30 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

29 April 2011

Tom Degan Hits the Nail - SQUARLY

I meet an awful lot of people via Facebook. One of them is a gifted artist from Media, Pennsylvania named Donna Cusano (photo on the left). Late last night she posted on her page the following eye-opener:

"The homeless go without eating. The elderly go without medicine. The mentally ill go without treatment. Troops go without proper equipment. Veterans go without benefits that were promised to them. Yet we give billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest 2% of Americans -- those who need it least. Only 1% of Facebook users will re-post this message. I am in that 1% — what about you?"

Count me in as a one percenter, Donna!

I've never been one for electronic chain letters (and neither, for that matter, has Donna Cusano) but this was a message that needed to be spread. She inspired me to write the little ditty you are now reading. Read on.

The pistol finally went off yesterday in the game of Russian roulette that the Republican party has been playing for the last decade. I knew it would happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time. In an act of political suicide, the House Republicans effectively voted to end Medicare as we know it. It was a move that made no sense whatsoever - unless they plan on forcing through a constitutional amendment between now and November 2012 that limits the voting age to sixty-five and under - You just never know with these jackasses. But other than that....

What the hell were these nutty people thinking? Did they get the silly notion in their clueless heads that every senior citizen in the United States is going to die between now and Election Day 2012? True, a lot of them will shuffle off to eternity between now and then - no question about it. The logistical problem is the fact that there are a whole lot more on deck waiting to replace them. You see, old people - like the poor - will always be with us.

If you're elderly and middle class (or lower), the Republican party wants you to die. You see, there will be less of a strain on the system if more of them just keel over. This isn't terribly difficult to figure out.

One can understand why the handmaidens for the plutocracy might seem a little more sure of themselves this year than in years past. After all, they now have that atrocious Citizens United vs, FEC ruling behind them. This was the Supreme Court decision (the worst since 1896's Plessy vs. Ferguson) that gave corporations - domestic and foreign - the right to pervert the American electoral process by means of unlimited amounts of cash. The five justices who voted in favor of this judicial atrocity were all Republican appointees. You're not surprised by that, are you? I didn't think you would be. By now it is almost a law of nature:

The moon will rise in the east.

The sun will set in the west.

Conservative justices will behave like assholes.

In an opinion piece in this morning's New York Times, the columnist Charles Blow summed things up quite nicely in the following paragraph:

"Under the guise of deficit reduction, the Republicans are proposing to not only make the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, but to reduce their taxes even more — cutting the top individual rate from 35 percent to 25 percent to “promote growth and job creation.” And they plan to pay for this by taking a buzz saw to programs that benefit the poor, elderly and otherwise vulnerable."

Mr. Blow goes on to point out the fact that cutting taxes on a class of people who have more money than they'll possibly spend in a lifetime will not "promote growth and job creation". It hasn't thus far. In fact, as Blow also points out, there's no documentation in history of such a scheme ever producing very much economic growth - and fewer jobs. Why would anyone in his or her right mind believe that things will be any different this time around? How on earth do they think they're going to be able to pull this off? They must think the American people are mighty stupid....oh, wait a minute....That's how they plan on pulling this off. Never mind.

Just when you think these silly bastards and bitches have gone as low as anyone - or anything - can possibly go, they cheerfully break precedents that were thought to be unbreakable. Twenty years ago I thought Pat Buchanan to be the epitome of right wing craziness. Today he is a model of reason compared to the rest of them (Truth be told, old Pat has grown on me in a weird and convoluted sort of way). As they continue to lower the bar of decency, the further they alienate the people who describe themselves as "moderate" - which is most Americans I think.

Like rabid little myna birds on an LSD binge, they continue to chirp away about how Barack Obama is going to be a one-term president. They had better think again. Just take a good look at the pathetic GOP contenders for the job! Whom do you think is their front-runner at this stage of the game? If your answer is "Mitt Romney" you're fired. That's right, boys and girls, the leader of the pack at this moment is none other than Donald Trump! Is that a hoot or what? Watch with glee as they devour themselves during the primaries. This is gonna be beautiful!

The message the Republicans sent to the American people the other day is the same one they've been sending since the administration of Ulysses S Grant nearly a century-and-a-half ago. Unlike times past however, this time the message was not cloaked in subtlety. It was as clear as can be:

"Fuck you people. You don't matter. You never have. You never will. We own you. Die for all we care."

There was nothing subliminal about it. We just aren't on their radar. And to make matters merrier, they are now concocting legislation in many swing/purple states that will make it difficult - in some cases impossible - for certain people to vote: the poor, minorities, the young - You know! The people more likely to vote for a left-leaning candidate. Look at what these fucking animals have done to our country....No offense to animals.

No doubt about it: Obama has been a huge disappointment. But considering all of the crap he has had to contend with, it's a miracle he's been able to perform the job at all. Maybe with a Democratically controlled House and Senate behind him he might be able to rev up his progressive mojo we saw three years ago during the campaign. Maybe not. We shall see.

Tom Degan

REPUBES plain talk.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE ARE THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE INCREASE IN U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENDING SINCE 1950. When consevatives talk about "excess spending", what they're *really* saying is "eliminate Social Security and Medicare". Conservatives are proposing the Soylent Green solution to the problem of the elderly consuming 9% of our national GDP for their healthcare and 6.37% of GDP for Social Security. Just turned 65? Report to a pet food factory for processing, citizen! That’s the conservative solution — they believe that if you’re no longer employed/employable in the private sector, you’re now a “surplus asset” to be disposed of. They have no empathy, no compassion, no conscience, and become very upset typically when you even mention those words in their presence, claiming that they do possess those qualities. Well, I suppose they do… for some definition of the words “empathy”, “compassion”, and “conscience” in some alternate universe, where undoubtedly the unicorns are pink and cotton candy grows on trees… but not in this universe, of course, where they blithely propose the premature death of millions of elders by condemning spending on elders’ healthcare and Social Security pensions as “excess spending”. So it goes.

28 April 2011

Great Piece by the Snarky Penguin

I have two choices for health insurance at work:

A major national insurance company with a reputation for "losing" your claims forms and not paying doctors. If you get sick, you'll end up being tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket and likely have to declare bankruptcy. That's if you survive -- if you need something really expensive where doctors won't even start treatment until they've gotten pre-approval from an insurer, good luck.
A major regional HMO which avoids paying for expensive treatments by simply not doing them and hoping you die before the appeals process with the state insurance commission is complete and the courts force them to provide the contracted-for treatment. They have calculated that, for example, the cost of treating leukemia (roughly $1M) is far higher than the amount of premium income they get from a typical employer group, so even if your employer threatens to move their entire company to a different insurer, they just shrug and say "Go ahead, we're still ahead of where we'd be if we paid for your employee's leukemia treatment."
These are the companies that PelosiReidCare is forcing me to have insurance with. (I call it PelosiReidCare because Obama had nothing to do with it, other than signing the final bill). Apparently the best health care plan for me is, "don't get sick." Wish me luck :(.
Soo.... why isn't the magic free market fairy (see left) not providing me with health insurance that actually, like, pays for the healthcare I need if I get sick? Two reasons:

Health insurance is inherently anti-capitalist. Health insurance is to capitalism what kryptonite is to Superman. In capitalism, businesses make money by providing services. In capitalism, for example, a restaurant makes money by cooking food and serving it to you. If they didn't cook food and serve it to you, they would make no money. Health insurers, by contrast, make money by not providing service. The more health care they don't pay for, the more money they make. In short, health insurance simply is incompatible with the profit motive because it profits by not providing service.
Health insurance is largely provided by employers as a benefit, rather than purchased by individuals (less than 7% of all health insurance is individual policies), and employers buy the cheapest insurance, not the best. The HMO above is not-for-profit but was formed by employers to keep their health care costs down, and still pursues that mission with a vengeance. The only way private insurers can compete with an HMO that was formed to deny as much care as possible is to, duh, deny as much care as possible.
In short, the entire system was set up to systematically deny care, not provide care, and this is what PelosiReidCare enshrined as national law. I would gladly pay to buy into Medicare and Tricare like my mother and stepdad (military retiree) receive. They get the care they need when they need it and don't have to worry about dealing with insurance companies trying to deny care. But PelosiReidCare give me no option to do so, which is why when the GOP runs against "ObamaCare", it's getting resonance amongst those who don't pay much attention (who haven't figured out yet that the GOP's health care plan is "don't get sick, and if you do, die quickly"). Forcing people to be part of a system that is inherently broken is never going to be popular, no matter how much people said they wanted "the current system, just a bit improved" back when Pelosi and Reid were doing their polling to decide what PelosiReidCare would look like...
-- Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

27 April 2011

Vancouver lays groundwork for carbon-neutral buildings

The City of Vancouver is laying the groundwork to achieve its ambitious goal of requiring all new buildings to be carbon neutral starting in 2020.

Also called net-zero buildings, these structures generate as much energy as they consume, thereby producing no climate-altering greenhouse gasses.

According to David Ramslie, manager of the city’s sustainable-development program, a new building code is coming out next year, one that he described as the first real step toward making residential and commercial constructions carbon neutral in the near future.

“It’s not going to get us all the way there, but it’s going to get us pretty close,” Ramslie told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “It’s going to set us up with a lot of tools that we need to do to make the next jump in our building code. By 2020, we’re going to probably issue our final building code, which will be for carbon-neutral buildings. We see probably three big policy and regulatory jumps between now and then.”

The objective of having carbon-neutral buildings is part of Vancouver’s goal to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. According to its action plan, entitled “Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future”, the technology already exists for this new construction requirement.

Ramslie pointed to the 64-unit housing development for seniors at Southeast False Creek as the first carbon-neutral building in the city.

Generically called the Net Zero Building, it opened with other social-housing facilities last year. It draws waste heat generated by an adjoining grocery store and harvests the sun’s energy though a solar thermal system. The building’s energy consumption is lower than conventional buildings. This is made possible through design and good insulation.

The building actually sells the excess heat it generates to the city’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility, which supplies hot water and space heating to buildings at Southeast False Creek, according to Ramslie.

He explained that a major component to realizing carbon neutrality in buildings is the reduction of a structure’s energy use by at least 50 percent.

“Creating renewable energy is not an easy thing to do,” Ramslie said. “It’s expensive, and when you look at a building that uses as much energy as it does today, it will be almost impossible but definitely not very economic to produce that much energy on site. But if we were to reduce the total energy use by 50 percent, then we can start to get to a place where renewable energy consumption can perhaps meet the needs of the building.”

That’s a challenge that sustainable-building expert Stephen Pope is familiar with. An architect by training, Pope looks at energy flows as a researcher with Natural Resources Canada.

“The amount of energy you can generate from any one particular place is limited by our conversion technologies right now,” Pope told the Straight by phone from Ottawa. “So for an individual building to be energy neutral in an urban circumstance is very, very difficult. It is easy to put more people on a piece of land than you can generate energy for under our current understanding of what people need. It’s very easy to oversaturate the land and create a larger energy demand than you can satisfy.”

According to Pope, the concept of carbon-neutral buildings is gaining currency because buildings today are extremely wasteful.

In Vancouver, for example, more than 50 percent of the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions are accounted for by heating and the provision of hot water in buildings.

Although Vancouver is targeting the operations of future buildings to be energy neutral, Pope noted that other definitions of this idea include carbon neutrality for materials used in construction.

“So you have to then cover that investment by [energy] savings over the life of the building, and if you’re going to use that full description, you have to sort of amortize that original investment in energy for the materials,” Pope said. “It has to generate more energy than it actually uses to amortize over time that original investment.”

26 April 2011

Just in Time for Earth Day: Report Urges Shift from Freeways to Transit

Written by Eric Doherty

Shifting spending from freeways to transit will not only reduce BC’s greenhouse gas emissions, but lead to healthier, safer communities for all British Columbians. This is the conclusion of a new study which I co-authored with Patrick Condon, Kari Dow, Marc Lee and Gordon Price.

Transportation Transformation: Building Complete Communities and a Zero-Emission Transportation System in BC, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Wilderness Committee, sets out key strategies for urban, suburban and rural areas that will improve transportation and quality of life at the same time.

“Instead of allocating billions of precious tax dollars on wider roads and bigger bridges, like we’re doing now, we need to build a province-wide zero-carbon public transportation system,” says co-author Patrick Condon, UBC chair in Landscape and Livable Environments and a leading figure in sustainable design.

The study proposes an annual investment of $2 billion over the next ten years, much of it re-allocated from roadway expansion, with the goal of creating a zero-emission transportation system by 2040. As we point out, “Spending public funds on highway expansion and low carbon transportation is analogous to applying a car’s accelerator and brake at the same time.” The likely result, whether for a car or society, is a breakdown.

In our report, we argue that investments in electric public transit need to lead land use changes to create complete communities. Changes in transportation systems can be made quickly, while land use changes often take longer and are largely determined by transportation spending decisions. You can’t create true transit oriented development without good transit service.

To get to zero emissions, the study envisions a province of “complete communities” – in which residents do not have to travel far to meet their day-to-day needs. Instead, they would be able to walk, bike or use electric public transit for most trips, and use shared electric vehicles. Complete communities have a mix of housing types (including affordable options), decent jobs, public services, parks and other public spaces, and commercial districts with restaurants, offices and retail outlets. The exact mix of transportation modes will depend on whether a community is urban, suburban or rural.

Economist Marc Lee, a co-author of the study, points out that transportation of people and goods accounts for about 40 per cent of BC’s greenhouse gas emissions. He proposes that transforming transportation is the logical next step in BC’s climate action agenda.

“If we think of the carbon tax as the stick, then a new transportation system is the carrot,” says Lee. “Many British Columbians who live in suburban and rural areas resent paying the carbon tax, and with good reason: they’ve been penalized for driving, but they aren’t provided with any alternatives. And that’s what we’re laying out here: an effective, doable alternative.”

Ben West, the Wilderness Committee’s lead climate campaigner, is not waiting long to translate this new report into action. He is helping a youth group to organize an Earth Day Parade, concert and info fair this Friday, April 22 – a central message of this event is the need to shift transportation spending from roads to transit. The Earth Day Parade starts at 11am at the Broadway and Commercial SkyTrain station.

Other groups are not waiting either. Lower Mainland Council of Canadians chapters have teamed up with StopThePave.org for an Earth Day Mass Direct Action to stop freeway expansion and shift funding to transit. The action starts at 2pm at the Annieville Supermarket in North Delta, 10996 River Road, Delta. People can go to both events: at the end of the Earth Day Parade a group bicycle ride will leave for the Delta action. People who want to stay at the concert and info fair longer can take free buses directly to the action, starting at about 2pm. More details can be found at StopThePave.org.

25 April 2011

Algae Could Replace 17% Of U.S. Oil Imports


We've already revealed how you're going to be ingesting gallons of algae every day, once it's used to spice up protein supplements, medication, and even skin moisturizer. But the slimy green stuff has powers that extend far beyond making your skin less wrinkly to performing useful functions. In fact, if used to make fuel, it has the potential to replace 17% of all U.S oil imports, with the added bonus for bored headline writers of literally going green.
It's not as if there is a shortage of startups attempting to make biofuel out of algae. But many of them have run into a problem: growing algae requires a lot of water, and that drastically limits production capabilities, because using a lot of water to save oil is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But water problems aside, a report from the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory calculates that 21 billion gallons of algal oil (that's equivalent to 17% of our current dead-dinosaur oil imports) could be produced on a land area the size of South Carolina (spread across the country, of course, unless South Carolina wants to volunteer). [I volunteer 'em! T.]
The water required would be enormous--25% of the total we already use for irrigation. But that isn't much different than the water requirements for other, less land-efficient biofuel sources. Corn-based ethanol requires a similar amount of water (when water use per mile driven is taken into account), but algae can produce 80 times more oil per hectare than corn.
But no matter the efficiency, it's still too much water to make any real dent in oil imports, at least if growers rely entirely on freshwater ponds. DOE researchers are currently investigating the potential to grow algae in salt water and waste water. There's no word on how much it would cost to scale up to 21 billion gallons of algal oil from our current levels of basically nothing, but we imagine it would be cheaper than continuing to import oil and then all dying during bloody resource wars.

24 April 2011

Shale Gas No Panancea

Shale-gas companies are pushing to put shale-gas energy ahead of renewable energy in government policy

These curves were created using industry estimates of reserves for the U.S. and assuming world reserves scale to U.S. reserves according to land area ratio.

Because of the fast extraction shale-gas prices will go down for the next decade and then will rise precipitously as extraction falls rapidly. It will be difficult for customers and governments to refrain from burning the shale gas as rapidly as possible instead of moving to renewable energy.

These curves show that it is very dangerous to put reliance on shale-gas for our energy future. The shale gas should be dedicated to creating the infrastructure for renewable energy rather than burning it for other uses. Your grandchildren will ask “Why did you burn it instead of using it to secure the future?”

23 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

22 April 2011

Paul "the hatchet" Ryan Plan

This chart shows that Ryans' ridiculous plan to privatize Medicare would result in more dollars coming out of the pockets of the elderly. But this assumes that all of the elderly would be able to purchase private insurance with the government provided vouchers, and that is very doubtful. Many of those who depend only on a small Social Security check to live will not be able to afford any insurance at all. Ryan is just throwing the elderly under the bus so the rich and corporations don't have to pay their fair share in taxes.

From Jobsanger

21 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

20 April 2011


The above chart shows how the Republicans have shifted the tax burden in America. The top 400 income earners in this country have seen their tax burden drop to 16.6%, the lowest since before World War II -- and the Republicans still claim their tax burden is too much and want to cut it further (even though they have more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans). Meanwhile, the tax burden on the typical American family has climbed to 13.6% (from a low of 7.4% in 1955). Can there be any doubt remaining that the Republican policies favor the rich and hurt the rest of America?

19 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

18 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

17 April 2011

No Comment Necessary

16 April 2011


J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute 
Plan B Update
April 7, 2011

Nearly four weeks after a 9.0-magnitute earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, emergency personnel are still struggling to stabilize the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Beyond the immediate need to minimize further radioactive leakage and protect public health, the government is beginning to reconsider its long-term plans for nuclear power expansion.

International media coverage has typically assumed that Japan must expand its electricity generation from coal, oil, and natural gas if nuclear is no longer an option. But the leaders in Tokyo do not have to be restricted to just these choices. A review of Japan's geothermal, wind, and solar energy potential shows that domestic renewable resources could easily power the world's third-largest economy. 

The aftermath of the two natural disasters has brought into sharp focus the vulnerability of a nation currently reliant on imports to meet the vast majority of its energy needs. Japan imports all the uranium used to fuel its nuclear reactors, which account for 11 percent of its energy consumption. And Japan is the world's top importer of both coal and natural gas, which make up 21 percent and 17 percent of its energy use. It is also the third-ranking oil importer. Consumed largely in the transportation sector, oil accounts for 46 percent of Japan's energy use. The remainder comes from renewable sources, mostly hydropower. Altogether, Japan spends some $160 billion a year importing all of its coal and uranium and virtually all of its oil and natural gas.

Considering the risks inherent in nuclear power, the chronic political instability gripping some key oil-producing regions, and the climate volatility and pollution-related disease resulting from continued fossil fuel use, Japan's current energy economy is far from secure. The good news is that energy from the earth, the wind, and the sun can change this picture dramatically. 

Located along the tectonically active Pacific Ring of Fire, with nearly 200 volcanoes and some 28,000 hot springs, Japan is one of the world's most geothermally rich countries. Using conventional technologies, geothermal energy could provide over 80,000 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity—enough to meet half of the country's electricity needs. But with the modern enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology now available, Japan's geothermal potential could be far greater. To give a sense of the possibilities, a U.S. Geological Survey study of geothermal resources in the United States found that EGS increased estimated U.S. geothermal power potential 13-fold. 

Despite this vast resource, Japan has developed just 536 megawatts of geothermal capacity since the first utility-scale plant came on-line in Iwate Prefecture in 1966. (See data at www.earth-policy.org.) In a given year, geothermal provides less than 1 percent of Japan's electricity. What makes this particularly surprising is that three Japanese firms—Fuji, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi—produce two thirds of the world's geothermal turbines. 

Similarly, Japan's enormous wind energy potential has hardly been tapped. At the end of 2010 Japan had installed 2,300 megawatts of wind capacity, enough to power 700,000 Japanese homes. The official goals for 2020 and 2030 are 10,000 and 20,000 megawatts, respectively, with the latter capacity equal to 6 percent of Japan's current electricity consumption. But a 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that Japan's land-based wind resources could provide half of its electricity. If harnessable offshore wind resources are included, the wind energy potential far exceeds current electricity needs. 

Japan's most ambitious renewable energy goals are those for solar photovoltaics (PV), mostly in rooftop panels. Among the world leaders in installed PV capacity, Japan connected an estimated 900 megawatts to the grid in 2010, bringing its total capacity to more than 3,500 megawatts. By 2020, Japan aims to increase this eightfold, to 28,000 megawatts, with a goal of 53,000 megawatts by 2030. This would be sufficient to power 18 million Japanese homes. 

Solar PV in Japan owes its recent rapid growth to strong policies promoting its adoption. For example, the government covers up to 35 percent of a home PV system's installation costs. A requirement that utilities pay homeowners a premium for electricity fed back into the grid by renewable energy systems—known as a feed-in tariff or FIT—makes residential PV even more attractive. Begun in mid-2009, Japan's FIT rate for PV is about twice what a resident would normally pay for a kilowatt-hour of electricity. Moreover, with technology improvements and further installations under the national PV 2030+ initiative, the government aims to make solar PV among the cheapest electricity options available. 

While PV appears to be on its way to widespread adoption, multiple obstacles have impeded wind and geothermal power. One important constraint is the disproportionate funding for energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) allocated to the various technologies. Geothermal has received absolutely no RD&D funding from the government since 2002. Wind receives roughly $10 million per year. In stark contrast, nuclear power gets $2.3 billion per year. 

Geography has also constrained geothermal and wind development. Japan's best land-based wind resources are in northern and southern prefectures, whereas demand is highest in the middle of the country. Thus electrical grid and transmission expansion will be necessary to fully harness Japan's wind energy. With geothermal, much of the potential capacity lies within national parks and has been declared unavailable under conservation laws passed in the 1970s. But because geothermal projects can be developed without significant negative environmental impacts, the government may want to revisit this policy.

Beyond being adequate to meet Japan's current electricity needs many times over, geothermal and wind energy could also displace much of the expensive imported oil now used in transportation. Japan already has impressive rail ridership compared with other industrial nations. The key now is to shift more road freight to electrified rail, increase the use of light rail and metro subways within cities, and accelerate the replacement of conventional cars with plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles—and to run them all largely on electricity generated from renewable sources. 

As Japan recovers and rebuilds from the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, the country will have to decide whether to rely even more heavily on inherently risky nuclear power and imported fossil fuels or to chart a new energy course. If the nation turned to renewables instead of fossil fuels and nuclear power, it would be investing in the health, energy security, and economic well-being of its people. In addition to avoiding the risk of future radioactive contamination of air, water, and crops, Japan would save tens of billions of dollars annually on imported energy. It would also nurture its already formidable renewable energy manufacturing industries. Japan was second only to China in PV manufacturing in 2009, and, as noted, Japanese companies dominate global geothermal turbine production. 

Clearly, Japan does not have to settle for sources of energy that either pose a radioactive risk or destabilize the earth's climate. By fully committing to wind, solar, and geothermal, Japan could cancel all planned nuclear and fossil fuel power plants, replace the existing ones, and power its transportation system with carbon-free domestic energy.

15 April 2011

Look, honey, I found 7,000 votes!

Wisconsin discovers 7,000 votes for GOP candidate. Said votes had apparently been "accidentally" left on a county recorder's personal computer, and "accidentally" discovered during the canvassing process.

Hmm... I seem to recall another election where something of the sort happened... Box 13, anybody?. I guess the question is whether the registration book was signed in alphabetical order in the same handwriting, or they got several different people to sign it when they schlupped Box 13 up to Wisconsin ;).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

14 April 2011

Very important reminder!

"'Fascism' should more appropriately be called 'Corporatism' because it is the merging of corporate and state power."

Benito Mussolini
Father of the fascist state

12 April 2011


Despite shifting into higher gear within the consumer's green conscience, hybrid vehicles are still tethered to the gas pump via a fuel-thirsty 100-year-old invention: the internal combustion engine.However, researchers at Michigan State University have built a prototype gasoline engine that requires no transmission, crankshaft, pistons, valves, fuel compression, cooling systems or fluids. Their so-called Wave Disk Generator could greatly improve the efficiency of gas-electric hybrid automobiles and potentially decrease auto emissions up to 90 percent when compared with conventional combustion engines.
The engine has a rotor that's equipped with wave-like channels that trap and mix oxygen and fuel as the rotor spins. These central inlets are blocked off, building pressure within the chamber, causing a shock wave that ignites the compressed air and fuel to transmit energy.
The Wave Disk Generator uses 60 percent of its fuel for propulsion; standard car engines use just 15 percent. As a result,the generator is 3.5 times more fuel efficient than typical combustion engines.
Researchers estimate the new model could shave almost 1,000 pounds off a car's weight currently taken up by conventional engine systems.
Last week, the prototype was presented to the energy division of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is backing the Michigan State University Engine Research Laboratory with $2.5 million in funding.
Michigan State's team of engineers hope to have a car-sized 25-kilowatt version of the prototype ready by the end of the year.

11 April 2011

Tom says it again!


I paid more in taxes last year than General Electric. You did, too.

And then there's that nasty subject of defense spending. Do you want to know why I love Bernie Sanders? Because he seems to be the only human being in Washington with the guts to say (or the sense to say) the unspeakable truth that no one else has the courage to say: We spend way-too-much of our national treasure on weapons of mass destruction. You know! Those things we took out Saddam Hussein for possessing that he never even possessed? If our representatives only had the foresight to understand this, a lot of the problems that plague the body politic would vanish. Not only that, we could reinvest in our infrastructure - and that would translate into jobs - lots and lots of them. It would also mean a long overdue renaissance for the middle class. But that's never going to happen. The chances are pretty good that your congressman or woman is bought and paid for by the military industrial complex.

Instead, the conservatives of both parties would rather privatize Medicare and Social Security. Instead of investing in our badly neglected infrastructure, they want tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy. Good luck, America.

The Republicans are telling us that they wish to "restore fiscal sanity in Washington". The only problem is that their proposals are beyond insane. The lunatics have not only taken over the asylum, they're writing the fucking prescriptions. Line up for your medications, boys and girls!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

10 April 2011

Tesla CEO: I’d Bet On Capacitors Over Batteries

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk says he bets that it could be capacitors — rather than batteries — that deliver an important breakthrough for electric transportation. “If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that it is not batteries. But capacitors,” said Musk at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Capacitors, or ultracapacitors, are energy storage devices that can deliver quick bursts of intense power and can withstand more charge and discharge cycles than batteries. They’re like batteries, and can be used in complement with batteries.

But it’s interesting that the CEO of a company that bases its technology around standardized, small format, lithium-ion batteries would make such a comment. Perhaps Tesla is doing some R&D on capacitor storage deep in its Palo Alto, Calif. labs?

The original reason Musk came out to California years ago was to do research on advanced, high energy density capacitors at Stanford, and to try to leverage what Musk said was tens of billions of dollars of R&D that’s been applied to capacitors for advanced ship making. But then, that whole Internet thing and PayPal happened. And then Tesla (and SolarCity and SpaceX).

Musk says he’s optimistic there will be a solution found by one or another companies in the capacitor space that “will supercede,” batteries. The capacitor companies I’ve written about include Ioxus, which makes ultracapacitors for transportation in complement with batteries; EEstor, which seems like it’s not ever going to deliver anything; Recapping, which is backed by Khosla Ventures and won an ARPA-E grant; and EnerG2, which makes materials for ultracapacitor makers.

09 April 2011

The bean counters are finding that green buildings make economic sense.

CB Richard Ellis (the world's largest property manager) finds that going green pays
Tom Bailey Jr. McClatchy-Tribune Regional News Mar. 26, 2011

Pity the polar bear and its melting habitat, but corporate America just doesn't much care anymore.

Several years ago U.S. business was more altruistic about converting to green, sustainable enterprise to help save the world from environmental collapse, David Pogue said Friday at the University of Memphis's first Conference on Sustainable Real Estate.

Then the market crashed.

"Firms went from sustainability to survivability," said Pogue, CB Richard Ellis's national director of sustainability.

And there's the good news for the climate.

Forget the cute penguins losing their ice, the bean counters are finding that green buildings make economic sense.

That's important because the highest consumers of energy and highest producers of carbon emissions are not cars, but buildings, conference officials said.

CBRE manages 750 million square feet of property in the United States, making it the world's largest property manager.

The company set a goal four years ago to become carbon neutral within four years.

It'll soon run its numbers for 2010 to determine whether it achieved success.

But CBRE surveys and researchers in the field are finding that corporate America's investment in sustainability is a strong, growing trend, not a fad.

To gauge whether green buildings make economic sense, CBRE conducted a survey involving 156 of its green buildings in 10 large U.S. markets. The buildings were either certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or achieved an Energy Star label.

"It's a pain in the butt to get LEED certified," Pogue said. Achieving LEED costs $100,000 on average, takes a year and demands the focus of a management team.

The survey found that the green buildings were 3.4 percent more occupied than general market buildings. Pogue described the difference as a "small but discernible improvement of occupancy rates."

The survey also found that tenants pay an average 1.46 percent more in rent for green buildings. Pogue noted the survey did not cherry-pick the newest buildings for the green category.

Surprisingly, rent at the Energy Star-labeled buildings were 4.8 percent below market, he said. But the LEED buildings commanded 7.38 percent above market in rent.

Pogue cited another office-building survey that found the amount of LEED certified square feet in the nation's top 25 U.S. markets doubled over the past two years.

In New York City, 10.1 percent of the square footage is now LEED, and it's 25 percent in Los Angeles, 35 percent in Houston and 37 percent in Denver.

The number of LEED buildings in those cities may be 1 percent, but significant, bigger ones have gone green.

Converting a building to LEED certification adds $5.6 million on average to its worth, Pogue said.

Having LEED buildings is almost an economic must in some places, such as downtown Boston. There, 20 of downtown's 22 primary buildings are already LEED. "In certain markets, if it's not LEED you will lose" tenants, rent revenue and value, Pogue said.

Of all the sustainability research in commercial real estate, the "holy grail" focuses on corporate attitudes and action, Pogue said.

He said he has one client in the tobacco industry. The company is conscious about being viewed as "the bad guy," and is concerned about the ability to hire talent.

The company is interested in converting to sustainable buildings so it can at least get off some "bad guy" lists and keep its stock from taking hits, Pogue said.

Studies also show that large publicly traded companies are taking more action in sustainability, while smaller, privately held firms generally are less concerned, he said.

Energy efficiency and sustainability are now a business unit of CBRE, and the company gets paid for it.

"Four years ago, it was altruism," Pogue said.

08 April 2011

China's Solution to Global Energy Crisis: Solar Greenhouses

Solar greenhouses have played a vital role in China's agricultural scene for years. New innovations in greenhouse design are allowing growers to produce more varieties of vegetables, even during long winter months. In a recently published report Chinese scientists called solar greenhouses "the most important type of infrastructures for growing horticultural crops in China."
A team of researchers from the College of Agronomy and Biotechnology at China Agricultural University presented an extensive report on single-slope solar greenhouses in a recent issue of HortTechnology. Based on 20 years of systematic studies, the report noted: "Increased proliferation of efficient solar greenhouses in China may contribute to solving worldwide problems such as the energy crisis and global climate change."
Single-slope solar greenhouses are built facing south using support and insulation walls on the north, east, and west sides. A short roof is installed on top of the north wall. The south side is supported by metal or bamboo frames (or a mixture of both materials), and is covered with plastic film and an insulating blanket. These energy-efficient greenhouses use solar energy as the only source of light and heat for winter crop production in the region between latitudes 32°N and 43°N for production of warm season crops such as tomato and cucumber.

As in other parts of the world, the feasibility of using solar greenhouses in China largely depends on the relative duration of sunshine in the winter and temperatures at the greenhouse site. Solar greenhouses are widely used in the regions north of Huai River and the Beijing area, where greenhouses usage has greatly reduced energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions. The success of China's solar greenhouse operations has contributed to the structures' adoption by countries such as Japan, Korea, and Russia.
The researchers noted that while solar greenhouses have many advantages—energy savings, reduced pollution, and improved economic development—the structures also have distinct disadvantages due to their heavy reliance on the sun and weather conditions. Especially during winter, less solar radiation and low temperatures can have a significant negative impact on warm-season vegetable productivity of the greenhouses, and addressing these issues can be challenging.
"Innovation and optimization of the greenhouse structure needs to continue. More work needs to be done on gutter-connected, double-arched, and semi-underground greenhouses. New wall insulation materials need to be developed to reduce the thickness of the wall while improving its insulation efficiency and expanding space utilization, said Zhen-Xian Zhang, lead author of the study. The study also recommended that breeding new varieties of horticultural crops that can adapt to low light and winter temperatures in solar greenhouses will provide another strategy to ensure sustainable development of the greenhouse industry.
"The solar greenhouse has a very bright future, especially given the amount of concern over the global energy crisis and climate change. Additionally, significant energy savings can be realized from switching to solar greenhouses. We hope this technology can be applied to regions of similar climate to help reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions," Zhang said.

07 April 2011

Watch This

06 April 2011

05 April 2011

Norway and Jordan Sign Agreement to Make Sahara Forest Project Oasis a Reality Read more: Norway and Jordan Sign Agreement to Make Sahara Forest Proj

The Sahara Forest Project, an incredible sustainable solution to resource scarcity that would turn the Sahara Desert into a source for food, water, and energy. If you thought the idea was too good to be true, think again. Norway and Jordan recently signed an agreement to allow for the development of a pilot Sahara Forest Project system on a plot of land in a coastal area in Jordan. The group will also conduct a number of studies in Jordan, with financial backing from Norwegian authorities.

The chosen test site is a 200,000 square meter plot in Aqaba, a coastal town in the far south of Jordan, close to the shore of the Red Sea. The agreement also secured an additional 2 million square meters for later expansion. The Sahara Forest Project combines Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Seawater Greenhouses to provide a huge amount of renewable energy and sustainable agricultural solutions, essentially turning one of the world’s most inhospitable environments into a flourishing oasis.

Seawater Greenhouses use solar power to convert salt water into fresh water, which is then used to grow fresh vegetables and algae (to absorb CO2). CSP provides the energy to power the whole operation. CSP uses thousands of mirrors to direct sunlight upon a water boiler, heating it to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The boiler produces steam, which moves a turbine to create energy.

04 April 2011

Rainforest Fungus Naturally Synthesizes Diesel

A fungus that lives inside trees in the Patagonian rain forest naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel, biologists announced today. And the fungus can grow on cellulose, a major component of tree trunks, blades of grass and stalks that is the most abundant carbon-based plant material on Earth.

"When we looked at the gas analysis, I was flabbergasted," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist at Montana State University, and the lead author of a paper in Microbiology describing the find. "We were looking at the essence of diesel fuel."

While genetic engineers have been trying a variety of techniques and genes to get microbes to create fuel out of sugars and starches, almost all commercial biofuel production uses the century-old dry mill grain process. Ethanol plants ferment corn ears into alcohol, which is simple, but wastes the vast majority of the biomatter of the corn plant.

Using the cellulose from plants — the stalk instead of the ear, or simply wood from poplars — to make liquid fuel is a long-held dream because it would be more environmentally efficient and cheaper, but is far more difficult.

First, the cellulose must be broken down into its constituent parts — sugars bearing carbon — and then those pieces must be synthesized into more complex hydrocarbons.
Both steps have proven difficult to do without applying large amounts of heat, pressure or chemicals.

"Traditionally that’s been an energy-intensive process that also involves lots of chemicals," said Andrew Groover, a plant geneticist studying cell wall formation at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station.
"So, one approach is to look for situations in nature where there are organisms that can break down wood as part of their natural lifestyle:
wood rot, fungi, termites."

What’s exciting about the Gliocladium roseum fungus, however, is that it can both break down cellulose and synthesize the liquid fuel.

"A step in the production process could be skipped," Strobel said in a press release.

That said, the paper’s authors admit that the technique is far from any sort of industrial production.

"This report presents no information on the cost-effectiveness or other details to make G. roseum an alternative fuel source," they write. "Its ultimate value may reside in the genes/enzymes that control hydrocarbon production, and our paper is a necessary first step that may lead to development programmes to make this a commercial venture."

The genome of the fungus is being analyzed at Yale University under the direction of Scott Strobel, a molecular biologist and Gary Strobel’s son.

But beyond the biofuel implications, Strobel said that because the fungus can manufacture what we would normally think of as components of crude oil, it casts some doubt on the idea that crude oil is a fossil fuel.

"It may be the case that organisms like this produced some — maybe not all — but some of the world’s crude," Strobel said.

03 April 2011


It's about damn time, don't you think?

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced Wednesday that they have been able to confirm a new high-efficiency solar cell design that utilizes nearly the entire solar spectrum.

Translation: They figured out a way to make solar panels generate electricity in the dark.

CleanTechnica says,

In earlier trials, the researchers used different alloys that achieved full spectrum responses but involved very high production costs. The advantage of gallium arsenide nitride is that it is very similar to a conventional semiconductor, gallium arsenide, and it can be produced with a commonly used fabrication method involving chemical vapor deposition.

The Lawrence Berkeley breakthrough represents just one path to increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of solar cells. Over at Ohio State University, a full spectrum solar cell is also under development, and Stanford is pursuing a new technology that cuts around the problem of solar cell efficiency loss due to high temperature

02 April 2011