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Sure. Nuclear fission is all fine and dandy until somebody grows a third eye and pokes it out.
The three-eyed fish of the Simpsons
don’t seem as funny as they once did.
The nuclear reactor catastrophe that is adding to all the other terrible tragedies in the wake of Japan’s quake and tsunami this week serves to highlight a question that hasn’t been asked much for a while: does nuclear power make sense at all? If you want a quick refresher on the topic, this Discovery “10 Pros and Cons” list seems even-handed and apolitical in its assessment. While some of the virtues of nuclear power are remarkable – i.e., the low cost and clean process during actual energy production – I’ve personally never thought they outweighed the impact of mining the necessary materials, the short term risk, or the necessity to store thousands of tons of radioactive waste annually for literally tens of thousands of years. The process only has a low environmental impact while producing the energy, and really only in comparison to the horrific waste and destruction wrought by fossil fuels. Although legislation has put on hold the use of the Yucca Mountains as America’s dumping grounds for radioactive waste, there has been no commitment to stop creating the stuff, so I don’t know what we call that. Progress? Poor planning? In any case the event in Japan will of course politicize the topic again; Joe Lieberman, for instance, didn’t miss a beat to do some bandstanding on Face The Nation, and I have to admit I experienced a little queasiness when today’s headlines commonly said things like Japan radiation unlikely to reach US , and pointed out that the only fallout here in the states would be legislative. The irony of a US-made reactor failing in Japan of all places is of course both a sad and painful irony. For insight into what actually is happening in the Japanese reactors, see this Scientific American piece. If there has been any positive news, it is that the reactor problems in Japan so far are not full meltdowns, and even if they were, the results would be nothing like the Chernobyl disaster in the eighties. By the way, if you’ve never seen the Kid of Speed website created by Elena Filatova back in 2004, you should. It captures the weird vibe of an area hundreds of miles wide that humans won’t occupy safely for decades, thanks to a single nuclear accident. And although a tremendous increase in the wildlife population around Chernobyl has occurred, mutations are in fact common. Maybe the three-eyed fish of the Simpsons cartoons aren’t so funny after all.
[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 1, 2011 by admin in Clean & GreenTuesday, March 1st, 2011
As luxury automakers explore the market, will electric cars finally shed their stigma as the preferred mode of transit for tree-hugging liberals?
The only car quieter than a Rolls-Royce is
an electric Rolls-Royce. Batteries included.
If you’re the sort of driver that has been repelled by the idea of an electric car because of the stereotypical image of the tree-hugging socialist making a stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up some tofu snacks as they drive their Prius to an Obama rally, you may have to finally give up your Luddite stance and accept the future of electric. You’ve almost certainly seen the Tesla and the Fisker , two of the more remarkable electric vehicles in production. But even the more adventurous buyer with the funds available to purchase a car like that would probably balk simply due to the fact that both companies are highly speculative startup ventures. Well, things are starting to take a serious turn in the EV market, a turn that may make it hard to argue against an electric as soon as 2013. High-end carmakers were already making some bold moves in the green car market; Porsche’s hybrid Panamera is just one of several examples, and Porsche also quietly rolled out the Boxster E prototype recently. But now three major luxury carmakers – BMW, Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes-Benz – are all making serious commitments to EV’s. And not just as quirky, awkward looking concept cars. Even the combustion engine addicts over at Car & Driver gave the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell high marks – not as an electric, but as an “actual car”. BMW is also rolling out their ActiveE, and probably the most mind-blowing development is the Rolls-Royce 102EX. When a company that embodies a commitment to perfection in engineering and owner experience in the way that Rolls does is making a commitment, you know the electric car is truly arriving. Visit ElectricLuxury.com to learn more. Or watch the introductory video below. The abundance of umlauts in CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös’ name is exceeded only by the clarity and confidence with which he expresses his vision for making the Rolls-Royce 102EX a year-long global R&D adventure. Does someone have a bib? I keep drooling as I edit the photos of this thing. Read the rest of this entry »
[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 22, 2011 by admin in Clean & GreenTuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Solar Power? Plastic Bags? The Oil In The Gulf? A roundup of clean and green topics you don’t have to be worried about, or already aren’t.
One of the hardest things about being an environmental activist must be keeping up with whatever it is that you’re supposed to be being active about. First the world’s heating up. Then it’s not. Then it is again. And now, after several years of alarm about the perils of plastic bags – at least a dozen countries have banned them outright according to the single serving site called which countries have banned plastic bags.blogspot.com – the UK environment agency has some pending report saying they’re not so bad after all. Their report focuses on carbon footprint issues though, and curiously overlooks other key issues. One of which is that we use at least a half billion of the things a year, and they have a predicted lifespan of (at the very minimum) a couple hundred years. Another of which is that in many countries the issue is as much related to health or simple aesthetics. When I was in Kenya a few years ago for instance, you could always tell when you were nearing a town, because the plastic bag litter density seemed to increase proportionately with your distance from the town center. So would you like paper, or plastic? Well, you’ll have more time to ponder that now, because according to Ray Kurzweil, you also no longer have to worry about solar energy progress. We’ll be all set in twenty years. Which is good, because in the same article, he also says we’re gonna live forever. And forever is long enough to watch a lot of flip-flops on oil spill concerns. Because you know that Deepwater spill you stopped worrying about? You can start again. About the only positive turnabout recently was on pharmaceuticals in the water supply. No, the problem hasn’t gone away, but now at least it’s okay if there’s Ecstasy in it. Maybe it’s time someone raised a stink about that whole methane assprint of cow farts thing again. It’s been a while.
[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 9, 2011 by admin in Clean & GreenWednesday, February 9th, 2011
I’ve finally given up on being even slightly tolerant of climate change denial. Bring it. I will shred you. And toss you from the shores of Tuvalu.
Recently, I made a big mistake in how I framed some thoughts on the politics and terminology of “global warming”. I suggested there was some wiggle room regarding what the exact cause of ALL climate change over the last century might be. It seemed reasonable to accept the idea that we can’t know with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY how important the impact of industry has been on climate change, and perhaps more importantly, that maybe we needed to stop calling it “global warming”, simply as a political strategy. There are, after all, a bunch of scientists who question man’s influence on climate change. But after a lot of dialogue (mostly with some otherwise intelligent friends who work in energy) and a little more light research, I now realize that there’s some truth to the old adage “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”, and in this case, it’s more like “give them 3% and they’ll destroy all organic life on Earth”. There’s just no being reasonable with climate change deniers any more; virtually all of them need a good bitchslappin’ with the facts, and some duct tape applied to the mouths of those who won’t just shut up about it and face the unavoidable facts. And here’s where you can find them. The facts, I mean. Not the deniers. How about NASA? They don’t call them “rocket scientists” for nothing, you know. If you want to deny global warming, I’ll be glad to listen to you. As soon as you send a man to the Moon and back. Until then, please shut the fuck up. And how about the Union of Concerned Scientists? Their board is comprised of top scientists from academia, government, AND the private sector, many of them educated at schools like Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia University. So after you send that man to the moon and back, I wanna see at least three PhD’s too. Oh, and for those of you who are tired of listening to these weathertards, and need some simple retorts to their ignorant claims, try How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic or Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says, which between them list over 200 arguments, in language simple enough for even the most persistently ignorant to understand. And if that’s not enough, even Prince Charles is calling shenanigans, and he’s next in line for the bloody throne of England, for cryin’ out loud. Hardly what you’d call liberal treehugger material. We need to keep this idiotic tide at bay. I’d like to visit Tuvalu some day.
[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 19, 2011 by admin in Clean & GreenWednesday, January 19th, 2011
A biotech firm has patented a bacterium that essentially consumes carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, and excretes fossil fuels. But is an unlimited supply of fossil fuels the way to a cleaner, more efficient future?
A friend once told me that he used to work in a warehouse, and one day all the guys he worked with were sitting around talking about what they would do if they won the lotto. They started making jabs at each other, joking about really expensive things they would do to mess up each others’ work day. Eventually, with no sense of irony or humor whatsoever, one of the guys said “Yeah? Well I’d buy my OWN damn hi-lo so I wouldn’t have to share it with you jerks anymore”. This story sprang to mind the other day when I read that a biotech firm called Joule Unlimited received a patent last fall for genetically modified E. coli bacteria that needs only sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to enable it to excrete ethanol or hydrocarbon fuel. You read that right. A germ that lives on CO2, water and sunlight, and craps gasoline. Of course, it’s not that simple; there’s still a need to refine the compounds it excretes into usable fuels, but the company claims that once production is established, it will be able to produce 20,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per year, at a price that is competitive with conventional fossil fuels. To frame this in way that one can more easily visualize, they claim that they would be able to provide for all of the United States’ fuel needs annually in an area the size of the Texas panhandle. Okay. Who knows if this is actually true; we hear about some kind of miracle solution to the world’s energy problems about every year or so. But assuming it is true, WHY ON EARTH would you focus this kind of engineering genius and the resources required to create AN ENDLESS SUPPLY OF FOSSIL FUEL? To me it sounds a lot like that guy at the warehouse. The idea that using just sunlight, CO2 and water, we can create usable energy is kind of miraculous, isn’t it? I mean, except for the part where that energy eventually comes from petroleum again, which could create the pollution that blocks the sun that….oh, never mind. I’m no engineer, but it seems to me that the road to a cleaner, more efficient future wouldn’t be paved with a limitless supply of oil. Feel free to enlighten me if I’m spewing a geyser of ignorance here.