one meter) for a category one storm to over 19 feet (6 meters) of storm surge for a category five storm. Hundreds of thousands of deaths in countries such as Bangladesh have been caused by the storm surge of cyclones.
  • Wind Damage. The strong, at least 74 mph or 119 km/hr, winds of a hurricane can cause widespread destruction far inland of coastal areas, destroying homes, buildings, and infrastructure.
  • Freshwater Flooding. Hurricanes are huge tropical storms and dump many inches of rain over a widespread area in a short period of time. This water can engorge rivers and streams, causing hurricane-induced flooding.

Unfortunately, polls find that about half of Americans living in coastal areas are unprepared for a hurricane disaster. Anyone living along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean should be prepared for hurricanes during hurricane season.

Fortunately, hurricanes ultimately diminish, reverting to tropical storm strength and then into a tropical depression when they move over cooler ocean water, move over land, or reach a position where the upper level winds are too strong and are thus unfavorable.

 Hurricane Strength (Classification)

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is utilized to determine the relative strengths of hurricanes that may impact the United States coast. Since the 1990s, only wind speed has been used to categorize hurricanes.

  • Category One Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 74-95 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Minimal
    Approximate Pressure: Above 980 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 3-5 feet
    Examples: Hurricane Lili (2002) in Louisiana; Hurricane Gaston (2004) in South Carolina
  • Category Two Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 96-110 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Moderate
    Approximate Pressure: 979-965 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 6-8 feet
    Example: Hurricane Isabel (2003) in North Carolina
  • Category Three Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 111-130 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Extensive
    Approximate Pressure: 964-945 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 9-12 feet
    Examples: Hurricane Katrina (2005) in Louisiana; Hurricane Jeanne (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Ivan (2004) in Alabama
  • Category Four Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 131-155 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Extreme
    Approximate Pressure: 944-920 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 13-18 feet
    Example: Hurricane Charley (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Iniki (1992) in Hawaii; the Galveston Hurricane (1900) in Texas
  • Category Five Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: Above 155 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Catastrophic
    Approximate Pressure: Below 920 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: More than 18 feet
    Examples: Only three Category 5 hurricanes have struck the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane (1935) in the Florida Keyes, Hurricane Camille (1969) near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and Hurricane Andrew (1992) in Florida

There is no Category Six for hurricanes. While some have suggested such a category, since only three Category Five storms have struck the United States, Category Five would appear to be more than adequate.

Originally posted 2009-08-10 01:00:36.

100 miles to the gallon

That’s right.  The Edison2 (Lynchburg, VA, US) won half of the $10 million US  Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize for a gasoline powered vehicle capable of seating four adults that cruises city streets at over 100 mpg dubbed the Very Light Car.

Most of the high efficiency vehicles in the competition are electric powered.

X-Tracer (Winterthur,  CH [Switzerland]) with their two passenger E-Tracer; and Li-ion Motors (Charlotte, NC, US) with their two passenger Wave2 each won a quarter of the prize.

Originally posted 2010-09-18 02:00:20.

Carbon

Several years ago NPR and PBS put together an animated short series (five episodes) on carbon to help explain why global climate change occurs.

It’s fun to watch — and informative if you don’t have a solid background in chemistry.

Episode 1: It’s All About Carbon
Episode 2: Carbon’s Special Knack for Bonding
Episode 3: Break a Carbon Bond and — Presto! — Civilization
Episode 4: When Carbon Falls in Love, the World Heats Up
Episode 5: What We Can Do About Global Warming

Originally posted 2010-07-18 02:00:46.