By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.


Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT aggressively – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

So now back to catching up on articles collected and not yet passed on.

First, check out my Op-Ed article on the Status of the Japanese Reactors written for MHReports on 05-06-11

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • A Bleak View For Curbing CO2 — Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.
  • A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste
  • Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources
  • Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food – Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists
  • A Fistful Of Dust — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated.
  • Ocean acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem.
  • All Tomorrow’s Taxis

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A Bleak View For Curbing CO2

Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.

If no new CO2-emitting power plants, cars, and other energy and transportation infrastructure were built starting today, Earth might narrowly avoid the worst effects of anticipated global climate change, according to a study.

But that scenario is improbable, say Steven J. Davis of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and colleagues, who prepared the study, because the world is in no position to make the immediate transition to carbon neutral energy technologies it would require.

Davis and coworkers compiled data on power plant emissions, motor vehicle emissions, and emissions produced directly from industry, households, businesses, and transportation. They then used a climate model to project the effect of future CO2 on Earth’s climate (Science 2010, 329, 1330).

What the team found surprised them: Even if no new CO2-emitting sources were built, the world’s existing energy infrastructure would emit 500 gigatons of CO2 until current sources go out of service over the next 50 years. That amount would stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels below 430 ppm and level off the average global temperature at 1.3 °C above the preindustrial mean. The researchers had expected those figures to be above the threshold values of 450 ppm and 2 °C that climate scientists believe will trigger major climate disruption.

But there’s still a catch, Davis says. Although existing infrastructure doesn’t appear to be a threat to climate, much of future energy demand will be met by traditional CO2-emitting sources. “The devices whose emissions will cause the worst impacts have yet to be built,” he adds. It will require “truly extraordinary development” of new infrastructure and take decades to distance ourselves from CO2-emitting technologies.  “Efforts to curb emissions through regulation and international agreement haven’t worked, emissions are rising faster than ever, and programs to scale up carbon-neutral energy sources are moving slowly at best,” global environmental change expert Martin I. Hoffert of New York University says in a commentary about the study. “Davis and coworkers offer new insights into just how difficult it will be to say farewell to fossil fuels.”

By Steve Ritter, September 13, 2010, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN),

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A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste

Almost everybody likes the idea of cellulosic ethanol, or ethanol made from the nonfood portion of crops and from waste like wood scraps or paper. But so far nobody, in the USA, is producing bulk amounts. A federal law requires companies that produce gasoline to blend in 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, but the Environmental Protection Agency reduced that quota to a more realistic six million gallons.

On Thursday, however, one of the many companies working toward commercial production, the Mascoma Corporation of Lebanon, NH, said it had reached an agreement with Valero, the nation’s largest independent oil refiner, under which Valero would take the entire output of a commercial plant that Mascoma was to break ground on this year in Kinross, MI. It is the first such “off-take” agreement in the industry. The company said the plant is supposed to be running by 2013. Valero will invest up to $50 million in the Kinross plant, said William J. Brady, Mascoma’s chief executive. The entire plant would cost $350 million, and not all of that is in hand yet, Mr. Brady said, but “getting the Valero investment has made the rest a lot easier.’’

Other investors in Mascoma include General Motors. The company is seeking loan guarantees from the Energy Department.

The company, which planned to use wood waste, could turn out to have the first commercial-scale plant. Mr. Brady said that three other companies could also produce ethanol from cellulose, as is being done commercially and without subsidies in Brazil, in the near future: BlueFire Ethanol, which uses grasses; POET, which is turning to cobs and other nonfood portions of the corn plant; and Abengoa, which is turning to parts of the corn plant beyond the kernel. There’s more, so click on.

By Matthew L. Wald, January 13, 2011, For The New York Times

Other Related Articles

Google Invests in a Chips-to-Biofuels Venture

Ethanol Plant Is Switching to Butanol By Matthew L. Wald

Biofuel (diesel from wood), Wikipedia, 2011.

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Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources

The summary (6 pages) of the summary (25 pages) for policy makers of renewable Energy Sources makes uneasy, jargon filled and ultimately uncomfortable reading. The questions this report addresses are important: how much electricity and other energy can be supplied by renewables? At what cost? This report (more so the full report and technical summary) will help us make sense of conflicting claims today. All policy experts agree that renewables are needed, along with other low-carbon forms of energy, but what is their potential in the coming decades?

The graphs are a little confusing; energy sources are placed on different graphs because there is so much more of some than others. Recent gains in solar are impressive—photovoltaics, solar panels are up by almost a factor of10 in 4 years, but the absolutely increase in energy pales compared to increases in other forms of renewables, from hydro to municipal solid waste, Also, information is often given in capacity, or GW—capacity tells us how much power is produced, at a maximum—rather than in GWh, total energy produced.

As was noted by Geoffrey Styles “Once I got beyond the introductory paragraphs it seemed to degenerate into jargon and bureaucratese that was very hard to parse into plain meaning. The report’s genesis as the product of pure consensus is readily apparent.” Indeed, “it doesn’t take readers much beyond what is already well established.”

No I’m neither going to further summarize the findings [e.g., a summarized summary of the summary policy report] not attempt to analyzed, in the absence of the final report share my thoughts on the accuracy and clarity of technical arguments vs political cover too often a part of such International reports provided by the approved reports authors. Needless to say in the policy maker summary level, is worth reading. There is much to discomfort one about the hopes – and economic and political realities of basing our hopes on averting the worst effects of climate change on renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), and the Energy Collective summery does highlight some interesting specifics that I list as bullets in the paragraph that follows.

  • The definition of Renewable Energy, a political not a technical term, depends on where you live. In the USA, nuclear energy is perceived as neither renewable but also not green.
  • Most subsidized Governmental projects, the picking of favorites, is based not on economic (e.g., life cycle cost versus green house gas reduction) but on political factors including the desire to be seen by the voters doing something even if it both wastes money and is only minimally effective. But pleasing lobbyist is also of political benefit.
  • The characteristics of different RE sources can influence the scale of the integration challenge. Some RE resources are widely distributed geographically. Others, such as large-scale hydropower, can be more centralized but have integration options constrained by geographic location. Some RE resources are variable with limited predictability. From the information available, the report policy leaves the systems integration and analysis to someone else, not even attempting to provide a framework for comparisons of alternative viability, politic aside, as a function of location.
Check out:Justifying $15 Trillion for Renewablesby Geoffrey Styles, for the Energy Collective, May 11, 2011.The Nuclear and the Renewable Energy Standard, by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, October 18, 2010.Nuclear, gas, and the Clean Energy Standard by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, January 18, 201l.

You want more, read either the shorter Energy Collective version of the policy report itself.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report

Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), – A Summary for Policy Makers, by Karen Street, for The Energy Collective Site, May 12, 2011.

FD Summary Policy Makers of the IPCC not yet released Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), _IPCC May 2011, final.

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Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food

Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists.

Roger Beachy grew up in a traditional Amish family on a small farm in Ohio that produced food “in the old ways,” he says, with few insecticides, herbicides or other agrochemicals. He went on to become a renowned expert in plant viruses and sowed the world’s first genetically modified food crop—a tomato plant with a gene that conferred resistance to the devastating tomato mosaic virus. Beachy sees no irony between his rustic, low-tech boyhood and a career spent developing new types of agricultural technologies. For him, genetic manipulation of food plants is a way of helping preserve the traditions of small farms by reducing the amount of chemicals farmers have to apply to their crops. Without GM crops, He contends that farmers would need to return to older practices that would produce lower crop yields, higher prices and an increase in the use of agrochemicals inimical to health. 

In 2009 Beachy took the helm of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture where continues to advocate for a prominent place for genetic engineering of crops, which he claims provides a basis for chemical-free, sustainable agriculture that will prove more of a boon for the environment than have conventional weed and pest control. Detractors of GM foods, meanwhile, have expressed their chagrin at Beachy’s appointment. His work helped to kick-start the $11-billion global agricultural biotechnology industry

Themes included in this article include:

How did your Amish background shape your interest in agriculture?

Can technical advances in sustainable agriculture be transferred to the developing world?

Is there a one-size-fits-all strategy for fostering agricultural technology?

Were you surprised by how effective the virus-resistance gene in tomato plants was?

That effectiveness does not last forever, of course. Today we are seeing the resistance these technologies provide against pests and disease being overcome. Do you think the industry has relied too much on GM as a “silver bullet”?

Critics of the agricultural biotechnology industry complain that it has focused on providing benefits to farmers rather than improving foods for consumers. What do you say to them?

Today consumers are willing to pay more for crops that are labeled “organic” or even “GM-free” because they view them as more sustainable. How do you think GM crops can help make agriculture more sustainable?

Environmentalists have been reluctant to embrace GM crops because of concerns about genes flowing to non-GM crops and also to wild native plants. That’s one reason a federal judge in California recently ordered genetically modified sugar beets to be destroyed.

It may be a positive thing for agriculture, but not necessarily for wild ecosystems. What are the consequences if you create a vitamin A–rich rice and that gene spreads into an environment where vitamin A is scarce?

Some scientists have complained that biotech companies have stymied research on GM crops. Aren’t these studies needed to get accurate answers about the risks of these crops?

What would be the consequence if GM crops were suddenly removed from the market?

Doc Sez:

In a world where Karma really applies my the detractors who block advances rather then working to assure that there are minimal unintended consequence be condemned to life at the average living standards who hunger they help assure.

By Brendan Borrell for Scientific American, April 11, 2011 

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A Fistful Of DustThe true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated

ON MAY 26th 2008 Germany turned red. The winds of change, though, were meteorological, not political. Unusual weather brought iron-rich dust from Africa to Europe, not only altering the colour of roofs and cars on the continent but also, according to recent calculations by Max Bangert, a graduate student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, making the place about a quarter of a degree colder for as long as the dust stayed in the air. This is unusual for Germany, commonplace for the planet as a whole. The Sahara and other bone-dry places continually send dust up into the atmosphere, where it may travel thousands of kilometers and influence regional weather, the global climate and even the growth of forests halfway around the planet.

Earlier in 2008, for instance, Ilan Koren and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, detected a particularly voluminous burst of dust from the Bodélé Depression. This low-lying bed of silt in Chad, across which powerful jets of wind are wont to blow, constitutes less than 1% of the Sahara’s area but is reckoned the world’s dustiest place. It is thought to be responsible for a quarter or more of the Sahara’s output of airborne dust.  The importance of this long-distance logistical chain has become apparent only in the past few years, and researchers are still working out its many repercussions—for the more you look at dust, the more effects it seems to have. African dust is thought, for example, to stimulate plant growth in the Amazon by bringing in phosphorus (which is in short supply there). This may put a check on global warming by removing what would otherwise be a long-term constraint on the forest’s ability to suck up carbon dioxide as it grows.

Dust, which does not reach land, may do something similar to the sea. Some parts of the ocean are short of iron, which red desert dust has in abundance. Dust from the Gobi desert seems to stimulate plankton blooms in the nutrient-poor waters of the North Pacific, though it is not clear whether this results in a net reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide, since that would require some of the plankton to sink to the seabed, never to return.

Dust aloft cools the land below, as Europe’s meteorologists found out in May 2008. It does this directly, by reflecting sunlight back into space, and indirectly, by helping clouds to form. The effect is significant. The carbon dioxide, which has been added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began, has a greenhouse effect equivalent to the arrival of about 1.6 watts of extra solar power per square meter of the Earth’s surface. The direct effects of dust are estimated to provide a countervailing cooling of about 0.14 watts per square meter. Add the indirect effect on clouds and this could increase markedly, though there are great uncertainties. This dust-driven cooling, though, is patchy—and in some places it may not even be helpful. Dust that cools a desert can change local airflow patterns and lessen the amount of rain that falls in surrounding areas. This causes plants to die, and provides more opportunities for wildfires, increasing the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level.

To get a better sense of the net effects brought about by the ups and downs of dust check on the link.

A worry some thought — In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jasper Kok of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, writes that the amount of coarse dust driven into the atmosphere by wind is at least double and may be eight times as much as previously thought. Watch his You Tube Video.


Dust effect potential Fukushima Daiichi Reactor are apparently solely related to a possible radioactivity spread, fallout, rather than climate change. Although I’ve read somewhere recently that as a result of fires like those caused on the gulf, the after effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of this summer’s forest fires near Moscow, the smoke and soot created will cause temperatures to fall. Alas I could not re-find that reference.

Climate Science, Jan 6th 2011 in The Economist

Also Check Out

Volcanoes and Climate

Dust Effect Potential from Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Do Volcano’s Cause Climate Change

Dust Effect Potential of A Pakistani Indian War – A Potential for Nuclear Winter

Nuclear war between India, Pak could spell climate disaster, January 26, 2002 – Times of India

Pollution in the Himalayas — Time to call the sweep? Soot gets everywhere. Even into the world’s highest mountains, The Economist, November 18, 2010.

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Ocean Acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem

Acidification threatens the world’s oceans, but quantifying the risks is hard. In the waters of Kongsfjord, an inlet on the coast of Spitsbergen, sit nine contraptions that bring nothing to mind as much as monster condoms. Each is a transparent sheath of plastic 17-metres long, mostly underwater, held in place by a floating collar. The seawater sealed within them is being mixed with different levels of carbon dioxide to see what will happen to the ecology of the Arctic waters.  As carbon dioxide levels go up, pH levels come down. Acidity depends on the presence of hydrogen ions (the pH in pH) and more hydrogen ions mean, counter intuitively, a lower pH. Expose the surface of the ocean to an atmosphere with ever more carbon dioxide, and the gas and waters will produce carbonic acid, lowering pH on a planetary scale. The declining pH does not actually make the waters acidic (they started off mildly alkaline).

But it makes them more acidic, just as turning up the light makes a dark room brighter. Ocean acidification has further chemical implications: more hydrogen ions mean more bicarbonate ions, and fewer carbonate ions. Carbonate is what corals; the shells of shellfish and the outer layers of many photosynthesizing plankton and other microbes are made of. If the level of carbonate ions falls too low the shells can dissolve or might never be made at all. There is evidence that the amount of carbonate in the shells of foraminifera, micro-plankton that are crucial to ocean ecology, has recently dropped by as much as a third. Since becoming a topic of widespread worry about five years ago, the changing pH of the oceans has been added to the litany of environmental woes. Richard Feely, a researcher at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, provided a gift to headline writers when he dubbed acidification “global warming’s evil twin”. Nowadays Dr. Feely prefers to call it “the other carbon-dioxide problem”.

There’s more, click through for more information.

Singling out the role of acidification will be hard. Ocean ecosystems are beset by changes in nutrient levels due to run off near the coasts and by overfishing, which plays havoc with food webs nearly everywhere. And the effects of global warming need to be included, too. Surface waters are expected to form more stable layers as the oceans warm, which will affect the availability of nutrients and, it is increasingly feared, of oxygen. Some, including Dr. Riebesell, suspect that these physical and chemical effects of warming may prove a greater driver of productivity change in the ocean than altered pH. Wherever you look, there is always another other problem.

The Economist, July 1, 2010.

ALSO:  Ocean acidification, Wikipedia, 2011.

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All Tomorrow’s Taxis

Sometime early this year, New York City’s taxi and limousine commission will announce the winner of its “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition. Or it won’t. The project was begun in 2007, and in December 2009 a “request for proposals” went out to automotive manufacturers and designers. The bar wasn’t set all that high: the Taxi of Tomorrow was meant to be “safe, fuel-efficient, accessible, durable, and comfortable.” A look at the three finalists announced in November 2010 confirms they are perhaps all of those things. They are also, well, dull. Boxy. Lacking in imagination. (Not that New York’s current cab, the Ford Crown Victoria, was one to inspire much.)

The winner stands to supply more than 13,000 medallion taxis for at least a decade, a deal that could be worth up to $1 billion. Imagine if, in turn, the yellow spots monopolizing New York’s streets could help transform the urban landscape, perhaps by being smaller and more streamlined, having less environmental impact, or providing more comfort, convenience and aesthetics to passengers. What if the “tomorrow” part manifested itself not just in the object (the car) but also in new initiatives inspired by the broad national movement toward collaborative consumption, like a taxi-sharing app that could help facilitate carpooling from JFK airport into the city? The perfect solution for these recessionary times, this cab, re-envisioned as a compact bus, allows passengers to pay on a sliding scale.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that “if [the taxi] doesn’t meet our needs, then we can start the process all over again, or say we just can’t find what we want and come back and visit this at another time in the future.” Well, only one of the three is wheelchair accessible, only one offers an electric option. So with the door still open, as it were, I had several conversations with the artist/inventor (and former R&D guy for Honda) Steven M. Johnson, a self-described conjurer of “ludicrous” ideas for decades. But sometimes the wildest ideas result in the best solutions. We discussed the taxi-related issues that seemed to have been inadequately addressed in the Taxi of Tomorrow competition.

There is traffic, as in the inability to do anything about it. Should there be a taxi lane? …An elevated one, straight out of Rem Koolhaas’s “Delirious New York”? There’s availability — how to improve the odds of getting a cab when you need one — and also affordability: a cab-sharing program has been tried in the city already, but is there a way to improve it, or create a vehicle that allows for ride-sharing? And there’s reliability — how can you better the odds that your driver knows how to get where you want to go?

In addition, there are different and specific issues of comfort that need to be addressed for a car that hosts many passengers in the course of a day. The average taxi seems too hot, or too cold, or too loud; the upholstery sags, and cleanliness is relative. This affects the relationship between passenger and driver, and the corresponding civility (or lack thereof). Is the environment safe and secure? Are the temperature, noise level and air quality satisfactory? Should there be an enforceable dress code for drivers, as has been proposed by the city’s taxi and limousine commission?

After we talked, Johnson came up with nearly 60 different concepts, some pragmatic, some dystrophic, others clearly silly. We winnowed it down to nine, tongues firmly in our cheeks. Click here to see a slide show of his ideas.  I commend the city for soliciting comments on the finalists, and the media, design and innovation firm Human Condition for creating the Taxi of Tomorrow crowd-sourcing site, which has been offering a forum for ideas and commentary since October. I hope the commission pays attention.

By Allison Arieff, An Opinionator for the New York Times, Jan 13, 2011.

Click though to see more photos of Mr. Johnson’s ideas.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please checkout my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes form my approach to this and my other writings.

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

… And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

QUOTE de Mois — “I Believe In Evidence.”

“I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

Isaac Asimov – On Evidence and Belief

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