Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nearly Haiku...

No time like the present

We acknowledge our fragility

Live with gusto

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Real Climate Change Issues

Food production is key to getting our economy going again, and to the survival of our culture.  Climate change directly affects our fragile fossil fuel dependent food production system.  It is not really farming, but rather it is soil and water mining.

If we switched back to real farming - using our knowledge to significantly improve on what we had been doing for about 10,000 years before we "discovered" nitrogen fertilizer and the internal combustion engine, then here are all the deadly problems we would solve, by putting ourselves back into step with the cycle of life:

* We would stop eating oil and gas, which as you and I know are finite.

* We would let the soil come alive again -- it decomposes the stuff of life and makes it available for growing new life, building and improving the soil making it better and deeper and sequestering carbon rather than mining it, eroding it, and poisoning our waterways.

* We would cut about 25% of our greenhouse gas output from the crappy-water-soluble-nitrogen-to-nitrous-oxide-nightmare, that also includes dead rivers and dead fishing zones along the way.

* Local food production not only means far less oil burned transporting food around the world (the average food item travels 1,500 miles to your mouth!), but it also means far more nutritious, much better tasting food that makes us all much healthier -- we probably would see cancer rates go down, too!

* We would totally solve both our immigration problems and our unemployment problems at the same time.  And we would make big dents into our drug problem, our prison problem, our hunger problems, and our decaying civil society would be renewing its way back to health.

Wes Jackson proposes that we move to 80% perennial agriculture within the next 50 years.  We need to listen to the wisdom among us if we want to solve our major problems.

We have a sustainable abundance of renewable energy -- up to 16X more energy than the needs of the entire world.  Everybody can have as much electricity as they need -- and all that economic activity supports all our local economies.

Since renewable energy is available everywhere, to any and all people -- then the need for a military largely goes away.  Since living soils store water much more readily than dead soil, we stop needing to use up our fossil water supply.

We simply must do as nature does -- we must have zero waste.  Waste means that we are not doing it right: no disposable plastic, no disposable people, no disposable land, no disposable species.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ecodriving aka Hypermiling

What is EcoDriving?
In a nutshell, ecodriving is driving in the most economical way possible; and is also known as “hypermiling.” It starts with brisk acceleration (trying to use the peak torque of the engine) so you get to "cruising" speed fairly quickly, and then trying to use a minimum of throttle to maintain the speed. Obviously, uphills are your biggest challenge, where it takes throttle just to maintain speed -- if you can, it helps if you let yourself lose a little speed up hills.
There are three possible modes of driving:

1) Accelerating 2) Coasting 3) Decelerating

Accelerating uses energy, depending on the weight of the car, the steepness of the grade, and the rate of acceleration.

Coasting uses no added energy, and it uses the accumulated momentum / kinetic energy gained by the acceleration.  It only loses energy to aerodynamic and rolling drag.

Decelerating loses energy to energy to aerodynamic and rolling drag
and converting kinetic energy to heat in the brakes. Whenever possible, you should downshift to use the engine to brake, as this shuts off the fuel completely.

To be the most efficient, we need to minimize the energy it takes to accelerate and the energy lost through braking, and we need the car to lose a minimum amount of kinetic energy by being as low aerodynamic and rolling drag as possible.

To cover the most distance with the least energy, we need to accelerate up to a speed that will then allow the car to coast as close to the end as possible, and then use the engine to brake to make use of the remaining kinetic energy.  The brakes needs to stay as cool as possible.

Of course, cruising longer distances and/or up hills requires some additional acceleration; either to maintain a constant speed, or to climb a hill / slope.  You can do pulse and glide instead of constant acceleration (using the terrain as possible) and climbing hills well requires what I call "swooping".  This involves accelerating ahead of the uphill slope (when gaining speed takes less energy) and then use this to help carry speed up the hill.  Think how a bicyclist would climb a hill, and you'll understand.

Coasting downhill is a “no-brainer”-- someone dubbed downhills “road candy”!  If you go too fast, then use the engine to slow down, which shuts off the fuel.  And prepare to "swoop" if there is an uphill.
Then use the downhills to ease way off the throttle, or if you need to carry speed, put it in neutral and coast (with the engine idling) -- at 60mph at idle in my xA, I can get well over 300mpg while coasting.
The other common situation is when you can coast, but you need to slow down, or will soon come to a stop -- then you should downshift into a lower gear. When the engine is being pushed by the wheels, in almost all modern fuel injected cars -- will completely shut off the fuel to the engine; yielding "infinite" mileage for the duration of this kind of coasting. I try to only use my brakes at the very end of the coast right before you stop.
So, if you only use just enough throttle to get you where you need to go, and do not waste energy as heat in the brakes; but instead use it to shut off fuel to the engine, and coast to carry speed whenever you can, carrying momentum as far as you can -- then you are most of the way to good ecodriving technique.
There are other things to try, like pulse and glide (when on flat-ish terrain), and minimizing your use of A/C -- and of course if you want to try some simple and reversible mods: like pumping up your tires a bit above the recommended pressure -- but below the maximum listed on the sidewall, or some of the aerodynamic mods on the grill, etc., then all the better.
Let's try this: how far above the EPA combined mileage rating can you average on a tankful?
My Scion xA is rated 27 City/30 Combined/34 Highway by the EPA, so this past summer I was nearly 75% above the Combined, and last winter I was ~43% above – 42mpg was the worst tank average all winter! Here's a (long) thread that I have written about all the aerodynamic modifications I have made on my car:
To sum up the aerodynamic changes I've made: the front grill blocks and fog light covers added ~10-12% to my fuel economy, and the smooth wheel covers added ~6%, and yes the rear wheel skirts are ~3 to maybe 4%. The video mirrors and partial Kamm back also help somewhat. The rest is gained from ecodriving technique. I use a ScanGauge II to help me see how I am driving, and to help me practice and improve my ecodriving.

Not only should you try to combine several trips into one, it helps to drive to the farthest place first, and then drive to the rest of the places on the return. This lets the engine warm up fully as quickly as possible, and so it helps the engine be more efficient overall.

  • Keep track of your fillups and fuel economy, and make use of fuel logs like on
  • Get a Scan Guage II (save $ through, or get an Ultra Gauge for feedback
  • Learn to take advantage of your regular routes, traffic patterns, reduce stress – and save money!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Integrity Distilled

Everything matters.

Results of accidental habit, or intentional choice, or non-action, or random occurrence -- are all important.

Nothing is meaningless.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You know what I hate about wind turbines?

You know what I hate about wind turbines?

The smokestacks.
The smoke.
The smog.
The mercury pollution.
The cooling towers.
The explosions.
The spills.
The limited fuel supply.
The other countries that control the wind.
The military cost to defend the wind.
The radiation.
The death of miners.
The fly ash.
The tailing ponds.
The methane gas releases.
The huge carbon footprint.
The increasing cost over time.
The inefficiency.
The fracking.
The train derailments.
The refineries.
The supertankers.
The pipelines.
The contaminated water.
The damage to our lungs and overall health done by wind turbines is horrendous.
The acid rain is nasty.
The mountaintop removal.
The carbon dioxide released.
The waste.

I also hate the fact that they look like graceful wind sculptures, that let us see the wind.  I hate the fact that they are much quieter than a highway.  The ranchers and farmers with wind turbines hate the "mailbox money".


Not really...


Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Do We Do Now? -- Continued

Electricity is the nexus of many renewable energy resources.  Renewable energy sources are all over the place, and no one can monopolize them.  These are quite democratizing -- energy is available virtually anywhere and everywhere.

Sure geothermal on the surface is only in a few places (Iceland, parts of the USA, New Zealand, etc.) but wind is in many places, including the corridor from Texas up to the Dakotas, and basically all around the midwest, California, and offshore from our coasts.  Wind scales up well, getting more efficient as the turbines get bigger.  We now have direct drive turbines that eliminate the weakest piece of the previous generation -- the transmission, and so they generate more power, break less often, cost less to build and maintain, and they save about 17 tons of weight, to boot.

Solar can be virtually anywhere -- Germany even!  Germany is about as sunny as Washington state, which is the least sunny place in the lower 49 states.  Solar is great for the highest load which is for air conditioning -- and there are no grid losses when it is right in the same building.  Solar scales down nicely.

Combining solar and wind along with a few gas turbines (methane from sewage or farm wastes) for peak load, and a hydro power station with an elevated reservoir works very well.  Here's how this works in Germany:

Here's a Scientific American article on powering the USA with renewable energy 100% by 2030:

And we can use wave power -- there are three companies (at least) around the world that already make these -- here's the one in New Jersey:

Most of the world's people live close to the coast, so wave power and tidal power are close by.

We need to transition to renewable energy NO MATTER WHAT.  Eventually, the finite resources we are using now -- oil, coal, gas and uranium will run out, by definition.  The earth is just one planet; and it is the only one we have.  The other more likely scenario is that we will cause too much climate change by burning up the carbon fossil fuels dumping all the carbon that has been packed away over million and millions and millions of years back into the atmosphere in less than 200 hundred years, and we will have more chaos in our climate than we can adapt to.

So, hopefully oil and coal gets too expensive so that we will switch to renewable energy -- which will last another billion years -- until the sun explodes!  And it will not pollute in ways that we cannot deal with. 

We need to stop subsidizing oil and coal.  We need to be able to stop requiring a huge military to defend oil supplies.

We need to stop using up all of the finite resources -- our factory agriculture is totally dependent on oil and gas and phosphorus and chemical pesticides.  It kills the natural life cycle within the soil -- the dirt that we are utterly dependent on for our lives.  Dead unproductive soil that erodes into the sea won't grow anything.  It won't hold water and it won't let it filter down into the aquifers that we are pumping dry as fast as we can.

Life itself created all the soil, and we are made of the exact same materials that are in the soil.

Oil is the primary reason that we have accelerated so quickly from living within that cycle of life to living beyond what the earth can sustain.  We need to use our intelligence and our scientific knowledge, and our adaptability to change what we now know needs to be changed; before we lose too much of the life support here on this earth that we cannot live without.

There is no "planet B".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Do We Do Now?

It is critical that we do something about global climate change and our unsustainable consumption of many important resources -- because we can have an affect. We started the ball rolling, and by the same token, we can work to reverse what we have started. It won't be easy and it will be painful, but as moral beings we have to try.

Paul Gilding in his book "The Great Disruption" talks about an approximate time line of 5 or 6 years of status quo before we hit a big tipping point, and then very aggressive reduction of carbon output over the next 25-30 years, followed by as much carbon sequestration as we can muster.

We need to take the 2C increase very seriously, and we must not pass ~450ppm or all hell will really break loose. We need to return back down to <350ppm to avoid the worst effects. The equilibrium we had for ~650,000 years was ~270ppm.

When and if we can do this, the world won't be back to what we had, because there is real and lasting damage to biodiversity, but it will probably settle down.

We and all life forms here in the present are the results of all life that has come before us. We would not even have oxygen in the air without plants splitting water in photosynthesis. Each and every molecule in our bodies has been part of myriad other life forms before, many times over.
Think of this as a kind of reincarnation.  I love this quote from Neil deGrasseTyson:
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically  ***
Each and every drop of water has been cycling through life forms, the soil, and the rocks of this planet -- over and over and over and over again and again and again... The oxygen carrying iron in our blood came from the stars. All the gold we have came from supernovas.  The soil itself was produced by all of life forms down through the eons.

This is a balanced and efficient and bountiful cycle. The carbon we have so blithely thrown up into the atmosphere in less than 2 centuries was packed away underground over a couple of billion years. We have made a very basic change, and we must take responsibility for it.
A recent study said that 83-95% of ALL daily drives in the USA could be done in a Nissan Leaf.

Can you imagine the day when ~90% of all cars in America are electric?  We wouldn't need a military any where near as large as we have now. We would stop spending 1.5 BILLION a DAY on foreign oil. Our carbon output could be 20-25% lower (if I am anywhere close on this?), and the air pollution would be hugely reduced, saving many lives and many people would be far healthier with out it.
We could all have solar PV panels on our roofs and we would save another 20-30% of carbon output because all the oldest coal plants could be shut down.  We can get almost all out hot water from solar heat vacuum tube collectors, and the most efficient heat pumps, some being geothermal heat pumps would let us heat and cool our houses completely carbon free.
We could employ 250,000+ people building and assembling wind turbines and wave power machines, and in a few decades we could get 100% of our electricity from fuel free renewable energy sources. We would lower our carbon output by 80% overall and we would stop killing coal miners and have zero oil spills and not need to devastate the boreal forests of Alberta or dig for uranium around the Grand Canyon, or poison drinking wells with fracking fluid.
If we switched back to farming like we did it 75 years ago, we would not be poisoning the rivers with chemical runoff, not create dead zones in the ocean, and not add nitrous oxide (the results of chemical nitrogen fertilizers!) to the atmosphere, adding to global climate change. We would all be much healthier and all food could be local and fresh and in season and safer and cancer rates would drop and all food would be fully nutritious and have full flavor. 
And we would avoid the worst of global climate change.  If we can stay below ~450ppm and keep the Antarctic ice sheets frozen and not mess up crop productivity too much, and not cause too many 1,000's of more species to go extinct and not flood our most populous river deltas and low lying coastal plains and only displace a few million people -- then we might just survive the next millennium, and have chance to correct what we have done in the last century and a half.
We would come back into step with the natural cycle of life that has sustained life for millions of years.
 *** This was used in a song, that I blogged about earlier, called "We Are All Connected"