31 August 2010

Dubai’s blazing sun helps keep new offices … cool?

Under the blazing sun of Dubai, the newly expanded offices of one business are keeping cool with an environmentally friendly technology powered by … the heat of the sun.

Dubai’s first solar cooling plant is providing air-conditioned comfort in the offices of ESAB, a global supplier of welding products. The technology, developed in Scandinavia, uses a salt- and water-based heat pump powered by the sun to keep temperatures in the building cool even when it’s scorching outside. The system also gets a boost from the new building’s use of energy-storing concrete.

The innovative system was installed by Scandinavian Cooling/Kylsystem and Paxkent in collaboration withClimateWell and Kingspan Renewables.

“We have cut the peak power needed in half by using the building as an energy storage and we have cut energy consumption in half by using solar cooling by ClimateWell,” said Lars Olof Johansson of Scandinavian Cooling/Kylsystem. “The result is the best indoor climate installation that we have ever done in our more than 30 years as indoor climate solution experts.”

Johansson added that the system “opens a new world of possibilities in countries with a good solar irradiation.”

“This is a stepping stone towards massive global growth for Solar Cooling,” said Gerard Whelan, managing director of Kingspan Renewables.

At the heart of ClimateWell’s chemical heat pump are two separate chambers: one containing hygroscopic (water-absorbing) salts, the other containing water. The two chambers are connected to take advantage of the fact that, when the water chamber is in a vacuum, the water will begin to boil to produce vapour as the salt absorbs moisture. That evaporation cools the water chamber, and coils of circulating water around that chamber are cooled in turn and can be used to cool the air.

ClimateWell claims the so-called 3-phase system provide excellent energy storage capabilities along with both high charge and discharge power. The technology, it says, can be used efficiently to deliver cooling and heating 24/7.

30 August 2010

An important thing to know

For those that have been willing to listen to me rant about the US FED printing money to buy debt, here is an excellent report from Chris Marteneson about this very thing:

Executive Summary
  • The Federal Reserve and the federal government are attempting to "plug the gap" caused by a slowdown of private credit/debt creation.
  • Non-US demand for the dollar must remain high, or the dollar will fall.
  • Demand for US assets is in negative territory for 2009
  • The TIC report and Federal Reserve Custody Account are reviewed and compared
  • The Federal Reserve has effectively been monetizing US government debt by cleverly enabling foreign central banks to swap their Agency debt for Treasury debt.
  • The shell game that the Fed is currently playing obscures the fact that money is being printed out of thin air and used to buy US government debt.
The Federal Reserve is monetizing US Treasury debt and is doing so openly, both through its $300 billion commitment to buy Treasuries and by engaging in a sleight of hand maneuver that would make a street hustler from Brooklyn blush.

For the entire report click here.

29 August 2010

Another "Mission Accomplished" Hoax


Posted by Ted McLaughlin
If you read the newspapers yesterday and saw the TV news accounts you might think the war in Iraq is over, and that we finally accomplished our mission there (whatever that mission was). The headlines told us that the last American "combat brigade" had left Iraq, and there were even pictures of them crossing the border into Kuwait (see picture above). So our involvement in Iraq is over -- right? Wrong!

I hate to say it but the government is just playing word games with the American public. Telling us the last "combat brigade" has left Iraq makes it sound like we don't have any American soldiers left there, or at least there are only a few left. Neither is true. There are at least 56,000 American soldiers still in Iraq. About 6,000 are scheduled to leave in December, but the other 50,000 soldiers will be staying for more than a year -- at least until the end of 2011.

Whether you call them combat troops or not, 50,000 is a lot of soldiers to be leaving in Iraq. And it'll be a miracle if they are actually withdrawn at the end of 2011. Listen to the words of Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. He says, "We need strategic patience here. Our timetables are getting out ahead of Iraqi reality. We do have an Iraqi partner in this. We certainly are not the ones making unilateral decisions anymore. But if they come to us later on this year requesting that we jointly relook at the post-2011 period, it is going to be in our strategic interest to be responsive."

In plain English, don't bet the farm on that withdrawal date of the end of 2011. If the puppet government we have installed in Iraq cannot survive that withdrawal date, then we will stay longer -- much longer. The Iraqi Army Chief of Staff, Lt. General Babakar Zebari, says they probably won't be ready to handle things by themselves until 2020.

The government would like for us to think the war in Iraq is nearly over (especially with an election coming up soon). I wish that was true, but it's not. The truth is that we're still going to be engaged in the Iraq War for a long time to come (and Afghanistan too).

We're not accomplishing anything in Iraq or Afghanistan except for the killing of more soldiers and innocent civilians (which creates even more enemies). But the politicians of both parties who got us into these wars refuse to admit they made a gigantic mistake. Instead of learning from Vietnam, they created two new Vietnams and now don't want to admit how stupid they were. They are willing to engage in endless war to protect their own political careers.

It's a bad situation which should just be ended immediately, but it won't be. Prepare for many more years of war. This will happen because both political parties are completely devoid of political courage.

28 August 2010

Fannie and Freddie - The Exit Doors are Shut

by Ilargi of The Automatic Earth
This article ran for our enrolled users earlier this week and is one in a series from respected guest commentators while Chris is at work on his new book. Please welcome them to the ChrisMartenson.com community and enjoy the fresh perspective.

From a purely political point of view, it’s a simple story. Existing homeowners are a far more powerful force at the voting booth than potential owners, homebuyers, are. It’s therefore very much in the interest of the incumbent government to keep home prices as high as it can. Let them slide too much and you will pay for that at the next election. For potential buyers, you can devise plans that lower interest rates and down payments, but that's all. More affordability simply through lower prices is not on the political table.

Still, in the "listening conference" on US housing policies - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in particular - that started this week, it's not voters who have the biggest say. That is reserved for the financial industry, and how could it not be? Not that the Obama administration has to hear the truth from the bankers anymore: Washington has long since realized that truth. Which is that without Fannie and Freddie and the 80% stake the US took in them in 2008, as well as the unlimited financial guarantee issued by Tim Geithner at the end of 2009, it's not just the housing industry that would instantly collapse. The banking industry would, like a shadow, rapidly follow in its footsteps.

Which is why the conference is largely an elaborate piece of public spectacle, bereft of any true substance. It’s the government going through the motions of an exercise when it knows the outcome beforehand; perhaps silently praying for a miracle to come forward, but at the same time not even remotely considering the one and only solution to the problem. Which is to get rid of Fannie and Freddie, let the share- and bond-holders take the haircuts they deserve for investing in overtly bankrupt walking dead, take the losses that remain on the federal balance sheet, and let the housing and mortgage industries sort it out for themselves for a while. Say, five years.

And so what I’ve often labeled the biggest crime in US history continues unabated. There is, on a regular basis, lots to do about the various bail-out schemes for too-big-to-fail institutions that have been initiated in the past two years, but the largest bail-out, consisting of Fannie, Freddie, and increasingly also Ginnie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration, is hardly ever mentioned in the same vein.

Undoubtedly, this has a lot to do with the way the money is made available, as well as with the permission to hide the true value of all the paper involved in the industry. But it is still remarkable that the press hasn't been on top of it to a much greater extent. If it had been, perhaps we wouldn't have had to listen to Tim Geithner opening the conference with trying to rationalize ongoing government (financial) support of the housing industry like this, reported by Ronald Orol at Marketwatch:

Geithner: Housing system needs government support

"Without such support, the risk is that future recessions could be more severe because the financial system would not have the capital to support mortgage lending on an adequate scale..."

Really? Pray tell, what is an "adequate scale" of mortgage lending in a recession? And who decides that? Do we consider what the market will tolerate "adequate," or is that off the table from the get-go? Or does "adequate" simply indicate an ongoing level of lending and borrowing against the grain of the recession, in which lenders can continue to lure people into loans that they should perhaps not have signed, given the situation both the economy and they themselves are in? In other words, keep the financials afloat at the cost of the people?

At least Bill "Skin-In-The-Game" Gross at Pimco, one of the largest holders of US mortgage backed securities, has a plan:

Gross recommended a major home refinancing program where homeowners with mortgages that have 5%, 6% or 7% down are reduced to the current 4% rates. "This home refinancing, to my way of thinking, where you take 5%, 6% or 7% mortgages and turn then into 4% mortgage would provide a push, a stimulus of $50 billion to $60 billion in consumption as well as potential lift of 5% or 10% in home prices," he said.

Sounds too good to be true. What's wrong here? Millions of homeowners get to live cheaper, enabling them to spend more; home prices would go up; and it would cost the government nary a penny. Why didn't anyone else think of that? Well, all you need to do is look at who, indeed, would pay the costs. That would be the lenders, who would now receive 2-3% less in monthly interest payments. Wall Street would never accept it, unless Washington makes up the difference. Which Washington would never accept.

It would also make homes less affordable for potential buyers, since prices ostensibly would rise. But even with today's record low mortgage rates, pending home sales are plummeting, while housing starts are anemic by "normal" July/August standards.

In other words, there is a fiction that says home prices need to remain high in order to save both the banks and the government (if only because of its 80% Fannie and Freddie stake), while at the same time there is a reality that says sales are dragging through the gutter in the face of record low interest rates. And as is the case with so many plans and schemes that the Obama administration has so far come up with, the fictional tale is based on the biggest fiction of them all: Economic growth must and will return, and wash all our sins away.

Bill Gross gives the government one more bit of reality, as Binyamin Appelbaum writes in the New York Times:

Geithner Affirms U.S. Role As Mortgage Backer

"To suggest that there’s a large place for private financing in the future of American housing finance is unrealistic," Mr. Gross said.[..] Pimco would not invest in bundles of mortgages that lacked government insurance unless the borrowers had made down payments of 30 percent or more

How'd you like them apples? Gross has the actual guts to paint a picture of, well, let's say, what a mortgage looked like prior to heavy-handed government meddling in the market. But he also makes clear that he doesn't want that: His fortune was made precisely because the government is into the housing market up to its ears.

There are still plenty of Americans who will defend Fannie and Freddie for all the good they’ve done for people who couldn't have afforded a home through the past 70 years or so. It's time for them to wake up and smell the roses, or whatever it is this is starting to smell like. Fannie and Freddie have become nothing but tools for the financial industry, first, to raise home prices (the more potential buyers, the higher the prices), and second, to lure people into purchasing these now far more expensive homes that they can barely, or simply not, afford.

There is no recovery in the US, and there never was. There was a short head-fake, provided by trillions of dollars in taxpayer funds that were thrown at Wall Street, and of which barely anything has stuck to that wall. Foreclosures have remained at near-record levels, as has unemployment. Another quantitative easing scheme announced last week by Ben Bernanke is dead before it was born, because Washington has run out of ways in which to fool Americans into thinking green shoots are here or just around the corner. Record low home sales at record low interest rates tell the entire story.

But the government, despite all this, isn’t done yet. It will take as long as it takes to kick the Fannie's and Freddie's solution down the road. Until the next election, and then the next one after that. And it does make sense to do this from their point of view, since there is no solution available that would leave either the banking system or their own political careers intact. There is no way out; the exit doors are shut. They can't keep alive both Wall Street and Main Street. And so they live for the moment, make the best of what they have, pocket as many more taxpayer bucks along the way as they can (alongside their banking buddies), and damn the American people.

27 August 2010

26 August 2010

The Other Ground Zero

25 August 2010

Beyond The Empty World Economy: Embracing Time and Consequence


by ADAM FRANK

It’s the horizon that is the problem. It's horizons in time that we have not evolved to see over. We are species with little capacity for no long term planning and its killing us.

Over the last two days Mike Brown, former Microsoft CFO and Nasdaq Chair presented arguments for restricting the dangers of “short selling” — placing bets that investments will fail. Part of Mr. Brown’s cogent argument rested on the dangers of millisecond trading performed solely in the rarified realms of silicon intelligence. This “high frequency” computer trading is a profound example of how science and technology alter the fundamentals of our economic life. Their appearance shifts the adjacent possible –- to use Stuart Kauffman’s terminology –- which then manifests as new facts on the ground for all of us.

But there are dangers living at the other end of timescales for the integration of science, technology and economics. It is the long time horizon which poses the threat to our project of civilization. If we are to adapt to the challenges facing us now we must learn a longer vision that reaches over that temporal horizon.


We live in an illusory empty world economics, where material magically appears for consumption and its waste products magically disappear again. This economic structure was constructed before the tight couplings of ecological relationship were discovered. Thus the fundamentals of our economic model exists in a fictional world where consequences for planetary systems of atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere were of little or no importance. To understand how this was possible you need only reflect on a single word.

Time.

The timescales for large-scale changes in planetary systems have been too long to be seen or acted on.

The horizon was too far away.

Climate change, driven by 100 years of exponential growth in fossil fuel consumption is an obvious example of consequences living over the time horizon of our economics. For those who continue to insist on ignoring the overwhelming evidence for Climate Change the impending crisis in fresh water supplies can serve as an example.

Stepping back it is remarkable that our science and technology became so powerful, so quickly that their economic deployment rocketed us towards the “ceilings” in planetary systems in just a century or so. On one level we could be proud of ourselves. But as Spiderman’s uncle says. “With great power comes great responsibility”

The responsibility here will be to invent a new economics of consequences, an economics that can think in centuries.

This will not be easy but it will not be without precedent. Humanity has shown itself capable of engaging in multi-generational projects (The Great Wall of China, The Great Cathedrals of Europe, Stonehenge, etc). The trick, of course, is to get started now. There is more to say on this idea of humanity and the Long Now and I will post on it again.

For now it is enough to see the disparity between the short attention span built deep into the heart of our economics and the long attention to consequence that our scientific and technological evolution have forced upon us.

24 August 2010

23 August 2010

22 August 2010

Precipitation Patterns due to Global Heating

A new very interesting study by the brilliant L. David Roper looking @ precipitation patterns is a must read!!

Here is the introduction:

Global Heating causes more moisture to be evaporated into the atmosphere from land and seas. Therefore, the average precipitation over the Earth increases as global heating increases.
Therefore, it is expected that land masses whose area is small compared to its boundary with seas should have the most increase in precipitation as global heating increases. And land masses whose area is large compared to its boundary with seas may decrease in precipitation as global heating increases.
These rules may not hold in every case; prevailing winds and the existence of mountain ranges may have large effects.


For more on this click here.

21 August 2010

20 August 2010

Interesting

19 August 2010

More Reagan Truths




17 August 2010

most devastating impact yet of human-caused global warming

"Scientists may have found the most devastating impact yet of human-caused
global warming — a 40% decline in phytoplankton since 1950 linked to the rise
in ocean sea surface temperatures. It may represent the single most important
finding of the year in climate science."

“Plankton found in the world’s oceans are crucial to much of life on Earth.
They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the
world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.”

See:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/abs/nature09268.html

16 August 2010

Dennis Gets It!!!

15 August 2010


BOISE, Idaho - A company formed by Boise-based Micron Technology Inc. and Origin Energy of Australia says it plans to start making extremely thin but highly efficient solar cells that will be available next year.

Transform Solar officials say the so-called sliver solar cells will be made at a plant in Boise where Micron once made computer chips, and the cells will be combined into solar panels at another plant owned by Micron in Nampa.

"There is nothing comparable to sliver (cells) on the market," Phil Mackey of Transform Holdings told the Idaho Statesman.

He said Transform Solar has hired 70 employees and expects to hire up to 50 more, with most of the jobs based in southwest Idaho.

Micron and Origin late last year announced the agreement that officials said takes advantage of Origin's experience in energy markets and Micron's expertise in making thin semiconductors.

Mackey said Transform Solar's manufacturing and research will be based in southwest Idaho, and more research and development will be done in Adelaide, Australia.

Company officials say that because the sliver solar cells are so thin, the cost of the silicon used to make them can be reduced by 90 percent, making the cells competitive in the crowded solar energy field.

The company says the cells are less than 50 microns, or less than two-thousandths of an inch, making them the thinnest in production, and bifacial, meaning they can capture sun energy from both faces.

Earlier this month, Transform Solar introduced its sliver technology at the Intersolar trade show in Germany.

Also, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced earlier this month that solar panels using the technology will be used in a $45 million facility proposed by Sunergy World near the Boise Airport that will be able to generate 10 megawatts.

"We've been engaged with Transform since late February and early March," said Mark van Gulik, president of Sunergy World.

Elected leaders in the region are hoping the hiring of workers to build the panels is a sign of better times ahead.

"Everybody in the state is cautiously hoping we've seen the bottom of this recession," said Nampa Mayor Tom Dale. "This is a turn in the right direction."

14 August 2010

PV & Solar Thermal


A ZEN PV Twin system is the unique combination of photovoltaic cells with a solar thermal absorber, forming one device that converts solar radiation into electricity and heat simultaneously.

The excess heat generated in the PV cells is removed and converted into useful thermal energy. As a result, PVT absorbers generate 43% more solar energy per square meter than a combination of separate photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors In addition, the integration of the two functions in one device leads to large potential savings in material use and in production, balance-of-system and installation costs. This also gives PVT an aesthetic advantage: only one building element is required to produce both forms of solar energy.

13 August 2010

Will Salt Water Replace Fossil Fuels & Solve the World's Energy Crisis?


Many of world's great discoveries -from x-rays to penicillin- where made by accident.

Did someone accidentally invent a machine that could solve the gasoline and energy crisis plaguing our planet?

Sanibel Island resident John Kanzius wondered if his background in physics and radio could come in handy in treating the cancer attacking his body. Kanzius, 63, invented a machine that emits radio waves in an attempt to kill cancerous cells while leaving normal cells intact. While testing his machine, he noticed that his invention did something else—it burned salt water.

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with the radio-frequency generator he developed for the purpose of treating cancer. To his surprise, he discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn. This discovery has scientists around the world excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

This unexpected breakthrough is "the most remarkable in water science in 100 years," according to Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, who has now independently verified the phenomenon at his State College lab.

The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.

"This is the most abundant element in the world. It is everywhere," Roy said. "Seeing it burn gives me the chills."

Roy will meet this week with officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to try to obtain research funding. Scientists want to find out whether the energy output from the burning hydrogen — which reached a heat of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit — would be enough to power a car or other heavy machinery.

"We will get our ideas together and check this out and see where it leads," Roy said. "The potential is huge."

Posted by Rebecca Sato

12 August 2010

No Comment Needed

11 August 2010

New Republican Contract For America

Back in 1994 the Republican Party announced a "Contract for America" that laid out their plans if they were elected. The American people fell for this proposed contract and the Republicans were able to seize control of Congress. Sadly, the Republican policies were enacted and, after the election of George Bush, accelerated. And the effects on this country was disastrous.

Now in 2010 the Republicans want to take control of Congress again. But this time they are not announcing what they want to do. They are just trying to demonize the Democrats and their efforts to pull the country out of the recession caused by the Republican policies. This is because the Republicans have no new policies or "contract" to divulge. They are still clinging to the failed Republican/Bush policies of the past.

The Republicans know the American people do not want a return to the Bush policies of the past. That's why they are basing their hopes on slandering Democratic initiatives and hiding their own ideas (which would be great for the richest Americans and terrible for everyone else). But the Democrats are not going to let them get away with that. They have taken the policies the Republicans would like to enact and put them in the form of a new Republican contract. Here is that contract:

NEW REPUBLICAN / TEABAGGER CONTRACT ON AMERICA

1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Health Insurance Reform)
2. Privatize Social Security (or phase it out altogether)
3. End Medicare as it presently exists
4. Extend Bush tax cuts for the rich
5. Repeal Wall Street Reform
6. Protect those responsible for Gulf oil spill (and future disasters)
7. Abolish the Department of Education
8. Abolish the Department of Energy
9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency
10. Repeal the 17th Amendment (providing direct election of senators)

All of the above have been proposed by the teabagger wing of the Republican Party and endorsed by at least some elected Republican officials. If you would like to see these insane proposals actually enacted, then you should vote Republican in November. But if you are smart enough to know that these things are protecting ordinary Americans from the greedy rich and corporations and must be protected, then you should vote Democratic this Fall.

Don't fall for the Republican lies and slanders. Don't let them take America backwards to the failed policies of the past.

10 August 2010

No Comment Needed

09 August 2010

No Comment Needed

08 August 2010

Republicans Vote To Continue Recession

If anyone needed any more proof that the Republicans are trying to damage the economy and make sure there is no economic recovery before the November elections, then the Senate Republicans provided that last Thursday. These Republicans, who like to pose as the defenders of small businesses, voted to continue to block a bill that would have provided expanded loan programs and tax breaks for small businesses.

The bill, favored by such Republican supporters as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, needed 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster and allow a vote for passage. It got 58 votes -- all of them Democrats. All Republicans voted to block the bill, including Senator George Lemieux (R-Florida), who helped to write the bill. (Lemieux is pictured).

Why did the Republicans block this bill (which many of them and their supporters think is a good bill)? Because they know that most jobs are created in this country by small businesses. The bill would have created a $30 billion lending program in the Treasury Department just for small businesses, and given those small businesses another $12 billion in tax breaks. This bill could be a real boon for job creation in this country.

But the Republicans don't want new jobs to be created before November. They want the recession to continue unabated until the election, in the hopes that voters will blame Democrats for not improving the economy. They don't really have any new policies of their own (except for more tax breaks for their rich friends) and they know that an improving economy will probably help the Democrats in the coming election.

To make a long story short, the Republicans are pinning their election hopes on keeping the recession going through November. I hope all the millions of unemployed Americans and hurting small businesses remember these mean-spirited actions by the Republicans when they vote this Fall. These senators were sent to Washington to make things better for Americans -- not block an economic recovery in the hopes of political gain.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

07 August 2010

Study: Solar power is cheaper than nuclear



The Holy Grail of the solar industry — reaching grid parity — may no longer be a distant dream. Solar may have already reached that point, at least when compared to nuclear power, according to a new study by two researchers at Duke University.

It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

If the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour – the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power.
The authors point out that some commercial scale solar developers are now offering electricity at 14 cents a kWh in North Carolina, a price which is expected to continue to drop.

While the study includes subsidies for both solar and nuclear power, it estimates that if subsidies were removed from solar power, the crossover point would be delayed by a maximum of nine years.

The report is significant not only because it shows solar to be a cheaper source of energy than nuclear. The results are also important because, despite the Senate’s failure to pass a climate and energy bill this year, taxpayers now bear the burden of putting carbon into the atmosphere through a variety of hidden charges – or externalities, as economists call them. Fossil fuels currently account for 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. annually. (Nuclear generates 20 percent.)

Having dropped below nuclear power, solar power is now one of the least expensive energy sources in America.

06 August 2010

Richard Nixon Environmental Hero

There was a time prior to 1980 when both Repubes and Dems took the environment seriously. Unfortunately, Saint Ronnie the Rotten Raisin changed all that starting in the 1980's. Here are some excerpts from Richard Nixon:

I have become convinced that the 1970’s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment. It is literally now or never.
—President
Nixon’s Signing Statement for the National Environmental Policy Act, 1 January 1970

Richard Nixon emphasized the environments importance to him by prefacing the signing with some remarks. He was at ease —he even joked a bit with the reporters— but there was no mistaking how seriously he took the legislation and the occasion:
As you know, the bill we are signing today is the environmental bill. There is one line in there that I am particularly stimulated by, when I said we had to work on the environment because it is now or never.
If you look ahead 10 years, you project population growth, car growth, and that means, of course, smog growth, water pollution, and the rest.
An area like this will be unfit for living; New York will be, Philadelphia, and, of course, 75 percent of the people will be living in areas like this.
So unless we start moving on it now-there is a lead time–unless we move on it now, believe me, we will not have an opportunity to do it later, because then when people have millions more automobiles, and, of course, the waters and so forth developing in the way that they do without plants for purification, once the damage is done, it is much harder to turn it around. It is going to be hard as it is.
That is why I indicate here that a major goal, when you talk about New Year’s resolutions, I wouldn’t say for the next year but for the next 10 years–and I don’t mean that I intend to run for a third term–for the next 10 years for this country must be to restore the cleanliness of the air, the water, and that, of course, means moving also on the broader problems of population congestion, transport, and the like.

ASK YOURSELF, "What are the chances we could create the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act or the EPA in today's political environment?" If you answer this question honestly, you will realize just how screwed we are!

05 August 2010

World’s first battery fuelled by air

Scientists say the revolutionary ‘STAIR’ (St Andrews Air) battery could now pave the way for a new generation of electric cars, laptops and mobile phones.

The cells are charged in a traditional way but as power is used or ‘discharged’ an open mesh section of battery draws in oxygen from the surrounding air.

This oxygen reacts with a porous carbon component inside the battery, which creates more energy and helps to continually ‘charge’ the cell as it is being discharged.

By replacing the traditional chemical constituent, lithium cobalt oxide, with porous carbon and oxygen drawn from the air, the cell is much lighter than current batteries.

And as the cycle of air helps re-charge the battery as it is used, it has a greater storage capacity than other similar-sized cells and can emit power up to 10 times longer.

Professor Peter Bruce of the Chemistry Department at the University of St Andrews, said: “The benefits are it’s much smaller and lighter so better for transporting small applications.

“The size is also crucial for anyone trying to develop electric cars as they want to keep weight down as much as possible.

“Storage is also important in the development of green power. You need to store electricity because wind and solar power is intermittent.”

04 August 2010

Germany Requiring Renewable Energy for Every Building


Buildings are responsible for about one-third of global energy use. But there are many ways to change that equation; strengthening building codes is one clear arena. In my community, for example, 20 years ago, the ceiling "R" (insulation level) requirement was R-13, today it is R-38 (though expert guidance is "at least R-45" and most of us who care about energy strive for above R-50). That sort of change leads to significant reductions in energy use.

Well, the German government has just announced new building codes that will change the landscape when it comes to distributed renewable power: Starting 1 January 2009, all new homes built in German will have to meet 14 percent of total energy consumption for heating and domestic hot water with renewable power.

Heating is a fruitful space for renewable power, especially in new construction, as this can rely on solar thermal heating especially associated with radiant heating systems (whether in radiators or in the floors/walls). Thus, solar hot water systems can easily beat the 14 percent target. In Vermont, a rough corollary for Germany, one can meet 50 percent of home hot water requirements with solar hot water with "excellent architectural flexibility." And the financial payoff for that solar hot water will be relatively quick (dependent on fuel prices, installation cost, etc., perhaps 5-8 years).

Heating buildings is about 40 percent of total German energy consumption with just six percent of that renewable power today. The overall target for 2020 is 14 percent. Thus, starting in 2010, older buildings will require renovation to bring renewable contribution to their heating to at least ten percent.

As per the Renewable Energy reporting, there are a number of things going on with this bill that will help spark action:

Fines of up to 500,000 Euros ($700,000) for failing to meet these requirements;
$350 million Euros / year in subsidies for helping homeowners install renewable energy systems (including solar and wood stoves)
Home energy ratings will be introduced in 2008, which will create a favorable public statement for more efficient buildings.
Baden-Wurttemberg already has a law requiring new buildings provide 20 percent of their heating and hot water requirements from renewable sources.
There is an associated effort to improve home energy efficiency with, for example, increased insulation.
The German government estimates that 1960s homes use four times the energy for heating than a modern, energy-efficient home.

The bill is estimated to have an annual cost across the economy of 31 billion euros per year. But, the 36 billion euros per year in lower bills for coal, oil, and gas will offset this without considering other benefits (such as reduced pollution, reduced requirements to move that coal, oil, gas, etc).

03 August 2010

02 August 2010

01 August 2010