Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Ugly AND Unfulfilling – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

April 16, 2009
Architect Kyu Sung Woo designed the three modernist metal and wood houses which allowed his family to live together in Vermont. © Tim Hursley/The Arkansas Office

Architect Kyu Sung Woo designed the three modernist metal and wood houses which allowed his family to live together in Vermont. © Tim Hursley/The Arkansas Office

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/) called “An extended family’s modernist, off-the-grid retreat”. They make a big deal about how “Architect Kyu Sung Woo fulfilled a decades-old promise to create a place for his family to live together when he completed a compound of three homes in Vermont last summer. It blends architectural traditions of New England and Korea.”

What can I say but not very impressive. Stacked double-wide mobile home comes to mind. As you can see in this blog, I have some previous postings on some truly unique solutions such as the houses created by Living Homes (although I prefer earth sheltered homes as the ultimate design challenge). This home has some solar and a generator. No geothermal, no wind-nada. Big deal. Oh and did I mention that all the living modules are all only 15 feet wide so they get maximum exposure on the North side for maximum energy loss?

“In 2003, Kyu Sung Woo bought 250 acres of virgin forest near Putney, a rural town of 2,600 in Vermont.” So this guy wipes out all the virgin timber and erects a modern eyesore in the middle of a pristine wilderness. A shelter that was one with nature would have been more appropriate and less an insult (think about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home, Taliesin, near Spring Green, Wisconsin). Perhaps a home that was integrated into the countryside like an underground house or earth bermed shelter nestled into the virgin forest would have been fitting. Now that would have been an impressive feat. This is neither impressive nor unique. Since the structures are only 15 feet wide they would have been perfectly suited for a much more impressive endeavor. Being underground or earth bermed would have made this house an energy efficient architectural marvel. There is nothing really new or unique about this structure. This thing can be tossed in with all the rest of the average modernist house designs.

Come on Wall Street Journal, I expect better from you… slow news day? Don’t worry, just kidding, I love the giant wine tunnel article- “A Family’s Adventures Underground -The Palmazes dreamed of a 100,000-square-foot wine cave. The neighbors weren’t happy.”

(see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123085057130947469-search.html?KEYWORDS=wine+cave&COLLECTION=wsjie/6month).

Airplane beats Prius MPG

January 26, 2009
Over 50 MPG at 200 MPH!
Over 50 MPG at 200 MPH!

 

 At speeds close to 200 miles per hour this Aircraft gets over 50 miles per gallon. When Klaus Savier throttles back to extended range, he gets about 100 mpg. Not bad.

Economy like this could be easily achieved throughout our entire general aviation fleet.  But it will never happen.  FAA regulations governing the fleet, combined with the difficulty and cost involved in getting a pilot’s license, keep the total number of aircraft quite small.  Without a large volume of consumers or government assistance there just isn’t any money in it. 

And without profit, private industry won’t touch it.  Therefore, it is quite surprising to find a guy like Klaus Savier, owner of Light Speed Engineering.  

Through a labor of love, this aeronautical innovator, based out of Santa Paula Airport in Southern California, has been setting speed and efficiency records for over 20 years in his experimental airplane. The plane demonstrates technology products that could improve the reliability and efficiency of the entire GA fleet.

Although his airplane only carries 30 gallons of fuel, Savier has flown it nonstop from Southern California to Oshkosh, Wis. (1,751 miles) and nonstop from Southern California to Panama City, Fla. (1,956 miles).   

Beats the pants off a Prius!

Current Issues Facing Obama as President- Part One: Globalization

November 21, 2008

earth-from-apollo171I just finished watching Barack Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview via YouTube; talk about a flaming bag of problems on your White House porch.  Obama is really going to have his hands full (and perhaps his shoes).  He is going to have to deal with a United States in shambles.  We have an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression, an ongoing energy crisis, several wars (war on drugs, war on terror, war in Iraq, and war in Afghanistan), a healthcare crisis, globalization and free trade, illegal immigration, and an education crisis.

Although this is a lot to have on anyone’s plate, many of these issues have links to each other.  So let’s look at a few of these over the next several days.

 

Globalization, free trade, poison milk, energy and pollution

Globalization and free trade help to improve the standard of living in other countries and brings the world together by sharing economic ties. Every day more and more US jobs move to China, India, and other developing countries.  We import much more than we export and waste so much more than the rest of the world’s countries that we should probably buy another country so we have a place big enough for our giant landfill.  Our filthy wasteful habits set a poor example for the rest of the world.  We are going to have to do better.

 

We need to transition to clean renewable energy sources and help our trading partners to do the same.  We also need to help our trading partners to establish or improve product quality monitoring systems so we can reduce or eliminate dangerous imported goods (like those irresistibly fun lead-painted toys, or that delicious melamine-laced Chinese milk).

 

Many of these job losses are inevitable as the world evolves.  Like most of you, I do not enjoy troubleshooting a problem that I am having with a new product via the telephone to a distant country. I do, however, enjoy the challenge of learning a new language at the same time as much as any other guy. But what happens if I’m the guy that that used to work in the customer service center here in the U.S., and now my job has been outsourced to another country?  I’m going to need another job.  Maybe I’ll go into politics.

 

Therefore, it will be necessary to create retraining programs for our displaced workers (and it needs to begin NOW).  With proper government incentives and funding, new industries can be created to supply clean energy to our growing nation.  Transitional training and educational programs will be required to supply workers for these clean energy industries. With proper planning and foresight, both issues (displaced workers and need for clean energy) can be handled for the benefit of all if these workers are trained and educated to handle and work in the field of clean energy.  But that’s the crux:  will we have the proper planning and foresight, both for the sake of the individual workers and for the future of our country?

 

The simple act of transporting goods from faraway places creates countless tons of unnecessary pollution. A semi-reliable flow of cheap energy has created fragile supply chains that go from your local Wal-Mart all the way back to China.  Our food supplies typically come from 1500 miles away.  My socks might come from 3000 miles away, my computer might come from 8000 miles away, and my technical support call to fix my computer might be answered by a person 7000 miles away.  There are many, many products that can be manufactured and serviced for a lot less money and a lot more efficiently in another country like China or India.  And as these countries grow, so do the amount of jokes that we tell about them. But hey let’s face it, we Americans are a lot easier to poke fun at, being the hypocrites that we are.

 

The explosive growth of economies like those of India and China are generating more and more unregulated pollution and greenhouse gases every day.  Providing incentives to reduce this behavior and clean up the world would be a step in the right direction.  Hopefully the countries that are going through the same transition from agricultural to industrial nations as we did don’t make the same mistakes.  I would hate to see any country squander their resources, pollute their water, and pollute their air like we did.  I hope they can learn from our mistakes and we can teach them what we’ve learned.  It costs a lot more to fix it after it is broken than it does if you’d taken care of it all along andfda-in-china3 not let a break in the first place.

 

In addition to the pollution that the factories create for the improved health and enjoyment of their country’s citizens, the products themselves are often tainted or poisoned.  Rewarding good behavior usually gets better results than punishing bad behavior. In China, however, this has not been the case.  According to the Washington Post, in just four months the FDA rejected about 300 food products only to have the same products be resubmitted two or three times (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/19/AR2007051901273.html).  You have to wonder what they were thinking.  Were they trying to slip them past the FDA when they were on break?  Maybe it was a quality assurance test or perhaps an episode of “Candid Camera”.  In response to incidents such as these, the FDA has established inspection offices in China. And according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the first of these offices opened up in Beijing this month (http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/11/20081118a.html).

 

With the Republicans’ demands for deregulation and small government being enacted year after year, you have to wonder how this skeleton crew of FDA workers is going to protect us from the billions of products that come from China every year when they can’t even prevent an E. coli breakout in our home country.

 

Heaven help us.

 

JCE

Livinghomes

November 14, 2008

livinghomes-grow_with_you

Today I watched an episode of Wired Science on PBS.  They were talking about this super-green house that was made by a company called Livinghomes.  It was kind of an old episode so the company’s been in business for quite some time now.  It was particularly interesting to me because they incorporated a lot of my ideas into the homes that they build so I must be on the right track. Steve Glenn is the owner and he has put everything green, renewable, and sustainable that you could think of into the houses that he builds. 

He starts out with a modular constructed home that is prefabricated in a factory to reduce onsite construction costs and pollution caused by trucks.  And on the inside of the house they make sure to use nontoxic building materials, substances, paints, coatings and furniture so the house doesn’t have all the poisonous fumes and toxic molds that many of the new tight houses have associated with them.  Hopefully all houses that are built above ground will be built like this soon.

Here is a partial summary of Steve’s house from the show:

The living homes demonstration house is 2480 square foot in size.  It is 80% more efficient than a conventional structure of similar size.

It costs $390 per square foot to build, some 25% less than typical high and construction in the neighborhood (in California).  This is the first home to receive the platinum LEED standard set by the nonprofit United States Green Building Council.

Solar panels on the roof provide 80 to 85% of the energy needed for the house.  A Solar hot water heating system is also mounted on the roof.  This provides all the hot water necessary for the house including items such as the shower and washing machine.  In addition, this system also provides all the energy needed for the radiant heating system embedded in the floor of each room.

A water recycling system and a rainwater collection system provides irrigation water to a rooftop garden.

 

 

Opinion: Obama is the Clear Energy Winner

November 3, 2008

Senator John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s mantra is “drill, baby, drill.” This is inarguably short-sighted, foolish AND more irrelevant as oil prices fall.

 

It would take the oil companies 10 years to put the entire infrastructure into place to extract that oil that McCain is talking about.  The United States consumes the most oil of any country and contributes the most pollution.  Now that oil prices are falling consumers seem to be going right back to their old habits as pickup trucks and SUV sales are climbing.

 

When I look at Obama’s plan, I see a clear long-term vision that will put us in the winner’s circle as a nation.  His energy policies will reduce our dependency on foreign oil (see my posts on both of the candidates’ policies).

 

The housing crisis was the last blow that triggered the financial meltdown.  But the rising energy costs were the first blow that knocked us down because the energy costs drastically reduced our discretionary spending. 

 

Obama’s energy policy is much clearer than McCain’s.  The Obama energy plan provides the clearest vision by explaining how he would support alternative energy, renewable energy, solar energy, and wind energy.  The energy crisis will not be resolved without sacrifice and energy conservation.  Barack Obama deals more intelligently with oil and coal.

 

When I look at the energy policy of the McCain campaign, I see the energy policies of the Bush administration.  President Bush and John McCain have the Iraq war as part of their energy policy.  Oil is king.  Deregulation (part of the Bush Doctrine) is also part of the McCain doctrine. This is what caused the energy crisis and subsequent housing meltdown in the first place.  If elected, the McCain legacy will morph right into Bush’s energy legacy.

 

But when it comes to energy policies and Obama and McCain (or Obama vs. McCain), the McCain/Palin camp just doesn’t get it. Obama/Biden does.

 

Don’t get me wrong: I like some of John McCain’s energy policies.  But overall they are inferior to Obama’s.  McCain’s campaign has not convinced me that they will fix the current problems and get us out of this mess.

 

When you vote, consider the fact that the economy will improve over time.  Global warming, left unchecked, will destroy our future and most likely plunge our country into another economic (perhaps permanent) crisis.  That is why, in the 2008 presidential election, I support Barack Obama.

 

JCE

Note: All comments that do not pertain to the candidates’ energy policies will not be posted.

Update to the 2010 VW super efficient diesel that gets over 200 MPG

October 30, 2008

I found some more new pictures of the Volkswagen super diesel production model on Motor Authority:(http://www.motorauthority.com/vw-boss-confirms-1-liter-car-for-2010.html).

 It’s still going to be a two seat tandem and it’s still going to get 235 MPG but now it’s going to be a hybrid diesel. They don’t expect to sell too many so they are only making 1000 of them.

Since they are handmade in the prototype shop they expect the price to be fairly high at $31,400 to $47,100. But I suppose when people are paying $20,000 to $30,000 for a Harley Davidson motorcycle I suppose this isn’t too far out of line. The vehicle is so small that some are concerned that the car may not pass the safety tests required for on-road use. But since the vehicle has tandem seating, a slight redesign could make it into a three wheeler. By putting a single wheel in the rear it would become a motorcycle and not be required to be held to the same safety standards as an automobile.

Bush Signs Amtrak Funding and Rail Safety Bill

October 27, 2008

Last week Bush finally signed the Amtrak funding and rail safety bill after the tragic September 12, 2008 collision that killed 25 people in Los Angeles.  Bush had opposed the bill because it gave funding to Amtrak. But this time around he signed the bill without question.  This provides Federal funding for many projects including high speed rail in the Midwest.  If we finally get our butts in gear we can get this project done.  Our politicians have been talking about it, arguing and dragging their feet for years and haven’t done a thing.  High speed rail from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and onto Minneapolis would give people the option they deserve.  The last time I tried to catch the train from Milwaukee to Chicago I couldn’t even get a ticket.  I had to drive down through all the construction and it was horrible.  I was scared to death half the time and I got lost on the way back.  When I can get a ticket on the train it’s wonderful.  I sit back and read and study and it worked done.  When I get off I feel refreshed.  We need a safer alternative to driving our cars everywhere.  This not only saves fuel but also wear and tear on our vehicles.

We need to get on our politicians and ride them until they get this thing done.

McCain-Palin 2008 Energy policies

October 26, 2008

Expanding Domestic Oil And Natural Gas Exploration And Production: “Drill baby drill” Has Been the chant of their campaign.  Drilling for offshore oil is an unrealistic fallacy.  If you look it up on the government web sites you’ll find a study by the Department of Energy that say the impact would be “insignificant.” Does it make sense to you to go after the same stuff that there’s less and less of everyday?  This isn’t gonna help our pain at the pumps at all.  All the oil infrastructure that they are talking about would take about 10 years to get up and running.  And even after it was all in it would only account for about 1% overall oil usage.  What this really means is after it’s all in place you will see about one penny less per gallon at the pump.

 

Taking Action Now To Break Our Dependency On Foreign Oil By Reforming Our Transportation Sector.

 He wants to “commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys a zero carbon emission car, encouraging automakers to be first on the market with these cars in order to capitalize on the consumer incentives. For other vehicles, a graduated tax credit will apply so that the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.” Now this a good start.  But it doesn’t do anything to get the inefficient trucks and SUVs off the market and our streets.  We need to charge more at the pumps for large and efficient vehicles and less for hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

 

I like the “$300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology For Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles“because I believe we shouldn’t invest in new technologies.  He does, however, put all our eggs in one basket.

 

I’d don’t like that he “Supports Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) And Believes They Should Play A Greater Role In Our Transportation Sector.  It is true that Brazil runs about 85% of their vehicles on domestic ethanol.  McCain’s proposal to get rid of the tariffs on Brazil’s ethanol that is produced from sugar canes is just another imported fuel that keeps us dependent on imports.

 

His belief that “Alcohol-Based Fuels Hold Great Promise As Both An Alternative To Gasoline And As A Means of Expanding Consumers’ Choices. Some choices such as ethanol are on the market right now. The second generation of alcohol-based fuels like cellulosic ethanol, which won’t compete with food crops, are showing great potential” would make a great transition to all electric vehicles.  Any crop used for fuel would depend on powered vehicles to plant maintain and harvest them.  Today these vehicles are powered by Petroleum Products.

 

John McCain’s elimination of “Wasteful Special Interest Subsidies” is a good move.  Robert Kennedy Jr.  recently stated on a Fred Friendly’s Seminar series called “fueling our future” that gasoline prices are actually $10 to $12 dollars a gallon.  People don’t understand that the price at the pump is so low because it’s hidden in your taxes.  Subsidies to special interest groups allowed this to occur.

 

“John McCain Will Effectively Enforce Existing CAFE Standards” is a joke.  These are the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet.  They have been way too low for years and “Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars” which makes it even more ineffective.  The penalties have to be painful enough so the carmakers comply.  Therefore I believe John McCain’s quote that he “believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles” is a good policy.

 

But what he does an address is how about more and better mass transportation systems?  How about encouraging employers to push for improved telecommunications systems and encourage people to work from home as much as they can?  How about encouraging employers to take mass transportation or carpool? This would put a huge dent in our fuel usage.

 

Investing In Clean, Alternative Sources Of Energy

I like this quote “John McCain Believes That The U.S. Must Become A Leader In A New International Green Economy. Green jobs and green technology will be vital to our economic future. There is no reason that the U.S. should not be a leader in developing and deploying these new technologies.”

 

But that he was often a la-la Land. “John McCain Will Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies. Coal produces the majority of our electricity today. Some believe that marketing viable clean coal technologies could be over 15 years away.” This sounds great (sarcasm here).  Invest and another fossil fuel that’s over 15 years into the future.  What a great idea.  This would be not only of no use to us now but it would also rely on another fossil fuel.  Bad idea.

 

Protecting Our Environment By Addressing Climate Change

I also agree with the cap-and-trade idea. “That Would Set Limits On Greenhouse Gas Emissions While Encouraging The Development Of Low-Cost Compliance Options. A climate cap-and-trade mechanism would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, similar to the successful acid rain trading program of the early 1990s.” this is good stuff but he’s not aggressive enough on the auto industry and all other pollution sources to get their act together.

 

We need to declare war on energy waste and air pollution.  This crisis is actually worse than the economic crisis that we’re in right now.  The economic crisis will be used as an excuse not to take care of energy waste and air pollution.  This will lead to further destruction of our planet and increase the greenhouse gas problem.  We need to create a WPA type program where we take all the people that are out of work due to this economic crisis and get them busy working on wind Energy and solar energy projects that will save our planet.

 

Promoting Energy Efficiency

“John McCain Will Make Greening The Federal Government A Priority Of His Administration. The federal government is the largest electricity consumer on earth and occupies 3.3 billion square feet of space worldwide.” This is a really good idea.  It’s good to lead by example.

“John McCain Will Move The United States Toward Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy.” This is a really good idea that doesn’t go far enough.  We need to put huge wind farms in the central corridor of the United States and huge solar installations in the sunny desert areas of the United States.

 

As part of this policy, John McCain says “we will also need to deploy SmartMeter technologies. These new meters give customers a more precise picture of their overall energy consumption, and over time will encourage a more cost-efficient use of power.” This is also a great idea.  He does not, however, mention smart grid technology that would another great energy policy.  Smart grid technology allows the consumer to select appliances that can be turned off during the day without affecting them at all and avoid brownouts and blackouts at the same time.

Another great idea that he does not address would be another work program where people could winterize low income homes and then work their way up to middle class homes.  These homes are notorious Energy wasters.  This would create jobs were they are needed and help people that are out of work due to this economic crisis.

 

 

Addressing Speculative Pricing Of Oil

John McCain wants two find the abusers and punish them swiftly. “To make sure it never happens again, we must reform the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market, so that they are just as clear and effective as the rules applied to stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. “ These are good ideas and should be implemented.

John McCain Does Not Support A Windfall Profits Tax.  A windfall profits tax would punish the oil companies that greatly profited from the speculation.  Personally, I’d like to see those profits taxed at a higher rate and the money used for work programs and research and development into green energy technologies.  The money could also be used for the home winterization programs.  See the exact details on McCain’s website: http://www.johnmccain.com

Moving underground after 2 houses burned

October 24, 2008

http://www.wwmt.com/articles/california_1354907___article.html/taking_houses.html

Moving underground after 2 houses burned

October 24, 2008 – 8:07AM
CALIFORNIA (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A California couple who lost two homes to wildfires isn’t taking any more chances.

” This time they’re building in the landscape.  Skip and Linda Miller are building a home in the side of a hill with only one side visible.  The rest will be covered with fire-resistant landscaping.

 They watched their homes burn down in 2003 and again in 2007. The second time they escaped with just the clothes on their back.

 Going underground might seem strange for some, but the Miller’s say it shouldn’t feel that different from their other homes. “If you look at some of the models of these homes, with the use of skylights and the orientation of the building and everything, it doesn’t really feel like you’re inside than on a normal building,” said Skip Miller.

 The Miller’s say it was frustrating to lose two homes, but they’re just glad their family is safe and sound.”

Underground houses are an excellent solution to many problems.  They’d be perfect for tornado alley.  An underground house (if built correctly) is fireproof, earthquake proof, flood proof, soundproof and is naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

I just wish more people would take advantage of this technology.

JCE

Opinion: Obama is the Clear Energy Winner

October 23, 2008

 

John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “is ‘drill, baby, drill.” Short sighted and foolish AND more irrelevant as oil prices fall.  It would take the oil companies 10 years to put the entire infrastructure into place to extract that oil that McCain is talking about.  The United States consumes the most oil of any country and contributes the most pollution.  Now that oil prices are falling consumers seem to be going right back to their old habits as pickup trucks and SUV sales are climbing.

 

When I look at Obama’s plan, I see a clear long-term vision that will put us in the winner’s circle as a nation.  His energy policies will reduce our dependency on foreign oil (see my posts on both their policies).

When you vote, consider the fact that the economy will improve over time.  Global warming, left unchecked, will destroy our future and most likely plunge our country into another economic crisis.