Mar 31, 2010

First Time, Electric Current Harvested Directly From Algae

PopSci -  A step towards bio-batteries
HTML clipboard

Algae has been floated again and again as a possible means of biofuel production, usually through chemical processes that extract sugars or other organic compounds that can be processed into fuel.

But what if we could simply steal electricity from algae, no processing or chemical wizardry necessary? We can, says a team of researchers who recently stole electrons directly from algae for the very first time; it just isn't very efficient to do so.

Animals have been stealing energy from algae for eons, but like current biofuel production methods, they usually steal it in the form of stored-up chemical energy like sugars or starches. But a collaboration of Korean and Californian researchers wanted to take raw electricity directly from algae themselves by harvesting electrons.

Using the common Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a test subject, the researchers applied what's known as an overvoltage -- a tiny current that shocks the cells into motion. If the algae are shocked while simultaneously being exposed to sunlight, they begin to produce current that can be siphoned from the colony and put to use.

But naturally there is a downside: the power produced even from a rather large colony of algae isn't enough to power any consumer electronic device. In fact, to get a single amp one would need trillions of cells. And even then there's a net energy problem: the amount of energy derived is no more than that expended in the over voltage.

Which kind of makes it all sound like a waste of time, if not energy.

But in a larger context, the process has only recently been proved possible for the first time. The fact that the team was able to coax the algae into giving up any current at all is fairly remarkable, and could push open the door for further study into how we could sustainably siphon electrons from other natural processes without resorting to burning every hydrocarbon we can lay hands on. Other larger ecosystems could provide higher net gains and increases in technology could further increase yields. All of that is most likely a long way off, but in the meantime the idea is interesting to think about.

After all, we already know that if you can harvest the electrical charges within larger organisms, you can power a fairly sizeable robot civilization.

Please read full at Discovery News

"A Nighttime Letter to the Grandchildren"

Stewart Lee Udall - "My dear ones, your generation will face a series of environmental challenges that will dwarf anything any previous generation has confronted. I'm hoping to add some insights of my own based on things I learned as a policymaker in the 1950s and '60s, when I observed and participated in some monumental achievements and profound misjudgments. As a freshman congressman in 1955, I regrettably voted with my unanimous colleagues for the Interstate Highway Program. All of us acted on the shortsighted assumption that cheap oil was super-abundant and would always be available."

When Stewart Lee Udall died on March 20th at age 90, we lost a giant of a gentleman and a passionate former public servant. The Arizona native was perhaps the most influential U.S. Secretary of the Interior ever.
HTML clipboardHe served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1969, and played a major role in some of the nation's landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.

Said former Montana Congressman Pat Williams, "his passion and informed leadership persuaded both Presidents and the Congress to designate four new national parks: Canyon Lands in Utah, North Cascades in Washington State, Redwoods in California, and Guadalupe in Texas. He prompted the nation's first National Seashores, eight of them. He asked for and received the designation of six National Monuments and fifty Wildlife Refuges."

And Stewart knew energy. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he lunched numerous times with geophysicist M. King Hubbert. Shortly after the turn of the century, Stewart and his wife Lee penned this letter to their grandchildren…and yours.]

Stewart Lee Udall Wiki on oil and energy: In October 1972, Udall published a seminal article[6] in The Atlantic Monthly, called "Too many cars, too little oil. An argument for the proposition that 'less is more'" that foresaw problems with US transportation and energy policy and competition with emerging markets for scarce resources.[7] In 1974, Udall, along with Charles Conconi and David Osterhout, wrote "The Energy Balloon", discussing the United States' energy policies.

$30k Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle - Game Changer

From EERE News: Nissan has announced that its new electric vehicle, the Leaf, will sell for slightly less than $33,000, and will be available in some markets by the end of this year. The automaker will also offer a deal on personal charging docks for customers.
Photo of a compact, four-door car with trim lines.

The electric Nissan Leaf will begin appearing in select U.S. markets by the end of this year, and will be available nationwide in 2011. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Nissan

Nissan announced on March 30 that its new electric vehicle (EV), the Leaf, will have a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $32,780 for the standard model. The vehicle, designed to travel 100 miles on an average battery charge, will be available in some markets this December, with nationwide sales beginning in 2011. Nissan said it would begin accepting online reservations for the Leaf on April 20 for a fully refundable fee of $99. The automaker noted that each Leaf would be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as any potential state tax rebates for such alternative transportation. The nonprofit Plug In America called the pricing for the Leaf a "game changer" that will help to build a robust EV market. See the Plug In America press release.

As part of the buying process, Nissan will offer to install personal charging docks that operate on a 220-volt supply. The company said the average cost of the docks would be $2,200, but they too would be eligible for rebates. Using current national electricity averages, Nissan estimated that Leaf will cost less than $3 to recharge. The Leaf will also be available for leasing, with monthly payments starting at $349. In January, DOE closed a $1.4 billion loan to Nissan to retool and expand the company's factory in Smyrna, Tennessee, for the production of the Leaf and the battery packs used in the vehicle, with the goal of eventually producing 150,000 vehicles per year. See the Nissan press release, the Leaf Web site, and the DOE press release on the loan.

Please read full at (DOE) EERE News

Mar 30, 2010

EPA 'HERO' is online to help chemical public awareness

EPA has come a long way from the card catalogue!
HERO's search engine makes it easy to search through the hundreds of thousands of studies used in risk assessment.
Search HERO
EPonline -  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the Health and Environmental Research Online (HERO) database on March 24. HERO provides access to the scientific studies used in making key regulatory decisions, including EPA's periodic review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six major pollutants.
"The HERO database strengthens our science and our transparency ─ two pillars of our work at EPA. Giving the public easy access to the same information EPA uses will help open the lines of communication, increase knowledge and understanding, and open the doors of EPA," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Americans have a right to know the background of decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. We're taking a big step forward in opening government to the people."
The publicly accessible HERO database provides an easy way to review the scientific literature behind EPA science assessments, which are used to support agency decision-making. The database includes more than 300,000 scientific articles including the authors, titles, dates, and abstracts. In addition, through a simple keyword search, anyone can see information from the articles that were used to develop specific risk assessments.
HERO includes peer-reviewed literature used by EPA to develop its Integrated Science Assessments (ISA) that feed into the NAAQS review. It also includes references and data from the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), a database that supports critical agency policymaking for chemical regulation... EPonline

Tax Tips: Go Green, Save Green

From Consumerist -  The new energy credit for 2009 and 2010 is available on these items purchased for your primary personal residence only:
  • Energy-efficient windowsHTML clipboard
  • Skylights
  • Central air conditioners
  • Electric heat pumps
  • Water heaters
  • Exterior doors
  • Insulation
  • Natural gas, propane or oil furnaces
  • Natural gas, propane or oil hot water boilers
  • Biomass fuel stove
  • Main air circulating fans
  • Pigmented metal and reflective asphalt roofs

If your home is used partly for business, such as with a home office or a two-family building with one half rented, you must allocate the cost of qualifying property between personal and business use. Only the personal portion will qualify for the credit.

If you purchased an item that qualifies for the credit you should have received a "manufacturer's certification" from the vendor. If you are not sure if an item you purchased qualifies you can go to the Energy Star Web site.

A client of mine recently encountered a question about the enrgy credit and installation costs. You can include in the amount available for the credit "expenditures for labor costs properly allocable to the onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of the property" for qualifying heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, biomass stoves and water heaters.

Installation costs are not included in the amount available for the credit for windows, doors, installation or roofs. The credit for these items is limited to 30% of the cost of materials only, up to the $1,500 maximum. — Robert D. Flach

Please read full at Consumerist

Mapping the Hidden Costs of the Suburbs

GOOD -  Living in the suburbs often looks like the cheaper housing option—until you factor in the cost of transportation, that is.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology has an amazing online tool that maps 161,000 American neighborhoods and adds the transportation costs to the housing costs in a given place so you can see how affordable (or not) the far-flung exurbs really are.
HTML clipboard
In the lefthand map above, the yellow areas show where housing is less than 30 percent of average income and the blue areas show where it's more than 30 percent. On the righthand side, the yellow areas show where housing costs plus transportation costs are less than 45 percent and the blue areas show where that combined measure is more than 45 percent. It's an indirect comparison, but as you can see, a lot of places look cheap when you just look at housing (on the left), and that picture changes when you factor in transportation.

You can play around with the updated affordability index here and read their announcement about the release here.

It's Cheaper For Farmers To Let Strawberries Rot Than Sell Them Now

From The Consumerist - In Florida, HTML clipboardacres of delicious strawberries are starting to ripen, and... being left to rot and plowed under. Thanks to cold weather at just the right point of the winter growing season, berry crops are so bountiful that it's more cost-efficient to let the berries rot than it is to pay anyone to pick them.

Decades ago, during this time of year, farmers would turn their fields over for U-pick to finish up the season. But liability and a preference for planting a spring crop has caused that tradition to dwindle to just a few local farms.

Now, farmers just let the berries rot on the plants. It might seem wasteful, but they explain that if they pick for such low profits, they'll lose money. They can't afford to do that — especially after such a bad season.

The current (wholesale) price of a flat of strawberries is $5.90-$6.90, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, if you're wondering. One can only hope this will lead to a dramatic fall in jam prices.

As prices fall, strawberry farmers plow crops under [St. Petersburg Times] (via Fark)

The future of fuel - Markets transition from coal & oil to natural gas

NEW YORK ( -- The world seems awash in natural gas. HTML clipboard

...Forecasting agencies, long known to play it safe before touting new trends, are only predicting a modest increase in gas' share of the world's overall energy mix by 2030. But some analysts are saying it could be much higher, with big implications for the electricity markets - and coal-fired power plants in particular.

Natural Gas Gaining 50% for Goldman (Bloomberg).. Exxon Mobil Corp. is making a $28.5 billion bet on natural gas, this year's worst-performing energy commodity, just as hedge funds amass their biggest wager on prices falling.

The first collapse was after oil boomed over $80 per barrel ( In the 'next three months' here we go: Oil above $80 as traders look to US jobs data ... after the formal announcement of 2011 oil peak.

On a positive note, we have all the answers if we choose to use them as 2,487.5 MPG was achieved at 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas

Linked via DrumBeat

Mar 29, 2010

Chrysler Bringing Electric Fiat To U.S. In 2012

VIA - Consumerist
Chrysler announced today that it plans on releasing an electric car for the U.S. market in 2012. The vehicle will be based on the Fiat 500EV, which Chrysler and its controlling owner, Italian car maker Fiat, showed off at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year.
"The Fiat 500 is a small, lightweight platform perfect for integrating electric-vehicle technology," said Scott Kunselman, SVP of engineering for Chrysler.
According to Chrysler, all powertrain engineering and vehicle development will take place at Chrysler Group headquarters in Michigan. Today's announcement did not, however, say where the actual cars will be manufactured/
They did not announce a price for the car, but they did say the MSRP "will be competitive with similar electric vehicles in the market."
Chrysler announces electric Fiat 500 for the U.S. in 2012 [USA Today]

Congressional Audit Shows That EnergyStar Label May Be Meaningless

Consumerist: Last year, an audit showed that Energy Star gave its rating to products that misrepresented their energy usage. This time, auditors posed as companies and submitted completely absurd appliances for EnergyStar ratings, like a gasoline-powered alarm clock the size of a portable generator, and a space heater with a feather duster on top claiming to be an "air purifier." Is the study meaningless because no actual products were sold, or a warning that the program is sloppy and susceptible to fraud?
In a nine-month study, four fictitious companies invented by the accountability office also sought EnergyStar status for some conventional devices like dehumidifiers and heat pump models that existed only on paper. The fake companies submitted data indicating that the models consumed 20 percent less energy than even the most efficient ones on the market. Yet those applications were mostly approved without a challenge or even questions, the report said.

Auditors concluded that the EnergyStar program was highly vulnerable to fraud.

Audit Finds Vulnerability of EnergyStar Program [New York Times] (Thanks, Howard!)

Biogas from Sewage Sludge to Be Supplied as City Gas

JFS/Sewage Sludge Biogas
Copyright Kobelco Eco-Solutions Co.

JFS - Major Japanese gas supplier Osaka Gas Co., Kobe City in western Japan and Kobelco Eco-Solutions Co., announced on October 19, 2009, that they would jointly start a test project to purify biogas generated in a sewage treatment plant to the level of city gas, and to feed the gas directly through gas pipes. The project is slated to start in fiscal 2010 and is the first attempt of its kind in Japan. The group plans to produce approximately 800,000 cubic meters of biogas per year, which will cover about 2,000 households' annual usage of gas and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 1,200 tons.

Biogas is a combustible gas which is composed mostly of methane generated from sewage sludge or food residue. Being a carbon-neutral renewable energy, the biogas is expected to be used effectively as one of the measures to curb global warming. However, the biogas from sewage sludge treatment has had limited use because it is low in calories and contains impurities. Kobe City and Kobelco Eco-Solutions Co. have been working to purify the biogas produced from the Higashinada Sewage Treatment Plant in Kobe City, and have succeeded at providing the gas for use in natural gas vehicles. They started to sell the gas named "Kobe Biogas" to city buses and commercial trucks beginning in April 2008.

This project is intended to increase the use of Kobe Biogas. The Higashinada Plant installed equipment for adjusting calories and eliminating minor constituents, purifying the biogas generated in the plant to a level similar to that of city gas supplied by Osaka Gas Co., providing the biogas as city gas to the Osaka Gas customers directly through gas pipes.

Bio-Methane from Sewage Sludge to Be Used as Bus Fuel (Related JFS article)

Peak Oil - Washington considers a decline of world oil production as of 2011

From the DrumBeat
Washington considers a decline of world oil production as of 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy admits that "a chance exists that we may experience a decline" of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 "if the investment is not there", according to an exclusive interview with Glen Sweetnam, main official expert on oil market in the Obama administration.

This warning on oil output issued by Obama's energy administration comes at a time when world demand for oil is on the rise again, and investments in many drilling projects have been frozen in the aftermath of the tumbling of crude prices and of the financial crisis.

Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the DoE, does not say that investments will not be "there". Yet the answer to the issue of knowing when, where and in which quantities additional sources of oil should be put on-stream remains widely "unidentified" in the eyes of the most prominent official analyst on energy inside the Obama administration.

The DoE dismisses the "peak oil" theory, which assumes that world crude oil production should irreversibly decrease in a nearby future, in want of suffisant fresh oil reserves yet to be exploited. The Obama administration of Energy supports the alternative hypothesis of an "undulating plateau".

Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the DoE, explains : "Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a decline."

90% of the Sal Bangladeshi forest ecosystem is gone.

Considered the most threatened ecosystem in Bangladesh, the moist deciduous Sal forest (Shorea robusta) is on the verge of vanishing. In 1990 only 10 percent of the forest cover remained, down from 36 percent in 1985 according to statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). A new study in the online open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science looks at the threats posed to the Shal forest and ways in which it may still be saved.
Please read 'Last chance to save Bangladeshi forest: 90 percent of the Sal ecosystem is gone' by Jeremy Hance at MongaBay

The Largest Companies are Falling Short in Managing and Disclosing Water Scarcity Risks

GreenEconomyPost Ceres has released the first comprehensive assessment and ranking of water disclosure practices of 100 publicly-traded companies in eight key sectors exposed to water-related risks: beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil and gas, and semiconductors. The report highlights best practices, key gaps and trends in water reporting and lays out a set of recommendations for companies and investors.

Despite growing water-scarcity risks in many parts of the world, the vast majority of leading companies in water-intensive industries have weak management and disclosure of water-related risks and opportunities, according to a first-ever report issued recently by the Ceres investor coalition, the financial services firm UBS and financial data provider Bloomberg.

Water Use Graphic

The report evaluates and ranks water disclosure practices of 100 publicly traded companies in eight key sectors exposed to water-related risks. The report shows that many companies are not including material water risks and performance data in their financial filings, nor are they providing local-level water data, particularly in the context of facilities in water-stressed regions.

"Water is integral to the global economy. Whether you're in California or China, clean potable water is an absolute must for sustaining communities and sustaining economic growth," said Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). "This report makes clear that companies are not providing investors with the kind of information they need to understand the risks and opportunities posed by water scarcity."

Please read full at: GreenEconomyPost and download The full report: Murky Waters? Corporate Reporting on Water Risk.

$Green$ I.T. network-based LED

GreenEconomyPost- Huge Cost Savings Achieved with LED Lights Using Network Cables
A network-based LED lighting technology for commercial buildings optimizes energy-efficiency for commercial lighting and provides comprehensive sensor data for building performance.

"The holy grail right now for real estate is creating interoperability between information technology networks and the electrical grid." Mr. Gilbert said. "Your ability to run an efficient building is important in order to remain competitive."

"Redwood's vision is to use LED lighting's low voltage to power not just lighting, but create a digital network to manage and efficiently optimize lighting, heating, venting, air conditioning, plug loads, window shading, and just about everything else that uses power in a building," said Leonard. "Using a network-based platform approach, we will deliver smart lighting systems that revolutionize how lights, and buildings, are powered, controlled, and optimized."

The system could also optimize energy use based on utility rates and pricing programs and the instrumentation capability allows management of lumen depreciation and ensures the system doesn't over-drive the lights.
How Redwood Systems saves money
Additional energy savings comes from using sensors and a central controller to reduce light use. The company has also developed a method for using those same power cables to carry data. Each LED can be fitted with inexpensive sensors that provide detailed information about temperature and where people are in the building.  This is information that can be used to control cooling and heating systems. These sensors can be also be used to optimize light levels and ensure the lights are operating efficiently. Such sensors can also  The sensing and controls add very little cost to the new system because the network connections and power supply for the sensors are already in place.

Please read more GreenEconomyPost

Mar 28, 2010

Simple rescue shelter of hope for people who have none

After my Economic Update post... I may need one of these to retire in :-(

DesignBoom - Shelter has simple storage, a makeshift washroom, a kitchen, and a sleeping area.  The roof acts as a rain catcher which collects free water. Design enthusiast, paul elkins, develops mobile units, and other small scale vehicles.

Mobile Home for the Homeless People (16 pics) 
burning man bicycle camper and his latest development is a mobile homeless shelter which he designed as part of a competition asking individuals to meet the demands of the rapidly growing homeless society - a kind of substitute for the grocery cart situation. elkins wanted his design construction to be a simple, light weight, water tight insulated box on wheels, built with an area for displaying and selling handmade wares.

Economic summary by CIA - "Just the facts, ma'am"

Updated from March Post:
I still dream in color, yet our nations 'economic load' and lack of growth to ever catch up has my children's dreams solidified in gray ... our gray debt cloud is making a previously unsustainable problem, epic.

"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves." - D.H. Lawrence

Haase - Short Answer:
We built a national pyramid scheme that encouraged everyone at the top
(top earns) to  spend and build far beyond sustainable  limits of the middle tier (middle class).  When the people at the bottom tier (creditors) of the scheme wanted to collect... the jig was up.
And Bernard Madoff was set as world example.
Then we dumped a truck full of 'monopoly money' on the problem to 'fix it'...this was like giving a college student a new credit card after they maxed out the first one on 'beer and pizza'

HTML clipboard
WIKI summary- At the end of fiscal year 2009, the gross debt was 83.4% of GDP that equates to over $30400 per person U.S. population, with less than half the population working... in other words - The working class is currently in personal debt and carrying a GOV debt load of over 60,800 per worker...
How we got here and were we are going:

CIA..."Soaring oil prices between 2005 and the first half of 2008 threatened inflation and unemployment, as higher gasoline prices ate into consumers' budgets. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups. The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $840 billion in 2008 before shrinking to $450 billion in 2009. The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. GDP contracted till the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. "

"The Pew Trust has done the math and it turns out the the economic crash of 2008 incurred about $108,000 per US household in costs and stock and house-price losses:
U.S. households lost on average nearly $5,800 in income due to reduced economic growth during the acute stage of the financial crisis from September 2008 through the end of 2009.[1] Costs to the federal government due to its interventions to mitigate the financial crisis amounted to $2,050, on average, for each U.S. household. Also, the combined peak loss from declining stock and home values totaled nearly $100,000, on average per U.S. household, during the July 2008 to March 2009 period. This analysis highlights the importance of reducing the onset and severity of future financial crises, and the value of market reforms to achieve this goal."
The Impact of the September 2008 Economic Collapse (via The Consumerist)

Cash, Carry and Energy Break down:
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$46,400 (2009 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:
-2.4% (2009 est.)

Population: (VIA census)

Labor force:
154.5 million (includes unemployed) (2009)
140.5 Minus unemployed

revenues: $1.914 trillion
expenditures: $3.615 trillion (2009 est.)

Public debt: 52.9% of GDP (2009 est.)

U.S. is #1 in the following sectors:
Electricity - consumption: 3.873 trillion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
19.5 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 657.2 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 112.7 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$13.45 trillion (30 June 2009)

All of this is not very encouraging considering the 'majority' of politicians believe the economy could collapse again... Knowing that we have built current debt pay off models under the false pretense that 'not only will the GDP grow, but the economy will rebound and return to past growth levels'.

Update: Insolvent?
"...In FY2009, the U.S. government collected $2.1 trillion in revenue (15% of GDP) and spent almost $3.5 trillion (25% of GDP). Between FY2008 and FY2009, outlays increased by $535 billion, while revenues fell by $419 billion. The deficit in FY2009 was $1,414 billion, or 9.9% of GDP, sharply higher than deficits in recent years." -  Open CRS
CBO report: Debt will rise to 90% of GDP
Wall Street Journal,: "President Barack Obama asserted that the government "simply cannot continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences; as if waste doesn't matter; as if the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money; as if we can ignore this challenge for another generation."

The proposed budget:
  • The budget would permanently expand the federal government by 3 percent of gross domestic product over 2007 prerecession levels.
  • Taxes would be raised on all Americans by nearly $3 trillion over the next decade.
  • It would raise taxes for 3.2 million small businesses and upper-income taxpayers by an average of $300,000 over the next decade.
  • For every dollar spent in 2010, 42 cents would be borrowed.
  • Would run a $1.6 trillion deficit in 2010 -- $143 billion higher than the recession-driven 2009 deficit.
  • Would leave permanent deficits that top $1 trillion as late as 2020.
  • Would dump an additional $74,000 per household of debt into the laps of our children and grandchildren.
  • Would double the publicly held national debt to over $18 trillion.
Read full from Source Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2010.

Haase - But, "Don't cry for me Argentina" 
We're Number 61!
One item that doesn't fall into the it-could-be-worse department—see above—is the U.S. corporate income tax. It's already about as bad as can be. This year, American businesses may spend 89 cents preparing their taxes for every dollar they pay in taxes.
In a new estimate, David Keating of the National Taxpayers Union estimates that the cost of compliance with the corporate tax is $159.4 billion—or 89% of expected tax collections for fiscal 2009, and 54% for 2008. That includes the ...

The Huge, Hidden Tax You Pay for Government
 Taxpayers rushing to fill out and file their form 1040 today may think their obligation to the federal government is complete. But it's really just beginning. Although Americans paid more than $900 billion in income taxes last year, there's a far larger tax bill hidden from view. That tax is regulation. 

NY Post - How 'soaking the rich' clobbers you 

Nearly half of American tax filers didn't have to pay any federal income tax last year...Just a decade ago, two-thirds of American tax filers still paid into the tax system. But both Democrats and Republicans have spent the last quarter-century inventing and expanding all kinds of voter-friendly tax breaks. Easy-to-use tax software has helped people get every dollar -- something that was once less common, because it simply wasn't worth the bother. …..But everyone should have to pay something -- and anyone who earns enough to have cable TV can pay something toward their own national defense, too. A big majority of people, in fact, should pay enough to be annoyed on April 15 rather than excited. Otherwise, the politicians will figure they can just keep spending without angering a critical mass of voters.

As it is, Washington just figures that when it comes time for tax hikes to pay for all the spending we're doing with borrowed money, the "rich" will pay.


An environmentally safe engine that goes 60,000 miles without a fill up?

American Streamlined Cars Peaked in 1920, MPG peaked in 1950's
Gas Plasma Engine: a new type of energy source is touted as the vehicle's soon-to-come power drive: "This engine is a closed two-cycle reciprocating engine that has no intake, uses no air, emitting no exhaust at all! The fuel is self-contained and hermetically sealed in the cylinders which are initially charged at the time of manufacturing, carrying their own power supply that will last approximately 60 to 75 thousand miles with no fall of efficiency."
Car, Travel, Photography

An environmentally safe engine that doesn't need refueling for 60,000 miles - Source and further reading: PopCult Mag

Possibly the very first streamlined car - its coefficient of drag was only 0.28

Another aerodynamic oddity, mostly forgotten today -  "Rumpler Tropfenwagen"

 "Rumpler Tropfenwagen" in Motor show in Berlin in 1921. (Wikipedia article)

Read full with mind candy at DarkRoasted

EPA reports dramatic improvements U.S. air quality!

Via Next100 With all the attention paid to carbon pollution and global warming these days, it's easy to forget the importance of traditional air pollutants like ozone smog, lead and fine particulates... causing sickness and even death, as well as billions of dollars in damage to crops and structures.Credit: Wikipedia Commons

While carbon pollution continues its inexorable rise, regulation of other air pollutants is a major, and sometimes unheralded, success story.

A new EPA report, "Our Nation's Air: Status and Trends Through 2008," shows marked and sometimes dramatic improvements in nationwide air quality, thanks to laws that require cleaner cars, industries and consumer products. 

Compared to 1990, air pollution in 2008 was lower in six major categories:

  • Ozone (ground level): down 14 percent
  • Particulates (<10 microns): down 31 percent
  • Lead: down 78 percent.
  • Nitrogen oxide: down 35 percent
  • Carbon monoxide: down 68 percent.
  • Sulfur dioxide: down 59 percent.

The decline in sulfur dioxide emissions, driven in part by the acid rain program and controls on coal-burning utilities, has improved water quality in lakes and streams and improved visibility in many scenic areas by reducing haze.

In addition, total emissions of toxic air pollutants such as benzene, xylenes and tuluene, some of which are suspected carcinogens, have fallen some 40 percent since 1990, thanks to controls on chemical plants, dry cleaners, incinerators and other sources.

There's still plenty of room for improvement. In 2008, more than 119 million people lived in counties where ozone levels exceeded national standards, exposing their lungs and throats to irritation and inflammation. Nearly 37 million lived in areas that exceeded national standards for fine particulates, which can lodge in the lungs or bloodstream and kill people prematurely.

The EPA report also notes that annual U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases increased 17 percent from 1990 to 2007—with serious implications for local air quality as well as climate change.

Please full at Via Next100

Mar 27, 2010

Unless new breed of reactors are used 'peak uranium' will implode nuclear renaissance

Read, reflect and embrace a timeline of peakonomics: peak oil (30 years), peak uranium (50), peak coal (75) and peak water (100) These are 'optimistic timelines' we can chose to infinitely increase, stay on destructive path or ignore and experience biblical self induced suffering. Remember as we switch from one it just tips another. That is why you will not find anyone who will dispute or 'call me out' on these figures. 

Yet I sleep well every night knowing that we have the power and knowledge  to make the necessary changes. 
  • Nuclear power capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with over 50 reactors under construction in 13 countries. 
  • Most reactors on order or planned are in the Asian region, though there are major plans for new units in Europe, the USA and Russia. 
  • Significant further capacity is being created by plant upgrading. 
  • Dangerous plant life extension programs are maintaining capacity, in USA particularly. 
Today there are some 436 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries that provide about 15% of the world's electricity.
About 50 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in its 2009 report significantly increased its projection of world nuclear generating capacity.  It now anticipates at least 73 GWe in net new capacity by 2020, and then 511 to 807 GWe in place in 2030 - very much more than projected previously, and 37% to 116% more than the 327.5 GWe actually operating in 2009.  OECD estimates range up to 680 GWe in 2030.   The change is based on specific plans and actions in a number of countries, including China, India, Russia, Finland and France, coupled with the changed outlook due to the Kyoto Protocol. The IAEA projections would give nuclear power a 13.5 to 14.6% share in electricity production in 2020, and 12.6 to 15.9 % in 2030. (WNA)
The fastest growth is in Asia.
It is noteworthy that in the 1980s, 218 power reactors started up, an average of one every 17 days. These included 47 in USA, 42 in France and 18 in Japan. The average power was 923.5 MWe. So it is not hard to imagine a similar number being commissioned in a decade after about 2015. But with China and India getting up to speed with nuclear energy and a world energy demand double the 1980 level in 2015, a realistic estimate of what is possible might be the equivalent of one 1000 MWe unit worldwide every 5 days. (WNA)
See also Nuclear Renaissance paper for the factors driving the increase in nuclear power capacity, and also WNA's Nuclear Century Outlook.
Most reactors currently planned, with fast-growing economies and rapidly-rising electricity demand. HTML clipboard
Rojan Nuclear Cooling Tower Imploded at Rainier, Oregon - May 21, 2006
The Trojan nuclear power plant, located 40 miles north of Portland, Oregon, was closed in 1993 due to safety and financial concerns. On May 21st, 2006, 2,800 pounds of explosives were used to implode it's 499 foot cooling tower. The remainder of the plant won't be cleaned up until 2024 as there are spent radioactive fuel rods and other debris that need to be removed...
In all, over 130 power reactors with a total net capacity of almost 150,000 MWe are planned and over 250 more are proposed. Rising gas prices and greenhouse constraints on coal have combined to put nuclear power back on the agenda for projected new capacity in both Europe and North America. (WNA)

In the USA there are proposals for over twenty new reactors and the first 17 combined construction and operating licenses for these have been applied for. All are for late third-generation plants, and a further proposal is for two ABWR units.  it is expected that 4 to 8 new  reactors will be on line by 2020.
In China, now with eleven operating reactors on the mainland, the country is well into the next phase of its nuclear power program. Some 22 reactors are either under construction or likely to be so by the end of 2009. These include the world's first Westinghouse AP1000 units and a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant. Another 27 units are planned, with construction due to start within three years. But most capacity under construction will be the largely indigenous CPR-1000. China aims at least to quadruple its nuclear capacity from that operating and under construction by 2020.
India has six reactors under construction and expected to be completed by 2010. This includes two large Russian reactors and a large prototype fast breeder reactor as part of its strategy to develop a fuel cycle which can utilise thorium. Further units are planned.  Ten further units are planned, and plans for more - including western and Russian designs - are taking shape following the lifting of trade restrictions.
Plant Life Extension and Retirements
Most nuclear power plants originally had a nominal design lifetime of 25 to 40 years, but engineering assessments of many plants have established that many can operate longer. In the USA some 60 reactors have been granted licence renewals which extend their operating lives from the original 40 out to 60 years, and operators of most others are expected to apply for similar extensions.  Such licence extensions at about the 30-year mark justify significant capital expenditure for replacement of worn equipment and outdated control systems. 

The 2009 WNA Market Report reference case has 143 reactors closing by 2030, using very conservative assumptions about license renewal.

Electric cars a major environmental threat?

Electric cars a major environmental threat? It wasn't long before the war of words began on the efficiency of electric cars and their impact on the environment. Today's comments from controversial author Clive Matthew-Wilson paint a gloomy picture of electric cars as "often less efficient and more polluting than the petrol cars they replace". The report is here...  

Haase -
Everything has the 'potential to be a environmental threat when miss managed' wind, hydro, solar, geothermal all have there issues.
Yet when compared to historic use or future continuation of a fossil fueled world, all are clear winners to the environment. Anyone arguing that fact is either a liar, charlatan, fool or a hybrid of the three ;-) 

- Short answer, not in near future
100 years of over optimistic dreams and failures plague the future of electric cars

"Electric Vehicles Charge Ahead in US blindly ahead of a market that peaked in 1912"
Clearly more energy efficient cars NEED to be in our near future... but if the way we use electric cars isn't more efficient, they will never exceed their current 1% of market. On a personal note I love several electric car designs and hope we can find a viable and sustainable onboard energy storage system to finally make electric vehicles a reality.

The fact is electric vehicles as a fleet were far more a reality at the 'turn of the century, than they will be in the next two decades.

It was not until 1895 that Americans began to devote attention to electric vehicles after an electric tricycle was built by A. L. Ryker and William Morrison built a six-passenger wagon both in 1891. Many innovations followed and interest in motor vehicles increased greatly in the late 1890s and early 1900s. In 1897, the first commercial application was established as a fleet of New York City taxis built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia.

New York City Electric Taxis - electric vehicleThe early electric vehicles, such as the 1902 Wood's Phaeton (top image), were little more than electrified horseless carriages and surreys. The Phaeton had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000. Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

1918 Detroit - electric vehicleBy the turn of the century, America was prosperous and cars, now available in steam, electric, or gasoline versions, were becoming more popular. The years 1899 and 1900 were the high point of electric cars in America, as they outsold all other types of cars. Electric vehicles had many advantages over their competitors in the early 1900s. They did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars. Changing gears on gasoline cars was the most difficult part of driving, while electric vehicles did not require gear changes. While steam-powered cars also had no gear shifting, they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold mornings. The steam cars had less range before needing water than an electric's range on a single charge. The only good roads of the period were in town, causing most travel to be local commuting, a perfect situation for electric vehicles, since their range was limited. The electric vehicle was the preferred choice of many because it did not require the manual effort to start, as with the hand crank on gasoline vehicles, and there was no wrestling with a gear shifter.

While basic electric cars cost under $1,000, most early electric vehicles were ornate, massive carriages designed for the upper class. They had fancy interiors, with expensive materials, and averaged $3,000 by 1910. Electric vehicles enjoyed success into the 1920s with production peaking in 1912.

The decline of the electric vehicle was brought about by several major developments:

  • By the 1920s, America had a better system of roads that now connected cities, bringing with it the need for longer-range vehicles.
  • The discovery of Texas crude oil reduced the price of gasoline so that it was affordable to the average consumer.
  • The invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912 eliminated the need for the hand crank.
  • The initiation of mass production of internal combustion engine vehicles by Henry Ford made these vehicles widely available and affordable in the $500 to $1,000 price range. By contrast, the price of the less efficiently produced electric vehicles continued to rise. In 1912, an electric roadster sold for $1,750, while a gasoline car sold for $650.
So what killed the electric car?
Math :-O

EPA Issues Second Annual Ranking of U.S. Cities with the Most Energy Efficient Buildings: List shows continued growth in saving money and energy

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency…EPA first issued its ranking of cities with the most Energy Star labeled buildings last year. This year, Los Angeles remains in first place; the District of Columbia picks up second; Denver and Chicago move into the top five; and Lakeland and New York City are new to the top 10.

Continuing the impressive growth of the past several years, in 2009 nearly 3,900 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star, representing annual savings of more than $900 million in utility bills and more than 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Since EPA awarded the first Energy Star to a building in 1999, nearly 9,000 buildings across America have earned the Energy Star as of the end of 2009, representing more than a 40 percent increase over last year's total. Overall annual utility savings have climbed to nearly $1.6 billion and greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions of more than 1 million homes a year have been prevented.

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of over $100 billion per year. EPA awards the Energy Star to commercial buildings that perform in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide compared to similar buildings. Thirteen types of buildings can earn the Energy Star, including schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail stores and supermarkets.

Read more via VIA DocuTicker

Peak Canadian Wood?

rom EarlyWarning
A new report on the mountain pine beetle epidemic describes it as one of North America's largest natural environmental disasters that will put an estimated 16 major sawmills out of business in B.C. and lead to long-term lumber shortages in the United States.

Canadian lumber production is not expected to recover for the remainder of the century, one of the report authors said Thursday.

"We sort of think lumber production has peaked forever, at least relative to our lifetimes and our children's lifetimes." said Russell Taylor, president of the International Wood Markets Group. The Vancouver-based consulting company is one of three consultants who prepared the report for lumber industry clients.

Interior sawmills are expected to start running out of good timber within three to five years according to the report.

Coupled with reductions in the Ontario and Quebec timber supplies, the pine beetle epidemic is expected to reduce Canada's share of the U.S. lumber market by 50 per cent. Lumber prices are expected to soar.
... lumber production both for Canada as a whole, and British Columbia in particular.  The data run from Jan 1946 through December 2009.

As you can see, BC is responsible for about half of Canadian lumber production.  The claim of the report is that those 2005/2006 peaks will not be reached again in the 21st century, on account of bark beetle damage.  For maps of the epidemic, see here.

Update:  At commenter DataMunger's suggestion, here is a graph of US housing starts for comparison, from 1968 on (borrowed from Calculated Risk):

All EPA’s Superfund, TRI, EPCRA, RMP & Oil reports

All from EPA's Superfund, TRI, EPCRA, RMP & Oil Information Center Monthly Reports from November 1991 to December 2009 are now available at 
As future reports are made available, they will be posted at this location.  Reports include a representative selection of common questions and answers, as well as summaries of new publications and recent Federal Registers relevant to Information Center
Source EPA

CBO Federal Climate Change Programs: Funding History and Policy Issues

CBO Federal Climate Change Programs

... Congresses and Administrations have committed several billion dollars annually to studying climate change and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide. Most of that spending is done by the Department of Energy (DOE) and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, although a dozen other federal agencies also participate. The effort has included funding science and technology, creating tax preferences, and assisting other countries in their attempts to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. In a study released this afternoon, CBO examines the government's commitment of resources to those purposes. The study presents information on current spending and analyzes recent patterns and trends in spending.

From 1998 through 2009, appropriations for agencies' work related to climate change totaled about $99 billion (in 2009 dollars); more than a third of that sum—$35.7 billion by CBO's estimation—was provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (see the figure below). During that period, the nation's commitment to climate-related technology development increased significantly, as has the forgone revenue attributable to tax preferences. Funding for climate science and international assistance, by contrast, stayed roughly constant.

Federal Climate Change Funding, by Category

(Budget authority in billions of 2009 dollars)
Read full at CBOFull Study

Mar 26, 2010

Old but still green - LEED sooo 1960's

Big & Green 2003...history behind LEED Green architecture became a worldwide cause in the 1960s and 1970s in response to growing awareness of environmental degradation and rising fuel prices. The first green architects focused primarily on single-family homes, although some promising work was done on other small-scale buildings. In the late 90's  several rating systems such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) developed by Building Research Establishment in the United Kingdom developed as criteria for evaluating these relatively new design approaches. 

Dutch Pavilion, Expo 2000 (Hannover, Germany).

A prototype for the introduction of nature in physically dense cities, the Dutch Pavilion included a water-reclamation system to capture rainwater and distribute it throughout the building.

From 2003 show:
"Sustainable architecture is a potent new movement that could revolutionize the way our buildings and cities are designed and constructed," "This movement emerges from an increasing respect for our environment, combined with a continuing demand for new construction to meet the needs of urban and regional growth. And it recognizes — now more than ever — that energy must be used wisely and conserved."