Apr 30, 2011

In November, A Massive "potentially hazardous asteroid" Will Fly Very Close To Earth

The rest of us will get our reminder in November, when a massive asteroid will make a close flyby of Earth at a distance of just 0.85 lunar distances. Asteroid 2005 YU55 was discovered six years ago and does not pose a collision risk, but it is passing close enough to be deemed a "potentially hazardous asteroid" by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass. And in the grand scheme of the universe--or even the solar system--it will pass extremely close to the home planet 

Giant Kill Rock Fly-By, November 2011
Space.com Mark your calendars for an impressive and upcoming flyby of an asteroid that’s one of the larger potentially perilous space rocks in the heavens – in terms of smacking the Earth in the future.

It’s the case of asteroid 2005 YU55, a round mini-world that is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in diameter. In early November, this asteroid will approach Earth within a scant 0.85 lunar distances.

Close and big

“The close Earth approach of 2005 YU55 on Nov. 8, is unusual since it is close and big. On average, one wouldn’t expect an object this big to pass this close but every 30 years,” said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]

A Five-and-a-Half-Ton Solar Array for a Better Cup of Joe

As the mirrors turn, a motor powers a winch system that raises or lowers the array like an easel.

The roasting process takes up to 25 minutes for 15 pounds of coffee.

Time: 10 months
Cost: $65,000

Read more about it here

Pick One: SPR or Recession - ASPO

ASPO - Brookings Institution presentation in early 2009, UCSD economist James Hamilton suggested that the government think of using the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to counter high oil prices.

Although the suggestion failed to gain traction at the time, recent upheaval in the Middle East is once again putting the future of the SPR back on the agenda.

Should the reserve be drawn to cool oil prices which have surged on the back of lost Libyan crude output?

I must admit I was somewhat cool to the idea when Hamilton published his Brookings paper, but his suggestions often prove prescient and therefore deserve closer examination. Indeed I became much more convinced when I saw a Federal Reserve presentation on short term oil prices, which largely concluded that the institution has little insight into short term oil price movements.

Given the potential impact of oil prices on the economy, the Fed does not have the luxury of such ignorance.

The SPR was established in 1975, after the first oil crisis, with the purpose of providing a critical petroleum reserve to the US which could be drawn in the event of war or embargo. This seems sensible enough. A large and militarily critical power like the US should avoid being held hostage to energy exporters like the Gulf states and Russia. But the oil-price spikes of 2008 show that oil prices can substantially damage the US economy even without hostile acts by other countries.

The SPR holds 727 million barrels of crude oil, about 40 days of US consumption and 70 days of oil imports.
In addition, the US has about 1.1 billion barrels of commercial crude oil inventories.
All in all, the US has sufficient domestic crude oil stocks to cover about six months of imports.

But it is one thing to hold such reserves, another to deploy them.

Hidden rain forest Maya lost city of Holtun - FOUND!

National Geographic NewsBeyond Apocalypto -- What Maya Empire Looked Like: Hidden for centuries, the ancient Maya city of Holtun, or Head of Stone, is finally coming into focus.

Three-dimensional mapping has "erased" centuries of jungle growth, revealing the rough contours of nearly a hundred buildings, according to research presented earlier this month.

Though it's long been known to locals that something—something big—is buried in this patch of Guatemalan rain forest, it's only now that archaeologists are able to begin teasing out what exactly Head of Stone was.

Using GPS and electronic distance-measurement technology last year, the researchers plotted the locations and elevations of a seven-story-tall pyramid, an astronomical observatory, a ritual ball court, several stone residences, and other structures.

(See National Geographic pictures of excavated Maya cities.)

Apple Named 'Least Green' Tech Co.

Apple aficionados are a loyal bunch, and with good cause. From iPads and iPods to iPhones and Macs, the tech company -- which posted 95 percent growth in its latest quarterly earnings -- must be doing something right. For all the colorful apps Apple offers, however, it seems one color that's missing is green.

Last week, Greenpeace named Apple the least green tech company in the world, thanks to "dirty data" centers.

As the UK's Guardian opines, "Greenpeace's report, How Dirty is Your Data? reveals that the company's investment in a new North Carolina facility will triple its electricity consumption, equivalent to the electricity demand of 80,000 average US homes." Indeed, the facility's power will draw on "a mix of 62% coal and 32% nuclear."

Still, those of the monochromatic political ideology would rather stifle productivity altogether than benefit from "dirty" coal. In fact, one would think Al "It's Not Easy Being Green" Gore would be the first to call for Apple to cease and desist its dirty ways given that he's on Apple's Board of Directors. -patriotpost.us

The Consumer Benefits of Electric Power Competition

For most of the 20th century, electric power was generated by utilities with legally protected monopolies in geographically defined service territories and sold to captive consumers at state-regulated rates. 

Meanwhile, in the 1970s and 1980s, deregulation of other network or utility-type industries -- including natural gas, telecommunications, airlines, trucking and railroads -- reduced prices at least 25 percent below prereform levels.  This experience led to expectations that electric power competition would provide similar consumer benefits.  Thus, beginning in the late 1990s, a number of states restructured their retail power markets, say Carl Johnston, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Lynne Kiesling, a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics at Northwestern University.

  • Restructuring generally means that prices are set competitively, utilities shed generating plants and transmission lines, and consumers have a choice of providers.
  • Two-thirds of the U.S. population lives in states that have introduced competition and choice.
  • Electricity prices in these states reflect the actual cost of production better than politically determined rates.

Overall, electricity prices have adjusted more quickly in restructured states to changes in fuel costs and demand than in unrestructured states.

  • As a result, in response to market demand as indicated by price, restructured states have added efficiency improvements, plant upgrades, additional generation and transmission capacity at a faster pace than nonrestructured states.
  • In competitive markets, consumers may pay less for electricity than they once did under monopoly -- for example, Texas retail customers in some competitive markets paid up to one-third less in 2010 than in 2001, after adjusting for inflation.

For text: click here  For more on Environment Issues: click here

Gasoline Taxes vs. Exxon Profit, Per Gallon

The map from API shows gasoline taxes by state (combined local, state and federal), which range from a low of 26.4 cents per gallon in Alaska to a high of 66.1 cents per gallon in California, averaging 48.1 cents per gallon across all states.

How does that compare to oil company industry profits per gallon?

According to this post on Exxon Mobil’s Perspective Blog , “For every gallon of gasoline, diesel or finished products we manufactured and sold in the United States in the last three months of 2010, we earned a little more than 2 cents per gallon. That’s not a typo. Two cents.
  Read full from Mark Perry

Passive Smoking: How Dangerous Is It?

Passive Smoking: How Dangerous Is It?

Pay as you throw???

Do Not Trash the Incentive! Monetary Incentives and Waste Sorting
This paper (PDF) examines whether monetary incentives are an effective tool for increasing domestic waste sorting. We exploit the exogenous variation in the pricing systems experienced during the 1999-2008 decade by the 95 municipalities in the district of Treviso (Italy). We estimate with a panel analysis that pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) incentive-based schemes increase by 12.2% the ratio of sorted to total waste.

This increase reflects a change in the behavior of households, which keep unaltered the production of total waste but sort it to a larger extent. In addition, we show that several factors that may discourage local administrators from adopting PAYT—illegal dumping and higher cost of management—are not important at the aggregate level.
Hence, our results support the use of PAYT as an effective tool to increase waste sorting.
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

USFA Releases Fire Risk Reports

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has issued three special reports as part of its Topical http://s3.amazonaws.com/files.posterous.com/forestpolicy/iwfnMODLcfy3lOiQe8BFh80ALHepivsCmRf3FGKYY3OsEH3MqgUJwMMGqWUs/forest-fires.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJFZAE65UYRT34AOQ&Expires=1304166335&Signature=DtlCHcvIyt6Kk3fve7auA50T3tQ%3DFire Report Series, examining the risk of death or injury from fire by various demographics, such as age, race, and gender. Source: U.S. Fire Administration

The three reports, Fire Risk, Fire Risk to Children, and Fire Risk to Older Adults, were developed by the National Fire Data Center, part of USFA. The reports explore factors that influence risk and are based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), and the U.S. Census Bureau.

These reports are an update of the previous fire risk reports issued in April 2008 (Volume 7, Issues 5, 6, and 7).


Total U.S. Wildfire Acres 1960 - 2008 and USFS Fire Suppression Costs 1970 - 2008
Total U.S. Wildfire Acres 1960 - 2008 and USFS Fire Suppression Costs 1970 - 2008Annual average acres per wildfire in the U.S. from 1960 through 2010.

Total acres burned per year peaked in 2006 at nearly 10 million acres and has been dropping ever since, to a reported 3,377,250 acres this year, the smallest total since 1998. One-third of this year’s wildfire acreage was in Alaska, by the way.

The number of wildfires peaked in 1981 (there were 249,370 wildfires reported that year) and has been dropping ever since, to 68,430 this year, the lowest annual count on record.

Average wildfire size peaked in 2005 at 113 acres, dropping to 49 acres this year, the smallest average size since 2001.

Triple Health Care Wammy - Obese with Arthritis and Diabetes

Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults with Arthritis — United States
Obesity and arthritis are critical public health problems with high prevalences and medical costs.
In the United States, an estimated 72.5 million adults aged ≥20 years are obese, and 50 million adults have arthritis and People with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures already 2.3 times higher than medical expenditures for people without diabetes
  • Medical costs are estimated at $147 billion for obesity each year
  • Medical costs are estimated at $128 billion for arthritis each year
  • Costs (direct and indirect) of diabetes: $174 billion each year
...the number of U.S. states with age-adjusted obesity prevalence ≥30.0% increased from 38 in 2003 to 48 in 2009. Through efforts to prevent, screen, and treat obesity in adults, clinicians and public health practitioners can collaborate to reduce the impact of obesity on U.S. adults with arthritis

Obesity is common among persons with arthritis (2) and is a modifiable risk factor associated with progression of arthritis, activity limitation, disability, reduced quality-of-life, total joint replacement, and poor clinical outcomes after joint replacement ...obesity prevalence, on average, was 54% higher, compared with adults without arthritis,
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Add in  Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Adults With Diagnosed Diabetes and you can see where majority of increases in healthcare and early deaths have come from - American Medical Association.

Type 2 diabetes
, which is linked to obesity and physical inactivity, accounts for 90%–95% of diabetes cases and most often occurs in people older than 40

"About two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in this country are overweight or obese. This adds to our health care bill, promotes the early onset of illness, and contributes to the incidence of deadly disease."

Obesity, Arthritis and Diabetes are Common, Disabling, and Deadly

Leading preventable causes of death worldwide - Wiki[2]

Cause Number of deaths resulting (millions per year)
Hypertension 7.8
Smoking tobacco 5.0
High cholesterol 3.9
Malnutrition 3.8
Sexually transmitted diseases 3.0
Poor diet 2.8
Overweight and obesity 2.5
Physical inactivity 2.0
Alcohol 1.9
Indoor air pollution from solid fuels 1.8
Unsafe water and poor sanitation 1.6

File:Preventable causes of death.png

11x improvement in processing energy efficiency

"What do you do when chips get too hot to take advantage of all of those transistors that Moore's Law provides? You turn them off, and end up with a lot of dark silicon — transistors that lie unused because of power limitations. As detailed in MIT Technology Review, Researchers at UC San Diego are fighting dark silicon with a new kind of processor for mobile phones that employs a hundred or so specialized cores. They achieve 11x improvement in energy efficiency by doing so." - SlashDot

Apr 29, 2011

Why Oil & Everything is Skyrocketing... Dollar is worth less and less, less, etc...

Oil and food supplies are normal or high - So what is really raising prices?
Nothing. http://247wallst.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/empty-pockets1.jpg

Your dollar is just worth less when you dilute its value by trillions (see Why does Bernanke hate me?)
Dollar is tanking faster than ever at 72.904 as a new local low.
 It is getting down into into the critical support zone established in 2008.

The great unknown, as you know, is below 70.792.

Instead of directly helping the American people, the government threw trillions at the giant banks (including foreign banks; and see this) . The big banks have - in turn - used a lot of that money to speculate in commodities, including food and other items which are now driving up the price of consumer necessities [as well as stocks]. Instead of using the money to hire Americans, they're hiring abroad (and getting tax refunds from the government).

Gallup Poll Shows that More Americans Believe the U.S. is in a Depression than is Growing ... Are They Right?
The April 20-23 Gallup survey of 1,013 U.S. adults found that only 27 percent said the economy is growing. Twenty-nine percent said the economy is in a depression and 26 percent said it is in a recession, with another 16 percent saying it is "slowing down," Gallup said.

Wal-Mart’s core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago...
due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday (CNN)
“We’re seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure,” Duke said at an event in New York. “There’s no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact.”
Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.
Lately, they’re “running out of money” at a faster clip, he said.
“Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year,”
Duke said. “This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern.

NOTE: In the first-ever press conference by the U.S. Federal Reserve, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke stressed to reporters that "longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable and measures of underlying inflation are still subdued," and Fed policies would keep "transitory inflation" under control.

Bernanke acknowledged that escalating prices of oil, energy and other commodities have recently pushed up inflation, but reiterated that those increases aren't expected to translate into "core" inflation over the long haul????

Haase -  The Fed uses the consumer price index (CPI) excluding food and fuel prices, known as "core" inflation, as a benchmark barometer of inflation.

Core inflation was up 1.2% in March from a year before, but with food and fuel prices, the CPI in March rose 2.7% from a year ago.

The Fed also looks at the core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) deflator, which measures the average increase in prices for domestic personal consumption excluding food and energy prices. The core PCE deflator was up 0.9% in February from a year before, and the overall PCE deflator was up 1.6%. Numbers for March will be released today.

In economic projections released at the conference, the Fed raised its 2011 inflation outlook to 2.1% to 2.8% from its January prediction of 1.3% to 1.7%.

"What one should be seeing at this point is not just low core inflation but declining inflation - deflation - and yet what we're seeing is actually a gradual rise, and inflation expectations have been rising for the past six months," economist Edward Hadas told The Financial Times.

Oh and why do we ignore this?
"If a picture is worth one thousand words, then The Oil Age Poster is worth one million words because people can not only see the oil production Hubbert's peaks in many countries and regions, but also read the facts proving that global peak oil is both inevitable and quite probably imminent."

- U.S. Congressman R. Bartlett

Removing Energies Brain Power... cutting U.S. Energy data, analysis & forecasting activities

Immediate Reductions in EIA’s Energy Data and Analysis Programs Necessitated by FY 2011 Funding Cut

“The lower FY 2011 funding level will require significant cuts in EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasting activities,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. “EIA had already taken a number of decisive steps in recent years to streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency, and we will continue to do so in order to minimize the impact of these cuts at a time when both policymaker and public interest in energy issues is high,” he said.

EIA must act quickly to realize the necessary spending reductions during the present fiscal year, which is already more than half over. The changes in products and services identified below reflect initial steps to reduce the cost of EIA’s program... read more from Source- Energy Information Administration

Haase - In the 90's I called this series the "Kindest Cuts - when funding is cut from our leaders of data, analysis, forecasting of information" when we NEED them the most.  History, learn from it or become it...

Radiation Readings in Fukushima Reactor Rise to Highest Since Crisis Began

Radiation Readings at Fukushima Plant Rise to Highest Two robots sent into the reactor No. 1 building at the plant yesterday took readings as high as 1,120 millisierverts of radiation per hour, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tokyo Electric Power Co., said today. That’s more than four times the annual dose permitted to nuclear workers at the stricken plant.

Radiation from the station, where four of six reactors have been damaged by explosions, has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and contaminated farmland and drinking water. A plan to flood the containment vessel of reactor No. 1 with more water to speed up emergency cooling efforts announced yesterday by the utility known as Tepco may not be possible now.

“Tepco must figure out the source of high radiation,” said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University. “If it’s from contaminated water leaking from inside the reactor, Tepco’s so-called water tomb may be jeopardized because flooding the containment vessel will result in more radiation in the building.”

Read more at Bloomberg

Apr 28, 2011

China risks cost of fracking to exploit shale gas

The SMH has an article on Chinese interest in shale gas - China risks cost of fracking to exploit shale gas.
CHINA has begun trials of the controversial drilling technique known as fracking to exploit the world's largest reserves of shale gas, as it tries to cope with the energy demands of a fast-growing economy while reducing its dependence on coal.

The extraction method is costly and controversial. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves the injection of chemically treated water at high pressure through seams of rock, forcing the gas inside to seep out to where it can be captured. Environmentalists say it wastes and contaminates huge volumes of water.

For fuel-hungry, drought-plagued China, this poses a conundrum. The energy potential is enormous. The ministry of land and resources calculates the size of shale gas reserves at 26,000 billion cubic metres - more than 10 times the known holdings of conventional natural gas. This is a tempting alternative for a country eager to improve its energy security.

The SMH also has an article on the lobbying effort the gas industry is doing to try and stall the adoption of renewables - Oil giants play loose with facts on gas.
SENIOR executives in the fossil fuel industry have launched an all-out assault on renewable energy, lobbying governments and business groups to reject wind and solar power in favour of gas, in a move that could choke the green energy industry.

Multinational companies including Shell, GDF Suez and Statoil are promoting gas as an alternative green fuel. These firms are among dozens worldwide investing in new technologies to exploit shale gas, a controversial form of the fuel that has rejuvenated the gas industry because it is in plentiful supply and newly accessible because of technical advances in gas extraction that are known as fracking.

Burning gas in power stations releases about half the carbon emissions of coal, allowing gas companies to claim it is a green source of fuel.

For the past two months company lobbyists have been besieging governments in Europe, the US and elsewhere.

Central to the lobbying effort is a report saying that the European Union could meet its 2050 carbon targets more cheaply, avoiding costs of €990 billion ($1.3 trillion), by using gas rather than investing in renewables.

Read on from The BigGav

1 MW Battery Storage Unit Ready for the Grid.

Utility Scale Centralized 20 MW to 35 MW Storage Farm, ( artist conception )"Utility energy storage is here today," according to Dan Vogler, the CTO of battery vendor Ionex. Vogler believes that his firm's large-format prismatic batteries based on lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) are the solution. The Ionex Energy Storage System is a 1-megawatt-hour unit capable of producing continuous AC power from a 40-foot shipping container weighing 35,000 kilograms. The container can be mounted on a concrete pad or on a wheeled trailer. . Vogler speaks of the battery and its inverter obviating the need for a solar or wind component to have its own inverter system. Solar and wind energy would go right to the battery as DC with no inverter needed, The Electric Power Research Institute is preparing for multiple demonstrations and the market introduction of 1 megawatt/2 megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery energy storage systems for electric utility grid management solutions.

Watts Clever Introduces a Battery Recharger for Standard Batteries.
Watts Clever has introduced a Smart Battery Charger that will recharge most popular brands of standard alkaline AA and AAA batteries. Watts Clever reports that the device can recharge the batteries a maximum of 20 times depending on the type and quality of the batteries. The Smart Battery Charger also features protections for overcharging, overheating, and battery type, all helping indicate that a battery is being safely recharged. Watts Clever also states that its Smart Battery Charger can also safely recharge Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, and RAM batteries.

From David Schallers Sustainable Practices

China's High-Speed Trains Coming Off the Rails

"The Washington Post reports that China's expanding network of ultramodern high-speed trains is coming under growing scrutiny over costs and because of concerns that builders ignored safety standards in the quest to build faster trains in record time as new leadership at the Railways Ministry announced that to enhance safety, the top speed of all trains was being decreased from about 218 mph to 186. Without elaborating, the ministry called the safety situation 'severe' and said it was launching safety checks along the entire network of tracks. Meanwhile China's Finance Ministry announced that the Railways Ministry continues to lose money as the ministry's debt stands at $276 billion, almost all borrowed from Chinese banks. 'In China, we will have a debt crisis — a high-speed rail debt crisis,' says Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University and longtime critic of high-speed rail who worries that the cost of the project might have created a hidden debt bomb that threatens China's banking system.

'I think it is more serious than your subprime mortgage crisis. You can always leave a house or use it. The rail system is there. It's a burden. You must operate the rail system, and when you operate it, the cost is very high.'"

Apr 27, 2011

Honeybees taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides


Honeybees ‘entomb’ hives to protect against pesticides,   in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert. Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon - bees “entombing” or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighbouring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees. “This is a novel finding, and very striking. The implication is that the bees are sensing [pesticides] and actually sealing it off. They are recognising that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it,” said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture. “Bees would not normally seal off pollen.”

But the bees’ last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful – the entombing behaviour is found in many hives that subsequently die off, according to Pettis. “The presence of entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony loss. It’s a defence mechanism that has failed.” These colonies were likely to already be in trouble, and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, he added. Bees are also sealing off pollen that contains substances used by beekeepers to control pests such as the varroa mite, another factor in the widespread decline of bee populations. These substances may also be harmful to bees, Pettis said. “Beekeepers – and I am one – need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what we are doing,” he said. “Certainly [the products] have effects on bees. It’s a balancing act – if you do not control the parasite, bees die. If you control the parasite, bees will live but there are side-effects. This has to be managed.” The decline of bee populations has become an increasing concern in recent years.“Colony collapse disorder”, the name given to the unexplained death of bee colonies, is affecting hives around the world. Scientists say there are likely to be numerous reasons for the die-off, ranging from agricultural pesticides to bee pests and diseases, pollution, and intensive farming, which reduces bee habitat and replaces multiple food sources with single, less nutritious, sources. Globalisation may also be a factor, as it spreads bee diseases around the world, and some measures taken to halt the deaths – such as massing bees in huge super-hives – can actually contribute to the problem, according to a recent study by the United Nations.

Read more at The Guardian

The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is a stark reminder of the risks inherent in nuclear power. One of its consequences has been heightened concern about the safety of nuclear power facilities in the United States.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency responsible for ensuring that U.S. nuclear plants are operated as safely as possible, gets mixed reviews in a March 2011 UCS report, The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed. The report—the first of an annual series—was prepared and scheduled for release before the crisis in Japan began to unfold, but the disaster makes the report’s conclusions more timely than ever.

Authored by UCS nuclear engineer David Lochbaum, the report examines 14 “near-misses” at U.S. nuclear plants during 2010 and evaluates the NRC response in each case. The events exposed a variety of shortcomings, such as inadequate training, faulty maintenance, poor design, and failure to investigate problems thoroughly.- UCS.org

I "feel" better about our economic situation now...

Planets Party In the Morning

I always up... but you can set your alarm clocks early this Thursday through Sunday and catch a glimpse of Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury on the eastern horizon.

Apr 26, 2011

Major Issues Surrounding Honeywell’s Uranium Enrichment Plant in Illinois

Hard to hear story...  Dozens of workers protested at Honeywell’s shareholder meeting on Monday, accusing the company of putting employees and the public in danger at its uranium enrichment plant in Metropolis, Illinois. Major U.S. defense contractor, Honeywell, pleaded guilty last month to illegally storing hazardous radioactive waste without a permit. The company kept highly radioactive mud in drums in the open air behind its facility near the Ohio River.

Workers at the facility say they notified Honeywell of the problem on many occasions. Many are members of the United Steelworkers union and feel this particular incident led to the company’s desire to bust their union. More than 200 workers at the Metropolis plant have been out of work since last June due to stalled contract negotiations with the company on workplace safety, economic and seniority issues.
We speak with labor journalist Mike Elk, who has covered this story extensively for In These Times magazine. [includes rush transcript]

Year old Berkeley Lab Discovery rehashed as "new" Oak Ridge Lab Discovery in "Science Magazine"

ScienceDaily - In a paper published April 21 in Science, Los Alamos researchers Gang Wu, Christina Johnston, and Piotr Zelenay, joined by researcher Karren More of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, describe the use of a platinum-free catalyst in the cathode of a hydrogen fuel cell. Eliminating platinum -- a precious metal more expensive than gold -- would solve a significant economic challenge that has thwarted widespread use of large-scale hydrogen fuel cell systems.
Credit: Wikipedia Commons
"The encouraging point is that we have found a catalyst with a good durability and life cycle relative to platinum-based catalysts," said Zelenay, corresponding author for the paper. "For all intents and purposes, this is a zero-cost catalyst in comparison to platinum, so it directly addresses one of the main barriers to hydrogen fuel cells."

"Because of the successful performance of the new catalyst, the Los Alamos researchers have filed a patent for it?"

I am confused... Haase

Did they google "hydrogen fuel cells without using platinum" and by timeline?

Or are we all just barking up the same hydrogen bond ;-)

Berkeley do this first, the Swis or Oak Ridge Lab?

I sounded a lot like my post from a year ago  "Next100... a new discovery from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) of an effective replacement for platinum as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen from water could be a very big deal indeed. If hydrogen could be produced cheaply enough, it could be used for clean electric power generation or as a transportation fuel. The only byproduct would be water vapor. A team at LBNL says it has identified a molybdenum compound that works about as well as platinum but costs only one-seventieth as much.


Run on Banks - 1/5 of Americans Cashing out retirement funds

Nearly one-fifth of full-time emphttp://www.thestreet.com/tsc/v2008/photos/all-pics/financial-info-taxes-etc/401k-gone-front-offlead.jpgoyed Americans have raided retirement accounts in the past year to cover emergencies, according to a national Bankrate survey.

Despite increasing signs of a stabilizing U.S. economy, 19 percent of Americans — including 17 percent of full-time workers — have been compelled to take money from their retirement savings in the last year to cover urgent financial needs, the Financial Security Index found.

Though 80 percent of full-time workers didn’t dip into retirement funds, far too many consumers are ill-prepared for emergencies, says Kim McGrigg, manager of community and media relations at Money Management International, a credit counseling agency.

“Perhaps the most alarming thing about these numbers is that they suggest a lack of other options,” she says. “Consumers generally consider using retirement funds only as a last resort.” -  Bankrate

NASA Fires Up Jet Fuel That Tastes Like Chicken

The Air Force is the single largest user of aviation fuel inside the Federal government, using an estimated 3 billion gallons per year, according to the Air Force. Each time the price of oil goes up $10 per barrel, it costs the Air Force an additional $600 million for fuel. nas adc8
"It may never make it into everyday jet-fighter use, but NASA is checking out biofuel made from chicken and beef fat. The chicken fat fuel, known as Hydrotreated Renewable Jet Fuel, was burned in the engine of a DC-8 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as part of its Alternative Aviation Fuels Experiment, which is looking at developing all manner of biofuel alternatives to traditional Jet Propellant 8. The DC-8 is used as a test vehicle because its engine operations are well-documented and well-understood, NASA says." - SlashDot

The researchers measured the fuel's performance in the engines and examined the engine exhaust for chemicals and contamination that could contribute to air pollution.  According to NASA, it was the first test ever to measure biofuel emissions for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and tiny particles of soot or unburned hydrocarbon - both of which can degrade air quality in communities with airports. NOx contributes to smog and particulate matter contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.http://endlessinnovation.typepad.com/endless_innovation/images/2007/04/17/chicken_fat_fuel.jpg

NASA said that in the engine that burned the biofuel, black carbon emissions were 90% less at idle and almost 60% less at takeoff thrust. The biofuel also produced much lower sulfate, organic aerosol, and hazardous emissions than the standard jet fuel. Researchers will spend the next several months comparing the results and drawing conclusions, NASA said.

The Air Force too has been experimenting hydrotreated fuel.  It has successfully flown a couple jets in its arsenal on 50-50 blends of Hydrotreated Renewable Jet fuel, or HRJ, and JP-8.

In the past the Air Force has stated it wants to fuel half its North American fleet with a synthetic-fuel blend by 2016.

More on energy: US goes after some game-changing energy projects

World’s Worst Oil Spills

World’s Worst Oil Spills

On April 24, in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon, a submersible drilling rig sank after an explosion on April 22. Eleven people died in the Deepwater Horizon blast. The riser, a 5,000-foot-long pipe that connects the wellhead to the rig, became detached and started leaking oil. And, so began the worst oil spill ...


Water demand will outstrip supply in twenty years

'We need to brace for what could easily be humanity's greatest short-term challehttp://www.johncronin.net/.a/6a00e54f9afaa488340120a5efe526970b-800winges.' - Dr Catley-Carlson
Scientists have warned water demand in many countries will exceed supply by 40 per cent within 20 years
A new way of thinking about water is needed as looming shortages threaten communities, agriculture and industry, experts said.

In the next two decades, a third of humanity will have only half the water required to meet basic needs, said researchers.

Agriculture, which soaks up 71 per cent of water supplies, is also likely to suffer, affecting food production.

Around 300 scientists, policy makers, and economists attended the international meeting in Ottawa hosted by the Canadian Water Network (CWN) in the run-up to U.S. World Water Day on March 22.

The vast amount of 'virtual water' used in farming and industry was highlighted by Nicholas Parker, chairman of international environmental technology consultants Cleantech Group.

Virtual water describes the volume of water 'embedded' in the production process.

Manufacturing a desk top computer, for example, requires 1.5 tonnes, or 1,500 litres of water, said Mr Parker.

A pair of denim jeans used up six tonnes, a kilogram of wheat one tonne, a kilogram of chicken three to four tonnes, and a kilogram of beef 15 to 30 tonnes.

'What people don't often realise is how much water there is in everything we make and buy, from T-shirts to wine,' Mr Parker added.

Dr Nicholas Ashbolt, from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said water conservation measures could 'easily' reduce household demand in developed countries by 70 per cent.

Examples of water-saving devices included dry composting toilets with urine separation systems which operated like 'garden compost heaps'. Diverted water was re-used in agriculture while remaining waste was turned into soil-enriching organic compost.

'These techniques can be used safely, even in fairly dense urban settings,' said Dr Ashbolt.
Read more at DailyMail


GOOD delivers yet another strikingly clean infographic on how to reduce your water footprint by changing your diet and lifestyle. The chart is composed of both direct water usage (how much water you use) and virtual water usage (how much water was used to make the thing you’re using).

Apr 25, 2011

$1.2 trillion hole in Americans Wallet - Just dumb spending

Commerce Department data suggests that in February, U.S. consumers spent an annualized $1.2 trillion on non-essential stuff including pleasure boats, jewelry, booze, gambling and candy. That’s 11.2% of total consumer spending, up from 9.3% a decade earlier and only 4% in 1959, adjusted for inflation. In February, spending on non-essential stuff was up an inflation-adjusted 3.3% from a year earlier, compared to 2.4% for essential stuff such as food, housing and medicine.

... Alternately, it could be read as a sign that U.S. economic growth relies too heavily on stimulating demand for stuff people don’t really need, to the detriment of public goods such as health and education.

Read more at WallStreetJournal

Apr 24, 2011

Waste heat powers schools

Heated water running through sewers will be put to use heating a school.
Paris has been on an alternative energy roll as of late: installing hydropower turbines in the Seine, testing the limits of urban wind power and using solar power to Read the full story on TreeHugger

Roads as Solar and Piezo-Electric Generators

Another use of a free, wasted byproduct to generate electricity is piezo-electric energy. "Piezo" means pressure. Anything that produces pressure can produce energy.

For example, a train station in Japan installed piezo-electric equipment in the ground, so that the foot traffic of those walking through the train station generates electricity (turnstiles at train, subway and ferry stations, ballparks and amusement parks can also generate electricity).

Similarly, all exercise machines at the gym or at home can be hooked up to produce electricity.

But perhaps the greatest untapped sources of piezo-electric energy are freeways and busy roads. If piezo-electric mats were installed under the busiest sections [a little ways under the surface], the thousands of tons of vehicles passing over each day would generate massive amounts of electricity for the city's use.

A couple of readers thought that sounded nuts.

But as TreeHugger notes today:

Denmark will have to come up with something big to match the latest plan from the Netherlands - the installation of solar panels in roads, starting with bike lanes.solar-road-design.jpg

Talk about the efficient use of space: if you're going to have roads (and hopefully you'll have bike lanes), why not put that space to work producing energy? Called the Solaroad, the project is the brainchild of Dutch research firm TNO. The idea is pretty straightforward: a layer of concrete forms the road itself. A centimeter thick layer of crystalline silicon solar cells is laid on top, and covered by a layer of toughened glass. The energy potential: 50kWh per square meter per year, which can then be used to power street lighting, traffic systems and households.

...Scheduled for installation next year, the first Solaroad will hopefully allow its developers better implement many more throughout the country.

Now why not put a piezo-electric mat under the crystalline silicon solar cells, under the layer of toughened glass?

We'd get two different forms of energy generation at once...

The U.S. Wastes More Energy Than it Uses - Partly Because of the Centralization of Power

As shown by the following graphic from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the U.S. wastes a lot more energy than it uses:

(click for giant graphic.)

America uses 39.97 quads of energy, while it wastes 54.64 quads (i.e. "rejected energy").

As CNET noted in 2007:

Sixty-two percent of the energy consumed in America today is lost through transmission and general inefficiency. In other words, it doesn't go toward running your car or keeping your lights on.
Put another way:
  • We waste 650% more energy than all of our nuclear power plants produce
  • We waste 280% more energy than we produce by coal
  • We waste 235% more energy than we produce by natural gas (using deadly fracking)
  • We waste 150% more energy than we generate with other petroleum products
The Department of Energy notes:
Only about 15% of the energy from the fuel you put in your tank gets used to move your car down the road or run useful accessories, such as air conditioning. The rest of the energy is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies and idling. Therefore, the potential to improve fuel efficiency with advanced technologies is enormous.

According to the DOE, California lost 6.8% of the total amount of electricity used in the state in 2008 through transmission line inefficiencies and losses.

Energy usage in the U.S. residential sector in 2006. The National Academies Press notes:

By the time energy is delivered to us in a usable form, it has typically undergone several conversions. Every time energy changes forms, some portion is “lost.” It doesn't disappear, of course. In nature, energy is always conserved. That is, there is exactly as much of it around after something happens as there was before. But with each change, some amount of the original energy turns into forms we don't want or can't use, typically as so-called waste heat that is so diffuse it can't be captured.

Reducing the amount lost – also known as increasing efficiency – is as important to our energy future as finding new sources because gigantic amounts of energy are lost every minute of every day in conversions. Electricity is a good example. By the time the energy content of electric power reaches the end user, it has taken many forms. Most commonly, the process begins when coal is burned in a power station. The chemical energy stored in the coal is liberated in combustion, generating heat that is used to produce steam. The steam turns a turbine, and that mechanical energy is used to turn a generator to produce the electricity.

Example of energy lost during conversion and transmission. In the process, the original energy has taken on a series of four different identities and experienced four conversion losses. A typical coal-fired electrical plant might be 38% efficient, so a little more than one-third of the chemical energy content of the fuel is ultimately converted to usable electricity. In other words, as much as 62% of the original energy fails to find its way to the electrical grid. Once electricity leaves the plant, further losses occur during delivery. Finally, it reaches an incandescent lightbulb where it heats a thin wire filament until the metal glows, wasting still more energy as heat. The resulting light contains only about 2% of the energy content of the coal used to produce it. Swap that bulb for a compact fluorescent and the efficiency rises to around 5% – better, but still a small fraction of the original.

Example of energy lost during conversion and transmission. Imagine that the coal needed to illuminate an incandescent light bulb contains 100 units of energy when it enters the power plant. Only two units of that energy eventually light the bulb. The remaining 98 units are lost along the way, primarily as heat.

Read more from "It's Not Just Alternative Energy Versus Fossil Fuels or Nuclear - Energy Has to Become DECENTRALIZED"

OIL - Edward Burtynsky.

Sustainable.... have we even defined the word or world without oil?


See more word changing artwork by Edward Burtynsky. here

Why 'Self-Sufficiency' Should Replace 'Sustainability' in the Environmental Movement

http://awakenlifemanagement.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world.jpgActivist post: Because the only genuine path to sustainability in any broad sense is through one person and community at a time, the environmental movement must shift its focus to personal self-sufficiency. And because sustainability cannot be achieved through forced coercion, gently educate your peers when they express interest.  On a broader scale, propose ideas to make your neighborhood or town less dependent on outside influences and seek like-minded volunteers to assist in projects.

Ultimately, in order for environmentalists to affect real change we must do as Gandhi said and "be the change you want to see in the world."  This doesn't mean preaching, picketing, or protesting.  It means living the change. And the most effective way to live a more sustainable existence is to dedicate ourselves to breaking free from the poisonous system itself. Read more from Activist post

Obama: US Finances are Unsustainable

http://static01.mediaite.com/med/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/ObamaFacebook-300x202.jpgBloomBerg - President Barack Obama, on a cross country trip to sell his deficit reduction plan, said yesterday that the nation’s finances are “unsustainable.”

At a campaign-style town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook Inc., Obama described the House Republicans’ budget plan as “fairly radical,” and said members of both political parties in Washington need to work together to start reducing the federal deficit in a “balanced way.”

“We have an unsustainable situation,” he said. “We face a critical time where we are going to have to make some decisions -- how do we bring down the debt in the short term, and how do we bring down the debt over the long term?”

Obama ... “Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor or people who are powerless,” he said.

Apr 22, 2011

McDonald's and Wal Mart Warn of Inflation

GeorgeWashington - The signs for inflation in food and basic consumer goods are widespread.

McDonald's is warning of inflation in food prices:http://climatesignals.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/FoodPrices2011Jan.jpg

McDonald's Corp forecast higher prices for beef, dairy and other items and said it would cautiously raise prices to keep attracting diners, who are grappling with higher grocery and gas bills.

McDonald's and other restaurant operators are getting squeezed by accelerating food costs and must figure out how to raise prices without scaring away already skittish diners.

Similarly, the American head of Wal Mart - the world's biggest retailer - is
warning of price hikes across the board:
U.S. consumers face "serious" inflation in the months ahead for clothing, food and other products, the head of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations warned Wednesday.

Inflation is "going to be serious," Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said during a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board. "We're seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate."

And as the New York Times notes, food producers are selling smaller portions for the same price, due to cost - push inflation:
With prices for energy and for raw materials like corn, cotton and sugar creeping up and expected to surge later this year, companies are barely bothering to cover up the shrinking packs.
While it's tempting to say we've got inflation, things are not so black-and-white... GeorgeWashington

"Happy, Coulda Hada Eathday" - EarthDay Canceled due to poor economic choices

Imagine we have no money to protect our people or planet
Haase -
(previous rant)
While I do not often talk "eco-nomics" the threat has become as much as a national health issue as cancer and as much of a environmental issue as global warming. If you are as concerned as much as I am about understanding our current economic problem then the quotes below may be a good resource.
Without a nations "economic health" there is NO money for environmental, health or safety... to be more clear, all the the efforts you (EHS professionals) have worked on for decades to protect our nations resources will be for nothing. Imagine a nation where half our companies can no longer afford to protect workers, the public or their environment... it's easy if you try. 

'continued unregulated
economic and overrun government spending
will dissolve any and all hopes for clean or sustainable energy in our future'....

In an ERA without basic health care or employment for over 10% of our nation we will have NO choices but to sacrifice necessary environmental, energy and just to protect the suffering.

UNLESS we make the right choices by investing in environmental and energy sectors that grow our jobs and GDP.
It is VERY possible, but I have observed no 'realistic ideas for actual change or anything remotely different from decades old environmental and energy programs that failed horribly.

The good news is that our environmental and energy solutions can also be our economic salvation IF done correctly... you can read all over this site.

Noel Gallagher - Hippes had 40's year to do something...

While it may sound harsh... Noel Gallagher makes some VALID points. "environmentalists: Greens are f***ing hippies with no place in the world. They've been telling us for the last 50 years not to use aerosols or the sky's going to fall in. Well - you're the scientists, do something about it. How do you suggest we get 50million Chinese not to have a fridge? Or get 700million Americans to stop using their big stupid cars. The only way its going to happen is if the sky falls in. Until is does, these Greens are wasting their time. I'm glad - because in 50 years time I'll be dead. » original news

Does this seem "extreme"?
or am I not being objective?

Pollution & Global warming was "end of world" news during the 60's and 70's... What happened to the generations of people who cared and loved? They left the future in the hands of politicians and green groups who told them what to buy and how to act "green" (green washing).

Sound familiar yet?
Just wait ... The ME gen got frustrated nothing happened and bought 5,000lb SUV's to drive to 3,000 sqft homes 40 miles from work in a subdivision with no forest or trees in sight... then got divorced,  doubling the "Eco-Impact".

Seriously look at history and what is in the news right now... will they still care in 5 years or stop after the next presidential election as they did in the past.